Click on Katie’s name above to see all of her posts!

Day 7, January 9

All I remember waking up that morning was that it was so cold! It was the coldest it had been and thankfully was my last night on trail. Never would I sleep at a shelter with such high elevation knowing the temperature was going to drop like that. Backwards and I were both awake. One of us had to go wake Mom up, so we could all pack up and start moving. I was hoping that wouldn’t be me. There was no chance of me leaving my sleeping bag until we were ready to head out. Usually it’s the first thing I pack up, but today it was going to be my last. The wind was still whipping through the shelter now more than ever.

We quickly packed up. I kept my sleep clothes on knowing I was going into town. I layered up with my puffy and rain gear. I still felt cold and was glad once we were all ready to head out. Turtle had started packing his stuff up too. I don’t know how he survived that night because he didn’t have separate sleep clothes or a low degree sleeping bag.
Even with stretching, my legs felt tight. They seemed to take a while to warm up especially after a 15-mile day. The climbs felt unbearable today. The wind was working against us almost the entire day. The climbs were met with little to no reward of a view. The only sense of relief was when the trail switched over to the opposite side of the mountain and the wind would cease to exist. The wind was my biggest enemy and was relentless once you crossed back to the other side of the mountain.
Turtle, who was supposed to be slow, leapfrogged us throughout the day. Pushing down the descent of Tray Mountain into Stealtrap Gap, I had left the guys. I was moving pretty quick. I wanted to get out of the wind and sit in a nice warm building. I also realized I wanted to start my hike how I ended it…alone. I really appreciated the guys but it was something I needed to do for me. I hadn’t yet shared this with them. They would always catch up or pass me ascending mountains.
At some point, I was ahead of the guys and was low on energy. With the exception of the climbs, I was pushing hard. I came around a bend and there was a momentary silence of discovery of there being no wind. I took the opportunity to sit and eat a snack. You could actually feel the warmth of the sun. About 10 minutes later, the guys show up and plop right down next to me. Turtle walked past us as we were sitting there. The day before I told them we needed to get selfie together so I could remember them. As soon as I snapped the picture I said I was going to keep going.

Selfie with Mom and Backwards!

Climbing up Kelly’s Knob with the wind working against us was daunting. I stopped to take a break on a rock and was surprised when I saw a day hiker coming down the trail. We chatted about and he told me I was almost out of the wind for good. YES!

Backwards said, “Man, you really want to get to the hostel.”

I responded,  “Yeah, I always kick it into high gear on my last day. I also want to finish the hike how I started…alone.” They completely understood. We said our final goodbyes. There was a chance they’d catch back up or I’d see them at the road.

Back on trail, Turtle had turned to head to Deep Gap Shelter, where the guys planned to stop and eat. He was probably going to spend the night there. He had expressed interest in going to the hostel but after I told him how much it was, he didn’t seem too interested in it anymore.

I needed water badly and came across a stream. I chugged a whole bottle and filled it back up. I sat a couple of minutes and figured the guys would have to be coming around the corner at any minute. They didn’t. I knew I was close to the road and put on one final song “This is Me” by Keala Settle from The Greatest Showman. This song brought tears to my eyes as I reached the road. This was me, someone who had a passion for hiking whether people back home understood it or not, I was doing it for ME.
Back in civilization, I made the road walk to the Top of Georgia Hostel around 1PM. As I walked up the driveway, I was greeted by the owner, Bob, who happened to be throwing out the trash. He led me into the main building, which was used for breakfast, showering, the use of the computer, and watching tv. The room literally felt like an oven and it was amazing. No constant pounding in my ears from the wind, total silence. Claire, a work for stay student, helped check me in. She handed me a towel and laundry basket and led me to the bunk room. After leaving me, I took out all my dirty clothes and put them in the basket. The first thing I wanted to do was take a hot shower. I walked back over to the main building with my clothes. I took a shower and hung out in the main building to wait for my clothes to wash and dry. They had given me scrubs to wear. I helped myself to some hot chocolate and immediately felt exhausted like I could have easily gone to bed. I began talking with Claire and Bob about my journey to get there. We swapped stories and things about our personal lives like work and school.
Once my clothes were done, I headed over to the bunk room to change and got my sleeping bag laid out. They had just turned the heat on in the building when I had arrived and it was still cold. I went back over to the main building to sit in the warmth.  I didn’t feel like eating and just felt in a daze. I sat on the couch not even wanting to watch television just yet and wanted to enjoy the silence and simplicity of this lifestyle just a little longer. Claire had left her little house to join me. She was around my age but just a little younger. Just as Claire was as fascinated with me hiking the trail solo, I was just as fascinated with her because she had been using or to stay for free and complete her schooling online. She started at a University and wasn’t happy there. So she ended up going to Australia to be a work for stay nanny all while going to school. Not enough people stray from the traditional path of graduating high school and go straight to college but take the time to travel and explore. It was something I didn’t even think was possible at her age. Her, Bob, and I had talked about that. We shared college stories, details about our jobs, and stories about faith. We had talked until around 6:30 just about 30 minutes shy of having to go back to the bunkhouse. Her next adventure was a stay in Ireland- like, how cool is that!
Bob and I also talked about the challenges of running and operating a hostel. Him being very knowledgeable about the trail, I had asked him if he could identify the scat in my picture. It was a little difficult due to not having another object in the photo to compare its size and nor did I poke it with a stick. He concluded it was a Gray Horn Owl.
Right before it was time to head out, I bought a frozen pizza to cook in the oven in my bunkhouse. I could have gone into town earlier to eat at a restaurant, but I was too tired to even want to do that. As I was cooking my pizza, I heard knocking at the door. It was Claire. She told me about this app that she has that combines her day in videos or photos in about a one minute recap of her day. She wanted me to wave to her phone, which I happily did. She left. From not eating or drinking much the entire afternoon, I had a headache and couldn’t wait to devour my pizza, which I happily did. With a full belly, I happily went to bed.
The next day I woke up to eat my unlimited cereal breakfast and coffee. I packed up my belongings and soon after Richard came to pick me up and take me to the airport. A question I asked Bob and Richard separately was whether or not they could tell if someone was going to make it. They said they try not to judge people but they kind of have a good feeling whether or not they can make it. It was already quite the accomplishment of making it that far in Georgia and I didn’t need anyone to tell me that!