Blood Mountain: 1000’s … Hikers: 0

A few days of (mostly) northbound AT hiking brought me within reach of Blood Mountain. Legs aren’t working right. My breath sounds a lot like an enthusiastic child bouncing on a rusty teeter-totter, and my 2-sizes-too-small heart is doing its darnedest to keep up. My mind, on the other hand, is picking up the slack. I imagined a trail bloodied first by the Cherokee and Creek Indians that fell in some long ago battle, then bloodied again by hikers who slipped on the rocky crags near the summit.

My internal monologue became fiercely heroic: “I WILL conquer you… Oh yes… You will be mine!” Denstiny’s Child promised me that a “Bootylicious” reward awaited the victor.


Then, after the 4712th switchback (approximately), the terrain leveled out. Stubby green vegetation cropped up. Lichen draped over flat rocks, providing an extra layer of padding for my sore feet. The air became damp and cool. I think birds even started chirping, but it could just as easily have been the carotid pulse pounding in my ears.

Behind the Blood Mountain shelter (the oldest on the trail I believe) I clambered out on the rocky ledge. While I caught my breath, I took a few minutes to congratulate myself on my victory. I just beat Blood Mountain!

Looking out over the rippling ridges as they turned from brown and green to purple and blue in the distance, I felt less like the guy slamming a victory flag into the ground, and more like a humble hiker that was just passing through. I didn’t “beat” Blood Mountain. But it didn’t beat me either. I may be just another humble hiker passing through, but right now, I am a happy humble hiker.

Blood mountain view



A short rock-scramble down the backside of Blood Mountain led me to the Mountain Crossings Outfitter. I had to walk past the “quitting tree.” It’s limbs spouted hundreds of pairs of shoes left by those that were beaten by Blood Mountain (or the miles preceding it). It’s true, We don’t beat Blood Mountain (or any portion of the trail). It will be there, unchanged, long after we’re gone. But maybe, if I keep hiking, I’ll be the one that’s changed (and hopefully for the better). I’m gonna keep my shoes.


Quitting tree


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