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Dirk's Rambles

Sunday, March 14, 2021, 3:35 pm

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I am sitting at a hostel about 1/2 mile from the trail, called Around the Bend. It is just west of Dick's Creek Gap parking area where the trail is. When we reached the parking area around 1 pm, there was a couple providing trail magic in the form of grilled burgers and hot dogs, along with assorted other goodies and drinks. Such a welcome sight! We ate to our hearts content! So gracious of them and so appreciated by all the thru hikers. Met Jeff and Stephanie, the couple that we had dinner with in Blairsville a few days ago. Made plans to eat with them tonight.

I woke up yesterday morning at 3 am to a chorus of barred owls with a variety of vocalizations. There must have been six or seven calling from different points all around us. One eventually landed in a tree almost right above us. I listened to them for an hour before I drifted back off to sleep. I learned later that Brad was listening to them too. How could we not?! They were so loud. But it is always a pleasure and honor to hear so many at one time, making so many different vocalizations. I was grateful for the moment. It motivates me to learn more about them.

When daylight struck, a gobbler sounded off with a dozen or more gobbles. I called back with a diaphragm call (mouth call) I brought along and he answered once. May have heard a second one answer further down the hollow but wasn't positive about that one. There isn't much evidence of wildlife in this region. No deer sign. Have only heard two coyotes, this gobbler and the owls. There seem to be alot of acorns around so there is some food for the deer and turkeys. Seems odd that we have walked nearly 70 miles with so little wildlife sign.

Yesterday, we were surprised with another example of trail magic. At Unicoi Gap, a guy named Mark had donuts, croissants, candy, coffee and water available for thru hikers. We hung around and drank coffee for about 45 minutes, then went up the trail again. Each time trail magic happens, hikers are so grateful to eat something that isn't bland trail food. Mark had a built in burner in the back of his Volkswagen van that was fastened to a pull out drawer under his hatch gate.

We hike 12 miles on Saturday, our highest mileage day yet. We are starting to add miles to each day. We camped last night at Swag of the Blue Ridge. Don't ask me what the name means. Noone seems to know. But it sounds really impressive.

At Swag, we camped with Jack, who already had camp set up. Jack is a 22 year old recent college graduate who has applied to two PhD programs at South Florida and Alabama. He wants to study frogs. He has a very unique way of hanging his food bag out of reach of bears. He used the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) method with alot more techniques to allow the rope to fly from your hands without hanging up. I tried twice but couldn't get the hang of it. But it was interesting to watch him do it. Brad invited him to dinner with us in Hiawassee. Hope to run in to him tonight for dinner with Jeff and Stephanie. He's a really interesting guy, as well as being very bright.

Again I was awakened in the middle of the night by owl calls, though not as many as yesterday. I don't think I'll ever get tired of hearing them.
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