View from the trail

Run me out in the cold rain and snow

Day 4, Neel Gap to Low Gap

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Some people might describe the weather of this day as bleak or nasty. I thought it was glorious.

Weather Rain, freezing rain, snow, sleet, fog, even a moment of "almost" sun
Trail Conditions Wet
Today's Miles 11.5 miles
Trip Miles 42.9 miles

The wind whistled and moaned overnight, which made me glad I was safe and warm in a real bed with a roof over my head. I slept well.

In the morning, I packed up my gear, ate breakfast, then said goodbye to Donqui and Q-Tip. Our stay at Bear cabin was unexpected but pleasant.

I walked down to the Blood Mountain Cabins office and store, where I hoped to finally publish some of my blog posts. Wireless connection at the cabin had been maddeningly inconsistent. At the office, the experience was just as frustrating, even with WiFi access.

I soon gave up that attempt and walked the two-tenths of a mile up to Mountain Crossings. The store didn't have public WiFi, but two bars of LTE service worked most of the time.

I bought a Gatorade and an employee said I could sit on a bench among racks of clothing to work. About an hour later I was done.

Tough Cookie and General

On my way out the door of Mountain Crossings I met Tough Cookie (left) and General.

General said he intends to hike to Maine. His daughter is hiking with him occasionally on school breaks and on weekends.

The two looked as though they were thoroughly enjoying their time together.

Mountain Crossings

Leaving Neel Gap and Mountain Crossings, the trail goes through a breezeway between two sections of the building. This is the only place on the entire trail that it goes under a roof.

Go up the trail

As I began the first ascent of the day, the weather began to change from rain to snow.

There would be many such changes through the day, with freezing rain added occasionally for good measure. All the while, the wind blew, with frequent gusts of up to 30 mph.

While this description may paint a miserable picture in your mind's eye, for me it wasn't that bad. In fact, I found it was mostly enjoyable hiking weather.

It helped that I had good clothing, which allowed me to stay dry and warm without overheating as I walked. Temperature and moisture management are key to being out safely in inclement weather.

Ian and Foxy

Off and on during this section of the trail, I hiked with Ian (no trail name yet) and Foxy. We sometimes also hiked with a section hiker named Mark.

It often happens that as you hike you continue to see the same people all day long, even if they don't hike the same speed you hike.

I've always felt I was a slow hiker, but here, at least for the first few days, I've been surprised by how frequently I pass younger hikers, as well as hikers closer to my age.

I think one reason for that is I tend to take fewer breaks, and when I do stop, take shorter breaks. I'm sure all that will change in the next couple of weeks. We're all still getting our hiking legs.

Ian and Foxy were stopping frequently, so I caught up to them several times.

Tesnatee Gap

Tesnatee Gap was one of the places I caught up to them. Tesnatee is the Cherokee word for turkey.

Foxy and Ian

This was a good spot to rest because from here the trail went over one of its infamous up and down sections. AT hikers call these "pointless ups and downs" or PUDs.

Near Whitley Gap

Tesnatee Gap is at 3,140 feet in elevation. The trail climbs up to a spot near Whitley Gap, at 3,623 feet, the drops back down to 3,461 feet at Hogpen Gap.

Hogpen Gap

There are several spots along the trail with names like Hogpen Gap or Cowpen Gap. These names come from how the spot was used, a place to keep livestock.

Hogpen Gap

For this particular Hogpen Gap, it's easy to see why hogs would be kept here. There is an abundant spring and a natural enclosure. Farmers only needed to herd their livestock into the gap and then fence off one end.

While getting drinking water from the spring, it's best to not give any thought to the idea that large numbers of pigs once lived here.

Ian and Foxy stopped here for another of their long breaks. By now, the wind was blowing harder, but it was no longer snowing. I decided to push on for the remaining 4.6 miles to Low Gap.

Leaving Hogpen Gap, the trail entered the only wilderness area named for a cartoon character.

Mark Trail Wilderness Area

Mark Trail is a comic strip created in 1946 by Ed Dodd. It continues to be in print, appearing in about 175 newspapers.

The strip's main character works as a photojournalist for an outdoors magazine. In his spare time, he protects the American wilderness by fighting bad people bent on destroying it.

Blue sky

The trail was mostly easy through this section. For a few moments, I even saw blue sky.


As the trail made one last climb before dropping down to Low Gap, low level clouds began to set in.

When I arrived at the gap, there were already several tents set up. There was ample space for me, though, as well as for Foxy and Ian. They arrived about 20 minutes after I did.

Well, I married me a wife, she's been trouble all my life
Run me out in the cold rain and snow
Rain and snow
Run me out in the cold rain and snow

Well she's coming down the stairs, combing back her yellow hair
And I ain't gonna be treated this-a-way
And I ain't gonna be treated this-a-way

This trail report was published on