Day 2 – At the Intersection of Seasons

Day 2

Start: Hawk Mountain Campground

End: Gooch Mountain Shelter

Miles Hiked: 8.3

Total Miles on AT: 15.7

Last night was another cold one. It got below freezing, so we slept with our water filters once again. And once again, it was difficult for me to get comfortable. I slept enough to be able to hike, but not as well as I would have liked.

We got up and left (together this time) at around 10:30 am. Nearly everyone was already up and out except for 2 tents. When I start hiking in the morning, I like to move pretty slowly. I don’t think my body wakes up until at least an hour after I start hiking and I honestly don’t feel the best until mid morning. Since I anticipated moving slowly, I took the lead and set the pace. 

We passed a few familiar faces on the way to our first climb and continued our way up and up and up. After lunch at Horse Gap, we started the climb up Sassafras Mountain. Boy, was that steep. My personal hiking mantra is, “Slow and steady.” That’s exactly what we did. At the top, we could see the mix of winter brown and spring green dotting the countryside, an intersection of seasons. The glinting roof of what looked like someone’s country house sat comfortably in a beautiful clearing surrounded by trees.

After admiring the view, it was time for the downhill journey. Downhill is definitely harder than up. Not only can progress be slow if the downhill is steep and requires concentration, but it’s also a killer on the knees. And my knees were definitely feeling it. By the time we reached the next gap, my right knee was talking to me. And it wasn’t saying nice things.

After a mile or so, the landscape shifted and we were greeted with more rhododendrons. Luckily this section of trail was more of the graded, gradual variety. We reached Justus Creek and were greeted by a gathering of hikers all congregating around the inviting water source that glinted in the sun. One guy had his shoes off and was soaking his feet in the cold stream, so of course we had to follow suit.

A couple of dogs showed up as well as more hikers, and soon it was time for us to move on to our resting spot for the evening. Gooch Mountain Shelter was an easy mile away and we got there just in time to get a coveted tent site. Our earlier start got us to camp around 5pm, leaving us plenty of time to relax and unwind before the cold overtook us. Dinner for me was farro + dried and seasoned Korean BBQ chickpeas + beef jerky – yum!

So far it doesn’t feel like tonight will be as cold as previous nights, so here’s to a (hopefully) good night’s sleep!


And that’s day 2.

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