April 6: We got a bit of a late start out of Neel's Gap, as there were many distractions. First off, it was Teen Wolf's 30th birthday so we were all looking to wish him a happy b-day. I needed to hit the store to get some waterproof glove covers and some socks. The post office didn't open until later and since it was already late, I asked to bounce any packages to my next mail stop in Fontana Village. We got loaded up with water that didn't need filtering and finally hit the trail around 10.
Buoyed by our great day yesterday, we got a bit overleaf enthusiastic and might I say cocky? We set out sights on a 17 mile day to Blue Mountain Shelter and started referring to ourselves as "badasses". The trail had a thing or two to say about that.
What we had been assured was going to be easier terrain, was in fact, just as hard if not harder than the day before. And thus was the day that aches and sins started to set in. My feet started swelling and blistering, Chiclet's knees started aching, and poor Big Spoon needed multiple bathroom breaks along the way. Around 5 pm, we rolled into Low Gap shelter, 10.8 miles away exhausted and feeling rather defeated.
Of course, there were good parts of the day, as well. Pretty scenery, linking up with Teen Wof again later in the day, and meeting another hiker chick duo, Sunny and Dory. Sunny and Dory had started a few days before us, but had been sidetracked by a bear encounter. They were camping at a non-shelter site without bear cables and had a hard time getting their food hung. As darkness set in and fatigue took over, they made the decision to put their gear ( and food) in one tent and sleep further away on the other tent. Late that night, a bear dragged the gear tent down a hill and they had to get off trail, go into town, and replace all their destroyed gear! Snaps to t for getting back out there. Many people ( probably me) would have thrown on the towel after that.
Sunny and Dory camped with us at Low Gap, as did Carl the German ( lots of Germans on the AT) who I had slept next to at Gooch Mountaon Shelter that cold snowy day.
April 7: this morning, still battered and sore, we decided we would not set a goal for mileage and would just listed to our bodies. Especially since our bodies were sending us messages loud and clear! We packed up and headed out around 9. It was bright and sunny, high 70's. today was much easier on the feet, as much of the walking ws on a dirt forest trail rather than on rock faces. Still some retry challenging ups and downs, but lots of graded switchbacks thrown in which was nice.
Since it was Sunday, we passed a lot of people coming back from weekend and overnight trips. There were so many beautiful little camping spots along the way with gorgeous views! It was nice to see so many people taking advantage of nature in their backyard.
We made pretty good time and arrived at Blue mountain Shelter around 1 for lunch. I would like to take this time to apologize to the day hikers who were eating there when we arrived. I know my feet are rank, but I HAD to take my boots off. Since we all now eat and massage our smelly feet simultaneously without batting an eye, it's easy to forget that it just may spoil somebody else's appetite.
We were joined for lunch by Sunny and Dory and Teen Wolf who were going to spend the night in the shelter. Chiclet, Big Spoon and I decided to go the next three miles to Unicoi Gap where we coul hopefully get a ride into town and a hotel room to do some TLC for our ailing body parts.
At Unicoi Gap, we met some more trail angels, Chris and Julie, who offered to drive us to town. They had been married out in the wilderness near a waterfall and were avid outdoors people. They told us about all the white water kayaking and hiking and climbing they had done in the area and drove us right to Super 8. Relying on the kindness of strangers is a really uplifting experience.
So last night, we took full advantage of the shower, laundry facilities, and wi-fi. And the TV was showering Mark Wahlberg with no shirt. So it was a great night overall.