Tuesday, August 6, 2013
Start: Bear Branch | Finish: Hudson Gap | Miles: 17.0 | Total: 229.1
My alarm goes off as usual at 6:00 AM. And as usual I lie there listening to the sounds and snoozing, and thinking about the coming day. I know the first half of the day will be through some of the most scenic woods of the GA section – the Cohutta Wilderness – followed by a long downhill ridge run, ending in a creepy inhospitable woods that I am not really looking forward to camping in. All from my 2011 memory. Then somehow I fall back to sleep and do not wake up till nearly 8. I end up taking extra long getting ready – spending a lot of time prepping my feet. Two cups of actual hot coffee – by now I am in no danger or fear of running out of fuel. Hit the trail shortly before 10.
My feet feel fine today. Back to normal. They still hurt after a 16 mile day, but only in the normal way, not like I am courting injury. The day is somewhat drab – a dull heavy light which I assume is an overcast sky above the green ceiling. Nonetheless I am in much higher spirits, due to my feet. It starts to rain a couple of times. I even unpack my poncho, but never put it on. Both times it is short lived and very light.
During lunch break, sitting on my pack in the middle of the trail, in a particularly dense section of woods, I start hearing noises approaching down the trail. At first I think it must be hikers, but then I catch a glimpse of brown hide and ears, and think horses. Then I realized it is a group of wild boars. I stand up, clear my throat, and announce myself. The leader looks in my direction, then hightails it out, followed by the others. It turns out to be a rather large herd.
Making the turn east at Fowler Mountain, the woods that I described as creepy and inhospitable seem lovely this time around. Cathedral-like, somehow. It’s amazing how one’s state of mind can at a given time affect your perception.
When I reach the spring at Hatley Gap I load up with water for camp. The camp site at the Gap is quite nice, and not even listed in the guide. A picturesque grassy clearing with a fire ring, marked by a wooden sign. Yet it is still a mile or two short of my goal for the day. McKinney Gap, when I arrive, proves to be too overgrown for camping, so I push on to Hudson Gap. It is at the intersection of a FSR and the trail. I am hanging across what looks like a vehicle turn-around, also outfitted with a rudimentary fire ring. Not picturesque, but it works. Great cell reception here too – am able to call home.
18 miles tomorrow, to Falls Branch, one of my favorite camp sites on the 2011 hike.