Monday, April 11, 2016
AT 7.4 – 12.3, 4.9 miles
We had a very nice night of mid-40˚ temperatures, seemed like a heat wave from the night before! I even heard a Barred Owl in the early morning hours. Getting out of our sleeping bags this morning was much easier. Ben did an excellent job of making us a Mountain House granola breakfast.
Today, our goal was the Gooch Mountain Shelter, it would be an 8.4 mile hike over Sassafras and Justus Mountains. The forecast for the day called for storms that night, so we were hoping for an additional 1.4 mile to Gooch Gap, where we could get a shuttle to the town of Suches for the night. Given our prior days, this was an ambitious goal but I felt good about achieving it. Plus, the kids had the prospect of a hamburger to look forward to that night!
We set out in good spirits that morning, and it was a foggy morning. As we gained and lost elevation, the fogginess varied; I found the changes in the landscape fascinating. Fog definitely gave the mountains a different feeling altogether. We were both short on water on found a small stream to refill, so we took a small break to refill and treat our water.
We were told heading up Sassafras Mountain was very steep, but very short. I would argue the “very short” part; once up there (or so we thought) we decided to break for lunch. All we had to do was get down, get over Justus Mountain, and to Gooch Gap, and we’d be set. I think we could all taste those hamburgers! After lunch, we resumed our hiking but discovered that we had simply plateaued, rather than actually getting to the top! Finally we reached the top, and began our descent into Cooper’s Gap. Just as we were about to reach the bottom, one of the kids sprained her ankle. Thank goodness it happened where it did; we were right at the trail head and within calling range of a shuttle.
After a few phone calls, a shuttle was found that could accommodate all 5 of us. They could be there in a short while. While we waited, a taxi showed up to collect a hiker on the other side of the gap; we thought the idea of a taxi coming up there was quite funny; we laughed and laughed. Later, we found out that taxis regularly run hikers to and from the gap to the town of Dahlonega.
In a short amount of time, our shuttle arrived – a bus from the Hiker Hostel, located in Woody Gap. She ran us to the Holiday Inn Express in Dahlonega, stayed while we got a room, then ran our friends to the hospital. Now, I’ve never checked into a hotel with “nothing,” meaning, not having my own toiletries, clothing changes, etc. This time, all we had were our packs. Our only clothes were what we were wearing, plus an extra base layer in our packs. This hotel went above and beyond in providing us everything we needed; from extra toiletries to razors and toothbrushes, and accommodating our every request and getting around town. Apparently they even had someone that quit that night, so the wonderful Hollie pulled a double shift; she was our go-to woman for everything. But I digress. After we checked in, our first order of business was to shower, then see about laundry. Unfortunately, this hotel did NOT have a laundry room, so we found Mama’s Taxi to get us to the laundromat. In our big road trip travels, I’ve done laundry all over this country. I’ve come to expect that the cost of a load can range from $1.50 to 2.50 per load. Not here! It was $9.00 for ONE load of laundry, and that was just for a WASH!
Our friends arrived back at the hotel shortly after we got back from laundry duty, and it was a definite sprain. A couple day’s rest was ordered for the patient.
I was very concerned that our friends would not return to the trail. We enjoyed Monday night in the hotel, and ordered a large pizza; and it was NOT enough for the 3 of us!