Miles Hiked: 8.7
Miles Left: 1860.2
Ending Location: Bald Mountain Shelter
Perhaps the biggest news of the day was Owl finally shaved his beard off as it was getting annoying. This was the first time in over six months that I’ve seen him beardless and was struck by how much weight he’s lost.
While it was still cold the sun was shining so both of us got a ride from Mike back to Sam’s gap. In the parking lot we ran into Youngbeard and Sunshine who were trying to get a ride into town as they were low on food. That’s been one tricky part of this stretch since the normal time between resupplies has been four days and we had originally planned six days for this section. Add in bad weather… The two of them also confirmed that it had been a miserable night so I have no regrets spending it inside.
Upon starting our hike one thing that struck me was the variability of the snow. On some sections there would be barely a dusting while in other places the drifts would be over a foot deep. Luckily a couple other people were ahead of us so we could follow their footprints. Unfortunately even they had gotten lost a couple of times so we found ourselves backtracking and writing signs in the snow to help direct future hikers following us. The other annoying part was that for the first section of the trail today, the person we were following was a cross country skier so when the snow became deep they threw on their skies leaving Owl and I to post hole behind them vs being able to step in their tracks.
That’s another way to say it was a slow going and tiring day today. On the flip side, just like in the Smokies the snow made the mountains “pop” leading to some gorgeous views. The best of them were on top of the appropriately named “Big Bald” Mountain where we had a 360 view of the surrounding countryside. We summited that near the end of the day and I have to admit we were a little slaphappy from the hike and proud of ourselves at that point.
Arriving at the shelter was an instructional experience for us as we saw just how many mice visited it based on their paw prints in the snow. I also learned that most mice sleep in the hollows of trees since the tracks radiated out from the shelter to just about every large tree in a twenty foot radius. Much to our surprise we were later joined by Youngbeard, Sunshine, and Greasespot back from town. Both Owl and I had expected them to stay the night there. Youngbeard mentioned that someone had gotten violently ill a couple of shelters back so they were trying to stay ahead of whatever outbreak that was, (hopefully not Noro). With so many hikers crowded together with such poor sanitation, things like this can resemble a zombie film as people flee infected spots. We were also joined by Storm who was taking a second shot at hiking the AT after requiring back surgery during his last attempt. The shelter was a double decker so the six of us and about two dozen mice had plenty if space to spend the night.