If you need to gear up for a very long journey along the Appalachian Trail, or just want to hang out with the hearty hikers who tackle the 2,174 mile trail, make a short stop at the historic Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi outfitters store.
[tmt_info =””]Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi is located at Neel’s Gap, along US 19/129, roughly 17 miles south of Blairsville.[/tmt_info]
The Walasi-yi Center was built in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps. It was abandoned a couple of times, then slated for demolition in the 1970’s, until some locals managed to place it on the National Register of Historic Places. It has served as a hiking outfitter and hostel since the early 1980’s.
Inside, you’ll find a gigantic selection of hiking equipment, including boots. The ones above aren’t for sale–they are one of many pairs of shoes left by hikers who wore holes in their soles, during the long journey to (or from) Maine.
[tmt_info =””]Most hikers who plan to tackle the entire Appalachian Trail start in the south, early in the spring, to take advantage of the northeast’s warmest summer weather.[/tmt_info]
Oh yes, there are plenty of t-shirts and touristy souvenirs, too.
Walk up the hill behind the Walasi-yi Center, and you’ll enjoy a nice view of the hazy Appalachian Mountains.
As you visit, be sure you walk through this passageway, just below the store. It’s a significant part of the Appalachian Trail.
[tmt_info =””]Mountain Crossings at Walasi-yi is widely accepted to be the only place along the 2,174 mile Appalachian Trail, where the trail passes through a manmade structure. During my visit, though, I overheard a visitor disputing that fact (playing devil’s advocate, of course). This person suggested that the trail passes below bridges and highway overpasses, which are also manmade structures.[/tmt_info]
The white rectangle on the wall is the only sign you’ll find, to indicate that this passage is part of the Appalachian Trail. Bathrooms are conveniently located off to the side, for those hikers who’ve been holding it in for the past 2,000 miles or so.
[tmt_info =””]So what in the heck does Walasi-yi mean, anyhow? Roughly translated, it means “place of the great frog” in Cherokee. Native American legend claimed a large frog stood guard over nearby Blood Mountain.[/tmt_info]
Note: This trip was first published in 2006.