31.7 mile test run
So before I head out on my full adventure to Maine, I wanted to do a 31 mile test run. To test out my gear and just get a feeling of what was in store for me. Still having a week left on my internship meant that I needed to get from Springer Mountain on Friday at 1pm to Neels Gap by 12 noon.
Did I think I could do it? Yes.
Did I have to do it? Yes
I did not have the time to do the approach trail, but I wanted to get this photo as a reminder that this whole trail and journey and trail starts in my home state. Benton MacKay had the vision for this footpath and Georgia was the start.
So the weather was a bit, well, shitty. Asking my dad to brave the 6.5 mile forest service road in our tiny Honda Fit was a challenge. Luckily the path was not complete soup, so I started from the summit of Springer with a clean body and spirit.
Fully expecting to be ambushed by Jason and murdered.
My lofty goal of 20 miles a day seemed unrealistic after 3 miles in. The rain trenched out a lot of the trail. Luckily the trail in GA is so well worn, that there is no real chance of getting lost. Several points it coincides with the Benton MacKay trail, so thank you Mr. AWOL for confirming that for me. I panicked a bit, but just pushing forward turned out to be right.
With feet sweating like mad, I made a mental note of how boots may have been a poor choice. Trail runners have already been purchased will be the next thing I try. Seeing the boot tree at Neels Gap makes more sense now.
So back to the hike. At mile 8.1, I was done. Hawk Mountain Shelter seemed like a nice place to stop for the evening. The covered shelter was very full, but there were plenty of tenting spots. I love my 1 man tent, and value my privacy when I sleep. The shelters provide a nice social aspect after a day of solitary hiking, but the smallest amount of snoring and other people smells makes that novelty wear off quickly.
So the night went pretty well. The one luxury item that I have since purchased was a pillow. Using my clothes dry sack or sleeping bag stuff sack did not prove successful. Everyone seemed to be planning their day around reaching Gooch Mountain Shelter for the evening at mile 15 or so. Wanting to get to Neels Gap by mid day Sunday, I needed to push beyond that. The weather was gorgeous, so the miles seemed to melt away. The weather brings out the trail angels. At two gaps, some beautiful humans provided us weary hikers with some water and sustenance.
After losing your sanitizer the first night, and scouring the woods surrounding your campsite the next morning in the rain. You cannot imagine the feeling after spotting this glorious plastic tube cradled in the leaves.
Gooch Gap brought out the Boy Scouts of Troop 6410 who brought water, power bars and oranges. Fruit will be a bit of a luxury and enjoy it while you can get it.
Woody’s gap provided some magical people who have literally set up a compound with a full kitchen and some musical accompaniment. They may still be there, so thank them profusely.
You will get to this view after you pass Woody’s gap.
Some things I learned.
- Eat, Eat and stuff yourself. Even after I consumed 1000+ calories at dinner, I felt hungry 2 hours later in my tent.
- Pack way more socks. Change them every 2 hours when you stop and snack. Never did I realize how much my feet would sweat and soak my socks.
- Smart Water bottles are the best way to carry that H2O. The thicker plastic has saved them from breaking when dropped.
- How much I enjoy the convenience of mountain house meals.
- The views from Blood Mountain are the greatest reward in the Georgia section.
- Pushing yourself to the next campsite is can sometimes be worth it.
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