Standing Indian Shelter to Rock Gap Shelter – 19.7 miles
Long day. Decided to stay with Alex and Red Robin and go the extra 4 miles to Rock Gap. Just barely got a shelter spot. The other guys here are already asking to hear me play my trombone. 2 days in Franklin starting tomorrow.
The day started with a 1.5 mile hike up Standing Indian Mountain. It wasn’t very steep and I felt really good hiking up it. Red Robin and Alex caught up to me at the top and we ended up hiking together on and off throughout the day. I remember taking a break after a long descent and running into Red Robin and Alex with their shoes off checking their blisters. Red Robin has some really nasty blister on his feet. He has been pushing himself to make miles since day one so that he could finish the trail before he started med school mid summer. I was happy to find out after the trail that he did finish. Anyone who thinks I finished the trail quickly should look at his hike. He finished weeks before I did. All that is important is the both of us hiked the trail how we wanted to and I can say I enjoyed every day (more or less). While the 3 of us were there resting our feet, Alex said he was planning on doing the extra miles with Red Robin to make it to Rock Gap Shelter. My original plan was to hike 15 miles that day to Long Branch Shelter. I wasn’t ready to commit to a 19+ mile day yet, so I waited to make a decision until I got to Long Branch.
Hiking on from our rest stop, I had the climb up Albert Mountain. On a map it looks short and steep and it is. What the map doesn’t show you is that the steep part is almost like rock climbing. I love it when trails are like this, but man did it kick my ass. The top of Albert Mountain is the first really big checkpoint for northbound thru hikers. It is 100 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia! I did not realize that when I was there, but I still hung out there for a while with Alex and ate my lunch. It was a nice, sunny day but on top of the mountain it was also windy. When it got too cold to sit around without a jacket, I started hiking again.
It was all downhill the rest of the way to Long Branch Shelter and by the time I got there, I was more than ready to hike 4 more miles to Rock Gap Shelter and have less to hike to get to Franklin the next day for a nero and a zero day. After a few minutes of being turned around because Alex, Red Robin, and I all missed the turn of the trail before it led to Long Branch we finally found it and went on our way. The campsite was very close to full when Alex and I first got there – Red Robin not far behind. My feet hurt like hell so I was very happy to again get a spot in the shelter. This one was much smaller than other shelters I have seen and also slanted down so that our feet were above our heads at night. At first, it looked like there was only space for one more person in the shelter and Alex let me have it. I felt really bad when he went to look for a place to set up his tent on the wet ground, so I got the other guys in the shelter to move extra gear out of the way and scooch closer together and we were able to make space for Alex. It’s ridiculous how often I would get to a shelter and be told that there isn’t enough room for anyone else and lo and behold, there ends up being enough room.
Before going to sleep that night, I showed the other hikers there my pBone (they asked about it non stop since I got to the shelter). I played Summertime for them and one of the guys even sang along with me. It was really cool, but I was also really tired so I packed it up and called it a night.