Day 3 – Wednesday
To Greasy Creek Friendly (Mile 12)
As I mentioned in the previous installment to this story, after a night of nonstop rain, we woke up Wednesday morning to dry weather and dissipating clouds. That went a long way toward lifting our spirits and getting us excited about hitting the trail. Nemo and I made quick work of breaking down our setups and getting everything loaded up into the packs we had left in the shelter to dry out overnight. The air was so moist that they were probably wetter than they were the night before, but it was clear from looking at the sky that sun was going to be shining that day and we were confident that things would dry out a bit as we walked another nine miles to our next planned stop for the night—The Cherry Gap Shelter.
But, as we gathered for breakfast, it became apparent that there was going to be a significant change to our plans for the day. Big Old Mustard had developed some “trail rash” and was concerned about pushing too hard that day. He requested that instead of pushing on like we had planned, to just hike two more miles to Greasy Creek Gap where we could get off the trail and spend the afternoon letting our gear dry out at the Greasy Creek Friendly. This revised plan also meant that we would stay the night at the hostel and get up the next morning to continue our journey.
I really had no desire to get off the trail, and I really had no desire to stay at a hostel but, according to the Guthook app, there were tenting spots available which meant there might be some trees available for Nemo and me to hang our hammocks. The reviews in Guthook were all over the top positive, and there was also the promise of good pizza. So, being concerned about Big Old Mustard, and lured by the possibility of getting our gear dried along with the siren call of pizza, we said goodbye to the folks we had met at the Clyde Smith Shelter and headed out for a short walk to Greasy Creek Gap.
The walk that morning was wonderful. The sun was out, and the temperature was perfect for hiking. Everyone was in a good mood, and the conversation was lively. Big Old Mustard was probably the butt of too many jokes, but that is the price you have to pay when you are the reason for the change in plans.
I’m guessing it only took us about an hour to get to Greasy Creek Gap, but once we arrived, it took us a few additional minutes to locate the trail that would take us to the hostel. Eventually, we found what we thought was the trail and began to follow it. We second guessed ourselves multiple times (I suppose that means we triple and quadruple guessed ourselves), but we eventually made it to the hostel after a long walk down a very rocky road that we knew was going to be a very unpleasant climb the next morning.
As soon as we arrived at the Greasy Creek Friendly we were greeted by Gadget, who helps Cee Cee, the hostel’s proprietor, run the operation. Gadget was a character. He had a bazillion movies, a cool new crossbow, and lots of good stories. Cee Cee was a delightful person who made you feel right at home. She had some very specific rules, but they all seemed appropriate to me.
The sun was indeed out that day, and we spread our gear out all over the place to let it dry. The wind was blowing a bit too which helped speed up the drying process. There were plenty of places to sit and enjoy the warm sun and beautiful weather, so I plopped myself down on a makeshift seat, fixed myself a glass of tea, and knocked down two peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on flatbread that had become even flatter after spending a couple of days getting scrunched up in my pack.
Gadget had a teepee set up in a spot down by the creek that ran through the property. He suggested that Nemo and I scope out some spots for our hammocks in that area. There was a little bridge across the creek, and the sound of the flowing water definitely made it a welcoming place for two hammock campers. There were lots of trees, but we had a difficult time finding two suitable spots. Ultimately we settled on a couple that were less than ideal but good enough for one night.
Gadget had told us some stories about seeing bears in the area. That had us a little worried, but he also said that the neighbor’s dogs did a pretty good job keeping them away. Later in the night when those dogs got to barking and running through the woods, I tried to forget that conversation. Nemo later told me he did the same.
If I remember correctly, it only cost us $7.50 to set up our hammocks for the night—and that included a free shower. We also spent a few extra bucks having some laundry done. Cee Cee had a special formula for washing smelly hiker clothes, and they were perfectly folded for us the next morning.
After our showers, it was time to head into town with Cee Cee for a stop at the Dollar General and the Mountain Top Grill to pick up the food she had called in for us earlier. If I haven’t been clear about it yet, I LOVE pizza, and I had been looking forward to it all day. Some of the other folks at the hostel ordered cheeseburgers, and those looked really tasty as well. But I would never take a cheeseburger over pizza. Never.
Since the first day of the trip, Mango had been dealing with some stomach issues, and apparently, things had gotten worse since we had arrived at the hostel. I guess that was better timing than getting really sick while out on the trail. If I remember correctly, he didn’t eat that night and went to bed very early. The rest of us stayed up and chatted with Cee Cee, Gadget, and some of the other guests (including Freebird, the thru-hiker from London, who had also shown up after a short walk from the Clyde Smith Shelter). The conversation was good, but eventually, my eyes were getting heavy. I excused myself from the conversation, stumbled out into the coldest night of our trip so far, and climbed into the hammock determined to solve the cold feet problem that two pairs of socks had not remedied the night before. My strategy tonight was to put my zipped-up jacket into my sleeping bag and to put my feet down into the jacket. I’m happy to report that it worked perfectly despite it being really cold down by the creek that night.
The sound of the creek was everything I hoped it would be. And besides the dogs chasing a bear or a deer or a sasquatch (yes there are more than one) during the middle of the night, I had my best sleep so far. We had agreed that night to actually, really, for real get up early the next morning, and so I climbed out of the hammock sometime during the 5:00 hour and began packing up in the dark wondering how this unplanned, but very enjoyable, detour was going to affect our original itinerary for the week. As I was heading up to the hostel, I also began to worry about whether or not Mango was going to be able to continue on with us.
To be continued…