>AT Update #3: Neels to Whitley

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>After everybody was fed we hit the trail again. Next stop Tesnatee Gap. One interesting point about Walasi-Yi is that this is the only place on the AT where the trail actually goes through a structure.

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After walking through the building and saying goodbye to civilization we headed up the trail to the Gap.

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It was interesting to see something I hadn’t thought about before. How do you blaze when trees are limited? Well, you blaze the ground.

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According to somebody back at the store there’d been snow on the ground as recently as Wed and Thur. There was still some snow and ice along the way and the trail was very muddy in sections.

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After 5.5 miles we finally hit the Gap. There was a nice couple waiting in their pickup that offered us a ride to Hogpen. I don’t know if they were just hoping some hikers would come through or what. We politely declined and said we needed to hike and they left us to face Wildcat Mountain.

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Let me say that Wildcat Mountain kicked my butt. By the time we reached it I was worn out. I had to stop at the Gap and eat a quick snack to give my legs a rest and to psyche myself up. Looking up the mountain it appeared daunting. Reality was harsh and brutal. Hiking trails in Florida my legs aren’t used to climbing near vertical switchbacks. Unfortunately that accurately describes the scene at Wildcat.

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It seemed like it took me forever to make the ascent. I took a lot of breaks and methodically worked my way from one switchback to the next. I was surprised that when I reached the top it had only taken me about 30 minutes. I had to move fast, though. Daylight was coming to a close and I’d accidentally packed my headlamp in my hammock which was tucked away in my pack. Sunset was on the horizon.

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You’d think it would have been a great joy to see the sign for the Whitley Gap trail. I suppose it was, but it was also an anxious time. I was rapidly losing daylight and I still had 1.2 miles to hike down the mountain to the shelter.

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Even as I was rushing to get down before I was taking a huge risk and hiking in the dark without my lamp I had to stop and enjoy the moonlit scene appearing before me.

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I could barely see the shelter as I stepped off the trail and it was a very welcome sight. I immediately set about dumping my pack. It’s not really riding well on me and my shoulders were killing me. I arrived at the shelter just before I lost all daylight. The last two guys made it there using their headlamps.

As some of us headed down to the spring to refresh our water supply one of the other guys started a nice fire. It sure did feel good to have that when we got back. It made a nice backdrop for our dinner. We sat around the fire for a couple of hours before letting it die down so we could retire for the evening.

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