Hiking the AT from Unicoi to Rock Gap

Day 12 – Leaving Unicoi

9.7 miles, 3,000+ ft of ascent (one really long lunch), a stealth campsite at the ‘Swag of the Blue Ridge’, and a nice campfire to keep the bugs away. All-in-all, a pretty good day.

We were told by our 7:30 a.m. shuttle driver that this is the toughest terrain on the AT in Georgia, I also read that where we are sleeping is one of the most remote parts of the trail (again in this state). Arriving to the gap, you see a steep trail leading up the mountain, Tara saw that a few days ago and wanted a picture.

Two mountain summits today (Rocky mtn and Tray mtn). Tomorrow we have two more. Only 7.5 miles and 1,800ft of gain till we can go to town tomorrow. (We need to ride out some wet weather again)

We’re getting stronger and faster every day. I don’t think either of us would have survived this hike on day one. Oh, and we had to carry about three liters (7.6lbs) of extra water for the last three to four miles because there were very limited water options where we were heading, unless we wanted to walk down steep side trails.

Day 13 – The Swag of the Blue Ridge to Dick’s Creek to Hiawassee

So we made it to Dick’s Creek Gap approx. mile 70 (69.4). It was a 7.5-mile walk from our last campsite with only 1,850 feet of gain. We got moving just after 9:00 a.m., expecting an easy day, but it turns out that with me eating a light dinner and nearly no breakfast, I was completely bonked. Instead of leading, I fell behind walking slowly and nibbled on some snacks to restore my depleted energy.

What in the Cocaine Bear is Going On?

Flamethrower must have been very confused when about 45 minutes after we started, not only did I close the distance between us, I went flying past her – saying something like “Met bear, bought Cocaine, byeeeeeieeee” (These are the Mountains of Cocaine bear. Ok, we passed that mountain 30 miles ago, but still). In truth, I had scarfed some gummi bears, sour neon worms, and yogurt almonds, and my body was on a sugar high. It lasted until the cruel, cruel Kelly’s Knob stole all my forward momentum.

That mountain was absolutely brutal, and I’m pretty sure it was the steepest thing we’ve climbed yet. It was also unique because it wasn’t rocky, so we were climbing flat dirt trails – at one point, it was so steep I thought I might end up sliding backward. My slide was only arrested by some well-placed tree roots. Typically, anything that steep is accompanied by a rope.

The Race is On, Then Off.

After that, we were racing the clock to get to the 2 pm shuttle. But after a few miles of keeping up the pace I was feeling far too hot in the sun and warm to keep up the charge for another three miles (we had also fallen a few minutes off pace and expected to get to the shuttle by about 10-15 minutes too late at this point with the next one 3.5 hours later).

So Flamethrower and I took a detour down a blue side trail to the Powell Mountain Vista and sat there and had a good restful lunch break. We took our shoes off and drank most of our remaining water (water has been hard to get and limited in this section (500 feet straight down off a trail or .5 miles off the trail)). I’m really happy we did that. It felt like the experience I’ve been looking for from the AT. And my now rebonked-body needed a break.

About Food

We eat all day, and we’re sick of eating. I’m shoveling candy, nuts, chocolate-covered fruit, bars, rice crispy treats, cheese sticks, etc. down my throat all day long. We’re both still losing weight so much that it’s visible to us on our bodies already (even with our zero days and nearo days. Even when we go to town, we try to eat more, but sometimes our bodies thwart us again (thinking about the burgers in Helen that we just couldn’t eat).

Anyway, back to the story, so we finally got off the trail following our break with a new slower pace around 3:30. I saw some people and a dog I knew at the campsite at the trailhead but was too out of it to go down and say “hi.”  My blood sugar was probably crazy low, and I was in a daze.

Without a Hitch

We tried to hitchhike but failed again. Then, a shuttle driver showed up and offered to take us to a different town, but eventually took us to the hostel around the bend (just 0.4 miles down the road) where we were hoping for better hitchhiking prospects, and we needed to stop there anyway because Flamethrower had two packages sent there. They also had an outfitter.

