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Neels Gap update (fwd)

Here's the first report from the trail from the Kushmans.  (I sent one 
from them yesterday that they had written before actually starting their 


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: 09 Mar 96 16:33:52 EST
From: Richard Kushman <70304.1011@compuserve.com>
To: Kathy Bilton <kathy@fred.net>
Subject: Neels Gap update

Progress report from Neels Gap    3/ 8/1996

We shipped our packs by UPS to Wes Wesson, Kathleen's pack weighed 32# 
and mine weighed 39#, without water, Zaurus, and about 4# misc. items. Wes and his wife Dixie picked us up and brought us to Amicalola Falls Lodge for a $75.00 fee, which is very reasonable. 
We had originally wanted to be dropped off closer to the start and avoid a long approach hike, however, Wes was arrested by the Feds for providing a service without a permit on Federal Land and given a fine. Amicalola is state property and that's as far as he will go, who can blame him. We spent a very comfortable night at the lodge.
Day 1 -  Saturday 3/2/96  - 7.1 miles
Filled up on a buffet breakfast, signed the register, and began approach hike to Springer Mt., saving just over a mile by not going back to the welcome center. Mostly uphill and the last mile was tough.
Took picture at plaque on top of Springer, cold and very windy so we didn't linger to enjoy to overlook, then continued to Springer Mt. Shelter. We've made it to the start.

Shelter was full - no one believed there would be this many thru hikers this early in the season. Mostly young college age people. We pitched our tent ate dinner and went to bed at 4:30 - woke up 8:30 p.m. - this was a new experience. Cold and windy 25 degrees. Went back to sleep - nothing else to do. Stayed plenty warm in sleeping bags.

Day 2  -  Sunday 3/3/96  7.6 miles
Water left outside of tent froze, (just right for a rum & coke) and Gaz canisters were not as efficient for breakfast. Water in tent was fine and canisters will stay in my sleeping bag.

There is no level ground in GA - up and down today to Hawks Mt. shelter.  Couple of new members to group, "Cookie" (over 50), and Dusty with Kokomo a Golden Retriever. Dusty's partner already quit.
Still cold but Kath & I built a camp fire and finally got everyone talking. Fifteen exhausted people do not make for a party. Whole camp awakened at midnight when Dusty's dog attacked Kath when she  headed for privy - they only frightened each other. Only "Cookie" has a trail name so far.

Day 3  -  Monday 3/4/96  9 miles
Gaz worked better this morning after I slept with canisters but did slow down for second boiling. It seems if I shake the canister it perks up some.
Killer day - up and over three mountains. No level ground.... no level ground...no level ground. Made it to Gooch Gap - steep hike up to shelter, found note from Ann Marie & Craig telling us everyone was down the trail at better level ground - we even carried extra water - tough at end of day. We at least got to sign the register. 
Trail names are starting to develop Mike took "MacGuyver" , Paul took "QTip" three college girls Amie, Meg, and Lidi took "Turtle", "Yoda", and "ET". we decided on "Download" and "Nexmo" for ourselves.
RK = "Download" - how we send updates
KK = "Nexmo" - short term goal - next motel

We were visited by a 30ish m tan with a big knife on his belt and a mug of beer in his hand - he took up conversation with Nexmo then went across forest road and visited with 4 boys camped there. He said he lived nearby but had Florida plates on his car - some of the boys had just seen a rerun of Deliverance expressing mild  concern, but all was well.
We helped Yoda, Turtle and ET hang their food, it took two lines and weighed at least 50 lb. (I am not kidding) they ate well . We bought some cheese and peanuts from the girls - our food was low, tasted wonderful. Warmer weather today  feels good. We ate at a more normal dinner time and went to bed at 8:45, calm pleasant night.

Day 4  -  Tuesday  3/5/96  9.2  miles
Pushing now for Neels Gap. We stayed at an area called Jarrard Gap - no shelter but a good camp site. Made camp, ate, and went to bed. Seven others camped there, the four boys only under tarps. Thunder and heavy rain all night, stayed dry and cozy. No sign of Dusty or Cookie, somewhere behind. Only 5.2 miles to Neels Gap and food and showers. To put it mildly, we stink. You don't notice others because your own fumes are so overpowering. The Gaz stove is easy, the Alpine Aire dinners are easy, just boil water. Some of the hikers are quite elaborate with their dinner preparation. Combining many ingredients and cooking for a long time, these hikers do need white gas in cold weather.

