Julia here again! I just got a nice "FaceTime" call from Gronk. I am calling him that now because his beard is coming in all grizzled and he looks more like a Gronk. He called from 'Low Creek Gap' shelter, where he is going to spend the night tonight. It is very hilly terrain, which makes it difficult for tenting but fine for hammocking. However, he will be spending tonight in the shelter, on the hard surface, because it is supposed to rain overnight, and packing up wet gear seems worse than lying on hard boards all night. I may have chosen the hammock myself, but then, I'm not out there. He and his hiking buddies want to get an early start so they can get to the next town, where they have reserved rooms in a motel. (According to Good Penny, who hiked the trail last year, the next town should be Hiawassee.) Apparently, packing wet gear takes time and they want to push on quickly come daylight. Here he is at Wildcat Mountain.
He says that was a hard climb.
Last night, he and a hostel full of other hikers spent the night in Neels Gap. It was a full house and unfortunately, one older man snored non-stop, all night long. Gronk said, "there wasn't five minutes of silence between lights out and 4 a.m., when I finally fell asleep from exhaustion." The other hikers were equally annoyed. The guy was in the top bunk and Peter was right beneath him. Every time the guy woke himself up with his snoring, the whole bunk shook. Gronk had brought earplugs with him but they were of little help against that onslaught. He plans to buy some silicone ones (the ones he has are foam) and hope for the best. Or avoid that guy.
The owner of the hostel is a pony-tailed grey haired guy who has hiked the AT nine times. He made them all a chicken BBQ dinner for donations and said, if they donated enough, he would make them pancakes in the morning, which he did. Gronk said except for the snoring guy, it was swell.
Also, on the advice of Good Penny (see the first comment here), Gronk got a knee brace. Unfortunately the store only had one! But that knee felt much better for it. Now, if only he can find another one.
Here is the Neels Gap hostel.
So, aside from doing what bears do in the woods for the first time (he says, the lesson is to dig the hole deeper, otherwise turds roll downhill), Gronk is having a great time. He is feeling better physically except for the knees but even that may work itself out as time passes. He is enjoying himself very much.