Days 8 Through 11 on the Appalachian Trail – Ebb and Flow

River laying in front of the trail head kiosk at mile 52

Day 8- 4.26 miles, 1,491’ elevation gain; Rocky Mountain campsite to Tray Mountain campsite

What an amazing privilege hiking the AT has been so far. The emerging flora and fauna have been increasing by the day along with the length of sunlight. It seems like every morning I wake to a nearby Owl alerting me of its presence, this morning was no different. River is still getting used to them as he’s chirping these cute little barks back. Although, I wonder if he can hear their silent soar, or if they truly are silent.

I made a hot of breakfast of peanut butter oatmeal and green tea, I packed our home away from home, hoisted my pack on, and we were on trail by 0830. With my pack feeling light and River like a young lad, we cruised down the trail. I noticed on sunny, clear sky days, we don’t go very far, but we get there fast. We append our time sitting at outlooks pondering how big the Universe really is. It’s wild to think us to be the only life form, or are we just having human experiences? I could sit, look, and ponder all day, just like River does.

River and Sage posing for a selfieCouple of hunks.

I was filtering water when I saw my first hiker of the day, a nice lady who stopped to chat for a bit; she’s section hiking the AT. We got to talking about trail food, better and best oils to use, when and what kind of protein for muscle recovery, and other general food and hiking topics. On the subject of protein I didn’t start the trail with any protein powder, however I did get some in my resupply at Neels Gap. Can confirm, whey protein and collagen before bed after a long day of hiking has you waking up with a fresh pair of legs 10x better than instant breakfasts.

We chatted for a bit before she carried on down the trail and I carried on with cameling up on water. A dry campsite last night and one more planned for this evening, I need to be proactive with my water intake. The trail through the Tray Mountain Wilderness area was unremarkable in my opinion but the views were absolutely stunning and are its focal point in my opinion. It could be a totally different story come wildflower season. As I made it to camp the sun was just beginning to fade down beyond the ridge, golden hour. Taco macaroni and cheese was for dinner, I hung our food from the bears and promptly woke myself up snoring, only to roll over until morning.

Day 9- 9.11 miles, 1,811’ elevation gain; Tray Mountain to Powell Mountain Campsite on Vista spur

Tray Mountain Wilderness signGA had many wilderness areas, this was my favorite for the views.

We woke up to more rain, but it was light enough to eat breakfast, very berry oatmeal, and pack up camp. I checked the forecast a few days prior and it stated about a quarter inch for the day. Just a little rain to cleanse the soul. Nope! I didn’t see any cumulonimbus clouds building in the distance the day prior, but lots can happen over a nights sleep. So, when we were walking along and suddenly the sky lit up at the same time the thunder crashed, I theoretically shat my pants. River took off down the trail and so did I.

Flying down the trail on pure adrenaline, everything in my training told me to ditch my trekking poles, rip out my z-lite pad, grab River, and get into lightning position with him under me, and me over him. Dumbly, as we kept running, before I knew it we were at Deep Gap Shelter where we hunkered down for a few hours. I got out of my wet clothes and was able to dry River by wrapping him in his sleeping bag for those few hours. There’s always a first for everything and I’m grateful we made it through Indian Grave Gap and Tray Gap unharmed in this storm.

I met a guy named Kyle who is on a section hike for his 50th birthday. We got to chatting and small world, he went to the Prep School that’s a few towns over from where I grew up. I actually worked the dish-pit there for a few weeks before I quit to go work at Tony’s Foodland. Two jobs I feel most Lake Region kids do if we don’t get into serving. Kyle is also a glassblower, a fantastic one at that, and he just so happened to handmake a bag of pendants to gift along his was. I so happily reached in and randomly grabbed a pendant that fits my personality rather well. He also had cordage for each one so I was able to put it on immediately, thanks Kyle! (I’ll share a photo and link his website when I get it back out of my pack)

As the rain tapered off and the shelter began to fill for the night, I took that as my cue to head out in search of a single tent established site. I’ve been having some wild nightmares and between yelling myself awake and the gas from all the beans, I’ll spare the other campers my heinous sleeping abilities.

