Day 8 – March 15 2017 – around 8 Miles – Unicoi Gap to near Dicks Creek Gap
Our departure was delayed because Stoat found a hole in
the crotch of his pants. We had to go to a store and buy a needle and
thread and he had to do the repair. By the time we were ready to leave
it was around ten in the morning.
Ten in the morning is not the best time for hitchhiking. Most people are
at work so chances of getting a ride were low. We had our thumbs out
for quite a while before someone picked us up.
The guy who stopped for us went by the name Trail Storm. He was
section hiking the trail in an unusual fashion. He would park his
motorcycle at a trail head and then hike south to where he parked his
car. Then the next day he would park his car north of his motorcycle
and hike south back to his motorcycle . That way he was making
progress northbound while hiking south. Enabling him to see the same
hikers everyday while avoiding carrying a larger pack and camping in
Trail Storm told us that the temps that night were going to be even
lower than the previous night. He said he heard that a lot of hikers were
getting off trail because of it. I guess instead of doing TV interviews we
should have been checking the weather but there was no turning back
Heading out of Unicoi Gap there is 1000ft climb. In spite of the cold weather we took our jackets off before the climb. Its amazing how warm the body gets when hiking uphill. Sweating in the cold temps is a recipe for disaster so we hiked mainly in our baselayers and wicking tee shirts. Our routine went as follows:
Bottom of the hill – Take off jacket
Halfway up the hill – Take off gloves
Top of the hill – put on jacket
Halfway down the hill – Put on gloves
When I arrived at the top of Rocky Mountain Stoat was already there. He was a lot faster than me at that point and he had enough time to put on his jacket and take out his camera.
He was recording my “glorious” ascension to the treed and viewless summit. When he asked me what I thought of the view I grumpily said “What a load of crap.”
The one thing that was visible from Rocky Mountain was the summit of a taller, more snow covered mountain. We wondered if we would be going over it.
We did wind up going over that mountain and its name was Tray Mountain. One thing that we learned fairly early on the trail was that if we saw a taller mountain we were going to wind up going over it. It was during the ascent of Tray mt. that we saw the first of only two hikers that we would see in the next two days. ( A dayhiker)
The views from the summit were beautiful. The smaller bushes and trees were coated in snow. There was a rhododendron patch with a rock outcropping in the center. From that spot we could see for miles. There’s somthing about the combination of snow and a clear blue sky that magnifies the beauty of everything.
We decided to have lunch there because it was shielded from the wind, had a great view and had a dry place to sit.
While eating lunch we had realized that we wouldn’t make it to our intended destination before nightfall. As the temps were supposed to be in the low teens/ single digits, we would have look for a suitable spot to camp.
Toward the end of the day we found what we thought would be a good campsite. There was a creek nearby and ample spots to hang our hammocks. Also, we were off of the ridgeline that the trail was folowing. Considering how cold it was supposed to get, we wanted to be as protecded from the elements as we could be.
As Stoat began setting up I began to feel like something wasnt right. There was a nearby rhododendron patch that had branches pushed aside like something was making a path. Then I noticed that one of the trees I was going to hang my hammock on looked like a large animal had been rubbing on it. I called Stoat over to take a look at it. He said that I couldnt possibly know what those marks were from and to setup already.
As he was walking back to his hammock he stopped suddenly. He called me over to look at something. It was very fresh bear scat. We decideded to move on.
A few minutes later we checked out another spot only to find that a large animal had ripped up the ground. This was a hungry bear. We kept going.
We eventually found a spot right off the trail. It was on a ridge line. Just what we were trying to avoid.
The sun was setting and my brother and I looked at each other with
The weather had become much colder than we had
anticipated. Though we were fully bundled up in our cold weather gear,
we could still feel the cold creeping in. We decided that if one
of us became too cold during the night we would construct some sort of
emergency shelter and huddle together for warmth. We were hoping it
wouldn’t have to come to that.
We got into our hammocks and nestled into our twenty degree sleeping
bags. There was nothing else we could do.
Later we would find out that a nearby thru-hiker checked his thermometer around the time we were cooking diner. It read 12 degrees Fahrenheit.