Day 6: Chaco Confusion and Conversation

Cheating or Not?

Instead of starting back at Gooch Gap like planned, my parents dropped me off at Neels Gap due to their desire to drive back to Oklahoma in a day. If I insisted starting at Gooch Gap, they’d be driving over an hour out of their way. I couldn’t do that to them. I’ll be missing out on a 14-mile stretch, but what is 14 miles compared to 2,000?

Reunion of the March 8th Class

It was worth skipping, as all the people I had been hiking or staying at shelters with for the past three days were all outside trying to wake up and ready to devour some cooked frozen pizza.

I got another sticker to add to my collection before begrudgingly introducing my insistent parents to my current hiking buddies. Upon making eye contact with Nick, he raised his hands and yelled, “You made us famous!” This is in reference to him getting his name and picture on The Trek. I guess there is some benefit hiking with a blogger. If I keep this up, my trail name will be Blogger. It’s already been suggested. I guess I’m just waiting for someone to confidently state that my trail name is ________.

Three Mountains Later

I headed off alone since the others were either still eating or waiting for a laundry problem to be solved. Everyone said they were going to try for Low Gap Shelter – about 11.7 miles away. I planned on going there too if my cough wasn’t too bad and if my body could hold up. Otherwise, I was going to disperse camp shortly past Hogpen Gap.

At the top of Levelland Mountain.

On the way up Levelland Mountain, I passed tent after tent. I was surprised by how many were still there since it was past 9:00. They were probably all still exhausted after hiking from Jarred Gap to Neels Gap due to bear canister requirements. 

What Are Those?!

I hiked by several nice views and took pictures of the blue tinted mountains. Upon nearing Wolf Laurel Top, I caught up to Pete (a.k.a Seven Iron) who was sitting next to an older woman also thru-hiking. I stopped to chat and the woman goes, “What is on your feet? You’re hiking in those?” This is in reference to my sandals. She then says, “I have to take a picture.” And she did. Dirt crusted and all. As long as she isn’t harboring a secret foot fetish, it’s fine.

This is how disgusting they can get. The Chaco tan line is coming in though!

Pete and I left shortly after and hiked together all the way to the Tesnatee Gap Trailhead parking lot. From there, he continued on and I sat down to eat lunch. I was definitely being stared at by the people coming and going.

Tesnatee Gap

I had no idea the hardest stretch of the day was right before me. It was insanely steep and I had to take several breaks. About halfway up, I met a group of volunteer trail workers from GATC working to build stone steps. I gave kudos to them because trail work – especially when it involves rock – is extremely taxing. They jokingly said that I should put my pack down and help. “I did my time. I think I’m good,” I responded. 

First Trail Magic

By the time I made it to Hogpen Gap, I was feeling great. Either the zero days helped or the medication I was taking for my cold was giving me a large energy boost. This is what it must feel like to not have mental illnesses, I thought, referring to the lack of fatigue. I was going to head to Low Gap Shelter. 

My first trail magic of the season!

Right before I continued on, something told me to stop. I turned around and saw the Styrofoam cooler chilling right behind the trailhead bulletin board. Is that what I think it is? Now, I never just open random containers left alone, but this is the Appalachian Trail. I removed the lid and saw glory. It was filled with Mountain Dew, Coke, and oranges. Trail magic! I wish I could have met the person who went out of their way to make it happen. I took a Coke to drink along the trail and an orange for breakfast tomorrow. If you did this, thank you! It brought tears to my eyes.

The trail grade was nice and easy as I sipped from my can of Coke. It was the perfect treat for a warm day. After a mile and a half of hiking alone, I caught back up with Seven Iron and we talked about a variety of things. He has been vlogging on YouTube and he posted his first story the day prior. Apparently, before I caught up with him, a random person recognized him because of that video. What a small world.

Low Gap Shelter Conservation

By 4:00, we arrived at Low Gap Shelter. Seven Iron went to set up his tent and I stayed near the shelter conversing with people I hadn’t met yet. I teetered on staying in the shelter or pitching my tent. I decided to pitch my tent. Hantavirus is a no no.

There was one woman who earned the trail name New Girl since, as it appeared to me, knew nothing about camping. We all helped her figure out how to cook using the stove she brought and tips to make it successful. She said something really profound to me though, “I really like the freedom out here. This may be gross, but I can toot whenever I want.” I replied, “It’s the same for me. I love the freedom to pee whenever I want. Have to go? Just take a squat. If I did that in town, it would be public indecency.”

She then delved deeper into her work as a hospice nurse and how she would always give and give and give. She never took or received. She was extremely grateful that, for once in her life, she got the help she needed – even if it was how to use a stove or that she didn’t need two months’ worth of electrolytes.

Dinner Time

At around 5:30, my stomach was screaming for some dinner. I looked at what I had and figured homemade dehydrated walking tacos with Chick-fil-A sauce was going to be good. It really was. Here’s the recipe if you want to recreate it.

Walking Tacos (Dehydrated) 

  • ¼ cup ground beef
  • 5 Tbl black beans
  • 1 Tbl yellow onions
  • 2 Tbl corn
  • 1 Tbl Rotel tomatoes and green chilis

In Separate Packet:

  • 1.5 tsp taco seasoning 
  • ¾ cup crushed Doritos

3/4 – 1 cup boiling water to rehydrate

By the time I finished eating, Aaron, Nick, Joey, Ian, and Jack – all of whom I’ve been hiking with these past few days – arrived. The dinner table was the place to be as everyone talked about the oncoming thunderstorm and heavy rain expected for Friday. Everyone planned on either a nero or zero. That made me realize I needed to find a place to stay if I wanted to avoid hiking with lightning. I checked and every hostel in the area was booked. Obviously, other thru-hikers thought further ahead than me. I guess I’ll see what Friday brings. My mother did book me a place called Around the Bend Hostel – the same place I bought my new gear on my first zero – for Thursday night. Instead of spending the night at Blue Mountain Shelter or finding a stealth spot right by Unicoi Gap, I’ll head straight for the gap to wait for a shuttle.


Soon after, I went to change into my camp clothes and wipe away the sweat and dirt that had collected throughout the day. Your feet get really dirty when hiking with no socks.

As I laid on my pad in my tent, I looked at the stars shinning as the day darkened and marveled that my body was in no pain. Usually, when getting to camp, my feet ached something fierce and I would waddle around since my hips would lock up. I felt none of that. Earlier that day, I ran up the hill to use the privy. I never run. Here’s to hoping that I won’t feel it tomorrow. 

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