WE WEATHERED RAIN, SLIPPERY ROCKS, BEARS, AND PUT REBEL TO REST THIS WEEKEND

Just returned from a loop hike at Blood Mountain via the Reece Memorial, Freeman, and Appalachian Trails. We were aware that bears were a problem in this area and reminded immediately by a sign at the trailhead. Here’s two of our crew at the junction of the three trails.

Freeman Trail

The 1.8 mile hike along the Freeman Trail was wet and slippery and much harder than I remembered it. There’s not a lot of elevation change, but it’s really rocky in sections.

Hiking The Freeman Trail

We arrive to an empty Woods Hole Shelter around 5pm.  It is named for Roy and Tillie Wood of Roswell, Georgia who came to the aid of hundreds of long distance Appalachian Trail hikers over the years.  I met Tillie in 1994 during my A.T. thru-hike and she was a very kind lady.  Although the Freeman Trail had plenty of water flowing across it this afternoon, the spring was totally dry at Woods Hole.  So the Weasel and Therm Rider gathered firewood, while Beer Run and I backtracked for 15 minutes on the Freeman Trail to fill the water bag.

Woods Hole Shelter

It was nearly dark by the time we returned to the shelter, and rain began to fall as predicted.  That had other hikers scrambling for Woods Hole and at dusk we were joined by three section-hiking doctors from Kentucky and a recently retired Navy man from North Carolina.  

So we got acquainted with our shelter-mates, cooked dinner, and settled in around the campfire that Therm Rider managed to ignite despite less than ideal conditions.

Warming Up

With 6 hikers and 2 dogs packed in the shelter, Therm Rider, Beer Run, and one of the Kentucky doctors opted to tent in the rain.  By 10:30pm, we were all fast asleep ….when … Therm Rider called out for help, repeatedly.  His tent had been slashed open by a bear – end to end – with nearly a four foot tear through both his vestibule and his mesh lining.  

After confirming that he had no food in this tent, we convinced a very shaken and agitated Therm Rider to join us in the shelter.  And despite a very restless night at Woods Hole, we made it to the next morning without further incident.

Breakfast

Here we are the next morning at breakfast.  The rain stopped but it was still very wet and misty for the hike over Blood Mountain.   

There were no bears out this morning, and the campers at Blood Mountain Shelter had no issues last night. So we took a break at Blood Mountain and rested after a mile climb to the summit.

It’s all downhill from here, but we stop briefly on the decent to scatter some of Rebel’s ashes. He died three years ago today, and this spot seemed like a good place to put him to rest.  Rebel did his first hike here in 1998 and I spent a memorable night here with him in 2002.  To the right, Boone Dawg watches the brief ceremony.  They would have been great friends had they lived and hiked together.  

The skies clear as we close in on the trailhead. We weathered rain, slippery rocks, bears, and put Rebel to rest this weekend.  So the trip was a memorable one.

In the last mile, we passed many hikers and backpackers.  The bears will have plenty of company over the Thanksgiving Holiday!


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