The Second Section Is Harder Than The First
Try not, do or do not. There is no try.
Same construct as last time, recap of day to include dinner, night, and major mileage milestones crossed. LFG!!
Woods Hole Shelter to Neels Gap (Summit Blood Mtn (4.7)
Day: Summited Blood Mtn early morning and had a summit beer. Summit beer tradition is now officially a thing. The route up to the summit wasn’t bad or challenging. The route down was tricky with a ton of slippery rocks and rock ledges. Follow the blazes on the rocks or you could end up in a bad spot. Walked into Neels Gap and met my shuttle back to Above the Clouds hostel. My bounce box was waiting for me at the pack cubbies. I was given the tour and explained how everything works. This is the first hostel I’ve stayed at, but it’s very nice and has a ton of amenities. Got a quick ride to a convenience store to buy a couple things, took a shower, and dropped off my clothes for laundry. Got two personal pizzas from the store and chowed down.
Most people staying were not passed Blood Mtn yet and were going to slack pack from Neels to Woody. Trail name Fresh Grounds (AT legend) cooked spaghetti for everyone! Trail name Lucky (owner of Above the Clouds) had a fire pit going and it was all around good vibes. I am now only 50ish mi from the GA/NC border. I went back to my cabin after helping a couple gentlemen (John from FL and trail name Two Pots) with some of their gear and watched the newest episode of The Servant then 14 Peaks again on my phone.
Mileage milestones: 40
First Zero Day!!
Day: Woke up around 630am and stretched. Sorted through my bounce box and packed my food bag for the next leg. Went down to the hostel from my cabin, ate a delicious breakfast of banana pancakes, hash browns, sausage and chick-fil-a biscuits. Fresh Ground cooked breakfast for everyone. After picking up my laundry, I refit all my gear. Grabbed two personal pizzas for lunch, and watched Oceans 11.
Night: Trail name Lucky (hostel owner) made dinner which consisted of teriyaki chicken thighs, grilled squash and zucchini, yellow rice with beans. It was chefs kiss. Trail name Bounce made brownies. There was a group of us that sat around the dinner table chatting about different things. Went to bed around 9pm.
Neels Gap to Poplar Camp Site (13mi)
Day: Up early to get a head start on the long day. Lucky made us a fried egg sandwich with a banana. We stepped off from Neels Gap at 730am. Made it to Low Gap Shelter by 1pm ish. Hikers beware! No water points from Hogpen Gap to Low Gap shelter. Met Laura (school teacher from FL) and Cheyenne (archeologist from CO) at Low Gap Shelter with John (retired Army Colonel from FL) right behind us. We officially have a tramily!!! We decided to push to Poplar campsite to break up the rest of this leg’s mileage. I was hyper focused and missed the site adding an additional .5mi to our day. Oops. The water source at the campsite is a good .35mi off trail. Great flow though. Just be sure to fill up as much as you can. We set-up camp, snacked, and then ate dinner. I had Good to Go Thai Chicken for dinner and it was a lot of food. I needed small breaks to finish the whole packet. Cheyenne and Laura continued with their bear bag hang success, while myself and trail name Beaker tied up our Ursacks. John opted to bear hang near the water source. This was my first Ursack hang as each place I’ve camped thus far had a bear box. Fingers crossed my food bag is there in the morning.
Night: Warmest night on trail so far. Mid 50s with occasional wind gusts. Nothing horrible. The forecast called for light rain after 12am but it wasn’t that bad waking up. My Ursack was there and GTG.