River In his sleeping bag in a shelter along the AT River snoozing through the rain in Deep Gap Shelter.

I packed up and we mosied down into Wolfpen Gap, climbed around the western side of Wolfpen Ridge before dropping down into Steeltrap Gap. Up and down, pointless I’ll add, as we climbed over Young Lick Mountain 3,809’ and then back down into Blue Ridge Swag. There’s wasn’t much to swag about as the campsites were lacking and the area seemed dull, if that makes sense.

More miles brought more gaps, summits, and ridges, such as Round Top Mountain 3,917’, Sassafras Gap, Addis Gap, Double Spring Knob 4,278’, Dismal Gap, Dismal Knob 3,934’, Deep Gap, Whiteoak Stomp 3,888’, Wolfstake Knob 3,865’ McClure Gap and finally Powell Mountain 3,816’ where we called it a day.

The campsite I found atop Powell Mountain 3,816’ was beautiful with 360° views as far as my nearsighted eyes could see once the clouds gave way. I feel very fortunate to have gear that I trust to keep me dry overnight, that succeeds every time. The only thing I wish I had was a second insulating layer, one that is a dedicated dry insulator. I’ve been able to keep River dry as well and if a little wet he’s dry in a couple hours under his sleeping bag.

Sunset along the ATCampsite sunset.

Day 10- 1.83 miles, Powell Mountain to Dick’s Creek Gap

We we’re ready for another resupply, a shower and some clean clothes after a week and a half on the Appalachian Trail. The minute my eyes opened, I was ready to move. There was no rolling over and going back to bed this morning, it was a hop, skip, and a jump down to Dick’s Creek Gap where the shuttle scooped us up and took us to Around the Bend Hostel.

River was treated to his own little two bed bunk house so he could get some solid sleep. I treated myself to a shower and laundry but unfortunately my resupply had not shown up yet. I utilized the wifi and called my partner for a video chat which resulted in me losing track of time and accidentally missing dinner. Thankfully there was still a little bit of food left and since I couldn’t get River out of his cozy bed, I took my plate of food back to be with him so he could stay passed out. Rainy weather makes him sleepy, me too buddy, me too.

Some of the folks I had the pleasure of chatting with at Low Gap Shelter are also at Around the Bend. I’m not a social human but I told myself I would stay at one hostel to push myself from my comfort tree. It’s pretty wild no matter on trail, or in town, every hiker utilizes the same few services. Through hikers to section hikers a bubble is a bubble and we move together through the same spaces. I wish I had been able to chat with more people tonight but my number one goal was to let River be a couch potato, a bed hog, and sleep as much as possible and move only when necessary. Nothing is wrong, just don’t want to get to a place where something is, preventative tactics.

Dog friendly, two beds with heat, A/C, and power!Dog friendly, two beds, heat, A/C, and power. Perfect! Thanks Around the Bend

Day 11- Town Day with Nickles

I met a PA ultra-runner staying at the hostel who had hiked half the trail a few years back. He’s wicked knowledgeable and had a list of places he wanted to go. One of my mantras in life is ‘growth and comfort don’t coexist’, so I asked if I could come along while I waited for my resupply.

We hit up the Huddle House for some much-needed food. Nickles made the smart move and got a plate of breakfast food. I ordered a burger which ended up being what was on the menu for dinner. River got loved on by the waitress in the form of bacon and lovins. The three of us stopped into Trailful, a gear store, while I hoped my resupply was being delivered.

No surprise that it still hadn’t arrived when we got back and on second thought, I should have resupplied at the Ingles in Hiawassee. I didn’t know what I didn’t know and I was hopeful it would arrive today. I resupplied at Around the Bend, 80$ for 13,300 calories or less than four days of food for me. River got five tuna packets and five meat sticks with a plan to run into town in the morning for kibble. I also ended up snagging a room down in their Air BnB as I devised a new plan. I’ve learned real quick town days are stressful and priority mail is just snail mail in a fancy box.

…and we’re still headed home.

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