Getting Unbonked

Flamethrower got her packages, and I bought some resupply food and a Reeses (the Reeses didn’t make it out of the store, and soon my blood sugar rebounded and I began to feel normal). Then I chatted with the outfitter about our difficulties with hitchhiking. He told us the secret that no woman wants to hear – “Smile and look happy.” Upon reflection, we were also so exhausted we may have been failing to smile.

Soon we tested this new advice and got picked up by the second car to drive by. It was a pickup truck. He told us that the back seats were full, but we could ride in the bed of the Truck. OMG, I’ve never done this before. So we threw in our gear and got going. And after the initial terror wore off it was amazing!

The Ride

Wind blowing the trail stink off our exhausted bodies, and absolutely thrilling carnival ride with no track down twisty mountain roads. No seat belts (ok, that part scared me a bit). But it was amazing, and we had a great time. He dropped us straight off at the hotel yay, no walk, then proceeded to tell us about his hikes on the AT. He’s done most of Georgia and parts of NC.

Planning Our Escape.

We’re 18 miles from the NC border so we’ll be finishing GA soon. We traded phone numbers (at his request) and he asked us to check in to let him know how we were doing. He did text me later in the night with a long line of hiking and gear questions.

So once we got into the room we unpacked and washed our filthy hands and faces (all hygiene had gone out the window and, like we were told but didn’t believe, we were too tired to care). Then didn’t even shower before hitting the town.

A Second Ride

Next, in a second unexpected twist, we were walking out of our hotel room and the woman in the room next door offered to give us a ride in the back of her minivan, we weren’t even smiling (seats were down but we just rode in a bed of a pickup, so now we’re down for anything). She dropped us at the restaurant and offered us further rides if needed.

A Cafe with Friends

So at the restaurant, our arrival got cheered on by three other hikers who were sitting at the bar. We had spent some time with them earlier in our expedition. We chatted and grabbed a table nearby. I promptly ordered a cider and a pretzels with cheese and mustard appetizer. Flamethrower showed impressive restraint and started her meal with a salad. Soon both appetizers were demolished however my appetite failed me and I was too full to go on. So I ordered a single Philly cheesesteak taco while Flamethrower ate the Bierra Tacos meal.

More Hikers Arrive

As we were eating a few other hikers we knew walked in and said hi before retreating to the porch to eat in the sun. Eventually, we took our beverages and joined them. We chatted about the hike and how it was compared to expectations. We also made plans to meet the next day for more food and drinks. This feels like a cross between college and camp – I like it.

Snacks and Salts

It was starting to get a bit cold by this point, so we said our goodbyes and made our way to the local grocery store for room snacks and Epsom salts. Knowing I’d be hungry again soon I attacked the olive bar for vinegary snacks and bought chips and a sushi roll. Also, some trail snacks include more gummi bears (err. trail named “cocaine bears,” jellybeans, camp dinners and cheese crisps. I’ll have to shop more on Friday, but I figured this would be a good start.

Snacks and Showers

We walked back to the room with our precious food and Epsom salts and took our much-deserved and long-awaited showers and baths. While flamethrower was soaking, I ate my olives and sushi then once she rested we chatted in bed while I continued to eating chips and a small handful full of jellybeans to tie me over till morning.

Now for the best part. I slept completely through the night and didn’t even wake up to pee. This is amazing. Most nights between the cold and the 12-hour nights I wake up a few times for relief but last night with the warm I didn’t have to.

Day 14 – Hiawassee Zero & Double zero

The day began with a serendipitous second meeting with the lady next door and her adorable and tiny dog named Shotgun Annie Oakley.

Can we take a moment to appreciate that awesome name? The neighbor kindly offered us a ride to breakfast at the Huddle House, where we feasted, fueling up for the day’s antics. (Or more likely trying desperately to compensate for our extreme nutritional deficiencies. We’re probably only eating 1/2 the calories we need to and it’s difficult to compensate. We’ve both noticeably lost weight already. (Insert an awkward monologue about me gripping at the diminished chonk around my waist and being surprised by the missing love handles).

