Approach Trail to Neel Gap : April 4 – 8, 2018 for 39.9 total miles
Although the Approach Trail does not technically count toward the Appalachian Trail, it does grant those who choose to hike it a tiny bit of trail cred since the Appalachian Trail Conservancy encourages folks to start at Amicalola Falls instead of the top of Springer, which is difficult to access. I decided to start at the top of the falls instead of climbing the 600+ stairs from the bottom, and I’m glad I opted to bypass the man made challenges—the Approach Trail was challenging enough!
Day 1 – Wednesday, April 4 – Top of Falls to Black Gap Shelter (7.3 miles to just 1.5 mile away from Springer Mountain, which is the official start of the Appalachian Trail.)
Hiking alone meant I could stop as much as I wanted to take pictures.
Day 2 – Thursday, April 5 – Black Gap Shelter to Hawk Mountain Campsite (8.9 miles, 7.4 miles from Springer)
On this day I spent a little time hiking with Kyla, trail name “The Finder.”
Long Creek Falls. I wish now that I had done more research since there are supposedly petroglyphs here that I didn’t know to look for.
Day 3 – Friday, April 6 – Hawk Mountain Campsite to Gooch Mountain Shelter (8.3 miles, 15.7 miles from Springer)
Day 4 – Saturday, April 7 – Gooch Mountain Shelter to Lance Creek Restoration Area (7.3 miles, 31.1 miles from Springer)
The woods are ethereal on this, my fourth day on the trail.
Day 5 – Sunday, April 8 – Lance Creek Restoration Area to Neels Gap (7.3 miles, 31.1 miles from Springer)
Entering the Blood Mountain Wilderness, which I felt to be ominous; Blood Mountain is called so after a bloody battle between the Cherokee and the Creek.
The shelter at the top of Blood Mountain, which you could only stay in if you had a bear canister. I had one, but there was no way I wanted to stay here, especially since my trail friends and I had a cabin reserved at the foot of the mountain.
The tree at Mountain Crossings, Neel Gap is strung with castoff boots of the 25% who quit the trail within the first few days. Even though I was ready for a break, there was no way I was quitting this early into the hike.
Monday, April 9 – ZERO DAY (called a zero day because I covered zero miles.) A zero day is sometimes essential for morale, in order to eat a filling meal and do laundry, restock, and enjoy some time to rest and heal before getting back on the trail.
My feet were not bad, but I owe everything to the KT tape and being able to wear my Xero shoes when the boots were too much.
Beatrice the Beaver, mascot of Cabin Beaver, where my hiking friends and I landed for a much needed zero day. Her story is offered below: