Tuesday, April 28, 2009, First half of day
Start: Gooch Gap, Georgia AT
To: Jarrard Gap, Georgia AT
I have it in my mind to make this the biggest day yet. We have three days behind us and I’m getting my stride. I break camp at Gooch Gap and as I’m waiting for DT, who is still in his tent, HC Couple hike by. They stop and talk for a bit. It appears that by camping at Gooch Gap and not at the Gooch Gap Shelter we missed quite an eventful night at the shelter. Nearly two dozen people eventually showed up. One group, comprised of a fair number of young people, got lost after dark trying to find the privy. You have to understand the early teen years to completely appreciate how young teens can get lost after dark on the way to the privy. Anyway, there was shouting and flashlights and a general ruckus. Yep, I’m glad we chose to go.
It’s four miles to Woody Gap, and that is the first waypoint of the day. DT and I walk a hundred yards apart with me in the lead.
One is constantly aware of one’s water supply. Water is heavy to carry, yet essential. It’s very uncomfortable to be low on water and not know where the next source might be. I have noticed that some sections of the trail are dry for miles while yet other sections seem to have springs and streams in abundance. The trip to Woody Gap had us crossing several small springs.
We have leap-frogged with several people from the first day, and today we leap-frog with Shy Guy who passes us while we refilled our water supply from a spring high on the mountain.
It’s nice to have privies at the shelters. They may be a bit on the primitive side, but it’s better than finding a tree along the trail, if you get my meaning. Climbing out of Jack’s Gap I felt a certain calling that needed attention. I sent Dennis ahead with a promise that I’d catch up with him at Woody Gap. He agrees and moves on. The trail is tucked against the side of a steep slope here, with the hill rising sharply to one side and falling precipitously to the other. It took some imagination, skill, and balance to achieve my goals on this terrain.
Feeling much lighter, I trotted down to Woody Gap where Dennis was emerging from a restroom located in the parking lot there. I didn’t ask, but it looked like there may have been flush toilets.
After Woody Gap we ascend to the top of Big Cedar Mountain. The climb was a vigorous effort and we are rewarded with a great scene at the top. DT is struggling along and his expression says that the fun has mostly gone out of the hike.
The descent takes us to a stream about a mile and a half away where we take a break. There are two other hikers there and we have a brief, friendly chat. DT strips to his hiking shorts and takes a sort-of-kind-of bath in the stream.
Our next stop will be Jarrard Gap, which will signal the start of the big climb to the top of Blood Mountain. DT is struggling and I’m concerned for him. He had major leg surgery a mere two years ago and he’s been a champ at hanging in there. But I can see in his face the fun is gone.
At Jarrard Gap I suggest that if the trip has become drudgery, it would be okay to call it. Not surprisingly, he agrees. I’m not sure, but I may have actually seen a little relief on his face when he decided that he was done.
We devised a plan: we would split here and he would spend the night at Slaughter Creek Shelter about a mile and a half away, then make his way over Blood Mountain and down to the outfitters at Neel’s Gap where he could find a ride back to civilization. There were numerous hikers on the trail at this point and I didn’t worry for him making it up and over Blood Mountain.
Our only piece of shared equipment was the water filter I carried. I topped his water reserves with what I had so he would have a full tank for the journey that should last no longer than tomorrow at noon. We made contingency plans in case he couldn’t find a ride and once satisfied all would work out, I proceeded up the mountain, on my own now.