AT Day 002: Sunday April 9, 2023

Mile 0 + 15.8 miles today
Total Distance Hiked: 15.8miles/25.4 kilometres

The rain eased off sometime through the night. In the morning we found a pool of water inside the tent,  near our feet. This has never happened before in the Big Agnes Hilton.  Neither have we ever been so thoroughly soaked to the skin despite wearing rain gear.  Luckily sleeping bags stayed dry and really saved us last night. I lay warm and snug in my bag dreading the thought of having to get up and put on dripping wet hiking clothes. But there was no choice, the only dry clothes I had were my puffy jacket and the T- shirt and long johns for sleeping. Hammer was the same.  The hope was that body heat will do a good job of drying everything as long as we are moving and the sun is shining. 

It was awful to go from warm and dry to wet and cold  –  but it got done. We packed the soaking tent and were on our way just as the sun was peaking over the horizon. I had a quick look at the shelter – it was a three sided structure with a platform. There were hikers still asleep inside. It sure would have been nice last night, but we though it might have been full on such a bad weather day.

So we are officially on our way. The trail was well formed and incredibly well marked.  The surrounding landscape was visible through the still bare trees: valleys filled with fog with rolling mountains breaking through above the fog. It was very silent, no bird sound,  it felt calm and very peaceful. The undulating soft rolling hills in the distance added a kind of gentleness to the landscape.  The word languid came to mind.  As we walked down out of the sun into one of the fog filled valleys it got cold again just as we were beginning to thaw. The trail underfoot was very similar to trails we are familar with at home: rocky and rough underfoot in parts alternating with soft and groomed sections. Towards the end of the day our feet were feeling a bit smashed.

Lots of tiny flowers lined the trail, violets mostly. The AT ‘Ridge Runner’ said at the briefing yesterday that compared to other long trails the AT is more social and less natural. The AT ‘RidgeRunners’ are staff members of the AT Conservancy who monitor and manage the impact of hikers on the trail.

I was liking the landscape,  there is a certain beauty in it’s stripped barrenness. The surprising thing was that the woods were not piney at all. The forest canopy was mainly deciduous trees dominated by large oaks. And because the trees were still bare we had views of the distant mountains, which I imagine would disappear once the trees are in bloom.

We stopped for lunch at the Hawk Mountain shelter (mile 8). There was enough sunshine to dry our tent and other wet gear while having lunch. What a difference a day makes.

From here the trail was a bit steeper ascending and descending. Although none of these sections went for very long but by midafternoon it was beginning to take a toll. We decided to call it a day early. So nice to reach the Gooch Mountain Shelter, put up our  dry tent and still have plenty of sunshine before it gets dark. 

Lots of camp spots around the shelter and quite a few tents already there. We were greeted by an AT ‘RidgeRunner’ who was keeping track of hiker numbers. There would have been about 20 people camped here when we arrived . Yet all the sites are well dispersed diwnslope of the shelter so that you don’t have a sense of being crowded. Today we passed a few AT hikers but we hiked pretty much alone.  So it was surprising to see so many at the shelter.  So I guess the shelters do concentrate hikers.