Sunday, January 10, 2010

Appalachian Trail

NOBODY wanted to ride with me today. Apparently, 50 miles on forest roads with temps in the teens is considered unpleasant. I really wanted to ride, but not enough to go alone. My brother wanted to do a bunch of miles on the AT to test out some new equipment. Not exactly what I was looking to do, but close enough.

We met at Atlanta Bread at 6AM. 6AM! Nothing like getting an early start. We parked at the Byron Reece Trailhead and were walking at 7:50.

 Byron Reece Trailhead

It was cold, for me at least. Low teens. 14 I think. We headed east towards Hogpen. The plan was to hike out as far as time would allow, spend about an hour eating lunch, then turn around and head back.

Immediately we could tell we were in for an interesting day. The woods were full of snow.

 John in Snowy Woods

The trail was covered with snow. Each step took two steps worth of effort.

 Untravelled Trail

Even the trees were covered with frost feathers.

 Frost Feathers

 Trees 2

There were several awesome overlooks.

 Me at Overlook 2 Again

 Overlook 2

 Overlook  2 again


The descent from Green Cliff Top down to Tesnatee Gap was long and rough. We were digging postholes up to our knees, and in a few places, it was extremely slippery. The climb back up from Tesnatee wasn't any easier. Fortunately, it wasn't that long.

At Hogpen Gap, we rejoiced. As difficult as the climb up off Tesnatee was, it was nothing compared to climbing Hogpen on a road bike. The very idea of standing at Hogpen without feeling two steps from dead was elating.

At the kiosk, someone had dumped a pair of stinking, soiled pants and underwear. A little mouse was running in and out of them. NASTY.

 Hogpen Gap Marker

We pushed on past Hogpen to the foot of Strawberry Top, but it was getting close to noon and we were nearly out of time. We turned back, picked a campsite and sat down for lunch. John wanted to see if his alcohol stove would work. It was around 18 degrees at the time, I think, and it worked just fine. He ate cranberry stuffing. I ate mashed potatos. The warm food felt good, but I kept getting over-eager and burning myself. Getting up to leave, I noticed my knees were giving me a little trouble. They do it all the time. It's something I need to figure out, but since it just hurts, but doesn't affect my performance, I keep putting it off. Lame.

The walk back was a good bit more difficult than the walk out. The climb up to Green Cliff Top was long and steep. The climb up to Levelland was harder than I expected too. On the upside, I'd been contending with a frozen camelback tube all day, but the temperature finally got up right around freezing, and with the direct sunlight, I was finally able to thaw it out and drink. At Green Cliff Top, we stopped and talked to a guy for a while; the only soul we'd seen all day. As we got near Neels, we ran into others.

Most of my gear worked well. I could have even worn less. My bro's gear appeared to work pretty well too, though I think he was a little colder than I was sometimes. He's got a balaclava that I covet. Must have one. I also need to just start bringing bottles, rather than a camelback, or something. That frozen tube was the biggest problem I had all day.

Despite the difficulties, it was a great day. We never get temps or snow like that, and it made for a unique experience. I'm still savoring it. It could be a long time before we get to do anything like that again.

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