What started as a dry evening in camp, day 3 at Neels Gap, turned into further onslaught of mother natures abundant rain supply. On day 4, once again, Kirk, Jack and I woke up with all of our possessions drenched. Kirk and Jack are hiking companions that have been with me since I camped next to them at Hawk Mountain. Kirk is a charlotte native and is friends with many of the people I became friends with when in school there. Small world.
We were making great time, again in unrelenting rain, after breaking camp with plans to hit Low Gap shelter. That all until we decided to make an impromptu stop at Whitley Gap Shelter to make a hot lunch and revive our wet bones. The hot lunch was nice, but the extra 2.4 miles of hiking was not. Unfortunately that morale booster turned into morale killer very quickly. Rookie mistake #1.
Coming out of Whitley gap, I somehow twisted my knee. The next 5 miles in rain and mud would prove difficult. My pace was severely slowed by the sharp stabbing pain in the top of my knee; I limped into Low Gap about 45 minutes after Kirk, Jack, and everyone else. There was no way I was making camp in the downfall and with a gimpy leg; my sights were on the shelter.
Of course, the shelter was already full with wet hikers as I arrived, but I kindly told them there would need to be room made for myself. When I unpacked and laid down in my bag, there were 10 hikers, and hour later, we maxed out at 14…the shelter was only built for 7. Suck it fire Marshall.
A decent nights sleep sleep was rejuvenating, but waking up to more rain and sub 45 degree temps quickly put a halt to positive vibes. We had 10 miles to Unicoi Gap and a hitch into Hiawassee on plan today. The knee pain held off for about a mile, then flared up again, and this time worse. Kirk and Jack motored on, I stopped to summon my soul.
9 miles, and more than an hour later than Kirk and Jack, I arrive at Unicoi Gap. I’d been hobbling like a peg legged sailor all day, but my spirits were as high as the sun; which had finally re-appeared after two days of hiding. Now, after an “add two dollars to make it a large” meal at Zaxby’s, I’ve got a bag of ice on my knee, a full belly, a warm fly infested hotel room, motivation from friends and family, and my mind set on slack packing from Unicoi to Dicks Creek tomorrow.
“I know that pain is the most important thing in the universes. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned. “