A birthday on the Appalachian Trail is certainly an interesting experience. Heading out of Neels Gap with a full four days of food and full water supply after a zero day really weighed me down, and of course once you come out of a gap you go straight up a mountain. Clouds and fog had hung around from the previous day as we made our way to Low Gap Shelter. I hiked alone for most of the day completely engulfed in clouds, not being able to see 15 feet in either direction. Certainly a lot of time to myself and my thoughts. Not the kind of birthday I was used to, but it was pretty refreshing. I got to the shelter around 3 and quickly pitched my tent just before it started to drizzle. I hung around the shelter talking to all the new faces, and I whipped out my small bottle of Fireball that I had been carrying since Springer and passed it around. After the bottle was gone, everyone at the shelter christened me with my trail name, "Fireball." A truly awesome way to end a Birthday.
The morning was a nice hike. It was relatively flat and skirted a lot of mountains. No big views per say, but the scenery and weather were pretty nice. We got up pretty early because everyone said that there would be awesome trail magic at Unicoi Gap. We covered the 9.7 miles by noon only to find a parking lot full of cars and day hikers. Lesson learned, never trust someone when they talk about mythical trail magic. We sat around the gap for about an hour eating lunch and talking before heading 1000 feet up Rocky Mountain, a true ass kicker. The uphill was hard, but the down hill was destroying my knee. Just before I hit the bottom of the mountain I spotted a car with a table set up, Trail Magic! Just when in my time of need. These people are truly angels. They served us BBQ sandwiches and an assortment of snacks, delicious. We left them with happy faces and full stomachs, only to go 100 yards up the trail to stumble upon another Trail Magic set up. We couldn't say no. With our third lunch of the day we continued on. We ended up doing about 15.4 miles. A little more than I wanted, but there was nowhere really to camp. I ended up setting camp at Tray Mountain Shelter and was asleep by 7.
Today was a down day. I don't know if it was just from the high mileage from the previous day or what, but physically and mentally I was not there. My knee was absolutely killing me on the downhills, but completely fine on the uphills. Kelly Knob nearly broke me. It felt like it went straight up into the sky and then straight down into hell as my knee was set a fire. It was a pretty low moment on the trail. Right when I reached Dicks Creek Gap I headed to the Top of Georgia Hostel for a hot shower and warm meal. The people here are really nice and turned my day around 180°. They shuttled us into Hiawassee for an all you can eat country style buffet and a resupply. We all tore the buffet up, food never tasted so good.
Tomorrow I hope to cross the GA/NC border! I've got enough food to reach Franklin, NC so my next update may be from either there or the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Again, I can't express how much all of your support means to me. It really helps me through days like today. A lot of you have been asking how to send me stuff. The easiest way would be to contact my mom through the facebook page, she is handling all of th drop boxes.