We are geniuses. Everyone knows this. So of course, since we have so much experience, we were certain that sleeping bags meant for late spring through early fall would be appropriate for the 4500 footers of Georgia... In march. Rob has a 45 degree bag plus a summer liner, I have a 30 degree bag. Neither are sufficient and this became abundantly clear as we laid next to each other doing 8 minute abs regiments in our sleeping bags for warmth. This happened every half hour for the duration of night 1. Needless to say the other hikers at the shelter were less than appreciative for the commotion. We got up and got our blood pumping as soon as there was enough light to see our hands in front of our faces. luckily for us we have heard tell of an outfitter conveniently situated along the trail at mile 31, a valley known as Neels Gap. Keep in mind that we are leaving Stover Creek shelter at mile 2.8, meaning we are at least 2 sleeps away from two of the warmest sleeping bags we can find. I think Rob might actually buy one of those massive canary yellow ones intended for hiking Everest. The kind that are obnoxiously bright and have flashing lights so you can be found in an avalanche. Cant say I blame him. I personally just hope they have ones built for men of my particular girth. Either way we will freeze in two weeks atop the 6000 foot altitudes in the Smokey Mountains if we don't switch to something more prudent.
Day 2 we covered about 14 miles, landing at Gooch Mountain shelter. In all honesty the name of the place alone was enough for us to call it quits for the day. But a vigorous 14 mile second push and the desire for warmth put the nail in the coffin. Early again, we grabbed a few forest frontage spaces and set up shop. This time with the tent inside the shelter itself. We figured an added level of confinement couldn't hurt, especially if we both stay in a single tent.... All 3 pairs of sock liners, 2 pairs of smart wool socks, 2 pairs of spandex compression shorts, mid weight base layer pants, hiking pants, rain paints, base layer top, mid weight top, synthetic 30 degree jacket, rain jacket, winter hat, winter gloves, sleeping bag liners, sleeping bags, and to finish it all off; a tarp. (this is with 2 guys inside a small tent... Inside a shelter). needless to say, we over compensated. We have now managed to break the cardinal sin of sweating a considerable amount of moisture in freezing temperatures. Swell. Back to doing burpees in our sleeping bags. At this rate we might actually have some abs to show for our unpreparedness.
On the other hand, day 2 led us to a shelter where the mixture of hikers was a little more cohesive. We had a New York construction worker back to settle a score with the AT, and a fellow Italian, trail name Pepo, given to him by his 6 year old grand son. We had a thirty something fella from DC named Herb, toting a yuk allele with promise of some musical accompaniment. A Virginian by the name of Griffin, trail name Orion, a fellow member of the husky gentlemens club and someone able to share the trials of that particular challenge to these first few days. A 75 year old repeat thru hiker (2001) named Roger B, trail name Old Man (he named imself, but we' re still warming up to it) who had been recognized by a few of the other hikers at camp for being on a documentary about the AT offering advice to future thru hikers. A 24 year old from Indiana named Drew, trail name Rooster, for the undeniable rooster-like call he uses to retrieve his 2 year old American bulldog Bangerang, trail name Bangers. And last but not least, the praying cousins. We had heard tell of two young guys on spring break from college but born and bread Georgians who were hiking the southern terminus area, James and Matt. Before it was time to turn in, they offered to include anyone's wishes into their evening prayers, which for them are traditionally read aloud (my mother is grinning ear-to-ear as she reads this). We took them up on their offer and asked for a shutout concerning our warmth that evening. They pulled through. Now we just need to learn when to shed a layer! Sent from my iPad