Miles hiked: 9.7
Today was spa day. No joke. I ended today in the hot tub.
Last night I accidentally pitched my tent on a slight slope and spent the night trying not to slide off my sleeping pad. If it wasn’t for the rain, I would have fixed my tent positioning but didn’t feel like getting soaked. I started the day at 8:15am, trying to push out of camp before the big rush of other people. Only a couple people packed up and got out of there ahead of me. It was 9am before the sun peaked it’s head through the clouds, though the valleys were filled with a dense fog long beyond then.
The terrain today was fairly flat for almost the entire 10 miles. Nothing eventful happened on the trail and I spent the day alone until I took a break at a shelter around mile 7.
My left knee has been extremely sore all day, and has been like that since Blood Mountain. Today it was very noticeable for some reason, despite the flat terrain. I’m in town tonight and walking around without a pack I’ve still been limping.
While at the shelter for lunch, which was a couple fruit snack packs and a Snickers bar, I ran into a couple guys headed into town. I was already planning on getting off the trail due to my knee, but sharing a hotel with a hot tub sounded better than staying in a cheap hostel. We spent about an hour at the shelter before hitting the trail and doing another 2.4 miles to Unicoi Gap. It was 1,000 ft elevation drop over the course of a mile at the end. It was not enjoyable. By the time we reached the gap, we ended up getting a total of six guys to go in on a room, costing us about $17 each. It’s a fairly large room and can easily sleep six people.
The town of Hiawassee is about 14 miles from the gap, so we had to hitch a ride into town. It took about 30 minutes, but eventually we managed to get a truck to stop and they were cool enough to let all six of us jump in the back. I can tell you first hand, six guys and six fully loaded backpacks in the back of a pickup that has one of those big toolboxes is a very tight fit. Totally worth it and honestly one of the best and most fun parts of this trip so far. I’m with a group of guys I just met getting a ride from complete strangers into a small town in the middle of nowhere and every one of us were having a blast in the process.
We got dropped off at the edge of town and walked until we found the hotel. We pretty much just dropped our gear and hit the street again walking to a place called Big Al’s Pizza Buffet. After walking the wrong street, I looked up directions and we had a 17 minute walk to get there on the outskirts of town.
Upon arriving at Big Al’s, we were all greeted with disappointment to find out they’re closed Sundays and Mondays during the “off” season. Big Al, you bastard. Another 17 minute trek back into town. Yay.
We ended up going to Daniel’s All You Can Eat Steakhouse and each had multiple platefuls of food and desserts. The food wasn’t the greatest in the world and I was disappointed not to get pizza, but it was quite fulfilling nonetheless.
After going back to the room and taking a shower (separately, of course), we all hit the hot tub. The 10 mile day on the trail and miles of limping back and forth across town took a toll and it felt amazing to sit down and relax in the hot water.
My knee is absolutely killing me. I’ve been limping across town and I’m pretty sure I need a brace or something. I dunno, I’m not a doctor. This is the same knee I had x-rayed before I left and the one that “popped” when I was headed to Iraq in 2009. Not sure if I wanna hike tomorrow. My body is not used to all this “exercise” stuff.
The best moments of the past week have been hanging out in the shelters talking about nothing, complaining about feet pain, and spending time with strangers in the middle of nowhere. I don’t even care about the hike anymore, it’s 1,000 times more fun just hanging out with weirdos. I can see why Christopher McCandless enjoyed his travels so much (look him up if you don’t know who he is). Hitchhiking is a very interesting experience that I hope to do again.