Written by Brian Wish | Supplemented by Spencer Wyckoff
We arrived at Unicoi Gap around 8 am and began on a high. We counted 17 total hikers today. Seven people from the University of Georgia (4 Vestigo interns, 3 students who heard via social media), 2 Home Depot associates (Jesse and Hut), long-time Wyckoff friend, Rose Caplan, and Spencer's gym friend Travis McDonald were ready to join in on the adventure. Receiving this kind of support at the beginning of the day is a huge confidence and morale boosters to the core team - we had 11.3 miles today which came immediately after a 14 mile day yesterday. All the "Show Up" support is greatly appreciated and vital to our success. People were starting to connect the dots themselves, and realize the power behind this path we chose.
We had to start the day by working out the carpooling for our huge crew. The only viable solution was to send Clay and God Drop to the the endpoint, have them back hike from the finish until they meet us, and then turn around and continue with us. It wasn't optimal to lose 2 potential carriers first thing in the morning, but was the reality of our situation and the only way we would be able to get everyone back to their vehicles in reasonable time.
Once those logistics were figured out, we set off. Spencer started off the day, facing a very steep incline at the base of Unicoi Gap - this happened basically every morning. Marshall took the next shift, continuing the intense climb.
Soon after the male Vestigo interns (Bobby and Tony) began to jump in for turns. They both did great. I think we were pleasantly surprised with the grit of Tony. While physically smaller in size, Tony demonstrated a very strong mental state that carried Carden along some very nice distances. Katherine and Julia, the other 2 Vestigo interns, also need recognition. Katherine played lead toilet seat carrier, which may not sound glorious, yet it is in fact CRUCIAL having someone always focused on providing the seat to Carden during a reset process. Julia was touring around taking all sorts of photos and videos throughout the day.
Jesse and Hut took their turns as well, showcasing some of that grown man strength going up and down multiple ridges filled with bright yellows, reds, and oranges - the leaves and different canopies were spectacular today.
The other 3 girls from UGA were earnestly helping throughout the day, while keeping a somewhat low profile.
God Drop took charge of his usual place at the caboose alongside Rose, taking their time and staying steady.
Being able to trust and rely on the strength of the supporters is a big win for the core team. Establishing that trust early on is paramount.
Upon finishing at Attis Gap, the crew all plopped down in a circular fashion around the campsite, Carden was placed in the circle as well. In typical Carden fashion, she wanted to continue the "Campfire Round Up" trend and have everyone share about their lows, highs, and overall thoughts from the day. There were some amazing insights and incredible shares. Having everyone open up about their experience really demonstrates how communities are created and bonds are formed. As we were going around, the three students from UGA spoke up and mentioned they had heard about what we were doing via class at UGA and just decided to take a chance and come join us for a day. They were incredibly impressed with how everyone welcomed them into the group for the day.
Now although the hike finished on a high, the day did have it's low point. The current spot we finished at was Attis Gap. The problem was the truck with all of our gear and supplies was a little over a mile down a rough gravel path, being locked out by a park gate. Now the sun was going down quickly, and we had to make some decisions. Basically God Drop and Clay shuttled everyone back to their vehicles down a different mile long path and Spencer left Carden and Virginia at the campsite to meet Marshall at the bottom of the hill to grab gear. Upon getting down to the truck, Spencer realized there was a new plan in place to bring Carden and Virginia back down to this spot for the night. Great. After just walking down a mile, now we must hike back up and back another 2 miles just to get everyone settled for the night. Adding an extra 3 miles on your feet after a day of 11.3 isn't exactly a charming thing to find out. By the time we reached Carden and Virginia, the sun was down, so we were left to piggyback carry Carden an additional mile in the dark, wearing headlamps to guide the way. Let's just say the hot Shepherd's pie prepared for us that evening by CK and Susan made everything better.
On this night we met another interested supporter, "Courtesy" (Appalachian Trail Historian who joined us after hearing about our trek). He saw a repost on Facebook by some trail group he follows, took a half day at work, and cleared it with the wife and kids to come out and meet us. Courtesy was a plethora of trail information and passion, telling campfire stories from his 4 different section hikes and his experience being rescued on the trail after an allergic reaction to a yellow jacket sting. He is a man who loves his kids and is encouraging them at a very early age to get outdoors and explore for themselves and we are happy he felt inspired enough to come out and join us for the night and for the next day's hike.
Tents up, hammocks up, lights out, stars out, tomorrow we march onward.
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