- 34/67 Degrees
- Miles 13.2
We camped off-trail on a small knob above GA60 last night, about a half before the road. I don’t camp near roads and the campsite was out of site of the trail also in case anyone decided to walk up.
I was awake early and yelled over to Sam when I heard her moving around in her tent. We chatted from our tents as we ate and packed up. Breakfast was the typical wholegrain cereal, dried fruit and NIDO.
I’m not necessarily trying to be healthy. I’ve used NIDO for years because of the fats in the whole milk powder, and whole grains take longer to digest, so I don’t get hungry as quickly.
I don’t do the whole honey bun, pop-tart thing anymore. The sugar and carbs burn off fast, and I’m starving an hour later. Cereal and powdered milk is also lighter. Ounces = pounds = pain :-).
We had a 1,100 foot climb up from GA60, and I stopped at the top of Walhallah Mountain to wait on Sam. She was struggling, and I did not want to get too far ahead of her. I waited about 45 mins., surprised it took her so long.
Sam is a strong hiker, but I think this first pregnancy is draining her. I can tell she is wiped out by the end of the day, and she was quiet this morning. In Colorado, I was pushing to keep up with her!
The climbs were steep today, and after another steep 700-foot climb to the top of Licklog Mountain (I love these names), I headed straight back down 1,000 feet to Skeenah Gap.
Sam is faster on the downhills, so I continued to climb back up and over to Payne Gap, where I stopped to wait for another 45 minutes. As Sam came down the hill, I could tell she was tired. She stopped to look down at me for a moment before announcing she thought she should leave the trail.
I had seen that coming, but I was still sad. In my 30+ years of backpacking, she was probably the only person I had met with a compatible hiking style. She was also very independent, and we had fun hiking our own hikes and connecting as we made our way down the trails. I was sorry to see her go.
Grabbing her water bottles, I said I would be back and headed down the Forest Service road to find the “intermittent spring” listed in the guide I was using. There was a languid, shallow flow, but I was able to scoop water out with my cook pot before climbing back up to the old road and making my way back to Sam.
She was sitting on the ground going over her maps (GPS) when I got back to the gap. As we went over the maps trying to find the closest road, I glanced up to see a large cattle dog come around the corner. He took one look at us, did an abrupt about-face, and headed back the way he had come from.
I watched to see if the dog would come back, and around the corner came a man on a horse leading a packhorse followed by a pack of dogs – cattle dogs and a very large Pittie. The Pit promptly walked up and sat on my foot as the man approached us and slowly pulled his horse to a stop.
The man was wearing a long rain slicker, like an outback canvas coat, and a cowboy hat. His name was John and he pulled up and sat staring at us. It was a little awkward.
Walking towards him, I just jumped right in, introducing myself and Sam and explaining our hike. He listened with very little to say before explaining that he was out scouting for hogs. Hogs were the theme of this trail.
Eventually, I got around to explaining Sam was pregnant and we needed to get to a road. The perfect get a ride story. John explained that if we could get to his truck in about an hour that he would give us a ride to Blairsville, GA. John and I pulled out our GPS devices and compared screens. Hog hunting had gone high-tech! But then so had hiking.
John had parked off GA60, which crossed Wilscot Gap in about 3.2 miles. I turned to Sam and said “We can make that!” She just looked at me before smiling and announcing “We’ve got this.” We were off!
I knew it would be a push for Sam to do 3.2 miles in an hour, so I walked behind her chattering away to distract her from the hiking. We had one more climb and then it was mostly downhill to the Gap.
We made good time and I was impressed. Even not pregnant I would be hard-pressed to do 3.2 miles in an hour in these mountains. Sam was excited her BF was driving down from Michigan to get her so she had a little bounce in her step. For me, there was the thought of pizza. Food is always my primary motivator.
I was not going to let Sam ride alone into Blairsville, GA, with a strange hog hunter who ended up being one of the nicest people I’ve met on the trail, and I think she was glad for the company.
We reached the Gap and headed left down the mountain to find John’s truck and horse trailer. He arrived about a half hour later, and we loaded up and headed into town. It was probably about 9PM and once we arrived in town John gave us a tour and took us to a couple of motels before we found one open. Yes, motels close at 8PM in the south.