I have access to a computer at the hotel we are at and at the moment no one is waiting. So I will try to type fast and see if I can bring everyone up to date. Pretty sure I am covering 5/4 through 5/6, but I lost a day in here somewhere and was surprised yesterday was Friday.
We stayed at Neel Gap a couple nights ago at a place called Mountain Crossings. It is full outfitter and it has a hiker hostel. It was pretty decent all in all. Mighty Mouse made it to the hostel that night, but he was beat. He had a hard time trying to keep up with us. In his week on the trail he learned a lot about hiking and camping, and perhaps about how painfully unprepared he was physically, mentally and with gear choices. His sleeping bag was rated at 50 degrees. No wonder he was freezing. He made a great judgment call the morning of the fourth and decided to end his thru hike attempt for now and he went home. I really think that if he spends sometime researching, acquiring the right equipment and getting into shape he might actually be able to complete the trail at a future date. So Mighty Mouse if you ever see this, congrats! You did more than a lot of people ever would even try and I think you learned a ton of good stuff for future use! Hope to see you down the trail.
This morning (the fourth) I had a decision to make. Do I stay here (Mountain Crossings …. with nothing to do) another night and take a zero or push on (and try to take a zero at a town where there are some services). The weather report was for rain and then cold. I did not feel I had enough cold weather gear to successfully get through that, so I bought another lower base layer to hike in and a pack cover to ensure my gear stays dry and hiked on. The day was beautiful until the end when it rained the last hour, hour and a half or so. That was not terrible, but we had to setup in the rain (sucks) and I found out my tent is on its final legs as it leaked. I have had this tent for about six years and it has served me well, but time for a new one. Today (the sixth) I ordered a Zpacks Duplex which will be mailed to me to a place I will be one week from today. Looking forward to my new super super light weight tent. (swapping these out will save me about two pounds).
We spent the night at Low Gap Shelter, in the rain. At one point Croc, Rock Steady (Debra) and I were each in our own separate tents texting each other about what to do the next day as it was going to continue to be cold and rainy. The rain on the tents was too loud to talk amongst ourselves in the tents. We decided the best thing to do would be to hike 10 miles to Unicoi Gap and get a ride into town to dry out, do laundry and maybe take a zero (a day of no hiking, giving the body a chance to heal and rest). Seriously hiking in the cool and rain is no big deal. It is only a problem when you stop to rest or have to setup in the rain with wet gear.
We got to Unicoi Gap to the best thing ever, trail magic times ten! (Trail Magic is where people, sometimes past thru hikers, or simply just people who like hikers, setup shop and offer hikers coming by food and drink). They had hot dogs, sausage, bacon, chips, soda and beer and coffee! It was the most amazing thing. I had three hot dogs, a couple of beers and a coffee. And they were offering more! It was cold and windy, so this was a very nice treat and is the first of potentially many trail magic moments.
After that a ride to Helen, GA and we spent the night at the Baymont Inn. Unfortunately, while here we lost Rock Steady. Her knee was giving her trouble on the fifth and by this morning was very swollen. She will not be able to continue. I fully expected to lose Croc here too then, and he was even thinking about possibly going to Ireland to hike, but I think he it going to continue on with me and a guy I call Milwaukee, since that is where he is from. His trail name however, is Crooner. He was singing Danke Schoen yesterday and Rock Steady was amazed he knew the song as he is in his early to mid 20’s I think. He admitted to knowing the song only because he heard it on Ferris Buehler’s Day Off. We all got a kick out of that.
If anyone is ever in Helen, GA I would fully recommend the Baymont. They have been great. We were even able to use their hose to hose down our tents which were full of mud and set them up in the back to let them dry out. I also would recommend Big Daddy’s restaurant and tavern. Watched the Cleveland game last night and had an excellent dinner of salmon, baked potato (loaded, of course) and cilantro slaw. Going to go back there tonight and have one of their pizzas, I think, as I was salivating over that last night as well, or maybe their tacos. Everything looked amazing.
It was good to take a day off today and let my legs rest, repair and recover. The next zero is planned one week from today in Franklin, NC. Tomorrow we have a 5.7 mile day planned, which does not sound like much, but it is basically straight uphill, then down some, then up more than the first up. Up up up. Welcome to Georgia.
Hope all is well with everyone.
PS – I apologize for not including a ton of pictures on the blog. It is a rather clunky process to get them in these posts. Much easier to post them on Facebook. Feel free to send me a facebook friend request, if you are not already, and you will get to see more pics.