Timberland Hills & Grassy Lake segments of the IAT are not my favorites. Timberland Hills is a cross country skiing course the IAT also makes use of. The track is wide with long grass that never dries out, has steep hills that are look pretty fun as a skier, not so much as a hiker. Grassy lake is pretty similar, instead of ski tracks, we were on two tracks. This section of the IAT goes through more wetlands than I have ever seen in my life, add that in with wet feet and more bugs than you can count and you have what we hiked today.
Interesting fact I have learned firsthand. The IAT organization builds benches for people to sit on along the trail. Most of these benches overlook swamps and other bodies of bug infested waters. They are probably pretty cool places to stop in the winter, not once have I considered stopping for a sit during the summer. The bench is a bug dinner plate and I am not putting myself directly on it. If they want to eat me, they will have to keep working for it.
After yesterday’s lesson, we both applied bug cream and donned bug nets before starting the day. I brought my head net and relied on my protected pants and long sleeve hoodie to keep my extremities protected. Brianna wore shorts and a short sleeve shirt underneath a full bug suit. Both of our approaches seemed to work well against the bugs, with some drawbacks. My approach allowed me to take the head net off and put it back on quickly, but I did get bites on my shoulders. Brianna didn’t get any bites, but taking the bug suit off quickly when it wasn’t needed for a while wasn’t possible and simple tasks like drinking water or eating snacks took a lot of effort.
Neither of us broke mentally today, at least not completely. One saving grace we still have to help us in times of need is the Shauna. Shauna let us dump most of our pack weight into her car. She also picked up some gallons of water and met us around mile 13.5 for the day to help resupply us – there was only one water source today and it was around mile 3.5. Funnily enough, as Shauna was resupplying our water, an old man who loves to hike the IAT & NCT stopped by the parking lot and asked us if we needed any water, soda, etc. We were all set but it’s good to know these Trail Angels are out there.
Brianna & I were both exhausted by the end of the hiking day. We started trying to hike a certain amount of time before breaks but never actually made it to the goals, even as we tried to make them shorter. After our last break before making the final two mile push, Shauna had texted me about the campground she had found, Whitetail Ridge: The campground has a bar and showers but both close at 6pm.
Brianna was in top speed mode and I knew she couldn’t go faster, so I withheld the new intel. Her first sprint lasted about a mile before she started to slow. Like a fox on a rabbit, that’s when I sprung, “I know you don’t need any more motivation but Shauna says the showers are only open until 6pm… it’s 4:45pm. And boom, so began sprint #2. With a shower on the mind, she was actually running. I had to keep up with her while texting Shauna that she needed to be at the parking lot to pick us up ASAP. Brianna moved her little feet so fast that we beat Shauna to the parking lot, from a campground that is only 3 miles away.
Did I withhold information? Yes.
Did my plan work exactly as I thought it would? Yes.
We all got showers.
We are tucked away in the corner of Whitetail Ridge campground. The rustic camping area is free of bugs and people. Tomorrow will be the most miles we have ever hiked in a day AND the most road miles we have ever done in a day. On the plus side, we road walk right by a Dairy Queen… kismet.