This article originally appeared on The Trek, which you can read here.
Breakfast today was a Clif bar again but I took time to make coffee – YUM! There was also an abundance of water between Low Gap and Unicoi Gap so I didn’t have to carry much water while hiking this section.
Renee and I left camp just before Hannah, so it didn’t take her long to catch us on a water break. Hannah is surprisingly fast for still recovering from such deep blisters. While on the water break, Hannah spotted a bird nest in a rock crevice near the water source. The nest was bustling with baby chicks and a cautious mamma bird. Not sure if these were finches or swallows, but the adult birds were small and gray. Cool stuff.
We all walked together until Blue Mountain Shelter. Hannah was meeting Caboose (Molly) for some discussion about whether they would stay the night there or go on to Rocky Mountain. Renee and I continued on to Unicoi Gap. I have to admit I was hoping for trail magic with such a full parking lot, but not today. In fact, I have no idea where all those people were because we never saw any day hikers around Unicoi. Just one random lady trying to explain why she bought a kayak in the mountains for a rental property in Florida. She also decided to take our picture for no apparent reason. We posed by the Unicoi Gap map anyways, because “why not?”.
I mixed up some (watermelon) Nuun electrolyte drink for the upcoming climbs and we took a solid break in the parking lot. Sounded like a solid plan since I had officially gone 50 miles on the Appalachian Trail at this point! Hannah and Caboose came out of the woods shortly after and took a break too. Then we all climbed Rocky Mountain.
At the top of Rocky Mountain, we said goodbye to the whole Virginia crew: Eric, Josie, Hannah, and Molly as well as Wild Kingdom. Wild kingdom is a sweet little retired teacher who has seen SO much wildlife out here on the trail. Just beyond our bittersweet goodbye, we came across a great view on Rocky Mountain! Another view that was worth the climb. Renee and I pushed on to the Cheese Factory camp site (or Cheesecake Factory site depending on how hungry you are and what name satisfies you more – ha ha!). Wild Kingdom was supposed to be staying there too but we found out later she stayed at Rocky Mountain instead. Speaking of which, we saw a young rattlesnake at the top of Rocky Mountain near the camp site. Hope those guys don’t run into him later tonight or in the morning!
We made it to Cheese Factory and set up camp before dark and I had time to attempt to cook a pot of Mac and Cheese. Even with a breeze, my stove boiled water for 7 min while I stirred and lifted the pot to prevent boiling over. I added some powdered milk to the Kraft cheese powder and mixed it all in a gallon freezer bag. That Ziploc trick also helped drain some water. HUGE SUCCESS. I didn’t even plan to have Mac n Cheese at the Cheese Factory camp site! It’s probably nerdy but I got a kick out of it.