Low Gap Shelter to Tray Mountain Shelter – 15.4 miles
Longest hiking day so far. Started fairly easy with a long gradual climb. Coming down to Unicoi Gap, the missionaries from Neels Gap had set up trail magic at Unicoi. Got a hamburger, an apple, chips, and a water refill! Two steep climbs later, I made it to Tray Mountain Shelter, and got a shelter spot! Going into town to resupply tomorrow and then hiking on. Almost done with Georgia!
The first 8 miles hiking this day was almost all uphill, but with an elevation gain of 1,000ft over all 8 miles, so it was very smooth sailing. I took a snack break at Blue Mountain Shelter and found a few hikers there hanging out plus 2 tents still set up. It was probably close to 11am at this point, so I was surprised to still see tents up. As I was leaving the shelter (after being told that there was trail magic at Unicoi Gap), I saw a head poke out of one of the tents. The hike down to Unicoi Gap was 1.5 miles of very steep downhill. I probably was letting myself go downhill way too fast and it more likely than not caused my first injury on the trail a few hundred miles in. On the hike down, I passed by a man hiking in nothing but a loin cloth. We exchanged hellos and went on our ways. I later found out that he was a SOBO from 2017 named Sasquatch. I also heard that he always hike in the loin cloth and NOBOs who spent time with him at camp usually did not have anything good to say about him. I’m happy our only interaction was brief.
As I reached the road at Unicoi Gap, I could hear hikers congregated and enjoying some trail magic. The same missionary group that brought trail magic to Neel Gap was here! I found out that for their spring break, they were splitting their time between Neel Gap and Unicoi Gap to provide some trail magic for beginning thru hikers. There, I ran into Snicker Bear, Honey Badger, Coors, Smiles, and Penguin. Smiles and Penguin were planning on hiking on to Tray Mountain Shelter while the other 3 were waiting for a shuttle to take them into town. It was almost St. Patrick’s Day and they wanted to celebrate in town. I hiked on with the 2 guys and they quickly pulled ahead of me. They were much faster hikers than I was. The climb up to Rocky Mountain was where I first met Soul Sister and Mattress King – then known as Rachael and Braden because they did not get their trail names until Virginia. They finished their day at Tray Mountain as well. I only remember that because I remember seeing them pull out a full baguette and cheese and me wanting to eat all of it. That became my lunch for a few resupplies after I got the idea from them.
Today was the longest hiking day so far of my thru hike and somehow I still managed to snag a spot in the shelter. This campsite was beautiful! All of us there enjoyed a gorgeous sunset in the warmth of our sleeping bags (because lets not forget it was still really god damn cold outside). That afternoon, it actually warmed up enough for me to be able to hike without my long sleeve shirt, but it would always go back to 30 degrees or less at night.