Wednesday, 4/15

AT Miles = 20.7 / 333.6
Other Miles = 0 / 15.2
Total Miles = 20.7 / 348.8

I had a terrible night last night. It was cold and damp and windy, and
I spent most of the night lying in my sleeping bag just on the wrong
side of the cold/warm line. I changed into dry socks before going to
bed, and by morning the dry socks were actually damp from all the
dampness in my sleeping bag.

When I got up this morning I was tired, cold, and wet, and tired of
being tired, cold, and wet. The temperature was hovering just around
freezing, and by the time I had packed all of my gear my hands were
numb with cold. I struggled through heating water and making oatmeal
for breakfast, then took off all of my supposedly warm clothes, put on
my already wet rain/wind jacket, and hit the trail. I hiked furiously
to try to generate some heat, and in about half an hour I could feel
my hands finally starting to warm up. Another half hour and the
thermostat finally opened; I felt the warmth flooding my fingers and
toes. Whew!

It was another day of hiking in the cloud, with visibility just a
couple of dozen feet. The day's goal was No Business Knob Shelter, 20
miles away, but I had this plan hatching in my warmth seeking brain
that if I could pull off a 27 mile day I could gorge myself on bacon
cheeseburgers at the Sonic in Erwin, and sleep in a warm, dry, motel
room. I kind of pushed that idea to the back of my mind and
concentrated on goal number one, the ten miles to Bald Mountain
Shelter. I climbed a lot this morning, eventually making it to the
summit of Bald Mountain. I'll have to take it on faith that Bald
Mountain is bald. I couldn't see anything when I was up there. The
wind blew, the fog engulfed me, and it was cold enough that the fog
actually condensed and froze on my glasses so that my visibility was
even further reduced. All I could see was the rut worn by previous
hikers in the grass of the bald, and every minute or so I would pass a
post with a white blaze on it, confirming that I hadn't wandered off
the trail.

I finally reached Bald Mountain Shelter at 12:30; four hours after I
started hiking. I sat there for about half an hour eating my lunch and
drinking water. My Nutella was frozen so that I couldn't even get it
out of the jar with my spoon, so I ate a couple of English Muffins
with nothing on them and some handfuls of GORP. By the end of the 30
minutes I sat there I was bitterly cold again, so I set off hiking
fast once again to generate some heat.

The terrain after lunch was a bit more downhill than up, but much of
the downhill was slick with mud so I couldn't make very good time on
it. I thought a lot about it and decided that if I could make it to No
Business Knob Shelter by 4:30, then I would have enough time left to
make it the further 7 miles to the road into Erwin. Now I just put my
head down and hiked as hard as I could. Around 3:00pm I was thinking
that I was doing great and should have had about 3 miles left, when I
came out on a road, crossed the road back into the woods, and was
confronted with a sign declaring that No Business Knob Shelter was 4.6
miles away. Sigh.

Still, I pushed as hard as I could in the hope that I could somehow
get there by 4:30. 4:30 came and went and no shelter, and around 4:50
I finally made it up the last little rise and arrived at the shelter.
Not only was I out of time to go any further, but I had to admit that
I was out of gas, and there was no way I could hike another 7 miles

The shelter was already full with hikers that had come from the last
shelter 10 miles back. At 5:00pm they were all already snuggled down
in their sleeping bags. I set up my hammock out in back of the
shelter, and as more hikers came in everyone found the best site they
could and pitched their tents.

A bit of a disappointing day, but all things in balance I think I
should be reasonably comfortable tonight. We are down lower then last
night and while it is still overcast it is not foggy here so I should
stay drier overnight. From here it is only 6.9 miles to Erwin. I could
stay at the hostel right next to the AT, but I think I ma going to try
to get into town and get a room at the Super 8. Then I'll go downtown
and get that bacon cheeseburger at Sonic, go to the library to upload
my photos, walk down to the supermarket, then to the post office to
pick up my bounce box.

This is the third day of wet weather, but the sun is supposed to show
itself tomorrow. Hopefully it will stay sunny for a couple of days and
I can get out of town on Friday with the sun in my face. That would be

Allen F. Freeman