Neel’s to Unicoi and a Zero in Helen

Day 8 – Smiles Not Miles – Taking The Blue Trails

Before the sun had even decided to rise from its slumber, we found ourselves on a 7:30am. shuttle back to Neels gap (mile 31.3 of the AT).

As we waited for mountain crossings to open so we could aquire fuel, we had a celebrity encounter with Orange Cat. This oft’ elusive furry beauty came right up to greet our shuttle. He was being extra sweet, begging for affection (or more likely tuna).

After our extended visit with the handsome fur boy, we made our ‘purrrrrchases’ and hiked right through the arch and back into the wilderness.

The Hike

For today, we started our ascent straight up into a cloud, walked a few miles before coming across some trail magic with hot food,

and then decided to head to a shelter rather than stealth camp. (We did it all for the privy).

At shelter, we made food and a fire (warmth, camper cologne, and bug repellant). I had soup for dinner and Naan bread. I even toasted the bread over the open fire, which made it taste amazing!

It was a warm night, low of 46 but up to 40mph winds. Tara, err Flamethrower, and I are sleeping in the shelter. Another thru-hiker from Michigan is nearby. One other person was at the camp, an older guy, but he didn’t say ‘hi’ before heading to his tarp tent, so we’ll just call him Hermit.

That day, we did just over 8-miles with 2300ft of elevation gain to get to Whitley Shelter (we took a few side trails for water, and Whitley is 1.2 miles off the AT). So we’re only officially at AT Mile 38. Tomorrow, after we walked the 1.2 miles back to the trail, we’ll continue on and pass the official 45-mile mark.

Day 9 – A Brush With Noro

When we woke up at the shelter this morning, we learned that the guy from Michigan, who we shared the campsite with, suspected he developed norovirus symptoms in the night. We’re so glad he stayed in his tent. We also briefly met Hermit as he cooked his breakfast.

So far, we’re feeling healthy, but I spent the day picking (and eating) wild peppermint just in case.

We’re also stepping up our hand washing game and duel treating water. It seems that Norovirus is extremely widespread right now, and there are cases on the trail. We debated going to a hostel but because of this we’re thinking a hotel will be a safer choice for Helen.

Overall, we’re getting stronger by the day. We were talking about how we no longer feel the massive weight of our packs as we hike day-after-day. In fact, it feels weird when we put it down and walk around without it. Sorta like sea-legs, just pack-legs.

Day 9 – Continued – We Are The 2%, Well Sorta.

Today, we crossed the 45-mile mark on the AT (side trail miles don’t count but would likely be over 50 by now). We’ve officially completed 2% of the trail! We’ve also completed over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Still no blisters and my ankle is better. I also have a newfound appreciation for KT-tape. Lots of trail magic today, by the same group we received magic from yesterday, except now it’s at the next road.

We are stealth camping tonight (random unnamed campsite). After collecting wood I decided it was just too windy to start a fire safely, so we’re hunkered down in our tents. The bear bag has been hung, the bear canister hidden, catholes dug. We’re rocking this (we hope).

Tomorrow, we’re heading to town to hide out from the super cold weather and high winds. We’ll be going to Helen a “German” village in the mountains. I’m hoping to find a giant pretzel with grainy mustard and some sausages (also a shower and laundry).

Today, we did 8.7 miles with 1800 feet of gain. We could have gone further, but we lost the light. Tomorrow, we only have about 7 miles with 1200 ft of gain until we can get to town.

Day – 10 – Enjoying My ‘Trip’

We’re at Mile 52.2 (Unicoi Gap). Beautiful day only 7 miles and 1200ft of gain to the road where we got picked up and taken to town. We caught a ride with Jive Turkey (who has completed the AT, as well as most of the PCT and a lot of the CDT).

Noro is definitly on the trail despite us literally being told by the sick guy that it wasn’t Noro, 2 hours later he was puking his guts out and finally acknowledged he was quite sick. I hope you are recovering and we’re glad you made it off the trail under your own power! We’ve since heard of folks needing rescues.

From Unicoi, most hikers take the free shuttle to Hiawassee and once there they enjoy the free Monday-night hiker meal, instead we went to Helen for the German food. And indulge, I did!

Picture this: a giant pretzel the size of my head, not one, not two, but three types of mouthwatering sausage, tangy red cabbage, and heavenly spatzel. Oh, and did I mention the beer? That’s right, a perfect pint of frothy goodness to wash it all down. It was like a symphony of flavors in my mouth. Bravo, bratwurst!

Speaking of giant pretzels I took an epic fall on some rocks today. My first fall of the trip and let’s just say I didn’t disappoint (regardless of what the Russian judge says). I was in a very rocky area near Blue Mountain, but it was fairly flat. I was talking to some people and accidently kicked a rock which somehow landed right in front of my foot. That rock got jammed up against the next rock and completely arrested my foot’s forward motion.

