Our hike today was awesome. Perhaps part of that feeling of awe was due to our eagerness to get back to some mountain hiking after a couple months in Florida. Other factors contributed to a great hike--the weather was just about perfect, we had fabulous views from the top, and we saw dozens of young hikers bubbling over with enthusiasm as they get started on their quest to hike the entire Appalachian Trail.
We were also very pleased with how well we did for a first mountain hike in a very long time. The trail from Neels Gap to the summit of Blood Mountain is 2.4 miles with 1336 feet of elevation gain. We made the summit in an hour and forty-five minutes. We really didn’t take a break. We stopped once and sat on a rock to rest for about 5 minutes. However, we stopped often to talk to the hikers coming down the mountain to Neels Gap.
There are numerous legends about how this mountain got its name. One of the more popular tales involves the Creek and Cherokee Indians. Before this area was inhabited by the white man, these two Indian nations engaged in a battle so fierce that the creeks coming down the mountain side ran red with blood.
We began our hike southbound on the AT at Mountain Crossings. The outfitter was kind enough to let us leave our car in his parking lot. Their parking lot isn’t very large and they get a lot of business so they ask that day hikers park at a parking lot a quarter mile down the road. I’m sure they wouldn’t have been so accommodating later in the season. We were grateful for their kindness today and probably spent more in the store than we otherwise would have.
From Mountain Crossings we crossed to the other side of US19 and started up the hill. Almost immediately we came to a sign welcoming us to Blood Mountain Wilderness Area and Chattahoochee National Forest. Being the AT, the trail is blazed in white. Being the beginning of thru hiker season, it was very evident that the Georgia AT Club had been hard at work to get their section of trail in topnotch condition for the hikers coming through.
The first mile of the hike was on primarily dirt through eastern hardwoods and laurel thickets. After about a mile we came to Flatrock Gap and the trail junction with the Byron Reece Trail. We continued up hill.
The second mile was considerably steeper than the first gaining most of that 1300 feet. The trail also changed from dirt to rock. As we approached the summit we were walking across large slabs of granite. It was in this section that we had the best views.
At the summit, we stopped for a few minutes at the Blood Mountain Shelter. This old stone building has the reputation for being the coldest shelter on the AT. The building dates back to the 1930s. We think it was built by the CCC as a trail shelter. It has concrete floors and stone walls. The fireplace has been bricked up. It looks like the roof has been recently replaced. There were lots of hikers hanging around so we only stayed a few minutes.
Out in the sunshine and a much more enjoyable place for our lunch break was back to one of those granite slabs. We found a spot not too close to the edge to take in the view while we ate. Gene even made us a cup of hot chocolate. We had our dessert at Mountain Crossings after the hike--an ice cream bar. They had a freezer full of pints of Ben and Jerry’s, but we hadn’t hiked nearly enough miles for that.
Our descent was a little faster than the ascent. We both put on knee braces to come down that steep section at the top.
Mountain Crossings deserves a whole story for itself. It is a special place. I’ll save that for another day.
I think that about does it for today. Thanks for tagging along.