Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hike: Whitley Gap Shelter

Still traveling with the Fantastic 4 and the Nice Boys. I left Blood Mtn first this morning and J. and his dog didn't catch us until we made it to the road! As we descended, the rain wasn't actually coming down anymore, but there was a pretty thick fog and the rocks were running with water. It was beautiful, actually -- it made me glad to have been on Blood Mountain in the rain, just to be able to hike down in it.

Now, I have been grateful to and impressed by the work of the Georgia AT Club and I wish I'd been singing their praises all along, because I have a small criticism: every single one of us missed the same turning because we were looking at the blazes on the rocks and the first blaze of the turn was on a tree. Double blaze right there would have been nice, because when the rocks are slick it's a little scary to find yourself at that particular wrong turning. Okay, criticism over--I'm amazed at the amount of work these volunteers have done--the signs, the shelters, the blowdowns they've cleared, all hiking to do it, my hat is off to them, it's been an honor to walk their Trail.

The event of the day was Walasi-Yi at Neel's Gap. Man, we spent nearly 5 hours there. Shower, laundry, maildrop, pack advice, lunch, phones -- and J. bought some wax, so we all did our boots. B. and R. sent some stuff home, they'd been at 70 lbs each; B. N., and A. bought hiking poles; J.'s dog and Diva Dog waited patiently in the white-blazed breezeway. The staff at Walasi-Yi couldn't be nicer or more patient with all our comings and goings.

We waited out the last bout of rain in the breezeway and then, one by one, headed off. I'm picking up speed -- I was last to leave Neel's Gap, but only J. beat me here. I don't take long breaks, so even though I don't go as fast when I'm moving, I'm moving more of the day and that makes the difference. I've been doing standing stops pretty much as often as I get thirsty, but I haven't really been stopping for longer than a drink, some gorp, and the occasional picture. So far, Diva Dog's water needs have been about the same as mine -- well, about as frequent but not the same volume. I wonder how that will change as summer comes in. I've been surprised at how little foliage there is on the trees -- I guess because we're so far South, I figured that would compensate for the mountains, but Spring was further along in Philly.

This shelter is the furthest one off the Trail, according to the guide book. 1.2 miles of blue blazes. Switchbacks, even. And we've got to do it all in reverse tomorrow morning.

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