Trail Journal

Date: November 30 2000
Trail Day: 183
Miles Today: 19
Location: Muskrat Creek Shelter
Section Mile: AT 2041
ECT Mile: 2742

Slept warm but it was a cold night. The sleeping pad does make a huge difference. My water bottle froze partially and my boots were also stiff. The first couple of miles had me very frustrated. My long johns were slipping off my butt, then my pants. I was wearing mittens and could not control my poles well. It was a sharp down with ice in many places. My poles would get stuck and I would pull it in frustration.

After that the trail was much easier. It was a beautiful day with the sun shining but still cold. Found an abandoned shoe near the trail and decided to salvage the lace. The shoe was frozen stiff and I had to spend 10 minutes getting the lace out. I now have a white lace and a blue lace.

The climb up Standing Indian mountain was slow and steady. A trail maintainer showed me some spots with terrific views.

Debated between staying in this shelter versus pushing on another 3 miles into Georiga. Decided not to.

By clearing Standing Indian mountain I now have no 5000 footers. Have not met any thru-hikers since Fontana dam except Firebreather and Fall Girl.

Date: December 01 2000
Trail Day: 184
Miles Today: 12
Location: Blueberry Patch Hostel
Section Mile: AT 2053
ECT Mile: 2754

My feet went numb last night although my water bottles did not freeze. It was also a very still night. I dont know what caused the numbness.

Crossed over into Georgia - my sixteenth state. Took a shot . I am getting quite eager to get out of the mountains and into slightly warmer areas. The mountains have become less steep and there are some flats on the ridges, something I haven't seen since Virginia. The vegetation has also changed slightly with some areas quite brushy. All in all, good indications that the mountain chain is starting to end.

Rest of the hike was quite easy and got to US 76 by about noon. There were 3 guys just finishing a hike. One of them got very bad knee problems and they had to cut their trip short. Got a ride from them to the hostel. No one was there, so I left my pack and hitch hiked into Hiawasee to get food and groceries.

This is a nice hostel run by very good folks. The only problem is there are no stores or restaurants near by.

Data book says I have another 67.9 miles of AT to go. I will be completing the AT on the 5th around noon. From there the smaller trails take me almost back to the Tennesee border before going almost southeast all the way to the middle of Alabama. Then a dead south roadwalk to Florida, where I catch the Florida Trail. Florida - Ahh !! the land of sunshine. Can't wait for it !

At the border

Date: December 02 2000
Trail Day: 185
Miles Today: 18
Location: Blue mountain Shelter
Section Mile: AT 2071
ECT Mile: 2772

Had a good breakfast at the hostel. Gary and Lennei - people who ran the hostel are very nice folks. Got a ride to the trail at about 10. Most of the trail was fairly easy except for the last climb onto Blue mountain. Saw many day hikers. This shelter is located very poorly - catches the wind. Looks like its going to snow. I have set up my tarp in front of the shelter to block the wind.

Date: December 03 2000
Trail Day: 186
Miles Today: 18
Location: Goose Creek Cabins, Neel's Gap
Section Mile: AT 2089
ECT Mile: 2790

The wind picked up last night and blew the tarp. By morning the entire shelter was covered with snow. There were 2 other guys from Atlanta camping near the shelter. They said they were heading back because it was too cold. Talked to them for a while and started off. We've had about 4 inches of snow . One section followed an old logging road and was hence graded. Made good time on this. There were animal tracks along the snow. It was fun following them. Sometimes they would go off but then come back.

Later in the afternoon the snow began to melt away and my shoes and socks got all wet. Decided to stop at Neel's gap and get a warm room. The cold and snow are starting to wear me down now.

Date: December 04 2000
Trail Day: 187
Miles Today: 13
Location: Gooch Gap Shelter
Section Mile: AT 2102
ECT Mile: 2803

I was debating last night whether to take a O at Neel's Gap or not. Finally decided to push on. I am quite anxious to get out of the mountains and its a good idea to chip away at the miles. Took photos of Lionheart . He has polio but has hiked the AT, PCT and from San Deigo to Florida. Next year he walks from Katahdin to Washington State. Also took a photo of Keith who runs Goose Creek Cabin.

Tried to buy a liner at the Walasi-Yi center but they did not have one. Someone had left an old summer bag for a refund and they let me have it for 20 $. They are very kind folks here.

Blood mountain was a decent climb. After that it was fairly flat. Met 2 ladies day hiking. I had met them a few days ago. Saw markings made by someone dragging something big on the snow. There was also blood every once in a while. Some hunter with a deer probably.

Picked up the next set of map from Suches.This new version does not have the Benton-Mackaye portion on it. I bought a Georgia Atlas and Gazette to help me out. Talked to Churi and got back on the trail. Another 3 miles and I was at the shelter.

A shot

Date: December 05 2000
Trail Day: 188
Miles Today: 17
Location: Springer Shelter
Section Mile: AT 2119
ECT Mile: 2820

Slept very warm last night. The second sleeping bag helps a lot. The trail started off quite rough. Had several climbs till noon and I was huffing and puffing. My pack is also very heavy now at about 42 lbs. I will have to wait till I get into warmer weather before I can lighten my load.

Saw the junction with Benton-Mackaye trail. It is well marked with white diamonds and seems to be well maintained. I was extremely happy as I do not have a map for this trail and will be relying solely on the trail blazes. I now have almost 50 miles of the Benton-Mackaye trail, 150 of the Georgia Pinhoti, 150 of the Alabama Pinhoti, and a 200 mile roadwalk to the Florida Trail.

Met a hiker at the Stower Creek Shelter. He is starting a north bound hike to W. Virginia. I don't know if he's naive or very courageous. I am running from the cold, he's running into it. Anyway, I wish him the best. He gave me some brandy to celebrate my near completion of the AT.

The remaining 2.5 miles to Springer just flew by. It felt strange to have completed the AT. Took several shots.
shot 1
shot 2
shot 3
shot 4
shot 5
shot 6
shot 7
shot 8

I now start the more "adventurous" part of the hike - poor maps, poor trails and no one else for help or company.

Date: December 06 2000
Trail Day: 189
Miles Today: 17
Location: Near SR 60
Section Mile: BMT 17
ECT Mile: 2837

First a note on the Benton-Mackaye trail. Benton Mackaye is considered the father of the AT. He envisioned a network of trails. The BMT is an attempt in that direction.

It was a beautiful morning. Took some shots - 1 2. The first 5 miles criss-crossed the AT 3 times. Then it ran along the AT for a mile before veering off for good. Took a shot at the junction and said a sad good bye to the AT.

Shots of the sign.

It looks like the old AT used to run along the present BMT for a while. I could see faint white blazes at places. It ran along several streams for a while before climbing upto the ridge top. No one has been here in the past 4 days - there are no foot prints in the snow. Also saw no one today.

I was anticipating the trail to go North West but instead its going North East. I decided to get to SR 60 and hitch a ride to a nearby town to call Vivek. He has an older set of maps that shows the BMT. However, it was quite late and I could not get a ride.

Decided to set up camp and try hiking another day and see what happens. The trail almost has to go West now to get to Dyer Gap where it picks up the Georgia Pinhoti.

The stove tumbled over while cooking twice and set the leaves on fire. Had to douse it out and salvage my dinner. Hope tomorrow is better.

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