The Mountains Get Steeper, the Climbs Get Harder
Day four: 21.2 mile day to Unicoi Gap.
Day five: 17.9 mile day to Dicks Creek Gap @ mile 69.0.
Day six: zero day in Hiawassee.
Day seven: 21.1 mile day to Beech Gap @ mile 90.1.
Day eight: 19.7 mile day to Winding Stair Gap @ mile 109.8.
Day nine: 21.6 mile day to Wesser Bald @ mile 131.4.
Day ten: 20.1 mile day to Stecoah Gap @ mile 150.3.
So starting on day four is really when I got into a groove. I woke up after sleeping nicely in a hostel the night before and embarked on the highest-mile day thus far. On the way I walked through a controlled burn forest fire, which was definitely a first. I encountered some serious trail magic when a man by his lonesome was cooking hot dogs, and had chips, chili, and sodas at a little dirt road crossing. My friend Sam, who I had run into a day ago at a shelter, and I thoroughly indulged before having to climb once again. When I got to the end of that rather event-free day I called the side culvert of a highway home for the night, along with a few other thru-hikers who I later had a bonfire and bonded with.
On to the next day. I was feeling ambitious and set out to get to Dicks Creek Gap so that I could hitch a ride into the town of Hiawassee and avoid the impending storm and freezing cold. While hiking to a mix of aggressive rock and smooth R&B (a weird combo, but one that keeps things interesting), I almost got so lost in the music that I barely avoided stepping on a snake. Luckily Bella didn’t try to eat it or anything. My favorite thing by far today, though, was the all-you-can-eat buffet across the street. Good lord, that was magical.
Day six wasn’t anything special, in fact it wasn’t anything at all. Please do continue to day seven.
Day seven was full of beautiful conversations on a lovely day where the weather was great and life was good. Today, though, I had rallied up the courage to keep up with my new friend Sam, who was keeping up with his friend Jeremy, who he met while on the Florida Trail. In the last miles of the day, however, I rolled my ankle and it did not feel great for a long time after. I took some time, and some Advil, of course, and continued on. The campsite I stayed in this night was filled with a loud and rowdy group of teens. Did not produce a good environment for slumber.
Day eight. Thanks for sticking with me here. I know the day-to-day life can get a little boring but you’re here still so that means something. Again, started off from Franklin to keep up with Sam and Jeremy after staying in the Sapphire Inn in their “cabin suite.” This was merely a shitty, rundown trap house that smelled so thickly of Pine-Sol it could be confused for a frat basement. In Franklin we ate until we were uncomfortable and drank pitcher after pitcher of margaritas at dinner. Found out that the Lazy Hiker brewery is a lot of fun and the beers were delicious.
Sooo, day nine was not a very fun one. The beginning wasn’t too bad, as we started off the day with some power food from the reliable McDonald’s. We had a late start after a night of drinking that brought us to the trail around 10:45 a.m. My ankle really started to bother me today; down goes more Advil. Shout-out to my brother for forcing me to buy a trowel cause it’s the second time now I’ve had to use it. It was a rainy, wet and cold as cold can get day followed by an even colder night.
Day ten brought us waking up in subfreezing rain, forcing a swift and rapid camp cleanup. My ankle still is bugging me but it’s getting better every day, too. The climbs today were absolutely never-ending. Simply punishing. After a long day of demoralizing hiking, we finally made it to the gap where I comfortably write this from a Wendy’s in Robbinsville, N.C., which is sadly a dry town.
All in all, I’ve found the North Carolina climbs and general hiking a hell of a lot harder than what we came across in Georgia. But maybe I’m just tired, who knows. Tomorrow brings the hike into the Great Smokey Mountains. I’ve heard incredible things and can’t wait, but sadly Bella won’t be joining me as the park does not allow dogs. Instead she will be at a kennel getting her rest. Here are some pictures from some good moments on the trek.
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