After our hearty breakfast, we embarked on the mundane chore of laundry. Except you really don’t have spare clothing out here so I wore my puffy on top and shorts on the bottom, nothing else but my camp sandals. While dressed in this fashion it seemed a perfect time to go to Dollar Tree and stock up on snacks and supplies. After laundry (and a quick clothing change in the laundromat’s bathroom we were off). Tara visited the outfitter for fuel and I went to the supermarket to round out my food supplies.

Leaving our Mark

With a spring in our step (a very creaky, painful spring, at least for my knees and ankles) and clean clothes in our packs, we decided to leave our mark on Hiawassee. Literally. We signed our names on the town square board, forever immortalizing our presence in this charming little town – or at least until they come out and clean the dry-erase marker off the hiker board. Move over Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hiawassee’s board is where it’s at.

Having accomplished our chores for the day, we sought out some dinner and entertainment. Ok, actually I was completely exhausted and dragged my body out while it was practically kicking and screaming to stay in bed. It ended up being worth it. We stumbled upon at least 20 hikers at the local brewery, compete with tarot readings and a live band. We laughed, we ate, and we sang our hearts out, creating fun ‘hiking’ memories.

Knee Pain All Around

It turns out that nearly all the hikers at the bar were planning to double zero here. Something I sheepishly mentioned to the non-aching Tara on the way to the bar. Everybody, but Tara, also has significant knee and ankle aches after the three big climbs in that last 16+ mile section. It is also ‘heartwarming’ that everybody else also hated Kelly’s Knob, the last of the three mountains. We saw it in the distance and there was some intense cursing and other words levied at this mountain that just seemed to go straight up.

Right now, the overall trail advice is to not push it for now. Have fun, “low miles equals smiles,” and stuff like that. We’re still being told to keep our daily mileage under double digits and to focus on having fun and not getting hurt. We need to keep that in mind as we’re going to push through the next 40 miles of wilderness to Franklin. Plenty of folks are moving faster, but when we encounter them, they aren’t in trail families and don’t seem as happy as the ‘slower’ crowd.

Day 16 -Dick’s Creek to PlumOrchard.

Hey there, lovely people of the Internet! Happy Sunday! I can just picture all of you still snuggled in your cozy beds while I’m out here prepping for more hiking adventures. We gave ourselves a lil’ break in Hiawassee to let our poor bodies recover from the beating they took on the last leg of the trail. All of us, that is, except Flamethrower – that CrossFit warrior seems impervious to sore knees! But at least 20 other hikers double-zeroed here to recover from that last brutal stretch.

On the Trail Again

So, this morning started with the ever too early 7:30 a.m. alarm blaring its disapproval. I grudgingly dragged myself out of bed and managed to stuff some leftover grub in my mouth to prevent any mid-hike bonking. Thankfully, today’s agenda looks easy enough just a leisurely 4.7 miles with a ‘casual’ 1,600 feet of elevation gain.

The Plan

Tonight, we’re aiming to crash at a shelter unless we’re overtaken by a sudden urge to press on. The weather gods have decided we should start this hike in a “balmy” 28°F, complete with a wind advisory to make things extra exciting. Looks like I’ll be layering up with all my clothing until it hits a toasty 60 later on – where I might be hiking in shorts and a t-shirt These temperature swings are giving me whiplash.

Day 17- PlumOrchard to Muskrat

Today I woke up early and packed, it was so very windy I used a tree-assist to breakdown my tent (I always pick it up and try to dump leaves and debris out of it before packing it for the day). So today I let the wind lift it gently into the nearby tree trunk so I could dump it out.

Kneed to Go

Flamethrower was still making breakfast, but because my knee had been bad, I decided to go ahead. I hike faster than Flamethrower, but my knee is jacked up. So today I need to hike my knee’s hike not my group’s hike. I didn’t know if this would mean that I’d be ahead all day or if they’d catch up. This also likely means we’ll be crossing the first major state milestone alone.

