Sunday, June 15, 2008

Great Smoky Appalachian Trail-Day Two

June 15, Sunday

Up, UP, UP, back to the top of my Long Trail, in an attempt to catch up with the other hikers on the Appalachian Trail. I woke up at 6:30am and was on my way by 7:30am. There was no rain, no bears and no snakes. I was moving pretty quickly (for me), at a steady pace...UP, UP, UP. I think I found the bear's rock cave, but they may have been sleeping. I tiptoed past.
It took me two hours to get out of my "valley" and then when I passed the Birch Spring Gap I found a stick arrow "sign" on the path to indicate the other hikers were on their way. I picked up the pace, determined to at least walk with them some of the day. Because I was moving so quickly, I developed a blister on my left heel and had to stop for some maintenance.

On my climb up Doe Knob (4520 ft) I ran across a ridge runner. He was out checking and trimming the trail and had crossed paths with the other hikers and predicted that I would catch up with them at their lunch stop, perhaps Ekaneetlee Gap (3,842 ft). Sure enough the troop was supine, relaxing or eating their lunch when I arrived. They were happy that I was able to catch up with them, and I was glad to continue at a more reasonable pace. Jack and Liz were amazing with their knowledge of plants and flowers. This slowed us down even more because we stopped often to identify species. My goal was to try to remember at least one.

We made a brief pause at Mollies Ridge Shelter before continuing up to 4,775 feet on Devils Tater Patch. We were headed for Russell Field Shelter where we all had a reservation for the night. I would be trekking about 9 miles on this second day. I thought I would have a tough time managing this mileage but, besides the blister, I was doing great. We briefly left Jack behind as he stopped to rest more often, but we could hear him singing through the woods and knew he wasn't far behind.

Russell Field Shelter...was crowded...with women. Jack was the only male and the shelter was almost full. Supposedly if you are booked at a shelter you must stay in the shelter and aren't to use tents. This is probably to help with the maintenance of the camping area and to protect you from bears, who know that shelters sometimes means food. The shelter did have a fenced front, but smart bears (Yogi) would probably just open the gate ;-D

The shelter had two tiers, and getting up on the top bunk area wasn't a simple task. There were four ladies on the top and at least 7 people on the bottom. Before we even went to sleep the mice were running. They scurried along the sides and climbed around on the fenced front. Some of the ladies had hung their packs from the fence AND forgot to put away one piece of food. (my food and back-you got it- up the bear cables) As soon as the food was taken away, the mice settled down for a nice sleep. We attempted to do the same. Sleeping in the shelter just doesn't have the same comfort as your tent.

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