We spent a rainy day on Thursday with Glider in Hiawassee doing some resupply chores and watching The Office reruns. I thought I was coming down with a cold so took enough vitamin C to kill a horse and stayed in bed instead of hitting the AYCE (all you can eat – it’s a big acronym to look for in all of the hiking guides) restaurant with the other hikers. Glider and Neil stayed in with me and we had fun planning our the next few days.
As we boarded the shuttle for the trail I got a kick out of the fact that the Inn was full but the only vehicle in the parking lot was the van. We started hiking at 9:30 and we knew today was going to a big day and we weren’t disappointed. It was really cold and super windy as we started our 17 mile day of climbing to Standing Indian shelter. The topo map didn’t look too bad but there were a series of really steep (like leaning over and poles down) kind of steep that wrecked my quads and hip flexors.
It was cool to pass into North Carolina at mile 79 but Georgia didn’t give up easily. The wind didn’t help either and when we finally got into camp at 5:30 it was in the low 20s and the wind was howling.
First priority was getting Chuck in the tent and getting him warmed up and fed. We all piled into one tent to maximize the body heat and stayed in our bags for about 30 minutes until we could get to our camp chores of cooking, gathering water and trying to use the privy. We got 2 out of 3 accomplished but there was a 20 mph wind coming up the hill through the privy and well . . .
We slept surprisingly well and waited until the sunrise to get going. As bad as Friday was Saturday was just about perfect. The sun warmed up the trail quickly and the terrain was much easier. We were blowing through the miles today and quickly realized that we could easily get 20 done and catch a shuttle into Franklin NC for the night.
It was a big day and frankly too big so early in the hike but it really helped logistically for Neil to get in today and Chuck seemed like he was doing fine to push through. We stopped for a nice long lunch and Chuck had a chance to roll around in the dirt for a while. We picked up a shuttle at a Rock Gap and Chuck had is first taco! The shuttle driver had an extra meat soft shell taco and offered it to Chuck. It was gone in 3 seconds.
We had to navigate around some weird hostel rivalries (our shuttle refused to take us to a competitor) so we ended up in some basement but for $35 it is really clean and has the miracle of running hot and cold water. Being on the trail immediately resents your demands when it comes to where you stay and I have to say the people that run these places are great. We dropped our bags and headed to Lazy Hiker for a beer, dinner and a game of Farkle.
My buddy Neil is going home tomorrow and I’m not happy about that. It’s been great having him on the trail and it was so generous of him and his sweet family to take the time out here with me. He would be the perfect friend if he didn’t cheat at Farkle all the time.
We get along so well and enjoy the quiet together. I will be sad to see him go but I am looking forward to him coming back out later this spring. I am going to take zero day tomorrow to rest myself and Chuck and then I have a leisurely 58 miles to get to Fontana Dam by Friday.