Day 3: Food Porn Already? (Hawk Mountain Shelter to Woody Gap):
This morning was typical for the past few days with temperatures around 55 degrees. There was still a little moisture in the ground from the night’s rains, but the sky was clear.
Due to restrictions further down the trail (at Woods Hole and Blood Mtn Shelters) involving bear activity, the next day’s options were, 1) camp at Woody Gap, 2) get a shuttle back to Hiker’s Hostel and stay there, or 3) hike all the way through to Neals Gap. Staying at the Hiker’s Hostel was a no brainer for me, as there were more storms expected and an additional 10 miles to Neals Gap was just too much. Plus, a mattress and shower seemed like a pretty good idea.
Azalon, Erik, and I stopped at Gooch Mountain Shelter for a leisurely lunch. Also stopping in were Half Moon, Always Fine, Matt, and Mamma and Papa Bear. After some boot drying and clumpy protein drink drinking, we continued hiking with Matt in tandem. The 2nd part of the hike dragged on much longer than we would have liked… and it was HOT. My thermometer read 82 degrees (in the sun) at one point. We were chatting about any number of things to get our mind off the heat and the miles. Cars, sports, gear, women… and then it happened. Out of nowhere Matt said the word, “Brats”. I’m fairly certain I heard all 4 of our salivary glands begin pumping uncontrollably. Immediately we were diving into all the things we were going to make at the Hiker’s Hostel that night. Matt finally stopped us and said, “Oh no. Food porn already?! We’re in trouble.” Ultimately, we decided that I would make my famous mustard and pepper steak along with some beer brats for anyone that was interested.
Further down the trail, filling their water from a cruddy-looking spring, we found GI Jayne and her hiking buddy Sipsey. I was very happy to run into GI Jayne again, as I had not seen her since I left on the Approach Trail and she went ahead to Springer. She is my mom’s age, short, and with a buzzcut of short grey hair (thus her trailname). But she has the gleam in her eyes and enthusiasm of a playful young girl. We told her of our plans to stay at the Hostel again that night. She seemed happy see familiar faces and even happier to hear I was cooking dinner. Before we were out of earshot, she had already ordered a steak and salad.
Not too much longer and we had arrived at the road crossing at Woody Gap (Ga 60). Matt went to hang out with Todd, who was also tenting there for the night. We went over to see Always Fine and the large-framed man he was talking to. “HT1”, a military acronym for Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class, had what looked like a Marine drill sergeant’s full-brimmed green felt hat on. Vincent, who seems to keep to himself, also wandered across the road and set up his tarp tent in the trees. Soon enough, GI Jayne and Sipsey would join us as well. Sipsey is an older gentleman from Alabama sporting a snow white beard, quick wit, and friendly sense of humor. His trail name is derived from the Sipsey Wilderness area near where he lives.
Man, the dinner we cooked. They will be telling stories about it up and down the trail. 1 ribeye and 3 sirloin steaks. 10 beer brats. 12 Heineken. Lettuce and spring mix salad with sliced tomatoes and Italian dressing. Buttered corn cooked in husk and foil. Steaks prepared with powdered yellow mustard, Worcestershire sauce, white pepper, and lime and cooked on a cool grill and splashed with Liquid Smoke. I started marinating the steaks while everyone else showered. Once everything was on the grill, I was able to take a glorious shower as well.
It is unbelievable how ravenous hikers can be after just a few days in the woods. HT1 finished his steak with no problems. Even GI Jayne killed her ribeye without remorse. Not to be outdone, I struggled to put the last tasty morsel in my mouth after 2 sittings, a salad, spicy sausage, and a brat. Azalon, on the other hand, saved some for steak and eggs the next morning and Erik just ate a few brats. Other Hostel guests nibbled on this and that as well.
If you know me, you know that I love to grill out for people. It has been one of my favorite things to do for years now with my Volkswagen friends. The feeling of community and camaraderie is always heightened when a group is well fed, even when they are basically complete strangers. Even though I received multiple compliments and thank you’s for my cooking, I don’t think they really realize how much I loved doing it for them. We had such a great time!