Carter Gap Shelter to Rock Gap
Miles Hiked: 12.3
AT Milage: 109.5
Today I woke up at 7 and got on the trail by 7:30. I started off my hike with a limp because my leg hurt so bad but eventually the pain went away and I felt nothing! I ran into Colin from Winnipeg Canada at a view point. Colin’s trail name is St. Paul. He was given the name because he is hiking to Damascus, Virginia. Later on I ran into Andrea who I met last night at camp. I felt so good hiking today and the terrain was favorable. I took a small break to get more water and eat a second breakfast but other than that I didn’t stop until I reached mile 100! Mile 100 was just past Albert mountain fire-tower. The climb up to the fire tower was an almost vertical scramble for 0.3 miles. It was very tough but short.
At the fire tower I took time taking in the view. There was a 360 degree view of all the surrounding mountains from the top. Visibility today was about 36 miles! It was crazy to see the Georgia mountains to the south and the North Carolina mountains to the north. I got my picture taken at the view and the 100 mile sign. I took the break as an opportunity to eat my lunch which was powdered mashed potatoes with cold water. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, and I added hot sauce to spice things up. At this point I realized I was only 6 miles from camp and it wasn’t even noon. I knew it was going to rain tonight so I wanted to make sure I got a spot in the shelter. My original plan was to stay at Rock Gap Shelter, take the shuttle to town in the morning, do a quick resupply and then shuttle back to the trail in the afternoon. When I got to the shelter it was only 2pm. I didn’t know a single person who wasn’t going into town tonight and I wasn’t ready to spend the night alone yet, especially so close to town in a rain storm. Andrea who was going to take a zero day in Franklin, NC caught up to me at the shelter.
For those of you who don’t know a zero day means zero miles hiked on the AT. This typically looks like two nights in a row spent in town or two nights in a row spent at the same camp spot. Hikers typically take a zero day to rest up, resupply, and eat good food, or a personal reason such as visiting a friend.
Andrea was planning on taking the $3 Macon County Bus shuttle into town. The bus came up to the Rock Gap parking area at 3:45. My original plans were to not stay a single night in town until I went home for my best friend’s wedding. The more I thought about staying in that shelter alone the more going to town tonight sounded like a good plan. I ended up walking down to the shuttle with Andrea and then splitting a hotel room with her at the Sapphire Inn. It ended up being $28 for each of us. When we were on the bus we ran into Chill Bill, Fern, and St. Paul again.
Andrea, St. Paul, and I all checked in to the Sapphire hotel together. I checked the hiker box to see if there were any large sawyer squeeze bags inside. I wanted to trade my small bag for a larger one because it helps me filter water faster. Again, for those of you who don’t know, a hiker box is a communal box that a hiker can donate or take any sort of item or food from to help out the next person. They are usually at hostels, outfitters, or other places frequented by thru hikers. I didn’t find a larger water filter bag but I did find a light blue dry fit shirt that looked like it would fit me. Everything in the hiker box smelled pretty terrible so I am washing the shirt with my clothes to see if it gets clean or not.
After we got checked in, I got my permit for smoky mountains national park online. The permit costs $20 for thru hikers and is good for 8 days in the park. I expect to arrive there in a week or so, and it will take me about a week to walk through it. In the smokies rangers frequently check to make sure you have your permit on you and there are strict rules about which type of hiker can camp where. I will explain the rules when I get to the smokies.
Anyways, I needed to resupply my food stock. We ran into even more hikers we knew at the hotel. We all got a ride to the grocery store from two men who were staying at the hotel for a week because they were cars salesmen selling at a big show in town. They dropped us off and waited for us to shop before driving us back to the hotel. It was very nice of them so we collectively bought them a 6 pack of beers. It was fun to talk to them and get to know them. One of the funniest things they said was “Don’t you guys have something better to do than walk all summer? What about swimming to China?”
At the grocery store, my resupply was pretty simple. I got tuna, crackers, relish, cheese, pepperoni, cliff bars, trail mix, ziploc bags, and gummies, as well as fresh fruit and vegetables to eat for lunch tomorrow. It was hard to tell whether or not I was going to starve or if I bought too much food. I will learn what I need as I go.
I had a moment at the store where I couldn’t believe that this whole thing was real. I have thought about and planned this journey for such a long time it felt like it would never happen. I put so much effort into every piece of gear I bought and all the information about the trail I had to learn. It made me laugh about how the reality of this trip is so different than I had imagined but I love it just as much as I thought I would. Life on the trail is so different than life at home. Here I am sharing a hotel room with a random person I just met last night and getting a ride to the store with a person I met less than 5 minutes ago. It’s crazy how much you have to trust people to get by, but they have to trust you just the same. It’s also nice to have such a huge value instantly in common with the people you meet on trail. I know that they all had to make the same sacrifices and go through the same planning process that I did to get here. One of my favorite things someone has told me on trail about how they got here came from Sky Pilot. She told me that she has dreamed about hiking the AT since she was 16. When she was 50 she started backpacking and she walked a certain section of the AT in Virginia 13 times (once every year). Now she is 63 years old, out here walking to Maine, living her dream.
When we got back from the store we ate some of our food and started laundry. When hikers do laundry you wash every item of clothing on you. That means you have to strip down butt naked and put on your rain jacket and rain pants and take time to get a shower. Just thought I would share that funny bit of information.
Thanks for reading and Happy Trails!