Day 6. Today was the day I understood why hypothermia is a real threat on this trail. Don’t worry, nothing bad happened, but the weather conditions definitely foreshadow what 3 days in this could do to a person.
It started raining last night and did not let up until 1pm today. I got in to bed in the rain, I got out of bed in the rain, I packed up camp in the rain, I hiked out of camp in the rain. And then I hiked for 3.5 more hours in the rain. Alone.
The temp was somewhere around 40 degrees and I fell behind the group to check in with the Mrs. back home for a few minutes on her way to work. By the time I hung up, there was no one and no thing in sight. Just cold and wet fog as far as the eye could see (which was about 20 feet).
The plan was to hike 15 miles to Tray Mountain Shelter, which would be a beast of a day on its own in sunny warm weather. But in this rain and cold, I think I’d be close to frostbite by the time I arrived. My supposed waterproof gloves were anything but, and my rain jacket is just as good at keeping rain water out as it is keeping sweat moisture in. I could barely feel my appendages when I finally reached the halfway point of Blue Mountain Shelter.
It was here I met up with the rest of the gang and we made the very quick decision to skip the next 7 miles and instead stop at Unicoi Gap a mile away. This road crossing is a common shuttle pickup location to Hiawassee, a large trail town with motels, restaurants, outfitters and more. As soon as arrangements and reservations were made though, it of course cleared up. I threw out the suggestion of possibly going on but I think the combination of wet gear and low spirits were too big to overcome. I think I am ready for a bit more mikes per day, but I’m ok taking it slow for now as planned.
So, we are at a Budget Inn tonight, and head back to Unicoi Gap tomorrow at 8am. This entire motel is hikers though, so it’s a fun night of drying gear, washing clothes, drinking beer and chatting about the trail. Many of the people we shared a hostel with last night are here, so we are making new friends to add to the growing family of hikers in this Georgia section of the AT. Pictured above is me with Fun Facts and Santa.
SIde note, you know what’s AMAZING on a bitter cold day of hiking? Hot Gatorade. Fun Facts told us a fun fact about how drinking heated Gatorade is the ultimate hydration technique. And once again, her knowledge did not disappoint. I can’t express how incredible it felt to drink a cup of piping hot Gatorade at that shelter after 3.5 hours in the cold rain.
Tomorrow is going to be almost 17 miles in order to make up what was avoided today, and get to the Top of Georgia Hostel as planned tomorrow. I think it’s doable but it will be a long day. Two nights in a row with a warm bed feels like cheating, but I don’t see this as a trend … just a convenient solution to a miserable and bitter cold day. Hello Neiman!
- Start Mile: 42.6
- Start Time: 09:15
- End Mile: 52.3
- End Time: 14:00
- Miles Hiked: 9.7
- Miles to Go: 2138.6
- Lodging: Hiawassee / Budget Inn