11-12-09 day 163
start: Low Gap Shelter, GA
end: Blood Mountain Shelter, GA
daily mileage: 13.2
total mileage: 2150.0
The five of us (Me, Disney, LB, Fiddler, and Tin Man) all set out this morning heading 11 miles straight onto Neel’s Gap for lunch. Neel’s Gap, 30 miles from Springer, is the first big way point for northbound hikers. The fall out rate at Neel’s is big, and is typically the point where people who get on the trail with no knowledge of what they are in for decide that hiking isn't their think after all. The hike over to the Gap was fairly uneventful except for the conspicuous lack of blazing throughout. You would think that considering the high amount of traffic this portion of trail receives every year, the blazing would be impeccable, but what’r’ya gonna do? There where almost no white blazes anywhere and at one point there was a blue blaze, used to denote side trails, right in the middle of the AT. After walking for 30-45 minutes and seeing no white blazes you begin to question whether or not you slid of the AT somehow. Then seeing a blue your doubt kicks up more than a little. Never the less we found Neel’s Gap.
Neel’s Gap’s other claim to fame is that the trail runs “through the store”, the outfitter building that’s down there. While the trail actually runs through an outdoor breezeway thing, its still cool that it goes through a building. The outfitter is a great one and the guy who runs it has a deal for NOBOs where he will shakedown your pack for you, and let you know what you need, what you don’t need, and what you should be smacked in the head for even packing in the first place. This service is free but naturally if you seem to be lacking anything he has a fully stocked store to help you out.
After lunch we dawdled around the patio for several hours reading and what not. The factory laces on one of my boots finally broke and I used the down time to replace them with parachute cord. I want to digress for a minute to impress upon our readers how incredible these shoes are. I have a pair of Merrell Moab Ventilators, just cheap day-hiker shoes really. They are low cut, and not waterproof; just imagine beefed up running shoes. Honestly, I can’t imagine they designed to live much past 400 miles but I bought these things in Kent, CT, hiked to Katahdin, flipped back and have hiked the entire South on the same pair. That’s 1700 miles people! Admittedly there is no tread left and I can see my bare foot through the gaping holes in the side (my socks aren’t in great shape either), but never the less my “magic shoes” persevere. I think I’m gonna get these things bronzed, how’s that for a testimonial Merrell!
Four o’clock rolled around and we decided we should crank out the last 2.5 miles. Climbing Blood Mountain was a breeze, 1500 feet was like nothing. Blood Mountain Shelter, one of the oldest on the trail, is a neat old stone cabin with two rooms. As neat as the shelter is there is a mass of huge boulders right next to it and with the great weather we decided to cowboy camp on top. All 5 of us camped and the stars overhead are fantastic.