So there's this 5 mile stretch between Jarrard Gap (m26) and Neels gap (m31) which is a "canister zone" where hikers planning to spend the night must use a bear proof titanium canister to secure their food as bears have become a problem in the areas surrounding camp sites and shelters in this stretch. We do not have one. And lucky us, that zone happens to be smack dab in the middle of where we would ideally have liked to spend night 3. SO! We inevitably must spend the night at a camp site just before the bear zone and push through it the next day, avoiding a potential fine altogether. Idiot proof, right? Well... We realized on the way to this camp site that it was THE windiest area of the whole Chattahoochie Forest, as well as extremely Iikely to be full since we had seen considerable traffic heading to that site. Adding insult to injury, a well informed day hiker alerted us that the evenings forecast for Atlanta (about 3500 feet below us) was 20 degrees. Shit. Still 8 miles from The Walasi-Yi center (where there is an outfitter) and some warmer sleeping bags, we set up camp and quickly climbed into every piece of clothing we owned in anticipation for our coldest night yet. This time we were right. We froze our Rastafarian nay nays off (for those of you familiar with cool runnings). But again, some good came out of our camp choice. The cold morning of day 4 brought 2 new (solo) hiking partners into our group. We left Lance Creek (aformentioned windy, frozen, crowded camp site) with Rooster (Drew), Mark (DC native on spring break from college in Ohio), Brother (Rob's trail name, given to him by everyone for being the most overly friendly hiker on the trail), Novy (Halifax native who has just graduated from St. FX University... We have lots to talk about since Rob and I both went to college in that area), and Gravy (because I got this). The destination: Neels Gap, for some warm sleeping bags.
7 short miles and some incredible views from Blood Mountain (which would have been an unbelievable place to camp if we could have done so without being bear snack) we rolled into the Walasi-Yi center and made light work of grabbing two new bags off the shelf, 8 hot dogs, a pizza, and enough trail food to get us to Haiwassee GA (our bump box, and our first designated hostel night since we'll be in town). The guys at Neels Gap were really awesome and made some suggestions for waterproofing some insufficient gear, modifying some gear and choosing some items we don't necessarily need to lighten up our 40lb packs. $660 dollars later we were warm, fed and had 16 pounds of gear in the mail home. Rob had battled foot aches in his Asolo (Fugitive) boots so he chose to grab a pair of Oboz trail runners. He also ditched his camp chair (2lbs), his summer sleeping bag (obviously) and 2 extra cook pots. I sent my summer bag home too and offered up 3 duct tape zip-locks, a journal (1lb 3oz... WHY?), 3 pens, an extra fuel canister, and some outrageously heavy pouches of ready-to-eat tuna to the hiker box at Walasi-Yi. We were energized. This was, by far, the first real boost we had since setting off from Amicalola. With the promise of a good nights rest (instead of shivering until the sun comes up), and some fresh food (not almonds) we found enough daylight to cover another 3 miles before setting up camp. Today was the first undeniable sign of love between us and the AT.
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