Plum Orchard Gap Shelter to Standing Indian Shelter – 12.2 miles
Made it to NC! Was joined by Joe Derajtys until I got to the GA/NC border. Got even more trail magic at Deep Gap including beer for a great St. Patrick’s Day surprise. Huge thunderstorm overnight at Standing Indian Shelter with hail and strong winds. Glad not to be in a tent.
I woke up earlier than usual this morning so that Joe and I would cross paths between the shelter I was at and where he parked his car. It wasn’t long before I saw him. A few tenths down the trail and I saw him hiking south so he turned around and started hiking with me. The beginning of the day was an easier section of hiking up to the GA/NC border. At the border, Joe gave me an orange and a sandwich that he made at home. As we were there taking pictures by the border sign, Sani and Gramps show up and also take a break there. I still didn’t know them very well at this point, so we did not interact too much. I also didn’t want to hang out long, so Joe and I said our goodbyes and I headed north while he turned and hiked south back to his car. The climb out of Georgia was hard. Not SOBO hard having to start in Maine, but still very steep and long for anyone who does not have their thru hiking legs yet.
At Muskrat Creek Shelter I stopped to eat my lunch. There I met a few hikers, 2 of them named Vape and The Boss. They were an older couple and more importantly, Vape was blind. Vape would hike behind The Boss and hold on to the back of her shirt while she would direct him to take a step up, down, or over anything on the trail. It was so cool to meet them and hear their story. I wish I had more time with them. That day was the only time I ever saw them and I have not heard if they made it all the way or not, but I would 100% believe it if they did.
1 mile from the shelter I was planning on stopping at, I saw Alex/Digs sitting in a chair with food and beer. Some trail angels set up at Deep Gap for St. Patrick’s Day. I had my second lunch of the day with Yuengling and great conversation with other hikers and locals from the area. The last mile to the shelter was all uphill, but not too bad. I even was able to get a spot in the shelter! A few of the guys after setting up their campsites hiked back down to Deep Gap to drink more beer. I wanted to go back, but I didn’t want to have to hike back up to the shelter so I stayed put and made some hot chocolate instead. That night there was a huge thunderstorm. It even hailed at one point. It was so loud that all of us in the shelter were awake and watching our backpacks hanging in the front of the shelter swing all over the place, but somehow not fall off of their hooks. A lot of hikers there were tenting, but thankfully no one found any holes in their tents the next morning after the storm. That was my first storm on the trail and it would not be my last.