The wind howled all night, making for a loud and very chilly experience. I decided to close both my doors and take whatever condensation came with that choice for the added degrees of warmth in my tent. I decided to play it conservative and put all of my electronics and my water filter into my sleeping bag to keep them warmer. The filters can stop working if they freeze, which seemed like overkill, but why not?
I woke up around 11:30pm with no chance of going back to sleep quickly. I tossed and turned, looked at comforting pictures on my phone. After being wide awake long enough, I had to pee. From experience, I know the best choice is the hardest one, so I put my shoes on, opened the door to my tent and walked out with my red light setting on. I HATE walking around in the woods in the dark. But when you gotta go, you gotta go.
The warmth of my sleeping bag felt even better after a few moments of breeziness in places that don’t normally catch a breeze. My new sleeping bag is not as comfortable as I had hoped and I keep finding myself with a cold face/neckline. I finally stuffed my puffy coat in front of my neck and immediately felt warmer. I’m pretty sure the temperature kept dropping after I finally fell back to sleep because my toes got progressively colder as the night wore on. I got slightly more sleep than the night before but still pretty miserable in terms of total hours.
I gave up on sleep around 6, and tried to will myself to go get my food bag. Now for the awkward part: this is a campsite, not a shelter site. That means no privy. I had intended to see if I could make it to the shelter about a mile up the trail but it’s 0.4 miles OFF the trail. One does not walk .8 extra miles if one can help it. There are at least 15 people camped here. That’s a lot of eyes that could spy me pooping behind a rock. But I tucked my trowel and my TP in my coat pocket just in case. The night before I had spied a decent spot with a boulder to hold onto and no poison ivy that I could see.
I wandered stiffly up the trail 80 yards or so to retrieve my bag. Kevin was already packed up and huddled on a log eating breakfast. No thanks. I took my food back to my tent and put on my spandex underneath my long Johns so they could warm up. I carefully ate a bar while tucked in my sleeping bag. There are only a little over 5 miles to hike today but I want to get a cabin that can only be reserved over the phone the same day, so I do have a deadline or I’m stuck staying at the hostel with 14 bunks and 1 bathroom. With that in mind, I started packing up as soon as I ate breakfast.
The wind had not died down as predicted, so packing my tent was nearly as fun as setting it up yesterday. I finally pulled my puffy coat off around 745. This is the last step on really cold mornings because the rule is: never hike in the puffy. You’ll get too hot. But more importantly, Your coat might get wet and you need it to be dry when you get to camp.
My rain coat serves as a third layer on mornings like this. I thought for sure it wouldn’t be enough, but it proved me wrong. The sun had started to peek through the trees by the time I clodhopped my way up the trail.
I felt grateful that the morning started with a small climb because it’s the fastest way to create body heat. I lamented each time the trail dropped me onto the shady side of the mountain and felt overjoyed when I rounded the corner back into the slanted rays of sunlight.
About halfway through the climb to blood mountain, I stopped to call the cabin rentals only to find out that they weren’t open yet. I called again just below the summit of blood mountain and found out that they can’t take my reservation over the phone or they can’t give me the hiker discount. There were 6 Hiker rate cabins left at that point. A fair number, but as I come to find out many times: there are always more hikers than I see around me, especially in GA where most of the community starts their hike.
When I finished the call, I then gave Oakland a ring to say good morning. We tried to talk all the way up to the summit so she could travel along for the experience, but my phone service had other plans. I came through this stretch of rhododendrons to find a slightly obstructed sweeping view of the surrounding mountains.
This privy might have the best view on the trail:
There were scads of children clumped around the shelter packing up their gear. Apparently part of the reason there are bear canister rules here is because it’s a popular place for locals to camp and they leave a ton of food around. I dropped my pack by a tree and scampered up the boulders next to the encoded stone shelter (aka cold and damp box) and was met with the view from today’s headlining picture.
