Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 3

Tuesday, June 10, 2014
13.1 miles to Unicoi Gap

We survived the storm!

I dosed off closer to midnight last night. I was sleeping good until I was awakened by the sound of rain on my tarp. I felt the foot end of my sleeping bag and it was still dry. The cool wind of the storm was blowing under my tarp and I started to shiver. I considered darting into the shelter but I was dry and it was raining hard. I turned on my side and curled up a bit and stopped shivering. The wind slowed down and I feel back asleep listening to the rain lightly hitting my tarp.

I woke up at 6:45 AM and got up at 7. I stayed dry in my hammock all night. I ate breakfast and wiped down my tarp. We packed up and said good-bye to Kendall, Amanda, and Senator, who was kind enough to hike out our trash. He had 4 miles to go until he was catching a ride to Hiawassee. Senator has been a section hiker for a couple of years. He was hiking in Virginia in 2011 and ran into Jennifer Pharr Davis during her record-breaking hike. He was a cool guy.

We made our way south up Kelly Knob, an easy 600 foot climb. While hiking up I began drawing arrows on the trail pointing south. After drawing the third arrow, the trail, or maybe the God of the trail, gave me a new trail name: Arrowmaker. At the top of Kelly Knob there was a campsite and small clearing in the trees with a small view. There on Kelly Knob I abandoned the name “Photo Preacher” and assumed the name “Arrowmaker.” Trail names are a AT tradition. I thought about a trail name before the hike, but I wanted to get my trail name while out hiking on the trail. I like the name. It sounds like a name given in the Native American tradition. It also has a deeper meaning. As I hiked on during the day I saw how the name really did describe my calling. I am, after all, pointing people in a certain direction. This is my calling as a father and as a pastor. So Arrowmaker it is.

We hiked on passing a few northbound hikers. We stopped for lunch where some fallen trees formed a nice bench along side the trail. I added trail mix to my peanut butter and dried blueberry tortilla wrap and downed a liter of Gatorade before hitting the trail again. We had a 1,000-foot climb up Tray Mountain before us so I popped in my earbuds for the first time and listened to Of Monsters and Men while sweating and pounding out the steps to the Tray Mountain Shelter .2 miles off the trail and only .5 miles from the summit. I continue to hike a bit faster than John and Jeff so we picked the shelter as a place to meet and take a break before reaching the summit. I shot a video from the summit it had views looking both East and West.

On the way down Tray Mountain, Jeff rolled his ankle. Not good. We kept walking down to the gap where he could check his ankle and it swelled to the size of a golf ball. He took some ibuprofen and we talked about where to stay for the night. It was about 3:45 PM and we were in the campsite we planned to stay at, but we talked about hiking another 4 miles to Unicoi Gap and catching a ride into Hiawassee. Staying the night in town would keep us out of the pending thunderstorm, plus we could get a shower, do laundry, and eat pizza, while Jeff rested his ankle. We were unanimous…town it was! The only thing standing in our way was Rocky Mountain, a 900-foot climb over 1.3 miles. I put my earbuds in and we were off.

I was sweating and my heart was pounding, but I was excited to get to the top. I reached the summit in about 30 minutes. I felt like I had conquered something, summiting back-to-back mountains. It was an awesome feeling.

On our way down we stopped to check for a signal. We called around and found a shuttle, Joyce of “Joyce and Sally.” We made it to Unicoi Gap with thunder in the distance. We hiked 13 miles, our biggest day yet. We waited in the parking lot and had to take shelter under a roof covering an information sign.

Joyce picked us up about 15 minutes after the rain started. She took us to Hiawassee and gave us a quick tour of the town before dropping us off at the Budget Inn. We ordered pizza (Big Al’s) based on Joyce’s recommendation. We took showers and used the free Wifi to get online.

I am going to upload this blog and try to upload videos and then watch Game 3 between the Spurs and Heat. It will be an easy day tomorrow, 8 miles to Low Gap Shelter. It will be good to do less miles to see how Jeff’s ankle is doing.