Day mileage: 11.7 mi
AT total mileage: 36.0 mi
Time: 7 hours
This morning began back at Lance Creek with the group from last night. Kevin and I packed up camp while some others were already leaving. I got a photo of the two of us with Ashli (spelling corrected from yesterday) and Just Kyle. Today actually was a good day for group photos, I think I got a half dozen or so with the dSLR. Once we were packed up we headed out to the creek to fill up our water supply, and ran into Chong, Jeff, and Sir Stops A Lot who we had hiked with for a while yesterday. Jeff is in his 20s and his thru-hiking, while Chong and Stops A Lot are hiking Springer to North Carolina with him. We all conversed & got a group photo as I filtered my water and enjoyed my morning breakfast, a bagel with peanut butter, and another side of ibuprofen and a multivitamin.
Straight out of camp came a 6 mile, ~1,800 foot climb to the top of Blood Mountain. On the way up Kevin and I passed hikers Hustle & Flow from the night before, who we ended up playing tag with for the rest of the mountain. At the top was a very windy vista, and an extremely old stone shelter. After a few photos and meeting a few other hikers (day hike and thru hikers) we began a grueling descent of the mountain. Along the way we listen to music from Hustle's phone, some nice Stevie Ray Vaughn kind of stuff, and ran across many weekend hikers with their dogs. One dog we ran into was a one year old malamute/husky who was raised in Canada and is a trained sled dog, with quite the playful personality. Many people have mentioned wishing they had a dog with them on the A.T. so far. We also passed a gentlemen who pointed at our packs and commented "You're either stupid, or unbelievably brave..." Time shall tell, I guess. We dropped down to Neel's Gap, famed for a hiker hostel/general store that caters to hikers. I picked up another canister of fuel and some instant mashed potatoes with bacon. Not much else I needed in the food department. Lunch was comprised of microwaveable frozen cheeseburgers and chimichangas, and an ice cream sandwich. I also picked up a rain proof bag to hang my food in at night.
Most of the hikers we had traveled along Blood Mountain with were staying at the hostel for the showers/ laundry/ dry bed. There's a big storm moving in tonight and tomorrow that's aiming to drop over 3" of water on us. I don't know how many people will hike. After some quick conversation, Kevin and I decided to forge on, and put another 3 miles under our feet before we called it a day. The scenery wasn't gorgeous due to cloud cover, but there was a serenity in the long uphills. Squirrels would run alongside us, off the trail by 10 or so feet, making funny little noises, much alike the way dolphins swim in the waves of passing cruise liners. Nature sure is funny in that way. The hope of stopping around 1600hrs was to get camp set up before the rain came. We easily could have done more than the 11.7 miles, but after a hour at Neel's Gap it wasn't worth pushing too far today, so we're at a campsite just below the summit of Cowrock Mountain. As we were cooking, tents already up, we were joined by a guy named Charles (worked as a research analyst for the Forestry Service in Juneau, AK) and he decided to spend the night here. We got a small fire going and had enough time to talk for a while before the wind picked up and the rain moved in.
I'm not looking forward to hiking in the rain, but I'm going to get wet at some point so who cares. No time like the present, so long as the future affords a moment or two to dry out a bit.