As Tyler, Charlotte and I got up and prepared for the day ahead, we noticed that the weather had turned. It was very steamy and wet outside, so rain gear was deployed for the first time and everyone got a kick out of my rain kilt (the height of trail fashion… pic to be shared at a later date!) According to forecasts, hiking conditions would be “interesting” over the coming days.
The plan for the day was to climb and ascend Blood Mountain, the highest peak in the Georgia section of the AT. It’s about 4500 ft and fairly steep up and down.
As you near the mountain there’s an ominous, tombstone-like sign marking the “Blood Mountain Wilderness”. Here’s a damp Tom pondering the prospect.
The climb up was quite steep and rocky, but the weather wasn’t as bad as we had feared. We knuckled down and with plenty of effort, grinded our way to the top. Some more pumping drum and bass music helped me with the climb, as I timed my pole plants with the beats and breaks.
Eventually we made it to the top, where there was this cool stone shelter. Bet it gets cold and dank in there!
We had no plans to stay (you need a special bear cannister for this short section of trail and we didn’t have them) so we enjoyed the summit, which offered great views of the mountains.
The weather was improving and the hike uphill had been slow and torturous, so Tyler and I decided to have some fun and run the downhill portion. We took off fast and made the two mile, 1400 ft descent in about 30 minutes. The trail was very technical and rocky at times, so careful foot placement was vital to prevent trail-ending injuries. With poles in tow, it felt like skiing downhill, but in shoes! It might have been a bit reckless, but the experience of running down Blood Mountain was so exhilarating and novel Tyler and I both felt it was well worth the risk – we were on a high for hours afterwards.
At the bottom of Blood Mountain is Neel Gap, with a store and outfitter right on the trail. There’s a tree with loads of old shoes hanging from the branches – either old shoes discarded as new ones are purchased from the outfitters, or from disgruntled hikers quitting the trail in a rage!
Loads of hikers were there, so we spent a long time chilling and chatting as everyone resupplied and enjoyed the hot food offering. I had a sausage, cheese and biscuit sandwich and a veggie burrito from the store. Basic but hearty fare!
We linked back up with Charlotte and our trio continued to AT mile 33.3 on Levellent Mountain, where we hastily made camp as the weather set in. Despite the damp start, definitely the best day on the trail so far. Running down Blood Mountain is an experience I’ll never forget – I can understand the appeal of trail running now!