man. that was a solid 4hrs sleep. 6:30, bleary eyed, blink blink, doesn't look too bad out. typical dank damp humid morning, everything covered in dewishness. Get the water boiling, let the coffee steep while heating up more for the oats. Break out the map, pour over the details.
How far to here, to there, what if the rack breaks there, backtrack and bail? Or push to the next road and drop the kit, then solo to the car? Or it might make it through...doubtful. From the top of the road, looks like maybe 15 to Reddish, how big of a setback to literally drag an anchor across all of that? Next safety spot is 250, then it's a decent 25ish (30?) mile effort from there to the car. Or maybe the zip tie bandaids will hold.....well, only one way to find out. Take a qwik food inventory, realize there is water via the filter at the base of TearJacket, so fluids won't be a problem. Calories? hmmm...3 packs of PopTarts, big PayDay, 1 pack of Bloks, raisin danish thing, single vending pack of Figs, (2) spaceman meals if I wanna take the time, 1 can of Coke. Looks like a day's worth, easily if I cook. Pack it all up hopefully one last time, breath deep get rolling 8:30.
Steady 45ish minutes climbing up 33, snapshots, then roll thru dog poop at the trailhead. How's that for a start to the day? Ominous, eh? Luckily it's somewhat aged, and I saw it before one go 'round. So got sorta lucky, tire picked pretty clean w/ a stick. Couple more trailside snap shots and rolling that tight Shenandoah benched love. Settled in quick, listening for rack feedback, so definitely a restrained pace thru the rough at first. Quickly off the bike on the ups, not much snap in the legs to get those last couple pedal strokes before the pitch relaxes. Rocks are also a bit slippy in the morning dew, riding delicately. Reach High Knob, take it in, then push on, expecting more of the same-ish on over to Bother Knob.
Wrong. This is definitely a portion of path less travelled. Nettles, micro briars, green briars, those briary purpleish things...all the favorites for ripping into shins and snagging shoulders were present. All of those early benched in skree challenges were overflowing w/ greenery, hiding the loose jigsaw rocks from view. Anytime the line got tight in these northish facing hollers, lookout for stingtown, it was unavoidable. It was slow going. On the bike, trying to make time, sorta on the limit and found an off camber fern camoflaged spine that inspired the front end to follow a fresh trajectory. Nice shot the shin during the step off, stumble down the trail save. Bike made quite the interesting crack sound when it hit, I wonder what broke?
Drag the bike back up onto the trail, give it the once over, check the ties. Bit of extra play there, give an extra tug w/ the pliers, make 'em tight, everything else in order. Check the shin and vow to not cross that line again today. Makes for a lot of down walking, lots of stumbling thru slimey rocks and nettles and ferns. Not entirely slum though, definitely some breathing room out on the benched shoulders. Those signature SMT outside left hand sweeper micro vistas. Catch a glimpse and forget about the exact here and now, and breath in the all of the here and now. Then push on.
Finally reach something that feels like elevation gained and a familiar feeling high knob ridgline. Into more lush greenery, thru shoulder high fields of flowers and some occasionally tight young growth. More of that ying and yang shit. Stop to fix a front flat. Yeah things were going so well the front decided to start hissing during one of the strolling sections of high meadow flower skipping. Find a tree, and a log to sit on, throw in a tube, eventually attract an immense number of flies, who take to feeding on the freshly opened and bleeding shins. It was interesting to watch...I was in one of those places. Blink blink, make sure to eat, take in a drink then push on, just keep it together and eventually I'll reach the DeathStar turnoff. Eventually I'll be on familiar territory, eventually I'll be on trail that I know has been ridden recently, that should be somewhat open, eventually. Then a host of colorful ribbons in trees appears and I'm able to pedal consistently, interesting to backtrack trail from le Tour, thankful for the trail clearing efforts.
