We left the shelter about 9 just as the fog was lifting. Walked with OWL until almost lunchtime. I always like hiking with somebody, and hiking with someone who knows me from home is pretty much the best. Stopped to get water and discovered that my Steripen battery was dead (and because of poor planning on my part, I didn’t have an extra). The guys from “The Thru Project” were camped there and gave me some sweetwater drops to treat the water. As a bonus they showed us a video they took last night of a bear! The bear was up in a tree about 30 yards from the water source, and dropped out of the tree so fast!
Took a lunch break with GrandBob, the 2 section hikers from last night, and OWL. Then found out I had cell service, so called AWE and talked with her for an hour or so. I miss her so much, and we don’t get to talk every day, so when I have the chance I try to take advantage of it.
From there it was a pretty easy walk to the shelter. At first it was just the guys from lunch, plus KFox and a dude named Animal. Then people started pouring in; Big Yankee, Mallet, Twig, Rooster, the Virginia Creepers…there must have been 30 people tenting around the shelter. We also found out there is a Dairy Queen in Bland, so we’re going to try to hitch in tomorrow. (We are VERY BAD at hitchhiking so it may not work out).
GrandBob is going into town tomorrow to see a doctor so he split up his remaining food among me, OWL, and Animal. I got a snickers bar and a mountain house meal. Thanks, GrandBob!
I had heard of Animal before – he thru hiked last year (or maybe the year before) and carries all his stuff in a 5 gallon bucket. He is a forager as well, and brought us some wintergreen berries (they taste like wintergreen!) and pine tips. Pretty good! I would definitely take a foraging class from him if he ever decides to teach one.
Took another shower this morning at the hostel because it felt so good! My clothes are all stupid stinky, though.
As usual, a good night’s sleep is followed by a hard climb out of the gap the hostel/town is in. I called AWE as soon as I thought I might have service and talked with her for about 40 minutes. It is so good to hear her voice.
Caught up with Goat and walked with him for the climb up the mountain. Even after all this time I am still so slow at uphill climbs! You would think I would be in shape by now…well….I am in better shape than I was before but I still have a ways to go before I am running uphill.
About two miles from the summit, I started noticing the trees were covered in ice. Shortly afterwards I noticed that the trees were dropping HUGE CHUNKS OF IC EVERYWHERE. I guess the rain storm we experienced the night before was an ice storm at the higher elevations. The trail had a bunch of recently downed trees, broken by the weight of the ice, that made navigating the trail difficult. Oh and did I mention the softball sized (and larger) chunks of ice falling from the sky? I got hit in the arm & back three times but not in the head. (Could a falling chunk of ice knock you out if it hit you in the head? Seems like the sort of thing Mythbusters should figure out).
Finally made it to the summit of Snowbird Mountain and the (still icy) grassy bald. Immediately dropped my pack and had a quick lunch. Goat started up the trail, but (as usual) I was taking my time getting ready to go. BearFoot showed up – we were quite relieved to be out of the icy woods of doom – and we talked for a minute. The sky started to clear up – first just a peek of blue sky, then actual sun! It was amazing. It was as if a switch had been flipped, and the day went from miserable to incredible in just a few minutes. It was a gift.
We walked to the top of the bald together, then turned around and took pictures. You could see the fog moving across the bald, following the path the ice storm must have taken. On the other side of the bald, the trees had no ice.
Got to the shelter and OWL was nowhere to be seen. Tex said he saw a note for us on the shelter sign that said she was going on to a campsite three miles up the road.
I was super unhappy about it. We had talked before (on the other occasions she skipped ahead) about how I would like to at least be involved in the decision to skip ahead, since I am always the one playing catch up.
So, catch up we did. Made camp. SilverStreak made a fire, which was really nice, and brought a beer from the hostel to split. OWL contributed some whiskey. Had a fun time hanging the bear bag (my first try the rock bag twirled around the branch and got stuck). Silver Streak & OWL helped me get it loose. SilverStreak is so very unimpressed with the PCT method to hang a bear bag.
Talked with OWL about the plan. About how I like reaching the destination and I don’t like it when I find out at 4pm the destination for the day has been changed. She said – I knew it would make you mad but I thought we could get more miles done which would make for an easier day tomorrow. No matter what, I have your best interests at heart.
So there we stand.
I knew today was going to be tough, but it turned out to be even harder than that. Goat & I hiked up Rocky Top (you know, the Tennessee Fight Song – Good Old Rocky Top, Rocky Top Tennessee? Yeah, that Rocky Top). Great views. I was taking pictures when AppleButter showed up – she is from Tennessee and had the actual song on her phone, so we listened and sang. It was so cool!
Also saw my favorite section hiker ever, who was out hiking with her father. Goat gave her the trail name “Emily Post” because she is so nice and polite. I shortened it to Post. She got to the top of Rocky Top as we were leaving. I can’t imagine being out in this weather section hiking, but they seem to be having a good time and aren’t too overwhelmed at all the stinky thru hikers in the shelters.
Then we climbed up Thunderbird without too much trouble and I thought the hardest part of the day was over…the hike was going pretty awesome so far. (Except, of course, that my right ankle was still panging with each step, and my right knee was complaining too). Then it started to snow, and it turned from a hard hike into a pretty difficult hike. The snowpacked trail was topped with ice, and fresh snow on top of that made it literally one step forward, slide half a step back
Instead of fighting the snow and the trail, I just tried to embrace the part of me that loves to be outside and play in the snow. I tried to remember how I felt, pre-hike, in January when it snowed and AWE & I were both off work. I was so excited – we went out and hiked, and had a mini snowball fight, and had a great time playing in the snow. So I tried to play in the snow as I hiked. On the downhill sections I stopped trying to fight gravity, and just started skiing down the trail with my big wet boots and my hiker poles! I was pretty good.
We finally made it to the shelter, there was room inside for me. We had 29 people in a capacity-12 shelter…very tight quarters. The hiker tv was even MORE entertaining – a dude was stuffing the fire full of twigs and sticks and didn’t stop until the entire fireplace was chock full of wood. (Then an ember fell into my wet boot sitting in front of the fireplace – lucky for me the boot was so incredibly wet it didn’t even scorch anything!)
My knee still hurts. But my ankle is getting better.