Each day presents new things and different challenges. There are so many former thru hikers out here offering trail magic and advice. I'm yet to hear something that actually sticks to what I've been told. If anyone tells you that you have an easy day well in my opinion it's misleading. There may be easier days but there are no easy days on the trail.....
Because we stayed in a cabin there was no rush to get out early. It's tough to leave a warm bed and shower but by 10:15am I I was off.
I felt pretty good and and was making good time. Today was a longer day, close to 12 miles. The elevation was up and down ranging from 3100 feet close to 3900 feet. When it rolls like this it usually means ups are straight up without switchbacks and down just the same.
Trail magic came twice in the day but not in the form of food. Lone wolf and his gang were passing out the booze. The first gap I took one beer and moved on but when I came across them again at Tesnatee Gap,with 1 liter my hiking partner, we decided to stop and chat for a bit. From there we were told we had an "easy" 4ish miles. A beer, cup of boxed wine and swig of makers mark later we were back on our way. Yeah no not easy and with booze in the system it just made it harder. It was a blessing as we crawled into Low Gap Shelter.
It was a pretty chilly night. We were told a cold front was headed our way. For me it took what energy I had left to set up camp, cook dinner, filter water and hang my food. Once all this was done I was pleased as could be to crawl into my tent and get some shut eye.
we woke to wet conditions as it rained thoughtout the night. Luckily I had a good night sleep and got packed up pretty quickly. We were headed 12 miles today with Blue Mountain being our biggest challenge. It's stand close to 4000 feet.
I'd like to put things into perspective when I talk of elevation. Total climbs throughout each hike can be anywhere from 3000 to 4000 feet of actual climbing distance. The Empire State Building stands at 1454 feet. I'm sure you can now figure out how much these little legs of mine are working through each day. Even better is that NC presents elevations over 5000 feet quite often and even a few 6000 foot ones as well. I can't say this enough to those asking me why I'm walking from Georgia to Maine. I'm not walking. I'm hiking and climbing these 14 states. There's just a bit of a difference. 😉
After a challenging climb over Blue we got wind that there would be trail magic at the bottom when we reached Unicoi Gap. The down was difficult with a lot of switch backs. Though we could smell burgers cooking it took us close to 30 min to finally reach the lot. It was straight torture up until we finally had food in our hands.
I'm not a man of religion but this is God country Im hiking in. These people are the most generous folk I've come across. Most trail Angels we've met have been religious groups who hand out all kinds of great food, snacks and drinks. They ask nothing in return. They leave pamphlets out and small bibles to take if you like but it's never forced upon. I can't say enough good things about these groups. They admire what we are doing and are here to help us along the way.
Once we finished our goodies we were back on our way. One last difficult climb up to Rocky Mountain where we decided to camp for the night. It was a great spot with a big old fire pit that we cooked our dinner on. I didn't need much after so much to eat during the day. It was surprising to me that no one else was up here to camp as well. Perhaps they knew something we did not...
We all woke early. Late in the night the cold, rain and wind arrived. Though somewhat comfortable in my bag and tent I knew something different was waiting outside. I dreaded unzipping both to prepare for the day.
It was dreadful out. Still Brian who is usually one of the last out of camp was already on his way when I emerged from my tent. You don't think about proper packing on days like this. You get as much clothes on as possible, stuff your pack quickly and get moving. This is exactly what I did.
After doing so and getting my food bag down from a tree my hands were already cold as could be. I put my head down and started moving as quickly I could so I could warm up.
With the wind howling it made it difficult to get this body warming. 1 liter and I were working together to move quickly. We were able to find a spot on the side of the mountain the cut the wind out and gave us a steam for water supply. At this point there was a mountain access road. A truck pulled up and told us they would have trail magic up at Cheese Factory site (which use to be an area that had an old cheese factory). "We'll take it", we thought and got moving to meet them at the top.
When we arrived one old thru hiker was setting up his grille and said it would be 20 min til the burgers were ready. We were standing back in the heart of cold, wind and rain. We thought it was worth it due to no breakfast to wait for the food. 30 min later we had a burger in our stomach but felt miserable from the cold. In retrospect I think pushing on would have been the better decision.
Soon after I got back out I started losing felling in my finger tips. I was not in my happy place to say the least. I decide to stop and warm my hands up. I sat behind a large Boulder and stuck my hands down my pants for warmth. I was a bit embarrassed when a lone female hiker passed and saw me. "I'm warming my hands up." I said. Her response, "Life on the AT."
I got back at it soon after and worked hard to get to camp. I met back up with a couple guys from the crew at Addis Gap and the decision was made to push to Deep Gap Shelter in hopes it was a bit warmer gap to sleep in for the night.
When we arrived, though cold, there was very little wind. It was better than our other options. After a 12 mile day I threw on warm clothes and cooked up a big hot meal. Because there was room in the shelter and I was pretty tired I decided to sleep in the loft area. I was hoping it was warmer and obviously it cut out the work of setting up camp.
By 630 I climbed into my bag with every warm piece of clothing I could find and read The Hobbit until I dozed off. Perhaps I was looking at a good nights sleep...
Wishful thinking.. When the sun was down the temps dipped under 20 degrees. The wind picked up and some snow started falling. To make matters worst I made a new friend. A little mouse decided he liked my pack which was next to me. He enjoyed my camp towel and TP as entertainment for the night. As I attempted several times to scare him away he would return. It's was 3am and it became obvious there was no returning to "blissful" sleep. Also finding comfort, even with a sleeping pad, on a wooden floor is basically impossible. This night was nightmarish.
By 630am all were up and packing faster than we did the day before. It was COLD! I was already frustrated just from packing and this body was as cold as could be. Knowing it was a short day to get to Dicks Creek Gap for a pick up into town it was the only saving grace from me going postal.
These are the days I understanding why hikers quit. It was just over 20 degrees and the wind once out of the gap was straight in your face. I was wearing 2 pairs of socks, tights, pants, long sleeve shirt, mid-layer jacket, down jacket, hat and gloves and I still wanted to cry. Man I hate the cold... I'm sure once I'm hiking in 100 degree temps I'll hate the heat as well but for now it's the winter conditions that get my Boston attitude directed at it.
I fought through it until we reached the gap. Victory!!!! 7 days of hiking and we reached 69.6 miles on the trail. With the weekend cold front we timed it perfectly to get into town to eat and rest most of Saturday and a deserved zero day on Sunday for much of the same.
Sitting here now in Hiawassee Im happy yet again to be able to take a shower and wash my clothes. It's a different world in these parts. Small towns with half the business closed down due to large chain shopping malls and Starbucks making their ever known presence felt. We choose an awesome local restaurant (a complete homage to Gone with the Wind with the place decked out in every reminder of the movie) that had an all you can eat buffet with fried chicken, turkey, mashed, stuffing, salad bar, mixed veggies and all kinds of desserts for 8.95. You can not beat that! Other than a crazy pizza delivery mix up where I had to end up calling the local police to get my money back (story for another time) overall the experience has been pretty good.
The legs are feeling rested. I'm starting to figure out what I don't need in my pack to lose some weight and tomorrow we are pushing to Muskrat Creek Shelter.... Oh that happens to be in North Carolina!
On a side note my trail name has been modified. The crew now calls me Boston Mule. Makes perfect sense..
Hike the good hike
Jesse aka Boston Mule