Neel Gap to Dicks Creek Gap – Trail Name Big Sky

Packed  and ready to leave Blood Mountain Cabins  and Neel Gap at 8 a.m. I went to drop off my key and one of their cats (gray and white) led me back to my cabin. Even though I’d never seen it leave the porch it knew where I was staying. Great stay at Blood Mountain Cabins  .2 miles from Neel Gap. I left all my cords and plugs there and they sent them ahead to Hiawassee. Trail karma coming back to me.

One of my water stops is pictured below. I’m using a Platypus gravity system with a 3L CNOC bag.

Neal Gap water

The gentleman who helped pick out a new headlamp wishes me happy trails just after I pass through Neel Gap

Feb. 26: I had two trail magic experiences after leaving Neel Gap. The first was Mountain Dew and cherry pie on the way down from the picture below (elevation 3,806 feet). It was given by a man who runs a local, pet-friendly cabin/hotel. You can probably find the name of that place from Hiking with Braids  on YouTube. I drank her Mountain Dew and I’m sorry. Roy follows up with a clementine at the Union County/White County highway crossing.

After my longest hike of 12.8 miles I stop at Poplar Stamp Gap and am joined by Liberty, the chocolate lab and Chives. Chives got his name because he picked fresh chives for dinner. It was a cold night and the wind sounded like 18-wheelers driving by.

Neal Gap- Poplar Stamp Gap

Feb. 27: Mine are the first feet on the trail and will be so for a couple of miles.

Swallow Creek Highway crossing and me with a plaque. Picture courtesy of gentleman from New Hampshire section hiking with his son who is thru-hiking.

Neal Gap- Swallow Creek

After 12 miles I settle in to the Cheese Factory camp site with about six other tents. Another cold night with not enough sleep because I’m anticipating a civilization trip to Hiawassee.

Big news!!! I have a trail name. Big Sky given to me by PB&J. A couple of free spirits from Virginia who delight in their trail food and giving out trail names.

Feb. 28: I am up at 5 a.m. and on the trail to Dicks Creek Gap and Hiawassee. I screwed up my Jetboil cook system by leaving some water in it. I always try to save a little water to rinse out that last bit of food and forgot to use it. No hot food or coffee this morning, but once it’s dry again the cook system works fine.

So I have a cold-morning routine. Pull all my hiking clothes into the sleeping bag to warm them up. Deflate pillow and air mattress and roll them up. Change into hiking gear, make breakfast and coffee, and roll up sleeping bag. Today I figured out that using my foot to force my sleeping bag into the bottom of the backpack works well. Out of the tent and pack the tent. The other day my tent cover was iced up, so I strapped it to the outside. On the trail.

I stopped at 10 a.m. to arrange a shuttle with Sally and Joyce for 4:30 p.m. at Dicks Creek Gap. The shuttle drivers have been great.

Ron: Atlanta to Amicalola, 706-669-0919

Mike and Suzanne: 352-322-0822. Ride to convenience store. I reached out for a ride, but he was unavailable.  He gave me 14 alternate shuttle drivers, a veterinary contact, hotels, hospitals, and checked back in to make sure I had a ride.

Jeff Moonn: 706-994-2307. He didn’t drive me. He was picking up two other hikers at Dicks Creek Gap and allowed me to warm up in his Jeep while we waited.

So I hustled down to Dicks Creek Gap and fell twice in the snow. There were a few icy spots, but nothing worthy of microspikes. 13.1. miles, tallest peak so far at 4,144 feet, and I am done about an hour and a half early.

Neal Gap-Dick’s Creek Gap

As I am waiting for my shuttle, everyone driving by is taking pictures of the snow. It does not snow here often. A guy offers me a ride and when I tell him I have a shuttle he says, “Stay strong.” Thank you, sir.

Sally and Joyce: 706-896-9339. Pick me up early, give me a quick tour, recommendations for everything town, and I’m in my hotel room just before 5.

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Comments 3

  • Julie : Feb 29th

    Hopefully when I retire I will hike this hike. Your candor and information are helpful and inspiring. Safe travels.

  • Dave Levin : Mar 1st

    Hello, I am starting a section hike from Springer Mt. to Unicoi Gap on March 16. Im a little concerned about the snow. Should i be concerned about seeing the White Blazes?

    • James Aguilar : Mar 3rd

      Good morning and thank you for the question. I don’t think you need to work too much about the blazes. The trail is about a foot wide and if you can’t see the trail, follow the green tunnel. If you’re off trail, you’re likely walking thru untouched leaves and thorny weeds. Mostly just follow the previous foot prints. Feel free to ask any more questions and have a great hike.


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