Day Eight – Thursday, March 17: Swag of the Blue Ridge to Plum Orchard Gap, 11.9 miles, 74.1 total AT miles.

Today started late as I woke up still sore from the day prior. My right knee was killing me as I shuffled to collect my bear bag. I borrowed a bandana from Kool-Aid and tightly tied it just below my kneecap for extra support. While my feet are doing great with the addition of the Superfeet insoles, I can’t say the same about my knee.

Cool sign for a dumpy campsite. I got had.

Savage was off to the races before I was even out of my tent. I took my time. Aside from the nagging knee pain, I was pretty constipated. Sorry to bring this up, but when life becomes as simple as eating and hiking, an irregular bowel movement is a big deal.

I finally starting hiking just after 9:00 knowing I had a 12 mile day ahead with lots of ups and downs. My first summit of the day was Kelly Knob. While it wasn’t the killer I remember it being from my youth, it was still difficult.

Kelly was the first of three summits today – up next was Powell Mountain. Powell wasn’t quite as steep, but it had elevation and views to match. I refilled on water shortly after Powell.

I’ve met a few folks who don’t purify water at all. They believe in the cleanliness of pure spring water and drink straight from the source. Most of the time my critical brain kicks in and I would never drink untreated, fresh water. I still didn’t, but today showed me why some think it’s okay. The spring I filled up at flowed directly from the base of a tree – one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

A spring emerges from the base of a tree.

Powell led me in a painful descent for over two miles to Dick’s Creek Gap. After emerging from the woods and crossing the road, I had lunch with a group of other hikers, most of whom I hadn’t met before. And all were taking advantage of the road crossing to hitch into Hiawassee.

 

View from Powell Mountain.
 
It was 2:00 and I still needed to hike 4.5 miles to Plum Orchard Shelter. I put on my headphones and quickly crossed Cowart Gap and the surprisingly difficult Buzzard Knob in about 2.5 hours for my third summit of the day.

For the last hour of hiking, one thought, and one thought only, had been occupying my mind – the privy. 

Privies are something special. So far in GA, the volunteer AT clubs have kept these backwoods outhouses immaculate. Because I’ve been camping mostly in the gaps between mountains, I haven’t had the opportunity to utilize facilities of any kind, however crude. Tonight was a treat.

Instead of tenting near the shelter, we decided to set camp near the trailhead. I made another disgusting dinner and we started packing up for the night.

 

It looked really good, but it wasn’t.
 
In order to make Franklin, NC by Sunday morning we’ve got to hike 35.7 miles – that’s two big days followed by a short hike into town. At least that’s the plan. I’m thinking an early afternoon check-in. We’ll see.

In 4.5 miles, we’ll cross the GA/NC border. The elevation profile looks rough for tomorrow morning – there’s a good six miles of steep climbs, followed by the gradual ascent and descent of Standing Indian Mountain. The tentative goal is to have an early dinner on the summit at 5400 feet and tent shortly thereafter.

Tonight is the coldest it’s been. I went from shorts and a t-shirt at noon to wearing my puffy jacket in my 20 degree sleeping bag. And it’s supposed to get colder, but I’m ready.

I didn’t really hike with anyone today. I successfully stayed in the middle of the pack. I enjoy the calculated isolation – I’m never more than 30 minutes from another hiker. Usually.

Because of this, I got to appreciate the stillness and utter silence of the deep woods. It was very cool.

Full moon’s coming and there’s talk of a night hike if the weather stays bearable.

Breakfast: handful of almonds

Snack: dried figs (hold on)

Lunch: 2 bags of beef jerky, the rest of the dried figs, two whole-wheat flat breads.

Snack: probably 2 cups of almonds, no joke.

Dinner: Oh man. This was the worst thing I’ve eaten since starting. A boiled stew of kale, dried cranberries, almonds, Spam and basil. I ate it as it was good for me, but it was foul.

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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