I felt supremely grateful to have a clear day to be on blood mountain, which is the tallest peak in GA. The rest of my camping group from last night arrived and we sat up there together like a smelly and unfamiliar band of misfits. My favorite thus far is Maya, a Canadian woman who has 4.5 weeks on trail before she has to go back to a new job. We shared a pop tart that came to me care of la bamba. Then the wind got the better of me, so i kept moving. Except then my signal came back so I called Oakland and took her on an adventure to pee with me on the phone because I highly doubted that there would be good spots coming down the mountain. The ascent was mild which means, by AT rules, the descent will be a rocky mess. Blood mountain partially lived up to this theory.
Here are the slabs we had to walk down for a bit. And in the second picture is the log I stepped right over rather than taking the left turn that the log intended me to take, but I sat it and thought “don’t trip on that log! Step over it!” As the footing got steeper, I wondered to myself how the dayhkkers I had passed were making such a climb. It was getting seriously angled, putting my foot and my nerves to a test. And then I saw a sign taped to a tree that said “this is not the AT. Turn around and it is on your right.”
I had climbed down twice as much rock slab as I needed to. Apparently this goof is listed in the guthook app but I hadn’t read that far into the details. Feeling like a rube and cranky about the extra time and strain I’d gone through, I hauled myself back up the rock side. The small upside of this detour is that I felt like a coordinated billy goat on the way up and there weren’t any lasting effects from the extra foot work needed to stay upright. I could have done without the visions of breaking my arm again.
Then came the long and varied descent down to neel gap. There was a steady stream of day hikers coming in the opposite direction, which made me very aware of the fact that I probably smell terrible. I tried whenever possible to stand in place and let others pass on the theory that it keeps more of my smell in one place rather than wafting past others. The hikers were an amusing combination of chipper and bedraggled as they made their way up the two-ish mile ascent. Not an easy hike.
At the bottom of the mountain, the AT crosses two other trails and continues onward with a very mild stretch until mountains crossing.
I could hear the road far before I saw it and when i came out to the intersection I knew why: there were dozens of motorcyclists streaming in and out of the mountains crossing parking lot. I guess it’s a popular break spot for hikers AND bikers.
I found my current pod of familiar people and dropped my pack. I asked maya if she wanted to split a cabin to defray costs and to be social. She immediately said yes, so I hauled tail down the side trail that led to blood mountain cabins and reserved us a spot. Then I had to go back up the hill to mountains crossing to eat lunch, which I had yet to do and was approaching meltdown, and to collect my mail! A food box and what was supposed to be two cards but one sadly did not make it into competent hands. Bonus feature: I bought an orange soda.
The rest of the day involves the usual “town” chores, a lot of which for me entails watching the spinning wheel on my phone as pictures upload to the blog at snails pace. maya and I were assigned raccoon cabin which does indeed have stuffed raccoons around the fire place.
The cabins offer free laundry if you drop it off by 2:30 so maya and I switched into our camp shorts and puffies, which is what you do when you’ve only brought 1 bra and no extra “stay clean” shirts. I washed my cookware, let my sleeping bag air out, backflushed my filter, etc. I also ate too much macaroni and cheese (yay full kitchen in the cabin!) and found out that 3 out of the 5 people I had surrounded myself with today are trump supporters. The 4th being a Canadian and the 5th being an unknown but likely trump person based on his background and interactions. This news hit me harder than I expected and I found myself in a verbal tussle with 2 of the men, which i attempted to end by saying, “I’m going to go.” Then one of them tried to spout off illegal immigrant numbers at me and I stopped him mid sentence by saying, “I’m just going to tell you that I’ve stopped listening and I’m going to go now.” Sadly la bamba is one of them. I don’t plan to completely shut these people out, but the interaction made me so angry that I was shaking by the time I got back to my cabin. The news came shortly on the heels of having one of them make a micro-aggressive remark about how he liked sausage, but “not that way.” I reflexively and as politely as I could said, “yeahhh that’s actually homophobic.” He backpedaled and took it better than I expected all the while basically saying “gay men are gross but hey! Let them be gay!”
I’m finishing this to the sound of cars passing on the highway while i sit in the dark on the porch of the cabin rental store because it’s the only place I can get WiFi.
Mile 26.3 to mile 31.3 (5)
Total miles: 39.6
Creature feature: a ton of familiar birds and day hikers galore!