Bob Gabrielsen's dream of opening a hostel in North Georgia awoke unto a GoFundMe campaign in 2013. Today, Bob's baby -- Top of Georgia Hostel & Hiking Center -- has grown up and become a non-profit organization that has a life of its own. For Bob and the hostel, it's the best of times in what could be the worst of times.
The hostel is open for business for hikers, travelers, wanderers and folks who are looking for a place to rest their heads after an active day, a place to shower and a hot breakfast with former strangers in the morning. You'll always find a cozy cot and friendly folks at Top of Georgia Hostel.
Their hiker shuttles are still running on schedule.
These days, the horizon is a bit smoky. On November 22, 2016, I spoke with Bob about the wildfires less than two miles away. Firefighters have held back the flames at Plum Orchard Creek.
Bob said the smoke "looks like a live volcano."
Bob's Trail name is Sir Packs A Lot, due to his prowess for packing packs perfectly full. If it were up to me, his Trail name would be "Fireball." He's a ball of fire that doesn't quit.
I was not the least bit surprised to hear Bob say that volunteers are clearing the grounds at the Top of Georgia Hostel in case of evacuation to flee the fires. Nor was I surprised to hear him say they're still open for business with three nifty shuttle buses to snatch hikers away from the flames and deposit them safely where they would rather be if things get too hot.
To a stranger, that might sound crazy. If you have met Bob, that sounds normal.
He lives to help hikers. He is all about giving folks a pleasant oasis in the forest -- a half-mile west of the Appalachian Trail portal at Dicks Creek Gap at Georgia Route 76 between Clayton & Hiawassee.
Staying open for business while in "a pre-evacuation phase," is pure Bob. Somebody famous was asked what he would do if the world were going to end the following day. The response? "Plant a tree."
What will Bob do with devastating fires -- which seem to be headed away from the hostel, toward Franklin -- nearby? Stay open for business to help anyone in need of a roof over his or her head, feed them breakfast and scoot them to safety in Nifty Shuttle Buses #1-3, as necessary.
Ready for this? In spite of all the non-frantic activity, Bob invites you to call the hostel if you need the latest, most accurate information about the fires or how he can give you a place to stay -- or volunteer.
Because that's how Bob and the Top of Georgia Hostel & Hiking Center roll. They're prepared, but they ain't skeered.
Tags: Attractions, Appalachian Trail, Hiking, News, Closures, Rescues, Robert Sutherland Travel Writer, Safety, Hikers, Hiker Hostels, Information, appalachian trail hikers, top of georgia hostel hiking center, bob gabrielsen wildfires, and north georgia fires top of georgia hostel
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