Georgia On My Mind
I entered this trail expecting to warm up slowly with gentle miles building up to bigger miles, and plenty of time to blog. But excitement got the most of me, and so in the past ten days I have traveled 89.8 miles and climbed over a dozen mountains. Ultimately I have rolled into camp late and tired every day except my first. I have managed to maintain my yoga practice, but my writing has been much more sporadic.
Day 3: Springer Mountain Shelter to Hawk Mountain Shelter (7.9 miles)
This really felt like my first full day as a thru hiker. The good news was that my spoon magically reappeared in the morning. The bad news was that I woke up to rain. It was actually a light rain and not terribly chilly. As far as hiking in the rain goes, this was as good as it gets. Cool enough that I wasn’t sweating heavily under my rain gear, and my hat worked out perfectly. The terrain was pretty forgiving in that it was a simple slow descent from Springer Mountain followed by a slow ascent up Hawk Mountain. One of the highlights of the trail is always the people you meet. Today I met WB, a triple crown hiker who is doing the AT for the second time. Triple Crown means he has completed the three longest north-south trails in the US: The Appalachian Trail, The Pacific Crest Trail, and The Continental Divide Trail. We traveled together much of the day and he regaled me with many an interesting tail until we reached the shelter I had planned for the eve. We parted ways as he had plans to hike on a little further. I sat at the shelter chatting with folks while waiting for the rain to stop so I could set up my tent in the dry. I was amazed at how much the folks in the tent were complaining about how bad the rain was and how wet everything was. They clearly hadn’t done much of this before and were in for a rude awakening in the weeks and months to come. Rain paused, tent set up, dinner consumed, sleep could commence.
Day 4: Hawk Mountain Shelter to Big Cedar Ledges (13.4 miles)
This turned into a much bigger day than originally planned. I was pulling out of the campsite about the same time as Trademark, a section hiker whom I’d met the day before when he received his trail name amongst an hour long session of exhausted silliness in the shelter. We quickly discovered we have a similar pace and similar mindset so walked together for the day. We soon picked up another hiker, Swayze, who hiked along with up to the next campsite.
We stopped at Gooch Mountain Shelter for a hour lunch around 1:30 pm. I had planned to camp here, but it was early and we all felt good, so decided to press on. We figured we would go over Ramrock Mountain and through Woody Gap where there was water and then find a good place to camp spoon after. At the gap, we were tempted by a hot meal by a Christian Missionary Group, Adventure Ministries, but it was three hours until dinner and we felt like moving on. I did find it incredibly on the nose that they were a Christian group walking up the trail to tempt hikers by offering them apples. However, we did get water from them and toss our trash and they seemed incredibly nice and generous, so I appreciate the work they are doing. We eventually ended up camping at Big Cedar Ledges, with incredible views and a promise of a glorious sunrise. We also had the pleasure of seeing a wedding proposal at the top of the ledges which was really heartwarming (she said yes).
Day 5: Big Cedar Ledges to Bull Gap (10.9 miles)
After a beautiful sunrise and some hot coffee and breakfast, we walked another six miles to Woods Hole Junction, with a trail leading to Woods Hole Shelter. We were now in the Lance Creek Restoration Area, a short section of trail where bear canisters are required due to aggressive bear activity. Since I had settled on an Ursack as my food storage, staying in this area wasn’t even an option. We had no choice but to climb over Blood Mountain and into Neels Gap. After a hot lunch, we went up, and up, and up, and just before we reached the summit there was… a privy. The most unexpected privy I’ve ever seen. The only design error was that they should have faced it out with a view, because what was beyond was pure beauty. Once we summited at 4442′, the privy made more sense since there was also a stone shelter at the top to stay in. The views were incredible, Pictures were taken and after a brief rest it was time to descend, with the promise of fresh made frozen pizza at the bottom.
Mountain Crossing at Neels Gap is possibly the most brilliant small business ever. The trail literally goes through their building. They are a complete outfitter and resupply point, at a premium of course because of convenience. They also have bunks, rooms, and showers. Now was a hard decision. They had one bunk left in the hostel. We were anticipating thunderstorms tonight. I could sleep in a bed and stay dry. But I’ve been hiking with these two guys for two days straight. So I decided to hike a little longer with them, ordered a Mountain Dew and a frozen pizza and went outside to assess how much resupply I was going to need. I also needed a few pieces of gear, and between that and the food they definitely helped me lighten my wallet. Trademark, Swayze and I looked over the plan for the next few days and concluded it would take until Tuesday to get to Dick’s Creek Gap where we could stay at Hostel Around the Bend, and I got on my phone and made the reservation. Looks like I’ve got hiking partners for at least the next four days.
We ended our day by hiking another mile north to Bull Gap and found a nice campsite, had a fire and some social time with a few other campers there, and then hunkered down to wait out the storm.
Day 6, 7, 8: Bull.Gap to Campsite Outside Dick’s Creek Gap (10.4, 13.4, and 11.8 miles)
The hike continues through the woods for many an amazing sight, mountain, and lots of pointless ups and downs, aka PUDs. I have camped with Trademark and Swayze each night, and WB joined up for most of this last days hike and campsite. It has been a good few days with good company and unseasonable warmth.
Day 9: Nearo at Hostel Around the Bend & Hiawassee (1.2 miles)
Got up, packed up after some hot coffee and a bar for breakfast, and hiked the 1.2 miles out to the main road to arrive at the hostel around 10:15 am. They were fantastic. I got a room with Trademark and Swayze took a bunk in the bunk room. They offered showers and laundry services with stay, plus the use of the kitchen, TV with small movie collection, massage wands, and yoga equipment. They also have complete resupply and gear shop on premises. I got myself and my stuff clean and then jumped on a shuttle into town where five of us hit Hiawassee Brewing Company. I promptly devoured a huge burger and a few of their beers. Definitely recommend. Finished off with a trip to the supermarket for a few items and then back to the hostel to relax and sleep in a clean warm bed.
Day 10: Dick’s Creek Gap to Muskrat Creek Shelter (11.8 miles)
Last day in Georgia. The hike out of the gap was pretty big, but we pressed on for nine straight miles until we got the really big first landmark.we had walked out of Georgia and into North Carolina. We stopped for lunch just past the border and ate a hot meal to celebrate the new state. North Carolina proceeded to punish us immediately with some big climbs, but then rewarded us with spectacular views and a very nice sunset. All in all, Georgia was good to me; now a fond memory.
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