I think it was a culmination of the zero at Neel Gap and the five nights in the cabins that I decided to make the decision and yomp from Uniqoi Gap all the way to Dicks Creek Gap, a 16.7 mile hike. I had been feeling anxious at the cabins waiting for the weather to improve and I just wanted to get out and walk.
Starting out with a climb up Rocky Mountain out of Uniqoi I felt strong, my legs feeling like a V8 engine hauling my body upward. After a 800′ drop on the other side, Tray Mountain loomed ahead; a 1,317′ gain which turned from a frozen trail underfoot trail to a gusty and snow-laden path. We stopped for a quick bite on the bald summit at 4,430′ and headed down the slippery/icy descent on the other side. The snow gradually made way to a very muddy trail as we lowered our elevation – at some points I was sludge sledding (I was sliding in thick mud downhill, oftentimes feet at a time).
The next 5 miles or so were pretty easy with nice PUDs; that was until we got to Kelly Knob. The climb is one mile, straight up – no switchbacks, and in most places at a 45° angle. It was the toughest climb for me so far on the trail; it made Blood, Tray, and Sassafras look like molehills. Brutal, absolutely bloody brutal.
Over the top, I descended and rolled over Powell Mountain and called Joyce/Sally for a ride into Hiawassee from Dicks Creek; which was a lovely 2.2 miles away, all downhill. After a brief celebratory dance and shuffle (I tend to bust some moves at the end of hiking days) at the parking lot, Joyce rolled in and dropped us off at the Holiday Inn. Express. Thank you, Joyce!
After an all-you-can-eat buffet at Daniel’s Steakhouse ($7.95), I headed to bed and called it a day.
Kelly Knob won’t be forgotten in a hurry.