This morning most people were deciding to stay in town but the forecast looked good to me. It was going to be cold but the snow would turn to rain by afternoon and I had already been warm enough on nights as cold as it would be. And tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and 50 so I’d warm up quickly. I decided to go out and Sparky, StarMan, and Stretch came with me.

First I stopped at the post office to mail my mandolin in for repairs. It will probably be a couple weeks before I get it back since I’ll have to have it mailed up the trail. I hate to send it out when I was just starting to play it but I guess it’s better to have it gone in cold weather.

We got a shuttle out of town at 9 and were hiking from Unicoi Gap by 9:30. We went over Rocky Mountain, Tray Mountain, and Powell Mountain, plus a couple of “tops” and “knobs” but I’m not sure how those count as mountains or parts of mountains or what. I had intended to hike to Sassafras Gap and camping there, but we got there so early that we decided to go to the next shelter. Then we got to the shelter and decided we might as well go all the way to Dicks Creek Gap and get back into town for hot food and the hot tub. Apparently it’s about 20 degrees colder than normal here and the wind was very cold and whipping at the shelter so it would have made for a slightly colder night than planned. By the time we finished at 6:30, it was a 16.7 mile day.

My legs were starting to feel it a little bit the last couple of miles and my left knee is sore, which is weird since I would normally have a problem with my right knee if anything since it was injured in the past. But until then I had been feeling fantastic and setting a good pace. I was even running on some of the downhills and flats. I had been worried that my pack would feel heavy again with 4+ days of food but I barely notice it now. I’m feeling great!

I am very happy I went out to hike today. It was like hiking back and forth between a couple of seasons. It started out with very light flurries and no more than an inch of snow on the trail but as we got up to the top of Tray Mountain, there were up to six inches in places. It was very cold and windy, maybe low 20s. Then with lower elevation it turned to spring, a balmy 35 degrees or so, barely any snow, birds tweeting and flitting all over. I won’t lie, I busted out some “The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music.” It seemed appropriate. Then back up a mountain to more snow and winter. Then back down to spring right at the end of the day. I was mostly with StarMan and Stretch all day since we were going at the same pace and planning on sticking together for the evening.

I had my first hitching experience to town and it couldn’t have been better. We waved and danced at a few trucks and the fourth or so stopped, a Suburban. Before I could even say hello, the guy asked if we were going to Hiawassee and invited us in. We had great conversation with Tony the whole way into town and he dropped us right at the hotel. Thanks, Tony!

After dropping our stuff off in the room, we split up to go get McDonald’s and some drinks to bring back. We scarfed down the multiple burgers each and then ordered a giant pizza. Delicious! I’m still not eating as much as I should because it’s hard to stop for a whole meal in cold temperatures so I’m making up for it in town. With the weather warming up the next couple of days, that shouldn’t be a problem any more though. After eating we went down to the hot tub for a little while, then comfortable beds. Great day!

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