Friday, April 17, 2015

Day 13: Albert Mountain

Dscn4619March 20: By morning, the rain had finally stopped, but the weather still looked foul with a pervasive cloud of fog and even some minor tree snot occasionally falling to the ground. Still, it was a huge improvement over yesterday when it drizzled the whole day. I ate breakfast, brushed my teeth and broke down camp and was ready to move by 9:00. When I checked on Mouse and Georgia, they were already gone. I was impressed! First they did a heck of a day to make it here and set up camp in such miserable weather conditions, and now they were already on the trail hiking. Those two, I thought, certainly have the strength and fortitude to make it to Maine if they had the time. (They were only planning to hike for two or three months until previous commitments required them to get off.) Even worse, they were making me look bad! ;o)

Instead, I found two other hikers—the one in the hammock and tent I saw earlier but didn’t know who they were. The girl introduced herself as Sweet Pea which was a name I only recognized from a couple of her register entries. The guy’s name didn’t ring any bells (and I forgot it before writing it in my journal).

Then Sweet Pea surprised me by saying we had met before. We had?! Where?

“Gooch Gap Shelter.”

I tried thinking back to that area of the trail. The exact shelter was fuzzy in my head. I remembered there being a Gooch Gap Shelter, but they all start blending in together in my head and I have a difficult time remembering which name went with which shelter after about two or three days. So I combed my brain trying to remember who she was, then I remembered a lone girl in a shelter early back on the trail which, now that I think about it, looked vaguely like this girl.

“Lindsay?” I asked.

She nodded agreeably.

“Ah-ha! You didn’t have a trail name then!” That’s why I hadn’t made the connection—she wasn’t Sweet Pea back then and a different name means a different person. =) We also didn’t really speak much at the time so there wasn’t any reason she was burned into my mind.

Then I was off hiking. Almost immediately, the trail started climbing Albert Mountain, a mountain I vividly remembered struggling to climb my first time on the AT. I remember the day clearly. It had been a bright, sunny day then, and I met a girl hiking with her dog, but it was the first girl I had met hiking alone on the AT and I was impressed she’d do it alone being a girl and all. I don’t think there’s any reason a girl isn’t just as capable of hiking the trail as myself, but a lot of women seem to be afraid of hiking alone. I never saw her after that and have no idea if she finished the trail or not, but I always hoped she had.

The view from the fire lookout tower on Albert Mountain didn’t look promising!

But I remembered she had to help her dog up some of the rockiest, steepest parts of the trail, and I remembered using my hands quite often in my own scramble to the top. It seemed like it lasted a half hour, but this time, it felt more like five minutes and I never needed to use my hands at all. Oh, it was certainly steeper than most sections of the trail, but nothing near as bad as I had remembered it. It seemed easier and considerably shorter than I remembered. If this was my first time climbing the mountain, I’m not sure I’d have even made a note of it in my journal because it was so uneventful.

And it really started settling in for me just how easy I’m finding my second thru-hike to be. I seriously struggled up this mountain last time. I was limping from blistered feet, twisted ankles and sore muscles. It’s not like I didn’t hurt at all, but nothing more than a mild soreness at times. It was sooo much easier this time around—even though the weather was decidedly worse this time around. I wondered if everyone else on the trail was struggling as much as I did last time, or climbing up the mountain like it was barely an obstacle like I was doing this time around.

At the top, there was a fire lookout tower which I considered not going up since I knew there were no views—the fog was so thick I could barely even see the top of it. But I figured I should, if for no other reason than to post a photo of the fog to Walking 4 Fun saying, “And here’s the VIEW!!!!” At the top was an enclosed area which actually was a great place to get out of the wind, cold and wetness. I’d have stopped for a snack break if I hadn’t started my day’s hike less an an hour earlier.
Yep, not much to see from the top. I could barely see the ground at the bottom of the tower! (That colored object at the corner of the base of the tower is my backpack.)

At the road crossing for Franklin, I caught up with Sweet Pea, her hiking companion whose name I now forget and—most surprising of all—Mouse and Georgia! Sweet Pea and friend were trying to hitch a ride into town while Mouse and Georgia were waiting for friends to pick them up. If I were them, I’d have hitched a ride into town and told my friends to pick me up there instead of waiting in the cold, damn fog. Unless, of course, the hitch didn’t work, then they could find me on the side of the road trying to hitch a ride into town. =)

They weren’t sure if I was ahead of them or behind them since they didn’t know where I set up my tarp and left without looking for it. A large semi-truck pulled soon pulled over near Sweet Pea and I wasn’t sure if the truck was picking them up or testing its breaks before the long descent into Franklin or what. I’m not sure Sweat Pea knew either—but it appeared he had stopped to pick up the hitchhikers. She certainly seemed happy to finally be getting out of there. I don’t think they’d been at it for very long, but it was long enough!

Georgia said he’d check out my Walking 4 Fun site, and perhaps virtually walk the PCT while actually waking the AT. Which sounds kind of funny when it was said out loud, but that’s what I’m actually doing now as well!

