“I intend to make Georgia howl.” – William Tecumseh Sherman
It’s only fitting that The Hunger Games and The Walking Dead were both filmed in Georgia. In my first week on the trail in Georgia, I have experienced zombie-like stretches when all I thought about was food.
Fortunately, as I awoke at the Walasi-Yi hostel on the morning of day 4, hunger was not going to be an issue. A friend and fellow sojourner, Maureen Welch, arrived with her family at 9am with a ton of McDonalds food and coffee! God bless her dear soul! There was enough for Matt and me and others to devour sausage and egg biscuits and cinnamon thingies. I enjoyed meeting her family. After sharing a few hiking stories, we prayed together, and I specifically thanked God for Maureen being a true trail angel early in my journey.
Matt’s legs were really bothering him, so he decided to take a zero and stay another night. Since the weather was nice and I was feeling good, I decided to head on out. As I left Neels Gap, I thought of my Uncle Phil who hiked the 40 miles from Amicalola Falls to Neels Gap as a 65-year-old about 15 years ago. (Mad respect for you, Uncle Phil!)
It was another warm day and I was glad I had done a good bit of my training in Florida. Mid-afternoon, I descended into Tesnatee Gap and discovered more trail magic! King Tut and Angela were serving snacks and drinks, answering questions, and offering crochet winter hats courtesy of the Crochet Group from Bethlehem Georgia’s United Methodist Church. I took one and now use it as my clothes bag cover, which is also my pillow. Thanks, ladies!
The climb out of Tesnatee was the toughest to date, especially for my blistered right heel. I missed Matt, but enjoyed taking a few breaks and getting to know other hikers. First there was a guy from California who sold all his possessions and is traveling around the country in a van with his dog. (I thought, what kind of a nut job goes and does something like that?) Next were two ladies hiking together, one of whom lives near Tinker AFB, OK (our first AF assignment). At Blue Mountain Shelter, I met a medically retired Marine and his girlfriend. We shared stories of our time in Afghanistan. He was in the lead vehicle of a convoy in Helmand Province when an IED exploded, sending him and others flying through the air. His face was torn off and had to be reconstructed. Kudos to his docs, because his face looks really good. He doesn’t have a trail name yet, but it would be alright with me if people called him Hero.
After 10.5 miles, I called it quits atop Sheep Rock Top mountain. It was a good warm day of hiking. In fact, as I settled in for the night, I noticed salt formations from my profuse sweating had formed on my backpack straps.
I woke up to a beautiful sunrise this morning. Before heading out, I spent a fair amount of time building moleskin patches for my blisters on both heels. I descended into Low Gap Shelter to get water and then spent this 12.1 mile day doing a series of small ups and downs.
At the Blue Mountain summit, I spoke with a young, fast-hiking, red-bearded guy from Murfreesboro TN. He spent 22 years affiliated with the churches of Christ and then moved on to the Baptists and then another group. He said he was out here to find himself and figure things out. I hope he finds what he’s looking for and can use this experience to re-connect with a God who loves him and is evident at every turn.
The final climb of the day out of Unicoi Gap was intense. I try to take those fairly slowly and just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I also think of weird things to focus on. For example, I wondered what it would run me to have my friends Adam Key and Mickey Shrader do mold remediation on my body after the hike.
Exhausted, I set up camp on Rocky Mountain, with wonderful views from 4017 feet. I fired up some chicken and rice on the MSR Pocket Rocket and gobbled it down way too quickly…a losing play in The Hunger Games. I called Lil Jan and was thrilled to hear her voice. Unfortunately, as she updated me on happenings back in the real world, I had to put her on speaker as my acid reflux kicked in and I started throwing up. It was like, “Yes, dear” (barf)…”that’s good news” (gag), etc. Sorry, honey! And sorry I missed out on those carbs! It wasn’t the most romantic, mountain top phone conversation I’d ever had…but then again I guess it was.
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