So, I ask myself, “Have you lost your mind!?” as I crawl out of my nice warm bed at 5:00 am on a Saturday. Rain drumming against my bedroom window and my sweet husband softly snoring make it even more of a question. I quietly dress and add my trail lunch to my pack, slipping out the door to begin my journey.
I am hermetically sealed in rain pants, rain jacket over two layers of breathable clothing, a gore-tex hat, and am carrying a pack covered with its own little rain jacket. I meet fellow Trail Dame, Denise and off we go higher and higher into the North Georgia mountains, slowly disappearing into the fog.
We arrive off Ga 60 at Woody Gap and meet Joan, Monica, Kellye and Melissa aka SHOE. Visibility is at 0 percent and it is blowing rain in every direction.
No one flinches when the decision is made for SHOE to shuttle us down forest service road 42 to Cooper Gap where we will then travel by foot to Gooch Gap 4.7 miles and then continue on to Woody Gap another 3.8.
After several miles down a muddy bumpy road, we make adjustments to our rain gear and take off up the mountain laughing, talking and trying to catch our breath as we find our trail rhythm.
Our first wonder of nature is pointed out by Joan, aka Hemlock. TREE FOAM…. Tree Foam? Also known as ”stem flow” when rain water drips down the trunks of trees and forms bubble bath looking foam at the base. This makes her very happy. (Later she also spots a patch of false puffball in aspic which nearly sends us all over the edge…)
We squish and slide along the rugged path of the AT enjoying the sounds of the day, the cool rain, the eery mist and each others company. A quick stop at the Gooch Gap AT shelter for a brief respite from a downpour, finds three through hikers, barely beginning their journey. I wondered how I would feel if I was starting out a hike measuring 2,181 miles in such weather. After hurriedly eating a snack, we left them in various states of preparation and head off to Woody Gap.
There were a few water crossings made even more exciting by the rising water, wonderful rocky outcroppings with views to nowhere and one of the fastest lunch breaks ever under a dripping hemlock tree with a cold wind whipping around us.
Not once during this day did anyone complain or whine. In fact the mood of these crazy women was upbeat and positive, punctuated by lively conversation and laughter.