Day 2. When I say last night was cold, I mean COLD. Temp was probably 30 degrees at best, and you could feel every gust of wind that barreled through the campsite. The 20 degree quilts kept me warm, though I did need the extra pad under me. Glad I brought that, as I slept pretty well until about 7am.
Keg and The Captain were up around 5, but in their defense they also crawled into bed around 5pm. After a quick and much needed cup of coffee, we discussed the day’s dilemma. 5 miles or 13? Everyone felt great so we agreed to push on for our second day of extended hiking.
The day heated up fast so we had a beautiful morning of sunshine and warmth on the trail. As we passed Hawk Mountain Shelter (today’s original destination), we agreed there was more than enough daylight and moral to push on.
Then the wind picked up (queue the Herzl Camp shtick) … and it bellowed with a vengeance. We already had a tough task of summitting Sassafras Mountain and it’s 1000 ft up and down in less than 2 miles, but now we had to do it with a bitter wind frontal attack. Also, no water. We forgot to check bottle levels and realized too late we were almost out with 3 miles to the next water source.
Fortunately, we met our first trail angel coming down Sassafras. For the unaware, a trail angel is a kind soul who provides aid to hikers for free. Usually in the form of food and drink. Flower was section hiking and had her husband drop her off at Cooper Gap’s parking lot. We came at the same time and she handed out 2 Dasani water bottles to each of us. A much appreciated gesture!
We handed out 2 more trail names today, and I have to admit I like coming up with them for others. First was Poncho Villa, a retired vet from Boston who made all his own gear. He donned a huge baby blue poncho covering his pack and body, looking like a ghost in the wind. He is rebellious and strong-willed, so the name was a great fit. And he loved it, so it stuck.
The next is the Swiss Family Robinson. I seriously cannot even believe I’m writing this, but here we go. This is a family of 8 thruhikers … yes, 8! Mom, dad, and 6 kids between the ages of 17 and 2. Yes, a 2 year old is hiking the Appalachian Trail. Well, more like riding the back of someone hiking the Appalachian Trail, but still. Not sure how they feel about the name but I suggested they keep it because they have some great camping skills and even better hiking spirits.
We pulled in to Gooch Mountain Shelter around 5pm, feeling every step of the last 3 miles. My knees were seriously screaming, only slightly less loudly than Keg and The Captain’s. Ironically, it’s my good knee that hurts the most. I’m probably overcompensating, need to be careful tomorrow.
Tomorrow’s destination is the Lance Creek Campground, just prior to Blood Mountain. There is a shelter a bit further but it requires a bear canister for anyone camping there, which we don’t have. So it will be a shorter 9 mile stint, followed by a grueling death march over Blood Mountain to Neels Gap the next day for an end to this first leg of the trip.
Spirits are still high, ramen is still good, and the mountain air is still fresh. I am loving it so far. Hello Neiman!
- Start Mile: 2.8
- Start Time: 09:00
- End Mile: 15.7
- End Time: 17:00
- Miles Hiked: 12.9
- Miles to Go: 2175.2
- Lodging: Gooch Mountain Shelter