As the evening progressed in Haiwassee, pizza and beer in tow, we were told by the management at the motel that we could "burn that brush pile over there" (a relatively large pile of thorny shrubs and trees near the fire pit in front of the Inn). We took this literally. The assumption was that they needed the pile burnt so as to avoid dragging it to the dump. In hindsight, we should have realized that they meant we could drag pieces of the pile over to the nearby fire pit for a little ambiance (term used extremely loosely), leaving anything we didn't need for the next wave of hikers. Instead, we simply waded into the middle of the pile and set that bad boy aglow. WILDCARD!! Within 5 minutes our 10 foot tall fire attracted the attention of some of the other hikers and it became a little fiesta, one which almost cost the ol' Budget Inn their entire front lawn. Oops!
Waking to udder shock that we hadn't been evicted or detained for a non-permitted brush fire, we quickly shoveled our sprawled out gear into our packs and hitched a ride back to GA 75 at Unicoi Gap. Feeling spry and not at all sluggish from our escapades, we were soon greeted by a brisk 1200 foot ascent on the north side of Unicoi. Lovely. We knew we were in for some climbing (as the nature of a "gap" is to be between two mountains" but we really weren't prepared for what this day had in store. 14 miles was the target distance, and honestly, it took every single shred of effort we had. There was a grand total of approximately 4000 feet of climbing over the course of about 8 miles (the remaining 6 consisting of flats and downhills). This doesn't make any sense to people who havnt been relying on elevation profiles to judge their daily grind, but I assure you, this is an absurd amount of exertion. The cherry on top was a little mound known as Kelly Knob. Sounds innocent enough right?.... What a bitch. 1500 feet over the course of about 1.5 miles. In fact the last 1.5 miles of an already hellish day of climbing. None of us have ever been so tired. Rolling into camp atop Kelly Knob (Mt. Punishment) we found a couple spots, tossed up the tents and callapsed.
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