August 4, 2022
South Brown Mountain Shelter at mile 1763.4 to campsite at mile 1784.8, with a midday detour to Lake of the Woods Resort (LOW) for lunch
We mean to wake up early to make sure we get to Lake of the Woods with plenty of time to chill, but we end up leaving at an average time, maybe around 6:30. The morning feels incredibly long, even though we aren’t going that far. I walk with Jumbo for a while, but I’m too out of it to hold up my end of a conversation. Eventually he gets ahead and I settle into a plodding pace, listening to the rest of my current audiobook.
For a while the terrain is nice, but then it turns into a path made of red lava rocks that inflict stabbing pain on the soles of my feet. It’s like the rumble rocks in the Sierras, but worse because of the terrible angles. It’s a red carpet of pain.
Not far from the road, I see Jumbo and Tribute pulled over eating snacks. I throw myself down on the ground and start shoving food in my face. Is that my problem? Am I just hungry? It seems to help, and the next two and a half miles don’t feel quite as painful as the morning has so far.
At the road, I see a sign reading “trail magic ahead.” Ooh! Please don’t let it be an old sign, I think. I’m in luck. It’s a 2021 thru-hiker named Cool Waters, and he has coolers of soft drinks, oranges, twizzlers, and other assorted goodies! We sit in a circle of chairs beneath the trees drinking root beer and Dr. Pepper.
At the road, we hitch for about 20 minutes before a couple pulls over to take us to Lake of the Woods resort for our bougie lunch. It’s a cute place right on the edge of the water with a deck and Adirondack chairs arranged on the shore. We order burgers and beer and absolutely dive into them. I’ve been feeling a little weak and low-energy recently, so I’m hoping this little recharge helps me.
After lunch we go to the general store, where I get an iced coffee and drink it while sitting on a swing. Monica calls me and we chat for a while, then I go down to the water and attempt unsuccessfully to take a nap. Jumbo is in mile-making mode, though, so we aren’t hanging around for long. We go back up to the deck and pack up, then start walking on the road that leads back to trail. I get us a hitch after a few minutes, and we’re dropped off back at the trail magic refreshed and ready to go… more or less.
The four-mile hill looks daunting, but it turns out not to be that bad. I feel nourished and energized, and I listen to music on the path that meanders through the woods. I see Jumbo pulled over at the top of the climb, and we stop for a while, mustering the energy to continue.
It’s only a few miles to camp after that. I feel slow at first, but then out of nowhere, I get the cheese and zoom ahead of Jumbo and Tribute. When I get to Christy’s Spring, where we plan to camp, I see that there are no tent sites left. But I noticed that there was a spot right before it, so I go back and tell Tribute to let Jumbo know to stop at the spot. Meanwhile, I go down to the water source and fill his and my CNOC bags. When I get down there, I see someone in a light purple sun hoodie with a tiny little pack. Could it be? It is! Ishay! We talk about our experiences with the fire and our plan moving forward. I try to convince him to walk the 0.1 miles south on the trail and camp with us, but he ends up going ahead a bit.
Back at our tentsite, we realize that we’ve stumbled into the next circle of mosquito hell. We set up our tents as fast as we can and put on all our rain gear and head nets. The mosquitoes seem to calm down a bit after that, and I cook a quick dinner on a log before crawling into my little home and going to sleep.