I was about mid-step when this happened and my momentum (and my pack’s momentum) were moving forward quickly. It was like being pushed from behind by the 30lb pack. My poles weren’t in the right position to save me so I ended up being thrown flat spread-eagle on the rocks in front of me. But somehow my legs were also twisted up in awkward positions.

So now I can update my minor catalog of injuries to include scratches to both hands, a blood blister on my pinky finger, a sore palm, and an immediate bruise the size of a AT blaze that was visible as soon as I stood up.

Now, to give credit where credit is due, I did try to be a hero. I threw my body between my backpack and the treacherous rocks, ensuring its safety. I’m pleased to report my backpack made it through unscathed.

The Healing Powers of Youth (and Epsom Salt)

After my fall, I became an instant celebrity on the trail. About eight hikers witnessed my majestic tumble and the subsequent bruise. About an hour after I fell I stopped to look at my leg and the bruise was gone (just some redness and swelling in its place – wild!). When I finally caught up to some fellow hikers at the top of the mountain, they marveled at my resilience. “Ah, to be young and heal quickly,” they said. Little did they know, I’m not exactly in my twenties, but hey, let’s keep that secret between us, shall we?

As I soak my battle-worn body in an Epsom salt bath, reflecting on the adventures of the day, I can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment. Sure, I fell flat on my face (quite literally), but I also enjoyed a feast fit for a king and entertained my fellow hikers with my grace and acrobatic skills.

Feeding My Battered Body.

Ok, back to the food, OMG I was so hungry. I attacked our pretzel and sausage dinner with gusto. Flamethrower, on the other hand was just looking on in shock and horror – and at one point tried to appease me with more spatzel. I did get full eventually, so I don’t think this counts as full on hiker hunger – but still an impressive showing.

Time For An Extra Zero

Today was a cold one due to the wind which is why we’re in town. And we’re so tired we decided an extra day in town to get our chores accomplished would suit us well. So we’re zeroing. As for me, pretty much anything for more sausages and pretzels. We also expect to Zero in a couple of days, but then we will head to Hiawassee.

Day 10 – Final Thoughts

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Perhaps more falls, more incredible meals, or even a surprise encounter with a forest fairy. Whatever it may be, I’m ready to face it with laughter and a slightly bruised ego (err leg).

Day 11 – The Toga-Wearing Hiker

We zeroed in Helen, GA and let me tell you, it was quite the day. First things first, we fueled up with a hotel breakfast. Eggs, sausages, biscuits and gravy. Then Flamethrower took all our clothing to the laundramat,  while I hung out in a blanket toga eating grapes and writing my last blog post.

Lunchtime rolled around and we stumbled upon a pub. Who could resist? A burger and a cold beer later, we were feeling like true hiking champions. Except our appetites failed us and we could barely eat, no idea why but as soon as we ate a little bit we were full.

But the chores must go on! From there it was on to food shopping and a visit to the local bakery.

Because what’s a day without indulging in some tasty treats, right? Oh, and let’s not forget about my new rope for the bear hang. You see, my previous one was too thin and was causing me all sorts of trouble. So I picked up a new one in town. Gotta keep those bears at bay, you know?

Now, folks, let’s talk about exhaustion. We were so drained from our day of adventure that we decided to call it an early night. We need our beauty sleep before catching a 7:30am shuttle back to the trail.

And let me tell you, this next leg of the journey is no joke. Three big climbs – 16.8 miles, 4828ft ascent, 5115ft descent. Are we crazy? Maybe a little. But hey, that’s what makes this journey so exhilarating. See you on the trail!

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Comments 4

  • Thunder Road : Mar 23rd

    Good stuff!

    It’s fun following your adventure, thanks for sharing !

  • Hannah aka “Hazey” : Mar 24th

    Nice catchup on your last few days! Great to read! Loving your stay in Helen — I am GA native to the NE part of the state. Living only 20 minutes from Helen and 35 from the trailhead start. So I was super pleased to see ya stop off in Helen instead of Hiawassee.
    GREAT choice on the Biergarten! Can’t go wrong with the open seating in the courtyard. My buddies run that bar, so hope they treated you like the queens you are!

  • AmaSue : Mar 25th

    OMG…lmbo, so glad you were able to save your pack from the fall. I am enjoying your posts and following your adventures, looking forward to each one.

  • Sylvia : Mar 30th

    Greetings! I’m really enjoying hearing about your adventures. Your posts are a great escape for those of us following along. You are inspiring me to do more hiking! Thank you and keep up the awesome progress!


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