Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Winter hike in the Appalachians: BMT and Georgia Pinhoti

I left Ducktown worried. I had been able to fix the Neoair, but I did not trust it any more. The weather forecast was cold, cold, cold and I realised that another defect of the Neoair could be life threatening. But I had not been able to find an alternative in Ducktown. I did not dare to hike the rest of my trip with just the Neoair and after some research I saw light at the end of the tunnel. Dalton, my next town stop had an outfitter and Dalton was only 3 cold nights away. I had to take that risk and prayed that the Neoair would survive. I treated it like a raw egg. I cleared the campsites meticulously and used all my rain liners as ground sheets. I barely dared to move when lying on it and prayed fervently every night. My efforts paid off: I made it to Dalton without any further leaks!

But it was a cold hike and it did not help that I had to go up over 4,000 ft again for the last time on this hike. The hotel manager of the Copper Inn motel brought me back to the trail entertaining me with stories of how he had to defend himself as a cyclist against car drivers with a pistol. Welcome to America! He and his wife had been very helpful and hiker friendly and the motel is decent although the state of the motel owners teeth might have led you to other conclusions.

Tipi Walter
Day 1 involved a huge climb up to Frog Mountain and I was eager to make it up and OVER Frog Mountain to camp at lower elevation. But then I saw a lonely backpack at the side of the trail with nobody in sight. First I worried about an accident or a bear attack but then I spotted a Hilleberg tent strapped to the backpack and it dawned on me that this must be famous Tipi Walter. Tipi Walter has lived in a tipi for decades and is now roaming the forests of the SE US in all seasons. Wildcat had told me about him and I knew he was in the area. And for sure after 10 minutes he re emerged from fetching water. We had a great talk and I was sad to leave but I still had some miles to do and I was freezing. At that elevation temps were below freezing even during day time and I was already dreading camping that night. After beautiful but cold Frog Mountain I dropped down to 3,200 ft and decided to camp at Double Springs Gap right on the border between Tennessee and Georgia. It turned out to be a turbulent night as hunters were in the area. I could hear dogs barking till way after midnight and at some point it felt like they were running right past my tent! I was ready to get my trekking poles and defend myself. Only a couple of days ago I had run into two hunters. I had heard their dogs and not wearing blaze orange I wanted to make myself known. I walked down the trail shouting "hello" all the time but no reaction. I finally saw two older guys aiming their rifles in luckily not my direction but I basically had to tap them on the shoulder before they noticed me. They confessed to being nearly deaf... I thought they were hunting birds but it turned out they were shooting squirrels. It its beyond me why you'd do that but it seems to be quite popular here.

My last day on the BMT and my first day on the Pinhoti involved a lot of stream crossings. Again and again I had to get out of my shoes to wade across a stream. Nothing dangerous but very time consuming. In summer I would have kept my shoes on but I did not want to risk frozen boots in the morning. I was glad to finally reach the Pinhoti Trail. From now on elevation would be much lower, hopefully less climbing and warmer temps. But unfortunately the Pinhoti is not finished yet and involves two major road walks in Georgia. The first one through Dalton was coming up now and I was facing 23 miles of walking on pavement. I had timed it that I camped right before the start of the roadwalk where I had finally T-mobile reception again. Could I dare to send out a CS request for the next day? I decided to give it a try and was delighted when my host accepted my request next morning. The roadwalk did not seem too bad now with the prospect of meeting some interesting people.

Although roadwalks are never ever great this one was not too bad. I was routed on relatively quiet country roads and once in Dalton there was a sidewalk all the way. But what really made my day was seeing my beloved Aldi right on this roadwalk! No Snickers bars and horrible gummi bears, but good German chocolate and cheese for resupply. I spent another 40$ on chocolate and left delighted for the last 4 miles into Dalton. I quickly found the outfitter but unfortunately the only closed cell foam pad they had was a heavy and bulky Ridgerest. But I did not have much choice. It was either that or constantly being afraid of another puncture of my unreliable Neoair. I sucked it up and bought the Ridgerest. 40$ is not that much money for peace of mind for the rest of my winter trip.

My CS hosts in Dalton were an interesting lesbian couple with an adopted son. It was interesting to hear about their experiences in the conservative South. This is what I love about CS: you meet so many different interesting people.

1 comment:

HK Coast2Coast said...

Christine, actually people eat squirrel away from the big cities.