15.4 miles today. I was wearing extra layers again last night but when I popped my head out of my sleeping bag this morning, it didn’t feel as cold. And my water wasn’t frozen. Success! Stretch and I got going before 9 and made 7 miles by noon, which was a welcome change from yesterday’s 3 miles. It was a pretty shallow grade for most of the day which made the miles fly by. The only real peak was Albert Mountain, which required a bit of a rock scramble for the last part of climb. It had started snowing right when we got to the base of the climb so the view from the fire tower at the top was pretty obscured by the time we got there. We passed 100 miles there though, which someone was kind enough to point out by writing it with sticks.
We got down to the new Long Branch shelter but it was too early to stop and too cold there so we headed for the Rock Gap shelter a few miles later. We got there and saw some familiar faces and were debating whether or not to stay or try to get to town when some kids came up and said they had hot food down at the gap. We went down to Rock Gap and there was a church youth group there with a bunch of delicious food. I had three chili dogs, some beans, sweet tea, and a blueberry muffin. So good! It started raining and they offered to give us a ride into Franklin so we were sold.
There is a Hikers Fools Bash going on in town this weekend at the Sapphire Inn, one of Ron Haven’s places. I had been calling trying to get a room for Saturday night for the past couple of days but I could never hear the person clearly even with a good signal. They could apparently hear me fine because when I said they sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown they laughed. They were full by the time I could get a clear call so the church trail angels dropped us at the Knights Inn. Apparently the Holiday Inn Express in Hiawassee spoiled me because I expected something nicer and cleaner for my money, but I’m told this is on par or better than the other hiker hotels.
We showered and then went down to the Sapphire to hang out with Couch and Hangman for a little bit, picking up drinks at the gas station on the way. It was very quickly past hiker midnight though so we headed back for bed.