3/13/15 Mountain Crossings Hostel (Neel’s Gap)
We woke to a downed bear bag this morning. Thankfully we did not experience any bear activity last night and all our food was intact. It was super windy last night, which may have led to the bag falling or the extra weight from Nome’s bag on our line. Nome has been coming into camp a bit later than most of current bubble of hikers. He is a very knowledgeable older man, and hikes in skin-tight purple tights and has a beautiful white beard, which along with his sock hat completes the look of a Nome. How he can eat as much food as he carries is impressive; his food bag was the size of both Darwin’s and mine combined.
We left the campsite around 5am in an attempt to summit Blood Mountain as the sun came up. Hot Sauce (the hiker formerly known as Bill), Roub (another handsome older hiker who has been drifting in our same bubble since day one), Truman (a hiker who has blue eyes and jolly personality similar to my father), and of course Darwin and I all took off together. It was pitch dark when we left. Darwin and Roub lead the way. I could see their headlamps about 200 yards in front of me. Hot Sauce and Truman were further behind me.
I kept my head down most of the time trying to my best to not lose the trail and tried to listen for bears at the same time. I knew for sure that about a hundred bears were watching my every step waiting for me to stray from the trail to pull me in for a hug. I started adjusting my headlamp, which kept slipping, and in mid stride, I totally ran into a tree. Now let it be known this tree was not upright, it was leaning over the trail enough that in daylight a hiker would just dunk but not I. I smacked my face so hard against the tree I knocked myself stupid for a few minutes. Darwin actually heard my mook head smack the tree and when my headlamp stopped moving, he hiked back to check on me. He giggled, I stared at him a stupidly, he then deemed me healthy and we continued. Luckily only the bears were witness to this event.
Darwin, Hot Sauce, Roub and I summited Blood Mountain just in time to catch the best views of the day but not the sunrise. After taking a tour of the privy and Blood Mountain Shelter we started our decent as fog and rain rolled in. We arrived at Mountain Crossings at noon and were triumphantly the first to book the hostel. I took a wonderful hot shower while the boys snagged their first hitch into town for pizza, beer, and resupply items.
We had a hiker party celebrating the fact we made it to Neel Gap, the first major landmark on the trail and hiker drop-off. So much history here; the trees were littered with old hiking boots. We swam in an endless supply of hiker food and mail drops, enjoyed pizza, beer, laughs, and gear. Bionic Woman told us war stories from the PCT and her own struggles hiking with one leg, Midnight called all the girls “sweetheart” and laughed at everything, Mis-Placed, Gumby, Apple-Cider, Yellow Jacket, Kiwi and others all enjoyed the stories told by Baltimore Jack, an AT Thru-Hiker God. We all ate a feast of spaghetti, salad and brownies provided by a local church group. I then took a very big poop in an actual bathroom! It was truly a magical time!