Steph’s AT Hike, Days Two to Four: Rain, Hail, Critters
Day Two: Springer Mountain Shelter to Hawk Mountain Shelter, Eight Miles
After the previous night’s storms, we woke up to a damp, misty morning at Springer Mountain Shelter. Breakfast was a quick affair, and we were soon packed up and ready to hit the trail at about 9 a.m. We began hiking with a group of three other women: Annie from Michigan, Helen from Australia, and Hannah from Germany.
After 2.6 downhill miles we stopped at Stover Creek Shelter for a brief rest and to top off our water bottles. About a dozen other hikers were there taking breaks as well. Not wanting to sit around for too long, we started hiking again and spent the next hour on a long, gradual incline that followed the creek up through thick tunnels of rhododendrons. Unfortunately, they weren’t yet in bloom but I’m sure that would be something impressive to see.
The Rain Begins
It soon began to rain, but we were quite warm so the drizzle felt great and cooled us off quite nicely. Ten minutes later the drizzle turned into a hard, steady rain and in no time Mom and I were completely soaked through. We kept on walking, and what was formerly a damp footpath became a stream flowing down the trail.
We arrived at the top of Hawk Mountain around 3:15 p.m. By this time the rain had let up, but we were still fully wet and beginning to get chilled. The Hawk Mountain Shelter, a double-decker affair with room to sleep about 12, was already full due to people stopping early to get out of the rain. After chatting with others for about ten minutes, Mom and I scouted out a camping spot about 20 yards from the shelter and got our tent set up during a break between rain showers.
Changing into dry clothes and crawling into a warm sleeping bag was the first order of business. Ahh; it was truly a great feeling. After a brief nap we boiled water to make hot tea while we prepared our dinners. Both of us were super tired and sore, so it wasn’t too long after dinner when we went to bed.
Other items of note: Mom’s hips were hurting some on the uphills climbs, and both of us experienced some significant foot pain during descents. No blisters for me, but my Mom had developed a few blisters on her toes. Good thing she brought plenty of Aleve for the day and Tylenol PM for the night.
Day Three: Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Gap, Nine Miles
Day three started out overcast, but dry and warmer. Unfortunately, our clothing had not dried out from the day before. Pulling on an ensemble of wet underclothes, shirt, leggings, socks, and shoes was not fun! Since everything was wet, we didn’t linger around camp but got going as soon as we finished our breakfasts of granola and protein shakes.
Huffing and Puffing Up the Mountain
After a gentle descent into Cooper Gap, the AT went right up and over Sassafras Mountain. This was a tough climb for us both, and we took many breaks to catch our breath. Luckily by midmorning we had pretty much dried out and were no longer hiking in wet clothes.
We arrived at Justus Creek for lunch around 1 p.m. As we were heading down the rocky trail to the creek, I turned a corner to see a large black snake hanging off the tree in front of me. I admit I yelped out loud and jumped backward in surprise. The snake seemed quite uninterested in me, however, so I snapped a few pics and continued on.
Mom soaked her aching feet in the cold stream, and we had a nice little lunch. As I was going through my pack to find my food, I realized there was a hole in one of the pockets on my waist belt. A mouse had chewed a hole through my pack the night before in an attempt to get to the little corner of a granola bar wrapper I’d mistakenly left in there the night before. Damn mice!
Although we had planned to sit by the creek and rest for a while longer, the weather had other plans for us. It began raining in earnest, and this time we put on our rain gear—a wise choice.
A severe thunderstorm had rolled in, complete with torrential rainfall, wind gusts of 30 mph, and 20 minutes of pea-sized hail. As lightning and thunder crashed all around, we continued on hiking. By the time we reached Gooch Mountain Shelter the storm had blown past. Knowing the shelter would likely already be full, we kept going another mile downhill to Gooch Gap.
Here we set up for the night in a flat camping area just before the rain started up again. Several other hikers came along behind us and set up tents and hammocks in the immediate vicinity. Since we were wet and tired, we enjoyed more hot tea before dinner. It was another early night, with us both in our sleeping bags and heads on pillows at 8 p.m.
Day Four: Gooch Gap to Woody Gap to Barefoot Hills, Four Miles
We woke up to a warm, dry, and sunny day. Finally! This was a great thing because it allowed us to dry out our gear so everything didn’t have to be put away wet. We took advantage of the beautiful weather with a slower hiking pace out of Gooch Gap. Around midmorning we reached the summit of Ramrock Mountain, where we had great views of the valley below.
A Jaunt Off Trail
Mom was still having some hip pain, so we decided that upon our arrival at Woody Gap we’d call a local shuttle to pick us up and take us to a hiker hotel a few miles down the road. Our friendly driver Justin arrived promptly after we reached Woody Gap and drove us down the mountain to Barefoot Hills Hiker Hostel. The food there was tasty. We each had a beer and a cheeseburger and relished every bite.
After dinner we had the opportunity to do some laundry and take showers, which by this time was quite necessary. As you can imagine, after three days of hiking in the same set of mostly wet clothes there was no denying it—we stank. I told Mom she was now true hiker trash! 😉
Tomorrow we’ve planned for me to catch an early shuttle back to Woody Gap. I’ll then hike up and over Blood Mountain, the highest mountain in Georgia. Mom will get a later shuttle and meet me at Neel Gap. This will give her a day to rest her hip and heal up blisters a bit before we continue on our AT adventures.
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You got another follower! Take care of those hips MOM…. stretch for 10 mins after 20 mins of walking each morning will help!