After breakfast at Hardee’s, we hitched a ride back to the trail. This was the first time both of us had ever hitchhiked before, so needless to say we were a little nervous about it. For about 5 minutes we did the old thumb up method and nobody stopped. Were we doing something wrong? Was there more to it than that? Guess not because an older woman pulled over for us. She said we looked liked well-dressed hikers. I never thought we were fashion statements out here, but I suppose our bright colored coats stick out like a sore thumb…or a hitchhiker’s thumb in this case.
As we’re heading down the road, we tell her that we’re from Maine. She replies with, “I’ve got family in Maine. In a town called Bucksport.”
I couldn’t believe it when she said that. What are the odds of the first person we ever hitch a ride with who has been to Bucksport and has family there?! Her aunt had lived there and passed away last summer and her cousin still lives in the town where I was born and raised. Anyways, I know I’m getting off track here, but it was just bizarre. It really is a small world out there.
Today was the coldest day yet. We started out the day with a climb over Rocky Mountain out of the gap. It was a steep climb and we passed right by some coolers of trail magic because we were just too cold to even stop. After the initial climb, we headed up Tray Mountain, another tough climb over 4,000 feet. I was sweating, but it was so windy and cold I couldn’t take any of my winter gear off. The view from Tray Mountain however was worth the trek. We had a 360 degree view of the Chattahoochee National Forest (which is where all of the AT in Georgia lies) and the town of Hiawassee, where we had stayed the night before.
And the mountains just kept on coming. We hiked up Young Lick Knob and then Kelly Knob, another tough, steep climb. This was our toughest day yet hiking-wise. The day of rain was tough too, but the climbs we accomplished today were ones to write home about. Did I mention there was snow on the trail too? So for those of you in Maine who just got that bit of snow last week, don’t be too jealous that I’m down in the warm south hiking everyday. It’s not as warm down here as you think 🙂
We made it to Deep Gap Shelter late in the afternoon and we were surprised to find that we were the first ones there. Matt, who has been at a similar pace as us, also stayed there along with four new guys we hadn’t met yet. This was the coldest night yet. It got down into the teens so we all huddled around the fire until we ran out of wood and were forced into our sleeping bags. We decided to stay in the shelter tonight because of the temperatures. This was our first night sleeping in a shelter. The shelter was pretty nice and we chose to sleep on the second floor. I was scared that there would be mice crawling over my face, but thankfully it was a rodent-free night. Mice are common in shelters and have been known to chew through packs. Even if you hang your food bag outside on the bear cables, if they find crumbs in your pack, don’t be surprised if you find a hole or two in the morning.
And I’m happy to say that my sleeping bag and liner kept me warm and toasty. Mind you, I had all of my clothes on, including my coat, hiking pants, shorts, base layers, two pairs of socks, and my hat and gloves on, but I was warm nonetheless.
Did I sleep well as I lay in my toasty warm sleeping bag? Not a chance. Sleeping in a shelter with six guys, there’s about a 50% chance of snoring and boy was that statistic right on. It was my worst nightmare. A chorus of snoring hikers. You had your bass, alto, and soprano. They had a good rhythm going for awhile before the bass woke himself up because he was snoring so loud. Meanwhile I wanted to scream and set up my tent outside to get away from the worst opera of snoring ever heard. I guess I need to get used to the snoring because I don’t think I’ll ever get away from it out here. All of the culprits will remain nameless, but I think you all may know one of them 🙂 Oh, and that stat about snoring. Totally made that one up, so I wouldn’t use that in your next research paper.