Day 3 and 4
Day 3 and 4
Left Neel’s Gap early, got on the trail at 0700. Cold and wet was how it started, rain gear on. Less than a mile in, rain gear off. I was the first of our group to set out, but Tommy soon caught up, then passed me. We have not seen Tommy since. Before lunch, I was forced to execute react to rain battle drill. By lunch, it was sunny and warm and I enjoyed at hot lunch at the 10 mile mark. An hour latter…react to rain again, this one did not let up the rest of the day! It did vary in intensity, and it was not yet too cold. This would later change!
I got to Blue Mountain shelter at about 1500. It was still early and the rain was a minor drizzle, so I decided to push to the next camp site. This was, in hindsight, an epically bad decision! Rocky Mountain camp site was just down Blue Mountain, across Unicol Gap, and up Rocky, a distance of 4 miles. Walking up the summit of Blue, the temperature dropped a bit, and once heading down the rain gods unleashed a wet hell. Getting down was absolutely treacherous. Wet rocks, mud, and terrible visibility combined to make it as miserable as I have been in years, sadly, unbeknownst to me, it would shortly be much worse. The exceedingly slow decent robbed me of the warmth I had enjoyed while moving at a good clip. I was committed though, and pushed through to the bottom. I knew once I started up Rocky, I would warm back up. And I did. 2 hours after I started I was at the campsite. I had walked 24 miles to this! Alone. Not another soul. This camp site was on the very peak of Rocky Mountain, and it was wet, dark, and dreary. The only saving grace was a sudden break in the rain about 5 minutes before I got to the site. I was not going to waste any time getting my tent up while this beak lasted. However, as soon as I stopped moving, I knew it was about get ugly. I was freezing to the point of shaking so hard I had a hard time accomplishing movements with my now numb hands. I was soaked, it was cold, the wind was picking up, and I knew I was on the cusp of being a cautionary tale of hypothermia on the AT. If you know me, you know my deepest hatred of being cold!
I managed to put up my tent fairly fast for the conditions, but no warmth awaited me yet. I still had to get all my food into my bear bag and get that hung. My pack has hip belt pockets that I put snacks in. So I grabbed them and stuffed them in the sack. I grabbed two Pop Tarts, two Kind Bars and the last of my jerky and had a quick dinner before putting the trash in the bag. Getting the bag in the tree was a comedy of errors in my condition, but get it up I did. Now back to throw my gear in my tent. Not wanting to pull all the mud on me into the tent, my boots stayed out in the vestibule, along with the bottom of my zip off pants. I inflated my air mattress, pulled out my sleeping bag, ripped off my wet clothes and jumped into my bag. That was the closest to being hypothermic as I have ever been since I actually had been. I lay there for an hour before I had recovered. But I knew I was Ok now.
I start to organize my gear, put on my dry clothes and snivel gear when another setback hit. I found my towel, the towel I used to clean up my lunch kit with, my towel that reeked of Raman!!! This would not do, this bear magnet in the tent with me, all alone on the top of RM. Shit, I knew what I had to do, and as miserable as it was (the rain had recommenced), I went out and did it. It was easier than the first time, but no less sucky.
The wind started next. It was a wind that tried with all of its breath to blow me off that mountain. The sound was like a freight train running by my tent, driving the rain like bullets. It was a most miserable night. The only plus was that sometime in the night it stopped raining and the wind blew my rainfly dry.
The next morning it was still quite cold and windy. I was up early, but did not even get out of my bag till 0800. I knew I would have to be quick if I wanted to avoid becoming hypothermic. It took me 30 minutes get get broken down and packed and off that accursed mountain. On the lee side, only about 100 feet down, it was beautiful.
It was on to day four. I had no water, having drank the last of it before I packed. I had also not eaten yet. So I made for the next water source about a mile down the mountain. There I repacked (on the mountain I just shoved it all in), set out my clothes to dry in the wind, which was fairly brisk, refilled my water, had a cold breakfast, and did personal hygiene.
Here my other two fellow Thru-hikers caught up to me (Eric and Ryan, who is now known as Scrambler), after they stayed at Blue Mountain. They enjoyed a little Trail Magic at the gap crossing. They had also been joined by another hiker, John. By now it was about 1000, and I was seriously late for the miles I had planned to do, so I took off as they got water.
They caught up with me and we took a group photo at the summit. They said they were only going to Dick’s Gap, at mile 69, and they had reserved bunks at the hostel there. I said I was going to try and hit mile 74. We hiked together for a bit, but I soon left them again. They caught up to me as I was coming back from a water resupply and we hiked together for a bit again, and again I left them. About 1400 I pulled off for more water and lunch at Low Gap shelter. I ended up staying there for 45 minutes, which proved to be quite fortuitous! It was warm and sunny. I had heard from the others on the trail it was going to get down to about 32 tonight. I wasn’t to worried, as long as it stayed dry, I would be fine.
My comrades passed me during lunch, although we didn’t see each other. About 1 mile to Dick’s Gap the rain started. I decided on the spot to try the hostel. I got the penultimate bunk! If I had not stopped for lunch, or been quick, it might have still been sunny when I hit DG, and I would have pushed on. Tragedy averted. I only ended up doing 15 miles, but I avoided a potential case of hypothermia and/or pneumonia!
I did not plan to have two nights in hostiles already, but discretion is the better part of valor!
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