Day 6: Unicoi Gap

Day 6. Today was the day I understood why hypothermia is a real threat on this trail. Don’t worry, nothing bad happened, but the weather conditions definitely foreshadow what 3 days in this could do to a person.

It started raining last night and did not let up until 1pm today. I got in to bed in the rain, I got out of bed in the rain, I packed up camp in the rain, I hiked out of camp in the rain. And then I hiked for 3.5 more hours in the rain. Alone.

The temp was somewhere around 40 degrees and I fell behind the group to check in with the Mrs. back home for a few minutes on her way to work. By the time I hung up, there was no one and no thing in sight. Just cold and wet fog as far as the eye could see (which was about 20 feet).

The plan was to hike 15 miles to Tray Mountain Shelter, which would be a beast of a day on its own in sunny warm weather. But in this rain and cold, I think I’d be close to frostbite by the time I arrived. My supposed waterproof gloves were anything but, and my rain jacket is just as good at keeping rain water out as it is keeping sweat moisture in. I could barely feel my appendages when I finally reached the halfway point of Blue Mountain Shelter.

It was here I met up with the rest of the gang and we made the very quick decision to skip the next 7 miles and instead stop at Unicoi Gap a mile away. This road crossing is a common shuttle pickup location to Hiawassee, a large trail town with motels, restaurants, outfitters and more. As soon as arrangements and reservations were made though, it of course cleared up. I threw out the suggestion of possibly going on but I think the combination of wet gear and low spirits were too big to overcome. I think I am ready for a bit more mikes per day, but I’m ok taking it slow for now as planned.

So, we are at a Budget Inn tonight, and head back to Unicoi Gap tomorrow at 8am. This entire motel is hikers though, so it’s a fun night of drying gear, washing clothes, drinking beer and chatting about the trail. Many of the people we shared a hostel with last night are here, so we are making new friends to add to the growing family of hikers in this Georgia section of the AT. Pictured above is me with Fun Facts and Santa.

SIde note, you know what’s AMAZING on a bitter cold day of hiking? Hot Gatorade. Fun Facts told us a fun fact about how drinking heated Gatorade is the ultimate hydration technique. And once again, her knowledge did not disappoint. I can’t express how incredible it felt to drink a cup of piping hot Gatorade at that shelter after 3.5 hours in the cold rain.

Tomorrow is going to be almost 17 miles in order to make up what was avoided today, and get to the Top of Georgia Hostel as planned tomorrow. I think it’s doable but it will be a long day. Two nights in a row with a warm bed feels like cheating, but I don’t see this as a trend … just a convenient solution to a miserable and bitter cold day. Hello Neiman!

  • Start Mile: 42.6
  • Start Time: 09:15
  • End Mile: 52.3
  • End Time: 14:00
  • Miles Hiked: 9.7
  • Miles to Go: 2138.6
  • Lodging: Hiawassee / Budget Inn

13 thoughts on “Day 6: Unicoi Gap

  1. Ha! Great post Mike! Now you know, rain gear doesn’t keep you dry (rarely anyway) but it will keep you warm. I’ve never tried warm/hot Gatorade, I always considered hot water/tea a treat, but in the cold/wet environment you described… anything warm would be great! Your wet/cold night followed by the wet/cold hike sounds like one you may never forget… only time will tell. Good luck on the 17 miler tomorrow -that would definitely be a ‘push’ for me, given the terrain! Hope the weather is better for you… blue, sunny skies!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Gotta take care of yourself! I do love walking, but hiking in cold rain doesn’t sound like my idea of fun (admittedly though, I’d rather hike in cold rain than hot rain!). You’ve got four months of hiking ahead of you – no need to go crazy on day 6. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. These are the tough times, but knowing you can be flexible is half of the battle. It’s great that you had the option to seek shelter…. it wouldn’t happen on Stoney Indian 🙂
    mom & dad


  4. Glad to hear you made the smart decision to stop. I’m cold just thinking about it. I better go heat up some Gatorade.


  5. Day 2:
    The path to the mailbox turned out to be more treacherous than I had originally thought. The snow plow had come by (again) and created a mound of snow 1.5 ft high. I was unprepared for this. The gear I was wearing (tennis shoes) were not designed for this obstacle and so my feet were wet and cold by the end of my journey. Despite this problem I continued over the mound and was victorious in retrieving the mail. The hike back was not as bad since I had already created tracks in the hill.

    I felt a certain pride upon my return to my warm home having concurred the unknown. Who knows what tomorrow will bring.

    Start Location: Ithaca Lane
    Start Time: 4:36
    Steps: 50-60 (wasn’t really counting)
    End Time: 4:38
    End Location: Ithaca Lane
    Total Steps: 75


  6. Few things are more depressing and debilitating than hiking in the cold rain for long periods of time. I am happy that you recognized the situation as a potential hazard, hypothermia is no joke and an easy trap to fall into. At some point your mind and body will tell you one thing and reality is something else. Happy trails can and should include a motel every so often. Its part of the AT experence and irs fun.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. If it makes you feel any better we haven’t had power from the storm we had since 5 days ago – had to sleep at moms and then tried to sleep in our 35 degree House then we slept at hotel and we finally got power back and today we are expecting foot of snow and once again I expect power to go out. Stay well Love mil and fil

    Liked by 1 person

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