I had trouble finding the trail on the other side of the road at first since it wasn’t directly across the street from where I came out at. I had to hike a short ways up the road following a blaze before I saw the trail reenter the woods on the other side and onwards I went.
The rest of the day’s hike was uneventful, and I eventually pulled into the Silar Bald Shelter late in the day. The shelter looked a bit crowded and I decided to set up my tarp nearby instead of sleeping in the shelter. The ground was still wet from the rain the day before—although it hadn’t rained, the air wasn’t really dry enough to dry the previous day’s rain. And my gear was still mildly wet from the day before. I figured if I set up the tarp and slept under it, everything might dry off overnight and I wouldn’t have to worry about wet gear anymore. The weather forecasts were improving with each passing day.

So I set up my tarp, then joined the rest of the shelter creatures and made dinner there and chatted with the other hikers. I might be sleeping outside of the shelter, but I didn’t have to be a loner either!

Bill—who, when he introduced himself, I thought had said “Dill,” and I asked, “Like the pickle?” No, Bill! Ah, no trailname then…. “But you know, Pickle is kind of a cute trail name. You could be a pickle.” =) He didn’t much care for the name, though. Another great trailname from me, foiled again!

Anyhow, Bill managed to create a campfire, which was pretty miraculous in my opinion given all of the wet wood he had to work with, so I recited the Cremation of Sam McGee in appreciation.

Three hikers pulled into the shelter after I did, and they set up camp out in a clearing away from the shelter. I wandered down there to invite them up to the fire—just in case they didn’t feel welcome to take the initiative themselves. And because I’m curious about my neighbors. =)
The three came out for a few days from a nearby school and for the two young students, it was their first time ever backpacking. This was their first night ever in the woods. I don’t know why people tell me stuff like this, because it just brings out my mischievous side. I now wanted to scare them with bear stories (which don’t have to be true!) and other horror stories. Maybe sneak over to them in the middle of the night when they’re asleep and scare the bejesus out of them by throwing a broken branch on them. (It “fell” from a tree. Sure, it fell weeks earlier, but still, it fell!)

But the thing I noticed the most, those two kids had shorts on. It was fairly chilly outside, and they looked pretty cold. “Don’t have have any long pants to wear?” I asked.

No, they did not. I couldn’t help but laugh a little. First timers. *shaking head* Well, we all make mistakes our first time out. =)

Anyhow, I invited the three of them to join the fire up by the shelter at their leisure, and wandered back to it myself. About five minutes later, the three of them joined us where we all spent the next couple of hours chatting away.

After dark, when everyone else had gone to sleep and I was under my tarp about ready to do the same, I pulled out my smartphone and decided to give it a try. I could see a lot of lights from civilization far down the horizon and it seemed logical that I might get some sort of connection—and I did! I called Amanda to give her an update on my progress, and I checked on permits for the Smokey Mountains which I’d been hearing about.
Trail magic at one of the road crossings of the day. Not a lot of variety to choose from, though!

Last time I did the AT, there were permits available at the entrance of the park that thru-hikers could fill out themselves and it cost nothing—but only for thru-hikers. Now, apparently, we had to make a reservation in advance and print it out and that it would cost $20. Twenty bucks?! Now, $20 isn’t that big of deal, but the principle of it kind of bothered me. Last time, I was able to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail and not be charged once for using it. I remembered hearing about there once being a toll to walk over the Bear Mountain Bridge across the Hudson River—something trivial like 10 cents that galled hikers because it was the only place on the entire AT that charged them but it had eventually been dropped—and now the Smokey Mountains National Park was charging thru-hikers twenty bucks to hike through?! It was a sad day when that happened…. And since I hadn’t kept up with AT news, this change was something of a surprise for me.

I managed to fill out the necessary forms online to make my reservation, although I misspelled Seattle as “Seattlr” and couldn’t figure out how to fix it so left it as is. Close enough, right? But I still needed to print the permit, and I still had no idea where or how I would get that done. I figured if push came to shove, I’d write all of my permit details on a piece of paper and shove that in the box at the entrance instead.

Then I went off to sleep. My day was done!

Step count today: 36,389 steps
Miles today: 16.4 miles
Total miles: 122.8 miles
Graffiti on the trail! Graffiti on the trail! I usually don’t like graffiti, but I appreciate that this was on the road and not a wilderness area, and I couldn’t help but smile at the unexpected pat on the back. =)

This creek had some “plumbing” installed to make it easier to fill up water bottles.

Although it never rained today, it never cleared up either!

Sweet Pea and unknown companion hitching a ride into Franklin.

Georgia and Mouse waiting for their friends to pick them off from the trail. I’m still not sure why they didn’t prefer to wait IN town, though! =)


My home for the night. I hoped by morning, the wet fog would be gone and all of my gear suddenly find itself dry! One can always hope! =)

The campfire by the shelter.


Unknown said...

Really enjoying this journey!

Anonymous said...

Enjoying and loving the memories your journey brings me. Found Mouse I think on journals:

Pink Panther (but not the one you were stalking. The one from 2014 hike)