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[at-l] Beginner's 3-Day Hike - Day 2

I woke up about sunrise - but heard voices in the next campsite, rolled
over and went back to sleep.  When I woke again, the next campsite voices
and the Boy Scouts at the shelter sounded like they were packing up - so I
sat up, did my little bit of laundry and took my time before getting out of
the tent.  It was warm enough I just put my wet clothes on and was

Everyone but the enigmatic man-out-of-water was gone.  I hauled myself and
stuff back to the picnic table for breakfast, re-filled (again) all my
water containers and started repacking.  Being new at all this I took
longer than it *should* take to fiddle with the repacking but I figured
that is part of the learning curve.  By the time I got it all together, I
could eat a snack - so did, to save a food stop, drank some more water,
took time for another pit stop and hit the trail - probably about 10:45 am.
Man-out-of-water had left about 15 minutes before I did, saying he was
heading to Blue Mountain shelter.  I was only planning to hike 5 miles (to
Chatthoochee Gap) and knew that it was mostly old forest road with no great
ascents or descents.  I was in no hurry.
The hiking was mostly just that easy - and great.

I passed one other hiker heading south.  He stopped long enough to tell me
he had just spooked a bear cub.  I decided to get my other (stowed)
ski-pole down in case I needed something to bang together.  I carried more
water than I needed to because I didn't feel confident about finding water
- it seemed easier to just carry it.  But I did find water - the last creek
over the road was the best.  About 4? I knew was on my *last* uphill but
realized I had to stop and cook a meal - snacks just won't carry me, I have
to EAT real food.  I stopped at the next log, whupped out my primus and
cooked up a batch of skin-on mashed potatoes, broccoli and cheddar flavor
(400 calories), made with water and olive oil.  And ate them with a big
piece of some designer jerky I picked up at my whole foods grocery.  Drank
aobut 1/2 gallon plus of water, too.  Might have had something else,
probably did - some snack something.  All in all a very satisfying meal.  I
was a new hiker after that and churned right on up the ridge to the
Chattahoochee Gap.

My son had looked a little skeptical when I planned to camp and get water
at Chattahoochee Gap.  He said *it might be hard.*  I thought he meant the
water might be very shallow - you know - running off rocks and hard to
catch or something.  Now I realized that the path to the water - listed
only as a couple hundred feet off the trail - was straight down. Which also
meant straight up.  Yikes.  Later I found out that was what he meant.  Next
time I'll ask.  By this time I was thinking about heading to Blue Mountain
Shelter for the night.  But it was already late afternoon.  I had heard
there probably was one camping spot at Chatthoochee Gap, so decided to head
down and decide whether or not to stay after I saw if the campsite was
available.  It was.  It was also very small and quite steep.  After
fighting gravity all night the night before, that appealed not at all, so I
treated 1/2 gallon of water with iodine and headed straight back up,
planning to push on to the shelter.  I could have camped right off the
trail in the gap, but by this time had worked up quite a good hankering for
the shelter and some company.  I usually isolate at home so plead insanity
on looking forward to a social life that night.  Not like me.

Anyway, after my climb out I sat down to catch my breath, finish my last
(treated) water and make my decision.  I decided to go for it.  The only
drawback was it would be 2.1 miles mostly up hill.  I don't know what time
I headed out, but it felt like I would have to really push myself to get
there before dark.  So I did.  Nothing like sprinting up hill at the end of
your day of hiking.

First I hiked on the east side of the mountain and figured for an early
sunset.  Then we (the trail and I) circled around to the west side and I
got my daylight back.  But then the rocks.  I kept thinking they had to end
soon.  After all, this is Georgia, not Pennsylvania.  I kept on.  At one
point I stepped up on a boulder's edge and teetered there for a minute
before I caught my balance.  Then I realized what a fall right there would
mean.  Not pretty.  So, I got more careful.  At this point I was VERY
grateful for my still too short ski poles.  Not only were they invaluable
on the rocks, I was using them to *pull* me along on the uphills.  I may
have the wrong poles but poles I will have.  This IS the way to go!!

Eventually, the trail circled around to the east side of the mountain
again.   Now I was headed back the way I had just come.  Surely I would get
there by now, or at least soon.  Maybe eventually.  I kept on hiking.  I
passed a campground.  Later another campground.  I was getting really
tired.  Now it was not so much a matter of sprinting as just keeping going.
Finally I had to sit down and have a quick snack and more water.  (I did
stop for water back on the rocks, also.)  I had just gotten up feeling
better and taken maybe 10 steps when I felt a hot spot on my inside right
foot heel.  First one.  I should be at the shelter any minute now.  No,
wait.  If I stop and take care of it now I may prevent a nasty situation
tomorrow.  I sat down in sight of where I had stopped for my water/snack
break and padded the newbie (big) blister with a mole skin donut, a mole
skin pad (flannel to skin) and duct tape.  Got back in my boots and pack,
took about 2 steps and noticed water.  Right by the trail.  This must be
the water for the shelter, I thought.  I should fill up.  No, couldn't
bring myself to do it since I had laready loaded back up twice in the last
20 feet.  I had to get to that shelter.

The most fun thing was that the sun kept threatening to set.  In the last
hour, it seemed like every time I looked it still had a half-hour to go.
Finally I did get to the shelter and... Nobody was there.  Weird.  No
man-with-no-water.  Never did see him all day.  Who knows.  I dropped my
pack and took my bottles back to the water hole and filled them up.  The
sun finally did set just as I was getting water.  I hiked back up to the
shelter and set up my tent inside the shelter - no slope, no meese, no bugs
- best of all worlds.  Got dinner started, got in my silks, did my laundry
and hung it out.  Started reading the shelter journal.  It was interesting.
I used my emergency candle for light to save photon batteries and was ready
to crash long before I had done the dinner.  Eventually, I got it cooked,
ate and went to bed.  This night I know I woke up some but must have slept
pretty good.

My back and just general muscle soreness were telling me I had done plenty
enough.  I had done good.  I felt great.  I had hiked 7.2 miles in about
9.5? hours? including a stop for a cooked meal?  AND impressive rocks and a
last couple hours sprint up hill.  Carrying close to 40 pounds?  That was
my best day yet.  And being my second day on the trail and at a shelter I
didn't feel like quite such a newbie - even though there was nobody there
to share my advanced state of experienced with.  I went to sleep looking
forward to the sunrise Blue Mountain (so says the journal) is famous for.


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