AT Day 008: Saturday April 15, 2023

Mile 69.2+ 21.1 miles/33.8 km
Total Distance Hiked: 90.3 miles/144 kilometres

Dicks Creek Gap – As Knob –  Bly Gap – Sharp Top  – Sassafras Gap – Yellow Mt- deep gap – Standing Indian Mountain Beech Gap

A: 6200ft~xx m _ D:4420 ft ~xx m

With a full two day break from hiking this morning we woke early champing at the bit to get out and get going. We decided to take the town shuttle to the trailhead. The shuttle leaves town at 9am from the supermarket carpark. So we figured we would go early to make sure we get a spot,  get a Starbucks coffee for breakfast and  a fresh sandwich to take on trail for lunch. The ordering of the sandwich was really funny. At the sandwich counter, I asked the shop assistant if I could order a sandwich –  he said yes you can order but there is no one here to make it. So when will someone be here, I asked – he didn’t know. So I got yesterday sandwiches from the refrigerator and a coffee from Starbucks and we settled in for the long wait for the shuttle. There were no other hikers at the pickup location.  Time seemed to move swiftly,  we watched customers coming and going out of the store, we watched  the  clouds lit by the rising sun drifting over the surroundings hills. It was quite a peaceful setting despite being  a supermarket carpark. And it was while watching cars rolling in and out when we noticed a neat campervan pulling into the carpark. We were admiring the bike setup at the back and the driver waved to us as she drove in.

And that is how we met Kate and her georgeous dog Gus. Kate stopped for a chat on her way into the store. We learnt that she was supporting her husband (Jon – trail name The Incident) who was through hiking the AT. He was coming into Dicks Creek Gap sometime today.  They’ve hiked the Camino in Spain and a few others but she wasn’t interested in a long hike like the AT. We said we would mind Gus while she went in to get her coffee. Gus did not mind at all and pretty soon was in for a treat.
While Gus was enjoying his puppychino we continued chatting to Kate, who was such an interesting conversationalist. We could have talked for quite a while.  Especially since our interest aligned. They are from Arizona and she is a retired English teacher.  Her husband was a river scientist having worked on the Verde and Gila Rivers. Since we hiked about 200 miles of the Gila River in New Mexico we were keen to know more.   She offered us a ride to the trailhead which we gladly accepted.  It would mean getting a few more miles in today and getting on  trail ahead of any bubble of hikers released by the shuttle.
It is only a 15 minute drive from town.

Her husband has similar interests to Hammer- distance cycling – and I admired her campers setup, a vehicle which would be perfect  for such a support role. Kate dropped us off at the the trailhead about 8.30.  It was like saying goodbye to an old friend. We could have chatted for a lot longer. As we left Gus took his spot back in the van.

The trail from Dicks Creek Gap seems to go straight up. We were fresh and didn’t really notice it so much. It was great to see more leaves out on trees and much more prolific birdsong to accompanie us on the climbs. Occasional glimpses through the trees showed lush green valleys. We passed a few hikers and by lunchtime we met a few hikers we had passed 3 or 4 days ago including a very fresh faced guy we called Montana (Ruby) and a very friendly Decibel. Just before lunch, we walked out of Georgia and into North Carolina.

We called him Montana due to his T-shirt. Trail name Ruby…

We stopped for lunch at Bly Gap, there was a cool breeze blowing. Just below where we stopped a couple of hikers were recording a video and making a bit of noise. As a result we ended up having quite a short lunch stop stop.  It will be interesting to see how that affects our energy levels for the afternoon.
From  Bly Gap we had a huge climb up to Sharp Top the climb of about a mile rising about 800 feet.  Two day-hiking ladies we met coming up to the gap warned us about the climbing being a full Snickers Bar peak. So funny because we had snicker bar unit of measure  when we were hiking on the CDT. As it was, the climb was not so bad being broken up in the middle by a short saddle.

We had an occasional break in the trees for views of the lakes below. All afternoon we did not see any hikers until we came past Stading Indian Shelter where there were at least 30 tents dotted around, including Double G  who now has a brand new Osprey back pack. He was a very happy hiker. As it was crowded and still relatively early we pushed on hoping to find a quiter campsite.  From the shelter we climbed up and over the ridge of Standing Indian Mountain. It was a bit sad to see so much dead timber on this mountain. It looks like a disease has gone through. Does not look like fire damage.

The views from the top were pretty sensational  in the late afternoon light. We were pleased to have made the decision to hike on.  As it is predicted to rain, we were keen to get off the ridge and camp in a somewhat more protected location. Beech Gap was perfect, there were already about 5 tents there…so a bit of company if bears come calling.