Monday–April 5, 2021
Location–Unicoi Gap, then to Around the Bend Hostel, Gordon & Lisa Simmons, Proprietors
Low Gap Shelter was overflowing with northbounders last evening and there were tents pitched all around. That, plus the fact that I don’t care for damp, cold, low-lying places to pull up and camp this time of year. And so, the decision to hike on past to a small stream up the mountain, then to a campsite on the ridge–right choice! Fetched water, climbed some more and had the fine campsite all to myself?
No lingering this morning as I’ve a tough eight-mile hike ahead requiring climbs up and over Rocky Mountain, then Tray Mountain. It’s easy going once on the ridge, along an old CCC-built road. But once the trail leaves the old roadbed, then comes the boulders, rocks and roots. No way but slow through this gauntlet. One slip and this journey is over. And so, slow, patient plodding!
Unicoi Gap is the location of the third bronze plaque cast in 1934 featuring Warner Hall. All three plaques have survived, the one on Springer, the one at Neels Gap–and this one here at Unicoi. Quite amazing they’re all still around!
Early evening, Rick Harris comes to fetch me at Unicoi Gap, then to carry me to Hiawassee for supper. After, he delivers me to the Around the Bend Hostel just down from Dick’s Creek Gap.
A long short-mile day. I’m very tired…
The two most powerful warriors are
patience and time.
Sunday–April 4, 2021
Location–Poplar Stamp Gap, mile marker 44.1
Up early, before five-thirty. Last breakfast here, and it’s the best–thanks Nimrod!
Sad farewells this morning, first to my dear new friends, Lucky and Nimrod, then to Barry. He’s heading for home today. Thanks Barry, for all your help and support! I’m doing well on this hike because of all you’ve done for me.
Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap doesn’t open this morning until ten (surprised they’re even open today–being Easter Sunday). I linger in order to meet Logan. He and wife, Georganna, manage the store/outfitter at Neels Gap. They’re one of my steadfast sponsors. So, very happy to get to spend a few minutes with Logan!
Hard, steep and rocky pulls today, up and over Levelland Mountain, Turkeypen Mountain, Rock Spring Top, Wolf Laurel Top, Green Cliff Top–before descending to Tesnatee and Hogpen Gaps. Afternoon it’s more climbs up and over Strawberry Top, Poor Mountain, and finally Sheep Rock Top, before descending to Low Gap for water–before the final climb for the day to the campsite at Poplar Stamp Gap.
A very strenuous and tiring day, but just look at the amazing views afforded me on this glorious Easter Sunday…
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life
is thank you, it will be enough.
Saturday–April 3, 2021
Location–Neels Gap, then to Above the Clouds Hostel, Lucky, Proprietor
Lucky has coffee brewing before six. I’m up and waste no time getting to the kitchen. Nimrod is already busy dicing up potatoes to fry for breakfast, to be served along with pancakes.
Early morning excitement as plans today are for Lucky to hike Blood Mountain with me. Hikers at the hostel shuttled back to the trail, we load and are on our way to Woody Gap. It’s a not so cold cloud-free morning as we head up and around Steel Trap and Jacobs Knobs–on our way to Big Cedar Mountain and Granny Top. We’re afforded great views along, especially from Preacher’s Rock (yesterday’s overlook was from Ramrod not Preacher’s Rock).
The trail smooths out as it sideslabs Burnett Field Mountain, then to descend to Jarrard Gap where we take a break.
Lucky surprises me with a thermos of steaming hot coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch!
Our final climb of the day (and nearly the last half of our 10+ mile day) is a scamper up the flanks of Blood Mountain. We make good time, arriving at two. The old CCC cabin is much as I remember it from two decades ago. Good to see it’s holding up well–photo time!
My dear friends, Sheltowee, Waterfall and their daughter, Anne have climbed from the gap to greet us and we meet part way. A fun time as we descend to Walasi Yi together.
A stop at Mountain Crossings to see my friends, but alas, Georganna and Logan are gone for the day. However, I’m greeted kindly by IB TAT, assistant here at the outfitters.
Evening, Barry shuttles Lucky and me back to Above the Clouds Hostel, where we’re again joined by Sheltowee, Waterfall & Anne. Nimrod prepares another fine meal for the hungry hikers and we join in.
What an excitement-filled, memorable day…
Climb the mountains
and get their good tidings.