AT 2017: Day 4, Neel Gap to Low Gap

Run me out in the cold rain and snow

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

DateThursday, April 6, 2017
WeatherRain, freezing rain, snow, sleet, fog, even a moment of "almost" sun
Trail ConditionsWet
Today's Miles11.5
Trip Miles42.9

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 maddenly 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.

I apologize for the several typos that resulted, but at least Day 1 was published.

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

General 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.

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.

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, for the most part it was 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.

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

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 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 was one of the places I caught up to them.

In case you're wondering, Tesnatee is the Cherokee word for turkey.

This was a good spot to rest because from here the trail goes over one of its infamous "pointless ups and downs" or PUDs (a hiker term).

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.

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

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.

As you get 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 enters the only wilderness area named for a cartoon character.

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

The 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.

The trail is 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, who arrived about 20 minutes later.

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 went up to her room where she sang her faithful tune
And I ain't goin' be treated this way, this ol' way
And I ain't goin' be treated this ways 

From "Cold, Rain and Snow" (traditional)


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