It is raining and I don't want to leave but I put it off no longer and head out ahead of everyone. I know I am slow and will need to get moving if I am to make it to Gooch Mountain Shelter as some of use planned. I hike down the creek that is the AT only to discover that I must ford Stover Creek. I wait, and think about the options. Cross in my shoes as they are already getting wet, put on my crocs and cross in them. Then there is try for the stones that are obviously meant to prevent this situation or go for more stable creek bed up stream a few feet.
While I am debating the options, Mandy catches up and we discuss the options together. Then two guys come up from the other side. The older gentleman is wearing jeans (really) and decides to go for trying to step on the stones and ends up over knee deep in the creek because he missed one. His friend opts to try crawling over a down tree way up the creek. Nick arrives. Mandy decides on Crocs and stable creek bed, I agree and follow her over. Nick goes barefoot. We all make it and get our shoes back on. Mandy gets going, then me. There goes my head start.
I hike slow and eventually Nick and Nate catch up. We stop at some falls for water and pictures.
Nick and Nate eventually get ahead of me too, but I keep going and have my scenic snack breaks next to creeks and places with views. I purposely don't nap today as I want to break that habit.
I am shocked to catch back up to Nate and Nick at the next shelter, Hawk Mountain. I know I am not staying here there were reports of 40 boy scouts at the shelter and a steep hill. Not worth it in my book, besides I still think I might make it to Gooch maybe. Nick is having troubles and they decide to stay there and get out to the gap and try for a ride in the morning (or so I heard).
I hike down into Hightower Gap were I encounter my first trail magic. A boy scout guy (Dan) who does foot care and gives me a pickle and splits an orange with me. He tells me there is no water for miles and says be careful. I waste time in the gap and soon realize Gooch is out. I will be dry camping and soon. On the way up out of the gap I am passed by a couple who say they are camping soon too, but they are not friendly about it and when I pass the site they have chosen I keep right on hiking.
According to my phone I make it to mile 9.8 and have hiked 7 miles today. This is sad and disappointing as I fall 6 miles short of the goal. I am even more disappointed that I passed so many decent spots because they were to close to the trail and I was determined to keep going. The spot I chose is not level and but has great views. I setup camp and have a dry dinner. I then go looking for somewhere to hang my bear bag. While looking I find a great camp site and a tree to hang my bag from. I head back pull up stakes and carry the whole tent over folded up on its self. I re-stake it out and finish setting up camp. Snap a shot of the view from the old spot at dusk and go to bed in a slightly better mood in my new spot.