After hiking on the Appalachian Trail for two days and covering 8.6 miles of the trail, Vagabond Jack took two zero days (rest days – not hiking at all) in Dahlonega, Georgia, avoiding some wintry weather. On Monday, 2/5/18, Jack got back on the trail where he left off at Hightower Gap. The shuttle driver dropped Vagabond Jack about 9:15 on this cold and windy day. He climbed up and over Sassafras Mountain, a nice introduction to the climbs in northern Georgia. He was not surprised by the challenge as Jack has experienced several of the mountains in the Smokies this past summer. Monday’s hike ended at Gooch Mountain Shelter just before 3:00. He completed his 7.2-mile trek in under six hours
Tuesday (2/6/18) brought a 12.1-mile trail to Vagabond Jack’s agenda. The goal was to walk to Wood’s Hole Shelter, only 4 miles from Neel Gap and civilization. He was hoping to be on the trail by 8:00 but his need for some added sleep delayed his start by 45 minutes. He was 5.2 miles down the trail by noon when arrived at Woody Gap and State Route 60. It was here that he experienced his first Trail Magic (what I would prefer to call Trail Blessings). A young man hopped out of a car and asked Jack if he was a thru-hiker. He handed Jack a banana and some words of encouragement.
Jack continued down the path and was rewarded when he reached Preaching Rock with beautiful views of some the valleys and mountains of the AT in Georgia. About 3:00, he arrived at Lance Creek campground with another 4 miles to Woods Hole Shelter. Rain was predicted for early evening but had not started at 3:00. He did not want to set up or tear down his tent in the rain, so he decided to continue to the shelter. He arrived about 5:45 and the rain was still just a threat in the evening sky. He made himself comfortable in the shelter realizing that he was the only one there. He went to sleep knowing that he was only four miles to Neel Gap, but also aware that he would need to summit Blood Mountain on the way.
Vagabond Jack woke up to rain on Wednesday morning. Knowing that he had a short hike into Neel Gap, he decided to wait for a while hoping that the rain would calm down. About 10:30 the strength of the rain began to weaken and by 11:00 Vagabond Jack was on the trail. Blood Mountain is the real deal. It is a challenge to climb, but it presents a more dangerous descent. It was foggy and misty as Vagabond Jack made his way up and over the summit. The large, rain-slickened rocks demanded the use of his hands to maneuver down the steep sheets of rock.
He was tired and thirsty when he walked into Mountain Crossing, the outfitters at Neel Gap. It was about 3:30 so he bought some food, grabbed a coke and caught a ride to Blairsville, Georgia, about 14 miles away. He checked into the Season’s Motel and took a long hot shower. He is taking a zero-day in Blairsville on Thursday and should be back on the trail on Friday.