The story today is actually a continuation of yesterday’s story, since it had been my intention to hike to the Cherry Gap Shelter yesterday. But it is also a continuation in that the trail continued to display the beauty of it’s diversity. Also, Mother Nature continues to have mercy on me.
I jumped out to an early start (although Little Foot beat me to the punch) because I wanted to reach the summit of Unaka Mountain while the temperature was still cool. Unaka Mountain has a famous stand of dense spruce forest that has been referred to as the Enchanted Forest. Once again, the people who named this place got it correct again. Once I reached the higher altitude, I was surprised to discover that there was still snow on the ground. This was just the icing on the enchantment cake. I can’t begin to find the superlatives this place, so I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
I passed Little Foot during the decent, and arrived at Cherry Gap Shelter for a break, 2-1/2 hours after starting to hike. Without fresh legs for the climb, it reinforced my calculation that I would not have arrived before dark had I attempted the climb yesterday. Refreshed, I continued through a series of ups and downs until I arrived at Greasy Creek Gap at mid-afternoon.
My destination for the day was Greasy Creek Friendly (a little play on the word hostel). This hostel is unique (in more ways than one) because for one, to get there you have to walk 0.6 miles through the backwoods down an old forest road. It reminded me a lot of visiting my grandmother’s old homestead back in the “holler.”
Once I arrived, I was greeted by Connie “Cici” and given the house rules. The hostel is actually Cici’s home where she has three twin beds in one room and a barn which houses the bunkhouse. She has a lot of rules (her other nickname is OOC or obsessive compulsive Connie), but all of them are reasonable and designed to either prevent the spread of norovirus, or, because she is Jewish, to preserve the kosher nature of her kitchen which she shares with hikers. There are only a handful of hikers here tonight, and she drove us all nearly 45 minutes away to get something to eat at the only place in the area that is open today. When all is said and done, Cici is a gracious and caring host with some great stories and a passion for making hikers comfortable. If you don’t mind the extra walking, I highly recommend Greasy Creek Friendly for a unique and relaxing Hostel experience.
Currently, everyone is sitting in Cici’s living room watching a movie on her big screen TV, but I’m about to call it a night. The agenda for tomorrow includes climbing over 2,000 feet to get above the 6,000 foot level again.