We woke up on a campsite with “No Service” reading across the tops of our devices. There was a bit of uncertainty on the second to last day because it was impossible to communicate with the people who expressed interest in joining us earlier in the week. To make matters more difficult, we were tucked away 9 miles away from the nearest paved road access. We had been able to put out a post the night before saying to meet us at Dicks Creek Gap around 1pm, but we didn’t know if everyone would see it. We had every intention of starting the day with Carden, Marshall, Spencer, Virginia, Clay, God Drop, and our new hiker friend Courtesy.
Unexpectedly, after we created fire, our Trail Angels C.K. & Susan showed up and spoiled us once again with a bag of warm Chick-fil-A biscuits. This is the absolute best way to start off a planned 10+ mile day. Our Trail Angels were such an unbelieveable source of support for our trip - logistically, they made it all feasible.
As the crew was finishing eating, an SUV drove up carrying two day hikers - Bryan (from Day 3) and a friend, Travis Miller. Travis walked up with a smile, wearing a pinkish-red long sleeve shirt with the following logo:
The general dialogue that followed:
Travis: “Hey everyone, I’m Travis.”
Spencer: “Hey Travis, nice shirt.”
Travis: “Thanks. I was raised on a watermelon farm.”
Spencer: “A watermelon farm?”
Travis: “Yeah, my parents still have it. I just came from there, southern Florida area.”
Spencer: “Cool... did you bring any watermelons to share?”
Travis: “haha sorry man, not this time.”
Spencer: “That’s ok. Your trail name can still be ‘Watermelon.’”
Travis: “Haha alright.”
Travis’s story is cool. He is 21 year old going on a journey to serve 52 nonprofits in 52 different cities in 52 weeks. We weren’t even a part of his scheduled visit to Atlanta, he just found out about us, linked up with Bryan, and showed up. Always happy to have new people join us on The AT, especially those with bright futures like Travis.
Just like the day before, we had to begin the hike by saying goodbye to Clay and God Drop, as they needed to setup the carpool shuttle. This act is such a team player move, as they were separated from the group half the day in support of the group’s mission. Clay and God Drop were critical members of our team and the success of the mission.
And we're off… Now because Day 7’s hike ended with us night carrying Carden down the mile long hill, we had to begin this morning carrying her a mile back up that same hill, just to get to our original starting place. Good thing we had chicken biscuits earlier because we needed the fuel for the planned 10 now 11+ miles to go. Spencer completed that first carry, then it cycled between him, Marshall, Bryan, and Virginia for the next 4 miles.
While Virginia was “taking point” (leading in front, not carrying), she rolled her ankle severely, collapsing to the ground into tears. It was a panic moment for the group as we didn’t know the severity of the injury, if it was just a sprain or a break. This happened while Spencer was carrying Carden, and had been carrying for the last mile or so. A split decision was made for Spencer, Carden, and Bryan to continue moving forward to Dicks Creek Gap, while Marshall and Travis tended to Virginia. Spencer transferred Carden to Bryan after another 0.5 miles and Bryan took her through the last 1.5 miles to the gap, an epic run where he really pushed past his pre-conceived mental boundaries.
Stumbling across the highway to the Dicks Creek Gap parking lot, we were greeted by Kurt (dad), Marty (Home Depot teammate), and Jay (never seen this man before). They had been waiting for the past hour or so and as we collapsed they provided beef jerky, Powerade, and delicious trail mix, so we were extremely happy to see them.
About 15 minutes later, Marshall, Virginia, Courtesy and Travis come through the woods and meet us. We learned at that time that Marshall had actually carried Virginia (60+ lbs heavier than Carden) for over a mile simply because her ankle pain was so severe. Courtesy, who had an evening commitment to attend, graciously helped escort Virginia to safety and parted ways with us.
Not too long after, we were reunited with Clay and God Drop, and then the planning process began. What's our next move? We narrowed it down to two options.
- Option A: Continue hiking the as-planned 5.8 miles to Blue Ridge Gap where the carpool shuttle had been setup.
- Option B: Stay overnight at a well traveled hiker hostel called Top of Georgia just a couple minutes from Dicks Creek Gap - allowing us to rest, shower, and recuperate and take on a 12 mile final day.
We went with Option B. Marty, waving his magic Home Depot wand, covered our stay - an incredibly gracious show of support on our last night. Because of Dusty's involvement on Day 1, Marty was able to incentivize the team early, and over the course of a week 16 Home Depot employees joined our efforts, most of them taking a turn at carrying Carden and truly connecting with her physical struggle of living with muscular dystrophy.
Christiane (Wyckoff Mama Bear) also came up to meet us that evening, providing a hearty team dinner and supplies (most importantly gummy worms) for the final day. The hostel we stayed at was luxury to us. It had not one, but two hot showers, a couple bunk houses to support the squad, a public living room space with tv (it was Georgia vs Florida - as if a GT fan would really care…), a staff supported laundry service, and all the best off-brand soft drinks you could purchase.
After dinner, the team made a video recruiting hikers for the final push - will there be anyone to come to our aid?
The night set in, causing some team members to shuffle off to bed, while others stayed up sipping a small bottle of Glenlivet 12, reminiscing on the journey ventured thus far. Momma Bear was there and provided so much love and good news regarding the meaningful difference being made back home. You could tell how passionate and proud she was seeing her kids be a part of something so bold, inspiring, and yes a little crazy.
Last night. Tomorrow is our 12 mile push to the finish.
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