Day 4: Lance Creek to .5 mile past Neel’s Gap // 8 miles. Today we did the famous Blood Mountain. I’m not sure why it’s so famous really–maybe it’s the highest point in Georgia? Blood Mountain was a tough climb, made tougher by the previous days of hiking, and Eric’s knees were giving him trouble near the top. There was a good crowd of people at the top but they all knew each other already and didn’t pay us much mind, so we just ate lunch and moved on. Coming down into Neel’s Gap seemed to take forever and ever but then we where there and got a shower, frozen pizza, and soda at the outfitter there and that was glorious! It was expensive to resupply there but that’s what you get in the middle of nowhere.
Day 5: Neel’s Gap to Cold Springs Gap // 15 miles. More up and down, meeting and chatting with new people. The day went much longer than planned because it was still kind of early when we got to the shelter we thought of camping at, and a nice German guy was going to hike the next few miles since they looked easier. I am feeling quite anxious to get to our first town, Hiawassee, so some extra miles sounded good and we went too. It was on a lovely, well graded old roadbed but I totally bonked at the end.
Day 6: Cold Springs Gap to Sassafras Gap // 16 miles. Too long again. We had two big climbs, Rocky Mountain and Tray Mountain, and were utterly exhausted by the time we got to the end. Still really want to get to Hiawassee and take a shower, eat a real meal, and catch my breath. It’s been hitting me just how many days five or six months is, and I am super tired already!
Day 7: Sassafras to Hiawassee // 6.5 miles.
Whew. It’s day 7 and we made it to the Top of Georgia hostel outside Hiawassee. We did two bigger-than-we-should-have days to get here quicker. I could not need the break more. Right now this is my favorite place in the world. I just had a shower, there’s a margarita waiting for me in town later, and I’m wearing clean scrubs while someone else washes all my clothes. Oh, and I’m sleeping in a bed tonight and not a tent. The hostel is packed with other hikers, and someone came into the bunk room and announced right off he’s a loud snorer, but I’ve got earplugs and I doubt anything will keep me awake.
Observations and thoughts:
I’m really digging the sparse, winter forest floor out here. It’s so different from the NW where the forest floor is full of brush and fern. I like being able to see through the trees.
My perception of mountains has changed. Before, it was something we went to, hiked up, and then went back down. Now it’s something you climb before you go back down and then climb the next one. And the next one. And the next. They are just never ending!
People are quitting. Because it is hard. Last night our neighbor asked me, “Are you two thru-hiking?”
“Yes,” I said, ” are you?”
“I was. Not anymore. I can’t do all this suffering. Or I’m not willing to. It’s been fifty miles and there’s two thousand something to go? Hell no.”
I didn’t know what to say. I’m trying not to think that far ahead anymore. It’s a bit dispiriting. The far off parts of the trail like New England seem like they don’t even exist yet, and they’ll materialize out of the mist as I walk toward them. Right now I have to just look at finishing Georgia.
We still don’t have trail names, probably because we haven’t been super social so far and usually camp along. I don’t mind really, but it’s a little weird to introduce yourself as Katherine and the other person replies that they’re “Robocop” or “Bear Burrito”. Right now the trail feels like the first week of college, with tons of people running around desperately making friends and being very cheerful. Once everything settles down and a lot of the early leavers are gone, I think it will be less overwhelming to meet people.
Also, and I don’t mean to be too philosophical, but it’s crazy how translucent and unreal these major structures we take as givens are. I mean things like time, day of the week, weekday and weekend. You’d think there would be some sort of adjustment, but the structures of civilization fall away very quickly. It isn’t the week or the day or the hour that matters, it’s days until town, miles you can do before sunset. I really feel like that Vonnegut line: Katherine has come unstuck in time.