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Jesse "Slugbait" Richards
State: South Carolina
Begins: Jul 5, 2015
Date: Mon, Nov 9th, 2015
Start: Campsite outside of Neels Gap
End: Hawk Mountain Shelter
Trip Distance: 2,136.5
Entry Visits: 321
Journal Visits: 26,688
Guestbook Views: 1,054
Guestbook Entrys: 38
Appalachian Trail Map
A nice steady rain all night. About 2:45AM, I noticed it was raining a little harder so I double checked to make sure everything was dry and it was. So I went back to sleep. Then about 3:15AM or so, I wake up and find out that I had tented in a puddle. Yep, I was on a little island that was my sleeping pad and surrounded by about 1/4 to 1/2-inch of water on all sides. So much for dry socks in the morning. And I found my phone right where I left it, right beside my sleeping pad, now completely submerged. And somehow, my sleeping bag stayed surprisingly dry considering the conditions. So making sure that my sleeping bag didn't fall off the edges of my sleeping pad, I went back to sleep amused that I am stranded on my sleeping pad surrounded by water on my second-to-last night on the trail thinking this would definitely be a night to remember.
Morning came and the rain had slackened so the puddle had time to drain off. Granted, my plastic ground cloth which is used to keep water out was now holding some water. Well, the rain did stop once I needed to pack up my tent now a pound heavier with all the water. And I set off down the trail with my wet backpack straps since I had put my backpack straps down beside me overnight.
A mile or so down the hill, I crossed Neels Gap where I could have stayed the night at a hostel. The trail actually goes through the building where one side is the hostel and the other side is an outfitter store where they only hire past thru-hikers. I heard later that there were several triple crowners (have done the AT, the PCT, and the CDT) as well as AT thru-hikers that had finished this year working there.
Neels Gap is at the bottom of Blood Mountain, the first real mountain for NOBOs, named after a battle between the Cherokee and Creeks that was so bloody, it was said that the rocks ran red after it was over. Climbing up and seeing all the water drip from the rocks and it is easy to see how they could have run red. Right before reaching the top, I ran in Spice who was limping worse than before. She confirmed that she was hurting worse but intent on finishing. At the top, I met SOBO, Louis, who is from Colombia, South America and was teaching preschool before hiking. He is definitely ready to be done and to go home. While at the top, Spice let me use her phone so I could call my parents who were coming to pick me up tomorrow and let them know when I would be there. She also let me know how many shelters I had to pass since my trail guide is on my now-soaked phone. After getting down the other side of Blood Mountain, I left Spice and Louis and pushed on.
Down the trail, I caught up to Phoenix who thru-hiked NOBO in 2009. And he said that he got to the top and wasn't quite ready to stop hiking so he turned around and started hiking south and with no intention of going back to Georgia, ended up back on Springer Mountain 4 months later. On the trail this is called a yo-yo. So, really, Phoenix yo-yo-ed the AT in 2009. It took him about 8.5 months he said. He was fun to talk to as he had some crazy trail magic stories. He had just quit his job as a pro-football scout so was really into football and said it was hard to find him on the trail on Saturdays and Sundays. He was back hiking the southern half before deciding what to do next as he had a great job but hadn't been happy. He also said that I am the first person the catch up to him on the trail. Did I mention that he wears Crocs when he hikes? Morale of the story about shoes: It doesn't matter what kind of shoe you have, just make sure you can happily hike in them all-day, every day.
We had lunch together at the next shelter where a hiker who I really think is a homeless guy living on the trail was there by the name of Crow. He said he was going to hike up to the Smokies and go to Cherokee and build himself a teepee and live off the land. And don't worry Indians, he made a peace pipe.
Shortly after leaving the shelter, I forded a stream. I forded a stream in Georgia. What!? There were steps down to the stream, steps on the other side of the stream, but no bridge or stepping stones. A quick look up and downstream showed no easy crossings with the addition that my shoes were already soaked, I just walked right through. I never imagined that I would have had to ford a stream in Georgia. You know, us SOBOs put Georgia at the butt of a lot of jokes but it is definitely AT-worthy.
At the shelter, there were two guys, one was just out for the night, and the other, Low Hiker, was going from Springer to Fontana. Both congratulated me on being next to the finish. And it turns out that Low Hiker's, who's from PA, son went to Clemson University and got a degree in engineering. After socializing, I took the loft and pulled out my soaked sleeping pad and covered it with some trash bags that I use to keep my essentials (sleeping bag and clothes) dry while I hike. Then I took out my sleeping bage and again, was very surprised at how dry it was, hopped in, and had my last night's sleep on the trail.
The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is approximately 2,189-mile long footpath stretching through 14 states from Maine to Georgia. Conceived in 1921 by Benton MacKaye as a refuge for city-dwellers, the A.T. was first completed in 1937 and traverses the wild, scenic, wooded, pastoral, and culturally significant lands of the Appalachian Mountains.