The morning began cloudy and windy, and that set the theme for the remainder of the day. I left camp alone and set out on the trail. We planned for a short 10-ish mile day as we are supposed to get some bad weather tonight and we wanted to be in a shelter if possible. The terrain was fairly easy starting out although there were several side trails that were poorly marked and thus confusing. I took a short trail to Whiterock Cliff and was treated to a windy but nice view. The cloudy sky fortunately did not cover the distant mountains. After a half mile or so the trail split; one fork, the actual AT, went up over an exposed ridgeline (Firescald Ridge I think) and the other was a "bad weather bypass" trail that was lower on the mountain. Despite the wind, I took the AT (purist?) and climbed the rocks up to the ridge. The wind was strong, with gusts about 40 mph...there were times when the wind would catch my pack and try to pull me sideways. I would have to stop for a moment and brace myself with my poles. Dangerous but so exhilarating. The ridge offered incredible views of the (sunny!) valley below and I stood fighting the wind for several minutes taking it all in. Probably one of the best views yet and an amazing thing to experience it with the wind displaying its strength over me. Like the thunderstorm from a few weeks ago, it was all very humbling. I descended the ridge but was still in the path of the wind for several more miles. Fiber, AJ, Shepherd, and Daisy caught up to me as I was taking a bathroom break so I began hiking with them. And then we got lost...
We came to an old gravel road crossing. There was a field with an obvious path through it straight across from where we were. We didn't think much of it and just continued straight. After awhile the path turned to what looked like an old "road" that cut through the brush and forest, so we continued to follow it. After a few more minutes we realized we hadn't seen a blaze for awhile and something about the "trail" didn't feel quite right. We walked a bit farther hoping to get some sort of sign that we were on the right path, but had no such luck. We consulted our guidebooks and ultimately decided to turn around. We came back to the original gravel road crossing where we saw a blaze in the distance. So, we were supposed to turn right and follow the road instead of going straight. We blocked off the wrong trail with logs and drew some arrows in the dirt to point others in the right direction. We ended up going about a half mile out of the way (1 mile round trip) but eventually found our way, stopped for a quick lunch, and made it to Flint Mountain Shelter around 2. Thankfully it didn't rain on us but it has been sprinkling this evening and is supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow. The shelter is full with 8 people and Daisy and we've got some tarps rigged up over the opening so hopefully we'll stay dry. Oh, and I spilled beef stew all over myself eating dinner tonight...bear bait? I hope not.
We crossed the 300-mile mark today! And tomorrow will be my 1 month anniversary on the trail!!
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