Our hike from Springer to Neel Gap took us up 6000 feet and down over 7200 feet, over 31 miles through Georgia’s back woods. With this being prime Appalachian Trail hiking season, we were never really alone the whole time. We saw plenty of other hikers heading north and south, and more than a few day hikers doing Blood Mountain on Sunday.
We started out getting shuttled by Tom Basemore, a nice guy but his van reeked of dog. His van, his rules, but when you are in the transport business, it would be nice to keep the family pet stench out of the business vehicle. The ride to Springer was bumpy and curvy, but he finally dumped us at the trail.
Unfortunately, Springer Mountain is the wrong way from the closest drop off point. But one of our group had done the walk up several times, and watched the packs. So we walked a mile uphill to Springer unencumbered, and ran into a group of women out for the day hiking and birdwatching.
Pictures taken, we headed back downhill and began our Northward Journey with the full weight of three days of food and supplies on our backs. We spread out quickly, a few having gone on ahead, and a few lagging behind. 9 miles in we passed Hawk Mountain Shelter. Clay elected to stay at some tent sites, and the rest of us soldiered on. I had intended on staying a but farther than the shelter, and the other hikers apparently agreed. We found a site near the summit of Sassafras mountain wide enough for everyone, after a long 12 mile day with a good bit of uphills. I can see why people give up in Georgia who are attempting a thru-hike. Georgia is pretty tough. Temperatures were supposed to be in the mid 70s, but the sun was bright and the trees hadn’t fully leafed out yet, so there was little shade.
I tried my hand at doing some Ham radio stuff at sunset, but I couldn’t get anyone to call back. I’ve decided against taking my 2 meter walkie on any more trips. I’ve taken it on three now, with no answer. 2 meters seems to be more of a local hobbyist thing and repeater-user group anyway. Because of weather and so much poison ivy off the trails, I didn’t pull the HF set out again, but its battery was handy for charging the phone.
Day 2 was long and arduous much like day one. We covered about 12.5 miles going up and down a lot. It stayed a bit cloudy most of the day, which was a nice change. All in all, day 2 was great. I stopped at a shelter and boiled some water so I could scrub some grunge off myself and have a shave. It felt great having a “bandanna bath” and getting some of the crud off my body.
We finally found a place to camp, that evening, really at the intersection between two trails near Lance Creek. The whole group was back together by this point. There was a fire restriction and no streams nearby, so some people just sat around by the empty fire pit. I went to the hammock for a rest until near sundown. After a brief reappearance, I retreated once again to the hammock to watch Game of Thrones episodes I had copied to the phone. Right about 9pm I heard the first few raindrops hit my tarp. I was glad we were expecting the rain, because I had set my doors up for it. I will say the UGQ Winterdream tarp performed admirably in a good downpour for about 30 minutes.
The rain quit and I drifted off to sleep. I didn’t sleep as well the second night because the hammock was not even and I kept sliding downhill. My underquilt (I used the summer underquilt I made) was perfect. Temperatures were in the 50s and I wasn’t too hot or too cold.
The last day was one of the hardest. We had to go uphill over 1800 feet or so, up down up down up down, up to the top of Blood Mountain. The day was really breezy. Even though the thermometer said it was in the 60s, most of us were in jackets, even using gloves. The air whipped through the hollows and over the ridges. At the top of Blood mountain I ran completely out of food. I had timed it just right, carrying not an ounce too much. I had even eaten an offered bagel. Coming down from Blood Mountain was harder than going up. The North side was definitely a bigger struggle than the south side. But finally the store at Neel Gap was in view. I headed down to the car, and shuttled Pete to his.
It wasn’t long before the group was together again in the parking lot, and had to figure out where to eat lunch. We wound up at El Campesino in Cleveland, Ga., and then split off for home.
Our hike video: