A Spork Casualty in 110 Miles
Living Life on the Edge (Not as much fun as it sounds)
We left Neels Gap after taking our time relaxing in the morning and spending some time at Mountain Crossings. Jordan didn’t feel like he needed a shakedown but he did get the experts to look at the fit of his pack. He found out that his straps were way too small and we’re riding too high on his shoulders (well we did buy it on Craigslist after all). After some adjusting, it wasn’t perfect, but it was definitely fitting better and took a lot of pressure off his shoulders. They also took a look at my pack, and after some adjusting to the lifters, it significantly changed the way my pack sits on my back. I can’t believe I was wearing it wrong for three years! We got a quick resupply to top off our food bags and headed out to hike a couple of miles before dark. We hiked about 3.5 miles and all the suitable tent sites were taken. We eventually settled for a spot on the ridgeline because the sun was going down and we didn’t have much choice. We had heard in town that it was supposed to be a little gusty that night. Well they weren’t kidding! We spent most of the night hoping our tent wouldn’t blow off the mountain.
The next morning was cold and blustery so be packed up quickly and started hiking to get warm. The views were incredible all morning and around noon we were finally warm enough to stop at one of the overlooks to cook breakfast. We made it to Low Gap shelter that night where Slow Jam (who we had stayed with at Blood Mountain Cabins) caught up to us. We also meet Alex and fellow Appalachian Trials blogger Sunflower, and had an awesome night swapping stories around the campfire. The next day was really level hiking and we arrived at Unicoi Gap much earlier than expected. We were planning on going a couple more miles and tenting because we didn’t need to go into Hiawassee to resupply. But standing there at a road at 3 in the afternoon, Mexican food started to sound a lot more exciting than dehydrated potatoes. We decided to try our luck for a hitch, eat dinner, then head back to the trail to tent. We talked Alex and Sunflower, who were hiking with us, into our crazy plan. We stood by the road smiling and waving at passing cars for about thirty minutes with no bite. We were about to give up and keep hiking when a pickup pulled over. The driver’s name was Roger and he said he loves helping thru hikers. We all piled into the truck and headed to a hot dinner! When Roger dropped us off, he told us to call him when we were done and he would give us a ride back to the trail. This was super news because I was worried about getting stuck in town for the night. After eating our fill of chicken fajitas we ran next door to Dollar General to get some snacks for the night. When Rodger picked us up he asked if we would rather tent on his farm or head back to the trail. We were super psyched to not have to hike any further for the day and quickly agreed. His property was beautiful and we set up our tents next to the river in the soft tall grass. Roger, cementing his trail angel status, drove us back to the trail the next morning.
We hiked the next couple of days with Sunflower and Alex to Dick’s Creek Gap to stay at the Top of Georgia Hiker Hostel. We even caught up to Slow Jam who had been about a half a day ahead of us. After a luxurious shower we headed back to Hiawassee for lunch and resupply. We indulged in AYCE fried chicken and fixins for the low low price of $7.48 then walked to the grocery store to get enough tuna and macaroni to get us to Franklin. I also felt justified in buying any food that is normally too decedent, so in addition to my necessary food, I left the store with Bagel Bites, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Starbuck’s coconut coffee.
Cold Days, Warm Friends
The next morning we did a Nero to Plumorchard shelter. This was the Cadillac of shelters with three levels! We staked out spots in the highest loft (rightly) thinking it would be the warmest. It was the best night sleep I have had thus far on the trail and I was super cozy knowing I was protected from the wind and the rain. The following morning was beautiful and easy level hiking and we were giddy knowing that we would be in NC in just a few miles. The sign at the border was so subtle we almost passed it. We stopped and celebrated and posed for pictures to document the momentous occasion of crossing our first state line. Every time we pass a big milestone I always expect to feel something big, but really there’s nothing much to do but keep hiking. As soon as we crossed the border we encountered the toughest climb so far straight up Courthouse Bald. That moment it started sleeting. It definitely felt like NC was welcoming us with open arms. The next couple of days were very cold and we hiked two twelve mile days. One of those mornings we were hiking toward Deep Gap and at the top of the mountain could smell someone cooking sausage. What a mean trick to cook delicious breakfast meats for hungry hikers to tantalizingly smell! However we made it to the road and discovered it was trail magic! I had already eaten a sad Cliff Bar but did not object to a second breakfast of scrambled cheesy eggs! Thanks Red Trunk Green Truck!
Mice, Mice, Everywhere
We stayed at Rock Gap shelter so that we could do a nero into town the next day. We slept in the shelter so we could leave early and hike the four miles to Winding Stair Gap in time for the 9 a.m. shuttle. Now up to this point, we have been pretty smug amount not encountering any rodent problems in the shelters. That night however we were serenaded
to sleep by the pitter patter of scurrying feet… on the roof, on the walls, in our packs, and even one brave one on our sleeping bags! At 5:30 a.m. I told Jordan that I had had enough and we headed out in the dark to the road. We made it safely to Franklin and took our first zero day. We split a room at the Budget Inn with Slow Jam for two nights and are keeping busy with town chores and eating lots of junk food. It feels so good to rest our feet for a while.
The past 110 miles have taught me a lot about what I can endure. I can feel my legs and my resolve getting stronger. I’m learning not only to accept my circumstances on the trail but to embrace them. I cannot change the cold, the hills, or the mice, but I can change myself. The routine on the trail is delightfully simple and I am growing to love life out here. It is far from perfect but the best part is I wouldn’t want it to be.
Tomorrow we head north toward NOC.
See you up the trail!
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