Mileage milestones: 45, 50, 55
Poplar Camp Site to Cheese Site (12.1)
Day: We broke camp around 715am. Another cloud covered day but it was also very muggy. The trail started out nice; leaf covered and wet but gentle slopes. Going further up Blue Mountain it changed…for the worse. Big rocks, large rocks, loose rocks, small rocks, rocks with moss, rocks that moved when you stepped on them, wet rocks, rocks covered with leaves, rocks with knife edges, even fraggle rocks. Just rocks everywhere. A good 1-1.5mi stretch of this and it was sloooow going. Deliberate steps. Stopped at Blue Mountain shelter for a snack and met another SOBO! Trail name Prometheus was taking a break as well. He was on his way to Low Gap. He mentioned there was another SOBO behind him, trail name Diesel. The tramily decided to push on towards the Cheese Factory Site. This would make it a 12.1mi day. The descent off Blue Mountain sucked. It was steep, sketch terrain and your knees/feet take a beating. At Unico Gap we all met back up and took a break. Lo and behold, a pick-up truck whips into the parking lot and it’s a ‘22 AT alumni! Trail name White Sox emerges from his truck and says “you look like some tired hikers” as he opens a cooler full of sodas, snickers, and oranges. This was a game changer as we still had another big climb over Rocky Mtn, descent, and a mile climb up Tray Mtn to the campsite. He said he was waiting for a SOBO he was going to meet up with and turns out it was Diesel. Small hiking world. We chowed down, then started the next climb. At the top of Rocky Mtn I met Diesel! I told her about White sox and the trail magic and we chatted for a quick minute. Wished her good luck and congrats then started the descent down Rocky Mtn into Indian Grove Gap. Made it to camp around 4pm. Got water and cooked my good to go Chicken Pho while setting up my tent. It started to rain shortly after set-up so everyone hunkered down. I added a salmon packet and three salt packets to help replace what I lost today.
Night: It stopped raining around 6ish pm so we could hang our food bags. Another warm night. My feet were screaming so I took some ibuprofen and Tylenol. We decided to try and push for Deep Gap tomorrow which gives us only 3.8mi into Dicks Creek Gap and a zero the next day. I will say this leg seems harder than the first because of the rocks and descents. I could hear vehicles on some kind of forest access road. Odd someone would be out late at night here.
Mileage Milestones: 60, 65
Cheese Factory Site to Deep Gap (9.4)
Day: Broke camp around 8am. Tent and ground cover was still wet from yesterday’s rain. The trail started out with a climb up the rest of Tray Mtn which was an additional 1k ft elevation gain over a mile. No views from the top due to cloud cover/fog (becoming pretty common in the morning). Over Tray and another steep descent which led to a somewhat flat trail with leaf cover. ANKLES BEWARE: There are TONS of hidden ankle assassins underneath the leaves (loose rocks, roots, branches, holes) which make for a slower day. Pretty much every water source between the Cheese Factory and Deep Gap was a .25mi off trail. I saw Steve who was with us at Gooch Gap and stayed at Above the Clouds hostel. Passed by Diesel one last time as she was finishing another SOBO leg. Kelly Knob was the final climb of the day and it’s a good one. Very steep with another 1k ft elevation gain in less than a mile. I’m getting to the point I would rather climb than descend. Descending is tough on the knees, ankles and feet. Climbing is less impact. Made it to Deep Gap just before 2pm and started to set-up for the night. I tried to dry as much stuff as I could which was a fruitless endeavor because it started to downpour around 4:30pm. I had a Good to Go Cuban rice bowl for dinner with the rest of my snacks for this leg since we have a short day into Dicks Creek tomorrow.
Night: Rain, rain, and more rain. This is the first heavy downpour on trail and I was a little worried if I set up my tent well enough to stay dry. Abracadabra-Dry to the bone!!! Whoop-whoop! Slight dampness on one side of my quilt, but that’s a win for the amount of rain. I was wicked warm too. So warm I was sweating and stripped off my sleep clothes. Woke up at 3am and the temperature had dropped to low 40s. Still totally dry, just chilly now. Used my draft collar on my quilt (shoutout to Enlightened Equipment) and was GTG. Really happy I stayed dry during that rain storm.
Mileage milestones: 70, 75
Wicked close to the GA/NC border now! As always thanks for following along and happy hiking!
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