Carey Kish is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a trek that he expects to take about six months. The big hike began recently on Springer Mountain, the official start of the AT in the mountains of northern Georgia. En route to Katahdin in Maine’s North Woods, the journey will require about 5,000,000 steps and climb more than 500 mountain summits with a cumulative elevation gain of some 565,000 feet. Excerpts from Carey’s trail journal are presented here.
March 22, 2015: Woods Hole Shelter to Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap, 3.2 miles, 9:10am to 11:40am.
Quiet night, good sleep. Intermittent showers this morning. Beautiful spot, this Woods Hole. I’ll be back.
Broke camp and headed up Blood Mountain. Trail used to go to Slaughter Gap, but has been re-rerouted. Like the new trail, which switchbacks up the south slope now. Eventually intersected the old trail inherited up, what I always thought was like an old carriage road. Threaded through the azalea thickets, then popped of on top at the beautiful old stone summit shelter at 4400 feet. Did not stay here in 1977 but enjoyed a very fine, if cold and windy, night here in 2001.
Dropped the pack and climbed the rocks to grab the grand southerly vista that ranges all the way to Springer Mountain and beyond. Outstanding! Love this spot. Cold and windy today, but no matter. Signed the register in the hut, then climbed back out on the rocks for a final look-see.
More great views to the south and east, then to the north opened up on the descent down the east ridge. Not sure, but figured I was looking at Tray Mountain, the Stekoahs and perhaps the Smokies up now. Wow.
Continued the long and winding descent to Neels Gap. Practically ran the last 100 yards to the highway. Waited for traffic, then dashed across to the parking lot of Mountain Crossings and there met Fran. Woo-hoo!
She and I and several other hikers enjoyed snacks on the stone patio, including a cold beer. Decided to alter the hike plan and grab a bunk here and call it a day, albeit a short one. After all, this place has everything pretty much. Complete outfitter store, food, hostel, showers, laundry, mail. Goodness, what more could a hiker ask for?
Had a blast hanging out at Neels Gap all afternoon. Hikers coming in and out, greetings all sound like e were all old friends. Took a most excellent and much needed shower (more on AT “hiker stink” later), did a load laundry. Hostel hasn’t changed much in decades, love it. Feeling like a real thru-hiker having made it to this special place.
Poked around the retail store but try as I might I simply couldn’t find a single thing I needed. Figure that’s a good thing. But other hikers, oh my, they spent bundles of cash on new gear. Mountain Outfitters does a pack shakedown, a complete and free assessment of what you’re carrying, which for an awful lot of people is way too much. So many have bought the backpacker farm here, if you will. And while that cannot guarantee success, it’s a step in the right direction.
Since Fran was here with our Subaru we loaded up fellow hikers Don and Rachel and drove down into, about 15 miles. Despite our attempt to locate a Mexican restaurant that we’ seen a sign for, no luck. But luck was with us, as instead we landed at Steve’s AYCE Buffet. There we shamelessly chowed down on southern fried chicken, ham, creamed corn, corn bread, mashed potatoes and so so so much more. Strawberry cobbler with fresh whipped and side of vanilla ice cream for dessert. It was nuts and we enjoyed every delicious bite.
7:30pm now and hostel is abuzz with happy hikers….