Day mileage: 14.7 mi
AT total mileage: 50.7 mi
Time: 7.5 hours
How was your Monday? Traffic? Lots of work left over from Friday that you tried to forget about? I feel your pain! Woke up this morning to the continuation of rain... Big, mean, wet, unavoidable drops of liquid that had managed to soak absolutely everything overnight. The best news? It was far from over. As I hobbled across the tent site in my cheap Walmart sandals, I yelled to Kevin to make sure he still wanted to hike with me. My theory is that I'm going to get wet eventually, so I might as well start now. He agreed, and we begrudgingly struck our tents as Charles slept in, warm and dry, on the other side of the site - maybe he's a genius. In the process of striking my tent, it managed to get wet as well, which wasn't ideal, but acceptable only due to the fact that I divided my backpack with a trash compactor bag (waterproof) so that my down sleeping bag would stay dry. Threw everything together soaking wet, put my waterproof and bright orange pack cover on, and hit the trail... Or what would normally be a trail, but in this case was a raging river.
For the next 4 hours we hiked up, down, and across mountains, in flowing rivers. And I mean they had enough force to them that I actually filled my water bottle (to be filtered) directly from the 'trail' river. It was everything but exciting. I will thank my mom, however, for the waterproof socks. Those made a hell of a difference today. Anyway, we pressed on, passing many camp sites with tents still erect, saying 'Goodmorning!' to hikers inside them, and informing person after person about the weather and our findings on the trail. For the next few miles we carried on across a ridge-line in the mid 3,000' range. This only amplified the already ideal weather conditions... Rain was joined by 35 mile an hour winds and temperatures in the high 30s to produce little bits of sleet pelting us from the right hand side as we were blown around, rain gear flailing (seemingly helplessly, yet appropriately given the conditions) as we went along. A while later Charles passed us, still keeping is 3.5 mph pace, and yelled out he'd meet us at the next shelter for lunch. The tops of those ridges were something to be seen, though. The winds were forcing fog through at incredible rates, and many many trees have fallen victim over the years. It looks like a war zone of Mother Nature, mixed with the evil forests of The Princess Bride and The Wizard of Oz combined.
We pulled into the Low Gap Shelter at 12:15, and ate lunch with a good group of people we'd not yet met. Preacher and his girlfriend Brittany, from Maine, Sam (location unknown), and Charles. After a good meal, I started looking at the map as Kevin discussed spending the night. The aforementioned group all planned to as well since they had space at a covered shelter, which is hard to come by across the A.T. when the elements kick up. After a short discussion I convinced Kevin we'd be warmer and further along if we headed out for the Blue Mountain Shelter, another 8 miles down the trail. He agreed, and we headed off at a great pace for an afternoon hike. With the rain still pouring down, we covered a lot of ground and saw some beautiful waterfalls along the way. We passed two folks, Odysseus and then Rachel, both who were headed into the local town of Helen, GA to a cheap motel for the night.
We arrived at Blood Mountain Shelter at 4:45 or so, ending our long and wet hike. We were welcomed by a half dozen or so other hikers who had sleeping pads and bags lined up across the floor of the lean-to type building, and a fire was blazing in a covered fire pit. We sat down and began shedding soaking layers, fingers crossed that at least some of it would dry during our stay here tonight. A quick dinner led to great conversation with the group for a few hours before the sun went down. Hikers here include Jeremiah (he's not a bull frog, and was a good sport at laughing along to my likely overused pun), GQ from Boston (returns in two weeks to graduate from Northeastern, employed at the Apple store on Boylston St. in Boston), as well as Jeff (another member of Whiteblaze.com who was familiar with my blog and complimented the layout!) and his hiking partner Matt. There are a few more whose names I didn't get.
I still have some slight pain in my right knee on mountain descents, which I take slowly and carefully to avoid overdoing it. I've also gotten better at long ascents without many breaks. My method has developed to more frequent short steps instead of lunges. It keeps my heart rate lower. I also enjoyed some music today for the first time on the trail. It certainly helps keep the pace.
Rain's supposed to stop tonight, with the weather tomorrow being 40-55 and sunny. I'm eying a shelter that's 16 miles from here, but over 3 separate mountain passes of about 4-4,500' a piece, so we'll see. If I can make it there tomorrow night, it all but guarantees my passing into North Carolina on Wednesday, marking my first of 14 states completed. We shall see. Stay dry, folks!