Neels Gap Update

Hello from Neels Gap.

Day 1 was a 9 mile day, a nice easy mileage to get my body conditioned.

Started on US 42, the Springer Mountain parking lot, a mile ahead of the

southern terminus. We hiked the mile back, and then ahead to the second

shelter at Hawk Mountain for a total of 8 trail miles. I got to the shelter

first, and the place was a real pig sty. Judging from the trash, food and

gear left behind, the folks that trashed the place didn’t really know what

they were doing. Full poncho rainsuits, a camp chair, big heavy bags of

WalMart trailmix. Kind of bummed me out to see all that trash. Obviously

everyone out here–dayhikers, weekenders, even some thru-hikers–aren’t

schooled in Leave no Trace.

Day 2 was about 8 miles, Hawk to Gooch Shelter. Easy hike. Got there early

in the day and spent the afternoon sitting around waiting for the sun to go

down so I could go to bed. I waited too long to set up my tent, so all the

good spots were taken. I ended up camping on an incline and kept sliding

down to the bottom of my tent all night.

Day 3 I pushed it to Neels Gap. 15 miles. I had planned to stop at about 12

miles, at Slaughter Creek, but was feeling good and it seemed like a good

idea to push on. I’m staying at a great hostel here, with a big outfitter.

When I got in, there was a group of trail angels, The Georgia Trail Dames,

that had a big free barbecue for thru-hikers going on the porch. A nice hot

dog and veggie burger felt pretty good after a long day of hiking.

Josh, who runs Hiker Hostel, told us that 20 percent of thru-hikers drop out

by Neels Gap here. Seems like the group I started with, about 10 of us, are

going strong. All of us made it here tonight besides one or two who must

have stopped at Slaughter Creek. Tomorrow I’ll take a light day to Low Gap,

I think 10 miles, to give my body a break from this 15-er.

A woman I met at Hiker Hostel told me that hiking the AT is equivalent to

going up and down Everest 16 times. Not sure of the truth behind that

statistic, but it is a fun one to bat around. Mentally and physically after

3 days on, I’m feeling good. The hiking is strenuous but not backbreaking,

especially since I’ve got my pack weight so low to start with. A lot of

folks are using the outfitter here to trim weight. One guy called Traveller,

an older gentleman, shipped home about 28 pounds and dropped $1300 on new

gear. One extreme to the other!

Happy trails. Another post from Hiawassee by Wednesday/Thursday.

Love,

Jeff

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