AT 2017: Day 3, Jarrard Gap to Neel Gap

I'm looking for a chateau, twenty-one rooms but one will do

Blood Mountain Cabin

I wasn't eaten by a bear last night. That's a plus for any night in the woods. I didn't even see a chipmunk or squirrel.

Now the next thing to focus on was the approaching weather.

DateWednesday, April 5, 2017
WeatherThunderstorms with occasionally heavy rain
Trail ConditionsWet, muddy
Today's Miles5.0
Trip Miles31.4

Wireless reception was decent at Jarrard Gap, so the first thing I did when I woke up was check the forecast.

It didn't look good. The predicted arrival of thunderstorms was moved up to 8 a.m.


As I crawled out of my tent, the sun was just about to come over the distant mountains.

Soon, however, the sun disappeared and the sky began to rumble every ten minutes or so.

I quickly packed up and began hiking.

My left knee had seized up a few times overnight, but for now, it was feeling fine. My right ankle was much better too.

Within the first mile of hiking, the rain began to fall. It was light at first, but knowing the forecast I knew there was no point to delay putting on my rain gear.

Wet trail

About this time, Donqui and Q-Tip came up the trail.

We hiked together and discussed our options. Did we want to climb Blood Mountain, the highest point on the AT in Georgia and risk being struck by lightning? Or did we want to take a safer alternate route, the Freeman Trail, which would mean skipping part of the AT?

We all said we preferred to stay on the AT, but agreed to keep the Freeman Trail open for reconsideration when we reached it.

The weather wasn't getting any worse. In fact, as we approached the junction of the Freeman Trail the thunder seemed to happen less frequently and there had been no flashes of lightning in several minutes.

We agreed to stay on the AT.

Donqui (left) and Q-Tip

When I reached the base of the climb up Blood Mountain I stopped to wait for Donqui (left) and Q-Tip. Again, we felt satisfied that the weather wasn't too dangerous, so up we went.

(I apologize for the quality of the photo, which is caused by the poor quality of the weather.)

Wet climb up Blood Mountain

The rain continued to fall steadily, but visibility remained good. I had thought we would wind up in a cloud with no view, but that wasn't the case.

When I arrived at the top there was no one else there. Q-Tip and Donqui arrived a couple minutes later, followed a few minutes after that by several other hikers.

View from Blood Mountain

Blood Mountain rises to 4,458 feet in elevation. This photo doesn't do the view any justice.

How the mountain got its ominous-sounding name is disputed. Some say it comes from a bloody battle between the Cherokee and Creek Indians.

Others say Blood Mountain is named for the reddish color of the lichen and Catawba growing there. That seems like a lame reason to name a mountain, so I'm going with the first reason.

Shelter on Blood Mountain

A shelter is at the top, and by AT standards is quite different than most you'll find on the trail. It's a two-room stone cabin, which was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934. That makes it one of the first AT shelters constructed.

Despite its uniqueness, history and size, I'm not sure why you'd want to stay here. It has no nearby water source, and the inside is dark and drafty.

Descent fro Blood Mountain

Q-Tip and Donqui got a head start on the descent. I followed very slowly, as by this time my left knee was starting to feel very sore.


The roots and rocks that covered the trail made for a painfully slow trip for the next 2.4 miles down to Neel Gap.

Neel Gap

By the time I reached the road at the gap, I was pretty convinced I needed to stop hiking and rest my knee. Besides, the weather was only expected to get worse for the rest of the day.

I walked across the road to Mountain Crossings at Walasi-Yi. It is a handy spot to find this soon on the trail. The owners provide a full outfitter store and a shakedown service for hikers in need of shedding a few pounds of pack weight.

There are some legendary stories of items shipped home.

There's a guy who started in early March who got the trail name Carpenter because he was carrying a hammer.

A few years ago one guy walked in carrying a dozen rolls of toilet paper.

I'm not sure how you can prepare to hike from Georgia to Maine and think there won't be any opportunities to buy toilet paper.

Right now I just needed to pick up a box of food I had sent ahead and see if I could find a place to stay.

Just as I asked at the checkout counter about the hostel downstairs and the cabins down the road, Q-Tip walked up to me. She said Donqui had just left to reserve a cabin.

She asked if I would like to share it with them. She didn't have to ask twice.

Blood Mountain Cabin

The cabin was nice, especially for the price.


Donqui and Q-Tip took the downstairs bedroom. I got the loft upstairs, which also came with a queen-sized bed.

They are a fun couple and I'm glad I had a chance to spend most of the day and evening with them.

When I wasn't chatting with Q-Tip and Donqui about the trail or life at home, I spent time sorting through food and drying out gear.

Drying tent

Even my tent was hung in the loft to dry.

I also spent time working on my knee, first with ice and then with a small ball I brought for deep massages.

I was now a half-day behind my hiking plan, but this was a necessary break. The weather didn't look much better for tomorrow, but I decided to give it a go.

I'm looking for a chateau, twenty-one rooms but one will do

I'm looking for a chateau, twenty-one rooms but one will do

I don't want to buy it

I just want to rent it for a minute or two


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.