Yesterday I asked my son, “what do you think you’re going to eat for dinner when we do an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail?”
“Hot dogs, of course, Dad! And marshmallows over the fire.”
My wife and I laughed and then I proceeded to pack for the hike we took today. Honestly, though, we’re not thru-hiking and we’re probably just doing one night at a time. If we plan for a shelter with a bear box, having hot dogs for dinner may not be impossible. It was funny to momentarily visualize a package of hotdogs sitting in an Opsack along side a bunch of granola bars, tortillas, and pop tarts, though.
We’re officially flip-flopping section hikers instead of NOBO. We skipped the Hogpen to Unicoi Gap section so that we could squeeze in a day hike for my daughter’s American Heritage Girls badge. We’ve had a bit of rain and didn’t know if the Tray Gap road would be washed out, especially with the federal government shutdown, so we started at the dirt parking lot so we knew we could get there, and then got picked up by the paved Unicoi Gap lot. We were a bit surprised to see what we thought was a forest service road had a bunch of gated houses and cabins on it, where the owners took an apparent interest in maintaining the gravel road. It wasn’t quite so nice after we ran out of cabins.
Today’s primary complaint, “it’s so hot Dad!” That’s right, during January in the Georgia mountains, it was around 60 degrees and we were all hot. I wore my Hanes international orange safety shirt, which doesn’t breathe and stinks quickly. I missed having a wool shirt. I wore my new neon green Darn Tough OTC compression socks and received some compliments. Perhaps this year is the start of showing off some crazy socks? With the heat we worked through on this hike, I’m definitely looking forward to going back to my Purple Rain kilts. I think 60 was easily a threshold for switching back to those.
If felt like there was a tiny ball of lint under each of my heels today. It could have been rocks through the two layers of socks I was wearing (the other being Injinji Coolmax liner). I wore my Dirty Girl gaiters, so there may have still been debris I didn’t shake out from my Sawnee Mountain hike.
I stretched my legs today at each stop (about 5 times). My left knee didn’t light itself on fire, but that usually doesn’t start happening until mile 7, so I’m not yet sure if rolling my hip and butt, and doing stretches has been useful or not.
Rather than my son’s new trekking poles helping him keep balance, he tripped on them instead and did a downhill, face-first slide down the trail, mostly scratching his knees. He mostly forgot about his injuries by the end, so to greet my wife when we got to Unicoi Gap, he pointed the poles forward like spears and charged my wife. I think the poles stay home the rest of this calendar year. I’ll just keep “forgetting” them at home.
This time I finally remembered to bring a trash bag. By the time we went from Tray Gap and met my wife at Indian Grave Gap, we had filled up the plastic grocery bag with trash and had to swap out for a fresh one. Noticeably absent, I didn’t see any bear cables or boxes in any of the campsites between Unicoi and Tray gaps as we walked through them to inspect for trash. The campsite on the peak of Rocky Mountain only appeared to have one cleared tent site and it looked like if you slept there in the rain, it would pool with water. It’s a long way to walk for a mud spa.
I’m still struggling with figuring out how I’m going to carry my and most of my son’s gear on an overnight hike. I’ve even considered getting yet another shelter. Even if someone gave it to me for free, picking 2 or 3 person size is a big debate for me as I picture my son perhaps using it for Scouts BSA campouts, buddy system, etc and having an extra person worth of space to set gear inside the tent. It’s easy to say the Zpacks may be durable enough for romping boys, but at that price point, Big Agnes has some light stuff, too. I really don’t want to carry the 5 lb, 20-year-old Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight tent I already own, just so that we can squeeze into it, overlapping our sleeping mats. It sounds miserable.
If I’m going to try sleeping on the ground again, I also need to try a different mat. Maybe the Thermarest EvoLite? I don’t really sleep very well on my LuxuryMap (3” thickness) when car camping, so I was trying to invest in the hammock route instead of trying (and probably failing to find) 30 different ground mats. If I get my son a Warbonnet Blackbird, then I probably have to carry two hammocks, two underquilts, two tarps… meh.