I love the annual Neel Gap AT Thru-hike Kickoff Party at the Mountain Crossings store. This year it will be Saturday, Feb. 24, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The CCC-built Mountain Crossings building is a great gift shop, a full-service outdoor store with a great hiker shake-down service and hostel. If you come, consider car pooling, because parking is limited.
You might want to park early down the road at the Byron Reece parking lot, hike up the access trail from the lot to the AT and then north on the AT to the celebration. That way you can get in a nice hike and still have fun listening to music, getting a signed copy of THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story from me and talking to the many hiking experts and equipment salesman who will be there. What it boils down to is that if you like to hike, this is the place to be.
You will also get a chance to see some thru-starters who have come just over 30 miles from Springer. Here is how I describe the thru-hiker experience in THRU: “This is where SOBOs blow through quickly, taking just enough time to fuel and freshen up before blasting up Blood Mtn.’s easy switchbacks, eager wings on their trail shoes for the last 30 miles to Springer. NOBOs are another story. Thirty miles is a triumph. Neels Gap is a victory. They hobble in feeling an ill-earned sense of entitlement to the goodies within.”
If you are paying attention, you will notice a mistake in my THRU quote. It is actually called “Neel Gap.” Regardless, stop by. You might want to start a THRU dream of your own.