March 6, 1998

3/6/98 Goose Creek Cabins

14.3 miles (30.7 total)

It was so humid, I had a poor night of sleep. I felt clammy even stripped down but it was too cold not to be in the sleeping bag. By morning, everything in the tent was damp. Because I wasn’t sleeping well anyway, I decided to go ahead and get up early. It was still dark by the time I ate breakfast and finished packing. But I had to wait until the sun came up to put the tent away. I was on the trail by 7:15.

Crossing the highway that went to Suches was a little scary because of the thick fog. You ran across just hoping that a car wasn’t coming. Besides the map profile being wrong (it was easier), I really kept a good pace. All day I thought the younger guys from the last shelter would catch me. I made the 11 miles to Slaughter Gap by one o’clock. But that last mile up Blood Mountain was a killer.

The Blood Mountain Shelter is an old rock, two-room building built by the CCC in the 1930’s. Even though it’s on the registry of historic buildings, the fireplace is bricked over and I heard there are plans to board it up completely. The inside was dark, damp, and drafty. Not a very inviting place. I kept looking for a spot to put up my tent but the ground is all flat rock or the soil was too thin for tent stakes to hold. I stayed an hour waiting for other hikers to show up because I didn’t know if I wanted to stay. Gypsy Man and Baloo were right on my heels but they decided to go on. Finally, I decided not to wait any longer and head for Neels Gap.

What a nightmare decent over a jungle-gym of wet rocks. I passed Baloo half-way down because his knees were so sore from the climb. Thank God for my Liki poles, probably my most valued possession these first couple of days. What a day! Over fourteen miles traveled and I feel every mile on this old body.

I walked into the Walasi-Yi Center at Neels Gap, dead on my feet. Because the hostel wasn’t open this year, I decided to stay at the Goose Creek Cabins nearby. The nice people at the Center helped me phone them for a ride, but it would be past closing time before Keith could pick me up. In the mean time, I did laundry and shopped throughout their outfitting store. Called Mom to tell her I made it to my first maildrop and that I was doing fine. I saw Baloo briefly but, even though it was still raining, he must have decided to hike a little farther down the trail. I was glad they let me hang out inside, out of the rain until I was picked up.

Keith made me feel welcome on our ride down the highway to the cabins. The only other hiker I knew staying there was Gypsy Man, but he was already sharing a cabin with someone else. Keith drove up a steep dirt road that looked down onto the lodge. The cabin was basic, but homey, with wood paneled walls, a very-firm mattress covered by a quilt, a propane heater and stove, bathroom and a complete kitchen.

After cleaning up, I walked down to the lodge to get a Coke and see who else decided to get out of the rain. Gypsy Man was sitting around the television watching the weather channel with a couple of other thru-hikers. Both of them were taking the trail very easy because they were hiking with their dogs. Keith offered to get us some barbecue carryout, which we all gladly ordered. It was nice to sit in a warm, dry place to write in my journal.

On another note, Snore Bear seems to be "enchanted." Gypsy Man said he had met Snore Bear many times on the trail, but never actually 'seen' him hiking. And when he mentioned this to other hikers, he found out that no one else seemed to have ever seen him hiking, even though he appears to fly down the trail. He never passed me the day I left Springer Mountain Shelter, but somehow I passed his tent this morning. Come to think of it, he had pitched it near a road. Snore Bear just arrived and checked in for three days because of bad knees. He said something about having me look at them because of my physical therapy background. We’ll see if he catches me again.

I’ll spend the night going over gear and the food in my mail drop, then decide if I need to send anything home. Probably will spend way too much money at the center tomorrow.