Miles Hiked: 11
Miles Left: 2115.7
Ending Location: Dick’s Creek Gap / Holiday Inn at Hiawassee
I did not want to get out of bed this morning and it had nothing to do with the scandalous act of staying up till 7:30 the night before. A number of people had gotten up to see the sunrise but I looked through the mesh of my tent and saw the frost heaves and decided to sleep in. It was probably in the 20’s since when I finally did get up I saw that several trees had sap that froze and burst out of them.
Of course it was this morning that B had woken up early and was ready to go. He had his pack on even before I had finished loading all my gear. Rather then telling him to start without me I shoved the last of my stuff in my bag and started out with him. About 20 minutes into our hike I wised up and told him to go ahead while I got everything sorted out. I’ll remember that for the next time I get a slow start.
Once the sun had a chance to warm everything up it actually turned into a pretty nice hiking day. With it being a Saturday we saw a lot of weekend backpackers on the trail. You could tell they weren’t through hikers since they were going the other direction; Heading from civilization into the wilderness. All of us on the other hand were focused on getting into town. B and my original plan was to only hike 8 miles to Deep Gap shelter and then the next day catch an early ride into town. Anyone who knows us though would realize we’d throw that plan out immediately and hike the extra miles so we could enjoy a hot shower and a room that stayed above freezing.
The one notable landmark on the trail was Kelly’s Knob which is a very steep mountain. It was just as brutal this time as last. Kelly’s isn’t the tallest mountain, but there are no switchbacks. Also it’s mean. The way the mountain reveals itself tricks you into thinking you are near the top, only to surprise you with even more “up”.
The only other mountain of note was Powell Mountain. Luckily that one was mostly all “down”, though it does have about a half mile of unexpected “up” at the end. We called for a ride to pick us up at five since cell phone reception at Dick’s Creek Gap, (which US 76 runs through), can be spotty. All the other hikers decided to try their hands, (ok their thumbs), at hitchhiking. When B and I got to the road everyone was clustered around the parking lot wondering what to do. Giggles was valiantly trying to flag down a car but every time someone would slow down for her they would see everyone else and speed up again.
Julian actually managed to get signal and told our shuttle driver about our situation so she had her friend/wife, (didn’t ask), drive out as well so they could pick everyone up. For the record, before our drivers showed up Giggles and Julian did manage to hitch a ride into town,
The Holiday Inn was wonderful. It wasn’t much more than the cut price places and it included laundry, cookies, and a great breakfast. Also it’s a Holiday Inn…
After B and I checked in we immediately took turns with the shower to make ourselves semi presentable and then headed out for dinner. The pizza place that had been recommended to us ended up being farther than we expected but without packs on it wasn’t too bad of a hike. The place had a buffet that we took full advantage of but unfortunately the pizza itself was not all that good. I don’t know if I’m just a pizza snob or if everyone who raved about it were just starving.
Once back at our hotel room we did laundry. I had planned ahead and not worn my second pair of pants on the trail since Neel’s Gap so I didn’t have to wear my, (ok, Theresa’s), rain pants while my clothes were in the machine. I saw a lot of other hikers walking around in rain gear too during my stay there. I do wonder what the other guests thought of us.
Shortly afterwards the last two southbound AT hikers, Wild Trout and Fabio, stopped by our room to talk to B. They gave us an absolute to of advice on what to expect, but by the time they left, (1am), I was exhausted. As a side note they hiked 21 miles the next day. The high points they gave us were to avoid shelters with homeless people in them, eat lots and lots (and lots) of protein, and try to avoid being jerks who are just rushing to finish at the end, which apparently is a common fate of many north-bounders.
Then it was time to sleep in a real bed. Woho!