My diary so far minus any editing so sorry for typos!
Day 2 on the trail is about to end here. My family dropped me off at Springer a little later in the day than I would have liked to have gone so rather than risk setting up camp in the dark I chose to crash at shelter numero uno, which overall only had 3 other campers despite the 50 plus campers. Aside from weekenders and scouting troops I reckon everyone was just excited about setting up the I tents. Lessons learned on day 1: sa-an oo-an and wan-an are good morning/afternoon/night in Chinese and if you plan to have your dog hiking partner clean up your uneaten food, do so BEFORE giving him his meals, and before troops feed him honey ham and zebra butterfly cakes. Oh did I mention I’m hiker 986.(I remembered BC my new friend “butterfly” who gave us the snack cakes was #985) Pretty cool cuz its the same when flipped 180 degrees.
This morning i was up and on the trail by 7ish and at mile 6ish i experienced my first bout of trail magic. The georgia adventurers group had set up shop and was cooking hot dogs and passing out fruit and candy and other goodies to hikers, Now I’m camping at hawk mtn shelter. I had an 8 mile day and wanted to do more but were supposed to get a thunderstorm and I didn’t wanna risk the 7 mile walk to gooch gap and get caught in the storm. So I quit early and staked my claim as the first hiker to settle at hawk mtn shelter. I’d never seen a privy so full…..as others began to arrive we broke out cards and out f the 14 adults the only game we could think of was go fish. So we fished until someone decided to build a fire. Somehow I was elected to build the durn thing but the ground was so wet, so I turned it over to my new friend and weekender James, who was able to get a bright burning fire roaring with the aid of half a tub of hand sanitizer. I also met two hikers around my age, Jeff and Charlotte who I think I’ll become good friends with. Charlotte and I decided to call a hostel and see if they accept dogs, which they do. So that will be our goal for tomorrow, giving us a 10ish, possibly 6 depending on how bad this incoming storm turns out to be. Right on.
So storming was a little inaccurate. Complete and total downpour more like. I feel bad for all of our non shelter friends who arrived too late to claim a shelter space, they all go soaked. Funny, multiple people who’d dished out hundreds of dollars for the big Agnes tents were no better off. Note to self, when rain is forecasted fight for shelter space.
We woke up and Hanna Jeff Charlotte and I were the first to head out. Jeff and hannah quickly passed us but luckily Charlotte and I have a similar go-stop-go pace. We crossed two bigger creeks and got a little soaked. The plan was to hike 12ish miles to woody gap and call a hostel. In reality with the rain and steep rocky up hills we hiked 7 to gooch gap, called a ride once we realized everyone who’d been there the night before had decided to take a zero day. Me of those individuals was miss Amy, a fellow trials blogger. I was impressed to see the girl has brought a huge ass book to read along the tral. The thing must have weighed at least a lb. Gram weanie problems. Anyways from there six of us hiked a mile to the next road and spent the night at a hiker hostel called the wolf pen gap country store and hostel. We paid five bucks for laundry and twenty for the nights stay and it was worth every damn penny for a warm dry bed. I feel like a weenie to be settling down in a hostel on night number 3 but whatever I’m a dry weenie.
So today we woke up in a hostel cleaned, showered and full of pizza and candy. The four of us, Jeff Hannah and Charlotte hitched a ride back to suches gap and hit the trail. We stopped for several relaxing breaks at the many mountain stream crossings and took off our shoes and relaxed at a great rock view of the valley below. After lunch with our new friends who it turns out were the zero dayers from gooch shelter the night before, we settled down at lance creek campsite. Amy strolled in not long after us along with the brothers from gooch/lunch. Hannah gave tom his hat that had been left behind at their hostel. Oh and they have trail names now too. Fire sauce, pockets and fucking majestic. Oh and great idea #1: flavored water purification tabs.
Another awesome day, OK to be honest I didn’t write jack last night. We hiked out of lance creek and made it to the walasi yi center at mountain crossing. The girls got pack shakedowns and Hannah got a new tent to replace her bivy tarp combo. I sent home scouts old pack and a few random items and immediately wished I’d spent more time analyzing the contents of my pack. I meant to send home a spare set of clothes and a bowl from my cookset. O well there’s always next time. We kept hiking very confused until we just barely passed swain creek gasp and camped by a broken tree hanging over the trail. Hannah and I perfected the bear bag hanging method used on the pacific create trail. See attached poorly drawn sketch. After we woke up late and headed out scout twisted a paw and i took his pack for the day while he walked off a small limp. I gave him aspirin and he aeemed to do ok. We hit trail magic at hog pen gap. A small group of friends with a former thru hiker were celebrating his thru hike start date by bringing hikers sodas and fruit. Scout enjoyed a new buddy when he met a rottie named Easy. We hiked on mostly separate and I stressed out because I’d forgotten to resupply our water at hogpen, distracted by trail magic. The fiveish mile stretch was easy and mostly flat but little man was clearly exhausted. I refilled at the first spring I saw and looked over my shoulder and saw….the freaking shelter. We were there. Hannah and Charlotte….pockets and fire sauce I mean…kept going to blue mtn shelter while majestic n I stayed for the night and claimed shelter space. It a sweet shelter, water n bear cables, the works. The other girls caught up as well as Amy and the brothers and graham cracker and his dad who were on their lat day of their eight day adventure. Cracker got a fire going (pictured)and the rest of us hung out in the shelter until bed. The plan is to wake up super early and head out asap to meet the girls at tray gap shelter. Short day for them, long day for us but I’m glad scout got a break. Tomorrow’s gonna be mostly flat until the latter part of the day and in two days time we should hit hiwassee. Over halfway down with Georgia!!! Let’s do this!!!
