This past week I spent four days on the trail with an Adult trip out of Warren Willis Camp. It was amazing. When I first moved to Atlanta I thought I would do a lot of backpacking, since Emory is only about 2 hours away from the A.T. trailhead. Then school happened and I was lucky if I could make it to Stone Mt.
So when I realized finals would be over in time for me to make this trip I jumped on it. It was a little stressful, I had my History of Christian Thought final on monday at 9, and as soon as that was over had to jump in my car to pick up my friend Keri in Athens, so we could drive to her aunts house to drop off my car and meet the group as they drove through from Florida.
When we met up with the group we went to ReCreation experiences to stay the night and do one last gear check. On Tuesday morning one of the Directors of ReCreation drove us to a put in point at Davenport Gap. Thus began one of the longest days of my life.
The hike from Davenport Gap to our first Shelter at Groundhog Creek, was around 10 miles. Seven of those miles went straight up the side of a mountain. I started off fine, Keri and I quickly found a place in the middle of the pack, the speed hikers of the group being 30 min ahead and the first time hikers 30 minutes behind. We hit the trail at 10 in the morning and around 2 my thighs started cramping. Then my right calf decided that I was not taking my thighs seriously and gave out on me... three times. The second of which caused me to swing my walking stick at a tree in frustration and break it into three pieces. While this was not ideal the walking stick served its purpose, it made me feel strong in a time of weakness. The third time my calf gave out I wound up sitting on the side of the trial, by myself since Keri didn't realize I had stopped to stretch until she was over a ridge, until the slower hikers caught up. This helped since it gave me a good 30-45 minuets to let my legs recover.
By the time they last third of our group had caught up to us I was still sore, but able to hike again. Unfortunately the weather had caught up to us, our first summit at Snowbird Mt should have been an amazing view, but we were in a cloud, so it mostly looked like a scene from The Hound of the Baskervilles. After that it started to rain, and continued to rain after we got to the shelter and set up camp. Joel, Keri, and I stood around my hammock (under a tarp that was set up for just this occasion) until 8:30 talking. We didn't want to go to bed any earlier because, well it was only 8:30. That night I slept well, and from what I could gather the next morning wound up being the driest member of out group.
The rain let up sometime between Tuesday becoming Wednesday. We packed up our damp gear (I managed to bust the zipper on my sleeping bag in the process) and headed out for a short 8.9 mile day over varied terrain. If Tuesday was enough to make me question why anyone would ever backpack, Wednesday made me question why more people didn't. It was a beautiful and clear day, the rain had brought in a cold front that made hiking a cool and pleasant experience, until we got to the top of Max Patch. Max Patch is a bald, which means there are no trees or high plants, imagine the opening scene of Sound of Music only put her hill at the top of the mountains and you have Max Patch. It was a beautiful 360 degree view, the only problem was it was windy and cold. I made Keri spend 30 min on top becuase I wanted to take my pack off and enjoy it. Eventually we hiked down and into our shelter a couple miles away at Roaring Fork.
The cold really set in that night, and I decided to hang my hammock in the shelter for the extra wind protection. It got down to bellow freezing. Now I had this crazy idea that it was May everywhere, but apparently it is still late February in the mountains, so all I had was a fleece, beanie, and thin gloves in addition to a few very breathable shirts and hiking shorts. The break in my sleeping bags zipper worked to my advantage as I got to use it as a blanket and wrap in around my self, with the mummy bag back covering my head. So staying warm wasn't a problem, but before I got into it I was miserable. Waking up in the morning and getting out of my warm cocoon was even worse, but I did and then the sun came, and it was perfect again.
At Roaring Fork we first met Driftwood, Oatmeal, Reese and a couple on the second half of their honeymoon whose names I can't remember but they had a tiny white dog named Charlie with them (Driftwood and Oatmeal are their trail names) who are all attempting to thru-hike the trail (go from Georgia to Maine in one season). These guys must be the most laid back hikers ever, but since it was so cold we didn't really talk to them until the next shelter.
The thing about it being cold is you don't want to take off your socks. The thing about hiking is that your feet are really important and sometimes blister. This is the quandary I found myself in, and so began the story of the five blisters on my feet. When I was hiking I could ignore it, there were more important things to worry about, like scenic vistas and staying hydrated, but when I stopped my blisters got cold and made starting again miserable.
Thursday was a great day, my legs were doing fine, the weather was perfect, and we had two beautiful summits. This was our longest day, from Roaring Fork to our shelter at Deer Park Mt it was a 14 mile hike. The Hike knocked out two of our hikers around mile 11, and they caught a ride at a crossroad into Hot Springs. Two of our guys, Asa and Kyle, got to the shelter, dropped their packs, and hiked the 3.4 miles back to the Gap where they were going to help those two carry their gear on to the shelter. They did get there in time to watch the other two drive away and run the 3.4 miles back with Joel. They made the hike in an hour, pulling in 20 minutes before the sunset.
That night was ideal, we got to sit around a camp fire and talk to the other people camping at the shelter. I learned some fun facts, mostly about the number of calories in any type of food, 280 in a snickers bar, and 120 in a tablespoon of Olive Oil are the ones that stuck out. Thru-hikers won't carry a food bar unless it has over 100 calories, which makes sense as they are concerned about weight and consuming as many calories as possible. I burn around 800 calories per hour of hiking, and thru-hikers hike for more hours than I was, so they need 3x the calories as I needed. Charlie the dog warmed up to me and sat next to me and allowed me to scratch him. Also Charlie the dog had a full body mohawk, he is awesome.
Friday we woke up and hiked down into Hot Springs, a whole 3.2 miles. When we got to Hot Springs we picked up the two who came in early and headed over to the Hot Springs Spa. An hour in the hot tubs, all my muscles felt amazing. Keri and I got dropped off in Spartanburg where we spent the afternoon at her Aunt's. I watched the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie with her cousin Phillip. Aunt Holly made us an amazing dinner, and we eagerly returned to Athens and Atlanta where real beds awaited.
I spent today sleeping, letting my blisters heal, and making a trip to REI to look at new boots. All in all its been a good week. I love backpacking.