One Down 13 To Go

I actually made really good time to the North Carolina border. Then I got to climb Sharp Top followed immediately by Courthouse Bald. These made Kelly’s Knob seem gentle. I had some words for these mountains that I’d rather not repeat here, let’s just say I was less than enthused by the nearly straight up climb that notably lacked the switchbacks I had gotten used to in Georgia.

Getting Blown Off the Mountain

To make matters worse, the wind seemed to get progressively worse. Nearly blowing us off the mountain. The weather called for 45mph gusts with potential for higher in the mountains. At one point I rested my poles against a tree and the wind blew them down and they nearly fell off a steep cliff. I barely caught them with a fraction of a second to spare.

I made it to camp in reasonable time. 7.5 miles 3,000ft of gain. I was pretty beat by the end. Flamethrower made it about 90 minutes after I had arrived. Thankfully, I got there early because I managed to save her a spot in the shelter. We are due for rain starting at midnight and going till about midnight tomorrow. We may zero here.

Still Not Eating Well

As for food today, I didn’t eat breakfast and didn’t even eat until after Sharp Top, where I started to bonk. Even then, it was still a light snack. I tried to eat at the shelter but wasn’t very hungry. It was supposed to be 60°F, but it wound up being colder with crazy wind. I need to eat more, but at least I have spare food, so we can zero tomorrow.

Now that we’re at the shelter, we’re settled down. Six of us are sleeping in here, and there are a lot of tents on the outside. With the heavy rain expected, we’re worried about the folks in tents. Hopefully, they are in good positions to survive the storms and the lightening. Some folks are hoping to make the five miles, 1,000ft gain run to the next shelter tomorrow. I don’t think it’s worth it in exchange for getting soaked.

Coldness From Below

I’m snuggled down in my quilt, and it’s nice and warm, but occasionally getting a cold breeze. My butt and legs were very cold by the time I went to bed. I didn’t realize how cold they’ve been getting. I need to pay more attention to keeping my bottom half warm through exercise before sleep.

Day 18 – Muskrat –

Morning update – The Ghost

It took hours for my butt to finally get warm. I woke up three times to pee. The first time I saw a large mouse, I ran by my head twice across the front of the shelter. The third time, I discovered something large next to my head that wasn’t there when I went to sleep. It turns out it was shoes. It seems that a seventh person showed up in the night and was laying across the front of the shelter. I was able to crawl around him after I found my now displaced toilet paper and pee cloth. Then, once the deed was done, I quickly returned to my warm quilt and pad.

Trapped In

An hour later, Flamethrower woke up, took stock of her circumstances (she was completely blocked in), so I scooted up and encouraged her to crawl over my pad for freedom. But by this time, the new addition had sat up, so she was now able to get out more easily. He was like a ghost, came in the night, left early in the morning. I never would have known he was there had I not needed to pee. He had nothing but a super thin blanket to sleep in, I was worried he would freeze.

Rain delay zeroing at Muskrat Creek “Sheeter”

Today, the wind was still horrendous, and the rain started overnight. That made for fun times trying to pee in the ‘wee’ hours. As I mentioned in the post for yesterday, the Ghost hiker appeared to sleep and then disappeared first thing in the morning. The creepiest thing was that he clearly got within inches of my face and head, and I was completely oblivious. But since he wasn’t a bear, a mouse, or an axe murderer, I guess it’s ok. Actually, I’ll be only sure about the first two…

So Much Rain

As the morning progressed, it was completely gross outside. The mountain was enveloped in a cloud, so a cold wet mist was on everything. Plus, the rain was intense at times turning the ground to puddles of mud.

Extra Space

Eventually a few folks from the shelter decided to leave, a few went on to the next shelter, others planned to go to the next road and catch a ride. Slip&slide, and our red-haired Viking buddies came over from their tents and brought their sleeping pads and blankets to hang out with us. Much cuddling was threatened as it was verrryy cold with that wind just cutting right though our layers. Eventually, Cool Breeze, Underhill, and Kegstand showed up and made breakfast. They decided they wanted to make a go for it when it looked like there would be a break in the weather.

