Day 14: Trekking Poles Are Not Salt Licks
Sunday, April 28, 2019 9:34 pm
Location: Sandy Gap (140.4 miles)

After two days off, CareFree and I returned to the trail today. While my back is not yet fully recovered, the pain is gone and most of my flexibility and mobility has returned.

We again started the day with the lodge’s continental breakfast. Today, there were even more kinds of pastries out. The only downside to not hiking yesterday is that I wasn’t quite hungry enough for my take-one-of-everything meal plan to work flawlessly. At the end of breakfast l wound up with an uneaten blueberry muffin I had to take with me.

After breakfast, we returned to our room, finished packing, and then got a ride back to the trailhead from Walt, the Tellico Lodge’s owner (along with his wife). We rather enjoyed our stay there; thanks for your hospitality!

Back on the trail, we were happy to follow a relatively easy and well-maintained trail, even if it was a bit steep, and joined by a motorcycle trail for a few miles. This unfortunately caused there to be occasional deep ruts in the trail we had to either hike through or around.

We took our first break at Unicoi Gap, a little under five miles into the day. I ate the extra muffin I took this morning; it was every bit as delicious as I expected. While sitting in a nice shade at the gap, three cars passed on the gravel road that crosses the trail. Unicoi Gap also marked our entrance to North Carolina. For roughly the next 40 miles, the trail will generally follow the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

A few miles later, we stopped near the ruins of an old chimney for a small snack break. It’s interesting how it’s chimneys that usually survive from really old buildings. It wasn’t visibly obvious that the building collapsed; there weren’t a bunch of other ruins on the ground. Presumably someone pulled the rest of the building down but left the chimney, though that seems a bit strange to me.

An Old Chimney
An Old Chimney

Around 4:15, we reached Tate Gap, our intended destination today (and last Thursday). I was feeling pretty good and wanted to go further — this would make it easier for us to follow our faster alternate plan we decided yesterday. So we decided to stop for a break and cook dinner, and make sure I was still feeling good after that before pushing on; the next campsite we would go to is four miles ahead.

While there, a butterfly landed on CareFree’s trekking pole, attempting to eat the salt that had accumulated.

A little under two miles later, we arrived at Six Mile Gap, which had a side trail that climbed to the top of the nearby Waucheesi Bald. I wanted to summit it, but at half a mile off trail, it was eating into time we needed to make it today’s campsite. While we were deciding what to do, we spotted another hiker on the trail! Avatar, who is hiking the BMT south-bound, gave us a brief description of the summit, from which we decided not to hike up to it.

Throughout the day, there were a lot of partial views. You could see out the distance through the trees, but the trees nearby were too thick to get a really spectacular view. Though the trail has its own beauty, and as a hiker, you can somewhat filter out the trees and see the views, even if you can’t get a good photo of them.

We stopped at a campsite just short of Sandy Gap, nestled in a small space just off the trail. With dinner already accomplished, we didn’t need water, and set up our tent straight away.

I’m impressed my back did as well as it did today. A good day of hiking after an injury certainly does lift the spirits, and I look forward to staying on our faster-paced schedule tomorrow, now made easier by the extra miles we did today.