Thursday, December 10, 2009

Appalachian trail journal Dec. 3, 2009

In all truth, I write the account of this day on Dec. 5, sitting in a McDonald's in Hiawassee, Ga. It feels good to have hot industrial food in my belly and to be warm and indoors. But back to a couple days ago...

I left the hostel at Neels Gap in a raging wind and fog. The mist moved wraith-like through the trees. Very creepy and ominous. But my heart was in a joyful mood and steps quickened by a couple cups of really strong coffee.

I made good time. After a couple decent climbs and descents, the trail from Hog Pen Gap is almost PCT-esque as it gently rolls along the sides of the mountain. I felt a little low myself when I reached Low Gap Shelter for a break. The skies were still dark and cloudy and since leaving Gooch Gap Shelter I haven't seen anybody on the trail. I had hoped to immerse myself in the trail culture a little bit.

There was also a slight urgency to my steps. Sleeplessness and bad weather slowed my daily mileage enough that I needed to put on some big miles to make it to Hiawassee before the post office closed on Saturday. Luckily, the trail from Low Gap is easy as pie as it moves on an old tote road. All of the trees in this section (and, quite honestly, a vast majority of the AT) are second or third growth. The only challenge on this tote road section is getting around the countless waterfalls and stream crossings. But I love this, the white noise, the mossy boulders, everything.

The wind let up as well, and I could see blue skies overhead and dappled patches of sunlight in the valley. But the sun never shined on me. To the west was a dazzling line of silver, a brilliant buffer between the clouds and blue-tinged mountains. The Blue Ridges are appropriately named, and my mood lifted at the sight.

I used up all available light and made the beastly climb to Blue Mountain shelter at the end of the day. As I made dinner in the shelter, a mouse came right to my side and squeaked hello. My presence did not keep him from inspecting my spoon. Cute little bugger.

A heavy fog rolled in as I donned my headlamp to look for a flat spot to lay my tent, making the search all the more difficult. As I gathered leaves (5 kitchen garbage bags full) to lay on my tent pad, I noticed a bio-luminescent glow on the ground. Adding to the magic, just before I crawled into the tent, a nearly full moon rose, orange and haloed in its own light, above the mist, shining on peaks below that looked like upside-down cones suspended in the air.

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