AT Days 4-7
Day 4: Lance Creek to Neels Gap, 7.5 miles
The sound of rain pounding on my tent woke me several times throughout the evening. Thankfully, not a single drop of rain made it inside my tent that evening. Other hikers were not so lucky.
The instant my rain fly was taken off my tent, the tent became soaked in the heavy rainfall. I had no choice other than to quickly shove the muddy, wet tent into its stuff sack, load up my pack, and hit the trail.
Bethany, who also camped in the Lance Creek area, was headed on trail the same time that I was. Blood Mountain was the only thing that stood in our way of Neels Gap; the first sign of civilization since Day 1.
We hadn’t seen a single hiker on trail yet until the base of the mountain, when a female hiker named Amy came charging up the hill at full speed, seeming totally unphased by the gnarly weather conditions.
In the Blood Mountain Shelter at the summit, we checked the forecast to see that the rainfall was to continue for the rest of the day and into the evening. Soaked to the bone, we opted to reserve a cabin at the nearby Blood Mountain Cabins to dry out our gear, enjoy a warm shower and hot town food for the evening.
Day 5: Neels Gap to Low Gap Shelter, 11.5 miles
After a restful night, we were back at Neel’s Gap by 9 AM. The day consisted of hiking on and off with Bethany and Alex, another hiker who stayed in one of the Blood Mountain cabins the previous night. The AT quickly took us over Levelland Mountain, Wolf Laurel Top, and Cowrock Mountain.
My dopamine rush from the climbs and views was short-lived, as a long and rocky descent took us down to Tesnatee Gap. It may not make sense, but many thru-hikers prefer climbing over descending, especially me. Getting closer to the road, I noticed a white table with hikers huddled around.
Trail magic is an amazing act of generosity where people hand out food and beverages to thru-hikers passing by. I scarfed down a banana and a bag of chips to help fuel me for the steep climb up Wildcat Mountain. Poor Mountain and Sheep Rock Top followed before descending into Low Gap Shelter to set up camp for the night. Alex and Bethany opted to camp at the shelter area as well, and we hung out and chatted with some other hikers before hitting our tents.
Day 6: Low Gap Shelter to Tray Mountain Shelter, 15.5 miles
The temps dropped to the mid-20s during the night, but I stayed cozy thanks to a sleeping bag liner that I purchased at Neels Gap. I hit the trail around 8:30, and it felt like I had the whole trail to myself for the first couple of hours of hiking.
The first 5 miles of the trail were mostly flat, smooth terrain acting as a good warm-up for the upcoming climbs for the day. The AT ascends Blue Mountain, drops down to Unicoi Gap, then instantly climbs up Rocky Mountain, the steepest climb thus far. I caught up with Alex on the climb, who left camp earlier than I did, and we enjoyed a well-earned lunch and view break at the summit.
We were not in the clear yet; a long and gradual climb up Tray Mountain led to some amazing views of the mountains up ahead. Tray Mountain Shelter was close by and proved to be a great spot to set up our tents. It was to be another chilly night in the mountains.
Trey Mountain Shelter to Dick’s Creek Gap, 11 miles
I was up and breaking down camp by 7 AM, and caught an amazing sunrise right outside my tent. Dick’s Creek Gap was the goal for the day, where Alex and I had split the cost of a 2-bedroom in nearby Hiawassee for the evening.
With town food, shower, and a beer on my mind, I charged up the punishing climb up and over Kelly Knob, the final peak over 4,000 feet that the AT ascends in Georgia. We arrived at the gap at around 1, shuttled into town, did our resupply, and enjoyed the benefits that civilization has to offer.
Almost every hiker of a long-distance trail typically identifies themselves by their trail name; an alias that is usually given to them by other hikers based on personality traits or funny habits.
Bethany (trail name Penguin since she “waddles” uphill and flies on the descents) and Amy (no trail name yet) decided to bestow the name “Yard Sale” on me since I dumped my gear and clothes all over the cabin floor when first arriving as if I were setting up for a yard sale. I also have a habit of dumping all of my gear out of my pack and onto the ground when arriving at camp. Bethany and I decided to call Alex “Blue Man” since almost every piece of gear he owns is blue.
Looking Out for One Another
Before departing for my hike, I read numerous blogs and articles explaining how helpful and friendly other hikers are towards another, and how they all have each other’s backs. I experienced this firsthand at Low Gap Shelter.
Back at Neels Gap, I went to purchase a new fuel canister, but the cashier refused to accept my payment and recommended I take one of the many mostly full canisters leftover in the donation box. I thanked him, snagged one of the canisters, and was on my way.
When it was time to cook dinner, I was frustrated when my stove wouldn’t screw onto the canister; Penguin tried as well with no luck. We discovered there was the slightest bend at the top of the canister, making it unusable. I was distraught at the thought of eating cold food for my remaining miles in this current stretch, so I went to the shelter to see if anyone had any idea on how to fix the canister.
Ridgerunner Chelsea was at the shelter and insisted I take her half-used canister as she was headed into town the next day. I tried declining but she refused to take no for an answer. I feel this story is a prime example of how hikers have each other’s backs out here; we all want nothing but the best for one another. Chelsea, if you’re reading this, you’re the best.
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Sounds like you’re making some amazing memories. I’m loving reading them all!
Like reading about your journey stay safe and don’t forget to smell the roses
And the way you feel about gas canister is good just try to pay it forward
Have a great walk
Good to hear the updates! Keep rocking out those miles.
Love your enthusiasm !! Better than a Netflix series right now!! This experience will be with you the rest of your life. Stay safe and keep us up to date!!
I hiked the whole Appalachian Trail in 2019, it was the greatest challenge the greatest adventure in the greatest accomplishment of my life! You’ll love it! Just keep telling yourself you’re not gonna quit unless the doctor tells you so!
Max I love staying current on your adventures. What an amazing experience— enjoy and continue to make life-long memories and friends!!