I failed to write anything in my journal on July 9th. Maybe that was because nothing particularly exciting or noteworthy happened. It certainly couldn't have been because I was too busy, or having too much fun.
I said goodbye to Brünnhilde and Blackbird that morning. They were taking a zero at the East Mountain Retreat Center. Blackbird was having horrible problems with her feet, due to her boots being half a size too small. Caring deeply for her well-being and continued enjoyment of the trail, I magnanimously delayed my departure for a moment to deliver an extemporaneous lecture about the myriad benefits of moleskin and all the various other blister treatments I knew.
Brünnhilde and Blackbird thanked me profusely for my words of wisdom, insisted on taking me out for breakfast, and even went so far as to propose naming their first child Major Chafage in my honor. Abashed, I demurely suggested that their gratitude was unnecessary, but that I would happily accept a check or money order instead. And then I hiked on, once again, on my own. Alone.
And that was pretty much it.
Oh, except for Fredo caught up with me.
I never got the impression that Fredo liked me very much. Maybe it was because I had erroneously judged him to be an inveterate druggy—due to the unfortunate subject matter of our first real conversation—and had thus, rather unfairly, treated him in a somewhat standoffish, possibly even cruel or condescending manner. Or perhaps it was because Fredo had me accurately pegged as a sniveling, insecure, narcissistic ass.
The last time I had seen him was during the Watauga Dam Challenge, and I apparently hadn't come off very well, to put it mildly. In truth, I may have acted like a callous, supercilious jerk, and so failed to emerge from the encounter with my dignity and reputation unscathed. But whatever. Let it never be said that life isn't about second—and third, and possibly fourth—chances. I was overwhelmingly relieved and truly glad to see him. And he didn't seem to be completely horrified to once again be in my company. Clearly, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
We passed each other frequently during the day, with Fredo seizing every available opportunity to lobby me to do twenty miles instead of the fifteen I had previously intended. Fredo badly wanted to stay at the Upper Goose Pond Cabin, drawn by the opportunities for swimming and canoeing, and the off-chance we might get trail magic from the caretakers who were living there for the summer. Spurred on by his infectious enthusiasm—and not at all by that hypothetical trail magic—I cheerfully acquiesced to his plan.
Unfortunately, there was a fairly sizable crowd at the cabin, and it wasn't long before I was yearning for my solitude. But then a storm rolled in, totally obviating any chance I had of enjoying myself down by the lake, or leaving. And I was faced with the stark reality of sleeping—or trying to sleep—in a cramped bunk room with nearly a dozen other snoring, smelly hikers.
It wasn't quite like burrito night at the gorilla house, but it wasn't heaven, either.