Sunday, February 5: I was up at 7:00 a.m., packed, and eating breakfast by 7:30. Bill was at the hotel promptly at 8:30 to take me to Unico Gap. In addition to fulfilling this request on my behalf, he also transported me to both IGA and RiteAid to locate a few ounces of denatured alcohol, for my cook stove (I checked with Aimee, my daughter; the stove is actually her’s… The stove will work with Isopropyl Alcohol…the higher the percent of alcohol the better. I purchased 91 percent). In the gap, we each took a picture of the other… and I was on my way!
The climb out of the gap was graded by “slabbing” the slope or with switchbacks. I felt good going up first one small mountain and then on to Tray Mountain. This part of the Appalachian Trail traverses ridges in what is called the Tray Mountain Wilderness, part of the Chattahoochee National Forest. A short hike north from the summit of Tray Mountain is a .2 mile side trail to Tray Mountain Shelter. After consulting my trail information, I decided take a short break and then continue on 7.4 miles to the next shelter (I’d hiked 5.7 miles at this point). After the break, I began hiking north, taking a short break in Steeltrap Gap (1.7 miles). At that point I somehow got turned-around, and proceeded to unintentionally walk right back up to the Tray Mountain Shelter (side trail)!
Needless to say, this is not what I intended to do. However, at this point (having just finished 3.4 miles) I decided Tray Mountain Shelter “really wanted me to say there” so that’s just what I decided to do. Not so ironic, it’s actually pretty easy to go the “wrong way” on the AT, as the white blazes do not indicate travel north or south. And, when you are hiking back the way you came…it really does look different. But, inevitably, you feel stupid! Note: From this point on, when I stop, I lay one of my hiking poles on the ground pointing the direction I’m to continue hiking.
Tray Mountain Shelter is a nice “lean-to” style shelter, with great views and an excellent “piped” spring (the water exits a concrete fixture through a pipe) delivering excellent water! Not long after arriving, Peter, a young man and his dog (from the local area), stopped by the shelter on a training hike (in preparation of an AT thru-hike beginning later this spring). Peter was very cordial, offering me any assistance, should I chose to stop by Hiawassee from Dick’s Creek Gap. Shortly after Peter left, I ended-up enjoying a nice dinner and a beautiful clear night with a nearly full moon. In the cool of the evening, lights from the distant valley, seemed to sparkle and shimmer. Before falling asleep I left a couple of messages for my mother, on the occasion of her 89th birthday! 5.7 plus 3.4 miles for the day; 58.6 miles on the AT.