We both guided hikes on Saturday morning, dragging some poor souls out in the dreary fog, wind and light rain. We were in the tail of Hurricane Matthew and the conditions were a bit miserable. I came home cold, wet, and wanting to curl up with a hot beverage. Instead we stuffed some food in a bag and put our backpacks back on and headed back out to the Appalachian Trail at Sam’s Gap to go on a quick overnight to test the new tent and to put some miles on our legs.
Saturday October 8th: Sam’s Gap to Low Gap, 3.7 miles
We got to the parking lot sometime after 5 pm, and immediately upon opening the car door and stepping outside, I questioned our decision to come out. It was so windy! I have no idea why I thought wearing shorts was a good idea, but obviously I hadn’t mentally switched from summer to fall. I was freezing, and barely had the patience to wait for Dirt Stew to get his gear out of the trunk.
We hiked quickly, trying to warm ourselves up. Leaves of all colors were scattered on the ground. There were quite a lot of green ones, which had recently been ripped off of trees by the excessive wind. We passed one camping spot which was only a mile or so from the parking lot, and we decided to keep hiking as it was still early.
We almost regretted our decision to skip the early campsite because every subsequent camp site seemed to be more windy than the last. Finally, however, as dusk approached, we found a somewhat sheltered spot at Low Gap and immediately called it home.
We ate dinner, set up camp and quickly crawled into our sleeping bags where we lay listening to the wind howling in the trees above our head, the branches swaying aggressively. I felt vulnerable with only a thin layer of sil-nylon between me and the elements. Somehow I eventually drifted off.
Sunday October 9th: Low Gap to High Rocks, 20.0 miles
We both slept somewhat poorly due to the cold and the wind. I wondered how cold it got, but had no way of knowing. Was my 20 degree bag really a 45 degree bag, or did it get colder than that?
I had kept my shoes in the tent vestibule rather than bringing them in with me like I usually do. Luckily I looked in them before putting them on because they were full of mouse droppings! Some mice must have thought my shoes were a better shelter than their usual spot. Plus they probably had some residual heat from my feet for at least part of the night. I cleaned them out, put them on, finished packing up and hiked on.
We reached Big Bald and there was frost on some of the vegetation. We decided it therefore must have been at least in the 30’s at night. Maybe my new-ish sleeping bag isn’t actually too poorly rated.
Up at Big Bald there were some guys who were setting up bird nets to trap, band, and release birds for research and educational purposes. We got talking to them for a while before carrying on.
It was still quite windy, but there was now not a cloud in the sky!
We decided we wanted to try to get 20 miles in for the day so that I could train for a longer hike before my surgery in about 3 weeks. So we hiked to the “High Rocks” before Spivey Gap before turning around and hiking all the way back to Sam’s Gap.
A few miles from the car and my right hip (the one that had surgery 11 months ago) was sore enough for me to want to take Advil. This is nothing out of the ordinary since surgery, and I have been annoyed with my hip pain on each hike. I rummaged through my backpack and I obviously didn’t pack the Advil. Darn. Well, this’ll teach me. The last few miles felt like they went on forever, but I made it without problem.