I Did not sleep very well last night. Thankfully it wasn’t because of any bear activity, but it was a restless night waking up pretty much every hour. I’m really glad that I decided to eat the 2 1/2 ounces of weight on my pillow because having it between my knees is really good for my hips. Pretty achy all night. Heard the father and son duo leave on the early side. Finally forced myself to get up out of my sleeping bag around 630. Changed my clothes in my sleeping bag because I had a door on either side of my tent open. then I attempted to go to privy, but my desire to get in front of the pack was faster than my stomach could work. So back to my tent I went and packed everything up. I managed to remember to put in my contacts before packing up my tent, Which is an important order of operations for dirty hands touching my eyes. I said goodbye with my usual “I’ll see you when you pass me” refrain. And then I wandered down the trail.
It wound me down towards more rhododendrons and this stream crossing which brought up a little bit of falling flashbacks. then I walked along more rhododendrons with the sound of water far below me off to my right.
I was greet with the smell of pines as the trail opened up to a tall grove with the sound of a woodpecker off in the distance. I Eventually crossed over the stream that had been out of sight down a rhododendron covered bank. Then i walked down a wide partially gravel flat stretch trail. I Passed two hikers that had dipped in and out of camp last night. I guess they decided to go on about a mile.
My foot is feeling tight this morning. I’m trying not to pay too much attention to it and just think About flexibility in my mid foot and not get too attached to the soreness on the outside. The Creek is now raging below me to my left. There’s no phone signal here and hasn’t been since about an hour before I got to stover Creek last night.
I wound through rhododendrons and pines with not much else to speak of in terms of terrain. Came upon a wide spot in the trail and decided to pee because it seemed like a safe spot with a little poison ivy. I also knew Dave wasn’t far behind me so I should get that out-of-the-way while I could. Dave came around the corner about four minutes after popped a squat. Good timing.
I saw this little guy middle of the trail and took my pack off so I could take a picture of my spirit animal. Crossed another big creek that had no camping signs everywhere and people had clearly been camping. I Managed to get bit of phone signal so I left Oakland a voicemail and touched base with couple of people.
Not long after that, I got an even better signal right, so I stopped in the middle of the trail and called Oakland. I stayed put for longer than I intended to because I could tell that there were people at the water source right around the corner and I didn’t want to be rude and be on the phone while filtering water. We said our goodbyes, and I came around the corner to find for people Hanging out on the log. I filtered water and talked to one of them. They’re out for four and a half of days doing a shakedown hike for a trip to Montana. I gave my 1200 mile spiel and went about my way, crossing over the little stream. around corner, I took another bathroom break because it seemed like the coast was clear. Then I ran face-to-face with a gentlemen using a giant limb as a hiking stick, which always sets me on edge. But he was harmless enough.
I stopped at a seasonal stream to get water because I felt anxious about how long of a stretch there would be with no sources. The group doing a shakedown hike caught up with me and I leapfrogged them down the hill to high water gap. There was a woman dropping off her car to do the last 3.5 miles she needs to finish the GA stretch of the trail. The duo were named Puttputt and Grambo (Rambo grandma style). They were handing out water, which I didn’t need but I decided to guzzle a bottle anyway. They also offered to take my trash which was minimal, but I gave it to them anyway because why not. Then I passed the shakedown group on the short but chug worthy climb out of high water gap. By the time I reached the top I was huffing and puffing. It smelled a bit right like rain and the air felt heavy. I passed a hammock camper packing up. Not sure what he’s doing at 11:45 in the morning but whatever. As I got to a flat stretch it’s starting to drizzle, but it stopped shortly there after.
I decided to Stop for lunch before it rained on me. I found a great set of rocks at the midpoint of a hill. Two of the kids from last night showed up. One of them was nattering on about weight consciousness and wearing his rain coat so his clothes didn’t get heavier while he reached for a water bottle that looked like it had to be at least a pound, empty. As he slung his giant pack on, I also noticed a leather knife sheath clipped onto his hip belt. I don’t think wet clothes are going to be this kid’s downfall.
My food definitely still tastes like dryer sheets. The kids are camping at Justus creek so I could stay there with company or try to push the extra mile and a half to gooch mountain shelter. It’s supposed to be windy and rainy tonight so the shelter is tempting but that’s longer than I intended to start with this week (12.9 miles).
After lunch there was a short climb that led to a nice flat stretch where I saw a new flower:
The trail dropped me down to a road crossing at horse gap and then right back up one of the longer climbs thus far. I got to this overlook and decided to plop down to take advantage of the weak phone signal that had come out of nowhere. Service has been hopping around erratically all day.
