April 2 - Franklin, NC

This morning, Trudger, Achin, and I head down to the gap and related road just below us at 8:15, hoping that the 9 AM shuttle from the Budget Inn in Franklin (same owner as the one in Hiawassee, Ron Havens) will pick us up by 9:30.

At the gap, Ranger Bob is there with his wife offering morning trail magic. Where else can you eat Cheetos, Gatorade, moon pies, and Payday candy bars for breakfast, and not have people look at you aghast? Ranger is named after the lead character in his wife's children's books, and is joining Kokopelli and Bama as they head north.  He lets them slack pack, or hike just with minimal supplies, and will meet them at Winding Stair Gap some three miles away with their full packs. This is totally acceptable on the Trail; you're still doing the miles.

Shuttle shows up at 9:50 driven by Ron Haven himself. Hikers we know get off and tell us we're in good hands, and Ron spends the next 20 minutes filling us in. Shuttles leave at 9 and 11 for the trail, there no charge even if you don't stay on his properties (two motels and a hostel). At four PM the shuttle will go to Walmart, an outfitter, and the Ingles if Walmart doesn't have something you need.

We get to the Budget Inn, and Katie and Joey are there. They suggest where to get the best burger, Mulligans just down the street. Achin and I share one room and Trudger gets another. We go to Mulligans, a local sports bar and I eat another 1/2 pound uber cheeseburger and spend time later walking the main street. A sign notes that this was one of the last places to surrender during the Civil War, and in an act of defiance against the Union Colonel from North Carolina who accepted the local troops surrender, a young lady of good reputation spit on his flag. Another sign notes that hundreds of Cherokee joined a Confederate brigade that was active in this area. 

Trudger confirms he's leaving; going to spend time in western NY where he's from, and then back to Peru. He was a good mentor early on in many different ways, and he will be missed. RIP, Trudger (rest in Peru).

Ron returns as promised and Achin and I go into the outfitters while Ron brings the rest to Dairy Queen. I want to replace my alcohol stove, which is light but burns with the visual consternation of flame pots in the Wizard of Oz's throne room. Settle on a canister driven stove, which is compact and widely used. Think about swapping out my LED headlamp for one which will also do red (better in shelters) , but decide to hold off. Buy too much food at Walmart, partly because of packaging sizes, but also to ensure don't run out again. Return to Inn, pack bag, and am in bed at 915. Bag has returned to being heavy. 

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