Day 27: Ridges and midges
May 9: Spring Mountain Shelter to Jerry Cabin Shelter
The next day we hike 16 miles, which I can do confidently now -- not easily, but confidently-- but we don't start until about 10:30am. There is an excellent view from Blackstaff Cliffs looking south and east over the overlapping green and blue ridges, but I can't stay long because of the swarming flies. A few minutes later, there is another side trail to the left, to see the view north and west. We are concerned about running out of daylight, but I almost never regret detouring off trail for a view. We find the viewpoint, possibly even better than the previous one. The sun is getting low. I sit on a rock and look at the colors while Etienne clambers around on the boulders with a head for heights that I cannot even comprehend, as my heart beats faster where I am perched a healthy distance away from the cliff.
I fall behind after that, and I reach the Firescald Knob bypass hiking alone. Sunset is drawing near, but the weather is good, so I proceed up to the most technical mile of trail so far. It's so rocky and steep that I let my poles dangle from the wrist straps and use both hands to climb up and down the spine of the mountain. Now the views from both spur trails are combined, and I can see out in all directions. The section is challenging and a little nerve-racking for acrophobic me, but it's one of my favorite miles of the trail so far. At dusk, I reach camp. I am exhausted, but peaceful and content.