Day 68 – Monday, May 16: Hog Camp Gap to Harper’s Creek Shelter, 21.9 miles, 834.3 total AT miles.

I did not stay warm last night. I woke up at 2:00am shivering and cold. I tried putting more clothes on, putting extra clothes under my mattress pad, sitting up in my sleeping bag and leaning against my pack – I didn’t get much sleep from then on.

I totally regret sending any of my winter stuff home. My Patagonia base layer weighed next to nothing and I got rid of the pair to shave a few ounces from my pack weight.

I eventually started packing at 6:00am – I truly had not been that cold in a while. I moved quickly, trying to warm up. I collected water from the spring before leaving Hog Camp Gap at 7:30.

I knew the elevation profile called for an easy start to the day – for the first 14 miles, I was to enjoy a relatively level hike at 3,500 feet. I’d then quickly ascend The Priest before making a difficult descent to the Tye River four miles later.

It was cold and windy as I hiked. I moved as fast as I could on the easy grade to stay warm. I paused a mile outside of camp at Tar Jacket Ridge to snap a picture of the sunrise.

I stopped for a quick snack an hour or so later, then again at 10:30 – it was finally just warm enough to shed my rain jacket and sweat pants and hike in shorts and a t-shirt. I checked my GPS and was surprised to see I had already covered 10 miles. I was making really good time. It felt great to be hiking hard.

I hiked on eventually summiting The Priest at 1:30. I took the side trail to the shelter – I needed a break and a hot lunch. As I was approaching the entrance, Savage and McDoubles were packing their packs. I wasn’t expecting to see either of them until hitting Waynesboro.

They both threw their packs down on the picnic table – they tented six miles ahead of me last night and got a late start in the cold. They relayed Black Santa was pressing for big miles today as he wanted to hit Waynesboro as soon as possible for cell reception – I’m in the same boat.

I made a hot lunch and read from the shelter log. It was funny – other hikers confessed their sins to “The Priest”. I wrote my confession about accidentally pooping too close to the AT (and not caring).

The three of us left the shelter and headed for summit. After taking in a nice view I began the four-mile, 3,000 foot descent to the Tye River. The trail was rocky and steep, halting the momentum I had gained so far.

I eventually spilled out onto VA 56 and sat down to have a quick snack. McDoubles was already relaxing in the parking lot – Savage showed up just a few minutes behind me. They quickly left to make the three-mile ascent to Harper’s Creek – a potential camp for the night.

I left the road crossing at 4:00 and crossed the Tye River suspension bridge on my way up to camp. I made good time too – I arrived at Harper’s Creek to find Savage and McDoubles setting up in the shelter.

It was just after 5:00 when I set my pack down on the shelter floor. I was surprised there were no other hikers either in the shelter or tenting nearby. It was decided – this would be the second time I slept in a shelter (third if you count the abandoned Lindamood School).

I made a quick dinner and hung an amazing bear bag over Harper’s Creek before settling down to write.

* * *

Trail rumor calls for rain all day tomorrow with a high near 60. I should be just fine (probably uncomfortable though) hiking in that weather. Good news is I’ve got a change of dry socks and underwear.

I need to get an early start if I want to make it the 27 miles to Waynesboro. After a quick hitch into town, I can tent and shower at the YMCA for free – if I get into town early enough, I can go ahead and take care of my food resupply. I need a good four to five days to get me through the Shenandoahs and into either Luray or Front Royal, VA.

One benefit to sleeping in a shelter is that I can pack very quickly in the morning – no tent to mess with.

I’m looking forward to the Shenandoahs – I’ll more than likely get to see a bear for the first time. As the AT follows the Skyline Drive for a large section, I’ll get to stop at wayside grills and convenience stores from time to time.

Breakfast: 20 gram Powerbar protein bar (peanut butter flavored), third of a bag of dried tropical fruits, Sierra Mix Clif Bar

Snack: third of a bag of dried tropical fruits, one everything bagel, beef jerky, almonds

Lunch: almonds, beef flavored ramen with tuna and instant mashed potatoes, one everything bagel

Snack: the last of the dried tropical fruits, half of an everything bagel, beef jerky

Dinner: pad thai with tuna and a squirt of Savage’s Velveeta cheese, the other half of the everything bagel

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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