Our friend, Upstate, had reached the end of his section hike and his dad was picking him up at Mooney Gap, 13 miles away.
Big Spoon and I took the lead today and were zipping along in total hiker mode while K-Bizzy, Upstate, and Chiclet followed along, joking and singing. We all made it into Mooney Gap at 2:00. The miles are feeling easier and the terrain was nicer, rolling switchbacks on dirt, not rock.
Sweet K was there, buckled down in her tent, as Upstate had offered her a ride into town, as well. We were also treated to a little trail magic.
We divided up into 2 groups, since we had way too many people to fit in the car. Upstate, Big Spoon, and I took first trip, along with Bubba, who we had met at Mooney Gap.
We drove down a long, steep, rutted, rocky forest road that was clearly not built for the sedan we were all squeezed into. And as we all rode along, stinking up Papa Upstate's car, it became abundantly clear that Bubba, while nice and pretty harmless, was batshit crazy.
He told us wild tales of his career in Hollywood ( he apparently wrote ET, Avatar, and all Pirates movies), in teaching history ( he is apparently a professor at Syracuse), and on crime prevention (he apparently had a pocket full of pheromones that could curb violent behavior and drug addiction).
After that crazy car ride, we got to a hotel and got a girl's room for the 3 amigos and Sweet K. We showered, did laundry, and after the second group got in (Chiclet, K-Biz, and Sweet K) we all went put for some awesome Thai food.
We came back stuffed to the gills, but somehow all ended up hungry again and made a late night run to the grocery store for ice cream and sweet potato fries
April 12: Okay. I have a confession to make. On April 12, a mere 10 days into the hike, I did my first yellow blaze.
A yellow blaze is when you skip part of the trail and drive a little further on to get back on. Absolute purists will argue that for this reason I can no longer call myself a thru-hiker. I think the absolute purists can take a hike.
After the storm the night before, Papa Upstate wasn't thrilled about taking his car back up that road. Especially when we found out that certain sections were washed out. We called the ranger station and the Caweeta Research center to try to get a ride to no avail. A shuttle wanted $25 per person to go up the road.
So in the end, we decided to take another near-o day and hang at the hotel nursing our knees and feet.
Upstate and Papa went down to Georgia together to hand put some trail magic and we all went out to dinner before getting dropped off at Winding Stair Gap to rejoin the trail (9 miles further on than we left it).
It's crazy. I have known Upstate for only 9 days, from when he made room for me that cold day at Gooch Mountain Shelter. Slightly more than a week. But it feels like I have known him forever. We are going to miss our friend, Upstate.