So here I am in beautiful Hiawassee. I came in entirely on impulse. As I was lying in my tent this morning (it was frigid), I pulled out my trail guide to see how far I wanted to go today. The elevation profile showed two monster mountains—Tray Mountain is 4500 feet in elevation (with a shelter on top, and dear gods I am SO not staying there). I was filled with ‘ugh,’ when I saw that the Budget Inn also shuttles from Unicoi Gap, just a mile from where I was tenting. The problem was that it was already past 7, and the shuttle was coming at 9. I flew, packing up my stuff in random order, then dashed down the mountain. Fastest downhill yet, I think! Although who puts uphills in the middle of their downhills? The AT, that’s who!
It all worked out. I’m going to take a full zero day tomorrow (that’s a day with no mileage; a nero is a day with low mileage). I wasn’t planning on zeroes this early, and truth be told I feel pretty good. But you know? I’m 52 years old with a few pounds to lose, coming right off the couch. I decided to give my body a day just to make sure there aren’t any injuries I’ve been ignoring. I need a gear regroup, too, plus all the usual nero things—food, laundry, showers.
So today I’ll sew my rain pants. Tomorrow Is all about resupplying and tweaking the way things are arranged. I’ll be back on the trail Friday morning to tackle those two mountains.
Speaking of injuries, I only have one and I wasn’t expecting it: chafing! My inseam areas from groin to knee look like hamburger. That didn’t happen on any of my training hikes! I think it’s from the seams of my pants. Anyway, If I were starting tomorrow I’d add some sort of lotion or lubricant to my first aid kit. The White Blaze people recommend Body Glide. I got some lotion at the drug store, and I’ll take that with me.
Does anybody know a trick for reducing typos while typing on a phone?
I’m at the Budget something in Hiawassee. I know the posts are wonky. The phone is charging. In the next two days I’ll be fixing and catching up…
Tenting at Blue Mountain Shelter [mile 50.5]
Last night was a disaster. The wind blew furiously, then the rain finally came. It poured in torrents for 3 or 4 hours… Then the wond started again. Around ) am I realized fhat the wind and freezing rain were coming so hard that they were crushing my tent. My down seemed dry, but everything else in my tent was soaked. “Can it get worse?” I asked. And yes, it could. The down could get wet. So I paked up. It was a rout. Everything was frozen solid, including my tent poles and bear bag.
The frozen fog persisted, along with the outragious wind. All the brambles and twigs were bandaged in ice. Once I got down below 3000 feet elevation, though, it warmed up and the sun was bright. Treated myself to a big cup of coffee at Low Gap Shelter, then went on to surprise myself with my first 12-mile day!
I cant’t take redit, though. I was lured by the siren song of the privy. Look, I’ve spent 50 years perfecting the art of pooping sitting down. If you want to do the trail, forget the practice hikes and stairmaster. Do yourselfp a favor and practice crapping in your tub.
Anyway. Connectivity is still a problem. I managed to see WordPress comments but can’t get enough signal to respond.
Tenting in a downpour at Whitley Gap Shelter
All the days on the trail are hard, at least if you’re old and fat and out of shape. Sometimes it’s just exhausting hard. Sometimes it’s painful hard. But the last three days have been fabulous.
Then came today.
This day has been a metric buttload of horrible from minute one. I actually think it started last night with the scrambling for shelter. I didn’t have time to eat and hang the bear bag, so I just glomped a Cliff bar. This morning I woke up late to a pea-soup fog driven by cold winds that were gusting up to 40 mph. That persisted all freaking day. That’s tough hiking. Visibility was no more than 20 feet, and the mountains were Sassafrassian.
I losf the trail once with a section hiker named Cousin Vinny, and I took my first spill down a muddy embankment. It was long, but it was very nearly vertical. Getting up, I jerked something in my hip. My rainpants tore from ankle to knee.
Now I’m in my tent while fhe rain outside pounds. Even fhough this lovely shelter is a mile off the trail, there are a dozen or so thrus here. The trail was practically empty today—the smart ones took a zero at Neels.
Does this make me want to quit? NO WAY! But that nero at Hiawassee is looking better and better.
BTW… no cell service anywhere today. I’ll probaby end up uploading noirnal entries only every few days, from town. I usually can see comments, though—just can’t respond from roaming.
Tenting in the middle of nowhere by myself.
First of all, I’ve been meaning to mention this: Than you so much for the comments and texts and emails! I haven’t been able to respond much because I don’t have a handle on the connectivity or the life of my battery. Sometimes I can receive but not send. Often there’s no service. I figure I’ll have an orgy of responding when I make my next town stop—probably Hiawassee in 3 or 4 days.
So. They say every day on the trail, something wonderful will happen and something will make you want to quit. It’s so true! My wonderful came midway. My terrible is about now. Not terrible enough to want to quit, though! Because guess what? I’m past Neels Gap!
I got on the trail at 7:15 AM—my first experience with night hiking. Or predawn hiking, more like. Blood Mountain… what an experience. It wasn’t bad going up. Much easier than Sassafrass-my-ass. The worst was the blustery wind that’s persisted all day. There was a little snow up on the peak.
The view was breathtaking. Then the misery started. Coming down Blood Mountain is where it kicks you. Relentless rocky scrambles, blazes that are difficult to follow in places.
But the reward at the bottom: Neels Gap! I was thru hiker 259 in their register. They said a lot of folks have quit already because of that freak cold snap.
I decided to go a little farther, to Swain Gap, but there’s a family camped there. So I’ve pushed farther than I wanted to, and I’m sore as hell. I had to hang a bear bag for the first time. It’s a pretty pathetic job. I hope the odor-proof bags keep the bears away.
Phone battery is down to 45%, and that has to get me to Hiawassee. I’d better sign off.
Tomorrow it’s going to rain. First rainy day on the trail! Everything is an adventure.