Day 6 (April 12): Sleeping in a bed helped rest our bones for more miles. First headed to Mountain Crossing at Neel’s Gap to resupply our food for the next stretch. We are planning for 7 more nights before our next resupply in Franklin so started the day with a heavy load. Nadine took off like a lightning bolt, as usual, while I struggled with some pain in my left Achilles tendon. Took it very slow and popped so ibuprofen and by lunch was feeling better. Was another foggy morning and was nice to hike alone. Flowers are starting to bloom next to the trail.
More trail magic at Tesnatee Gap. Grabbed some chips, hand warmers, and a grape soda before our next climb. The last 3 miles of the day from Poor Mountain to Low Gap Shelter (43.2m) seemed to take forever, especially with the ankle pain. Tented with Sam, Johny, Charlie (dog), Pantyhose, Dead Weight, two New York girls, and a few others. Nearly burnt by beard off making ramen for dinner. Another campfire, but everyone seemed to head to bed early after our 11 mile day.
Day 7 (April 13): Another good night sleep in the tent. We packed up early knowing we had a long day ahead of us. Pop tarts have become our goto breakfast. The day’s hike started off very mellow and was nice to rest my ankle. We were surprised when we spotted the Blue Mountain Shelter (50.5m) since we had already gone 7 miles and were feeling good. The rest of the day would not be so easy, however. Had cheese, pepperoni, relish, Mayo, and hot sauce on a tortilla wrap for lunch, yum. Climbing down from Blue Mountain was not fun and Nadine’s knee started bugging her. At Unicoi Gap Rachel ended up hitching into town because her knee was hurting her. We requested beer and fried chicken. Also found out Dead Weight was going to spend the night at Blue Mountain Shelter and get picked up by his cousin for some rest. He plans to meet us in Franklin. After a short rest, we began climbing again to reach Rocky Mountain. By the top we were dead tired and still had to climb down once again. A tree fell in the woods as we climbed down to Indian Grave Gap, it made a sound. Nadine’s knee really started acting up but we were able to reach the campsites at Cheese Factory (56.6m). After our 13 mile day we were dead tired, so quickly setup camp, ate dinner, and climbed into the tent by 7:00pm. Planning a shorter day tomorrow. Woke in the middle of the night to a coyote howling back at an owl. Sounded like it was a hundred feet from the tent. Also had a few mice running across our tent.
Day 8 (April 14): Woke up late, stiff as a board, and grumpy. Still dealing with a sore Achilles. We were not excited about the 9 miles ahead of us and got our first taste of the summer heat climbing some of the mountains. Broke out the harmonica for our lunch time break. I had my first thoughts of “what have I gotten myself into” after realizing that even the easy days are hard on the AT. Spent the night at the Deep Gap Shelter (66.0m) in the loft.
Had tuna and pasta as well as mashed potatoes and pepperoni for dinner. Nice campfire with Pantyhose, Cody, Bruce (astronomer with a big smile), Iron Butterfly (vegan old lady that always catches up), and others. Found out Rachel may have torn her meniscus and will be seeing a specialist on Monday in Franklin. Pantyhose decided over his disappointing dinner that he’d be ditching us for fried chicken and a nero (near zero mile day) in Hiawassee the next day. Nadine made everyone laugh when she farted during a break in the campfire conversation.
Day 9 (April 15): Nadine woke again with a swollen face and looked like Quasimodo. We think it might be due to her sleeping bag. Was a very cold morning so we had tea and hot chocolate using a fuel canister left at the shelter. No trail magic at Dicks Creek Gap 🙁
We popped some more pain killers and powered through almost 13 miles of trail to the Georgia/North Carolina border. Nadine listen to music most of the way. We were surprised to find Dead Weight waiting for us at the Bly Gap campsites (78.6m). Nadine went to bed after dinner (beans, rice, and spam; chicken ramen) and I chatted with Dead Weight, Johnny, Sam, and Charlie (now White Fang). Realized hiking is our 9-5 job for the next few months.
On to Standing Indian Mountain tomorrow to revisit some of the trail we hiked last year.