After a much needed rest for our feet, a stinky load of laundry and happily letting the tornados pass by, we started our hike again heading north from Hiawassee, Georgia to our next break in Fontana Dam, North Carolina. We left Hiawassee on May 1st after one of the most incredible hiker breakfast’s at the Blueberry Patch Hostel with pancakes, eggs, biscuits, sausages, hashbrowns, coffee, juice, and homemade blueberry syrup! The Blueberry Patch is a donation-only hiker hostel run by a former thru-hiker and his wife that has been open for the past 22 years and is one of the iconic stops along the way, also being the second longest running hostel on the trail. We spent the night there, and he and his wife fed us a huge breakfast spread before dropping us off at the trail that morning. What a stop!
We started to increase our daily mileage after getting the first week under our belt. We started with about 10 miles/day getting to Dick’s Creek Gap, and since getting out of the steep and rocky mountains of Georgia we have averaged about 14 mile/day for the 100 mile stretch between there and Fontana Dam. Considering that we only planned on averaging 10.5 miles/day to meet our mileage goal, we were both pleasantly surprised at our pace when making it in to Fontana on the 8th in just a week. Part of that increase in walking speed is due to a bit of acclimatization to the trail after two weeks, something Lindsay is going to post in more depth in the next couple days. Bottom line though, we were one day ahead!
So far we have not had any major rain and the heat has stayed relatively low, not rising much higher than 80 degrees. This has allowed us to really push through the heat of the day and get to camp a little earlier and in turn get to sleep an hour or two sooner. As the summer heat increases and when we will be walking with Hunter, we plan on relaxing in the shade during the hottest part of the day to keep everyone from getting too warm. With the hot, dry weather we’ve also started to see some animals coming out on the trail; unfortunately, the majority of them have been snakes (non-poisonous). We’ve seen some bear scat, but no bears so far. When we get to the Smokey Mountains it will be our highest possibility of seeing a bear, so there is always a chance!
One of the most exciting things to happen for a hiker happened during this stretch as well, full on Trail Magic! This wasn’t just a box on the side of the road (which is awesome in its own right), rather three locals from Franklin, NC came out and set up a bbq grill and a table full of home-made goods to serve some trail magic that most hikers only read about! We spent a full two hours on the side of the trail enjoying Starbucks coffee, homemade sweet tea, chili dogs, quiche, homemade Rice Krispy treats, homemade coleslaw and plenty of chocolate chip cookies! If you’re reading this and want to help a hiker out, this trail magic set up was pretty much the way to knock it out of the park!
We made it into Fontana after only 7 days of walking for a well deserved “Nero” day (Near Zero) and prepared for our trip into the Smokey Mountain National Park. For more pictures of our travel up to Fontana and the start of the Smokey Mountains check out our AT Pictures!