Note: Still no cell coverage – will try to upload tomorrow as I hike.
Note: And still enjoying a continental breakfast at the Super 8 – almost done uploading.
Shortly after I finished writing last night, the rain began to fall, gently at first – then proceeding to a steady downpour at midnight.
I was restless all night – matters only made worse by the occasional late-night driver laying on his car horn as he drove past. This happened frequently and at all hours. I woke again at 7:00 and the rain had finally stopped.
I sat up in my tent – I felt pretty good this morning. I’ve got a packing routine in the mornings and it starts with stuffing my sleeping bag into its dry bag and strapping it to the bottom of my pack.
My clothes (also in a dry-bag) are the first thing to go into the pack itself – they rest at the bottom and mold against the sleeping bag pressing against the bottom of the pack. If I know it’s going to be a rainy day, I’ll pack extra socks (in a zip-lock) in the outside pocket.
After that, I pack my cook set, toiletry bag and tech bag on top of my clothes, all in a neat row. At this point, the only two things left to pack are my tent and food. I can pack in a hurry if necessary.
So, there I sat, ready to perform this routine I’ve tried my best to perfect after being on the trail for a month. I started stuffing the sleeping bag into its stuff sack and the thing split wide open at the top. This was the bag I bought from Mountain Outfitters at Neel’s Gap after that crazy ascent up Blood Mountain back in GA some 220 miles ago.
I came up with a quick back up plan. I remembered grabbing a trash bag from a hiker box in the Smokeys – I found it rolled up in the brain of my pack. I put my sleeping bag into the trash bag and crammed it into the very bottom of my pack – where my clothes usually go. Then everything else went on top.
My pack rides a little high now, but it’ll work until I can get another compression sack – I think I might have to wait for Damascus.
I went to the bathroom, barely out of view (sort of) from the side of the road – I was in a hurry. No one honked at me so I guess I was fine.
I had a mishap trying to poop today. I chose a log that was balanced funny, sort of like a hidden see-saw. Right as started to put my full weight on it, pants already around my ankles, it shot down a good foot, sending me toppling backwards.
By the time I got everything right again, it was nearly 9:00. While both the guidebook and the app claimed Allen Gap has a water source, all we could find was what looked like a ditch that ran along the road.
We walked up to Mom’s. That’s the name of the store I saw last night. But it wasn’t really a store – more like a piece of family property that had been converted into a place to sell snacks to hikers. I bought water and a snickers and moved on.
The ascent up to Camp Creek Bald was surprisingly well-graded. I started the day hiking strong and making very good time. I stopped at Little Laurel Shelter four miles in and had a quick lunch. I left at 11:30 for the top.
It’s always that last mile that gets you. The ascent was rough. Just shy of the top, many of us stopped to put on rain gear. I chose to only wear my rain jacket and gloves. It wasn’t raining yet, but it was getting dark, cold and very windy.
I was excited to finally summit – for starters, it was the first real view I’ve seen since leaving Max Patch. I had been hiking with Medicine Man, Savage and Shaggy for most of the day. The four of us left for what appeared to be an easy ten mile ridgewalk.
About two miles in, I came across a sign advising the AT split – I could either take the Bad Weather path or the Exposed Ridgewalk. I chose wisely.
This section rivaled that first ridgewalk in the Smokeys. The views weren’t nearly as beautiful, but the terrain was much more rugged. At many points, I was scrambling up and down piles of boulders trying to follow the white blazes. And the weather was just as windy as in the Smokeys, now with storm clouds on the horizon.
About 1.5 miles the later, the ridgewalk ended and I began a much easier hike toward Jerry Cabin Shelter – it was only 2:00 and the shelter was four miles way
I started hiking north and began to feel precipitation hit my jacket. It was hail, but not exactly. It was the size and consistency of a Dippin-Dots – sort of like a mini snowball. I stopped and put on my rain pants and pack cover.
I moved as fast as I could, still making good time, but the wind and frozen precipitation were getting worse. It was becoming increasingly evident that I was getting caught by an approaching storm.
I finally made it Jerry Cabin Shelter at 4:00 and was happy to see my hiking buddies had already made camp. I found a spot and started to pitch my tent. At about that time, the storm started up in earnest – it deposited a collection of mini snowballs on my foot print right off the bat.
I was eventually able to get my tent up and get everything inside as the first wave of the storm hit. Some of the guys resorted to cooking in their vestibules to escape the rain and mini snowballs.
I opted to wait for a break and quickly boiled water in the shelter. Dinner tonight was disgusting.
Everyone was in their tents tonight by 6:00. For a good hour, we got some thunder and lightning, nothing too close, and a heavy dusting of the frozen precipitation followed by rain.
I have no idea what the weather forecast is for tomorrow. Last I heard, it will be more of the same starting first thing tomorrow. The temperature has dropped noticeably -it’s 9:00pm and about 41 degrees in my tent. I can hear the wind still whipping the tree tops.
Erwin, TN is now 41 miles away. I’m still in good shape for a Sunday morning arrival, more than likely tenting the night at Uncle Johnny’s just outside of town.
This weather is getting absurd. I’m ready for spring.
Breakfast: Snickers and water from Mom’s – $4.50
Snack: Honey bun
Lunch: nut mix, bag of beef jerky, probably about 2 cups of raisins and prunes
Dinner: I was saving a Backpacker Pantry Pad Thai for a special occasion. I’ve heard they are good. I added salmon and Sriracha. It was terrible. I’ve made some pretty bad stuff, but at least I could eat it. I gave the last bit to Shaggy. Peanuts, 3 Starburst.