March 22nd - Neel Gap by way of rocks

(Deb did an original post here from an email I got off from the top of Blood Mountain, but thought you'd like the longer journal version instead. Discovered too late to do anything that wireless exists in the hostel. )

Started earliest of any day so far, getting up before the sun rose as I expect today will be another challenge, and also the chance to get to Neel Gap, my first resupply. Don't really need a lot of food, but there's also an outfitter there and the chance to get some missing bits. Spent night at Lance Creek, the last place to camp before the bear canister required section.

Was kind of nice, walking the trail alone and coming around turns to see the sun coming up. This is a luxury for early hikers because the leaves aren't out yet. Beginning of the hike was standard, and was making pretty good time. Met up with Achin, my recent friend on various parts and a new hiker, Big Shep. Shep is from New Jersey and about 30 minutes later fell when his boot got caught between two stones and he couldn't set his trekking pole fast enough. Double, bloody cut on his nose. Fitting perhaps at the base of Blood Mountain. Blood is one of taller peaks in Georgia, and is a challenge. Did my somewhat ragged hike approach which is to start, walk a ways, stop while leaning forward on my poles to take some of the pack weight, start again. This doesn't seem optimal, but working toward getting my hiker lungs, and think a slower pace and shorter strides might help. Working on it. 

Nearing top the lying day-hikers say, "you're almost there", because I'm learning this means at least a quarter mile and not the next turn. I've started responding, "Maine?" My little revenge. 

Get to top and the views are great. One family talking to hikers, asking a bazillion questions like we know what we're doing after four days. Turns out we (there being about eight hikers I've been around) actually can answer most of their questions. Start heading down the other side, a bit more than three miles to Neels Gap. Now the fun begins. 

There is stone face, which with a thirty five pound back and already anxious knees, along with not wanting to fall since there's nothing to stop you if you start rolling, makes pole and foot placement important. Fast forward 2.5 hours and get to Neels but right knee bothered a bit.

At Neel, checkin to get a room in the hostel, something I have never done before. 24 people in one room in double bunks. Also can get a shower, towel provided, and for $3 a load of laundry. Unlike the other hikers who race for the food (microwaveable, ready made sandwiches, soda, etc.) then a shower, I go for trying to get clothes washed first. This means waiting for others to finish theirs, while dressed in running shorts, a winter coat, Crocs, and a lightweight shirt. Eventually clothes done (I let Achin double up to spare him the wait) and a warm shower and I'm clean! 

Been eating, a day old Cuban sandwich, a Coke and a lemonade. Other hikers are eating EVERYTHING they can. 

And then at 6 pm the First Baptist Church of Blairsville, Georgia drives up in their van and unload a huge dinner of taco lasagna, three types of chili, drinks, cookies. The hikers have no idea this coming, but gamely jump in to eat what they can. The Church's children have been raising money all year to buy high quality hiking socks for everyone.  Quite touching knowing how important good socks are. Mine has a little card which I will cherish on the Trail. 

Trying to figure out what to do next, take a day off and rest my legs and knees, or move up the trail some but not a full eight miles. Going to sleep on it. 


  1. Oh, sweet! What a lovely bunch of Georgian, must raise the spirits of all. Rest is not a bad thing.


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