Possum and Ukelady Tear Up Week Two
Grace a.k.a. “Ukelady” here, bringing you up-to-date on the hot gossip that is trail life. Mike is busy shaving his head for fear of ticks, so this one’s all from me.
April 3 – 4.3 miles
Today was a surprise nearo for us – a day where you don’t walk many miles. We spent a slow and comfy morning at Neel Gap, then spent a while talking through how to work better as a team. It’s easy to get caught up and carried away with the little things while out here, because there really aren’t many big things to worry about. You walk, you eat, you set up camp and things are really pretty simple. So we talked through our frustrations and ended up having a really nice afternoon.
We did panic briefly when it turned out we had walked past both of the water sources listed in our guidebook, but our guardian angel/trail friend Pops appeared out of nowhere to point out a small stream that the ATC lists, but AWOL doesn’t. So water was found, camps were set up, risotto was had and ukuleles were played. Plus Possum built his first real fire, so it was a good night.
April 4 – 7.2 miles
Trail magic is amazing. Our hike today was fine but windy as hell, and halfway through our daily miles we saw a sign for trail magic and a couple of tables set up. Art, Greg and some other volunteers from a Christian singles ministry were serving a lunch of hot dogs, hamburgers, snacks and veggies.
One of my big selfish worries was that as a vegetarian I would just be watching my friends indulge in these beautiful displays of magic the trail is known for, but this group had tons of veggies so I stuffed a couple hot dog buns with avocados and tomatoes and the like and was happy as a clam. It was really an awesome surprise, and it’s wonderful that people create these beautiful opportunities for joy.
April 5 – 7.3 miles
Overconfidence will kill you out here. Today was gorgeous and we flew through the first five miles of our hike, so we got ambitious and decided to hike farther than our original plan for the day. That’s when we entered a rocky death trap. I had always heard that Pennsylvania was full of rocks, but Georgia’s been so rocky that I no longer have any idea what to expect when we get up north.
Today, Possum was betrayed by rocks. Usually he loves them: loves climbing them, jumping off them, sunning himself on them. But today they paved a frustratingly tricky path that shut down our optimism pretty thoroughly. As Possum put it: “Rocks… poked holes in our feet where all of the optimism drained out of us.”
So instead of hiking extra, we ended up just hanging out at the shelter from our original plan and spent the night listening to everybody swapping trail stories. We are clearly in the slowest cadre of people, but we’re keeping to our own pace and for the most part are pretty good at not letting it bother us. Our bodies aren’t ready for 10+ mile days yet, but we have time. We’ll get there.
April 6 – 6.1 miles
Some days just suck. To be fair, the day didn’t start out so bad. Our hike was simple, just up and over Blue Mountain, but it was raining. Rain is a killer out here. Any normal hike becomes twice as treacherous when it’s raining, especially because this demon trail is comprised mostly of slippery slidey rocks. At one point our trail dissolved into a bonafide stream, strong enough we could have filled our water bottles from it. Needless to say, our feet were soaked. Neither of us have waterproof shoes, which is usually a good thing because they dry faster, but on this day it just meant we had horribly wet feet. The cold and fear of mold got to me after a while, and I had to stop and put on dry socks in the rain. Not my favorite day on the trail.
We ended up setting up camp in the rain as well, shivery but glad to stop and put dry clothes on. It was our first night camping with no one else around, but we snuggled into our sleeping bags and watched a movie and felt right at home.
April 7 – 6.7 miles
Normally, the last hour of our hike is the hardest. Our muscles ache, our feet are tired and it’s hard to stay motivated when you know how close you are. Today, however, was the opposite. It rained all night and our tent was very wet, both inside and out (apparently your groundcloth shouldn’t extend past the floor of your tent, or the pooled water will flood in). Then as our hike started, we were swarmed by mosquitoes and demonic biting gnats. They really tore at Mike’s neck and our collective spirits, so it was a hard start to our day.
Luckily, and magically, as we approached Tray Gap a man in a camper greeted us warmly with the promise of hot chocolate. He calls himself King Croc and he even went so far as to cook us eggs and sausages when we revealed we hadn’t had a hot breakfast that day. His company and nourishment cheered us right up, and the sun came out right as we continued our hike for the day.
There’s something really validating about getting trail magic, beyond the kindness and the joy of surprise. I think it’s that angels offering trail magic show how seriously they take us and our journey. Sometimes I feel a bit flippant about this incredible undertaking, but it feels more important when other people are out there, going out of their way to support you. It is magical. It helps remind me that what I’m doing is amazing, and makes me extra glad to be out here.
April 8 – 6.3 miles
Today was one of those rare perfect days. The weather was great, the path was pretty easy and our spirits were high. We goofed around a lot, taking ridiculous photos and playing games to break up the day. If every trail day was like this, I’m pretty sure nobody would ever leave.
April 9 – 0 miles!
It’s our first zero day of the hike and it’s been awesome. The dude from the Budget Inn in Hiawassee picked us up at Dick’s Creek Gap and we were in our hotel room before 10 am. Well done, team. It may be a zero day as far as trail miles are concerned, but we did walk about three miles to get resupply groceries and eat at Big Al’s Pizza Buffet. That was maybe the best choice we’ve made all hike, because that pizza was damn delicious and a steal. Now we’re hanging out, getting ready to do laundry and the like. Tomorrow promises thunderstorms, but hopefully we’ll carry our good mood forward from here.
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