April 10. Woke up in the hotel in Erwin and had a busy morning getting things done, sending home a package, mailing cards, eating at the Huddle House, and hanging out at the library. Ryan has been in contact with a guy from Big Agnes, the company we bought our tents from. They asked if we wanted to test out some new Air Core sleeping pads so I traded out my Exped for this and we’ll see what I think in the next few weeks. After our morning of town work we started walking back to the trail some 4 or more miles away…luckily along the way a guy in a truck picked us up and saved us the extra walking. We packed our gear, weighed in (I think my pack is closer to 34 or 35 pounds now!) and headed out on the trail. We made 4 miles and stopped to camp just past the shelter. We stopped at the shelter to talk to some other hikers and when we were ready to go I lead the way out. Unfortunately I lead us up the wrong trail and everyone there had a good laugh at the three of us a few minutes later when we came back past and headed out on the correct trail. Back to the woods and back to the trail!
April 11. Brrrrrr! It got cold! We knew that some cold weather was headed our way and it hit! Overnight the temperature dropped and we woke up with the thermometers in our tents reading in the 30’s. Of course, this was a bad time to be changing out our air mattresses. The new demo Air Core pads from Big Agnes are great, but they are made for warm weather camping. Sleeping pads are rated on the “R” scale for warmth, higher numbers being warmer. We all had pads rated around 2.5 or 3, these new pads are rated at 1. I don’t really know how the rating system works or what it really means, I just know that I woke up freezing today. We hiked throughout the day, working with the temperature to try to stay comfortable. The wind and the cooler temps made for a day full of putting on and taking off layers. By the end of the day we were just ready to set up the tents and get warm in our sleeping bags. The only problem was that we knew tonight was going to be even colder that last night. We set up the tents and quickly got in them. I even set my tent up keeping the sides low to the ground trying to keep the cold out and the heat in. Inside the tent I put on almost all of my clothes…on the bottom, socks, underwear, tights, shorts, and hiking pants. On the top long thermal shirt, long hiking shirt, and Thermawrap jacket and fleece hat. Then I wrapped up in my 15 degree sleeping bag. I took my backpack rain cover and wrapped it under the foot of my sleeping bag and put my raincoat over the top to try to keep me warm. With all of these clothes on I had a pillow of gloves, clean underwear, and a dry bag, but the plan was to stay warm!
April 12. Ice! Ice cold…woke up to find the thermometer in my tent reading well below 30 degrees, Ryan said his read 25. There were ice crystals all over the inside of my rain fly. My sleeping bag was wet where I had placed my rain coat, it kept all the water condensation in place. I got out of my tent to find more ice on the outside and frost on the grass around me. I added neutralizer to my iodine water and within a few minutes the bottles had almost completely frozen. I ended up drinking iced mocha and iced Emergen-C, with are both more enjoyable on a warm day than a frozen morning. We walked a few miles to the Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel. There “CC” took us in and we had coffee, juice, eggs, and bacon. She told us about her unfriendly neighbor who takes down her signs and tries to keep hikers away. She told us some pretty horrible things he has done. During breakfast we heard him take his ATV up the trail. She said he was riding up into the National Forest, illegal, in order to take her signs down, or put his own up. When we were getting ready to go he came back down the trail and passed us to go get his mail. On the way back to his house Brian smiled and nodded a hello to him. Unfriendly neighbor gave us a very mean look and flipped us the bird! Not just a normal middle finger gesture though, he made sure to show it, pull back slightly, and really push it back at us for emphasis. Wow! We made our way back to the AT to find that the neighbor had ridden up there and pulled several fallen trees and limbs over the side trail to the hostel to block it. Ryan and I got to work moving the debris as far away as possible while Brian got his Sharpie out and made several little signs on trees showing how to get to the hostel. Unfortunately this is probably a daily occurrence and our efforts were probably futile, but we couldn’t help but try to do something for CC. I guess in life some people are just angry and unfriendly neighbor is one of them. Hopefully he finds a way to turn that around, but it is doubtful. We hiked on and covered a good 10 miles on some pretty tough terrain and made it most of the way up to the top of Roan Mountain. Roan Mountain has an elevation of 6,285 feet and this will be the last time we will top 6,000 feet on the AT until we make it to Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.