2/24/2009 6:30 PM - Low Gap Shelter - 10.8 mi today - 41.5 mi total
Tough day! I really felt every mile. Woke up at seven. Pirate was walking around mumbling something and taking pictures of everyone for the wall. Probably got a great shot of my morning face. Had a Pop-tart and bagel with honey for breakfast. Must buy honey at the next stop as it goes well with a lot of foods and has a lot of calories. After breakfast, I started packing my stuff and helped Gentle Ben set up his tent. He hadn't done it yet, so we showed him how. He's a really nice guy, but he seems a bit timid about headin into the wilderness. He bought all of his gear there and has been hanging around for a number of days. It didn't look like he would be leaving today, though he said he intended to. After packing I went to the store to buy some food. Only had to get two dinners and a Pop-tart as I still had a lot of food left over from the last leg of the journey. Also bought fuel and a lighter and I picked up a nice rain cover for my pack from one of the "hiker boxes" which is gear left behind by people for someone else to use. Mike got the "shakedown" and I stuck around to see part of that. Left Neels Gap at 10:30 solo. Went pretty slow to start. Had lunch at 12:30 on Wolf Laurel Top. Mike caught up just as I was finishing. We hiked together easily until 3:00, but were still 4.4 miles short of where we wanted to be. We kicked up the pace leaving Hogpen Gap and made it to Low Gap Shelter in an one hour 45 minutes. Lone Wolf and Jeff, a section-hiker, were already here. Pumped water and got dinner going (Switchback Spaghetti). Stove is not going to last. After dinner, I hung my bear bag and looked at the map. Lone Wolf and Jeff got a fire going and it feels really nice now. Dustin just arrived. He was walking with his headlamp. Great way to end the day. Shouldn't be too cold tonight either. I think I'm developing a Southern drawl. Mike sez all ya have to do's slur your words togethabit.
2/25/2009 7:00 PM - Tray Mountain Shelter - 15.0 mi today - 56.5 mi total
Long day! Went to bed last night kind of late as the fire kept me toasty. Woke up this morning after a long night. As I was falling asleep, I could hear a couple of mice scurrying around and squeeking a bit. I woke up at one point to feel one crawling over my feet. I kicked him away and sat for ten minutes trying to figure out why I seemed to be getting the attention as the other four people in the shelter slept soundly. I suddenly realized I had left a bag of GORP in the side pocket of my bag! I uickly grabbed it and threw it to the bottom of my sleeping bag. Upon further inspection in the morning, I found two little chew holes at the corner of the GORP bag and some droppings in my boots. Gross! I had Pop-tarts and apple leathers for breakfast and hit the trail with Mike at 8:30. We started on a gradual uphill and were amazed to find that we had covered 5 miles in under two hours. We took a short snack break and hiked to Blue Mountain Shelter for lunch at 11:30. We left at 12:00 and made it to Unicoi Gap by 1:00 for another snack break. My legs were feeling good and we decided to shoot for Tray Mountain Shelter. While in the parking lot, I saw some mice in the leaves. Aparently word had already spread that I was the bearer of GORP. From the road it was 1,000 feet up to the top of Rocky Mountain. This was the first straight 1,000 foot climb so we rewarded ourselves with a Jolly Rancher each. We moved past the summit at 2:00 and it was a long hard four miles from there to the shelter. My feet were definitely feeling the pounding. I popped a couple "vitamin I" for the last 2 miles. We pulled into camp at 4:30 after summitting Tray Mountain, which is only 20 feet shorter than Blood Mountain. Wes, who had also stayed at Hawk Mountain Shelter the first night, was already there. I made White Mountain Stew for dinner and might have figured out my stove problem. I'm going to play around with the potstand tomorrow and see what I can adjust. I hung my bear bag and it started to sprnkle as we built a fire. It was nothing compared to the blaze we had last night, but it warmed my toes nicely. We chatted with Wes for a bit and a section hiker with his dog "Butters" arrived. He was friendly, but had no control of the dog. I hope that Harley enjoys it out here. It might rain tomorro. We are going to try to make it to Hiawassee and stay at Blueberry Patch tomorrow night. In the mean time, my GORP is safely stored in my bear bag.
2/26/09 10:20 pm—Dicks Creek Gap—11.0 mi today—67.5 mi total
Slept pretty well last night. I didn’t hear any mice which was a relief, though apparently they were chewing on Wes’ glove a bit. They must have been going for the salt. I had chocolate granola with dried blueberries and dehydrated milk for breakfast that was good. It was really foggy when we woke up and it look like it had rained overnight. Everything was damp from the humidity. We packed up and made tracks at 9 am. Started with a pretty easy pace and covered 4.8 mi in the first two hours. It always feel good to put away miles early in the day. I had to play around with my layering system a bit to get it where I wanted. Eventually I got down to just shorts and a shirt. The toughest climb was Kelly Knob just shy of 1000 ft. We took a nice long break at the top and applied some Gold Bond cream to stop the chaffing. We were walking in and out of mist all day, and I got some cool photos of the trail. From Kelly Knob it was mainly down hill to Dicks Creek Gap, although there were one or two PUDs (pointless up and down) along the way. The down hills are tough on the knees and the feet. At the beginning of my hike I was flying on the down hills, but now I am taking my time to prevent injury. We got to Dick’s Creek Gap by 2:15 and we skipped lunch as we knew there was AYCE (all you can eat) in Hiawassee. We called Blueberry patch hostel and Gary came to pick us up. He thru hiked in 1991 and converted his garage into a hostel after his hike. It is a great place. He has bunks for 8 with a hot shower, fridge full of coke and hot breakfast tomorrow morning. When we arrived we meet two other thru hikers, Jeff and Dan. After claiming bunks and handing over our dirty laundry, he gave us the keys to the Jeep and told us to head into town. Our first stop was China Grill Buffet. For 9 bucks a piece we got all the Chinese food we could take and free refills of soda. I had two fully loaded plates and left stuffed and happy. The next stop was the library to update my blog and check the email. Thanks everyone for the support and emails. Keep them coming, I love to read them. While I was in the library I caught a look of myself in the mirror—I look like a bum! We finished our of Hiawassee with a trip to Ingles Grocery Store. I spent 58 bucks on 4 days of food. I am pretty sure I over bought. My appetite hasn’t increased that much, but I am sure it will soon. When we got back to the hostel we drew numbers for the first shower. I got last, so I took the opportunity to break down my food and call home. It looks like the new stove is going to make the first shipment, which is great. I am also hoping to cut weight from the maps by just copying the elevation profiles and leaving the rest behind. It may not sound like much, but it adds up. Shower felt great, love that clean feeling. The rest of the night was spent chatting with the other guys, comparing gear and preparing for the next day on the trail. This is now officially my longest backpacking trip as we topped 50 miles yesterday. Tomorrow we should hit another milestone as we will hopefully cross from GA to NC. Unfortunately the weather doesn’t look good the next two days, rain is forecast. I can’t complain too much though, because we have been very lucky to this point. I am also pretty psyched to have scored a pair of Superfeet insoles from the hiker box. They are supposed to make a big difference. We’ll see. I am keeping my old insoles just incase. Also, I am going to keep a log of interesting people I meet on the trail. So far the list consists of Booger (farting talkative marine), Lone Wolf, Pirate, and Dartman—lets hope there are many more. I also hope to post some picture to my Webshots account as soon as I get my camera cable. Check back soon!