We had to go back over the bridge this morning and we could see the hornets still flying around their side of it. Although very paranoid, we went very slowly one at a time and no one got stung this time. I was happy to be past it. The stings were swelling even more today and were a painful reminder of my first bridge crossing.
We joined the West Side ATV Trail for a bit, then almost missed the turn to the Sugarloaf Arm Trail because we were talking, but I saw the gate out of the corner of my eye as we passed it. That took us to the Old Hermit Shelter, where we had originally planned on staying last night before our bushwhacking detour delayed us. It’s a beautiful shelter and I’m sorry we missed staying there. Next time!
After a nice, long rest there, we kept going on the trail and passed a couple of private camps just before reaching Nash Stream Road. We continued along Nash Stream on the East Side Trail until we came to the Devil’s Jacuzzi spur trail. I’d been told not to miss this by a former hiker so we headed down to check it out. It was a little pool in the stream with lots of jet-like water features. The water was freezing, and in the shade, but we had to give it a try. Jon got right in and it looked painful. I slowly inched in and never made it past my waist. Chuckles was last but she went right underwater. Man, I hate cold water.
It did feel nice on my stings though so I hung out until my feet were getting close to numb, then climbed back out to dry off. I took the opportunity to rinse a few things and then we ate an early lunch on the rocks, our second really long break of the day, but we had low mileage through easy-looking elevation left.
Back on the trail, we hiked up to join Nash Stream Road for a third time, passed a few private camps, then hopped off the road onto the Gadwah Notch Trail. While most of the morning had been on actual hiking trail, this was an old road bed. We climbed for a couple of miles, passing a couple of clearings, then it turned into very overgrown path.
We knew there wasn’t water where we were camping so we were keeping an eye out for the last source we were supposed to cross in order to fill up for the night. It turned out to be a creek under the worst bridge. It consisted of a bunch of logs thrown across which were wet and slimy and so dangerous to walk on. The bridge also covered a wide expanse of the narrow creek we were crossing so you had to walk up it to get to the water. I practically crawled to avoid slipping and falling.
The overgrown path eventually turned back into hiking trail. At one point, I felt the start of a sting and looked down to see another hornet on my right knee! I shook my capri pant fabric out instead of swatting at it and pissing it off even more, and once again took off running and screaming profanities, although I did manage to hold onto my trekking poles this time. Chuckles had been telling me that once you’re stung, you’re marked, and I guess that’s the case. The damn thing even went back to the same area that was stung originally.
The Gadwah Notch Trail started making some crazy turns through the woods and we had to keep our eyes peeled for yellow trail blazing as we followed along some state border blue blazing. It was hard to keep track of how far we’d gone in the databook since it just keeps referring to blue boundary markings that we’d pass, and there was tons of it. We did make it to the Old Baldhead Lean-to before dinner time though. 13.2 miles for the day.
It’s a small shelter, fitting 5, maybe 6, people. Inexplicably, part of the open side was blocked off which made that side of the shelter more difficult to use. Since there were only 3 of us, we set up on the open side of the shelter. I left some clothes out to dry in the wind and cooked my dinner in the shelter, finally collecting my things and setting up my sleeping space just before dark. We’d arrived so early that we were all ready to go to bed then and were brushing our teeth when Jenn and Owen appeared!
I had sent Jenn an itinerary from the Stark Inn in case they’d be able to join us for a night and they chose to surprise us here. They hiked in some trail magic too – strawberry shortcake with cream! While we’d been ready for bed and have a big day tomorrow, they were raring to go and still needed to eat dinner. They built a fire to do so while we chatted from the shelter.