Note: Still no cell coverage. Sorry ya’ll.
Note: Still enjoying continental breakfast at the Super 8 – time to play catch up.
I woke up first at 7:00 and decided to take the to-go trash we accumulated from last night’s dinner to town to throw away. I wisely stopped at the gas station to use the bathroom before heading back to camp.
Everyone was up and packing by the time I got back. I started packing as well. I finished last and hit the trail at 9:00. I hiked alone for the first couple of hours. I felt off this morning.
The ascent from Hot Springs, NC to Rich Mountain gains 2,000 feet of elevation gradually over about 7 miles. I hiked as hard as I could, but I was still bothered. The truth is that I was mad I was still in Hot Springs. I eventually caught up to Savage who also shared the same feelings.
Lesson learned I suppose – two days off is too long. We tried to reassure ourselves that, in the real world, two days off would be welcome – but not on the AT and not this soon into the hike. It felt a lot like it did when I took that second day in Fontana.
Savage, Canuck, Clutch and I had lunch on the top of Rich Mountain at the base of an old observation tower. As Canuck and I were descending, I started feeling these little flecks hitting my shins and ankles. I bent close to the ground. The trail was covered with thousands of baby crickets – each barely bigger than the head of a pin. I had never seen anything like it.
And about a mile up trail, I encountered my first bit of wildlife – a small black snake with a orange ring around its neck was sunning itself in the middle of the trail. It barely moved as I passed.
Medicine Man and Moon Boots had been hiking ahead all day. By the time I rolled into Spring Mountain Shelter, I found out they had just left for Allen Gap four miles away. On the way, I ran across a controlled burn area – the AT actually formed the south-eastern border of the burn zone.
I stopped for a full water fill-up before making my final descent into Allen Gap at 4:30. I was beat. The seven of us set up our tents at the entrance to the Cherokee National Forest and began making dinner.
I’m looking forward to another good night’s sleep. I’m full and warm. Trail rumor calls for rain from 8:00pm to 8:00am tonight. It’s 9:00 now and the rain hasn’t started yet, but the winds have picked up substantially – it hasn’t stopped being windy ever since I entered the Smokeys in fact.
I assumed that tenting by an entrance to a national forest would assure cell coverage – I was wrong. There is a little country store up the road that sells biscuits starting at 9:00am. If it does end up raining, I’ll probably start my day from there – if not, I’d like to be on the trail early.
Tomorrow looks to be an easy hiking day, weather permitting. After a gradual ascent, I should have a good 15 miles of relatively flat trail at the very manageable elevation of 4,500 feet. It should be a big day.
I neglected to mention Owl hiked ahead. He’s concerned about his abbreviated window of time to finish this hike. He claims he needs 20 mile days from here on out to finish in time.
Regarding some of my new purchases, I think the Z Seat is, perhaps, my favorite new piece of gear. It’s an accordion-style butt cushion made from the same material as my mattress pad. I pull it out every time I stop to rest, eat, filter water, whatever. It weighs next to nothing and is very comfortable.
Breakfast: one honey bun
Snack: peanut/almond mixture
Lunch: more nuts, three beef jerky tortilla roll ups (with yellow mustard and Sriracha), a handful of prunes, 3 cookies
Dinner: more nuts, taco-seasoned mac and cheese with bacon bits and salmon, three tortillas, 3 cookies