The Only Brew for the Brave and True Comes From the Green Dragon

Come to find out, trying to write witty, entertaining blog posts after a day of trudging up and down mountains is a bit of a challenge! Most nights I barely have the energy to do my camp chores and socialize with the other hikers, let alone come up with something to write other than “I walked. A lot. It was hard. Still no bear sightings.” But hope springs eternal; let’s give it a shot.

Day 5 – Neel Gap to Low Gap Shelter – 11.6 miles

After shuttling back from Blairsville to Mountain Crossings at the bleary-eyed hour of 7 am, I girded my loins for an 800-foot climb up the mountain. Turns out, taking half a day off, showering, and sleeping in a real bed not only does wonders for the soul, it has some benefits for the legs as well, as this climb wasn’t quite as murderous as I was expecting. Once again the weather was on the foggy side, which was fast becoming my favorite way to hike. At the top of Cowrock Mountain, I took a break to eat lunch and struck up a conversation with a family of day-hikers. They became my first Trail Angels, handing over a couple of tangerines to supplement my lunch of beef jerky and Honey Buns. It’s funny how much you start to crave fresh fruits and vegetables on a hike; those tangerines were the most delicious things I’d had all day. The little boy of the family asked whether I was really going to walk all the way to Maine, and whether I was sure I had enough money for that. Time will tell, I suppose!

On the way down the mountain, I ran into some other members of the Gooch Group, and we took on the next climb together. This was – or at least it felt like it was – the steepest climb yet of the trip. At nearly 900 feet of ascent per mile, it was a hell of a slog to the top. I briefly considered calling it a day at Whitley Gap Shelter, but it’s over a mile off the trail and I didn’t feel like adding that many steps to my day, and the following morning as well. So I pressed on another 4 miles to Low Gap Shelter, where I fell asleep almost before I’d finished eating dinner.

Day 6 – Low Gap Shelter to Blue Mountain Shelter – 7.4 miles

After the long day yesterday, I decided to take a short (ish) day with less than 8 miles. Boy did the weather make up for that. It was incredibly windy the entire hike, the kind of 30 mph winds that cut through you and turn your sweaty clothes into a wearable ice bath. I eventually put on my rain jacket just to cut the wind, and doggedly kept climbing to the top of the mountain. I ran into a ridgerunner who obligingly informed me that it was supposed to be very cold overnight, and that the shelter I was heading to was likely to be full. There’s not much of a response possible to that except to keep walking, so I huffed and puffed my way to the shelter, where there were luckily a few campsites left. I set up my tent as fast as I could and huddled into my quilt to warm up. There were several people I knew already there, but the wind was keeping most of us confined to our tents. Right before sunset, it actually started to snow – nothing near enough to stick, but enough to make me tighten the guy lines on my tent and boil some water to make a Nalgene hot water bottle to go inside my quilt.

Day 7 – Blue Mountain Shelter to Unicoi Gap – 2.4 miles

Here was the day I’d been waiting for – my first hostel stay! I’d reserved a bunk at the Green Dragon, which had first caught my notice for its Tolkien-inspired name, and secondly for all the great reviews on Far Out. It was a pretty easy downhill hike to the gap from the shelter, and I half-expected to need to wait until 3 or 4 pm to be let into the hostel, but Donna, one of the owners, picked me up at Unicoi Gap at noon and drove me right over. It was a delightful setup inside, and the shower I took after the cold night on top of the mountain felt like the best shower of my life. I quickly booked another stay with them a couple days down the trail. Donna brought me and a few other lodgers into Hiawassee that afternoon to resupply, then drove us over to a restaurant where our main stipulation was that the food be something other than rice and protein bars; it was an absolute feast! The next morning, Donna served us french toast and bacon for breakfast and her husband Bill drove us back to the trail.

Day 8 – Unicoi Gap to Addis Gap – 11.2 miles

I’d been warned that this section contained the most challenging part of the AT’s Georgia section, and it did not disappoint. We started out with a steep climb up Rocky Mountain, then got a brief downhill respite before slingshotting right up Tray Mountain, a grueling 2.6 mile trudge. I was glad for the return of the sun, though, for the air was crisp and the clear sky gave us some gorgeous views once we finally got to the top. Thankfully the second half of the hike wasn’t as tough, and I arrived at the Addis Gap campground looking forward to going back to the Green Dragon the next night. The chilly weather was still hanging around, so the other hikers and I built a fire and toasted our frozen toes.


Day 9 – Addis Gap to Dick’s Creek – 5.4 miles

The day dawned cold and breezy, which kept me motivated to keep moving up Kelly Knob, the last 4000 footer in Georgia. I passed some beautiful collections of needle ice along the way.

Once the sun could reach both sides of the ridge, however, the air quickly warmed and I shed my cold-weather layers. Right before I got to Dick’s Creek Gap, I came upon my favorite water source yet: a little waterfall coming down the hill with a green wooden bench beside it. I stopped for a snack and then finished up the day by getting picked up by Donna at the Gap to spend another night at the Green Dragon.

As luck would have it, I discovered another lodger was also a hockey fan! We talked about our favorite teams’ respective best players and chances to win the big one this year, and we both agreed that while of course we want our teams to win….can they just put it off till next year when we can actually watch them? (We are true and loyal fans, we swear!)

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Comments 1

  • George : Apr 25th

    I think this is complete shot. Get out my phone


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