May 11, 2013
There must be a hundred Deep Gaps along the Appalachian Trail. This particular Deep Gap is in northern Tennessee, along the southern edge on the Unaka Mountain Wilderness. The A.T. parallels a small gravel road, across which is a small campground with water not too many steps away. This is where we will spend the night.
I started the day in Erwin where the temperatures were fairly moderate. The day has cooled off and we’ve been rained on a few times. So now I’m wearing three layers on top, but only a pair of shorts below; it’s time to get warm. Interestingly, hiking is usually all you need to do to stay warm. The incessant climbing typically keeps your body temperature up. It’s only when you stop that you realize how cold the temperature might be.
Not so today. Even as we hiked we were feeling the chill. So here we are, calling it a day at Deep Gap and we have two important items on the agenda: get shelter set up in the off-and-on rain, and get into some warm clothes.
After managing to get the tent up and carefully anchored, I go inside and pull on my warm running tights, the one’s I would wear for wintering running up north. I pull on shorts over them and fish the knit cap out of my pack. Oh, to be warm again!
When we arrive, there are already two tents in place. Soon another will join us for a total of four tents in the campground for the night. I’m always interested to socialize with other hikers, but no one at this camp seems overly interested in chit-chat. That doesn’t keep me from making my observations.
I never thought of the A.T. as a high-probability place to hook up with other singles. I could be wrong. I am encountering a phenomenon at this camp site that I will encounter again late tomorrow: two tents set up close to each other, but only one is occupied. To our left I hear the unmistakable voice of a young female, but as long as I am here, I will not see her. Her partner, the one with a tent he doesn’t sleep in, is up and about and we actually exchange a few friendly words before he disappears back into her tent. I find none of this shocking, of course, I just wonder why they went to the bother of setting up the second tent? Is it for the sake of appearance? Is it in the hopes that their up-tight parents won’t find out what’s really going on? The thought amuses me.
His last trip out of the tent is to turn his and her hiking boots to a slightly different angle next to the fire he has built.
A pair of not-so-young women whom we saw as we left Uncle Johnny’s this morning are arriving and set up a tent. I think I made eye contact with them, but that’s about all. To give everybody the benefit of the doubt, perhaps we’re just all cold, wet, and tired, which is enough to subdue any camaraderie.
The night is cold, but I’m thankful for the down bag I’m in. I stay acceptably warm. During the night, the sound of an automobile awakens me. For some reason I find this highly disconcerting. I am awake and on high alert, wondering if there is someone high up on this mountain who might be up to no good. I hear a second auto with loud music playing. It stops. The music goes on for several minutes, then both autos leave. There is something unsettling about hiking this far into the mountains, only to share the experience with four-wheelers. I have developed a sense of trust with my fellow hikers. I believe most of the hiking community feels the same trust. But non-hikers in cars in the middle of the night are not a part of the trusted group. One political faction in this country speaks of southerners as “clinging to their guns and religion.” Amen, halleluia. As a second amendment advocate, I now wonder if I should have packed that two and a half pounds of steel and lead? But honestly, I’ve never felt the need and who wants to carry all that extra weight for nothing? But still, I promise myself never to sleep near a road again so long as I hike on the Appalachian Trail.
In the morning we dress out in full cold-weather rain attire. It’s not my idea of the most fun you can have while hiking, but hey, if you wanted easy, you could have stated home and watched TV!
Oh, and one last comment: I’m thankful that the daughter’s inexpensive camera was more moisture tolerant than mine. I hate relying on someone else’s equipment, but at least I didn’t have to come home without pictures. But from here out the panoramas won’t be as smooth as those from my now-dead Sony.