Monday, June 27, 2011 / Payne Gap / 8:52 pm
What a weird, shitty day. Started off OK. On the trail by 7:46. Passed two guys camping at Bryson Gap at 8:15. Made it to Toccoa River Footbridge at 9:20. It’s an amazing timber & steel cable suspension bridge, and a very scenic river. That was leg 1. Leg 2 was uneventful and unmemorable, arriving at Highway 60 at 11:15. The guide book said not to get water from the creek right there (chicken farm upstream) but said there was a boxed spring nearby. I spent 1/2 hour looking for it but could not find it. According to the guide book, the next water was only 2 miles up the trail – one hour. Straight uphil, it turns out. An hour later I was checking my map when I realized I had been looking at the wrong page in the guide. It was another 3 miles to water! again mostly uphill. It was an honest mistake: Skeenah Gap and Little Skeenah Gap are two different places on two different pages.
When I finally got to water (ran dry 1/2 mile before reaching it) it was 2:15. I’d walked 12 miles, the last 5 with no breaks, uphill. I took a long break there, dozed in the hammock, some reading, then up at 4:00 to knock out the last 4 miles to Payne Gap. I didn’t want to make the same mistake as yesterday, so I made sure the last stop would have water. The guide said “campsite with water 0.15 miles down an old logging road north from Payne Gap.” I walked at least 1/2 mile before finding a fire ring, but no water in sight. I finally found a creek 1/2 mile in the other direction. It was too late to hike on, and by then I had resigned myself to skipping dinner and toughing it out the 3 miles to Wilscot Gap the next morning on my remaining 3/4L of water. Finding the creek saved me from that.
The camp site is at an intersection of the trail and an old logging road. To the north is a bizarre network of crisscrossing logging roads and a horseshoe of tiered levels, like an abandoned dirt quarry, all overgrown with trees and underbrush. The whole place has a creepy unnatural vibe.