Day 9: Standing Indian Mt

Day 9. It was 15 degrees last night. That is not a typo. Because of the impending cold, we decided to all huddle together in the loft of Plumorchard shelter. Our thinking was that our joint body heat and elevated loft with a wind break would keep us warm. We were wrong.

My extra sleeping pad is about 1/2 inch thick, and my 20 degree quilt did its best, but even with all my clothes on and inching a little too close to Huevos for either of our comfort … it was bitter cold. By the next morning any water bottle left out was frozen, and snow had collected on the ground along the trail. See Steve with evidence below…

As we headed back out on the AT, I found myself wondering why I decided to do this so early. Most (sane) people wait until April to begin their hike, in order to avoid harsh winter weather. I know my schedule doesn’t give me that freedom, seeing that I need to finish by August 1, but I’m certainly questioning my sanity all the same.

The good news is that it warmed up almost immediately. Hiking has a way of warming you anyways, but the sun was shining just enough to bring the temperature up to 40 degrees. I even stripped down to a t-shirt for a few miles! But quickly layered up again because today’s magic word was … UP.

Pretty much the entire day was spent hiking uphill, as we climbed from 3,000 ft up to 4,800 by day’s end. The higher elevations brought more wind and with it more cold. Layers were put on again quickly and stayed there on the rest of the day.

Hiking uphill is actually easier on the body than downhill, though only minimally. On the ups, my Achilles’ tendons take the pressure and pain, whereas it is my knees and ankles on the downs. I find myself longing for ups when going down, and then downs again when going up. Really, just anything to alleviate whichever pain is most prevalent at the time. But ups are also better because there is less risk of rolling an ankle (which I do often) or slipping. I’ve had one bad wipeout already, landing hard on my right hip, and staying upright is significantly easier going uphill … given that it is at a much slower pace.

Good news, this trail pretty much goes up and down nonstop, so I have plenty of opportunity to do both. Yay?

Today’s hike had some great moments too! We officially crossed the border into North Carolina, as signified by the cover photo. We also crossed into the Southern Nantahala Wilderness, and climbed part of the way up tomorrow’s monster Standing Indian Mountain. At 5,500 ft, this is the largest mountain on the trail before the Great Smokies. By name and height, it has be reminiscing back to climbing Stoney Indian Mountain in Glacier Park…

I had hoped to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center (The NOC) 3 days from now, but the Tramily wants to go resupply in the town of Franklin first, so The NOC may be pushed to 4 days out. It was going to be a tough 3 days of 16+ miles each, so I don’t mind the extension. Also it is supposed to rain/snow the next 3 days. Long days in the rain suck.

Side note, speaking of long hiking days. My body is definitely capable of more miles, but my feet start to get drunk around 12 or 13. I slip more, roll more, and overall just hike clumsily. This should change in a few weeks when I develop stronger “trail legs” but for now, it’s probably a good idea to play it safe. You have to listen to your body, it is a marathon not a sprint, etc. and right now, my body says take your time. So I will. Hello Neiman!

  • Start Mile: 73.5
  • Start Time: 08:45
  • End Mile: 85.7
  • End Time: 16:15
  • Miles Hiked: 12.2
  • Miles to Go: 2105.2
  • Lodging: Standing Indian Shelter

Day 8: Plumorchard Gap

Day 8. Since today was just a short 4.5 mile hike, I’m going to forgo the usual daily breakdown and instead focus on one of the important aspects of thruhiking. Let’s talk food (part 1).

At the start of a backpacking trip, I’m never as hungry as I think I will be. The same has been the case here on the AT. In this first week, I have eaten about half the food I packed, mostly of which is whatever is easiest to eat. My breakfast was supposed to be granola with powdered milk, dehydrated strawberries and almonds. Instead, it was just almonds. Coffee was still a staple, but that is about all the energy I can muster in these 30 degree bitter cold mornings. Snacking on bars or trail mix during the day has worked best, with only a subtle increase in what is for lunch. Having a whole meal at lunch just doesn’t work, because of both time and energy. Again, may be the cold factor … but also just because that infamous “hiker hunger” hasn’t set in yet.

Hiker hunger is when you simply can’t get enough to eat. This is when you start to cover everything in peanut butter and devour 4 days of rations in two days. This typically occurs once your body realizes it is not getting as many calories in as it is burning each day. I’m no scientist, but this means your body is eating its reserves to make up for the deficit. First the fat, then the muscle. From what I can tell, it is when it goes after the muscle that you start to feel starved all the time.

Sounds bad when you put it that way, but when hiking 15+ miles a day, you burn 5000-6000 calories. If you don’t consume that much as well … you get the idea.

The one exception to my deficit of hunger and surplus of laziness is dinner. I’m famished at night and can’t eat my dinner fast enough. It has to be hot (again, it’s damn cold), and it has to be early. Typically I get camp setup by 5pm and go straight for dinner.

I’ve saved a lot of money on resuppling food since I have so much extra, but that means I am also carrying more weight than needed. In the next few weeks this should change drastically, but for now it is what it is. I’ll write a part 2 once the story has changed.

Side note, my loving sister sent me homemade hamentoschen yesterday, so I can have my own tiny Purim celebration in the trail. They were amazing and devoured in seconds. Thank you Dev!

Tomorrow it’s back to long days and sore legs. I’m trying to reach the Nantahala Outdoor Center by Monday which is 65 miles away. Going to be a long trek, but shouldn’t be too much trouble.

By the way, it snowed today. Short hike so the cold wasn’t bad, but the fact it snowed on us just made it feel so much colder. But also beautiful too. I’ll take sunny and snowing anyway in these beautiful Georgia mountains. Tomorrow we finally cross into North Carolina. Hello Neiman!

  • Start Mile: 69.0
  • Start Time: 10:30
  • End Mile: 73.5
  • End Time: 13:30
  • Miles Hiked: 4.5
  • Miles to Go: 2117.4
  • Lodging: Plumorchard Gap Shelter