AT Day 003: Monday April 10, 2023

Mile 15.8 + 18.3
Total Distance Hiked: 34.1 miles/54.9 kilometres

Gooch Mountain Shelter – Woody Gap – Blood Mountain – Neels Gap

Exhausted we fell asleep as soon as we got horizontal. No energy to enjoy the heautiful sunset just over the ridge in front of us. I woke up sometime before midnight with a feeling of a sumo wrestler holding my head in an vice like grip. I couldn’t breathe, my head felt like it was going to explode.   Pounding sinus pain and congestion…I’m pretty sure we both picked up a cold/flu from our Houston airport overnighter. Hammer complained of a sore throat yesterday. I was awake and sitting upright for a couple of hours hoping that my sinuses would drain and the pressure would be relieved.  A warm drink and some gentle tapping on the forehead and slowly it eased. I fell asleep again about 4am only to be woken by Hammer at 6am – it was time to get the day started. 

Such a shame it was an uncomfortable night for me, as the campsite location was really nice. Through the night I could hear the wind rustling through the tall tree canopy above and not a riffle down where we were camped, perfectly still.

We broke camp and were on our way just after 7am. There wasn’t much movement in the other campsites.  I was not a very good hiking companion when we set off. A  bit cranky from lack of sleep and sinus headache still pounding but Hammer knew better then to try and fix me and that given enough time it would all pass.
The hiking was easy on an undulating trail. We seem to be either ascending or descending not much inbetween. The sun was shining but the  air was biting cold,  it hurt to breathe.  The distant landscape was as pretty as yesterday with an occasional break in the trees to get a a distant view of the surrounding valleys.  

By the time we reached Woodys Gap my mood was restored. From here we entered the Blood Mountain Wilderness. According to the sign at the trailhead this next section of trail is the most visited section of the AT in Georgia. There were a  few cars in the carpark and people out for day hikes. I was still wearing a buff over my face to warm the air I was breathing. A man walking in the opposite direction said enjoy this cool weather – it will be 125F in a couple of weeks. Seemed a bit unimaginable  while the wind is not strong or blustery it’s just a cold.

Further along we passed a gentleman out walking his dog. He asked Hammer how far we were going. As far as Maine, one day at a time – Hammer replied. That’s nice he said “but I’m not sure why anyone would want to go there –  it’s full of Democrats and tollroads”. Oh OK –  we’ll check it out when we get there Hammer replied.

The climb up Blood Mountain was long and seemed to just go on and on. We hiked up with a girl we passed yesterday when she seemed reluctant to even say hello.Today when we passed her, we made a point of staying with her and chatting. I think she was a bit shy,  we were guessing maybe a little bit lonely on the trail. She is from Upstate New York and started from Amicalola Falls same day we did. Similar to us  it seems that her wet weather gear failed in that rain storm and she got hypothermic. She also started this hike way down in Alabama where the Appalachian Mountains start some 400 miles away. There would not have been too many people on that section.

It was good to engage with her and find out a bit about her story.  It was also good for all of us to have company to chat with on the climb because there were many false summits. Arriving at the Blood Mt Shelter we knew were at the top. Great views – rolling blue hills as far as you can see. Quite spectacular in a very gentle way. Groups of people were picnicking at the top, enjoying the sunshine. No picnicking for us, we had a few more miles to make.

Blood Mountain shelter
“Spiderwort”- the girl we hiked with up Blood Mountain and a day hiker with her pet dogs on top of Blood Mountain
Blood Mountain
Blood Mountain

The descent from Blood Mt to Neels Gap was steep,  rocky and technical. We were happy to get down without incident and Hammer was rewarded with a Coke and KitKat from the Neels Gap General Store. And I found a new love, a Blind Date Slice from the The Big Sur Bar Co. The store is really well stocked with everything a hiker could need and it seems to be reasonable priced. Super friendly and helpful staff. What a treat,  we are hoping there are more stores like this along the way   It was tempting to stop here and get a cabin but hard to justify on only day 3. We hiked another couple of miles and camped on a beautiful ridge.  The sun is about to set, there is a gentle breeze but it is cold. Despite the developing flu,  it was a good day today.

Neels Gap
Love at first bite
Good night.