March 11 – We stayed at the hostel at Neels gap last night and what a good decision it was. A couple trail angels brought by three pans of lasagna and a tray of watermelon flavored cupcakes. Yes I said watermelon. Best meal I’ve had since my trip began. After a good meal and a good nights rest on a real mattress we were ready to make some miles today.
We hiked out of Neels gap around 7 30, headed towards cowrock mountain. It was an easy enough stretch, we were basically ridge walking for about 4 miles with views through the trees on both sides. I wanted to get to the top of cowrock before the rain started back up and I’m glad I did, it was a stunning view, probably the best on the trail so far. It really seems like every mile just gets better and better than the last. I sat up top eating lunch and eventually the others caught up to me. After taking in the views it was time to head on. We made it down to tesnattee gap and up wildcat mountain before water started falling from the sky again. After donning our rain gear we set our sites on low gap shelter. It was a wet and muddy 4.4 miles and the trail was completely encased in deep fog, but eventually we made it. At about 12 miles from Neels gap, it was our longest day so far but we made great time and had a few hours to chill before the sun began to fall behind the mountains of Georgia.
Today was the first day my legs really felt slightly sore, but I’m still optimistic as ever and can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store. The plan is to try and make tray mountain shelter, 15 miles from low gap. Weather looks good, we’ll see what happens.
March 12 – It was a foggy and slightly chilly morning at low gap shelter today, but beautiful in its own way. I made sure to eat every last crumb of my poptarts, I needed all the energy I could get for my planned 15 mile day. Out of the shelter the trail followed a mostly flat ridge line for about 5 miles, then became a slippery and muddy field of moss covered rocks until descending into Unicoi gap where we all stopped for lunch. The next 6 miles included a steep ascent and descent up Rocky Mountain, and the then an even bigger clump up tray mountain. After we ate, gadget and I set off and quickly knocked out Rocky Mountain and began our summit of Tray. The trail passed through tunnels of rhododendron leading to an unbelievable view to both the north and south from the top. About half a mile after we reached Tray Mountain Shelter, successfully completing our 15 mile day. It’s a beautiful shelter with a great view of the nearby town. Tomorrow we’ll be in Hiawassee and the next day North Carolina! I can’t believe it’s already been a week out here, and it feels so good to almost be out of Georgia. Planning to hit the AYCE buffet in town tomorrow, southern cooking sounds Bueno. There’s so much I could say but I may as well just sum it up in three words: Life is good.
March 13 – Today was definitely my most difficult day on trail so far. It was cold and windy all throughout the night up at Tray Mountain Shelter and the same conditions persisted throughout the day, only with an added bonus of rain. Me, gadget, and crazy eyes set off towards dicks creek gap with the reward of town compelling us to move forward. The terrain was relatively easy but the conditions made it almost unbearable. Blisters only added to the fun.
Eventually after eleven miles we saw every thru hikers favorite sight: a paved road. It was even better when we saw coach waiting there for us with a van. Shortly after we were on our way to Hiawassee where a holiday inn room thanks to crazy eyes and buffet were waiting for us.
After a delicious dinner and resupplying we headed back to the hotel to hang out for the night. It was coach and crazy eyes last night with us because they were only doing a section hike of Georgia. Its insane how after only just a few days we’ve become such good friends and now they’re going to be gone. If the two of you are reading this you better come back out and meet up with us over summer!
Even though the day started out rough, it ended on an extremely high note. I’m laying on a real mattress with a real pillow and fried chicken in my belly. Tomorrow we’ll cross over into North Carolina! Despite the things my grandpa has said about the state, Georgia has been absolutely gorgeous but also extremely challenging both physically and mentally. It’s been a great test and I am so optimistic about what’s to come. Four days to Franklin, NC! I hope everyone has a terrific week, don’t let the lows break you.