Day 5  -  Wednesday  3/6/96  5.2 miles
We had 'fun' breaking camp in the rain.... off by 8:33. This was the day for Blood Mt. which is the highest peak in GA. on the AT. The rain was very heavy and the decent would be very steep. We thought it prudent to take a blue blaze trail around Blood Mt. to avoid terrain  above our capabilities. We saved .2 of a mile distance and as it turned out we each fell once anyway, no injuries. Water was cascading down the mountain at many places creating good size gushing streams to cross, very pretty, very wet, very muddy, lots of rocks to cross.
Yahoo .....  Neels Gap !!
A beautiful store ... Walasi-Yi Center, great backpacking supplies. The hostel was overflowing, loaded with young people hiking the trail. More due in with no where to stay unless they spend for a cabin. Dorothy was very kind and let us download our mail at the store even though she was extremely busy. Chet picked us up for a dry warm night in our  "Rustic" Goose Creek Cabin. They will do our laundry and we can take a shower ... close to heaven.

Day 6  -  Thursday  3/7/96  Layover Day  No Miles
Continued heavy thunder showers all last night and rain continuing  most of today. What radio I could hear made it clear weather was going downhill ...They are calling for possible snow and freezing rain.

Cookie and the three girls were at Goose Creek last night as well, no sign of Dusty and Kokomo, Dusty's knee was very sore and  we think he has left the trail. Everyone except some of the young strong boys are laying low. Expected low tonight 5 degrees. We are not fools ... it is bitter cold outside with a -22 degree wind chill. 
We have moved to a lovely cabin (Blood Mt. Cabins) no phone but George Case, the proprietor, is very generous, he gave us 3 beers (it's a dry county), a TV, and movies to watch.  The wind is howling and the temperature is dropping, weather is getting worse. Rumor has it  a woman was taken off the trail yesterday because of hypothermia.

We are really praying for those young men and women still on the trail. Robin is a young women hiking alone, she's out there ... MacGuyver and 
QTip are out there and  their gear was wet. 

George came by with some candles, that's right the power is out. A true winter storm ... at least we are safe. George says it should be fixed tonight, down here in sunny GA.

George was right the power was only off a little over an hour. We have a fire going but the wind is creating a backdraft ... the smoke alarm works fine.

Day 7  -  Friday  3/8/96  Layover Day  No Miles
The ground is white...
We put our thermometer outside ... it says 8 degrees (single digit) ... and still plenty of wind. Atlanta is reporting 20 degrees & -10 wind chill ... much lower here in the mountains.

The hospitality we have received from everyone during our layover is outstanding !!!
George let us use a car so we went into Blairsville for groceries. We then stopped at the Walasi-Yi Center (backpacking store etc.) and had our packs checked and fitted properly by a pro ... Jeff Hansen. Jeff and his wife Dorothy  run the business and are a backpackers best friend.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT..... We never received sound advise from any sales person during our search for packs. Until Jeff, we never found  anyone who really new how to fit packs ... just vertically  measuring your back doesn't do it. If you can find someone that fits your pack properly (with weight 40-50 lb. for the AT), buy from that person. Oh yes, and stop and see Jeff Hansen at Neels Gap anyway .....

It seems to us now that Dana and Osprey have the best suspension systems on the market. Check these brands out, but remember, regardless of brand name, proper fit will lessen the pain.
We met another couple closer to our age. Kate & Reilly from New Jersey. They sold their Cape May Bed & Breakfast and are hiking the trail. We look forward to seeing them along the way...

Talk about hospitality, Rubin from another cabin, gave us a T-Bone steak, said he had extra Maybe the Clearinghouse Sweepstakes will visit us here....... .

Day 8  -  Saturday  3/9/96  Layover Day  No Miles
Temperature this morning 5 degrees, the trees on top of the mountain still covered with ice ... less wind though. Forecast looks better, expected low of 23 but a high of 43 on Sunday,  and getting better all next week. We will be setting out early Sunday morning. This has been a long layover and we have miles to make up .....  maybe in June ...
Trimmed our gear ... mailing home about 4 lb.
Next download point, and our first mail drop, will be The Blueberry Patch Hostel.

"Download" & "Nexmo"
AT - 1996 GA to ME