Springer to Hiawassee: Everything hurts but it’s so fun
Total miles: 69.6 (can we just say 70 please?)
Approximate daily miles: 8, 10, 15, 12, 15, 11
Ok not entirely sure how to post updates using my phone, but let’s give it a try.
So we’ve been on the trail for 6 days, and it’s going really well. Hiked 11 miles to Dicks Creek Gap (?) today and got a shuttle to Budget Inn in Hiawassee from a friendly confederate who cares a lot about the legalization of weed. I didn’t have much to say on the subject. (Note to thru-hikers who haven’t reached Hiawassee: AWOL’s guide says Budget Inn only shuttles at 9 and 11 am, but he will pick you up at any time. Just a hint.)
Ok now from the beginning. (I’m tired and my chronological sense is suffering.) We flew to Atlanta last Tuesday and got in at 3am, slept on the airport floor for a few hours, then took the MARTA to meet our shuttle with Survivor Dave. Really nice guy, lots of helpful trail info. Talks a lot.
We hiked to Hawk Mountain shelter and camped there for the first night. We have actually stayed in our tent every night, and I think I’ve slept better than I would in a shelter. The people were interesting. A guy with rubber rain boots and an entirely cotton hiking outfit who scoffed at me and said “the only thing that matters is keeping your feet dry.” There was another guy with an 85-pound pack. He also scoffed at me and said he could survive for years alone in the woods. I would be done for, as I’d need to resupply my pasta sides and candy bars.
Ten miles the next day to Gooch Gap. Hail and freezing rain and battering winds up and over Sassafras Mountain. That was fun. When we got to the gap we found Fresh Ground’s Leapfrog Cafe trail magic! Holy cow! So much food! He fed us with the zeal of my friend’s Russian parents: “Eat! What are you doing? You should be eating more! EAT!” Then we passed out in a food coma in frigid temperatures and howling winds.
The third day was calm, and we decided to push it 15 miles to Neel’s Gap, because it seemed cool to have a goal. We wanted to start out with low miles, around 8 per day, and clearly that didn’t work. I still think we need to cut back… Everything from my knees to my feet feels like someone beat me with a baseball bat. But anyway, we went up and over Blood Mountain– the way up was lazy and easy switchbacks, the way down was a knee-wrecking nightmare. I figured my left knee was going to give me trouble, and it lived up to my expectations. By the time I staggered into Mountain Crossings I was limping like I’d been hit by a truck. Not a smart move, but I have to learn the hard way. We camped by the outfitters, it was frigid again. We’ve been lucky with trail conditions, and have only had two days of rain so far, but the nights and mornings are really cold.
Beautiful weather for a 12-miler to Low Gap on our fourth day. That was the first night I felt comfortable sitting around a table with other hikers, and was starting to see the same faces. The hikers pacing us right now are super cool, happy about that. I know we’ll all settle into different paces, but for now it’s really nice. My knee felt better, maybe because I took 9 Advil. Rocky’s body seems to be holding up well, but he assures me he feels like an 80-year-old man.
Yesterday was AMAZING weather. Decided we wanted to get to Hiawassee today, so we did 15 yesterday. A couple big climbs and descents. I was getting really tired, but right before mile 12 and the final long climb up Tray Mountain was a camo-clad dude with a pickup truck and a grill. Rocky ate three hot dogs and chugged two Mountain Dew. It was impressive. Camped with the same few people at Tray Mountain Shelter. I’ve named our tent the tortoise shell, because A) my trail name is Tortoise and B) it’s an obnoxious green color and shaped like a tortoise shell. I got the worst bloody nose last night, and had to use Rocky’s smartwool beanie to stop it, but it still sprayed all over the tent and my pack and my face. It was really cute.
We were both pretty tired today, but Rocky does a wonderful job of keeping my morale up. If a climb really seems interminable, we can look at each other and acknowledge that yeah maybe it sucks, but complaining is counterproductive. My wise father bestowed another ultrarunning adage to me: “It doesn’t always keep getting worse.” I feel like that will help me when things really get rough. They’ll get better! They always do! So we had a lot of ups and downhills today, but got to Hiawassee and inhaled food, got a SWEET cabin at the Budget Inn, and are resting our limbs. Taking a day off tomorrow will be good, but we should probably tone down our mileage until our bodies adjust to hauling 30-pound packs up and down mountains all day. This week has been tiring because we’re not used to it yet, but the terrain in Georgia really hasn’t been that bad. The trail is mostly smooth dirt, there are more switchbacks than I anticipated. None of the climbs have been longer than 2.5 miles, and there have only been a few extremely steep ascents and descents. We’re very grateful for this, as I know it’s going to get harder.
Ok that’s all. This probably reads like a high-schooler’s rambling diary, but oh well. Tortoise and Hare out.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.
What Do You Think?