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1st week on the trail, 1st trail town, and 1st state down! When leaving Mountain Crossings, the next stop is Whitley Gap Shelter. Unbelievably, it’s a very long mile and a half off the trail! *Click ‘SHOW MORE’ below for more notes about this video…Thankfully I don’t depend on shelters and make camp where ever I like. ‘Lone Star’ was just ahead and the next morning I found him making coffee and noticed him add a couple bite sized Snickers bars (like you get for Halloween) to his cup. He had forgotten to buy sugar and found the little candy bars work even better!(1:03) Another copper A.T. plaque.(1:07) Looking back toward Blood Mountain.(1:14) Dick’s Creek Gap. 38 miles north from Neel Gap.A pair of hikers we had met at Mountain Crossings raced past us on the downhill coming into the gap. They only had one tent and looked young enough to be skipping class at high school. They wore cotton shirts with beer logos, and blue jeans.They did not say so, but they were afraid there would not be a motel room left in town and wanted to beat us to it. I let them play their games and soon passed the larger of the pair and with bushy red hair. He was going very slow and dragged one foot along the ground, trying not to pick it up because of pain.At the trailhead, no one’s phones could get a signal. Not even when putting an aluminum hiking pole up to one ear, and a phone to the other.Finally the still healthy of the two young men walked back up the hill he had just ran down, and got a call through.The Inn offers ‘free pick-up at trailhead’ in the guide book, but they were not willing to drive up the mountain for just six. He did call a shuttle for us and a gentleman with A.T. stickers all over his windows showed up after a half hour. (He suggested using text messages next time.)He had to make two trips and Lone Star and I split the fare ($5 each). Once there, the high school crew was excited to have scored the ‘BIG’ room, but ‘Red’ was icing his knee while drinking a beer. I never saw them again…(1:22) “The Hiawassee Budget Inn owned by Ron Haven”. My plan was to take the shuttle to town to do laundry, get a shower, upload a video to the internet, and hang my hammock in the yard of the hotel but sometimes things don’t work out like we want.Once there, I am informed of a rule that you can’t pay to camp outside unless all the rooms are taken. DOH!So Lone Star let me share his room. To be fair the shower was nice but the room was definitely on the junky side – 20 year old TV with 4 grainy channel, etc.The hotel laundry ‘closet’ is locked at 7pm so no one messes it up. There’s no heat in there either and poor Lone Star almost froze to death waiting for his clothes to dry. He only had his rain gear to wear as he was washing everything else, so I loaned him my vest.I tried to use the computer and did get on for about 10 minutes and emailed home before another hiker rudely stood behind me waiting to use it too. Needless to say, I did not get any videos posted here either.There is a little shed of an “outfitter” here only open in the morning and I got fuel for my stove. There was a very limited selection but the guy running it was really knew his stuff. A good person to ask questions if you are having trouble with your gear.Funny story: I was walking with my hands in my pockets and tripped over a tree root IN THE HOTEL PARKING LOT. I did a face plant straight to the ground, and was lucky to not get injured.It was still fun checking out the little town and getting Mickey D’s. (1st fast food on the trail!)There were lots of hikers we had never seen before and the sidewalk looked like a conveyer belt. Each one carrying plastic bags of resupply from the Dollar store. The hikers were easy to spot with bright colored, puffy jackets, and week old beards.We met a woman waiting to be picked up because of shin splints. She had already rested in town several days, but it did not get better.The shuttle ride back to the trail is again advertised as ‘free with stay’. But there are signs that read “PLEASE TIP YOUR DRIVER!” – EVERYWHERE: on the drivers hat, the back of his shirt, and written crudely in black sharpie on both sun visors, and the back of EVERY SINGLE SEAT in the extra-long passenger van.There were at least 20 guys stuffed into that old behemoth. At $5 a pop – they are making a KILLING on ‘free’ shuttle rides!I felt like Chevy Chase in one of those corny National Lampoons Vacation movies where he’s stuck in some rundown tourist trap.I took my turn putting a five dollar bill into a dirty ‘Big Gulp’ soda cup and knew right then that my budget to hike to Maine for $1 a mile, was not going to cut it.(1:25) One of several pieces of plane wreckage at Muskrat Creek shelter. Here I met another hiker from Greenville, SC where I live.(1:31) The GA/NC state line! The hike up the first hill in NC never seems to end!.
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