Four hikers set out in the rain. Bonding misery takes place.
Did I mention that the temp dropped? 38 degrees F.! Most everyone has hats, gloves, sweaters and warm stuff on and I am thinking sadly of the clothing I decided to leave home. Jerry and Shelley, Gingerbear and Mercury , the newlyweds and others who shared the shelter with us, all got themselves fed and headed out. We draped our wet things on our packs and, wearing all our dry things, headed for Bly Gap. We reached it around lunch time and had just taken a few bites when it started to rain, again. We put our wet clothes back on in order to save our dry ones, and quickly got going for the next shelter.
The next four hours had three long climbs, in wind that nearly blew us over, and very little environmental shelter. It was easier to stay warm if I kept moving but when the only choice was to move up, I was hardly going fast enough to be considered in motion. Esther was ahead of me singing “the hills are alive with the sound of… blah, blah”. I was thinking it was good the hills were alive, since I was almost dead. But her singing kept me going. I think she was afraid I would sit down and succumb to hypothermia.
We got to Muskrat Creek Shelter about 4 pm. I played Elijah (from the Bible story) and made some wet wood burn – truly a miracle which amazed everyone. Electing to go without mice this time, Esther set up the tent for us. We crawled into our sacks feeling almost too cold to sleep.
Ice on the picnic table! I am so glad we slept in the tent last night. It was warmer and less drafty than the shelter, but that is still not saying it was warm. I slept in fetal position all night. My fingers were so cold I could hardly get the damp tent folded up and packed. Esther made breakfast. At least it was a clear and sunny morning.
On the trail by 9 am. By 10 am we were stopping to take off layers of clothes – how quickly things changed. Lunch at Deep Gap and we were finally warm! It was so beautiful there.
This was our longest day, hiking 12 miles, but it was mostly flat or downhill with only gradual climbs. Esther started to feel some twinges in her knee on the downhill stretches and we had to consider what we would do if it got worse for her.
We made Carter Gap at 6:30 and we had the shelter all to ourselves! Esther and I scouted out the nearby spring and, never one to forego cleanliness, Esther decided to wash her hair (not easy in a freezing mountain spring, coming out of a hole in the ground, brrr).
My legs and feet were sore and I felt generally awful. We had been warned that there were bear around with no fear of humans, and that a pack had been torn apart, so I hung a bear rope all by myself and prepared to string our food packs up. Esther set up the tent again. We ate supper and talked with Dave from Australia who wandered in. To sleep around 9 pm.
to be continued