September 21, 2018 a group of us set out to hike from Deep Gap, NC down to Unicoi Gap, GA and finally knock out the last section of Georgia for our little group. We had previously done Neel Gap to Unicoi, and then Springer Mountain to Neel Gap. This was the last stage. It didn’t work out so well.
Our group started off (Left-Right) Dorothy, Jim, Sonya, Laura, Claudia, Thomas, Juila, Mark, Ron, and Karen, dropped by Tom Basemore at Deep Gap after a 45 minute drive.
The first part of the hike went rather well. It was hot but there was decent water supplies, except for one section where I wound up having to catch water running across the trail using my cooking pot’s windscreen. It was mostly downhill to plumorchard gap shelter. I was having a little trouble breathing.
A few weeks before this hike, in South Carolina we experienced Hurricane Florence. I live near the town it shared a name with, and we had three days of winds and rain, and then severe flooding in parts of the county two days later. During the storm I had two breathing issues so bad that I went to the doctor twice in a day. I had asthma as a child but it hadn’t bothered me probably since high school or college, 20 years ago.
The first night went easy, there was plenty of room at the shelter, even with a few people that weren’t in our group that were hanging around. One guy was walking around in what can only be described as a Batman Pajama Suit, complete with 1970s-era yellow logo on the chest.
Dinner on a hike is always a fun thing, and my food did not disappoint, although for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. Some sort of Alpine Aire meal I think. I usually divide them into two meals over two days, since one bag is way too much.
Night one passed with no issues, other than having to get up and pee at 5am. I hate getting up to pee. I always feel drunk in the woods, because there’s no frame of reference in the dark. If I use the headlamp then I risk waking others, but if I don’t I stagger through the trees a few yards from the hammock and try not to pee on my feet.
Day 2 was my issue. Right after Plumorchard Shelter, first thing the next day was a 350 foot climb, followed by a 600 foot downhill, a short but tough uphill, and then a gradual descent to the road. It was taking me a long time to do the ups, with a lot of stopping and huffing, and lots of resting. It was supposed to be a 15 mile day, and it wasn’t looking good. I stopped at the picnic table at Dicks Creek gap and ate a little food. By now almost everyone had passed me.
After Dick’s Creek was a punishing 1200 foot uphill. I started up the hill and in about 300 yards I ran into Thomas coming down. He said he felt nauseous, and was heading back down to the picnic area. I told him Sonya and Karen were still behind me, to let them know I was going on. The hill had a lot of steep uphill sections with a water stop about halfway up. I was breathing really hard and just unable to catch my breath. I sat for 10 minutes at the water stop after getting water, and then I finally reached the peak I felt like I was going to fall over. I stretched out the hammock chair and sat down.
Karen happened by about 15 minutes later and I told her I just couldn’t breathe right and there was no way I was doing 12 more miles to Trey Mountain before nightfall. She gave me four aspirin and asked me Nurse-y questions and sent me back down the hill. I got to the picnic table and sat there with Thomas and Sonya for a few minutes. Sonya said there was a Hostel down the road. We rested for a bit and walked half a mile downhill to the Hostel.
Thomas and Sonya stayed overnight in the Hostel and I sprung for a hotel in Hiawassee. After checking in the last room they had (because of a huge bass tournament), and probably being the ONLY man in the hotel in a kilt, I showered and walked a few blocks to meet Sonya and Thomas at a Mexican restaurant. There I made the mistake of ordering a Margarita, and made the second mistake of texting it to Jim at the campsite. They were quite jealous, and I’m surprised I could walk back to the hotel unaided. I don’t really remember the rest of the night.
Sunday morning I lounged around the hotel until right at 11:00, and having to check out, I left. I walked half a mile up the road to Ingles and got a Starbucks and waited on Ron. Ron picked up me, Thomas, and Sonya and we met Jim and crew down in Clarksville to have (you guessed in) Mexican food again. Karen was relieved I didn’t have a heart attack.
Jim told us that he was stung a few times by some wasps on the trail right before coming down the hill to Unicoi, so I decided to put off trying that section of trail at least until after the first frost.
So everyone but me and Sonya finished Georgia. Thomas had done that piece before, so he didn’t even need it. Now I’m stuck with a 17 mile section from Unicoi to Dicks Creek… but I’ll probably do that in spring right before the Thru-Hiker groups get there.