OK so today honestly was my roughest day thus far. I woke up from low gap and hit the trail by 730. By 11 I was at blue mtn shelter where scout and i finished off the last of our delicious cookie spread while conversing with two soloists, sky eyes who’d stayed at low gap the night before and asked 15 year old cracker for weed, and angry Bird, a former thru hiker doing a section on his break from work. We crushed the first, easy half of the day and during our second half, from unicoi gap to tray mtnb I nearly died. Kay not literally, but an already worn out dog hiker combination plus two steep up then downhill elevation changes of over a thousand feet made for an exhausting wipe out. I was almost in tears but the lack of water for a six mile stretch put both a physical and mental strain on me. I hit tray by 3 pm, only an hr after Charlotte and Hannah. Charlotte I learned through the grape vine had acquired a new trail name to replace fire sauce…bear claw. My first thought was the delicious pastry, but turns out she earned the name by cutting a claw off of a dead baby bear along the side of the trail. If heard about it through the hiker grapevine the day before, and the fearsome foursome had discussed collecting battle trophies of our adventure but I couldn’t believe shed actually found it. I’d charged through so fast I’d missed collecting a prize that would be a surefire conversation starter for years to come. Turns out the thing was half rotten and the tiny cubs claw was so small I probably would have buried it with my damn trowel rather than hack its big toe off. Poor bear. So after being both depressed and jealous of the tiny claw i set up shop in the shelter on top of tray mtn. I had carried scouts pack all day BC he’d limped a bit in the beginning and I didn’t want to push him, especially on a longer day. 15 miles, our longest yet. I hurt. Everything hurt. I was in tears. I cooked with my friends and tried to stifle the searing pain that had started in my right knee by downing an unhealthy dose of pain killers. Then something amazing happened. Just like in the stories, trail magic floated in when it was needed the most. Three angels by the names of Todd beth and Pete hiked in with sandwiches, cookies, chips, apples ice and….beer!!! Yeungling to be exact, the best beer I’d ever tasted as of that moment. I’d had it plenty of times before however today it was magical. Magic beer, trded for beagle stickers which led to my usual shpeel and Todd produced two dollars from his pocket fort the cause. Scout played with other dogs and I passed out in a sweet slumber of beer and full bellies. worse day turned to best moment yet. I love how the at turns things around like that. I cant wait until my turn to return the trail magic and make someone’s day magical.
Woke up bright and early at tray shelter with my new buddies and packed up for an eleven mile day. I learned that by mixing water with a little bit of honey and granola I could make a sweet and crunchy cereal on the go. Scout and I headed out before the crowd and eightish miles in we stopped for water where we met Courtesy and his son Big Horn, two section hikers trying to meet some thru hikers they’d seen off at springer the weekend before. We dropped packs and walked .3 m off trail to claim our prize, the only waster source for a five mile stretch. Upon returning to the trail, my friends had caught up and we continued the hike, pockets and I taking the lead. We crashed onto park benches at dicks creek gap and waited for the rest of the crew to file in as we fought for signal. Alexandria and Jessica were the only ones with signal and they called our hotel. Problem … The budget in was jam packed full of guests, no rooms left. We called around and no luck, either the hotels lacked rooms. Didn’t answer or hated dogs, we settled for the top of Georgia, a new hostel that had been opened for nearly a month. Our shuttle diver dropped us off and we were instantly greeted by a huge jerk who screamed no dogs even though wed called ahead to confirm. The owner came out and immediately baby talked scout. Scout responded with a wag and a single lick. Over ruled, beagle could stay. The only condition was that scout and I had to tent camp outside, but I was still able to shower and do laundry. That’s all I cared about. We even got a foot bath that night consisting of hot water and marbles. We rolled our feel in marble tubs while the owner gave advice and showed pictures from his own adventures. We took a shuttle into Hiwassee and got a little tipsy at a Mexican restaurant. Half the crew went for the top of Georgia, the other half, being beagle less decided to shoot for a holiday inn in the center of town. Scout took a nap outside the restaurant whole the waiter, familiar with the hiking community, continued bringing us extra alcohol from the bottom of the blender when others ordered drinks. I downed a double shot of tequila with no chaser and everyone clapped. I’m not a beast, I was just too tipsy to taste it, and it bit me in the ass end minutes after when I was running around ingles grocery store like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get food for me and danny while she watched scout. 15 mins to grocery shop while being drunk and trying not to miss the last shuttle back to the hostel led to some shitty decisions. Like, no snacks or lunches just breakfasts and dinners. Or like getting back to the hostel, realizing you got too much and -still drunk- sending half of your shit home. Good job Brittany. The hostel gave me scrubs so I could wash every bit of clothing I owned, and my shower revealed my sun tan was more dirt than sexy tan. Finally, in setting up my tent i realized my sleeping pad was gone. Totally missing. After packing up that morning I hadn’t ever opened my main compartment and the only time I’d left my pack was to get water. Could a day hiker have swiped it? The lowest crime on the at is theft, mainly BC no on wants to carry extra heavy crap. The other girls left after me and said the shelter was empty, it hadn’t been left behind. Freaking a… After a breakfast and fight with Mr cranky hostel worker over who’d paid for breakfast, I purchased a new sleeping pad from the hostel, a more compact model. I caught the 830am shuttle back to the trail and turned my phone on. Jesse had texted me asking me to call him asap. Be news was to follow…
