Georgia On My Mind
A storm came in just in time for my departure of Franklin, NC. It wouldn’t be the AT without a few days of rain during my last week on trail. Luckily, my decreased pace allowed me to dodge a lot of the weather. A few days of hiking later and I was at the Around the Bend Hostel. I wrote the majority of this post on trail… but my WordPress app failed me and I had to rewrite this entire post. I am sorry if it lacks some detail, my motivation to redo all of this work was low. During this section I ran into some familiar faces and stumbled upon a trail famous trail angel. Needless to say both my heart and stomach were full!
Day 134 (15.9 miles)
I got up in the motel just after 7:30 am. It was dark and gloomy outside. A slight drizzle was coming down as we walked to the Kountry Kitchen for a Southern breakfast. Afterwards, we packed up and made our way back to the outfitter for a few last minute items and our shuttle back to the trail head. I won’t say too much about the shuttle, but if Zen ever offers you a ride… I wouldn’t take it unless you like a person with glazed eyes driving at 80+ mph and then asking for a “donation” when it was supposed to be free.
I was hiking again by 11 am. The forecast said that the rain should be light all day, so I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere. I hiked with Dirty for a while and took a quick lunch at a shelter about 8 miles into the day. As we began hiking again, it was clear that the weather forecast was wrong. Some large dark clouds were moving in fast. Then the rain began. It absolutely dumped buckets on us. It was one of those storms where no amount of rain gear can keep you dry. We rushed through the swampy trail until we got to Carter Gap Shelter. I was so happy to see a roof and get out of the rain. Unfortunately, there were already 5 people setup in the small shelter. The next shelter was quite a few miles away, too many to justify walking to it. By the time I setup my tent, the rain was beginning to taper off. I put on my dry clothes and crawled into my sleeping bag. I barely moved for the rest of the evening… at least I slept well.
Carter Gap Shelter: T1, S4, P4, W3, B2
Total Score: 96
Day 135 (12.5 miles)
Some steady rain began again in the early morning and continued until about 9 am. I was in no rush to leave. We had plans to meet an old friend at a nearby shelter, a short day of hiking! Initially, I was confused at how bright it seemed at 7 am. Then I realized that daylight savings time had set the clocks back an hour! Eventually, I packed up my wet gear and made my way down the trail. I didn’t stop hiking for the entire 12 miles. There was no point. My legs were well rested and the entire forest was full of fog. I soon found myself at the Muskrat Creek Shelter. Dirty was there eating lunch, I joined him and began unpacking my wet gear.
The afternoon was looking much nicer. A bit of sun even poked through the clouds. About 15 minutes later, I heard a familiar voice. Mountain Goat and FrankE soon appeared at the trail that led to the shelter. There was also a new four-legged friend with MG2, Bjorne.
I hung-out at the shelter for the rest of the night. Ducky & Gravy showed up later that afternoon as well. Just before dinner, a few more familiar faces were walking by. Stretch and Lotus had caught up to us. They decided to stay the night at the shelter too. We talked for hours and enjoyed the cool temperatures that evening.
Muskrat Creek Shelter: T1, S3, P2, W2, B2
Total Score: 24
Day 136 (17.3 miles)
We all got up with the sun, much earlier now with the time change. A group of us hiked the first few miles together. I hadn’t mentioned yet, but we had camped just 3 miles from the GA border. We were all excited to reach our final state. Our feet and mouths were moving fast as we anticipated the sign that we had waited months to see. Finally, we were in Georgia!!
It was a great feeling to be in the final state. Less than 80 miles to go and my body was feeling surprisingly good. After the sign, the group split. I began to hike alone. I found myself at a small spring for lunch. It was a peaceful and relaxing spot for a break. I rested for over an hour until Ducky & Gravy stopped for some water at the same spot. They were drenched in sweat, I didn’t realize how hot it had gotten during my break. As I began to hike again, I too was sweating from all of my pours. This made the climbs in the afternoon much harder. I guess it is my fault since I wished for warmth during the rain the day before!
I made it to my campsite before 2 pm. Addis Gap had multiple large flat spots for tents, the only downside was the mile long walk for water. I made sure to fill up all of my bottles, I was only going to make that trip once. I killed the afternoon hours by drinking a cup of coffee and blogging. It was a lazy afternoon, but I found that this time necessary. I have noticed that many hikers choose to rush through the end of their hike. They pull huge mile days just to finish. I didn’t want to be one of these people. I learned to enjoy the feeling of a “lazy” afternoon. After all, I still hiked 17 miles this day.
