AT03 From Neel Gap to Unicoi Gap – I am Spoiled by Friends

March 7 – 11.7 miles

My friend Dreamer dropped me off, and I left Neel Gap.

The sun is shining, and once the fog
cleared up it became very warm!

I don’t have as much to walk that day, so I take my time to enjoy the sun.
I find a pretty spot with a view, so I decide to stop for a snack and spread my gear to dry. There, two ladies who are day hiking give me a couple of snacks. I promise to share them with the next hikers to come, and I do so.

As I go again, I meet Orange Crush who provides trail magic along the trail and I get a couple of chocolate bars from him.

I walk a bit further for lunch and stop at Cowrock to eat with a wonderful view!

Time to head to Low Gap shelter.
My left knee starts to bother me. I put cold water and ointment on it …
At the end of the day, I feel my feet burning. Shit! My two weaknesses are hitting already…

I reach the shelter and pitch my tent. It is with relief that I put my camp shoes on before heading to the water source to soak my feet in.

I have dinner at the shelter with everyone. I share some snacks with other hikers and give a meal to one of them who is running out of food. Someone wants to rename me “Snacks” because of that.

March 8 – 9.7 miles

I can hear a few raindrops on my tent…
At first light, I start packing and head to the shelter to get my bag off the cable and eat breakfast in the rain.
I talk for a while with the other hikers.
The weather is our main subject: they announce heavy rain and thunderstorms for the coming night and the next day…

I start hiking and it’s cold, windy and foggy. But the trail itself is easy! Slightly uphill, easy terrain until Blue Mountain shelter.
I stop there for lunch and call to book a room for the two coming nights in Helen where I’ll meet some friends again.

I head to Unicoi Gap where I chatted with other hikers while waiting for my mate AlleyCat to pick me up.
In Helen, I stay at the Red Roof Inn. It’s gross… (Hairs in the shower, stains on the sink, stuff in the bin…). But at least the beds seem ok…
After a very long, hot shower, time to figure out how much food I’ll need for the next few days. I plan to go all the way to Franklin from here, so 60 miles.
I go to the Dollar General to buy what I need, and then go for a walk in town.
Helen is a cute little city. In 2020 I had stayed in Hiawassee, so I’m glad to see something different this time.
For dinner, I join my friends in a restaurant where I have a great time with everyone.

Back in my room, I wait for my friend Sparkles who comes from Alabama to spend the weekend with me in Helen.
Tomorrow I will zero to stay away from the bad weather and to celebrate my birthday with friends.

March 9 – 0, doing trail magic

It is good to sleep in a real bed…
But it is time to wake Sparkles up and to go shopping.
We have breakfast in town before buying a couple of snacks – we are going to be trail angels today.
We have fun at Unicoi Gap with our mates Dreamer and Jen, providing trail magic to the thru-hikers hiking in the rain.

Time to go back in town for a late lunch. Sparkles and I visit some of the shops before meeting our friends for an axe throwing session.

AlleyCat treats me with Margaritas and dinner for my birthday and gives me his knee brace. I hope it will do the trick and that my knee will feel better soon.

It is time to say goodbye to my friends.
I am so grateful I had them around me for this first week on the trail.
Tomorrow Sparkles will drop me off at Unicoi Gap where I will resume my hike.

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