Day Seven - Magic in the Hog Pen

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Neels Gap (MM 31.3) to Whitley Gap Shelter (MM 38.0)


NOTE: We are currently hiking through the homelands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ (Tsalaguwetiyi/Cherokee) people. While some remained, most of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ were forcibly removed from these lands by white settlers, beginning with the Spanish in 1539 and culminating in 1850 with the United States' program of ethnic cleansing called the Trail of Tears. ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ people continue to live here and are actively working on reclaiming sacred sites and stolen land. You can learn more about the ᏣᎳᎩᏱ ᏕᏣᏓᏂᎸᎩ / Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians by visiting: https://ebci.com/


The storm last night brought a lot of heavy rain. When we woke up this morning and looked out our cabin window, it felt like we were in cloudland. The fog was very thick. It broke around 10:30 AM, and Clutch began her hike out, and we were out of our cabin at 11:00 AM. We went up to the camp store to grab some bananas and say hello to Sylvie the Cat. Jolly Rancher crashed with us last night. She’s from New Hampshire and also attempting a thru-hike. Jolly Rancher was planning on hanging around for a Zero Day, so we parted ways for now.



Trek is already obsessed with interpretive signage, stopping for every opportunity, but an interpretive center? One of the cool things about Neels Gap is that it is the home of the Walasi-yi Interpretive Center. The Walas-yi [ᏩᎳᏏᏱ, home of the great frog] was a project of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Built in 1937, the same year the A.T. was completed, it first served as an inn and tearoom. It is unique for many reasons, but the one that sticks out is that it is the only place on the entire A.T where the trail goes through a building.


We left Neels Gap just around Noon. We entered the Raven Cliffs Wilderness immediately. The climb out wasn’t challenging. We made good time getting through this section of the trail. It offered a lot of tremendous views. On our way up Wolf Laurel Top, we ran into Right On! We had a friendly chat and continued, stopping again at the top for a quick view.


Toward the end of our day, we both started feeling fatigued. Trek hiked on for a bit, feeling good energy after a snack, and Blisters took a much-needed break for his feet. As Trek came down into Tenastee Gap, he ran into Circuit Rider, who mentioned that his friend, Queen Diva, would be doing some trail magic at Hog Pen Gap around the time we’d get there.



When Trek got to Whitley Gap Shelter trailhead, Dan and Bear Man were already waiting at the side trail junction. Not long after, Clutch arrived, as well. Clutch, Trek, and Bear Man went down to Hog Pen Gap to meet Queen Diva and enjoy some of the trail magic. Iced coffee! Clementines! Chips! Queen Diva asked if we wanted to take any leftovers as she cleaned up. We said sure! We brought up a bag of chips and some clementines to everyone still waiting at the shelter access trail.

(L-R) Right On, Blisters, Bear Man

Once back up, Blisters and Right On had arrived. So we all decided to stay here together tonight. This is unusual because this shelter is 1.2 miles off the trail, 0.6 being uphill, then the next 0.6 being downhill. Do we really want to hike 1.2 miles off-trail today and again tomorrow? Why not? It was worth it for the camaraderie and the sunset.