Hair and Laundry

In the intervening time, Kegstand braided Flamethrower’s hair and our Viking’s hair. Then when the time to depart came it was discovered that Kegstand’s bag of dry clothing was missing. We determined that a lady who was set up next to it and was leaving in a hurry to catch a shuttle four miles away must have accidently grabbed it. So the chase was on. I do think they were able to catch her, but I’m waiting for final confirmation. Also, despite them suggesting there would be a break in the weather the rain seemed worse after they left. I hope they are dry and warm somewhere tonight.

At that point there were three of us left in the shelter. Me, Flamethower, and Ale. We met Ale at PlumOrchard, it turns out she was part of a trail family, but it recently split up due to different hiking speeds. We hung out and chatted. And told her about our other cult, that’s totally not a cult (wink wink). hahaha

I spent the day trying to eat – bars, rice crispy treats, candy, pho and bean thread noodles, and jerry-rigged tomato soup and naan. unfortunately, probably still not enough calories. But I tried. We spent most of the day freezing and hiding under blankets while soaking wet people came into the shelter to eat and then leave.

More Friends

A couple from Ontario came and asked to stay in the shelter, so we made room. They were soaked straight through their clothing, even their rain gear. They quickly changed into dry clothing, but they just looked so cold it really reinforced our decision to stay. A few more folks came through and reported getting hailed on.

If Looks Could Kill

A guy that the Ontario couple recognized came to the shelter to eat. He asked them to tell his girlfriend that he left for the next shelter once she arrived. About 20 minutes later, she arrived soaked and bewildered looking. They told her what he said.  If looks could kill… after that she stopped to eat, then pressed on after him. I’ll let you know if we hear about a murder; if so, I’m pretty sure it was deserved.

Meanwhile, still hiding in the shelter we started to joke about telling scary camp stories. That’s when Flamethrower and I both said in unison that the scariest thing we could think of would be if that obnoxious guy came back.

“That Obnoxious Guy”

Yesterday, a guy at our campsite was just sitting in the shelter talking loudly over everybody and just not shutting up. If the privy had a door, I could have found volunteers to have locked him in there. But nope, just hours of him not shutting up.

Oh, as to be expected, he was also wrong about stuff. He was talking about mountain lions and panthers out here. Yes ‘and’ oh there are black panthers… Newsflash, no mountain lions in this region, panther is another name for mountain lions, and no black mountain lions have ever been found. It got worse from there.

Snacks and a Furry Friend

As we hung out, I made instant pho broth and bean threads and ate that to warm up. We were all hiding in our blankets at this point, just chatting away. There was no cell phone service in the shelter, so we had to talk to each other. I’ll admit I’m a bit rusty. It was really too cold and windy to do almost anything else. When dinner rolled around, we saw Lee and Dog (Cujo) surface from their hammock.

Ale and Cujo .

Cujo was very happy with Flamethrower’s offerings of pumpkin seeds and cheese. She proceeded to follow her with her wide-open eyes, eventually settling for some bench time with Flamethrower, where they cuddled and dog got all the love in exchange for sharing her body heat. She was a happy pup.

Lee, Dog’s owner, took some time to make instant potatoes by boiling water over a solid fuel stove. The cool thing about her stove was that she always knows how much fuel she has left. Ale ran out of fuel. Two nights ago, she cooked over the fire, and I didn’t realize it was because she didn’t have fuel. Today, I boiled us some water. My fuel canister feels a little light, but I think it’s ok. I just bought it in Hiawassee. I guess if I run out, I can always cook over a fire since I’m apparently good at making them.

An end in sight?

As the day progressed, the radar looked like the storm would pass by 4:00 p.m. We talked about making a run for the next shelter, but in the end, we decided that we should stay. The trail is soaked and slippery. And then, close to 6:00 p.m., the wind was suddenly gone, and the sun started peeking through the clouds, and it felt warmer.

