AT Journey Across 2016 – 2021 Days 4 – 7

– Springer Mountain Shelter to Helen GA –

Neels Gap to Low Gap

After heaving around a backpack weighing over 40 pounds with a full week’s food and water inside, one begins to wonder what is actually needed in the pack. Starting early, the trail was followed.

Consulting the guidebook, it was decided to move on and ascended Blood Mountain. There were lots of hikers present scattered all over the giant boulder.

This was supposed to be the highest view in Georgia. It took another few miles to descend on the other side. A bit further a mini outfitter store could be seen.

Neels Gap

This was a location that was a small version of your similar outfitter store. It had everything you could possibly need for repairs, new purchases, or in between. Purchasing necessities, the journey went on to a tent site that was home for the night.

Hiking early in the morning for about 2 hours, a mountain top panorama came into view. Continuing on, a comfortable rock was located for lunch.

The Sounds of Music

Unaware at the time of sitting down, a large group was being serenaded by a hiker with a ukulele. The player was very talented and had a singer’s voice, which melted away the brutality of the trail for a short while.


After hiking a bit further, we asked how far the shelter was to a passing runner. He said about a half-mile, maybe just over that ridge or bend. We thanked him and moved on. (This is a hiker joke because if someone tells you this, it means multiple miles left to go and not feet).

Did he mess with us?

After a few miles, the shelter roof came into sight. This is called the hiker bubble. There were 35-plus hikers with hammocks and tents and other various shelters here. No space in the shelter, so tenting it was. Never alone? Settling in, the night enveloped the valley and darkness blanketed everything.

A storm came in and rained with some gentle winds whispering around some leaves and twigs.

Waking at dawn, the valley was frozen from the mid 20 temps. Heading to the food cable hang area, the bags were encased in ice and difficult to unsnap and unfold. Gathering the bags, we moved on.

What’s with the cold?

Hiking for a short while longer, thru-hikers Frosty and Jag Happy were passed. Three more hours went by of intense 45-degree ascents and descents. A few pics were taken. The trail headed towards the bottom sharply. Trail angels could be seen tailgating.

A second trail magic? What are the odds? Paul and Christina were cooking ribs, burgers, dogs and had some energy bars with water present. The scents were unreal. To a thru hiker, these are like a hungry bear from miles away getting the scent wafting gently in the wind. Once we arrived, food was devoured and thanks were given before departing.

Lessons learned

Not all towns are right off the trail. Helen, GA was 9 miles away, which required hitching a ride. Branden was first thumbing with no luck. I tried pulling up my pants leg to show my leg and provided no luck, but some “what was that” looks.

After many tries, a ride stopped. Kevin and his daughter shuttled us into town. He was prior navy like Branden. Bless the people who help those in need. This was a beautiful town.

About a few days back, my blow-up pillow kept losing air even with super glue and duct tape on it in 2 different spots.

Laundry, recharging electronics, resupply food, and planning ahead were taken care of first. Wendy’s was spotted in the near distance and both of us headed there. Baconators, fries with shakes were ordered.

We took a nero and zero day to do laundry, recover our bodies, resupply food, plan ahead, and charge electronics.

Thinking ahead, Fontana Dam and the Smokies weren’t far off.

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Comments 1

  • Kelli : May 13th

    Hi Chad,
    Until 1969, Helen, Ga had been a native American area and then a town in the region in which gold was mined by European immigrants.
    In 1969, some”town fathers” rebranded Helen as Bavarian by making building codes requiring Bavarian looking architecture. So, tourism, not heritage. LOL…..most native( post trail of tears) north Georgians are of Scottish and Irish descent. Some English. A tiny bit of German.

    Enjoy your hike. Spring will come to the trail.
    Thanks for your blog.


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