START: Hot Springs, NC
FINISH: Newfound Gap, TN/NC
DISTANCE: 66.7 miles (107.3 km)
DAILY AVERAGE: 22.2 miles (35.8 km)
TOTAL DISTANCE: 1976.3 miles (3179.9 km)
This particular stretch was a tale in three parts. During the first day, Malto and I covered the 33 miles from Hot Springs to Standing Bear Farm in a little less than 12 hours. Relatively easy terrain, impressive views and the weather was warm enough that for the most part I was able to hike in just t-shirt and shorts. Altogether a very enjoyable day on the AT.
The following morning we made a pre-dawn start, knowing that a big storm was headed in our direction sometime before midday. Sure enough, by the time we reached Cosby Knob shelter, around 12 miles from Standing Bear, we were already being buffeted by heavy winds and rain with the promise of much more to come. It was only 10 am, but with some relatively exposed ridge sections above 6000 ft. coming up before we could reach the next shelter, we decided to stay put and sit out the worst of the weather. When it comes to a choice between sacrificing a few extra miles or a potential case of hypothermia, 99 times out of 100 I will go with the former! We eventually left Cosby at 5 pm; by this time the path resembled a stream as much as it did a trail, there were various blowdowns and the temperature was plummeting. We made it to Tri-Corner shelter around 7.40 pm; cold, wet and despite the abbreviated day, for my own account a little weary. Need to get more sleep.
We woke up on the 21st to temps in the low teens, high winds and enough snow to satisfy your average igloo maker. It was nippy to say the least. Putting on our still soaking shoes (which on a morning like this one, is a task I rate right up there, so to speak, with a visit to the proctologist on the scale of ‘things I least like to do’ ) we trudged out around 7.30 am. Five or six very chilly hours later we were taking refuge in the wonderful bathroom at Newfound Gap awaiting a ride down to civilization.
Will: A big thanks to Will “Chimp” Hammond and his family (Brenda, Bob and cousin Jeff) for their kindness and hospitality. I had previously met Will in the desert of southern California on the PCT this past May. It made for quite the contrast catching up with him this time around at Newfound Gap. My pleasure was doubled when we made a beeline direct from the Gap to an AYCE buffet. A classic case of going from the outhouse (literally) to the penthouse.