The Devil Came Down to Georgia… and Left All These Hills
Week one on the trail is complete! 69 miles in on day 6, and Georgia is almost out of the way- thankfully, because Georgia is definitely a beast. Nothing like some good old initiation by fire to start the trail.
Day One – Feb 14
My parents and grandad drove me by Amicalola State Park to sign the trail register (number 67 this year) get the customary photo under the arch (see above), and weigh my pack (37 pounds with food and water for a week). I even got handed some chocolate covered pretzels on the way back to the car. Since I hiked the approach trail a couple weeks ago, I decided to skip it and start at Springer on day 1. My dad took off work to hike with me for the first week which was really nice of him, so we said goodbye to my mom and grandad at the springer parking lot and hiked back a mile to the start.
We hiked 9 miles in total to Hawk Eye Shelter, which we shared with four other Nobos. All the talk that night was about the long list of items we were all already prepared to send home.
Day Two – Feb 15
Unfortunately it poured that night, complete with thunder, lightning, and high winds. My Nemo tent held up great, and my dad’s borrowed tent performed admirably (lets just say it’s a good thing he didn’t bring his $20 Walmart tent). The rain had stopped by 7 am, so we packed everything up and ate breakfast. Dad thinks we brought way too much food. I just think he’s not eating enough. No clear evidence yet as to who will win this argument.
We also decided on Trail Names – I’m Tick Tock because of my obsession with time, and my dad is Snowden, named after a mountain in England (I think… or maybe it’s a lake).
We were on our way by 9 am, with the goal to get to Woody Gap. However, because of the rain my dad thought it would be best to stop at gooch gap, so we got picked up there by my grandfather.
We got to spend the night, take showers, dry out our tents, and eat dinner at his house, which was awesome. I also left behind a hat, a set of thermals, and some fleece leggings that I decided I don’t need to be carrying. 9.2 mile total
Day 3 – Feb 16
We woke up at 6 so my grandad could drive us to the trailhead at Gooch Gap. We were ready for a long day- Blood Mountain was in our sights! We did a total of 14.1 miles, including a push up Blood mountain in the final few miles in order to make it to Neel’s Gap for the night. My feet started to ache a little by the end, but nothing a night’s sleep can’t solve.
The wind was pretty bad, so my dad decked himself out in his frog Toggs to take off the chill. It was so windy at Woody Gap where we stopped to take a snack break that we huddled behind the privy to stay out of the wind. Not exactly my proudest moment.
The shelter at the top of blood mountain was really cool. Overall, I don’t think Blood Mtn is quite as difficult as it’s hyped up to be. It’s a long steady uphill, but never too steep. There’s lots of switchbacks, and it’s a well maintained trail.
The hostel at Neel’s Gap was a nice relaxing end to the day. Someone even brought free donuts! (I ate 4. Followed by dinner and dessert. Don’t tell my mom). A lot of people got to the Shelter at dusk and after dark because they had planned to stay at the shelter a few miles before blood, but the water source was dry. Apparently some very motivated day hikers were running water bottles to the peak for hikers.
My only complaint about the hostel was the caucaphony of snoring. And yes, dad, you were contributing.
Day 4 – Feb 17
Starting at Neel’s Gap, my dad and I hiked 11.5 miles to Low Gap Shelter. Even though it was less mileage than yesterday, with Tesnatee Gap in the mix, it definitely felt longer. Even though the climb up Tesnatee is only about 3/4 of a mile, it definitely gets my vote for most winding climb of the Georia section.
Beautiful weather and awesome temperatures for hiking so far. There were two other guys at the shelter, one named Marathon and one named Beach Bum. It’s nice that there are enough people on the trail to socialize with, but not so many that it feels like a crowd. We set up tents a little away from the shelter since all the ground was sloped. Overall it was a pretty uneventful day, except for when dad made his freeze dried meal and then accidentally dumped the whole thing on the ground. He had to pick it up with his hands (because LNT) and then go purify more water for dinner round 2. Good thing he had another dinner meal (I’m going to say this is a point for me in the “we brought just enough food” argument).
The forecast said rain would start at around 7 am, so we packed up our tents around 6:30 to get going. In a stroke of good luck, it didn’t start raining until much later. We set off at 8:30 (it took us consistently about 2 hours to break camp and get going – dad moves just a littttlllleee slowly in the morning, but he volunteered to come hike with me so I can’t really complain).
It was supposed to be a short 7 mile day, but when we got to the next shelter at 12:30, it had started raining and the wind was gusting. The shelter was exposed on a peak, and we were worried about the weather overnight so we decided to push on.
Unfortunately, the next shelter was not for another 8 miles. We pushed up and over Unicoi Gap, Indian Grave Gap, and then up Tray Mountain to the Tray Mountain Shelter. In my opinion, Rocky Mountain (right after Unicoi Gap) and Tray Mountain definitely have Blood Mountain beat in difficulty. I might have this opinion because we climbed them at the end of a 15 mile day, or because it was raining, but they were definitely difficult. And Rocky Mountain is an apt name to describe the trail going up it.
We got to the shelter at 6:30, when it was no longer raining, but we were stuck inside a cloud and everything was damp. Setting up tents was difficult because of the wind, and the Alpine Aire meal I had for dinner was revolting. To top it all off, when I went to set up my sleeping gear, I realized I had lost a glove somewhere during the climb up Tray Mountain.
Definitely not the best day, but I’m proud of the mileage, and really thankful for my dad. He may not be the fastest, but he’s a real trooper for doing this with me. He never complains about the miles, and is always willing to help me, sometimes at his own expense.
How I’ve learned to deal with hiking on wet rocks: approach them very slowly, hands in the air, and profess your inferiority to their power. Proceed with caution, and they may chose not to bite.
Me: “So how are you feeling this morning, is anything sore?”
Dad: “Yes, my body.”
Day 6 – Feb 19
We woke up around 5:30 this morning to another cool foggy day. Dad and I had to go 11 miles by 1 to meet my mom at Dick’s Creek Gap. We had to hustle since we left camp at 7 and had to stop soon after to eat breakfast, but we made it. Bonus, the sun coming over the horizon was very beautiful, despite the huge cloud we were hiking in.
Even better, just as we were descending into the gap, the clouds broke open and the sun made its grand debut. It’s hard to realize how lovely the sun is until you haven’t seen it for awhile.
My mom brought Moe’s for my dad and I, and my boyfriend also surprised me at the gap. It was awesome to get to see my mom and the boyfriend again- talking about something other than the trail, the weather, and gear was refreshing to say the least.
And no, Rusty, I’m not sorry for posting this picture of you (but thanks for bringing me a tennis ball to roll my feet out with).
We ate some great food, and I then checked in at the Top of Georgia Hostel, where I resupplied and am going to spend the night tonight. My dad and boyfriend drove home with my mom. My mom gets a shout out because not only did she bring tons of food, she also bought me a new pair of gloves to replace the one I lost. Thanks Mom!
It’ll be nice to sleep in a bed tonight. I’ll be doing a short 4 mile day tomorrow to give my legs a break before I hit North Caroline. I’m definitely going to miss hiking with my dad and having someone to joke around and commiserate with, but it will be nice to have solitude as well.
I’ve switched to trail runners for this week to compare them to my boots, and I’ll see which ones I like best at the end of the week. I’ll try to remember to do a quick review in my next blog post.
I’m having lots of fun and enjoy meeting people on trail, but I definitely miss everyone at home.
Here’s to another (hopefully rain free) week on trail!
– Tick Tock
(Sorry if there are a lot of mistakes on this post- still trying to figure out how to publish from my phone)
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