Day 7 – March 14 2017 – 8.3 Miles – Poplar Stamp Gap to Unicoi Gap
I woke the next morning with condensation on everything including my sleeping bag. I had setup in cold weather before without a problem so I was a little confused as to why that was happening. The problem became obvious as soon as I got out. The rain had turned to snow overnight. The three to four inches of snow weighed down my rain tarp and prevented proper ventilation. The same thing happened to Stoat.
The freshly fallen snow wasn’t a concern. The fact that our sleeping bags were wet and it was only going to get colder throughout the day was a big concern.
Over breakfast Stoat and I decided to go into the town of Helen 8.3 miles down the trail. I had some cell signal and booked a room.
The snow covered forest was beautiful and the miles passed quickly. The promise of a warm bed and town food could be quite motivating.
Soon we found ourselves in a parking lot at Unicoi Gap with no way of getting transportation into Helen. It was early afternoon on a Tuesday and traffic was nonexistant.
There was a camper van with a giant AT logo painted on the side of it parked in the lot. After a few minutes some hikers came out of it and someone shouted to us. “Hey, you guys want some coffee? Come on in.”
The man who shouted went by the name Onesimus and was the owner of the camper. He had a short white beard and long white hair kept in a ponytail that still had some traces of blond in it. He was about six feet tall and had a lean muscular look to him. At one point in his life he had been a Army Ranger. What he did since then I didn’t find out, but he did thru hike the AT at one point.
When we met him he was living in his camper and following the migration of thru hikers up the trail. Giving out trail magic along the way.
Two other hikers joined us and they were headed for Helen as well. Onesimus mentioned that he was headed that direction anyway and would give us a ride.
There was a saying we learned on the trail “ The trail will provide”. Meaning that when your in a time of need the trail has a way of helping you out. When we started, my mantra on planning logistics was “Plan what you can, expect everything to change” I soon added “The trail will provide.”.
Getting dropped off in the middle of Helen was a little surreal. Unbeknownst to us Helen was a resort town that was a re-creation of a Bavarian alpine village. Complete with colorful Tudor style buildings and a windmill.
Adding to the surrealism was that it was still off-season and the place looked empty. It felt like we were transported from the AT to an abandoned, but well kept, German village.
We walked over to our hotel. It was one of the only modern looking buildings in town. We got cleaned up and headed over to a nearby restaurant. We had a quick bite and a beer and headed back to the hotel to do a TV interview.
A producer from channel 9 saw the article in the paper and thought it would be interesting to interview us for his show. We had been in contact with him over the last couple of days and decided to do the interview via skype once we were in town.
Pro tip: If your going to do an TV interview don’t hike most of the day in the cold and then eat dinner and have a beer. We were so tired by the time we did the interview I’m surprised we made any sense at all. After struggling through the interview we went to bed.
The show aired a few days later. It was a TMZ style show with several people sitting around an office setting making comments. It kind of made fun of us but given the source material I cant blame them. It was still a cool experience to do a TV interview after only 7 days on the trail. It added to the feeling that we were attempting to do something big.
A screenshot from a video of Helen Ga