At 9:45am we step foot on the trail and start our 1 mile climb up. I hadn't hiked since the Shennies trip in early October so I was worried I'd fall behind. Luckily, my trail legs didn't disappear! Joan and I hiked together for the rest of the day. She was kind enough to wait for me on top of the climbs and we would hike down the trail together. At the top of the first climb we caught up to Crystal and her dog Buddy and we all stopped to enjoy the view and take some photos. Crystal and Buddy were just out here for the day and it was Crystal's first hike. She seemed to be doing really well. Buddy was loving it. She had her tail wagging the entire time and just raced up and down the trail. She would stop when she couldn't see Crystal and wait for her, but as soon as she caught a glimpse of her mommy, she raced down the trail again. It was so cute. It made me miss my dogs. I learned that Joan was really into the plant life. It was actually pretty cool having someone point out things and teach me something. Like when we hiked by some bamboo plants, normally I would of just walked on by and not thought a second about it, but Joan schooled us on the fact that it was a bamboo native to only the GA mountians. See, I learned something! Joan's from Oregon, but is a professor at University of GA, where she also does some genetic research. She would sometimes get off the trail to check out an interesting tree or flower. I kept wanting to give her the trail name "Dexter", like that Hanna Barbera cartoon about the little red headed scientist in the white lab coat. I think the cartoon's name is actually Dexter's Labratory. Anyways, we continue on together and see the sign for the shelter. We were told there were some stellar views, so we dropped our packs and decide to hike the .3 miles up the nicely graded trail to check it out. We arrive and notice an open privy on the left and as I yell back to Joan and Crystal to check out the privy, it dawns on my that there's a pair of boots peaking out from it. Oops! Seems as if we stumbled upon someone doing their business. We quickly look over the shelter, then head back to the view to give the fellow hiker some privacy.
It was a great view, I would highly recommend stopping at Tray Mountain shelter just to check out the view. As we get back to our packs, we see that most of the group has arrived as well as 2 Southbounders!! Buffalo and Eecreats (spelling?). I find out that Eecreats will be the first ITALIAN southbounder to finish the AT. You KNOW I had to ask him about my favorite country on the planet. hahah! He's sort of a celebrity on the trail, at least that's how we treated him. hahah! Picture 12 women just oohhing and ahhing over these two southbounders. They were loving it! Sunny offered to get their picture and we all clamoured around them for the photo. OH, and I found out the dude in the privy was Rootbeer, another southbounder hiking with Eecreates and Buffalo. So after the photo op, Joan, Crystal, Buddy and I continue down the trail for a couple miles. We decide to have lunch at the top of one of the climbs, which looked to be about 1/2 up. Well, a mile later we were walking down into SWAG of the Blue Ridge Gap where we met some other hikers, one from England and one from Ireland. They were nice enough to take our picture at the SWAG sign :) Well, you all know where there is a GAP, immediately after, is a climb. So we climb up some mountain and climb down into Sassafras Gap, where Joan and I decided to get water at a blue blazed spring. Little did I know I would need some repelling gear to climb steeply down .3 miles for some water. (The down really wasn't that bad, it's coming back up that I dread. And it's especailly bitter when the miles don't count. hahaha!) So we left Crystal up with our packs and we rapelled down to the spring. It was actually a nice, clean, running water spring. Joan and I took turns pumping water thru the filter and finally climbed back up to our packs. When we got to the top, there was no sign of Crystal or Buddy. We think she just decided to finish up since she was just day hiking. So Joan and I continue into camp. We look at our watch and it was only 2:30pm when we arrived into Addison Gap.
We split up to pick some nice camp spots. I choose a couple of nice trees, set up my tarp, hang my hammock, and sit in it a while to relax my feet. About an hour later, in walks Sundai and Diana! They looked pretty worn out so Joan and I help them set up their tents. I realize that their backpacks weigh a ton and that's why they were so wiped out. Around 4pm, Laura and Lynn walk in, followed by Maggie. The Dames are starting to trickle in. While everone is setting up their tents, Diana decides to pick up some logs/sticks for a campfire and Joan and I go off to hang a couple of ropes for bear bagging. She's never done it before and it's one of my least favorite camp chores to do, so... yeah. I take advantage of the situation and tell Joan she should practice. hhahah! Seriously, after she weighted down one end of the rope with some twigs, she had 2 bear bag ropes up in less then 10 minutes. It was so cute to see how excited she was to get it over the tree limb. We high fived after each successful toss and she had the biggest ear to ear grin. When we got back to the campsite Diana had a nice little fire going. I helped her stack the logs around to keep the fire going and to create some really good coals. By 5:pm, I was getting a bit worried about SHOE and her group. SHOE, as the leader of the trip, held up the rear and made sure everyone made it safely to camp. It was almost completely dark when they finally pulled into camp. By this time, everyone else was pretty much set up and starting to make dinner. She went off to get water, while Joan and I put up another bear bag rope. This time I threw one up and it was pretty sloppy. Instead of redoing it like we should of, we let our stomaches take over. So off we went to make some dinner. I was starving! As everyone was making/eating dinner (SHOE and Kelly filtered water)guess who night hikes with her headlamp on into camp. Mudd Butt! YAY! She is in such a cheery mood, it's hard not to smile when you hear her. The best part, she brought in everything you need to make S'Mores!!! Whoo hoo! I walk over to hug and say hello. While she is busy setting up her camp, I go and bear bag my food.
As we are enjoying the S'mores :) and chit chatting around the campfire, Jen and her family hike in. Jen works at Mountain Crossings Outfitters and attempted to thru hike last year. After they set up, they start making dinner. Talk about a yummy dinner. SHOE and I looked at one another and she says, "we are doing that next time we're in the Smoky's" and believe me, we are SO doing that. Jen had marinated some steak, skewered it, and cooked it on the campfire. After a while, the fire started to die out and most of us called it a night. I didn't realize how warm the fire had kept me until I started walking back to my hammock. I checked my themometer and it said it was around 35-40 degrees. Chilly night! I slipped on my down vest, jumped into my warm hammock, and drifted off to sleep. I slept sooo good that night. The next morning I woke up around 6:30am and just laid in my warm hammock til I heard some of the others moving around. Stay tuned for tomorrows adventure. Til then, GET OUTDOORS!