From Low Gap to Unicoi Gap (9.8m) and yet more trail magic.
Another day of great contrasts. I woke up at 6.45 and broke camp slower than practically any of the approximately 20 other tenters there. Not sure why my morning routine is so much slower than theirs. I did take the time to boil water and make two hot drinks in an attempt to get on track with my intake of food and water which I have definitely a poor track record so far.
For the first time the trail was relatively benign, one could safely use the word ‘meandering’. This lasted 4 miles before going back to normal beastly mode.
While 3 of my blisters have grown consistently each day and I know where I am with them now, my right Achilles has flared up just recently and today, once the treadway turned nasty, it quite hobbled me, cutting my stride length in half and making uphills a bit tortuous. So my left foot hates downhills and my right foot hates uphills. There’s some kind of balance there.
The climb up to 4025′ Blue Mountain only started from 700′ lower but had that kind of rocks-and-roots terrain the whole way and left me fair tuckered out at the top. I took the time there to add two more layers of protection to my right Achilles as the descent coming up was 1100′ over 1.5m down to Unicoi Gap.
Four layers and counting.
I felt great coming down – the Ibuprofen probably helped – and it began to lightly rain. The forecast had been for some gnarly weather to come up from Atlanta and hit us about 3pm or 4pm. I was hoping it would lay off until 4 giving me time to tackle the 1100′ steep climb that started right at Unicoi Gap. That’s how the AT likes to work – it gives you a 700′ climb followed immediately by a 1100′ drop and a 1100′ climb.
So I make good time down to Unicoi Gap which is where the AT actually crosses a major road, nicely on the crown of a hill so I had to scamper across as a motorbike came out of nowhere.
As I crossed a woman who I had chatted with briefly in camp last night came over and asked if I wanted to come with her friends into the nearest town, a bizarre Alpine Swiss themed tourist town about 10 miles away. Look it up, it’s weird. They were heading out due to the weather. I declined saying I thought I could make another couple miles and still set up camp before the bad stuff hit.
It was still drizzling, enough for rain jackets to be needed. I went over to where 4 other hikers were loitering in the parking lot (we do that a lot). I had actually camped near 3 of them the night before but had not really spoken. One got into a cab that arrived as soon as I got there and the other 3 asked about my plans. When I told them they warned me the rain was due to be really bad and the mountain temperatures would get down to -5c. I didn’t like the sound of that but was still buoyed by the easy descent and the drizzle wouldn’t hurt a fly.
But then the drizzle turned into rain. And I had been cold the last night when it only got down to 5c, knocking another 10c off that and adding full rain into the equation was not appealing.
These guys were going to one of the men’s, Carey, house in Clarkesville, a good distance away. But a house with hot water, electricity, a proper dinner (I was down to 1 days supplies and had no firm plans as to how to resupply). They asked me to join them just as Carey’s daughter Elizabeth and her mother pulled up in two cars. I acquiesced, figuring it was the sensible thing to do.
So instead of a freezing cold night in a wet tent with little rations I am writing this from a warm house after a hot shower and dinner at a fine BBQ place. Tomorrow we will resupply at Walmart and hit the trail again.