A hiker couple passed me as I sat being a phone zombie. I caught up with them around the corner while they stood taking a quick breather. I asked where they planned to stop for the night because I’m trying to keep from camping alone. They had a noncommittal answer similar to my own (gooch is too far but RAIN). I started out ahead of them but quickly let them pass. When the gentleman looked up confused, I gave my now usual refrain, “I’m slower than I look.” They moved on and almost immediately I saw something I wanted to take a picture of. Shocking I know. But I found a new flower!
Somewhere along the climb, I ran into putt putt. I have her a hearty hello using her trail name and she returned with mine. On a whim I asked for her picture so meet Putt putt:
We parted ways with a fist bump, and I continued huffing my way up the climb. I saw columbine on the way up and found the hiking couple on the flat stretch. The forest floor was covered in May flowers and the trail was soft, for which I’m always grateful.
I took my headphones out my ear to be social but shortly thereafter I got more phone signal so I took the opportunity to call Oakland. Maybe my trail name should be Clingy. We managed to eek out a pretty functional call for a few minutes and then the towers called it quits.
I continued my way down an unfortunately rocky descent that made my right foot cranky. I decided to stop and dump some of the water in my bag rather than wait until the road crossing .2 miles down. Why wait? So I sat down on a rock and filtered enough to fill my bottles and dumped the leftover water in the brush.
On the other side of the gravel road crossing the trail footing eased, which made the longer shelter choice seem more possible. I made the mistake of passing a good snack log and didn’t find another good spot for almost mile. I found a rock on the trail with enough room for people to pass and plopped my bag down. I scarfed half a cliff bar and part my new favorite salty snack which is cashews and white cheddar cheezits. The cheezits don’t hold up as well as I’d hoped but it’s nice to have something salty. I checked the shelter specific weather on at weather.org. The wind and rain forecasted for tonight sealed the deal. Going long to gooch mountain it is. I heard voices in the distance behind me and decided to get moving. Shortly up the trail, I came to a camping spot and rushed up behind a tree to go pee before the people caught up with me.
Every time I drop my pants, I think of the time in New England when a dude walked past me while my butt was out. With another successful bathroom break behind me, I got moving again. The last two miles of trail were easy going and wound me past alternating sections of saplings and rhododendron groves.
Then came Justus Creek. A high flowing, wide creek that had wet rocks as part of the intended crossing. I stood there and bemoaned my options. Cross on wet rocks, cross on a thin lumpy log, or take my shoes off and cross barefoot. The couple that I’d been leapfrogging with caught up to me and we surveyed the options together. They both opted for the rocks. I watched as their long legs gave them sounder steps than I would be able to manage. They got to the other side and called out they would wait for me to cross safely but I assured them I would be fine because I planned to go for my trusty barefoot option. I couldn’t stomach the idea of turning an ankle or slipping off a rock, so I sat down and took my shoes, socks and gaiters off. The water was only about ankle deep and the brisk temperature felt good on my sore feet.
I sat down on the other side and dried my feet with my tent towel. There was a short climb up out of the creek bed and then the trail continued on as it had before with easy footing. I caught up with the couple right before we hit the shelter. From a distance I could hear whooping and yelling from people at the shelter. That noise could only come from someone with testosterone coursing through their system. Just what I didn’t feel like dealing with.
We came around the bend to find a shelter full of people, probably at least 10. My heart sank as I quickly tried to come to grips with pitching my tent on a rainy night. I set my bag down and walked over to the shelter to suss out the situation. One of my least favorite things to do is walk in front of a group of strangers looking bedraggled and smelling worse than I look. But I forced myself to do it immediately lest someone else swoop in. There looked to be only one spot left unless people squished. I offered first dibs to the couple but they decided to tent. I thanked them and quickly threw down my sleeping pad and began the tricky process of pulling things out of my bag for shelter life. It’s hard to remember everything you need to prevent yourself from digging around in the early morning or right after everyone’s gone to sleep.
As it turns out the whooping was from a rowdy card game being played at the picnic table. I Set up my water to boil and put my food in to hydrate. Then came the task of getting water. The couple are from Alabama and they were friendly. I Ate at the picnic table while everyone was at the edges of the space. Felt a bit like a pariah but I tried to talk myself out of it. People went about their own routines and I sat around engaging in conversation while trying to write blog notes for the day.
Had another call with Oakland to wrap up the evening while other people sat at the picnic table talking gear and hiking experiences and a section hiker did Tai chi.
Mile 2.8 to mile 15.7 (12.9)
Total miles: 24
Creature feature: A chipmunk at the first water stop that scurried out of sight Black and white warbler. More swallowtails. A new bird that I couldn’t quite get a good look at it. Greenish back and a black cap? A Barred owl called out while everyone was hanging out in the picnic area at the shelter. Saw it fly through the tree tops.