Hardball did not follow me away from Justus Creek. I returned his food bag that was undisturbed along with mine. This was not the only answered prayer. The muscles in my legs were healed, only joint pain remained from lying down for the night.
I planned on taking a light day, and find a camp before Blood Mountain. That would be Lance Creek according to Awol only 10 miles away.
Gooch Mountain Shelter, yesterday’s planed destination was only 1.5 miles away. I arrived there in about 45min.
A group of four was leaving as I rounded a corner. I would later on meet them at the end of the day. As I passed the shelter another lone hiker left the shelter he was walking at my pace, and we leap frogged throughout the morning. Until I took lunch at Woody Gap.
He didn’t have a trail name but whore a White Socks hat. His pack was an external frame and was large. He told me he had 50 pounds in it and that he wanted to shed off most of that weight.
I didn’t think I would see again after this day, but he would prove me wrong.
At Woody Gap I ate with two older men. One had hiked the AT two years ago and was supporting his friend through GA, who was the other man. I learned about the bear situation from this man who said, “After the first 200 miles nobody hangs a bear bag.”
After Woody Gap, the Trail became more scenic, with rock ledge views. I stopped the climb up Big Cedar Mountain at Preaching Rock and talked with two girls who just finished a semester of college. They were curious to know what thru-hiking was like and I told them, “Don’t know this is only my second day.”
“I think it would be great.” One of them said.
“So far it’s good, but it’s no picnic I about screwed myself yesterday hiking without Electrolytes.”
“Yeah, we’ve been really getting into hiking this last semester of college maybe when we’re out we can try thr-hiking.” One of them said to her friend.
“Yeah that’s kinda my situation, being done with school this seemed to be a good transition.” (Lies of course).
“Do you think it would be dangerous us hiking the trail?” the other asked.
I wanted to tell her it was safer than a college campus but I didn’t know that yet. So I safely replied, “I don’t know it’s only my second day.”
I said good bye, and finished the climb to the summit. There was another view and I noticed storm clouds were forming into over cast.
The hike down Big Cedar was smooth and I made good time and reached Lance Creek camp before 3. This surprised me. For I started to unpack and set camp but quickly repacked and decided to shoot for Bull Gap or just camp after Neel Gap. This would put me over Blood Mt where I was not supposed to camp since I didn’t have a bear canister.
Since the morning my legs had loosened up and I was moving relatively pain free and I surprised myself again when I made the climb up to Woods Hole Shelter before 4, which meet only 1 more mile till I reached the summit of Blood Mt.
The climb up Blood was a little rocky and the trees were not as full as the others. It almost resembled hiking in the Rockies just before passing the tree line. There were many campsites just off the trail that were not mentioned in the Awol, and I noticed all were doing bear hangs instead of canisters. Cloud cover increased as I climbed and with the new perspective, that nobody was following the rules on food storage I began to consider staying at the Blood Mt shelter.
At the shelter I expected there to be many hikers, and not just thru-hikers but day hikers also. However at first sight of the shelter, the only occupant I saw was a giant black and brown dog, staring intensely at me with ears pointing forward. Its owner a stocky middle aged man came out of the Stone shelter caring his cook ware. It was all heavy luxury camping cook ware and I hoped he was not a thru-hiker.
“Wow, look at that pack I’m guessing you’re a thru-hiker?”
“Yeah how about you?”
“No just a photographer up hear for the weekend.”
“Cool this looks like a good place for some shoots.”
“Yeah, climb up that rock you can get some great view from there.”
I took his advice and climbed the rock that borders the shelter. From the top I saw a view that looked like a pool of rippling water only instead of blue it was emerald color. The wind made movement in the trees and was wet when it touched my skin. Rain was eminent.
Down off the rock:
“Everything sure is green here.” I said.
“Yeah it doesn’t make for too good of pictures, not enough contrast.”
“Yeah but it sure is just raw.”
“It is that.” The conversation paused as I took off my pack but didn’t unpack.
“So do you have a trail name?” the photographer asked.
“No I’m just plain ole Joseph just kick’n myself along the trail.”
“So how many days have you been on trial?”
“This is my second day.”
“Wow, not bad at all this is normally day four for most folks.”
“Yeah well I’m young I guess.”
“Looks like you prepared yourself for it.”
“Actually I put this trip together just in the past two weeks.”
“So you’re winging it?”
“Yep just kick’n myself along.”
“Well I got your trail name how about Kicking-Wing.”
“Why that?” I laughed remembering a Joe Dirt quote.
“Because you’re winging it and are saying kicking a lot.”
I nodded and considered. The name made since but didn’t have the impact I’d hope getting a trail name would. Also I didn’t like the idea of being named by a day hiker.
I stayed up at the shelter for almost an hour talking with the man. I don’t know why I didn’t spend the night there. It would have been a good spot. But I guess I was trying to follow the rules even though nobody else was. Before I left the man told me I could get some electrolyte tablets at Neel Gap in the hostel/ outfitter, Mountain Crossings. He then gifted me one of his tablets to make the almost three mile descent off the mountain.
Going down Blood Mt was a completely different animal that climbing it. You had to scramble down some spots and take deep jarring steps that sent impact straight through the body. However the views were nice and the rocky topography was interesting.
The rain was coming when I reached the bottom. Mountain Crossing was just across the road, and I could see the tree littered with hiking shoes that the place was known for, and a group of four hikers the same I saw leaving Gooch that morning.
Mountain Crossing was closed and we didn’t know it was a walk in hostel after hours so we began setting up camp about a quarter of a mile trail north.
We were frantic the rain had caught us and we could hear thunder. I got my tent up and threw my gear under it and tried to find a tree to hang my food. There were no good trees in the immediate area. All were striped of limbs and looked like flag poles.
One of the girls suggested we go back and throw our food bags in a storage unit at Mountain Crossing. So me and her grabbed everybody’s to do this. There we saw one of the employees so we asked for permission. He looked at us with a dumb look and said.
“Well you could just stay in the bunk room; its 10 bucks a night just pay in the morning.” We took this option, and returned to tell the good news to the group and gather our gear.
The hostel was cozy but we didn’t get to enjoy it. We all just cooked our meals and clamed a bunk in the bunk room. It was pitch dark and hot in the bunk room. There were no mattresses on the bunks; you used your own. The hiker in the bottom bunk of my bunk, used a blow up Thermal Rest that is notorious for noise at any movement. Due to this and the temperature sleep did not find me. And watching the black walls throughout the night which was not near as pleasant as being in the open air where you could eventually see the light emerge out of the trees.
All in all the day had been a blessing, an answered prayer from God. I my legs were healed, I had food and now electrolytes, and also I keep an acceptable pace.
More about my new group tomorrow.