We hiked along the serpentine and overgrown Academy Trail to our first camp at Upper Birch Branch. It was a cozy camp and we learned about hypothermia there. This coincided with a sudden change in the weather, which nearly froze us in the early morning. We warmed ourselves up however and proceeded to Lower Birch Branch, a beautiful campsite situated next to a babbling brook.
While we were there we explored a trail that led to a nice little clearing at the top. The next morning we hiked over the Holston Mountain Range (5000 feet) to Abingdon Gap Shelter on the Appalachian Trail where we camped for two days.
On the first night we constructed a lean-to shelter against a fallen tree, which was surprisingly comfy. The next day Mr. Mike showed us how to shoot an azimuth for our solo compass hike. We were then told to follow that azimuth until we reached markers that Mr. Mike had planted for us. Despite these clear directions, half of the people got lots. And after a two-hour search and rescue mission, everyone was found and we turned in for the night.
The next morning we woke up to a light rain, which subsided before we began our hike to AT Saddle Camp. A downpour began that night and continued through the morning, which did not help our pack weight for the six-mile hike into Damascus, Virginia. However, Mr. Mike’s promise of soda drove us on and we made in time to enjoy an ice-cold Pepsi.