Saturday, December 31, 2011

AT- Neels Gap to Blue Ridge Gap

Day One: Neels Gap to Whitley Gap Shelter 6.7 Miles
Parking to Neels Gap 0.5
Day Two: Whitley Gap Shelter to Blue Mt. Shelter 11.8
Low Gap Shelter 0.2 Miles
Day Three: Blue Mt. Shelter to Swag of the Blue Ridge 11.1
Tray Mt. Shelter 0.4 Miles
Day Four: Swag of the Blue Ridge to Plumorchard Gap 11.6
Deep Creek Shelter 0.6
Day Five: Plumorchard Gap to Blue Ridge Gap 1.2
Road walk 72 and down Upper Hightower Road 2.0
Total Miles: 46.1

Lora and I headed down to Georgia to Neels Gap where we left off our last AT hike. The trailhead parking is 0.5 miles before you get to Neels Gap. We had a light mist going on which turned into sleet the higher we climbed up Levelland Mountain 3900 ft. It is good to have a warm up at the beginning of the trail.

Day One:
Cowrock Mountain has a beautiful view, but no pictures due to the moisture. The views are wonderful as you descend down to Tesnatee Gap. The climb up Wildcat Mountain is tough, especially at the end of the day. There is a great view from the top as well. It was getting dark and we set up camp at the trailhead leading to Whitley Gap Shelter. The sleet and wind were both getting stronger. We cooked from the tent and ate in bed.

Day Two:
The wind blew like a Banshee according to Lora that night. We woke up to a white winter wonderland. It snowed during the night. We had breakfast in bed with the wind still blowing at gale force. We packed quickly and headed down to Hogpen Gap. We were surprised to see the amount of cars at every trailhead that we came to. Lot's of hikers out.

We saw our first person, who was packing up, on our climb out of Hogpen Gap. During our hike today there are wonderful views of the the surrounding mountains through the trees. You could see Mt. Yonah all day, which pokes up with a rock face.

We stopped at Low Gap shelter and visited with Keeps and his brother who were thru hikers coming South. We didn't even think about the Southbounders, but this is the time of year that they finish their six month hike.

From Low Gap you follow an old road bed up to Poplar Stamp Gap. We stopped and ate our lunch here. We passed another thru hiker who was hiking with Keeps and passed a message on for him. We saw another couple who were backpacking and a family group that were backpacking.

We saw a few more backpackers at Chattahoochee Gap, where the spring is actually the head waters for for the Chattahoochee River.

It felt like a twenty degree difference between the sunny side and shady side of the mountains. The snow has started melting on the sunny side. We continued the climb up Blue Mountain and stayed at the Blue Mountain Shelter. We had time to dry out the tent before we set it up and gathered firewood. There was a young couple that stopped by that were day hiking in from Unicoi Gap.

We sat by the fire and enjoyed a beautiful star filled sky.

Day Three:
The wind was blowing strong and cold when we got up. We pulled everything into the shelter and packed in there. As we ate breakfast a couple of backpackers came into camp. One had actually built the shelter that we were standing in. We finished the climb of Blue Mountain and started the long descent into Unicoi Gap.

Again there were many cars in the parking lot. From there we did the steep climb up Rocky Mountain. We met two more thru hikers that were hiking with the previous group. When we got to the top we stopped for a break. There were two young boys from Atlanta that had stayed out overnight here and froze. They found out that they were not prepared for this temperature. I had to take a picture of the fire ring here. It came up to Lora's knees. Why do people build such big fire rings? There were some great views from on top.

From Rocky Mountain you have a very long and steep decent into Indian Grave Gap. Here we met a couple of day hikers. One was from Appleton, Wisconsin, where my sister had lived. We ate lunch on our way up Tray Mountain. We met alot of people on our way up. We got to the clearing where a Cheese Factory had been located in 1840. NO cheese!

After a strenuous climb up Tray Mountain, we got some wonderful views. There were two guys and a dog hanging out at the top. We had lots of ice on the rocks during the climb. There are alot of blackberry briers all over this mountain. We saw alot of Galax growing all along this section of the trail.

We stopped at the Tray Mountain Shelter for water. There was an old man and a grandson staying here. From here we started the long descent down Tray mountain. There is a marked water source at Steeltrap Gap that is not noted on the map. The two guys and their dog from the top of the mountain were setting up camp here. We went on to Swag of the Blue Ridge to make camp.

The wood was wet and we had a cold fire. We were tired anyway and didn't stay by the fire long.

Day Four:
Kelly Knob was rough. They didn't waste any time making switchbacks here. Straight up. Good views and you could see Chatuge Lake to the East. After another deep descent we stopped at Deep Gap Shelter for some water. This is an old well built shelter that actually has windows in the loft.

We got spooked twice. Once by a Grouse and the other time by some day hikers as we were stopped for lunch at Wolf Stake Knob. They came up behind us and we never heard them till they were on us. We then spent the afternoon descending from Powell Mountain to Dicks Creek Gap. Another pile of cars here. We got out of site from the road and stopped for a nap in the sun.

There is a steep decent into and climbing out of Cowart Gap. It seemed like we climbed Buzzard Knob forever. Finally we started down to Plumorchard Gap were we spent the night. Another peaceful night by the fire with the stars shining from above.

The wind picked up that night. It woke us a couple of times hollowing through the night.

Day Five:
We got up and ate breakfast. We got our water from the spring and then headed up AS Knob. We got off the trail at Blue Ridge Gap and hiked down Forest service road 72 to meet our ride. We were early so hiked another mile down Upper Hightower Creek road to get to a phone service. We used Sam Duke 706-994-6633 again for our ride.


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