Woody Gap, Woodhole Shelter, Neel’s Gap, and a Zero in Blairsville

Day 5 Woody Gap to Wood Hole shelter.

7.6 miles, 1,800 feet of gain. A great day, beautiful weather, little to no breeze, a mid-trail trail-angel (Thor, class of ’99) with a coke and chips, perfect temperatures, great sunset. Shelter entirely to ourselves (and a mouse – we named him Hershel), only one other person at this entire campsite, and it’s the ridge runner. I started a fire with just a lighter and a pinecone – an improvement over a lighter and baby bell wax.

We hoped to make it to the top of Blood Mountain (think cocaine bear), but once again had a late start (this time on account of unfinished laundry). So when 4:30/5:00 p.m. came, it made sense to make camp rather than push on to the ‘spooky shelter’ at the top of the mountain.

We’re trying to do better about drinking water during the day and getting our bottles empty by the time we get to the next water source. Also, I work at eating more throughout the day to keep up our energy.

Tomorrow, we’ll finish the last 1.6 miles and 800 feet of gain to the top of Blood Mountain.  Then, we’ll descend 1,300+ feet over 2.4 miles into Neel’s gap. It’s just a four-mile day, then we’ll run into town and hide from the impending storm.

Neel’s gap is mile 31.3 of the AT. It is also a sad place because it marks the first quartering point – the point by which 25% of people have already left the trail.  It’s an odd milestone, because the folks we see going home for the most part seem physically capable of completing the trail, but they are having gear or prep issues that are putting a damper on their trip. (i.e., far too cold, especially at night, pack too heavy, feet blistering too bad).

I find my shake down hikes were very good at showing me my weak points and my last-minute acquisitions (extra warm gloves, extra socks, a sweater, and a buff) have all come in wildly handy. Overall, I’m happy with my gear, and my body is acclimating well to the pack and the trail. So far, everything feels good, and neither of us has blisters. Although, I might have a lightly sprained ankle.

Conclusion: Not So Bad After All

Our journey on the Appalachian Trail may not be epic or envy-inducing, but that’s exactly what makes it so special. We’re not here to craft inspiring tales of triumph. No, we’re here to laugh at our own flaws and revel in the surprises that await us around every twist and turn. So, raise your hiking poles, my fellow adventurers, and let’s toast to the absurdity of it all. Blister-free steps and hilarious encounters with wild creatures await us. Stay tuned for more tales from the trail because with us, anything can happen. Happy hiking!

Blood Mountain Summit & Shelter & Trail Magic, the Steep-ish Hike Down, Blairsville & (a real) Dinner. (Day 6)

Easy day just a four-mile, 900 feet of ascent, 1,400 descent. My ankle got sprained yesterday, so I was trying to go easy in it, and then today I got stung in the back by a bee – ouch. (plus, I’m allergic, but somehow didn’t react). Given the proximity in the Ides of March, I now might know how Caesar felt. Seriously, bee, in the back!  You monster! This must ‘bee’ a violation of a bunch of international treaties!  🐝 (ok, I’ll see my way out).

The hike was pretty good, I put an ace bandage on my ankle and favored it on the way up, but it still found a way to complain every 200 steps or so. It got worse as the day progressed, which worried me, but I found that it was ok so long as the foot landed reasonably flat. I finally gave in and took some painkillers on the way down, and it didn’t bother me after that.

Notice the swelling between my ankle and heel bone.

My hiking buddy struggled on the downhill from Blood Mountain, on account of her shorter legs and the big drops.  But we still made it down in good time (despite another late start and at least an hour on the peak where I basked in the sun and received some mountain top trail magic).

Anyway, we made it down and survived the point by which 25% of hikers will have gone home, but will be hiding out in town for two nights on account of an incoming day of thunderstorm. We’ll also be resupplying and preparing for our next couple of days in the woods.

We’re officially at mile 31.3, but we’ve done a bunch of side trails to views and shelters, so we’ve actually hiked 33.7 miles with over 7,000ft of ascent/7,300 descent.

We’re still going easy, as recommended by all the experienced hikers / members of the trail community. And we’re both still smiling (though sometimes I wonder if it’s grimacing). Our bodies are getting stronger every day, and things are getting easier.

Mountain Crossings

Flamethrower got there with a mission –  replace some gear that failed (tent clip, fuel canister, leaky sleeping pad, and buy a sun shirt), I only wanted some snacks and a pizza.

So while she shopped, I grabbed a milky way gushers and ordered our food.

crazy old pickup with lichens growing on it and its glass – somehow.

Blairsville – after a poor attempt at hitchhiking, we took accepted a ride to town with a driver that was in the parking lot. We got to our hotel and raided the hiker boxes, coffee, lotion, razor blades, aloe, crackers, and tuna.

Then Flamethrower and I went to town and got a beer at the local brewery followed by Mexican food. It was a beautiful evening weather wise.

We concluded our day by discussing all the things that we still needed to do.  Laundry, resupply shopping, more eating, and some actual shopping for flamethrower who needed a sunshirt (see aloe). We also began to compile our return contributions for the hiker box.

Day 7 – Our first 0.

Oh, the joys of waking up in a bed again. We’ve washed our hands and showered about 27 times each. The tub is crazy skinny, but I’m still managing to soak in Epsom salts and rest my ankle.

We decided that the morning would be for sightseeing, food, and errands, and the afternoon would be for washing clothing (and more food).

First, Flamethrower went to the post office to pick up an item she got shipped. then I met her on the way back, and we grabbed lunch at a Cuban restaurant Nani’s that was recommended by the ridge runner we met at Woodhole Shelter.

Then we ventured to Ingles, the supermarket. where we bought the entire produce section for our last night and did a limited resupply. We went back to the hotel and ran into Miss Janet in the parking lot. She was reportedly just turning around.  So we hung out and chatted. Dexter, her dog that I had taken for a 3.8-mile hike, launched himself out the car window into my arms (I’m in love and he might be too). Miss Janet had also brought me some gummi candy (I had asked her if she had any a few days before). It was a great little visit and catch-up.

After that, we went back to the room where I did laundry in borrowed clothing while Flamethrower modeled a fancy toga made from bedsheets. We each laid our offerings for the dinner feast and indulged in a healthy party broken up by more showers and Epsom soaks.

It was a pretty good day, and we appreciated the Zero. We had met two other hikers on the way to the grocery store and made plans to share a shuttle back to the trail.  So that meant a 7:30 departure in the morning, so devices were charged and alarms set.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the journey on the Appalachian Trail so far has been filled with unique experiences, challenges, and unexpected moments of joy. Despite setbacks like sprained ankles and bee stings, we have persevered with humor and determination.

The trail has been not just a physical challenge but a test of preparedness and adaptability, with gear adjustments and lessons learned along the way. As we reach milestones and embrace the absurdity of it all, we continue to find joy in the simplicity of our adventure. With a spirit of resilience and camaraderie, we press on, ready to face whatever the trail may bring next. As we move forward, one step at a time, the Appalachian Trail offers endless possibilities and unforgettable memories for those willing to take on the challenge. Stay tuned for more tales from the trail, where anything can happen. Happy hiking!

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Comments 1

  • Beverly Ann Collins : Mar 20th

    Thank you so much for sharing yr experience as it is giving me some hope that I too can male some strudel along the AT. I roo was laid off bur was soon captive to my parent’s dementia care. I’m trying uo strike a balance with my own Respite needs and their 24/7 care which they deny in their dementia that they need to stay alive…ugghhh! Thank you for giving me hope.


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