Yesterday, D & I drove up to Neel’s Gap and got a late afternoon start on a 9.5 mile loop hike in the Blood Mountain Wilderness. After a 1.5 hour drive north through the winding mountain roads, we arrived at the Byron Reece parking area near Neel’s Gap on the AT. As soon as we arrived, the skies promptly opened, pouring down rain, accented by thunder, for good measure. So we sat in the car and waited it out. After about 20 minutes, the rain subsided and the temperature had dropped to a more agreeable 71 degrees.
We set off at 3:10 pm up the trail to Blood Mountain. Hiking up the mountain, it started to rain again, which was nice, because it kept us cool. Our clothes dried quickly once the rain stopped. An hour later we were at the top and enjoyed a quick lunch before descending down the back side to the Slaughter Creek Trail. We connected with the Slaughter Creek Trail and walked down to Lake Winfield Scott, briefly paused to take in the view and grasp that we were only half way done. In my haste to get out the door and get a hike in, I pulled this hike from my files and was under the impression that it was a 5.5 or 6 mile loop. Wrong. Closer to 10 miles, so… VERY WRONG.
So from the lake, we set off once again and climbed up the Jarrard Gap trail to connect with the AT. Along the way, we pumped water to re-fill our depleted nalgenes. D is a good sport. Most teens would, justifiably, have just killed me and left me along the side of the trail as a bear snack. But he just pressed on. We still had several miles to complete and we needed to keep a strong pace to keep daylight all the way back to the car.
Once we reconnected with the AT, we headed north up to Bird Gap where the Freeman Trail cuts off to the right, skirting around the side of Blood Mountain and back down to the parking lot. Along the way, we came across this enterprising box turtle hiking up Blood. We also saw a deer along the Slaughter Creek trail and a couple of baby snakes: I think a ringneck and a rat snake.
We were pretty tired when we got back to the car, but it was a good adventure and I enjoyed the time with D. Depending on how my legs feel later today, I may count yesterday’s hike as “Legs & Back.”