Blood Mountain and Beyond…

February 5th, 2012 by rlarue

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

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Three Days on the Trail (one doesn’t count)…

February 1st, 2012 by rlarue

Sunday, January 29: Travelled to Amicalola State Park with my friends Bernie and Ruth Goldfine, and their three boys: Jake, Will, and Tyler. We began at the top of the falls (1:30 p.m.) and for my first 45 minutes hiking on the “approach trail” I had the pleasure of their company. The sun was shining, and though there was some wind gusts, overall we had a blast! After the Goldfine’s departure, I proceeded to complete the 7.5 miles to Springer Mountain the southern terminus of the AT ( by 5:30 p.m.). I managed to take a couple time delay photos before walking my first .2 miles on the Appalachian Trail. Just off the AT at .2 miles is a shelter and camping area. On the way to the shelter I was greeted by Jeff, a section hiker headed to Fontana Dam, NC. Dinner, and bed rest was a welcome experience… The sky that was crystal clear: the moon, less than half-full, cast distinct shadows; and, even the stars that create the sword of Orion were clearly visible.

Monday, January 30: With a thermometer reading of 30 degrees Fahrenheit, I was pleased to find my water did not freeze (protected by my pack). I packed-up and chatted briefly with Jeff while munching on some gorp. I departed for Hawk Mountain shelter at 10:00 a.m. I made steady progress, averaging approximately two miles per hour. Throughout the hike, the temperature rose to about 55 degrees. I arrived at Hawk Mountain shelter at 1:50 p.m (7.9 miles) and decided that I would remain there rather than going further, as the next shelter was 7.4 miles. I also felt that getting some more rest and an earlier start, the next day, would be a good idea. By 5:00 p.m. there were five others (including Jeff) at the site; all tenting except for me. I slept reasonably well and the temperature this night remained above freezing.

Tuesday, January 31: I was up at about 7:15 a.m.; and, packed-up and on my way north by 8:30 a.m. (I’d like to be on the trail by 8:00 this time of year). Taking regular breaks, I arrived at Gooch shelter (7.9 miles) at I:00 p.m. During the morning I saw two deer, but unfortunately the sun was behind them so taking a photo was not an option. At Gooch, I decided to eat a dinner meal and rest a bit; then hike on… My “dinner” break lasted an hour, so by 2:00 p.m. I was on my way again. The afternoon walk allowed me to stretch my mind and body a bit. There were some wonderful views, and the trail had less up and down. I covered an additional five miles by 5:00 p.m.; giving me a total for the day of 13.1 miles (21.2 miles on the AT). Wednesday there is a 60 percent chance of rain… Blood Mountain (Georgia’s tallest mountain) is slated for Wednesday.

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