This morning at 7:30 Josh and Leigh served a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, oatmeal, and grits before shuttling all the hikers back to the trail. I sat by Alex, the young man from England, and enjoyed watching him try grits for the first time. After finishing off a bowl, he declared that he liked them. Also at the table were the group of 4 from Maine, a mom and her two young adult daughters from Ohio, a older fellow from South Africa, and a young lady from Nova Scotia. Everyone else was starting their hikes today, so I don’t how many I’ll see again.
Fortunately I was the first in the van to be dropped off. When I began my hike at Woody Gap at about 9:00 the temperature hovered around 28 with flurries just beginning. I hiked in snow and wind all day. Walking through a dusting of snow made for an enjoyable day. I’ll take snow over mud any day. Eventually the ground froze as the snow increased. I saw no other hikers for the first few miles, so I just enjoyed the peacefulness.
Climbing Big Cedar Mountain at the beginning of today’s hike posed somewhat of a challenge, but since it was early in the day and I had had a hearty breakfast, I made it to the summit without too much difficulty. Just before Lance Creek I stopped for a break to have a snack and take some pics. Shortly thereafter I saw my first hikers of the day, four southbound section hikers. Later I also met Pilot, a section hiker from the Boston area. We chatted briefly before I headed on up the icy trail.
By the time I started the accent of Blood Mountain, the wind was howling and the trail had become an icy path. About half way up I caught up with Kristen, who is going to Davenport Gap. We hiked together over the icy rocks to the summit and Blood Mountain shelter, a stone shelter that is off limits to overnight stays due to bear activity. Matt and his buddy were holed up without water and carrying less than appropriate gear. I was a little concerned for the two. I felt better when a family out for a day hike from Neel Gap arrived with extra water and food.
After a short break and adding a layer of clothing (my Adidas hydro dri fleece), I started the hike down Blood, arguably the toughest mile on the Georgia AT. The icy rock faces required a slow, meticulous decent. Still I made good time and managed to compete another day on the trail without a fall.
So on day three I got to walk into Walasi-Yi at Mountain Crossings and see George, Pirate, and many of the other former thru hikers who work there. George took my pic for their Facebook page and arranged for sleeping accommodations. Since all the bunks were taken at the hostel, I’m sharing a cabin with three young folks, Wal-Mart from Columbus, Ohio, Boomerang from Rochester, NY, and Overalls from Oklahoma. Nick, the last to arrive, is hiking in overalls, so when he told me he didn’t have a trail name, I dubbed him Overalls. He liked it. Overalls is also hiking with a loaf of bread hanging off his pack.
Today was another good day on the trail. For much of the day I was given the privilege of experiencing the beauty of my snowy surroundings immersed in solitude. I felt my brother Don’s presence with me in the powdery woods. It was peaceful and serene. Don would have enjoyed today as much as I did because as we all know by now, Don loved the woods.