The adventure continues on the Appalachian Trail as I hike on from Neels Gap through Georgia.
After the grueling Day 3, I was pleased to wake up on Day 4 feeling refreshed and without knee pain. I don’t know if it was the pizza, the orthopedic gods, or the pharmaceuticals but I’ll take it. One of the hostel staff members said the next section was a good one and he was right. Though I was still nursing some blisters, Michael and I left the hostel and started up a relatively easy ascent into the sunshine.
The weather was beautiful all day. The trail was mostly level with slight inclines and declines. I was skeptical of Michael’s plan to hike over 18 miles to the Blue Mountain Shelter. I wanted to hike 12 to the Poplar Gap campsite. With my knee pain level low most of the day and the terrain pleasant, we pushed through and made it 18.8 miles. The last two were horribly rocky and steep and we were exhausted but we made it. I don’t know who decided to put a shelter on top of a windy mountain. Nevertheless it was a beautiful spot.
The shelter was small and full. For the first time on our trip I pitched my tent and Michael tried out his hammock tent. The temperature is supposed to drop to 20 so hopefully we will stay warm.Today was the best day by far and I’m hoping my injuries will only continue to heal!
Day’s Mileage: 18.8 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 58.7
Remaining Miles: 2,141
We set off around 8am. Several big hills to start but I was feeling good. The sun was out and it was another beautiful day. Without leaves on the trees yet, I eventually got a tinge of sunburn.
Over the last few days we have been following a group of four hikers that joined up and formed what we hikers call a trail family (tramily for short). Their group consists of Gazelle, Nomad, Willow, and Tom. These are all trail names except for the last. Trail names are nicknames hikers use to refer to themselves. Once you have a trail name you seldom use your real name. It becomes your identity on the trail. Sometimes people choose their own, other times they are given to you. I believe Gazelle got hers because she’s so much faster than the rest of the group. Michael and I ended up playing leap frog with them throughout the day.
By midday my knee had a twinge of pain so I indulged in some drugs. This helped but I was definitely putting my body through a lot. We planned to hike over 15 miles and the last two were straight up and down a mountain. I was feeling exhausted by mile 13.
Luckily, we encountered our first bit of trail magic. Trail magic is when some sort of good fortune comes your way on the trail. A middle-aged couple had parked their truck and were giving hikers apples, snickers, Gatorade, oranges, and cream pies. This is exactly what I needed to give me a quick energy and spirit boost. I hadn’t had fresh fruit since I started the trail so the apple was greatly appreciated. I followed it with more fruit by way of a berry-flavored Gatorade, downing it in about two seconds. With the sugar high I was ready to tackle Kelly’s Knob.
Kelly’s Knob was a 1,000-foot ascent and 800-foot descent over two miles. It was brutal. F-U Kelly! Thank god for the trail magic. The day ended at the bottom of the knob where we pitched our tents at Deep Gap Shelter. Whew, what a day!
Day’s Mileage: 15.5 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 74.2
Remaining Miles: 2,125.5
Woke up feeling extremely sore from our long days. Fortunately we planned a short day. It was a mostly downhill walk in the morning sun for 3.6 miles to Dicks Creek Gap. We had arranged a shuttle with our hiker friends, Gazelle, Nomad, Tom, and Willow, to take us into the nearest town of Hiawassee, Georgia.
We all were staying at the Budget Inn which was exactly as described. Michael and I went through our packs and picked out some items we weren’t using and sent them home. Next, we hit the grocery store for food resupply. They say never go to the grocery store hungry. Truer words were never spoken. After trying to lighten our load getting rid of stuff, I more than made up for that weight in food. I probably didn’t need the Cheez-Its, but they were on sale!
We had lunch at Zaxby’s which is a fried chicken chain. It was high calorie, exactly what I needed. I drank three Dr. Peppers with lunch. We bummed around town a bit and tended our blisters before we met up with our hiker friends at the motel and did laundry. The day ended with dinner at Subway and a nice bed to myself. Hopefully this easy day will lead to refreshing days ahead.
Day’s Mileage: 3.6 miles
Total Miles Hiked: 77.8
Remaining Miles: 2,121.9
Daily Average: 13 miles
Before I began my hike I unwittingly saw the band AJR in concert as they opened for Walk the Moon. Their song, “Weak,” played in my head as I struggled up the steep mountains of Georgia!