Day 6 (March 29th): Unicoi Gap to Sassafras Gap

Miles hiked today: 10.4
Miles hiked total: 63.3
Miles to go: 2122.0

Today was a bit of a challenge for me. Despite staying in town last night, I didn’t get as much sleep as I had hoped (only around 4-5 hours). I got into bed at midnight and just couldn’t fall asleep, and Chrissy and I ended up waking up around 7:00. I was pretty exhausted and wanted to sleep more, but we had things to do before catching the shuttle back to the trail. All of our clothes were still drying and we ended up having to take the hair dryer to a few of the items. The hotel offered a free breakfast, so I snagged some hot water from them and made oatmeal in my room while watching King of Queens. (I was hoping to catch an episode of the Golden Girls, but it wasn’t on. Bummer.)

After packing our stuff up, eating breakfast, braiding Chrissy’s hair, and trying to tidy up our room as best as possible, it was time to catch the shuttle. The shuttle left at 11:00 from Betty’s Country Store, which was at the opposite end of the street from our hotel, so we practically ran to catch it in time. By the time the shuttle dropped us back off at Unicoi Gap, it was already 11:45 and we had 11.5 miles to go.

We weren’t so lucky with the weather today. It was raining when we started hiking, but we didn’t mind it at first because the temperature was comfortable and the wind wasn’t too bad; it was also predicted to stop sometime in the afternoon, so we figured we didn’t have it that bad. The weather, however, only got worse as the day progressed. The rain started to fall more heavily and the wind picked up, and eventually I was soaked (my outer layers from the rain, and my base layers from sweat). It was just miserable.

We reached Tray Mountain Shelter around 4:00, where we stopped to filter water, and I was so tempted to just set camp up right there and get out of the rain, but we still had close to 5 miles to go and we decided to stick to the plan. It was too cold, windy, and rainy to stop for any kind of breaks, so we just kept on hiking and ate some snacks as we went.

About an hour after hiking away from the shelter, Chrissy started experiencing pain in both of her knees. The earlier pain she felt is practically gone, now she’s experiencing pain in the front of her knees, especially on the descents. I gave her some Advil and we kept going, albeit slowly. The trail was incredibly muddy and my feet slipped often, especially when going downhill. We knew that we were almost near the campsite when we experienced a significant elevation gain and then loss and when I was finally going down the final decent, I was so incredibly cold and tired and anxious to be there…and then I fell. I’m surprised it took this long for me to fall, honesty. I typically fall a couple of times during day hikes, so going this long without falling is a huge accomplishment for me. Anyway, I didn’t get hurt at all, but my pole is a bit dented. It still works fine, so I’m not concerned, but I might try to have it fixed at Trail Days in May.

I finally saw the campsite at the base of the hill and there were already 7 or so tents set up. I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be here, so this was a nice surprise. Chrissy and I looked around for the perfect spot, and finally found one next to another tent. We started setting up our tent when suddenly a voice spoke to us from inside the other tent: “is that bluebird out there?”

It was Toasted Toad!

The minute I heard his voice, my entire attitude changed and I couldn’t help but smile. Chrissy and I actually started laughing, we were that surprised by his presence.

After we set the tent up, I changed out of my freezing clothes as quickly as I could and instantly felt better. We made our dinner and then the next challenge was hanging up our food bags.

So, I really hate bear bagging. Like, really, really hate it. It takes me so many tries to throw the dang rope over the tree branch. I’ve never had a very strong arm or great aim, and bear bagging is just the biggest pain in my butt. Well, tonight was even more challenging than normal. Chrissy didn’t want to leave her warm sleeping bag, so I was left to bear bag alone. I found the perfect branch and then wasted 10 minutes of my life trying to throw the rope over the branch. After a while, I finally got it. Okay, perfect. Now, to get the food up in the air. I grabbed my bag to tie it to the rope first, and then planned on tying Chrissy’s food to the rope. Well, when I grabbed my food bag from the ground, Chrissy’s bag decided to play a game of Tag and just started rolling down the side of the mountain, literally weaving in and out of all the trees. I had no choice but to run after it, yelling at it the whole time to “stop!”. Finally it listened, but I was not pleased. I had to hike back up to my food in my crocs on the wet mud, and I was slippin’ and slidin’ the whole way. I’m not sure bear bagging will ever get more enjoyable for me.

Tomorrow is supposedly going to be warm and sunny, but I’ll believe it when I see it. Though I am ready for the sun and warmth!! We’re only hiking 6.6 miles tomorrow and have plans to stay at a hostel (I have a mail drop to pick up and clothes in serious need of a wash), so it should be a relatively easy day. I also have plans to chat with my best friend whose 25th birthday was on the 28th, and I wasn’t able to talk with her then, so I’m very excited!

Ta-ta for now!

One thought on “Day 6 (March 29th): Unicoi Gap to Sassafras Gap

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