Eye of the Tiger

Day 7

Neels Gap to Whitley Shelter
Shipped a few unneeded things home at Mountain Crossings, and got to see Orange Kitty for a bit. I thought he was all punk AF with his spiked collar, but that’s apparently a coyote deterrent.
Had some wonderful trail magic near the end of the day from a group who sets up every weekend. They had tons of food, a charging station, and other little things we might need like hair ties and hand warmers, and even a portable hiker box.  I had been needing a bandana and found one there.
We were not planning to stop at Whitley, but we got to the sign and had a discussion about it.  Mostly about the presence of a privy there.  I told Caroline I could flip a coin to decide, but I didn’t have a coin.  Suddenly we found ourselves hiking towards this privy, knowing we would be cursing ourselves in the morning as we were ascending back up this blue blaze. Whitley is the most unused shelter on the AT because it’s 1.2 miles off the trail, up and down.  Had a wonderful campfire, met Evan from Minnesota, and a decent night sleep.

Day 8

Whitley Shelter to stealth camping sites.
Walked a few miles and stumbled upon the same trail angels from the day before. Had wonderful homemade vegetable beef stew, pound cake, and carrot cake muffins, and more fruit. I’ve really been missing fresh fruit and vegetables on the trail where we are focused on carrying high calorie processed foods to save weight while meeting (mostly) our caloric needs.
Had to figure out PCT bear hanging Caroline’s food bag. Somehow she didn’t hit her head with the rock, and we got the food up, but maybe not quite as high as it should have been. Meanwhile I tossed all my bear attractants into Beary Cannilow and found a spot for him in the woods. He might weigh a few pounds but he’s easy.

We’ve managed up to this point to avoid digging any cat holes, but that streak ended here.  I was the first to break down, and as I headed into the woods with my trowel and supplies, Caroline sent me off by playing “Eye of the Tiger” on her phone.  Thanks for the earworm!

Day 9

Stealth camping site to Unicoi Gap
Cold, windy day. We opted to skip breakfast and just get moving to warm up, and froze every time we stopped so ate while walking. Stopped in a shelter at mile five for wind protection and a short break. Today’s hike was lots of mossy rocks, very pretty but a lot of work.
Caroline took her first fall today.  (I took my first fall on day 1 less than a mile in, but was fortunate enough to fall backwards and have my pack absorb the impact).  I was behind Caroline when she fell on a very large rock, tangled up with her poles.  And I thought for sure we were going to need to go to Urgent Care.  It looked bad.  She got up and had a large bruise on her shin (which somehow disappeared within a couple hours!)  and then developed bruising in some other areas, and scratches on her hands.  She got up and kept on, the fall not slowing us down at all.

Found a trail angel at Unicoi Gap who was picking up, but managed to snag a banana and a Gatorade.   We tried so hard and failed again at hitch hiking, but got lucky with a trail angel.  Jive Turkey from North Carolina was hanging out giving rides to hikers, and after he ran a bunch to Hiawassee he came back and drove us into Helen.

Before we left we got a view of the upcoming stairs and mountain we would do upon our return, and felt intimidated.

Spent the night in Helen Georgia to avoid severe cold weather, and decided to take a zero day for rest and run town errands.

Helen is an adorable Bavarian themed town full of German food, which we planned to eat as much of as possible.  We went to dinner and ordered a pretzel and sausages and spatzel and cabbage to share, and my appetite just disappeared. Apparently my hiker hunger has not arrived yet.

Have completed 52.7out of 2197.4 miles of the AT

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