Currently sitting at the picnic table...
Today was the first day of my dad's guest appearance on my thru-hike. We were sure to carb up at the hotel's breakfast before packing our packs one last time. I yelled at my dad for his silverware and canned ham, so he got embarrassed and ditched them. We continued our quest for HEET (the fuel for my stove) which we had begun last night. It's at a lot of gas stations, but lately it has been really hit-or-miss. We finally found it at the Stop-In food store, and I rejoiced. We made a second stop to Kroger for stuff we forgot last night, and it was finally time to head back up I-81 to where I had left off my hike. We messed around with my dad's pack and trekking poles, pulling on straps of which I only had a vague understanding until he felt comfortable and ready to hike. I let him lead and set the pace, and we were headed out of the gap containing Jennings Creek, up the side of the ridge. We huffed and puffed but my dad hung right in there, pausing only to ask questions and for drinks of water. I introduced him to shelter life at Cove Mountain Shelter, where he read the shelter log and learned about those little quirks that make every shelter unique, like the dilapidation that has been common among those in these national forests. I still think they're charming.
We rested and ate some more before setting off on the second third of today's hike, up and over Cove Mountain itself before dropping down to Bearwallow Gap. On the way, my dad developed my distaste for downhills. Uphills are hard, sweaty and at time tedious, but they tend to take mercy on your joints. Downhills are easy if you don't consider the tendons screaming at you and the ball-and-socket joints grinding away. We took a break by a stream to cool our brakes, meeting section hikers Slow-n-Steady and Jan Gogh. Jan Gogh was using her cookpot to collect water, which she was in turn pouring into her Platypus bladder. It had never occurred to me to do that, and I had always had trouble collecting water in that thing if I didn't have a good stream to use. You can learn something every day, even if that day is Day 81.
We hiked out of the gap again, criss-crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway and getting a few drops of rain before arriving at the shelter. My dad also discovered that his pack's rain cover's promise to "fit any pack" did not include his. For that purpose, I hope it doesn't rain too much. We dodged it today, and now we're inside the shelter as a light rain has developed in the evening. We hung out at the picnic table for a while and ate snacks, which evolved into eating dinner. Who's complaining? Also, this shelter has a really nearby water source, something I find desirable in my accommodations. Just a few feet to a nice trickle of water, good enough to fill even your largest water bladder. We'll see what we're up to for tomorrow, but my dad survived the toughest day he'll face, and as far as I can tell he's in one piece as he snoozes beside me at 6:30. The trail will do that to you.