AT Day 004: Tuesday April 11, 2023

Mile 34.1 + 19.3 miles/30km
Total Distance Hiked: 53.4 miles/86 kilometres

Wolf Laurel Top –  Cow Rock –  Tesnatee Gap – Hogpen Gap – Poor Mountain – Low Gap – Blue Mountain – Unicoi Gap – Rocky Mountain

Last night was a much more comfortable nights sleep. We were camped alone at a really nice campsite. I worked out a method of raising the top my sleeping mat so that my head is higher then the rest of my body. Although the flu is progressing this has eased the sinus congestion through the night.   Hammer was feeling like his flu symptoms were just beginning. 

The ridge we camped on provided really nice views of the valley below. A half moon was high up in the sky and it was incredibly peaceful and quite. We broke camp and were on our way after 7. The air was cold despite the rising sun. There isn’t a lot of warmth in the sun until it gets quite high in the sky. Although it lifts our spirit  just to see it.

We had a morning of steep ups and downs, crossing Highway 348 twice.  Seeing cars parked at the trailhead always makes me think of trail magic. We were not dissapointed on the second crossing, at Hogpen Gap a cache of water had been left. Always good not to have to stop to filter water.It was a beautiful morning, hiking on lovely trail – life is good (at 10am anyway).

The morning started to warm up and the cool breeze lost some of its sting. We passed a couple of hikers out for short trips. So far it’s been surprising how few people we’ve met on trail. Based on information this is the busiest of the three long trails. Yet we’ve seen fewer people  so far then in the same period on the other trails.

Stopping for lunch is always a highlight for me, as we get to take a long break and take our shoes off. Today we had teriyaki noodles, Hammers old favourite. Our hiker hunger is yet to kick in as we had trouble finishing the usual serving size. As on our previous hikes, we eat the largest meal at lunch. It avoids cooking where you camp at night and possibly avoids attracting bears to the campsite. It also provides a bit more energy for the afternoon hiking.

After lunch we crossed Low Gap where we found an abandoned campsite. It was as if someone was midway erecting a tarp and a shelter and just gave up. I can understand this if they were trying to do it in the rain last Saturday. It looks a bit desolate though, and you do wonder what happened to the campers.

From here the trail was on an old abandoned logging road. A couple of flat miles of easy walking. It would be good if it stayed like this for a little bit longer.  But of course you can’t have it all. What followed was  couple of gnarly rocky miles winding our way towards and around the interestingly named Spaniards Knob and it’s neighbour Red Knob.

One of the other surprising this that struck me today was how silent the forest has been most of the time. While bird twittering can be heard occasionally it is not prominent. This silent walking does give a lot of time for contemplation. There is something about the rhythm of walking and the pace our brain normally functions. Walking for long periods gives space to let your mind wander.

It was a warm afternoon and we passed a couple of groups and  a couple of through hikers carrying enormous packs. Really feel for them on those rocky descents.
We made our destination for the day at Unicoi Gap earlier then we thought. We met a super friendly through hiker interestingly named ‘Afterlife’. He’d just come out from a short stop in the town of Hiawassee and was waiting for the sun to go down a bit before getting back on trail. Hammer asked him about his trail name – he was given the name because he used to work in a funeral home. He had such a sunny disposition.

As the weather was so nice we said goodbye to ‘Afterlife’ and continued on to climb Rocky Mountain. This was not an easy climb coming at the end of the day and with the sun on our back. We made it to within a half mile of the summit, when Hammer spotted a flat campsite. Day done, time to get horizontal and let our throbbing feet rest. Despite the flu, it was a great day on the AT.