Wednesday March 13, 23.6 miles/38km
Justus creek campsite (14.4) to Whitley Gap trail jct (38.0) (GA)
I wake up to the headlamps of other parties packing up, and decide its time for me to get going. Since I usually have a cold breakfast, I’m ready in 30 minutes and hit the trail at sunrise… which apparently is late at 7:30am!
I go by Gooch shelter, where most people are still in their tents. An hour later I get to Gooch Gap (mountain passes are called “gaps” down here), and I see a gathering of hikers, which usually means trail magic. And it is!
Bonnie & Paul are local B&B owners, and have brought coffee, decaf tea, fruit, cookies, and juice! I also meet Oaksie and MacGyver, who originally planned to just do a 30mile section, but now might do the whole trail. And met Andy, who thruhiked the 300mi Benton Mackaye trail last year.
Since I confused the coffee urn with the tea one, I flew up the next few hills (I don’t drink coffee). Good views.
I knew I was getting near another gap, when I saw an oncoming group of 30-40 dayhikers, and they all smelled clean.
And then I found a hat, the exact same kind as mine. I knew who it belonged to, since we just had a conversation about being hat twins… MacGyver. I reunited it with its owner a few miles later at Woody Gap!
The trail so far has been very nice, thanks GATC!
Just before lunch, I meet Emily, a first-time thru-hiker. We chat for a bit, and she is one of the best prepared hikers yet I have met on this trail. She even has a Thrupack fanny pack, which is a creation of my friend Skunk Ape (fellow PCT 2015er)!
After lunch, I do the biggest climb yet, up to the summit of 4442ft/1354m Blood Mountain. It’s also the highest point on the AT in Georgia.
It’s a quick descent to Neels Gap, where the famous Mountain crossings store resides.
Since this is a place where most hikers stop in and upgrade some of their gear, and drop what gear they don’t need, their hiker box is legendary. Indeed, there are 4 Rubbermaid bins of goodies. I snag some better tent stakes, tenacious tape, and some food. One of the bins appears to be all sawyer squeeze pouches, books, and prophylactics…huh?
After spending too much time at the store, I hike up the last climb for the day. There are some beautiful camp spots, but it’s still early (before 5pm) so I continue.
My intended camping spot at a gap doesn’t have any good options, so I climb a short hill and setup on the ridge and watch the sunset.
It’s supposed to rain a bit tomorrow, and maybe a bit overnight. Should be interesting!