Flamethrower and I started walking around the campsite. She was looking for pretty things to photograph while I was looking for a signal. at one point, I texted her that I was going long to go look at the view / sunset on a ridge. So she came out in the mud with her Crocs to join me. Reportedly, the Crocs were very comfortable. I was worried she would slip and break an ankle. But it turned out I was the only one to go sliding…

Not the best view

The sunset was less than climactic. everything, but the sun was shrouded by clouds. We did get a few good pictures of the woods looking spooky. then returned to the sheeter (yup, the sign for the shelter says “sheeter,” and we’re here for it).

And that’s it. There is no sign of our Ghost tonight and, so far, no mouse either. (I saw him last night…) No moon yet, either. It’s super dark, at least, for now, this means nobody will see me pee.

Day 19 – Wednesday update

Today, we took on an ambitious hike of 12.5 miles, 2,300 feet of gain (and some side trails that don’t count to our official mileage). If I managed to post this, then Flamethrower was too tired to kill me in my sleep.

Standing Indian

So the plan was to catch up with our bubble at Standing Indian Shelter about five miles forward and a 1,000 ft of elevation gain. Then, join them at the next shelter. We tried to leave early, but it was too cold, so by the time we finally got in gear and walked the five miles, our friends had already departed. So, instead of meeting our friends at the campsite, we met a group of section hiking college kids who were still packing up.

Beary Hungry

Eventually, I asked if they had run into “the fellowship” and how they were doing. This is where we learned that not only did they have some major issues getting the dry clothing bag returned, their campsite was also visited by a bear in the night and their food was purloined by the brute. So they actually called for a shuttle to pick them up nearby and went to town. We must have just missed them as they had to backtrack a mile for the pick-up.

The Bears Are a Lie? Or, Not.

Ironically, when we were passing that same pick-up spot, we ran into a bunch of day hikers and had a conversation about the number of reported bear sightings / food bag thefts in camps. One even reported the bears stealing perfect pct hangs. The day hikers suggested people were lying to scare others away. That made sense at the time, but it was a mile later when we learned that not only were the reports true, but our friends were the ones whose bags were eaten. Uncool bear, but I guess it’s a great story.

At that first shelter, we ate lunch (read: tried to shovel snacks down our throats and often failed) and chatted with a few people who came through. Then, because it was so early in the day, we continued on the 7.5 more miles (1,300ft gain) to Carter Gap Shelter.


We were hoping to catch up with the red viking and Slip&Slide, but they had moved on to the next campground 3.5 miles up because it had a bear box. We got to the shelter about an hour before sunset, and Flamethower would have actually killed me on the spot should I have even suggested going 3.5 more miles.

  1. I was also told that the RedViking made his risotto tonight, but of course, it was all gone, and they were already at that next camp. Flamethrower will find out about this when she reads this. I’ve angered her enough for one day. 😇

Back to our hike. We hiked 12.8 miles with 2,300 ft of gain, 2,400 feet of loss. (Only 12.5 miles count for the AT – we always end up doing a bunch of side trails for views, water, or shelters) This makes today our biggest distance day yet, and we’re in striking distance of the 100-mile mark, which we expect to hit on Thursday. (In unofficial miles, we’ve more than hit 100 already).

Pointless Ups and Downs and Why to Take the Spur Less Traveled

Some people refer to side trails as PUDs (pointless ups and downs), but honestly, they’re pretty great, and we’re really enjoyed doing the extra distance in return for some gorgeous sights. I’ve read that a lot of hikers regret not taking enough blue trails and rushing too fast through the experience.

Speaking of views, on today’s hike, we saw some of our best views yet as we summited Standing Indian Mountain and took the (very worth it) side trail 0.1 miles up to a viewpoint. It’s absolutely stunning. We also ran into the college kids up there again, too. I had changed my shirt since the last time they saw me and one asked if I was a day hiker… no buddy, we just have the wherewithal to not drag our packs up a steep side trail when we’ll just be heading right back down in a few minutes. Ahh, the things you learn when thru-hiking. Overall, the views from the trail were great, but the views from the side trail were the best we’ve had all trips.

Overall, today was a pretty good day (for me – Flamethrower and the Fellowship may feel differently).

