Jun 04 2008

Georgia AT Trail Day 4 (Slaughter Creek – Tesnatee Gap)

Wednesday 6/4/08
Trip: 10.1 miles
Elevation: 4485ft (max) 3175ft (min) 2051ft (total accent)
Time: 6h 16m (moving) 4h 46m (stopped)
Moving Avg: 1.6 mph
Temperature: 80 F
Wind: Light breeze
Conditions: Clear, no precipitation
Pack Weight: ~33lbs (2L water, 4 days food)


Blood Mountain was definitely one of the coolest parts of the whole hike. The entire peak is nothing but bare rock, fantastic views of the N. Georgia country side and large stands of flowering trees. I’m glad we were headed Northbound though, coming up from the other side would’ve been absolutely brutal. Almost 1.5 miles of nut-kicker ascent across bare rock-face and carved out step-ups. It was bad enough headed downhill. There’s a bypass trail (Freeman Trail) that links Slaughter Creek to the other side of Blood Mountain without having to cross over the hardest parts of the top though.

Neel’s Gap lives up to its reputation. It’s a welcome rest spot for Northbound hikers starting out – just about the 3-day mark and makes for a nice spot to have all your gear re-evaluated by the staff. We watched as the owner worked with an older gentleman on lightening his gear – he went from a base weight of 32 lbs (4 days food but no water) to roughly 22 lbs in 30 minutes of instruction. Pretty cool if you don’t mind paying for the gear changes.

Amazing how much extra stuff we all pack the first time out – even with my base weight of 22lbs (no food or water) I discovered several things I could do to lighten my base weight.

Anyway, not much to tell about the last half of the day. The hiking poles definitely helped but by the 4th day, it was too late to save my knees. The damage was done. Coming down Cowrock Mountain was too much and I was at the point were it felt like I might do permanent damage if I continued. Without question, Mark grabbed my pack and lumped almost 80lbs down the back side of Cowrock – alternating with Scott when he got too tired.

My brothers rock.

6/4/08 Journal entry:
The Ascent to the top of Blood Mountain wasn’t as bad as I expected. The Slaughter Creek campsite was pretty cool except for all the gnats – still waiting for us this morning even after a decent night of wind gusts.

Top of Blood Mountain was awesome! Amazing 360 degree views from about 4500ft – bare rock face and several large stands of flowering bushes.

Trail has been very quiet this morning – we had the whole top of Blood Mountain to ourselves – apparently a bear scare last night drove off everybody but the college couple we’ve been leap frogging with according to their journal entry at the Blood Mountain Shelter.

The descent off Blood was as bad as I expected. The tendinitis in my knees is getting worse and made each step downward slow and painful. It sucks I’m holding Mark & Scott back like this but they have been 100% supportive the whole hike and stick with me the entire time I hobble down these descents.

11:30 am and we finally hit Neel’s Gap. Equipment is a bit expensive but the staff is really nice and very knowledgable – they’ve seen and experienced just about everything the AT has to offer and the people who try to hike it.

Ran into a couple of other guys having similar troubles with their knees. We all sat around and bs’d about remedies – I ended buying a pair of hiking poles and finally got my pair of flip-flops. Expensive but I’m hoping between the advil and the poles, I can manage my knee pain for the last half of the hike.

Had the best tasting hot-dog and coke ever!

Left Neel’s feeling pretty frisky – hiking poles make a big difference going up hill – should’ve had them from the start.

Finally made the call to end it after literally crawling down the back side of Cowrock Mountain. That descent destroyed what little pain threshold I had left in my knees. Mark & Scott lumped my pack down to Tesnatee Gap in turns and once we had a clear signal I called Mel in for a pick up. I tried convincing the guys to keep on going – I would be happy to pick them up at Dick’s Creek gap on Friday but they didn’t want to do any of the trail without me so we all decided to come off the trail.

Took Mel about 3 hours to get to the parking lot at Tesnatee Gap but she was fricking awesome working through all the back roads to get us – we were deep in N. Georgia no-where.

Funny side story:
As we were sitting in the dark (new moon the whole week) watching the fire flies buzz around on the side of Highway 368 – this huge diesel F250/350 pickup rumbles down the road and pulls over right in front of us. Head lights right in our faces, we couldn’t see much of anything.

Out hopped two of the largest Georgia good’ole boys you could ever meet – cut off shirts, denim shorts and surprise … both had open beers in hand. At this point I figured we were in for a drunken scuffle or something worse … nope – the first thing out of the driver’s mouth was “you fella’s want a beer?” As if it was rehersed, the passenger produced 3 ice cold Bud Light beers from beneath his left arm and proceeded to pass them out to us. A quick tap of the cans, some questions about our ride status and they were back in the truck driving off for parts unknown. All with open beers in hand no less.

We spent the next 20 minutes drinking ice-cold Bud Light and laughing about the whole encounter while we waited on Mel. Perfect ending to the hike imo!

Elevation Profile
Slaughter Creek – Tesnatee Gap

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