Day 3 – March 10 2017 – 10.3 miles Horse Gap to Woody Gap
I woke a little groggy but dry. I checked in with my brother and he too got through the storm ok. Our gear passed a major test.
The skies were overcast. There was a slight mist in the air and the temps were much cooler than the day before. Perfect for climbing Sassafras Mountain. The trail going up was steeper than what we had experienced so far. Gaining 666 feet in a mile it felt like out first “real” mountain. At the top were two women breaking camp. We chatted about the storm and how they regretted choosing that location to camp. They said there were several lightning strikes far too close for comfort.
We were about halfway down the other side when I stopped suddenly.
I realized that the straps that enable me to attach my hammock to trees were not in my backpack. I had left them on the trees back at the campsite.
I told Jon the bad news. We stood there for a minute deciding what to do. There wasn’t any reason for Jon to go back nor did I need my pack to backtrack to the campsite. He was kind enough to wait with my pack while I went back for my tree straps. So, I went back over the mountain, saying hello again to the ladies at the top in the process, and retrieved my stuff. On my way back over the summit of Sassafras for the third time that day I decided my trail name would be Tree Straps.
Having a trail name is an appalachian trail tradition that originated in the 60’s. Most of the time its based off of something you’ve done or had happen to you. It’s usually given to you by someone else but its perfectly fine to name yourself. Its a fun tradition to take part in and trail names are a great conversation starter.
When I got back to Jon and ran the name past him. He said it would work and so Tree Straps became my name. We continued down the last half of Sassafras and got to a dirt road. I took one look at it, sighed, and hung my head. It was the same road that we had camped next to the previous night. I could have just walked the nice flat road back to get my tree straps. Avoiding going over Sassafras and saving me from doing an extra 900ft gain in elevation. Live and Learn I guess.
Throughout the day the temps gradually dropped. We found out from other hikers that it would be in the 20s overnight. By the time we got to woody gap the temps were in the 30’s and the wind was howling. At woody gap we crossed route 60 and wound up in a parking lot. There was an actual bathroom with a composting toilet there and I really needed to go. I quickly went in, closed the door, and sat down. It was then that I made an important discovery. No matter how bad you have to go, it is physically impossible to do so when there is a freezing wind hurtling up the toilet. The gale outside was somehow getting into the system and freezing the cheeks of any unsuspecting hiker.
After I got out of the bathroom Jon and discussed our current dilemma. The next official campsite was four miles away and it was getting late in the day. We decided were were going to have to stealth camp (camp in an unofficial spot) somewhere. We hiked another 200 feet down the trail and on the right side I spotted a faint unmarked trail. We decided to check it out real quick.
The trail lead to an area that appeared to have been a quarry long ago. There was a 20ft horseshoe shaped rock slab that helped block some of the wind and there was a stream not to far away. After 10.3 miles we had found our home for the night.
We used the Sayer Squeeze filters to purify our water and they worked wonderfully the entire trip. We had one “dirty” water bottle and one “clean” bottle. The filter threads right onto the “dirty” water bottle. Then we would squeeze the bottle and pour the purified water into the “clean” bottle. Simple.
The only problem is that if the residual water in the filter freezes it will break the filter.
That night we had to put our water bottles and filters in our sleeping bags to keep them from freezing. A near freezing water bottle in my sleeping bag was not something I came to appreciate.
We never saw the lady from Long Island again.