AT Days 8-10
Day 8: Dick’s Creek Gap to Standing Indian Shelter, 16.7 miles
By 9:15, I was back at Dicks’s Creek Gap, ready to continue hiking northbound. I was feeling rejuvenated after my brief stint in town, and was very motivated to push myself and get some bigger mileage in for the day; I had my sights set on the Standing Indian Shelter 16.7 miles away. The sun was shining, and it was to be a picture-perfect day on the Appalachian Trail as I set off down the trail solo.
The first few miles consisted of some minor ups and downs before descending to Blue Ridge Gap. A little farther ahead, I caught up to Laura, one of the hikers I shared a meal with in Hiawassee. We hiked together and chatted for the next couple of miles until we reached a wooden sign that marked the Georgia/North Carolina border.
I was stoked to be crossing my first border and excited for the challenges and views that the North Carolina/Tennessee section of the trail has to offer. I also ran into Amy chilling at the border; I hadn’t seen her since Neels gap so it was nice catching up.
The trail immediately climbed up above 4,000 feet where it stayed the remainder of the day. The trail was getting noticeably more difficult now; the climbs were steeper, and now rocks and roots covered the trail, much more so than in Georgia. I arrived at Standing Indian Shelter just after 4 PM and was pretty beat from my day’s effort, as it was my biggest mileage day thus far. There were some familiar faces I noticed at the shelter area, but mostly new ones. I set up camp, cooked dinner, and hung out with some new hikers I hadn’t met yet before going to sleep.
Day 9: Standing Indian Shelter to Long Branch Shelter, 16.4 miles
I was up at 6:00 and was hiking by 7:30. A series of switchbacks took me up over 5,400 feet to the summit of Standing Indian Mountain, where I was greeted with spectacular views of the upcoming North Carolina peaks. Checking the Guthook navigation app, I was happy to see that the whole day would be spent high up in the mountains above 4,000 feet. My kind of hiking.
The next few miles were mostly flat terrain down in the forests and high up on the ridges, making for a quick hiking pace. I was firing on all cylinders today; physically and mentally. I checked my Garmin watch at noon to see that I had already hiked 12 miles.
A steep rock scramble up Albert Mountain leads hikers to a fire tower with stunning 360-degree views and a significant milestone; the 100-mile marker. I hung out at the fire tower for a while as I ate lunch and chatted with some hikers. Laura, trail name now Marathon, caught up to me at the top of Albert and we crushed the next 2.5 miles down to the Long Branch Shelter, arriving at around 3:00.
It was another relaxing evening hanging with hikers; ones I already knew and ones I were meeting for the first time. This was my favorite day of hiking on the AT thus far; both in terms of scenery and how I was feeling throughout the day.
My legs were feeling a little sluggish for the first mile or so on trail today after the back-to-back 16 mile days, but I soon got into my groove as I made my way closer to Winding Stair Gap to catch a ride into Franklin. It was 7 miles away and I took my time and soaked in the scenery along the way.
Descending into the gap, I was excited to see a table of trail magic set up, where I found Amy (trail name now Ninja) and another hiker friend Nurdle enjoying the snacks and beverages the friendly town folks had set up. I arrived in Franklin at around 12 and did the typical hiker town routine of showering, resupplying, eating an absurd amount of food, and doing laundry. Jungle Joe and Soldier Boy, who I was sharing the room with for the night, arrived a few hours later.
We spent the remainder of the late afternoon/evening eating and drinking at the popular Lazy Hiker Brewery. A table full of hikers shouted “Yard Sale!!” as I walked into the brewery; it’s a great feeling seeing familiar faces from trail while in town. I reflected on the past couple of days with amazing memories and was proud of myself for the miles I had pushed as I enjoyed the good food, beer, and even better company. Life is good on the Appalachian Trail.
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