Trail meditation

Thursday – Day Five – we left Blood Mountain Cabins showered and rested, our laundry clean, our spirits refreshed. Sure, it’s cold, but that’s not snow – it’s just dandruff!

The rise out of the gap warmed me quickly: 745′ in 1.7 miles. Then the trail bumped along with some beautiful views from Levelland Mountain, Wolf Laurel Top, and Cowrock Mountain.

At Cowrock we stopped for lunch including hot tea. Reminder, don’t let K2’s bare legs fool you into thinking it was balmy. Temps were in the 20s. Yet the sun showered down on Cowrock and the wind laid some so that made for a good stopping place. Especially with hot tea and a tremendous view.

Fueled up, we dropped down into Testnatee Gap where a young family provided hikers with trail magic.

Stid and his dog, Brofie, and several other hikers enjoyed the generosity. I grabbed a baggie of potato chips. Then we tackled Wildcat Mountain, a 500′ gain in a half mile. The aerobic, uphill hike challenged some of our fellow hikers who probably needed a safety meeting or two to make it up. I take respite in hills like Wildcat as a time for walking meditation. I use the mantra, “Ra Ma Da Sa, Sa Say So Hung,” take small steps, and keep climbing. I find that mantra connects me with the healing energy of the outdoors – the sun, sky, and earth. K2 is a very strong hiker and he’s always on my heels.

As the shadows lengthened and the sun crept closer to the horizon, the wind picked up. We did the hiker hobble into Low Gap – after an 11.5 mile day – where probably forty hikers stayed the night – mostly in tents and a few in the small shelter.

Outside the shelter some early arrivers had started a fire where people sat and swapped stories, ate dinner, or simply warmed their hands on their way to hang their food bag to keep it safe from bears.

When I cut tent stakes from some fallen branches my fingers were so cold I dropped my pocket knife at least two dozen times. I enjoyed warming up by that fire while feasting on Mountain House Pad Thai.

Even a full belly and a fire couldn’t fully mask the cold at Low Gap. The wind sounded like a freight train yet luckily it wasn’t coming straight through the gap. Our Big Agnes HV UL3 tent kept out the cold especially as we tucked into our bags. In spite of the cold (low 20sF / -4-6ishC), it was a surprisingly comfy night. I slept really well with the wind functioning as a white noise machine. Maybe I’m nearly getting the hang of this life on the trail.

Blood and noodles

Wednesday – Day Four – we rolled out of our Lance Creek tent site slowly at around 9am after fueling up on oatmeal and coffee as usual. The morning light in the gap gently turned from gray to purple to peach to periwinkle.

Day 4 I saw my first needle ice – caused by the earth temperature being above freezing and the air temperature being below freezing.

This short 7.2 mile hike took us over Blood Mountain, the tallest Georgia mountain on the AT at an elevation of 4,457′.

Stunning views at the top of Blood Mountain – Jonathan got out his compass and he and K2 figured they could see Atlanta.

Inside the historic rock shelter built in 1934, I overheard another hiker doing a phone interview from inside his tent.

The wind wanted to blow us off Blood Mountain on the way down. The insulated tube to my Camelbak froze from the wind chill for about an hour or two.

Yet when we hit Neel Gap and Mountain Crossings Outfitter, Jonathan announced he’d gotten an answer finally from Blood Mountain Cabins. K2 had called twice earlier and hit their answering machine. We were elated and immediately hoofed it down the quarter mile side trail to the main cabin lobby.

Jonathan bunked with a fellow who started the day as a thru hiker and by the next morning he was through hiking. That’s how bad coming off Blood Mountain was!

K2 and I bunked solo until we heard Scotty Roo was headed our way and then it was the three of us in for the night.

Our first showers in four days! Even the simple pleasure of being inside and drinking from a tap delighted us. Plus we had our laundry done – true lap of luxury.

On the way down Blood Mountain – the wind chapping my skin, my knees aching – a random vision of spaghetti marinara sustained me. Why a huge, hot plate of Italian noodles smothered in sauce? I didn’t know from where this carb fest might magically appear. It propelled me though. It got me through.

Then as I circled the shelf in the little Blood Mountain Cabins store I saw one box of spaghetti and one jar of sauce. Boom!

It’s the little things.