After a nice drive through Franklin, NC, Bruce and I finally located the turn off for Forest Service Road 71 that would take us to the area of the trail known as Deep Gap. The map indicated that FSR71 was a small gravel road that would eventually end up at a small parking area at Deep Gap. It didn't say exactly how long the gravel road was which had us questioning ourselves after the first 3 miles or so. Turns out is was a little over 5 miles which on a small, twisting, gravel mountain road seems like 20 miles.
As soon as we get there we see our shuttle driver, Gene, waiting already for us. He was on time, sober and didn't appear to be a serial killer... all of the qualities I typically look for in an AT shuttle driver.We quickly put everything we need for our two day hike into Gene's car and head out. Gene was a semi-retired older gentleman and he was very receptive to us asking him lots of questions about the area. It was actually Gene's idea for us to stay in Hiawassee, GA on Friday night instead of going all the way into Helen, GA as originally planned. Not only was Hiawassee closer to the beginning of our Friday hike, but I figured that by staying in the sleepy little town of Hiawassee instead of staying in the bustling town of Helen, I would greatly reduce the probability of me having to hike with a hangover the next day. As I would find out later, being in Haiwassee apparently only reduced those chances by about 1%... hanging out with Bruce regardless of the location still left my "hiking with a hangover" chances at well over 90%. Bruce and I don't get to hang out that often so when given the chance to catch up over a beer (or twelve) we usually take it. Anyway, after a nice scenic 30 minute drive, we finally arrive at our glorious accommodations for the night, The Haiwassee "Budget" Inn... emphasis on "budget".