Today was the day everyone was talking about being horrible. Given the title, you might guess what happens. The morning actually seemed nice. Blue skies, fairly warm, Spike and Bambi cooking pancakes out of just add water cornbread mix. We hit the trail at around 9:30 leaving after everyone except Spike and Bambi. Emily, now moving with the speed of Hermes lead the way to a blistering 4.3 miles in an hour and a half. Her reason, besides just being a certifiable badass, was to get to Cherry Gap Shelter before the weather.
The day, unlike most days, got colder and colder. Both due to the fact that we were heading up towards 5500 feet and the giant cold front coming in. At the writing of this entry, it is around 35 Fahrenheit, we've crammed 8 people into a 6 person shelter, everyone is wearing all of the clothes they possess, and all the poor outsiders who didn't get to the shelter are crammed around the fire that the saintly Peregrine and Dean got going when it was still rainsnowsleeting.
The snow was beautiful when we got up to 5500 feet, and we were still mostly dry despite the spitting rain and sleet. Still, it was cold. We stopped at the summit of Unaka mountian for a photoshoot of Yeti in her natural habit. That was our only real break. We didn't want to stop for lunch out there in the elements so we waited until the shelter for lunch.
Tyler's fingers got pretty chilly and he regretted sending home his gloves a little. Leader Emily got us to the shelter at a very early 3:15. Disciple and Trek, who were at the Curly Maple Gap shelter last night, pushed on to the hostel 7 miles past Cherry Gap shelter.
When we arrived at the shelter Peregrine and Dean already had kindling, logs, and a few pieces of book pages to get a fire going. They had moved the fire pit just under the shelter awning and got a rip roaring fire in no time. Emily went out to collect more sopping sticks to help the cause. Peregrine showed everyone how to remove the bark before putting the sticks on the fire. It helps wet wood burn better. We tried to dry out our boots and socks around the fire, but sadly Tyler melted a hole in one of his socks. That means now he can purchase some fancy pants Darn Tough socks at the next resupply.
Peregrine used to (maybe still does) lead boys scout troops and was an excellent fire master. Peregrine and Dean both had some delicious food recommendations (notes here: remember pepperoni, couscous, sundried tomatoes, dehydrated pasta sauce, chili flakes).
We also met Seth Rogan, a guy who looks and sounds like Seth Rogan and who's antics have traveled far and wide up the trail gossip train. He writes WiFi codes in the shelters, installs working fire alarms, and dummy light switches and electric outlets. Mind you, that means he totes this extra weight miles to backcountry shelters to provide giggles for future hikers.
Dean works as a counselor in a psych ward for inmates. He chatted with Emily answering all her questions. It is a hard job and when he returns to real life he wants to become a physical therapist.
Hand Solo, now hiking with Seth Rogan, arrived a bit later. He looked real cold and wet, but after a few hours soaking in front of the fire, we are proud to say he is chipper and well. We also learned that he's in NA and 14 years sober. If he has sponsored anyone, they would be lucky to have such a positive, funny, well bearded dude.
The evening was spent talking about food, and how to stay warm with everyone aforementioned as well as Bambi and Spike (who made it in around 5:30) as well as Extra Mile, Leap Frog, and Legs. It was great spending more time socializing with this group of strangers united through the insanity of the trail and it's weather. We are in close quarters, well bathed in the smoke of the fire, huddling close in our expensive down sleeping bags, hoping they are truly rated as low as advertised.