On Tuesday morning, with Doug’s planning, we gathered our crew of nine together. Parking was an issue so we had pickups at Holiday Park, who graciously allowed us to park two cars there for the week, and stops at Greenwood and Columbus. Then we were ready to set out on our great adventure.
We drove all day, arriving in Blairsville, GA, 13 miles west of Blood Mountain Cabins. That was to be our final stop for the night. We were told by the locals that Mikes Seafood Restaurant was the place to eat, and that we did! After stuffing ourselves to the limit, we headed out to the cabins. The guys, Doug, Tim, Mike, and Terry, were to stay in the “Raccoon” cabin. The girls, Joni, Jane, Kandy, Donna, and Leslie, were given the “Beaver” cabin. We had all the luxuries of home, right down to the stuffed beaver and raccoons for décor.
We all got up early Wednesday and took what were to be our last showers for four days. Tom Bazemoore, who was to be our shuttle driver, arrived and, as we moved our van, we noticed the back tire was losing air fast! George told us to go on and he would see to it that it would be fixed when we got back. That’s what you call “Southern Hospitality!”
It took us almost an hour and a half to get to the parking lot at the start of the trail. During the drive, Tom pointed out where we would be crossing several roads on the AT and also highlights to look for.
Tom took our pictures before we started and we geared up for the mile hike to the top of Springer Mountain, the starting point. We had to backtrack down to the parking lot to follow the trail. The first day we hiked around 10 miles to the Hawk Mountain Shelter. We took a side trail to the Long Creek Falls which was well worth it. There weren’t a lot of people out on the trail, although we did share camp with an older couple that we nicknamed “The Snorers” and a young man with no real gear to his name, just a dream of doing the trail. After a dinner of burritos, we settled in for the night to the soothing sounds of “the Snorers.”
Day two we left camp for a strenuous eight mile day of uphill/downhill hiking. By the time we reached the Gooch Mountain Shelter we were all feeling the pain. We set up camp and fixed our dinner of chicken with stuffing and mixed vegetables. We were worn out but did manage to play a few games of “friendly” Euchre before dark.
Day three was to be our longest day of 12 miles, with a half mile hike to the Woods Hole Shelter. The water source was halfway between the shelter and the trail. We had a dinner of minestrone soup and garlic cheddar biscuits. Terry won the award of putting away the most food that night. Doug also told us that that was to be his last long distance hike. We will miss having him on the trail with us.
Day four was our final day and the toughest part to hike. We would only hike four miles, but it was up and over Blood Mountain, elevation 4,461 feet, the highest point on the AT in GA. At the top of the mountain was the Blood Mountain Shelter, built by the WPA in the 1940s. The views all around were breathtaking.
We arrived back to Neel’s Gap between noon and two. Our first priority was showers at George’s cabins, then we went back to explore the unique store at Neel’s Gap.
True to his word, George had our tire fixed on the van. We all chipped in to give him a tip for all of his help. We left the cabins and headed back to Blairsville. It was unanimous that we stop again at Mikes Seafood restaurant, but sad to see that it was closed till evening. We opted for the Armadillo Restaurant close by and had a great Mexican meal instead.
We headed out for the drive home, stopping close to Lexington for the night and a well deserved bed! Sunday Morning, after breakfast in the hotel, we headed for home, arriving back around noon with a lot of new friends and great memories.