Day 14: In which Matt sees his shadow and goes back to bed

Miles Hiked: 12.1
Miles Left: 2079.3
Ending Location: Rock Gap Shelter

I’m not sure if it was 15 degrees this morning like the weather report said, but OMG was it cold. Actually woke up around 7am when everyone else was stirring and my sleeping bag was the perfect temperature. Now admittedly I was wearing all my cold weather gear, (hello down booties), but it’s nice to know I can shelter in place if the weather turns bad. Now getting moving is a different story. After about 15 minutes of psyching myself up I left my tent and went to use the facilities and grab breakfast. About 15 minutes after that I beat a hasty retreat back to my sleeping bag because I was loosing feeling in my fingers and toes.

Now if it was critical for us to get moving I do have chemical hand and foot warmers, but I’m trying to save them for the Smokies. I also had told B previously that it’d be a late start so I spent the next two plus hours trying to warm up, slowly changing into my hiking clothes, and packing up everything but my tent and sleeping bag.

By the time I started stowing the last of my stuff it was still cold but bearable. It’s amazing how frustrating it can be to stuff things into bags when your fingers are numb. Long story short we didn’t get on the trail till around 10:30, (may have been closer to 11).

The actual hike was a lot of fun. We made great time despite the late start, and it included some really cool cliff walking. At one point we were actually on an overhang and the view was spectacular. The highlight though was Albert mountain. The blue blaze bypass trail around it is recognized by the AT as an “official” part of the trail because the climb up Albert mountain has been deemed too treacherous during inclement weather. It was awesome! Basically it was a combination scramble and rock climb all the way to the top … with a 40 pound pack. In all seriousness that has been my favorite part of the trail so far. Also, you know you are an AT hiker when you ask yourself, “Is this a stream or the trail”, and the you go “Eh” and keep on hiking.

The shelter at the end of the day was a huge disappointment. No bear cables, the privy was subpar, (less said the better), the trail journal was chewed up by mice, and more importantly almost no tent sites. The actual shelter was full up so I had to set my tent on an incline by the campfire. A couple of weekend hikers stayed up half the night throwing more wood on the fire so I had to deal with the smoke and fear that a stray ember would turn my tent into a blazing bunch if melted plastic. Not ideal, but of course I couldn’t bring myself to ask them to please go to bed. Lesson learned, don’t tent near the fire even if the other places are less level.

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