Wednesday, February 1: I was dropped-off by a “hiker shuttle” at Woody Gap around 8:30 a.m. It is important to note that the availability of hiker-support services afford all kinds of hikers the opportunity to have access to food, warm showers, clean bedding, laundry, Internet, etc. The Hiker Hostel (www.hikerhostel.com) is owned and operated by a couple who are both AT thru hikers. They decided to build a home and a hostel, in the near shadows of the mountains. I was able to drop-in for the night and leave the next morning; having (among other things) written my last blog (I only have the ability to update this blog when I have internet access). Additionally, I was able to wash and dry my limited clothes; re-charge my IPad, cell phone, and camera; and, enjoy an excellent breakfast.
The hike into Blood Mountain had me at the summit by 1:30 p.m. I took only short breaks as most of the morning it lightly-sprinkled. Just before reaching Slaughter Creek Trail the rain intensified, and continued throughout the balance of the hike. Blood Mountain is home to a stone shelter, originally constructed in 1934. A recent $50,000 renovation of this historic shelter has made for a more secure and attractive building! “Dropping” down the “northern side” of the mountain was made more difficult with the rain and large slabs of rock. However, this section would have been much more challenging if it was snowing instead! Unlike in New England where cairns mark the trail above the tree-line, here in the southern Appalachians the white blazes are often painted only on the rocks and/or rock surfaces above the tree-line. These blazes would be invisible to the hiker with only an inch of snow. My arrival to Mountain Crossings (an Outfitter and bunkhouse) in Neel Gap at 2:40 p.m. was a real relief! Soaked, I stepped inside the store, completed some necessary food and equipment purchases, and was again able to dry off and spend the night indoors. Food and good company were shared, and by the next morning the rain was gone. 10.5 miles
Thursday, February 2: I left Neel Gap at 8:00 a.m. The last thing I did was to “tuck” my fleece vest up under my sleeping bag, so it would be easily accessible if I became too cool. The hike, though busy with some ups and downs, afforded time to watch the air clear and the views sharpen. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice my vest had fallen free from my pack until I took my first longer break in Tesnatee Gap at about 11:30 a.m. For a hiker, this is not a happy outcome… We carefully anticipate the clothing we’ll need; and, losing something like a vest, puts, you at some risk.
Back in 1972 there was a shelter right off the road in Tesnatee Gap. Though convenient for hikers, it was also convenient for anyone else who might be driving by; and, I suspect that there were more than a few parties that utilized this shelter as well. In any case the shelter once there, no longer exists, Headed north out of Tesnatee Gap is a climb to Hogpen Gap. Then the trail meanders over several miles of ridges and mountains before reaching Low Gap. Though relatively uneventful, I enjoyed meeting a couple of guys out on an overnight at the top of Sheep Rock Top, prior to heading down to the gap by 3:00 p.m. Before too long I had company… A 20-year-old from the Atlanta area who’s trail name is “Stargazer”. A bright and outgoing young man, he helped make the evening go quickly. We had our dinners, chatting all the time, and were ready for nighttime and in our sleeping bags by 6:00 p.m. 11.5 miles