Posted by: pjbarr | March 28, 2010

No Rain, No Maine

Start: Tray Mountain Shelter
Finish: Dicks Creek Gap, Blueberry Patch Hostel
Distance: 11.0 mi.
Trip Distance: 67.5 mi.
Side Trips: Kelly Knob (Double Springs Knob)
Side Trip Miles: 0.4 mi.
State: Georgia
Highlights: Blueberry Patch, Hiawassee

“A rainy day is the perfect time for a walk in the woods.” -Rachel Carlson, Writer, Scientist, Ecologist

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Thanks for the ride Chicken Feathers & Tuney!

My apologies for the cliché title, but it’s true. Today was my first day in the rain. And oh how it rained! All day – and freezing cold too. I think it briefly turned to sleet at one point.

I was sopping wet all 11 miles, but the only thing you can do it embrace it. But I knew I was headed to town for the night and would get dry, so this was motivation. I question how well I will cope on a day like today when I won’t reach a town for several more days and face a full shelter forcing me to tent when everything is already wet. Having thought of this prospect throughout today’s hike, the answer is probably ‘not well’.

The climb up Kelly Knob was quite a hump, but I needed only to stop once. At the top, I was dismayed to discover the 0.2 mi. side trail I was expecting to the summit no longer existed. Bushwhacking in the rain is miserable especially with wet branches hitting you in the face. Nevertheless, I wasn’t willing to let this peak go, so I did it.

The rest of the day was just wet and muddy. I need to drink more water when I hike. I get dehydrated quickly and begin suffering physically. My gaitors were quite useful today in the mud. I saw a side trail marked “vista” near the top of Powell Mountain. I skipped it. No views today.

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I finally reached Dicks Creek Gap and a road and 20 minutes of attempts to hitch hike failed. Despite being Sunday, no trail magic tent at this gap either.

Trail magic then appeared to me and in a grand way! A vehicle going away from town, and not towards it, pulled over. It was two older gentlemen from Georgia. They intend to thru-hike this year too, leaving in just a few weeks.

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Tuney and Chicken Feathers took James, a hiker who recently returned from Iraq, and I in from the pouring rain in spite of all the mud clinging to us. They took me to the Blueberry Patch to change clothes and picked up So Far and drove us to Hiawassee. We dropped James off at a hotel and the four of us then had a great feast at a Mexican restaurant. They even took us to the grocery store to buy food. These were great guys and I’m quite fortunate that fate had our paths meet today. I’m endlessly appreciative for their kindness and wish them good luck on their upcoming thru-hikes.

I forgot to mention today I also passed over the top of Young Lick Knob. An otherwise insignificant mountain, it is a rare “triple divide” peak. It is the spot where the Eastern Continental Divide reaches its southern terminus. Water that drains from its summit flows into three major rivers. On the north it flows into the Chattooga and then the Savannah River to reach the Atlantic Ocean. To the southeast water reaches the Gulf of Mexico via the Chattahoochee and then the Apalachicola Rivers. And to the west, water travels the Hiawassee, the Tennessee, the Ohio and ultimately the Mississippi River to also reach the Gulf.

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Inside the Blueberry Patch

Roy Williams, University of North Carolina basketball coach, had the 2005 National Championship team spit in the Mississippi River for good luck before the title game. Since spitting into the mighty Mississippi is good luck, I spit on the summit of Young Lick Knob. It will get there eventually.

Hiawassee, Cherokee for “grassy place”, has been a welcome oasis for me. The Blueberry Patch is an absolutely special place. I arrived dripping wet and muddy. Its owner, Gary Poteat, welcomed me and told me he’d do my laundry and handed me a basket for my dirty clothes. By the time I returned from town, my laundry was finished, folded and waiting for me. What incredible kindness!

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The place is really neat. Gary thru-hiked in 1991 and he’s operated this hostel for nearly 20 years. He has a small organic farm out back with a few donkeys and a couple goats. His kindness and hospitality are overwhelming. Gary, like Miss Janet a few days ago, is one of those people who makes the trail so special and makes it as much about people as it is about mountains.

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Come All Who Are Weary

I enjoyed a hot shower here and dried out and organized all of my gear. I’ve had a great time hanging out and talking with So Far (from Cleveland, OH), Muddy, and Bryant and Lola (a young, married couple from Texas). I really like everyone and perhaps like this group the most of my nights out. I prefer them smaller I suppose – there are only five of us here tonight.

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Bryant & Lola

Time for dinner – a pint of ice cream I picked up from the store. I should reach North Carolina tomorrow and enter the Nantahala Mountains the day after that. It will be good to be “home” again.

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So Far


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