Hawk Mountain Shelter to part way up Justus Mountain
How did I manage to hike 9 miles pn day one and totally crap out on day two?
Waking was interesting. In an effort to not freeze to death the night before, I had used my emergency blanket underneath me and then up over me but somehow in the middle of the night it had slipped up over my face causing a serious gathering of condensation. I became aware of this in middle of the night when icy water dripped on my face. Yes. It had been a fairly miserable night punctuated by that stunning display of nature when nature called.
Morning was interesting. I warmed myself front and back at the bonfire some others had built and tried to take my mind off the fact that whichever side was not actively being warmed was freezing. Honestly breakfast was the farthest thing from my mind but I knew I had to eat Something. Two chocolate Carnation instant breakfasts, Starbucks instant via coffee, and some protein powder in hot water topped off with a normally chewy but at that moment hard crunchy breakfast bar. It was food.
The only way to get warm was going to be to hike so I packed everything up and I hiked. It quickly became apparent that I was not moving as fast as I did on day one. How did I manage to cover 9 miles that previous day??? Was it adrenaline on day one that kept me going? Was that the lack of serious sleep that was now causing me to slow down? It quickly became apparent that I was going to be much much slower than day one and Leah went on ahead. That was cool. No problem. We had agreed in the beginning to hike our own hikes.
Did I mention that on day one I got my first injury on the trail? Yes indeed! I slipped on an icy rock while crossing a stream and banged up my left shin really good. I’m quite proud of the bruising! Well that left knee was bothering me a little bit on day two but as soon as I put on my Cho-pat knee brace, all was good.
The weather for day two was terrific! It was exactly the kind of weather I had hoped for. The trail was muddy in some areas, other areas were dry and rocky. Still other areas had frozen mud. I was enthralled with the stark beauty around every bend and stopped at one point on the side of a mountain to shout into the wilderness “YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL!” Part of the trail was that rich red Georgia clay and other areas were scattered with iron pyrite, mica, and marble. I really wanted to pick up samples to take home for grand daughter Evalyn.
I hiked slowly and took whatever breaks I needed. Eventually at the bottom of Cooper’s Gap I realized that was no way I was going to make it to the next shelter 3.5 miles away up a mountain. (and did I mention that everything is up?) Three very nice folks from Paducah, Kentucky all around my age said they had just been told about a campsite under a rocky overhang about a quarter-mile up the mountain and invited me to camp with them. I quickly accepted their offer and we slowly trudged up that last quarter mile.
What utter delight to have warmer temperatures and be out of the wind for the night! We got to see the sun set from our rocky perch and, after a dinner of potato soup with spinach and chicken, I turned in at about 7 PM.
Again nature called in the middle of the night and this time I was able to crawl out my tent and move three steps to the left. I could see below me lights of a small town and a million stars above and then … I peed off the side of the mountain. <~ Amazon Moment