Day 20 – Update!

TLDR: So now we’re in town – Franklin, NC. Walked 25 miles in two days, passed the official 100 miles mark, caught an impossible hitch, and ate two dinners.

OMG, we did it!

Actually, we did it twice or thrice! Possibly even more than that. Lots of winning today!

100 Miles

So let’s start with the big one – we scrambled up Albert Mountain and fire tower and reached mile 100! Yay. A bald eagle soared above us shortly after summiting to seal in the majestic moment.

Then, after spending an hour climbing the tower and laying on the rocks in the sun, we moved on. I talked Flamethower’s ear off about going an extra four mile and spending the night in town in a warm bed, eating pizza off a toilet seat (while in an Epsom salt bath).

Horse and Carrot

Apparently, the motivation paid off. We hiked over 12 miles, 2,044 ft ascent (25 miles in two days) so we could shower and eat. But there was a problem, we surfaced near a remote gap with hardly any cell phone signal or traffic. We managed to get a few texts out and found out what our friends were up to.

Getting a Hitch

Then, a pick-up was coming by, and I managed to score us a hitch from a nice older couple. The man lived in North Carolina for his whole 80+ years and used words like ‘younder.’ The woman was originally from Georgia. We chatted a bit, and he used to work with search and rescue locally and even hiked the trail from Georgia to Tennessee many years ago.

We got to trading stories. They were originally just going to drive us to Winding Stair Gap but ended up taking us all the way to Franklin. All based on our charm. (A big thank you to the outfitter guy who reminded us to smile and not look like serial killers when trying to get a ride.)

So our ride eventually dropped us at Burger King, and I immediately told Tara that I’m going to get me some fries. Welp, I got fries, a chicken sandwich and a large vanilla shake – and ate everything. I’ve been struggling to eat on the trail pretty bad, so this was great.

Uber is a Lie, But We Still Need a Ride.

Next, we tried to get a Lyft/ Uber, both were reportedly in the area, and neither was actually functional. No rides came. So we called shuttles from a Hiker app. Tara connected with one guy who couldn’t come but gave us a different drivers number. Less than five minutes later, we were in Solace’s car and on our way to our hotel. Solace hiked the AT in 2004 originally. And has been following the hikers up the trail most years, he works at hostels and doing shuttles. He gave us fist bumps when he found out where we caught a hitch. He was very impressed.

Helping Hikers

Along the way to our hotel, we saw another hiker walking into town, and Solace picked him up too. It turned out the hiker didn’t have the money for a hotel, so he was told about stealth spots in town where others have camped undisturbed. Solace is awesome and didn’t charge anything for the ride. He also offered to drive us around town tomorrow if we needed anything (which we do – resupply, here we come!).

My Kingdom For a Shower

We got to the hotel then got to our room. I found the least stinky clothing in my clothing bag and took my first shower. Many more will follow (I have a lot of making up to do). Oddly, when I first stepped onto the white porcelain tub, a large blackish brown stain exploded into the water (apparently, I was very dirty). I told Tara that the tub was clearly broken. She reportedly had the same experience. Tomorrow, we’re buying Epsom salts and are just gonna soak. We’ll also be doing laundry and eating.

Second Dinner – Pizza!

Oh, and when I got out of the tub, Tara was on her phone ordering pizza, so I asked for feta and spinach cheesy bread with garlic dip. Omg, second dinner, here we go! I almost ate it all. (Midnight update, the cheesy bread is gone.) Then I drank about two liters of water. (I’m so dehydrated. I haven’t been drinking much because I haven’t been eating much – so nice to have solved two problems)

Day 21 – Franklin Zero Day.

It was so nice to wake up in a bed on Friday, it dropped into the low 30’s with wind overnight and instead of hiding out in my tent in the trail I has a real room, indoor plumbing, flush toilets, toilet paper (that I didn’t have to carry), towels, linens, and heat!

