Day 9

Start: Tray Mountain Shelter
Finish: Dicks Creek Gap
Miles: 11 Total Miles: 69.6

Well, last night was pretty awful. First the rain set in early and continued through much of the night. No problem there, as I was in a shelter and dry and warm in sleeping bag. However, one or two individuals, who shall not be named, snored. Not just snored, they engaged in a cacophony of such volume and violence that the heavens themselves wept. I might have managed to get an hour or so of sleep, though that might be optimistic. And yes, I did have ear plugs in, Nd they were almost totally ineffectual.

So when dawn arrived, I was a little tired. And dawn wasn’t all that great, since we were on top of a mountain in a cloud that was still spitting rain, and the fog was thick and misty. When I set off, it was still only a half light and this was at 8:00 am. On the other hand, I got to use the privy at the shelter before I left (another first!), though since it didn’t have any overhead covering, I was utilizing it in the rain, and the fog, which delivered what I think might be one of the more surreal moments of my life.

The fog lasted through the morning, though the rain had quickly ceased, and I was just pelted with drips from the mist condensing on the bare tree branches overhead. Fortunately it wasn’t all that cold.

The trail today was fairly mild with only one sharp climb at Kelly Knob, after which it was a slow descent into Dicks Creek Gap which became much steeper the last couple of miles. Since again there were a bare minimum of rocks in the trail, it was still better than the descents a few days earlier. Although the the mud was much in evidence and caused a couple of near spills. So far, I haven’t been blessed with much in the way of views because of the near constant fog, the sun did break out half heartedly after midday which lifted spirits considerably. And let me see the views from a couple of vistas, which encompassed views of more than a few dozen feet for the first time in days.

I had planned on spending the night at a hostel a half mile from Dicks Creek Gap, but the experience in the shelter the night before made me quite leery of another night sharing a group bunk room with a group of potential snorers. Quite frankly, I desperately needed a private room and at least ten hours of uninterrupted sleep. So on the hike down, I resolved to get a ride in whatever manner I could, down to Hiawassee again and the Holiday Inn Express.

When I arrived at the gap, I met Gadget and a couple of other hikers who were camped at the gap and doing trail magic. I also met one of the shuttle drivers from the hostel, who told me that he could come back after he delivered a couple of other hikers to the hostel, and take me back with him where I could catch the 4:00pm resupply shuttle down to Hiawassee. While waiting, one of the trail magic hikers, Crazy Horse, told me he was going down into town, and had his car there at the gap and he’d be happy to take me down. I eagerly leaped at the offer. I then almost as eagerly thought seriously about retracting the acceptance once I saw the vehicle I’d be riding in. It had four wheels, and some sort of engine inside the hood from what I could discern. An engine that seemed, from the sound of it, to be already dead, and then resurrected as part of some weird zombie ritual. I felt like there was a better than even chance I’d be back on the side of the road in a very short time, and trying to hitch the rest of the way into tow.

While on Mister Crazy Horse’s Wild Ride, he regaled me with his involvement with Warrior Hike, an effort to help former soldiers ‘walk off the war’, something that sounded quite interesting. I would have paid even more attention, and responded with something more than monosyllabic grunts, but most of my attention was elsewhere. I was transfixed with the thought, that with the engine sounding like it did, and the interior of the car looking like it did, what did the brakes look like? The answer was something I devoutly hoped I’d never know.

We managed to make it to the motel, intact, and I thanked my host profusely, as well as whatever gods I don’t worship, but whom obviously have a soft spot for me. After a shower, a pizza, and some fresh ice for my knees, I was soon in sleeps’ warm embrace.

Since the weather threatens a severe cold front starting tomorrow, I’m going to take another zero, and let my knees recover some more.

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