Day 7: Sprinting to Unicoi

The Start of the Morning

I slept much better than the previous nights on trail. It took a few tries as I could hear mice scuttering about right next to me, but once I put in earplugs, I heard nothing. It was the equivalent of hiding under the covers. I also had bought a pillow in hopes of achieving a better night’s sleep, but it somehow ended up as far away from me as possible during the night. I guess my sleep self was offended.

Breakfast was easy as I had cold soaked two packets of oats the night previously. The most meticulous part of the morning consisted of putting my tent away. It was nice staying in the tent, but I was not a fan of putting it down. Most of everyone was still making breakfast by the time I headed out. I saw Nick before leaving and we both silently agreed not to talk to each other since he was wanting to listen to music and I had plans to listen to some podcasts.

It took a bit before my body was warmed up. I wasn’t in any pain, but I was slow to start. The section of trail I was hiking was interesting. It obviously used to be a road. I assumed an old Forest Service road but recall hearing someone say that it was actually an illegal moonshine road back in the day. Whatever it was or the history behind it, it was pretty. Several sections had rainwater flowing down the stone. It reminded me of the Weeping Wall along the Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. It made me miss living in Northwest Montana.

Blue Mountain

I saw some cool campsites along the way as the trail started winding up and became extremely rocky. It was harder going uphill than it was yesterday. At least I was entertained with a podcast discussing random staircases in the woods. Don’t ever go near one if you do.

The path continued upwards and I worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Unicoi Gap by 2:00. I was planning on 2:00 despite the Hiawassee shuttle arriving at 4:00 because Mun, a trail angel who has been serving the hiking community for 51 years, was making pancakes, grilled cheese, and chili. He said on FarOut that he was ending the day at around 2:00. I had to make it. I wasn’t eating lunch specifically so I could make it in time.

I wasn’t expecting the trail to get so rocky so soon. The way up and down Blue Mountain was like this.

By the time I made it to the top of Blue Mountain, I had 1.4 miles left, over a thousand feet in elevation loss, and only 45 minutes before Mun was expected to leave. Easy right? No. The entire time, I was chanting kept the knees bent, don’t lock them up, keep the knees bent, don’t lock them up, keep the knees bent, don’t lock them up as I sprinted down. By the time I saw the parking lot and a nice food setup, I was in relief. I made it! Nick was already there and waiting for everyone else to show up. Apparently in my mad sprint down the mountain, I passed Aaron, Joey, and the rest. I didn’t even realize that I did, nor do I know how I didn’t see them.

Trail Angels and Magic

Mun, a trail angel, cooking some blueberry pancakes.

I was greeted by Mun who gave me a large cup of hot chocolate, two massive blueberry pancakes, and a grilled cheese sandwich. I ate it all and was grinning the entire time. Afterwards, I enquired about the logistics of the Hiawassee shuttle system and a couple who had been standing on the sidelines, asked where I needed to go. It told them the name of the hostel and they offered to take me, so I didn’t need to wait two hours.

I said my goodbyes to my hiking friends and departed from Unicoi Gap. The couple, Tim and Jane, had stopped earlier in the day because they had seen trail magic in Georgia for decades, but didn’t know what it was or why people did it. When they heard me ask about shuttles, they figured they could perform some trail magic that day. Thank you!

Jane and Tim who offered me a ride to the hostel.

Around the Bend Hostel

I arrived at Around the Bend Hostel and was greeted by Gordon, who showed me around. I was quick to drop my stuff, pick up some loaner clothes, take a nice hot shower, and put the smelly clothing into the laundry. I’ve never been to a busy hostel before, so I felt a little awkward about how to act. A shower was the priority though.

I spent a good amount of time outside calling family and petting the two cats that live on the property. I chatted with others and soon after, a man cooked up some burgers and we had ourselves a feast. Gary, a thru-hiker I had just met, went around asking if anyone would be interested in some pizza. Twenty minutes later, a pizza party sprung up. Of course I had a slice. It was a very filling day.

Everyone outside socializing as we waited for the burgers and pizza to be done.

Soon, the sun set and I settled into bed. I did some reading before calling it a night.


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