Midnight Pizza and Early Morning Church

We stayed up till after midnight (eating pizza and enjoying the joys of technology… omg, Wi-Fi!). Then I woke up to my alarm at 6:45 a.m. because we had to make the 7:15 a.m. shuttle to the Baptist Church. What, you ask? Did they find God on the trail? Nope, but we did find some super friendly people who were going to be feeding us a FREE pancake and bacon breakfast! It also looked like several types of homemade jam, ohhhh, and coffee – not the instant kind. What a morning! Less than an hour later, we were on our way back to the hotel.

I thought i was going to try to sleep more, but that just didn’t happen. Instead, I spent most of the morning reconnecting with the internet before we walked the 10-ish minutes to laundry. The laundromat’s new owner was there checking on things, filling vending machines, and even fixing stuff. He even gave me free orange soda (he wasn’t a trail Angel, just being nice), although since I had an iced tea already, I ended up giving it to Flamethrower.

Laundry Day Style

To do our laundry, we wore our puffies and our rain skirts, nothing else. It always makes for a fun hour, but at least there was a bathroom, so we could ‘change’ in private.

From there, we went back to the hotel, dropped off our laundry, and went to Dollar General to resupply. Also, to buy epsom salts, baking soda, and other room items to help us feel like girls again.

Once in the room, we traded food items. Then, set about removing the packaging from nearly all our food and moving it into zip locks. Packaging is extra weight and extra trash we’d have to carry.

Soaking Away the Pain

Next step: A two hour long Epsom salt bath for me. Through multiple refills of hot hot hotel water. Good news, I finally got the caked on dirt our from under and around my nails. In part because I cut my nails all the way back.

Dinner and a Ride

From there, we tried to convince some friends to meet us for an AYCE asian and sushi buffet, but they weren’t biting. So Flamethower and I made to head over. The trouble was that it was two miles away and the bus wasn’t running due to Good Friday.

We got lucky and ran into trail Angel Stone Legs in the parking lot. He agreed to take us to the restaurant- which happened to be in the same parking lot as the dollar tree and Walmart. After I ate about three plates of food, I lost my appetite. Flamethower may have had a bit more, which was impressive since she also finished the pizza in the hotel room before we left. I have to admit I was jealous. We’ve been struggling to eat after hiking, so this was a huge step forward. And yet even town food isn’t enough to make a dent in our extreme calorie deficits.

After eating, we waddled to Walmart and bought some toiletries and medical items. I bought a new paracord rope for hanging my food, a fresh toothbrush with better bristles, a knee brace, and KT tape) We couldn’t get a ride back, so we walked the two miles. We could hear the ‘shindig’ being put on by the hotel for hikers from about 1/2 mile away. As we got closer, I wondered if it was karaoke or just very bad music.


It was karaoke, they also had food, but we didn’t partake and a nice fire pit. Once in the parking lot, we saw Miss Janet’s van and ran over to say “Hi.” Dexter, her dog, was super excited to see us. Pulling at his lead and barking to try to get to us. What a sweetie. Ms. Janet was engrossed in a conversation, so she admitted that the dog saw and recognized us before she did. We chatted and caught up.

A Ride to Trail

Then we asked if she could do us a favor because the in town shuttle wouldn’t run on weekends and help us get to the trail head in the morning. She agreed, and we planned for her to pick us up after we finished the church breakfast. Who would we be to refuse more pancakes and bacon?

After that, it was time for Flamethrower’s Epsom salt bath while I spent two or three hours straight trying to get my bag together so I’d be ready to leave in the morning. I can’t tell you why it took so long, but I was working, cleaning, and organizing the whole time without a break. It just takes forever to organize and pack my entire life into one 30-ish lb pack.

Eventually, I was done, and it was bedtime. So I set yet another early morning alarm and went to bed. I was diligently making sure all my devices were charging.

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Comments 1

  • Nature Boy : Apr 13th

    Caroline (is there not a trail name as yet?) – thank you for the extensive (and amusing) post! Very glad you and Flamethrower seem to be having a great adventure (to this point – I have to catch up on your tales)! I hope you won’t get discouraged by the amount of rain we’ve been having of late.
    Onwards! And I hope you both stay healthy..


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