AT Day 005: Wednesday April 12, 2023

Mile 53.4 + 14.6 miles/23.5km
Total Distance Hiked: 68 miles/ 109.4 kilometres

Rocky Mountain – Indian Grave Gap – Tray Mountain – Tray Gap – Tray Mountain – Steel Trap Gap – Kelly Knob – Deer Gap – Moreland Gap

A wracking cough kept me awake most of the night. Mid coughing fit my attention was diverted to a flashlight shining on the side of the tent. It was past midnight, I froze and waited. It went off again…my mind was racing, was an Appalachian Trail horror story about to unfold.  We had not seen any late night hikers on this trail so far,  so unlikely to be that.  I waited to hear any sound – nothing. Then the lights flashed again. Scarred I woke Hammer – “there is someone flashing a light onto our tent” I whispered. He woke and looked around – the light flashed again. Now he was fully awake, he looked around and realised the flashing light was coming off his watch, which was charging overnight, alerting him that it was fully charged. Phew….that got my head and my heart racing. With the horror story averted, I relaxed and Hammer went back to sleep.  I coughed myself to sleep.

We have decided that with both us suffering  this cold/flu which is progressing down into the chest we will go into the next town Hiawassee and stay for two nights. Friday is predicated to be cold and raining. And while we are keen to explore the limits of our wet weather gear further, after the epic fail on Day 1,  it’s probably best to leave it till we recover from this flu.

Today we plan a short day, stopping before the crossroad into town so that we can have full motel day on Thursday and Friday.

The morning started with a beautiful sunrise, perfectly still not a breath of wind. The sound of highway traffic from down at  Unicoi Gap rose up the mountain.
Beautiful morning hiking over the top of Rocky Mountain with  brief open section providing a clear view of the distant ranges. 

We passed a few hikers, most seemed friendly. We are averging about 2 miles an hour on this peaky terrain, stopping for an hour for lunch and shorter breaks mid- morning and mid-afternoon. So far Georgia mountains have been OK, nothing too lung busting – till later this afternoon when we ascended Kelly Knob. 
We stopped for lunch under brilliant blue skies. As we had phone service it was good to catch up on news from home, particularly when it was happy news. Friends just became grandparents for the first time.

By the time we finished lunch a cloud seemed to be rolling in towards us. It was only once we got started that we realised it was a fire – most likely a controlled burn. It didn’t help that it was controlled as the trail we were hiking was soon enveloped in thick smoke,  while ashes from the fire rained down on us. The sun passing through the smoke gave a strange orange glow to the ambient light all afternoon.

Most unpleasant hiking conditions, I was struggling to breathe. A combination of flu, smoke in the air and a monster climb up Kelly Knob almost finished me off this afternoon.  The Knob was deceptive, its straight up for a mile, with at least two false summits. As we had not looked at the map for the afternoon, it took us by surprise.   We passed a few hikers on the way up and it seems they were all going to the next shelter on the order side of Kelly Knob. We hiked on a few more miles and camped at Moreland Gap, about a mile short of Dicks Gap and the road into Hiawassee.

So far on the 68 miles in Georgia  we’ve seen no animals apart from a couple of squirrels and a few birds.  Not even traces of larger animals,  such as droppings or footprints. We have seen more domesticated dogs out hiking with their owners then anything else. Maybe as the tree canopy returns more activity will come back to the forest. A section of the woods we passed this morning seemed to be home to some very melodic birds. Had to stop and listen to the twittering, it was so nice to hear. One thing we have not missed is mosquitos. So far no annoying bugs at all. May it stay that way for a little bit longer.

My knee has been feeling great, only a niggle every so often to pull me back.    I’m careful on the descents and so far no instability, swelling or searing pain. Hammer is just hitting his stride, he recons he is just about to get his trail legs.   Here is cheers to health, building fitness and having another opportunity to do what we love. As Hammer loves to say “ain’t life grand”. There is  so much to be grateful for.