March 4, 2018
Destination: Muskrat Creek Shelter Today's Miles: 11.80
Start Location: Dick’s Creek Gap (Hiawassee) Trip Miles: 80.80
I ate a bag of Idahoan buttery mashed potatoes with TVP (textured vegetable protein, like dehydrated soy crumbles), two packs of maple brown sugar oatmeal, a few almonds, and a granola bar for dinner. I can’t even add as high as that many calories is.
I was still a little hungry but knew I didn’t need to eat more. Before I get to today though, let me finish my Hiawassee story from yesterday. I went to the Huddle House in Hiawassee to get my breakfast on. I was craving a good solid breakfast, and in general it is one of my favorite meals of the day, along with lunch, dinner, and snack times. I sat at the diner counter and the friendly staff had a water and coffee in front of me before I could blink. I added a little cream to my coffee. Why not? As I pondered my choices, a little old lady came in and pulled up a seat next to me. She asked me what I was ordering and I told here I was trying to decide. She ordered, and then I ordered eggs, turkey sausage, and two blueberry pancakes. We got to talking and she was just the nicest lady. I am 99% sure her name was Miss Ellie. I wish I had written it down right away. She gave me her bacon because she couldn’t eat it. She said she had a lot of teeth issues, and I noticed she was just eating grits and eggs. She said she lived in Young Harris, about 15 minutes away. She told me she runs a halfway house for girls. She said it was small and could hold 5 women, but that she also let one stay at her house. All the while Miss Ellie was chatting with the staff at Huddle House. They all new her well. She asked about the trail and my wife, and we talked through the meal. I asked if I could take a picture with her, to remember our lovely conversation on my journey north. She smiled and said “I’ll just go put in my teeth.” She came back and we took the photo you see today. I thanked her for the conversation, went to the bathroom, and when I came back to pay my bill she was gone. The waitress informed me that she had paid mine as well! I ran outside the restaurant, but she was no where in sight. It was such a kind and sweet thing to do. Real trail magic! The AT itself is of course beautiful, but some of the best experiences happen with the people we meet going to and from the trail. Miss Ellie was definitely an angel of the trail.
I woke up this morning ready to hit the trail. Before I even got out of bed, I ate an orange on my belly like an otter, and then a banana. I felt better, had new insoles, a humongous bag of food, and just enough time to grab a sandwich from Subway before the shuttle came. It was nice to shower in the morning and put on clean clothes!
The shuttle dropped me off at Dick’s Creek Gap and it was time to go. The weather was brisk, but not windy. Today was going to be a day of ascension, and I was happy with that. Downhills hurt my knees, but the uphills are fine. I climbed out of Hiawassee summiting Buzzard Knob. I kept a very slow, steady pace. At about 11:30, I stopped for lunch and kicked my boots and socks off to air my feet. I ate a tortilla with sriracha flavored tuna and a cliff bar. I changed out my sock liners as part of my foot care routine, and who came around the bend but Cole! I had met him and his Dad Jim at blue mountain. Cole is hiking with a friend for two weeks. We chatted briefly. Cole was wearing a hiking skirt over his tights, which I thought was cool. I haven’t tried one but they are supposed to be really multifunctional. I topped lunch off with a little vitamin i (ibuprofen) and hit the trail again. The rest of the day was almost steady climbing. I had planned to hike 9 miles and camp at Bly Gap. I knew I was there when I passed the famous GA/NC border sign. I stopped to take a picture - I had finished my first state! It felt amazing, but also a little sad to leave “home.” There is a photo of the sign in the journal photos.
I passed on camping at bly Gap as it seemed a little windy on the ridge line there. I decided to push 2 more miles and climb the towering courthouse bald at 4,708 feet. It was quite the vertical hustle! The views from the top of courthouse bald were stunning! I posted a picture in my photos. That made an elevation gain for the day of 2,133 feet, and I had crossed the highest point I’ve been on the trail yet. Tomorrow I will climb standing Indian mountain at over 5400 feet!
I stealth camped near the muskrat creek shelter, right beside muskrat creek. I set about my camp chores and made the whopping dinner I described earlier. I had pulled the mashed potatoes from the hiker box at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee. I can hear the soft babble of the creek as I lay here typing this. I had some good conversations with other hikers today. I’m grateful for their camaraderie, and so grateful that my legs were ok today. The trail helped me today with the uphills, which was amazing. Now it is time for sleep.... the stars are burning bright in the sky....
#1 - I was told I misspelled hypothermia and typed “hyperthermia.” I meant hypothermia, but I’m too tired to actually go find and correct it :-).
#2 - I never did learn more about Ron Haven, owner of the Budget Inn, aka “Snake.” I never saw him after the day at Unicoi Gap, even at his motel.