After an awful night's sleep, not so great weather overnight, and the promise of more lousy weather tomorrow, instead of going to Top of Georgia, and continuing on to the next shelter, I instead decided to take a "nero" (near-zero miles) day, and walked to Dicks Creek Gap, and got a shuttle into Hiawassee to stay at the Budget Inn here.
This involved getting up early (7 am, before sunrise), quickly packed up, skipped breakfast, and made my way quickly to the Gap to make the 9 am shuttle. Me, Jukebox, Little Heater, their dog Mac, and a fourth hiker whose name I unfortunately don't remember, were the only ones on the shuttle, and we got to the hotel around 10ish.
The fourth hiker's room was available when we got there, but the other three of us had to wait since our rooms were not yet available (checkout was at 11 am), so we walked over to Taco Bell for breakfast/lunch. Jukebox is a former tech project manager at a bank, and we had a long discussion of bureaucratic hurdles in software development while his dog alternately ate everything but the lettuce out of tacos and tried to trip us with his leash.
Our plan to shower, decompress, go on a beer run (Hiawassee is in a dry-on-Sunday county), and then grab dinner derailed almost immediately when we found the Mountain Crossings satellite store (a hole in the wall attached to the hotel's laundry room) was cooking and offering Bratwurst, and we chatted with Squirrel for a bit, before the need for beer took over.
Our first attempt at summoning a trail angel for transportation assistance failed ("Sorry, I'm in church."), so we called a local taxi driver, David Baldwin (no relation to the actor), who took us into the neighboring county in NC for a beer run, telling us stories along the way (Apparently, I have now sat in the same car seat as Clint Eastwood), and let us use his grocery store loyalty card for discounts.
Then, back at the hotel, we resumed our conversation with Squirrel, who is a triple-crowner (Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail) and also biked across the country (Atlanta to CA). Also joining us were Nado and Pops, and Daniel and Jack(queline).
Eventually, we made our way over to a local restaurant and took advantage of their all-you-can-eat Easter buffet for only $9. I wish I could have eaten more (and I really should have had more meat than potatoes), but it was totally worth it.
Afterwards, there was more discussion (apparently, now, "ham" is a unit of weight, volume, length, and a fundamental constant replacing pi) before we all finally absconded to bed.
Plan for tomorrow is breakfast (probably at Taco Bell), a resupply run at the Mountain Crossings satellite and the local food store ("only" a 0.6 mile walk away), and then catch the 11 am shuttle back to the trail, where I expect I'll be able to make it to the Muskrat Creek shelter, 11.8 miles away and the first shelter in North Carolina.