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3 Miles from the finish
Such a typical title. But that was really the extent of todays hike.
Woke up early, only because I couldn't get comfortable last night. It dropped down to about 43 degrees, and even though my EE quilt kept me warm, my left leg has swollen like a balloon. I am glad that we put the extra miles in yesterday so that we could make this our last day, but, you have to pay the piper. (It must be cliche day) So the morning was amazing, when I could forget about my leg and it did start feeling better as I stretched it. We decided to take our time and fuel up this morning because we had a climb first thing. 1200 ft in 1.2 miles. This would get us to the top of Sassafras Mountain, then it would be 800 ft. down, 400 up to Pinnacle MTN and then 2,000 straight down to Table Rock. I was NOT looking forward to all of the declines today because the leg/knee has had it.
So, the morning was awesome. We figured it would take about 2 hours to get to Sassafras, but it only took us an hour. Another best. The trail changed scenes quite a few times which I really enjoyed and when when we arrived at the top, the views were breath taking. It was an amazing sense of accomplishment to look out and see where we had hiked from. The leg wasnt hurting too much so I was able to really enjoy the moment. We must have stayed up there for about 45 minutes, enjoying the cool temps and the scenery.
So now it was time to test the knee. And.... it failed the test. The 800 ft decline was more like 1200 ft due to all the freaking PUDs just to get to Emory Gap. We were able to get cell service for just a moment, so I checked the weather. 40 degrees tonight. Glad we are getting off the mountain, cuz it would have been 25 - 30 degrees if we had camped on Sassafras (Which was our original intention). I told D-Money, when we finish tonight, instead of spending our last night camping at Table Rock, I would spring for a hotel room. I think that alone, helped me mentally to just get through day. The last climb seemed to go one forever. Knee doesnt hurt much going up, so that wasn't bad.
Hiking down the last 4.5 miles from Pinnacle was definitely a love/hate deal. This was the last stretch to the finish. The trail had some great views, we would also be eating real food as well as sleeping in a soft bed. But the trail was STRAIGHT DOWN. I wrapped and taped my knee as best as I could, took about 4 Advil and trudged on. Not only was the trail straight down, there were about 4 blow downs that we had to manage and honestly, the first 2.5 miles of the trail down looked liked something out of a horror movie. I tried really hard not to be obsessed over the pain and reflect on my hike this past week. And for the most part, it worked well. However, with about 1.5 miles left, I stepped on a rock and twisted just a little bit which was the last straw. I had to stop and take 30 minutes to evaluate whether I tore something or not. It hurt that bad. Needless to say, I literally limped to the finish. it took us almost 2 hours just to finish the last 1.5 miles. And most of it was flat. We finished about 4:30 in the afternoon and there was no elation, no cheers, just relieved that it was over. (Which was sad after I had a couple of days to think about it).
But... when we got to our vehicle, we had a Yeti cooler full of refreshments and it was time to celebrate. D-Money doesn't drink, so I had an extra couple of beers for him. And I will say, those coolers work! There was still ice and the drinks were ice cold. I don't remember the 2nd and 3rd beer, but that first one? OMG, it tasted amazing! After numbing up a bit, it was time to go to the camp showers to get cleaned up because we stunk! Even though the water wasnt hot, it still felt strange and great at the same time. But it didnt get all the stink off. I would what for tonight's shower to finish up.
After chilling for a bit, we jumped in the car and took off to the restaurant down the road. It was burger bar night. The burgers were big and you have about 30 different kinds of toppings to throw on them. With potato wedges added, it definitely hit the spot.
I had booked our hotel room about 1.5 hours from Table Rock, just so we could get down the road a bit and tomorrows drive wouldn't be that bad. We arrived at the hotel and surprisingly, it was really nice for how cheap it was for 2 double beds. We checked in, ate again and found the channel for the Thursday night football game. I took a 40 minute hot shower and spent most the time soaking and basking in the intense heat. D-money laughed as I came walking out (with clean shorts on of course) and said my back looked like a turnip. Who cares. Knee didnt hurt much, I was full and climbed into a nice soft bed to watch some football! We laughed and griped most of the night, just talking about the ups and downs of the trail and dozed off to sleep.