By Bryan Wish
Many volunteers showed up today expecting to do an 8 mile hike, but instead they were all surprised when they heard they were going to be doing 14 miles. Not what they were expecting, but some last minute planning had to happen the night before.
We decided to combine a planned two days into one. We realized from the original plan that the end of Day 6 was going to put our team at Chattahoochee Gap, which had no road access unless people hiked in two miles. As we discussed around the campfire, we felt it would be best to head to our next campground, 6 more miles to than originally intended to the destination of Unicoi Gap. We were riding high off the emotion of conquering Blood Mountain and felt we were capable of anything at that point.
Also, we started having more and more volunteers show up. We had to take into consideration how they would get back to their cars and everyday lives, so we had to rearrange how we did our car shuttle so we could get people back to their vehicles. While on the surface seeing more people show up was great, it also meant we had to remove two of our core carriers to drop the cars off at the next campsite and back hike to meet us on the trail. Fortunately, each new day brought a brand new supporting cast of earnest and able carriers.
This trip was becoming more and more like Entrepreneurship … jumping off mountain and finding parachute on the way down … while this trip was planned for 6 months, so many unplanned variables continued to pop up…
The day begins…
We may have decided to pick 14 miles, but what we weren’t facing was the uphill battle from yesterday. We had flatter terrain, with uphills and downhills along the way. What we began facing, though, was the wear and tear on our feet. Feet that had to keep going to make our feat possible.
We started out on a cool morning. The group put together some very nice runs over the day. One of the big highlights was Dusty, who really showed off what he was capable of conquering close to 3 miles in total for the day, including an incredible late day push on a very steep incline. While carrying Carden, he began singing “Eye of the Tiger” so we began to test out a possible trail names like “Rocky” or “Balboa” … which he earned and deserved. Simply, Dusty's humor and tasteful sarcasm make for great trail banter and kept the laughs coming, while also being intensely focused on seeing that the day was a success for Carden and the team.
Daniel McBrayer, Vestigo's co-founder, joined as well, having some great runs with Carden and bringing his positive, warm, and uplifting spirit to the group. Meanwhile, God Drop stayed back with Dusty and wife Ashleigh’s friend, Shelley, who had never taken on such a tremendously long hike … God Drop continued on with his role and became our “designated caboose” … inspiring people from rear while attempting to protect his feet.
Two Home Depot associates, Rob and Christie, also joined the team today. You could always see them lending a hand on the offloading and resetting procedures that take place all throughout the day. Rob's youthful strength was definitely helpful for the couple carries he performed.
We had two dogs hanging with us that day, so good moral support all around. Smiles and laughter occurred often and naturally, without the use of 21st century technology.
A bit of celebration
At the conclusion of the day, the team was in very high spirits. Knocking out two days worth of travel in a single day was a huge feat and gave us a lot of flexibility going forward. So after the hike, we celebrated by going out for Mexican food and margaritas in the town of Helen - what an incredible finish to such a brutal day. This was the first dinner where we shared our “campfire roundup” and highs and lows of the day with people outside the core team and without a campfire.
Steven Wyckoff, cousin to the Wyckoff siblings, met us at dinner with his girlfriend Stephanie. Even though they didn't hike the day, they were completely moved at dinner by our recap stories and takeaways. It was great for them to show up and they were great sports for working with our last minute plan changes.
After a few margaritas, hearty Tex Mex, and storytelling, the team split up with Clay and Marshall shuttling everyone back to the their cars. 45 minutes later, the core team was headed back to our Trail Angel's (CK & Susan) home in Cleveland, GA.
At this point in the trip, it isn't all butterflies and rainbows physically.
Spencer's feet had accumulated multiple blisters, everyone's body was sore (including Carden's), Virginia was treading lightly on an ankle… We realized, whether 6 miles or 14, each hike was incredibly tough in its own way. With three 11+ mile days ahead of us, we needed the quality rest provided to us.
6 days down. 3 to go. We got this. #SorryForFootPic
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