Turns it, on his was to work that morning while cruising 70mph down the interstate Jesse had slammed into a deer….. In my car. Unable to get online or do anything, I told him where to find the ins information and to contact my mom. A mile into the trail, struggling to not cry about the events of the past few he’s, I saw some trail magic. A single beer beautiful and cold was propped up against a water side trail sign. I broke down. For a half hour I drank my beer and sobbed to my mom on the phone. I’d hit my low. Car was totaled, pad was stolen. Dog was limping and not eating his food. Every joint hurt. “Do you want to go home?” My mom asked softly over the phone. My response came immediately. Hell no. I wasn’t even close to being done. The past week was amazing. I wasn’t giving that up for little bumps in the road. I sobered up, crushed four miles to orchard gap shelter, and spent the afternoon laying in the sun with danny and Walter white while everyone else tickled in to our first three story shelter. It was the perfect night to make up for such crappy news. A religious group called the youth with a mission, ywam trickled in and not only gave me chocolate and coffee, but one woman who was seeing her husband the next day agreed to carry a letter for me to the nearest mailbox. It was a update to Jesse that contained a check for rent that was past due, she was our life saver. I bonded with my crew as well as new friends, and had a great night to rebound from the bad news.
This morning we woke up and danny came up to me looking guilty. She pulled out my orange thermarest stuff sack and original sleeping pad , which was similar in size and color to her big Agnes tent bag. Danny was the swiper, she’d packed it in the shelter at tray mountain thinking it was her tent and at the hostel hadn’t noticed BC she hasn’t needed a pad or tent. So now I’ve got 2 sleeping pads. Eff. Lucky for me Jeff doesn’t have one and in exchange for using it he carried it all day. We hit the Georgia north Carolina line four miles after the shelter and waited for everyone to take a go pro selfie, beagle included. A super steep foggy rainy uphill hike after I hit muskrat creek shelter, where my ywam angels gave me chocolate. Moments after my arrival the downpour began. The crew filed in one by one and were all currently hunkered down. I’m guessing were turning a 4p shelter into a 10 p group snuggle fest BC the downpour and wind have dropped the temp super low. Jeff and the other guys even jimmy rigged a tarp so Alex could sleep in her tent since she hates the idea of mice. This shelter was also the site of an older plane crash and bits of hull were scattered I around the forest floor, never reclaimed. This shelter wasn’t as pretty as many of the newer, closer to civilization (therefore better maintained) shelters and the entire thing was one massive graffiti fest. The shelter itself was a living log book. I drew a horse and a beagle, adding to the chaos, and snuggled in for the night. Sean, the younger of the brothers, finished his butt blaster, now a daily meal, and set up shop on the table since no room was left in the shelter. We fell asleep joking that if he fell off in his sleeping bag he wouldn’t be able to free his arms in time to break his fall, and that his trail name became bear burrito. Hey its better than butt blaster.
So much rain. Thunder a little, but mostly just nonstop freezing rain. According to the bear burrito, we also had a bear cub visitor, but no one knows if he was dreaming or not. It was a slow morning, no on wanted to venture out into the wetness. I was thankful that I had not hung my stuff out on a clothesline like everyone else, their hiking clothes got soaked. Lazily, I dragged myself out of bed, sleeping beagle still snoring in my bag, and put on my dry but still very smelly hiking clothes. I was the first one to venture out into the drizzle for the day, and had to stop and take a picture of Chunky Gal Trail, which I had seen referenced in many trail stories and diaries. Gosh, its so cool how all of my stories were coming to life. On by one I’m actually visiting the places and meeting the people and experiencing the trail magic referred to in my books. Awesome. Well, I was taking it slow picking over the wet mossy rocks and sean and Alex quickly caught u with me. Sean slipped and banged his knee up pretty badly. Wed also seen weather reports that the temperature was supposed to drop below freezing that night and thee three of us swerved in to standing Indian shelter where we met Kenny, danny and Walter white were bundled up taking a zero day. Amy, Jeff and the others decided to keep going but Charlotte and I stayed fearing the next shelter, another seven miles out, would be full. The shelter filled up fast, making us glad we had already saved our spots in the shelter. I was fed and in bed wearing everything but my wet rainy t and shorts by one, shivering, when it started snowing…..it was going to be a very very long night.