Day Three - Blisters!

Sunday, March 27, 2022

Hawk Mountain Shelter (MM 8.1) to Gooch Mountain Shelter (MM 15.8)

NOTE: We are currently hiking through the unceded homelands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ (Tsalaguwetiyi/Cherokee) and Mvskoke (Muskogee) peoples. Most of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ and Mvskoke were forcibly removed from these lands by white settlers, beginning with the Spanish in 1539 and culminating in 1850 with the United States' program of ethnic cleansing called the Trail of Tears.

We woke up this morning in the cold. Trek's pack thermometer read a balmy 27° and if not for his extreme need to use the privy probably would have stayed wrapped as a sleeping bag burrito.

Breakfast provided good conversation and allowed us to chat and get to know a few folks. Alexa from New Hampshire was there, and Franklin's Mom, Skyler, Tim, and Claire.

As we left the Hawk Mountain Shelter campsite, we came across many springs popping out of the side of the hill. Water is such a precious resource on the trail, so it teaches you how important it is to protect it. There is nothing quite like tasting fresh mountain spring water. Forget the bottled stuff, the real thing.

After a nice initial descent into Horse Gap, we began to climb. Tim, Claire, and Skyler were there as well. We decided to stop after about 200 feet to have some lunch with Ken. We learned that Ken is a Burner and enjoys fire spinning. Trek asked him if he brought his fire with him, but he said he left them at home, preferring his drum sticks to be his one luxury item.

Luxury items usually have only one purpose and one purpose only and are called "luxury" because they aren't essential for a backpacking trip. For some, this might be a professional camera or a guitar. You don't need these items, but they are nice to have if you're willing to carry their weight up and down the Appalachians.

It is essential to keep your feet dry on this trail. Justin received some tremendous trail magic from a fellow thru-hiker, Low Tech, a gentleman in his 60s, in the form of Moleskin for his festering blisters, while hiking from Horse Gap to Coopers Gap. At Coopers Gap, Trek took some time to rest and change his toe socks.

The ridge walk between Coopers Gap and Justus Mountain was easy-going and beautiful. The deciduous trees have not leafed out yet, so the view of the mountains to our left, west-ish, is stunning. When you spend so much time in the mountains, you realize what our ancestors saw as God-like in nature. Our more than human world gave birth to all that we see, all that we hear, all that we taste, all that we love, including us. There is no separation with earth, only unity. The mountains remind us.

As the trail continued to Gooch Gap, we came across a lot of wild vegetation, including yellow violets and bloodroot flowers. Tunnels of mountain laurel abound, creating many green canopies over the red dirt of these mountains, famous here in the south.

At the Blackwell Creek Crossing, Trek ran into Alexa, Kim, and a few others (whose names he still needs to remember). Justin stayed behind to hang out with Ken and get water from the creek. We all started up from Blackwell Creek together, but Kim, Alexa, and I broke off, hiking ahead. We talked of many things - politics, nature, theology, love.

At the shelter, the other folks who broke off behind came in, and we began to take a selfie when Justin arrived! We got to take this photo together:

Even though we got here at 4, we are in for the night! Rachel, whose trail name is now Clutch, is here. She earned her trail name because she always comes in clutch with her backpack full of sundry items. And we met another sweet hiker by the name of Right On from Florida. While we were eating dinner, Ken earned the trail name Rhythm after playing his drumsticks. And Justin has a trail name now, thanks to Kim: Blisters! He loves it!