Drop out onto fireroad, turn around and flip the bird to that ordeal, glad to be done with that. Looking at the clock is depressing, push on to Reddish. Where are the crossroads, oh, here we are. Now where is the fucking split already? oh, here we are again. Man these sections seem longer than normal and I'm way behind schedule, buffer to not finish in the dark has all but ticked away. Once it's dark out, it's dark out, and it is fabled Reddish...would be bad juju to not summit on the bicycle, so finish it and take it all in. 3 o'clock on a Monday, got the place to myself, chat with the wind. Eat a snack, pull on the jacket and drop down the climb from the hundo. Filter water and steel the mind for one more effort up TearJacket to the Autobahn. 3.5 miles according to Nat'l Geo, I hike at 2ish, this is gonna take a while, especially with an increasingly blown left achilles. Seems the effort to get to Bother Knob has taken it's toll.
Push on and dig deep for inspiration, begin to rate this beast. "Well, at least it's not as bad as.." Right now, it's getting difficult to finish that phrase....this thing is making me go deep. Conditions just slumy enough to really dampen the late afternoon mood, just keep moving forward, it gets better, it will get better, it has to. Finally reach the Wilderness Junction and taste a bit of the reward, the wheel caressing green carpet and gentle flowing pitch that is the Autobahn. So smoove, so flow, so gooooood that the miles finaly feel like they're ticking away.
The Breastworks comes much too soon, but not soon enough, it's 5 o'clock. Ate the last pop tarts on Reddish, too close/too late to cook, So, crack the coke and dig for the remaining PayDay, half now, half later. Then sort thru the pack one last time and GYAWD DAMN!!!! a hidden pack of Bloks, w/ caffiene! HALLELUYU!!!, that'll get me home. Now, how long is this standard portion of the SMT? 20 miles? 3hrs, 4hrs? finish by 9? maybe. That's a good number to have in the head. Take some tourista snapshots then get rolling and settle into the increasingly gimped hike a bike pace until the actual veering left hike a bike is behind me. Finally, elevation to play with and not too soon.
Cherish every moment of loamy love, half racing the sun, half making the most of it, still a bit to go before burning those last couple survival matches. Not inspired by the tint of the sky though. Sure, sunset is coming, but it's not that late...pit. pat. pitter pat. WTF? rain? you're kidding me? right? Dump out into the 10.5mile intersection, 6:45 and the rain really begins. steady. And chilly. Eat half of the last half of the Payday, pull out the rain jacket, weather proof the Ergon, stash the camera deep inside and make one last push. Couple token pedal strokes, but pretty much hiking immediately again, expected cuz I know this section pretty well, the rain is a nice distraction for the mind, helps ignore the gimped left leg, focus on other misery. Through the door and back on top, enjoy again the contouring ribbon as the rain slowly eases and a muted pink blob sunset is revealed on a signature left hand shoulder sweep, perfect. Power up the light, damn, that's kinda weak. Spend too much time looking for spare batteries...ohh, the camera case...brrr.
Beam up and try to recognize this trail in the dark. Damn, it's a whole new world out here, this'll be neat. Look for landmarks in the darkeness, familiar shapes, trail minutae, challenges. 9pm, finally hit the Jerkemtight rest stop, stomach grumbling, finish the Payday. Downhill to the car right? maybe, getting chilled, GPS batteries just died, not digging for the map, I know the trail I'm fine. Boy, things are different at night. The always familiar, isn't always so. Rain soaked and drooped leaves make open trail seem overgrown and rarely ridden. Underpowered lighting make for good spectating, reflective leaf undersides glowing white, but not so much for making time on the trail. Landmarks at normal speed come so quick, judgement is questioned about making the correct turn at this snail's pace. No, this has to be it, doesn't matter, I'm not backtracking, get to the bottom, figure it out. Even after passing South Sister, doubt creeps in. Where's the bottom? my feet are getting numbish, chilled and wet since 7, what time is it now? who knows? batteries....finally hit the trailhead, ok, I was right. Turn right into the fog. Can't see shit, what should be 20+ tuck to the car is a 5mph crawl with constant left to right scanning for the shoulders thru the 2 bike length visible soup. Descended below the vapor barrier and very anti climacticly park the bike next to the CR-V, 10pm. 13.5hrs, 60ish mile. I'm done.
and yeah, that shit held.