March 27 - Call me Bunion, Paul Bunion

Last night agreed to my trail name, given by Trudger, "Paul Bunion". He saw my feet.

The three of us are up and ready when the 9 AM shuttle leaves the Budget Inn, this time with 12 hikers. The driver is a beefy 30ish man, red faced and scowling. No words other than reading off the room numbers who had signed up for the ride. 

He stops first at Dicks Gap, our Thursday destination, then to Unicoi Gap, where we need to go.

We have agreed to make for Tray Mountain shelter, about 6 miles out, or possibly Deep Gap Shelter 13 miles away. Achin is "not 100%" but Trudger seems ready to try Deep Gap. Our two day plan is to get to Dicks Gap, go to the brand new Top of Georgia hostel so we can get their shuttle for a ride into Hiawassee for a larger resupply before pushing for and into North Carolina. 

From the first hill off of Unicoi, I go very slow compared with prior days, trying to get up hill without repeatedly stopping. 45 minutes later, 1.2 miles, I'm standing next to Trudger without having stopped once. I'm elated, and feel good. 

We wait a few minutes to make sure Achin is proceeding okay, then move on. A few miles in we run into our second big Trail Magic. Two couples who had thru hiked 10 years ago were putting on a food fest. Fresh apples and bananas, egg sandwiches from Hardee's, Oreos, orange juice, water, I lose track. Nice little pick me up.

Continue on over next summits, including the tallest, Tray Mountain, with a nice view. Soon after arrive at our target, Tray Mt. shelter with Trudger ready to push for Deep Gap. I say I might try, but more likely to continue and stop at one of the many camp areas enroute. Off he goes. 

I join two Australians and their American female friend on the grass for lunch. I have much better lunch food now, eating hummus with pita, some Colby cheese, and a peanut butter and dried cherries on pita. Up comes Achin. He looks a little beat but seems willing to continue. 

It's now about 2PM with six miles done and seven to go, so a push to Deep Gap, mostly on flats and down hills except at the end, seems possible.

I make it to Deep Gap around 6:15, including one brutal (1 mile, 800 feet elevation) hill close to the end. Others at camp express similar displeasure at its placement so close to the end. Perhaps someday I'll laugh at how easy that hill might seem. Talk to Achin, he made it to Sassafras Gap about two miles away and will stay there.  

Stay in the shelter on the second level, tucked tight under an eave. Sleep little as two hikers take turns as the loudest snorer. 

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