Addis Gap Campsite: T1, S2, P1, W3, B2
Total Score: 12
Day 137 (11.2 miles)
I took a nice poop in the morning as the sun rose through the trees. It is bowel movements like these that make me question why we ever moved our bathrooms indoors. I took off down the trail feeling lighter. There were a few mountains to go over before reaching Unicoi Gap, where we had planned for a shuttle to a nearby hostel. I got to the top of the main climb and there were actually some views, but my camera wasn’t impressed. Fog still coated the inside of my lens. I snapped a couple pictures on my phone and moved on.
At the bottom of the mountain was Unicoi Gap. As I began the few mile descent, my left knee had an odd pain. It is normal to get weird pains like this while hiking. The question is whether they will stick around or be gone the following day. Just as I was coming down to the parking lot, I saw a white van setting up something. I thought that it might be some trail magic, but it was far better than that. Fresh Grounds was waiting at the bottom and about to cook up some lunch. He is a trail famous trail angel and travels up and down the trail in his van. He cooks daily for hungry hikers. I had been waiting my entire hike to see him! In the end, he would cook me 5 amazing meals over the next 2 days. The first one was this lunch which included burgers (yes. multiple) and french fries!
After stuffing my face with food, I got a shuttle back to the hostel. It was an extremely nice place and the hosts, Gordon and Lisa, were awesome. I resupplied, cleaned up, and did some laundry. Gordon offered a free slackpack for the following day if I stayed another night. Slackpacking is when a backpacker carries a lighter than normal load, usually only a day of food and water. I was able to leave my tent, sleeping bag, pad, cook system, extra clothes, and a few other things at the hostel while I hiked. Up until this point, I had carried my pack the entire way (besides Katadhin), but Around the Bend and its owners were too good to turn down!
Fresh Grounds came to the hostel and cooked dinner for everyone. He made a Cajun Jambalaya topped with spicy salmon filets. It was amazing and actually had some nutritional value, unlike most of the food I was consuming. We stayed outside and talked well past dark. The temperature had dipped to a comfortable fall night. We enjoyed the last bit of warmth, soon a cold front was scheduled to move in.
Day 138 (21.2 miles)
Another Fresh Grounds meal, only this time is was breakfast. Ducky, Gravy, Dirty, Forrest and I then took a long shuttle to Neels Gap. We said goodbye to Dirty and Forrest. Their accelerated schedule meant that they were finishing a couple days before us. Neels Gap is a famous spot along the trail. It is just after Blood Mountain for NOBO hikers and offers a great place for people to reconsider their hike. Many people quit here and throw their shoes up in the tree at the gap.
Ducky, Gravy, and I took off down the trail. It was a blue sky perfect weather day. The hiking was easy and the miles were cruisy. We hiked as a group the entire day and maintained a 3 mph pace until reaching Unicoi Gap. My camera cooperated today. Gordon had helped me remove the moisture in the lens with a hot hands and some rice. I had my doubts, but it worked flawlessly.
Fresh Grounds was waiting for us back at the gap. He made us a salad and some grilled cheese sandwiches. A welcomed snack after 20+ miles of hiking. We then went back to the hostel for another relaxing night. I had a painful date with a massage gun. Earlier that day I got a horrible calf cramp. I’m not telling you this for sympathy, I’m telling you because I deserved it. There was a harmless yellow jacket on the table that we had lunch at. Gravy asked me to exterminate it. I tried to kill it with the bottom of my water bottle, but the cavity underneath the bottle allowed the winged creature to escape my fury. It was at this moment that I realized… I f@#$ed up. I tried to retreat and call in reinforcements. Unfortunately, I tripped over my backpack and then again over a log. My calf cramped and I was the loser. So, that night at the hostel was spent massaging my right calf and realizing that I could have just left the wasp alone.
Thank you for reading this trail update! I hope you enjoyed some of the pictures and stories from the trail. My next post will be my final one. I want to thank all of you reading in advance. I know that sometimes my content can be repetitive, but I think that it best represents the trail. Hiking (thru-hiking especially) is a repetitive action. This is one reason that I think so many people quit. There are times where it just gets boring. So to all of you who continued reading even when there were some boring posts… THANK YOU! I appreciate the support. Until my final post, remember to keep wandering in your own direction.
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