May 11th 2018
Lance creek to Bull Gap (mile 32.2)
8.4 miles
Total miles: 41

I woke up and my body felt terrible. I realised why when I found a painkiller on the floor of my tent and realised I must have forgotten to take it last night. My tent was covered in rain drops, but I’m not sure if it rained in the night. I had all sorts of creatures on my tent. Spider, ants and a snail.

Had my first nature poo this morning. Normally my body holds out but not this time, it’s like we we have to go and we have to go now.

Unlike yesterday I was up and out first. Everything was still wet, I put on my wet clothes, and my waterproof is good for nothing. Still soaked through. Weirdly my shoes were dry, must have been because I was moving so super humanly fast through the rain drops! I kept the camera packed away in my pack and used my fanny pack for the large amount of snacks I was planning to use it for in the first place.

Thankfully it was sunny. But that also meant it was already really hot. I plodded away and I knew it was a big old climb this morning up to the highest spot in the Georgia part of the AT – Blood Mountain. Not the highest point in Georgia as I thought it was.

I sat down on a log to filter some water and I noticed there was a rucksack on the side of the trail. Bit weird. I didn’t notice anyone around. Then Baker and Jessica cake up the trail and I pointed it out to them, they took a look inside and it was full of food and also full of ants. Baker carried it up the trail and put the bag in the bear box at the next shelter, where apparently there was a whole bunch of other hiker crap left there.

Jessica told me she was really slow on the uphills but she whizzed up the hill following Baker whose legs are twice as long as hers and left me puffing and blowing behind them. I assumed I would see them at the top of the mountain.

The trail is so wide and in some places it was a really nice cushioned soft trail. I haven’t looked at my map once for directions. I’ve looked at elevation and to check where water is, but it has been impossible to go wrong.

It was extremely hot today and I refilled my water twice on the way up. Now that really tells you something about the heat. I was thirsty. I, was thirsty. I huffed and puffed my way up to the top of Blood Mountain and I passed a bunch of section hikers on the way, most of them finishing their hike at Neels Gap which is down the other side of the mountain. It’s quite a tough climb but luckily all the climbs feel quite short compared to the length of some of them on the PCT. The section hikers asked me the usual questions. Are you Australian? and You’re thru-hiking?!

I sweated my way up to the top of the mountain and didn’t stay there long because there were just so many bugs. The way down was brutal. It was so rocky and really steep parts with massive rock patches. Someone had commented that going down if it’s wet is really sketchy and i was just glad it wasn’t wet.

I saw so many people coming up as I came down. All day hikers. I much have seen about 30 people. One guy was called Yard Sale and had a beautiful Dalmatian dog. He asked me where I was from Anna I said England and he was like er yeah I know that, whereabouts? The second persons to get it right. Apparently there are loads of Australians on the AT. I am yet to meet any.

My left knee was pretty painful on the way down, I don’t think it’s just my knee though, the pain goes from my knee to my ankle down the whole of the leg through that outside muscle. But it felt great to make it down and to stop for a while at Neels gap. I hadn’t seen Baker and Jessica since the bag incident and I thought they must have just carried on. I was a bit disappointed because I thought they were fun. I ran into the guy I met right at the start of the approach trail. I am going to call him Buzzy. That’s not his name but I think it was something like that. He got to Neels gap last night because in the first day the straps of his bag broke and he had to catch everything in his arms so he just kept going. He is now waiting for a new bag to be delivered him which seemed odd because there was an amazing gear store there with some great bags.

The store is really great. It has the best of everything pretty much. And it understands a hikers needs. They sell single tent stakes and single zip lock bags for example. They are also fully stocked with therarests and darn toughs etc.

So many people stop here and ditch a whole bunch of their stuff and get new. Today was no exception. There are a couple of hiker boxes and I managed to get a mountain house and i found a syringe to back flush my filter. I knew there would be a syringe in the hiker box. In fact there were 4.

I put my electronics on to charge. Grabbed a soda and some crisps and sat outside. Thats when I saw Baker and Jessica hike in and Autumn, who we all now call Throat Punch (and we were to later find out that she is a black belt in some martial art that I can’t remember).

I helped Throat Punch with the lacing of her shoes last night and she came over to thank me for changing her life. Her pack is enormous and it looks so heavy. She has been carrying her food in a bear canister so we convinced her to ship that home. While she was in the store I tried to lift her pack. I could barely lift it off the floor so we went inside and weighed her pack and mine. Hers weighed 39 pounds. Mine weighed 18.8 (that’s with 3 days of food and a litre of water) I think mine is heavy. I have no idea how she has been hiking with that thing.

We gave her a pack shakedown and we got rid of a few things, but a lot of the things that were heavy were things she would have to replace – crocs, 2 person tent for one person, gravity water filter etc. Some things she didn’t want to get rid of – sleeping bag liner, bible, AT guide for example, which are the things that would have really cut the weight down.

She wasn’t the only one. People were coming in with packs weighing 40-60 pounds. Poor Tom, who I hiked a bit with yesterday, his pack looked like it weighed a tonne and say he decided to get off the trail because it was too much for him.

I decide to buy an umbrella and I spent a whole bunch of time rigging a system to attach it to my pack so I can use it hands free when it rains. I think I did a good job. I am quite excited about my umbrella. I hope it works. As I was rigging my umbrella I noticed that my pack had been chewed by a mouse. I can’t be certain but I think it probably happened on that first night.

There were some people there doing a survey and if you took part you got $5 and some snacks. Ok. So we did the survey which was all about mental health, I had just been given free snacks and five bucks. I felt great!

I pimped my resupply with some twix and cliff bars and a couple of tuna pouches. A decision i will probably live to regret. I just don’t think I’m ready yet.

The four of us, Jessica, Baker and Throat Punch decided to all hike out together and just go a mile up to the next campsite. We left about 5:30 so I had managed to hang out there for 5.5 hours. I had intended to hang out for a bit but maybe not that long. As we hiked together it was really nice get get to know them a bit more and it even made me forget about missing Catwater for about half an hour. It does feel weird to be hiking without her. As we chatted about stuff I was telling that about what I’ve been up to and Baker says wait. Did you come home and surprise your mum. I saw that video. Whoa. Small world!

At camp we set up and Baker gave us all a lesson in hanging a bear bag which made me belly laugh in a way I haven’t for a long time. I love being out here.

On the way back I noticed that Buzzy hadn’t made it very far and was now partying hard with his one litre bottle of vodka. With their music blaring out it solidified the thought that he isn’t my type of hiker.

Our group sat around an unlit campfire and ate our dinner. I enjoyed mine but I am suffering now from trapped wind and it’s causing me a lot of pain. We found that Throat Punch and I have a lot in common. I would love to continue hiking with her but her bag is really slowing her down and she doesn’t have enough confidence in herself. I think she has some amazingly well to get here carrying that weight. Think what she could do if she halved it.

It got dark and chilly and it was after 9 before I got in my tent. I was having such a nice time I even put up with all the bugs flying around my face. It’s not 10:30 and I am just finishing writing. The music only stopped blaring around 10pm.

Very tired.

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