We are taking a zero day today in Hiawassee. Had the best night of sleep last night, and sure needed it! Recognized so many hikers from the trail when we arrived yesterday. They are all staying here. Many are "slackpacking." That means they will leave their packs at the hotel, and the hotel will shuttle them to the nearest gap that they would like to start at. I believe this hotel will shuttle you to 3 different gaps, and you hike the sections between the gaps, and then they come pick you up and take you back to the hotel for the night. There is a young couple that is doing a 16-mile section today. Apparently you can really fly without the heavy packs on your backs. We may have to try that eventually.
Since I don't have stories from the trail today, I thought I'd throw in a couple of other odds and ends today. First off, I could write pages and pages about the people on the trail. Some of them are well, shall we say, quite extraordinary. Sometimes in a good way, sometimes not.
There seem to be mainly two age groups hiking - 18-30 year olds, who have just graduated and are doing this before careers, or retirees. The retirees, of course, travel slower, but seem to have come very prepared, and done their research, and take time to take care of important things, like cleanliness, health, and food care, and adequate equipment. The youngsters, while they have the ability to fly up the mountains, tend to hike in terrible footwear, tend to not take care of their foot problems as they come up, and make poor decisions that lead to TERRIBLE consequences. Case in point, the young couple that are slackpacking today - last week, after they drank quite a bit at the St. Patrick's Day party at Deep Gap Shelter, decided to go night-hiking with their red head lamps. The girl took a bad tumble, and landed on her FACE. She now has 2 black eyes, and is bruised clear across her nose. Her knee is also split open. She borrowed my butterfly bandages yesterday to avoid getting stitches. Because, of course, no one has any sort of insurance. Yikes. I did ask her if they learned her lesson, and she promised me that they would not attempt that again.
Several others have had terrible feet. One poor guy, Eric, had nothing at all with him to treat blisters, or anything, and he was hiking in tennis shoes. He was racing up the trail, but when he camped with us, was reduced to hobbling. We gave him soap, neosporin, etc., to help treat his open blisters and cuts, but I'm sure he must have been headed for town to take a few zeros and heal up.
Overall, we are ahead of schedule, and although we are not fast, we are certainly steady, and are ahead of our group that we started with. Even though the youngsters pass us, we generally catch up to them by the time we pitch camp. Rather satisfying, to say the least.
When we arrived yesterday, the young couple that is slackpacking told us they had extra room in their suite if we wanted to sleep on their floor. I'm sorry, but I'm still laughing about that. Nice of them to offer, but I just don't see that happening. That king-sized mattress had my name written all over it! lol.
Another odd thing - we learned that Nolan Ryan used pickle juice to toughen his skin on his hands so he would not get blisters on his fingers when he pitched. We have been trying that preventative So far, no blisters, so it seems to be working. We'll let you know if that works, or if it's just an old wives' tale.
Another oddity - a large portion of the younger folks on the trail are smoking. This surprised us a bit. I guess I just think this is difficult enough with healthy lungs. I can't imagine doing it with reduced lung capacity. Also, of course, there's a good amount of marijuana on the trail. They don't seem to be doing very many miles per day though. Haha! Not a lot of ambition there.
I guess that's all for now. Finally got to a real computer, and it's nice to see everyone's comments and be able to reply. All of our photos are now available for viewing at www.flickr.com/lindageraghty if you want to see more. Thanks again for all of the comments and encouragement!