The next morning I woke up and hit the alarm. I wasn’t ready to hike in the rain. Perhaps it’ll stop in an hour. An hour later the buzzing begins. I hit the alarm again and stretch. I get out of bed and get my socks and pants on. I can’t wait to have a big breakfast before my hike starts. I get in the kitchen and start cooking the bacon. About eight strips total. Later I use the bacon grease for cooking the eggs. I’m sure I’ll have this all burned off me within a day or two. As the food is cooking I’m slowly getting other things packed up and ready to go. Fifteen minutes later breakfast is served. As I eat I hear the rain outside. It’s a light rain. I didn’t mind hiking in that. I finish my food and wash the dishes. I clean up as much as possible. Packed the last bit of stuff. Got my rain jacket on and headed out the door. I went up to the main office to see the weather for the day and the next few days. Looks like I have a big rain storm coming in fast. I check my book to see how far I’m planning on hiking. Rain is going to be coming in around 11 that morning. I need to get to Low Gap shelter before then. One thing I have noticed while hiking the AT is that once I get in my head how far I’m going to go, that’s all I think about. Getting there as quickly as possible. I left the porch with the WiFi and I hit the trail. With my headlamp on and my rain jacket over top half of my body I started out into the rainy darkness.
Watching each step cause I didn’t want to slip. It takes me a second to figure out where the trail goes next but once I do it doesn’t take long to get back in the swing of things. The rain comes and goes as does the fog. My mind starts playing with me as my paranoia starts to kick in. As I’m hiking I’m thinking that there is some big animal out there just stalking me. Waiting for the best time to jump out and kill me. When in reality, there is nothing out there I really need to worry.
I come to a road that I need to cross. This road looks like your typical road in the mountains. Parking lot across the street with a sign of different paths along the way. I see a hiker in the fog waiting for a car to hitch a ride. I chat with him for a few minutes. Found out he hiked the AT before and now he just does sections. He tells me it’s not much further to the next shelter, Low Gap. The shelter I’m hurrying to get to. I check the time. It’s 10 o’clock and I have to get there quick. I try to get a good pace going but it’s hard to when the terrain keeps changing from up to down hill. Before I knew it it started raining. The first big rain storm of my hike. It’s fun but horrible at the same time. As the rain comes down so does the temperature. I try and keep a decent pace regardless of how hard the rain comes down. By 12:30 I’m drenched. I quickly get in the shelter and start finding warmer things to put on. One of the things I put on is Columbia’s Omni heat thermals . The way this works is it reflects your body heat back on you. I put on my other set of clothes. Not long after I do this then four other hikers come up seeking shelter from the rain. They do the same thing shedding the wet clothes for some dry ones and start getting ready for the night. About an hour later of talking about their hiking experience a few more hikers pile in. Then a few more and then a few more. Before I knew it we had over ten tents set up and a full shelter. The hikers than came in shortly after I did, put up a tarp at the main opening of the shelter. Since it was windy and we had wet cloths we didn’t want to freeze during the night and hoped our clothes would dry off. I knew at that moment there wasn’t going to be any time
I couldn’t dry my clothes with the cold weather we’ve been having. I looked in my AT thru hiker book and saw there was a shuttle that would take you in town, Hiawassee.
The next morning most of the people in the shelter started packing their stuff. I woke up from hearing all the commotion. Since I didn’t get much sleep that night. I decided to do the same thing. It was a lot colder than my sleeping bag was rated (40f/4.4C) plus I had my new sleeping liner in there, a Rumpl blanket and my thermals on which helped the lower part of my body. The top half kept getting cold. No need to lay here freezing. Might as well get back to hiking. At least that way I can get my blood flowing again and warm up that way. With a few wet bags of clothes and my wet backpack I started hiking to Low Gap. I knew I could make it there by noon. A town was near by so I could resupply, dry my cloths, backpack and take a shower. At this point they all sounded amazing. After about an hour of hiking the sun started to rise up in the distance. The sky had a few clouds which helped reflect the light hitting it. I wish I had an awesome view where trees weren’t blocking the sun so I could get a few pictures. It was tremendous with all the colors of orange, dark blue, light blue, red and to top it all off I saw some pretty huge lakes in the distances from where I was walking. I didn’t even know they were there. I must have gone 2-3 miles/4.83 km and started feeling a lot better. I’m not sure if it was what I was looking forward to in a few hours, the sunrise or that I was finally warming up then again it perhaps it was all three.
I started going down hill quite a ways before I realized that I was near the road to go into town. As I kept ascending down I noticed a old van with a guy in it just sitting there. I start to think that this is either the shuttle or someone waiting for a church group. As I crossed the street the large man came out of the van. I asked him if I could get a ride in town. The other hikers I was with decided to keep moving forward. I’d figured I would catch up with them tomorrow. For now a nice shower and food was calling my name. So I dropped my bag off in the back of the van and sat in the front. I was off to Hiawassee.