Neel Gap to Dicks Creek Gap, US 76---31.7 to 69.6 miles
Gary, Reems and I headed out through the WPA building Appalachian Trail marked tunnel going up of course. All gaps we come across are like this---when you come to a gap, you go downhill and when you leave a gap you go uphill.
We quickly learn a few things about the AT:
We walk for hours though a long green tunnel.
The views are few.
There are few level stretches to walk through.
There are lots of rocks and roots to surmount.
We have crossed only one little creek
Our water sources are mostly little springs and a few have pvc pipes to aid in water collection.
Along the trail we met two Texas teachers who had the misfortune of getting caught in the middle of the big Monday rainstorm and how their "waterproof" backpack ended up half filled with water instead. Good thing we missed that one.
The AT is marked with these white blazes all along the way.
This is a rhodhedron grove after the blooms. Right now just the mountain laurel and azaleas are in bloom.
Just before one of the few view points at Cowrock Mountain we came across this 4 foot Eastern Rattlesnake. Gary quickly stopped and when I saw why--- I practically jumped out of my skin. Reems was behind me was pretty calm about it and wanted to be sure to get a good picture before we circled around the snake. It did not move at all either because it was cold our it was digesting its food----lots of excitement to break up the boredom of walking the green tunnel.
At Cowrock Mountain we finally got some great views of the the rounded Appalachian Mountain Ranges on a very clear day. Gary and Reems are enjoying the views standing on this big slab of rock.
From there we had our ups and downs with the gaps we encountered until we ended up at Poplar Springs Gap that had both water and level campsites and avoided the Low Gap Shelter because of our earlier Gooch Shelter experience. We got there about 4:30 and set up our shelters, got water and washing done, and we're having dinner when Yami and Kara showed up about 7pm. They hung their hammocks and shortly after I got in my tent, a deer showed up. The deer seemed to enjoy grazing all around our campsite with little regard to us.
On the 10th, Gary, Reems, and I headed out for more green tunnel gap hopping with a stop for lunch at the Blue Mountain shelter which was empty.
Shortly after that Reems decided to pick up a shuttle van at Unicoi Gap to take him to Top of Georgia Hostel since his legs and feet were causing him problems. It was the same gap that Yami and Kara planned to head to Hiawassee to resupply. We probably will not see them again as we pose by the marker there.
After leaving them we passed two couples with the women wearing long dresses along with their hair braided up under a decorative bonnet. In greeting them, I said. "Pretty fancy dresses for hiking---only shortly afterward did I realize they were most likely Mennonites---OOPs!
We ended our day at the Tray Mountain Shelter, and picked a couple of level campsites. An hour or so later the Mennonites came in and we suggested they might like the campsites on the way to the water. They thanked us and ended up setting up there.
We hung our food using the bear cables, and one couple, who had a bear canister, lost it to a curious bear in our area during the night.
On the following morning we hiked 10 miles past 8 gaps to Dicks Creek Gap where we walked about 1/2 mile with the Ft. Hood Texas teacher couple to the Top of Georgia Hostel. We got there about 1 pm and the shuttle van was taking Reems downtown to shop for a couple hours. He told us he was leaving the trail because of his injuries.
Gary had reserved a cabin---with linen sheets instead of bunks. That turned out to be a good choice based on the high level of conversations and uncomfortably hot bunk rooms. We turned in our laundry and they gave us scrubs to wear around and even to town while they were doing our laundry.
After a quick bite to eat and long hot showers we took the 4 pm shuttle van to Hiawassee, GA where we would have a big dinner---steak for me and pork chops for Gary--and resupply at the Ingles grocery store. We all gathered for the 6:20 ride back to the hostel, but Brian was a no-show. He had forgotten to change his watch from Central time to Eastern time.
Later that night, while we were on the deck in rocking chairs, Gary told me that he decided that he no longer wanted to continue his hike. He was glad to have done what he had done, especially figuring out how to set up camp and camp cooking. Although he enjoyed hiking he also thought this hike through the endless green tunnel was boring and he would rather be doing something else.
He was able to connect with his friend in North Carolina who planned to meet him the following day. He gave me two things I coveted of his, an inflatable pillow and chord for hanging food away from bears.