#OptOutside 2018, cold, then hot, really cold, round and round

Destination: Hogpen Gap Today's Miles: 8.32 Start Location: Byron Reece Memorial Trail parking Trip Miles: 47.59

The best photos are really not staged. I got some staged photos today, which were good, but I’m still not ready to put my kids’ faces on the Internet. At the best photo spot of the day, we met Ben and Abby from Orlando. Ben had already taken his 10 year old son “Dash” from Amicalola to Hogpen Gap and his 13 year old daughter wanted to go, too. Ben is a den leader for a pack 242 in Orlando and we had pleasant conversation for about half the trail. Ben’s pack does spaghetti dinners and pancake breakfasts instead of selling popcorn for their BSA council fundraiser. Abby had some unscheduled blisters, so I got to tell them about liner socks to try for their next segment in 2019. They got to spend the night in a tent at Blood Mountain, where it was cold enough to freeze the condensation in their tent.

I used a bunch of different clothing this segment, my Wool-X base, my Smartwool mid, Nike tights, Prana shorts, Darn Tough Mountaineer knee-highs, Altra Olympus 3.0, Thermonet Buff, and some old Thinsulate gloves. Mittens would have been a nice improvement - it took a while to warm my fingers after re-gloving after a snack break. I think the overall combo worked out nicely, given the temperature swings we experienced. We’d get hot, then turn a corner and hit a stiff breeze that took all our warmth. It was a good day to swap the shorts for a kilt or skirt to cover my tights, but I didn’t pack one. The mountaineer socks with liners were snug in my shoes and I may have been just fine with regular cushion at crew length. The liners were wet and stinky when I got them off. I still want to try some wool liners for that issue, but I read that they don’t last very long. If I had to do it again tomorrow, I’d want to try my Minus 33 wool tights, crew length AT Darn Tough socks, and my Purple Rain black skirt. There was an older lady there with a similar setup, which looked like a fine idea. I might have also appreciated having one more Buff for my neck, which I packed, but left in the van. I also forgot my hat in the van, which meant the sun was in my eyes all morning. My son also asked that I bring a game next time. I’d consider bringing one of the Pack-O-Game bubble gum sized card games.

My wife was a bit late picking us up at Hogpen Gap. As we were waiting, I was adding layers of clothes back on that I had removed on the hike. It had me thinking about a slightly likely scenario of the van’s transmission dying in a spot in the Chattahoochee National Forest where my wife would have no phone signal. I didn’t have any sort of fire starter, mylar blanket, shelter, heater - nothing. I was starting to consider plans to make primitive shelter from sticks and leaves. Two car loads of people stopped by to make sure we were confident about the ride we were obviously waiting on. Next time I feel it may be prudent to bring more than nothing for the unlikely, but possible, case where we spend longer at the pickup location than planned.

When I finished the last two segments, my knee was a throbbing fireball. This segment, it was a achy and stiff, but much better than the previous agony. This time I lead with my right foot for big uphill steps, and lead with my left for big down steps. I think it made a slight improvement. If I add the IT band strap thing, and continue that style, I don’t know if my knee will last for a 14 mile day from Hogpen to Unicoi or not - I sort of doubt it. I’ve already mentally planned that segment as an overnight, which brings up interesting questions for how to sleep when bringing my son.

I’d like to just buy two hammocks from Warbonnet, but they’re not cheap, especially when you throw in the underquilts and at least one tarp and the accessories to hook it all together. I considered getting a cheaper Hennessey Cub or Scout hammock for my son, but they’re sort of heavy, and I still have to get an underquilt solution, and then the whole thing just feels hacked together. We could probably smash into one of my old Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight tents from 1990, but it would be tight, it fits awkwardly in my backpack, and there are more modern fabrics to make lighter tents from Big Agnes.

There’s trash at Hogpen Gap. I didn’t bring a trash bag, but I had about 45 minutes waiting at the parking lot I could have picked up all the trash.

The streams and the springs were flowing nicely all along the way. I tried to explain to my son about refilling water at a spring, but I’m not sure if I was insulting him or boring him, or what. The conversation didn’t last long.

I had originally planned for today to be the start of my GA thru hike to NC. Between my knee and the cold temperatures, I wasn’t ready for it, but I’m glad I got to hike the section today. It puts me at around 50 miles for the year. I’ve done zero hiking since September. My exercise has been walking to my car and back - my muscles complained a bit today as a result.

Only 44 more years or so at this pace before I hit the end. I’ll have to increase the pace cause I doubt I’ll be section hiking the AT in my 80s.

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