We picked up our packs on the way down and found the trail on the other side of the parking area. Trying to make up for our lost time, we pushed on to get to our intended camp spot at Three Forks near FS 58. We made it well before 5:00pm and found a spot to stealth camp behind a thicket of rhododendron along the creek on the south side.
We enjoyed our time in this pretty spot beside the creek, ate, and had an 'interesting time' trying to hang our food bags. In an effort not to embarrass myself, I won't share all the gory details. :-) However, after a very cold night, I awoke to retrieve the bags which were hanging together to find my bag had been chewed in to. :-( My bag- waterproof and supposedly odorproof - had several holes but the food was okay in the wire mesh Outsak. I always put the Outsak with the food inside another bag, along with my hygiene kit and Primus stove/pot/cup. Putt-Putts' bag was perfectly fine. Go figure??
Putt-Putt and I were both having trouble with freezing appendages- her fingers and my toes. We finally got packed up and took off across the bridge and headed toward Justice Creek, our destination, 9.5 miles away.
Of course, we were in Georgia so we began to climb! We arrived at Hickory Flats and took a moment to note the Dallas Woody Memorial.
We were happy to crest Hawk Mtn after that and then down to Hightower Gap where we met an older fella working hard on trail maintenance. When I noted that I had done this trek last year from the other direction, he felt the need to comment that Sassafrass Mtn. was harder to climb from this side! Yikes...neither of us really need to hear that, but we gamely took off with more ups and downs to get to Horse Gap and then it was Sassafras. When that was accomplished, were were anxious to get to Justus Creek- which meant we had to climb Justice Mtn. and then another small mountain...then we descended to Justus Creek. A long, hard day. We camped on the north side of the creek, not bothering to stealth camp and we were later joined by a man who camped a ways down on the other side.
I filtered water while Putt-Putt found a good tree to hang our food bag before it got too dark. We had another freezing night- she with 2 base layers and me with Smartwool - we survived, but it was cold with a capital C.
With a short day ahead of us we packed up and ascended Gooch Mtn. where we began to encounter lots of folks out walking with their dogs. The first couple were considerate, keeping them well aside on their leashes. However, I rounded a bend and met a white husky sitting atop a rocky outcrop where the trail continued. The dog stared me down and then jumped towards me. His owner was underneath the outcrop setting up camp. I yelled 'call your dog, call your dog back'. The owner called out a casual, 'come back, Willow'. The dog continued towards me while I retreated, again asking the owner to call the dog while she barked at me. Finally, the owner emerged up to say, 'She just wants to say hello'. I responded quickly that 'if she senses my fear, she may bite'. I was not happy. I finally passed and waited for Putt-Putt to get past the dog also. Another dog owner on the trail with no consideration whatsoever for other hikers. It makes me very angry!
We began to encounter pretty spots with nice views available and stopped to enjoy them since we knew we only a little over 6 miles to go to Woody Gap.
When we finally saw the cars at Woody, Putt-Putt announced she thought she would really enjoy getting to a town when we took off on the big trip...apparently those cars looked good to her!
So, now we've section-hiked from Springer to Unicoi Gap. We are as ready 'enough' for our intended thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. We've tested our gear, made adjustments, weighed absolutely everything, chucked a few items, and decided to share a little. For myself, I know there will be times when I will have to live by my motto 'Roll with it'. All in all, we are not fearful of the trail, just a little nervous of what we will encounter at hostels (we both like to check out motels on Trip Advisor...this is not a good thing since we aren't going to be able to be so picky!) However, it's the trip of a lifetime, a huge bucket list item and an adventure two fifty+ women who love the outdoors are thrilled to pursue! I feel blessed to be able to attempt this and want to inspire my daughters and grandchildren to always keep a can-do spirit alive in their hearts.
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