Day 17: Nasty Little Climbs

Sleeping on the Ground

Last night was c-c-cold. Brian’s thermometer said low 30’s. My toes and my battery cell agreed, as both had a rough night. I finally stuffed my puffy down in the bottom of my sleeping bag, put on my extra shirt, and mummied-up my head inside the hood. After that, and a second trip to the bushes, I slept much better.

It was my first night sleeping on the ground for this trek, but hardly my first night camping. I spent a month in a tent in February-March this year in Grand Canyon. I spend about two months every year tent-camping for work. The first night is always the roughest for sleep. Subsequent nights get easier, either because I’m more tired or because I get used to the discomfort.

The cold kept everyone else near the shelter in their tents until about 7:00 am. By that time, I’d already retrieved our food bags from the bear cables and was sipping my Chai tea. But a few groups had left by the time we were both packed up and ready to go at 8:00. Everyone is planning to log as many miles as possible before the rain and time their resupply at Gatlinburg to miss as much of the storm as possible.

I met a few new characters at the shelter last night: Thomas, just Thomas, with no story attached. Squirrel! (said with emphasis), an older hiker who started his hike in Alabama on the Pinhoti Trail. Mousefeathers rolled in for a late dinner before pushing on for Clingman’s Dome. Long-beard, who came over to say he’d just read my blog at Fontana. He wanted to know if I planned to reveal my trail name story. I told him maybe after I summit Kathadin, so he signed up as a reader. I better come up with a good story about that name, huh?

Plus the guy trying to convince everyone to sleep in their tents. I didn’t catch his name, but he may be the most profane man I’ve ever met. And that’s saying something. To paraphrase a famous Mark Twain quote, I think if you edited out his profanity, he’d be one of the quietest people I’ve ever met. Relax, that’s just a joke. In fact, he’s a very experienced hiker with some interesting stories and insights about the AT. I laughed when he said he hated the PCT because it was all *!#^^@ bare +%!!`* rock and exposed *$#%&!!!@ views. I think he likes tree-covered mountains.

Today’s hike was a ridge walk climbing toward Clingman’s Dome with great views in all directions through the trees. None of today’s climbs were especially long, but they were steep, rocky, steppy, and very tough. Everyone was gassed by the end of the day. Brian was feeling the climbs, and dropped back to suffer alone. Or, he just wanted some peace and quiet. I still have some words stored up, and having someone to talk with sure helps the climbs go faster.

We passed Rocky Top at mid-day. I’m not sure what the fuss about that mini-peak is all about. We were underwhelmed. Thunderhead Mountain, only a 1/4 mile away, is higher, but has no views through the thick foliage. But I hummed the tune for the rest of the day regardless.

Despite having thoughts about getting to Double Spring Gap Shelter, we’d had enough by the time we reached Siler’s Bald Shelter and called it a day. Once again, tenting was the abode of choice, leaving the shelter almost empty.

Two Final Thoughts:

  1. I broke a new pair of shoes at Fontana (Mile 166). Such sweet relief for my feet. We’ll see how long the new ones last.
  2. Trail names are kind of silly.

Daily Stats:

  • Start: Russell Field Shelter (Mile 180.8)
  • End: Siler’s Bald Shelter (Mile 195.5)
  • Weather: Cold & bright early (40’s), with clouds moving in
  • Earworm: Rocky Top
  • Meditation: Ps. 82:6 / Jn. 10:34
  • Plant of the Day: Yellow Trout Lily
  • Best Thing: No knee pain
  • Worst Thing: Steep, steppy climbs.

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Comments 3

  • Cb : Apr 27th

    Interesting to hear about the same man(older gentleman trying to get everyone to tent)from two different bloggers. Did you meet the other blogger?

    • Jon : Apr 27th

      I didn’t get his name. But it could well be another guy. There are lots of us old guys out here and it seems like old guys prefer the shelters. Who was the other blogger?

  • thetentman : Apr 27th

    Clingman’s is next. Woo hoo!


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