Day 28: Late Start, Later Night

Day 28

Flint Mountain Shelter to Bald Mountain Shelter

Miles Hiked: 18.9

AT Milage: 327.4

This morning we got out of camp so late. It’s the latest I’ve ever started a day on the Appalachian trail and I’ve only ever started later when I was on a trip with 8 other people. Starting the day late just makes my day feel so much longer. I love getting the miles done first thing in the morning. When we woke up it was raining so none of us were motivated to move from our warm spot in the shelter. Also, Emma, Caroline, and I were squeezed in the corner of the shelter so we would have had to climb over lots of people to get out. I just wanted to wait for everyone else to move their stuff before I started packing up mine. It was 8:30ish when we left camp. I know this isn’t super late in the morning, but ideally I love to be on trail at 6:30. I sat around in my wet clothes freezing while I waited on Caroline and Emma to finish packing up.

Once we were on trail the weather was much nicer. It didn’t rain all day, but the sky sure did look like it. The trail was still very muddy from the last three days of rain so we had to step very carefully. Halfway through our hike we made a long stop for lunch. We talked to a girl named Alice who I’ve been hiking around for a few days and dried out our tents.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the news, then you might not have heard that there was an attack on trail maybe a day or two? ago and someone died. It was the first murder on the trail since 2011. About two weeks ago I was warned by other hikers about a man threatening people with a knife. Since the news was spread via a hiker group facebook and I knew it was 200 miles northbound from my current location on trail I didn’t worry too much about it. Well this same person is the one that committed the recent attack on two hikers with a large knife. It’s terrible to hear this news because the trail is a place I’ve always felt safe and so many people outside the hiker community have such a huge misconception about it. It seems out of place in our current state of the world to trust strangers at the level you have to to get by on the trail. I have trusted and been trusted by so many people on trail in ways that I would not in my life off the trail and I haven’t once regretted it. Everyone out here has each other’s backs and looks out for one another in ways you wouldn’t expect. Many people often say that the trail restores their faith in people because the thru hiking community is so unexpectedly different from other groups of people you may come across. Point is, as tragic as this incident is, I think it can cause an even larger misconception about my safety on the trail than there was to begin with. My safety, specifically as a woman, has been something that has been questioned by almost everyone who I have told about what I am doing. I believe they have a good heart behind being concerned about me, but it is frustrating to constantly have others worry about me in a place where I feel safer than I did living in Columbus Ohio or driving on the highway. Statistically and logically speaking I face a much higher level of danger in public places. When I get off trail to get food or a shower in a regular town I am required to be much more aware of my surroundings than on trail. I won’t go into it to much in this post, but as far as being a woman on trail goes with safety, the biggest dangers I will face (weather and injury) do not differentiate between genders. Again, it’s sad to hear this news, but I just wanted to address the misconception about my safety on the trail vs my regular life.

Back to the day on trail, we took so many breaks and had a lot of milage planned. This was really draining for me because I usually hike alone and only take a break when I need to, not when two other people with me need to. I felt like we were hiking FOREVER. We finished the day by hiking over “Big Bald” mountain. It was very cold and we got an awesome view of the sunset through the clouds as we were in a cloud ourselves.

We finally got to camp at 8:30. This is the latest I have ever got to camp. We were hiking for 12 hours straight today! I could not believe how long we were out there. I love to get to camp early so I have a longer time to rest my feet for the next day and I get into my sleeping bag around 7:30. Even after my first 20 mile day in the smokies, I was at camp setting up my tent by 4:30. I was so exhausted from being on my feet for so long today.

There were three open spots in the shelter so we took them. It was so dark I couldn’t see anything in the shelter without my headlamp. I ate a cliff bar and a snickers bar and climbed into my sleeping bag as fast as I could. I was tried and grumpy. Emma and I had spots right next to each other on the top bunk. The temperature was expected to drop into the mid 30s tonight.

About an hour after I was all warm and cozy in my sleeping bag, I hear Emma saying my name. I woke up to her shivering. She asked if I had any extra clothes so I reluctantly gave her my puffy jacket I was wearing because she was clearly freezing. I was already wearing all the clothes I owned and so was she. She continued to shiver and couldn’t get warm. I decided the next thing we could try to do to warm her up was to have her cuddle with me. I was almost laying on top of her and I could still feel her shivering. Next we tried to fit me inside my sleeping bag, inside of her sleeping bag. It didn’t work, but we were laughing so hard about it. Finally I decided I would just switch her sleeping bags. I have a 20 degree sleeping bag meaning it will keep me alive at 20 degrees, not comfortable. Emma was borrowing her friends 40 degree sleeping bag and using my sleeping bag liner which makes it a little warmer. After I switched her, she was able to get warmer and I was really cold, but not shivering. If she still couldn’t get warm the next thing we would have to do is pack up and start hiking so she could get her body warm. I was so glad we didn’t have to do this. We were already making so much noise and keeping everyone in the shelter awake. It was a night to remember. Emma thinks the reason she couldn’t get warm is because her feet were so cold before she even got in her almost useless sleeping bag. In the morning we found out that Caroline had an emergency blanket on her which would have been helpful. No one slept much that night.

What a day! I am so proud of Emma and Caroline for doing such a difficult and high milage day!

Happy Trails!

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