We got started on the AT today. As I write this we are at Stover Creek shelter. We made 10ish miles, which was more than we planned for but we felt up to it so we kept going. Right now I hurt a lot but I am glad we did continue forward.
We left the lodge at 9 and made it to Springer about 1:30 which was faster than average.
Me on Springer:
At the shelter:
5 girl scout leaders training for backpacking
Coyote – met him at Springer. He is yoyoing.
Old guy who did trail in 73 and now section hikes
Another old guy whose daughter did the trail a few years ago.
Family of 5 from Arkansas who want to thru
Guy who left lodge 5 minutes ahead of us and is thruhiking.
We made it further than planned again today. We were only going to go about 5 miles and then stop due to bodily aches and such. We camped in Cooper Gap which is a waterless gap and a local resident came by with some kindness in the form of crackers, cookies and a granola bar for each of us.
We actually came 9.5 miles and we really hurt. Jess has numerous blisters which I feel bad about but has troopered on insisting that she can deal. My various aches keep our pace very similar. I have no blisters yet but have had the hot spots which tell me that they are coming.
We need to do 8 miles each of the next two days to skip Blood Mountain which currently requires a bear canister – that most people don’t have. Then we hit Neel’s gap. Food, outfitter, etc. We are trying to get cabin reservations at Blood Mountain Cabins.
It was really cold last night. The thermometer Jess carries was on her pack right outside the tent and read 22. Add on howling winds and you get a good dose of miserable. At least we were dry. We broke camp and walked a mile before getting warm enough to cook breakfast.
After lunch we ran into Miss Janice who was holding a cookout and feeding any passing hikers. We had just eaten but I took a soda and soaked up the conversation.
We needed more like 9.5 miles each day; not 8. We made something close to 10 today. The bad part about that is we wound up nowhere near a shelter. The good part is we are camping at an unnamed spring with familiar faces. Two girls who camped beside us last night in the wind gale at Cooper Gap were just getting set up as we came in. One of them is thruhiking; she calls herself Homeward Bound since she is from Maine. We also have the older guy from the shelter who had a daughter that did the trail came up not long after we did; he calls himself Maine Man. They both seem pretty cool.
Also – I found a guardian tree to camp by:
I set up the tent poorly last night and paid dearly for it. I had the side that was both windward AND downhill. So all night we both slid downhill which kept pushing me into the draft. I was too cold for breakfast without hiking some to warm up first – again.
Today we did Blood Mountain, the highest point we will cross in Georgia. It was tough for me. First I started to go to a shelter and found out it was WAY too far off the trail to be useful. I did get water but I was pissed after the seventh curve I rounded without finding anything but more blueblazed trail and I said screw it.
When I was about to start up Blood Mountain (Jess and I usually hike 5 – 15 minutes apart depending on how fast each of us us moving) I ran into Maine Man. He mentioned that I would do better with a hat so I got mine out and slapped it on for the first time on the hike. That was some good advice. I was in sun 90% of the way up. The hat is something that I brought because I knew I should but just have not been wearing. It’s an old floppy hat that belonged to my father in law so carrying it seemed a little like taking him along for the ride.
The view up top was awesome.
And the way down made me pay for it in full. I had to go down rock facings which gives me all the confidence of a moose on roller skates. Throw in the facts that my right knee started whining like crazy early in the descent and that the trail isn’t well marked in some heavy use areas resulting in numerous ‘trails’ and I got downright cranky. Jess caught up to me five minutes before Neel’s Gap and we crossed the road together.
We bought a couple of snacks and then ran into Maine Man’s party outside. He lives near here and his wife put on food for all: fried chicken, potato salad, homemade candy, sweet tea and sodas. Cranky had departed at the sight of Neel’s. It was replaced by awesome. I cannot extol the virtues of fried chicken and those who provide it enough.
We checked in to our cabin, had showers, got our laundry done, bought and ate (more) food and then celebrated clean bodies and clothing repeatedly. I feel very refreshed.