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Fist Solo Overnight

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Just trying to think back on some recent-ish hikes to document before I forget a lot of the details. I am working on section hiking Georgia this year.

End of July 2016

I gathered up the courage to try a solo trip, in hopes that my fiancé at the time would join me on the weekend when he was off work. I drove the 3 hours or so North from Augusta to Blairsville, GA to pick up where my friend and I left off the previous month at Neel's Gap. It was particularly dry on this stretch and still pretty warm. It's amazing to me that bugs don't really bother you up there. I'm not sure if it was the season or location or neither. Not one mosquito the first or 2nd trip to the AT. However! Maybe four miles into my hikes, I heard something along the lines of a crunching log... sure enough it was a BEAR! I was terrified of getting too close to it! I made my presence known with a whistle on my chest strap and calling out. I was like HEY BEAR!! BEEAAAARRRR!!! It gave no ****s as it was probably digging for lunch. It kept on keeping on and I shuffled on pretty quickly while clutching my tiny can of green mace my dad had given me the weekend prior in Texas. I realize this fear wasn't too warranted but hey! I was alone in the woods. I hadn't seen a single other person all day. As I'm not in the best of shape, 8-9 miles is usually my comfort max for the day. This brought me to the shelter that's supposedly 1.2 mi off the trail but somehow seems much further, Whitley Gap Shelter. It was a nice little spot with a great spring nearby. Since I had it completely to myself, I filled up my Platypus, hung it from a branch, and took a nice cool shower!! I hung my food and settled into my tent... in the shelter haha it's such a tiny 1p that I put in the corner. Idk what kind of bear protection that's supposed to give but ya know. I did think it might help if the rain started pouring sideways. It had sprinkled most of the day and indeed did POUR most of the night, which was nice. I love that sound and I figured the bear was less likely to come eat me in the rain. :P Of COURSE I had gotten my lady time that day too so I was all self conscious and decided to call a shuttle (RON!) to get me back to my car at Neel's Gap.

My trip was definitely not over! I had more hiking in me, I had just realized that camping alone in the woods is NOT for me. Even if there was someone else camped 100 yards away, I would have been more at ease. Anyways, soooo I got a rack (bunk? I'm in the Navy... rack is my word.) at the hostel there at Mountain Crossings in hopes of finding some hiking companions. It didn't disappoint! This hostel was a little disappointing after staying at Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega just bc that one is SO nice but it was charming in that historic (and smelly) kind of way. It was $1 less but the bathroom was awful (moldy), no linens, no laundry, no breakfast. Very very basic but I had a nice night visiting with a brother and sister from Jacksonville, Fl and a cousin duo from Scotland. We all hand washed and hung out clothes on lines strewn across the bunkroom. I went into Dahlonega for pork fries (mmm Hickory Prime BBQ again!!) before settling in and meeting everyone. Both sets of people had planned two days there before hitting the trail again and I wanted to hike with them. I tried to convince everyone to move down the road to Hiker Hostel just bc you get so much more for that extra $1 but they had rather already paid for the night or got a night free bc the staff had overlooked a supply pkg of theirs that I had driven them into Blairsville to look for (then the grocery store for the Scots and lunch for everyone in Helen.). Anyways, after hanging out and running errands for everyone, I went on to the Hiker Hostel for the night. Their beds are so comfy and they have a crazy hiker box! The Scots ended up being very ill (thinking they shared something in Helen that made them sick, or they just didn't like us haha) and stayed for a 3rd night, while the brother/sister team started out from Neel's with plans of meeting me at Hogpen Gap (where shuttle Ron picked me up two days prior). While they hiked the morning, I went back to Dahlonega for Chick-fil-a and the Consolidated Gold Mines tour. I found a tiny gold flake! I got bag to Hogpen maybe 30 minutes before them. The sister wanted to unload a bunch of extra weight from their supply box and ditched a BAG of double A AND a bag of triple A batteries with me, Cottonelle wipes, and I don't remember what else but I was like hey! They will be used.

We hiked another 4.5 or so North to the Low Gap (could be wrong) shelter. This was another basic wooden shelter with steps up but it was in a lovely spot! The sister almost stepped on a rattlesnake on the way there but she was behind me and the brother (Jason, who we all trail named "big bad wolf" bc of some silly video he kept playing and dying over) I cannot remember for the life of me the sister's name but she was so nice! She was a teacher, that's all I remember. Anyways, Jason had been collecting snails along the way to boil that night but ultimately we felt too bad to cook since we had plenty of food. (We made chicken/stuffing/mashed potatoes/coffee). There was plenty of good water bc there's a nice creek flowing right in front of the shelter. I went out there after dark with a flashlight and found salamanders and crawfish! The next morning we went opposite directions, they headed north for another two weeks and I went back to my car to meet my bf who was on his way to Unicoi Gap. (I would be skipping 8 or so miles I think, so now I have two sections to go back and cover).

There's a nice big lot at Unicoi with a small creek flowing through. We started off walking in the wrong direction until we saw a sign... of course at the top of a big incline. This was David's first AT trip. He had done some backpacking in the Army a decade ago so not his first time in the wilderness. He LOVED it!! He's much faster than me, but kept stopping to wait. (Which makes me feel bad, but he says he doesn't mind and doesn't want me to get too far behind, aww). We hiked to the Tray Gap shelter which was already overtaken but a few people... really really sprawled out with all their stuff so we picked a spot near a clearing with a gorgeous view!! That was really amazing. It was our first night hammock camping. It was weird... we started out with our heads at the same end but my arm kept going dead!! Haha so once I flipped around it was ok... except our shoulders and hips were FREEZING from no insulation! Even through the sleeping bag! I didn't even think about this... we were kind of in the open too being right by the clearing and it had been sprinkling all day.

The next day we hiked to Deep Gap shelter I think... it as a NICE two story shelter with lofts on either side. There were actually quite a few people there including a younger guy named Adam and his mini Australian Shepherd which really made us miss our dog and wonder how she would do on the trail. Everyone but me was actually hammock camping so I crawled up in the loft and slept pretty well away from the bears and rain lol That night was really fun. We had a campfire (my first on the AT!)

The next morning we hiked back to the car at Dick's Creek Gap and went home. The end! We both were already talking about our next sections.
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