I wanted to add this trip to my blog even though we hiked it last year. It was certainly a trip of a life time and we are planning another section hike or two this year.
I hope you can put yourself in my shoes while reading this and enjoy the journey as much as I did.
Dabo is an excellent hiker and woodsman and made the hike one to remember.
The journey begins…
Oct 1-5, 2018
David “Dabo” Bailey & Steve Gullett
We left Dabo’s house around 6:30 am in route to Neel Gap. We planned to park at the Byron Reece Memorial Park area and meet up with our shuttle.
The shuttle driver is Jeff Moon Shuttle service.
We arrived at 3 pm and Jeff was there waiting on us. After we loaded up it took about an hour and a half to reach the Springer Mountain Parking lot. It’s a rough mountain road that is part gravel and part dirt and a lot of ruts.
We arrived at the parking area around 4:30 pm. Said our final goodbye to the only person we knew on the mountain and decided to set up camp beside the parking lot. We camped at the 1 mile marker of the AT Monday night.
The sky was clear with no rain in the forecast. It dipped to a chilly 59 degrees over night. I fell asleep at 7:30 pm and woke up and thought the sun was just over the horizon. The forest was dark but the sky had a glow. It was 11:30 pm and I was wide awake.
Dabo and I hung out and talked till about 1 am and turned in for the night, again.
Springer Parking lot to Springer Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter
1.0 to 0.0 to 8.1
9.1 miles hiked
I slept well and woke up at 7:00 am. It was still dark but the sun was up within 30 minutes and so was I. I was rested and ready for what the day had in store for us.
After a quick granola bar and swig of water I packed up and was ready to roll. The nervous energy was flowing and we set off for the summit of Springer Mountain.
It took about 30 minutes to hike south on the AT to reach the top. We were now at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Mile marker 0.0.
We found the trail register in a drawer in the side of a rock and signed it. We snapped several pictures and explored the shelter and privy.
We spent about 30 minutes on the summit and decided we better get walking.
We passed the parking lot where we had camped around noon and kept on walking. Our next goal was Hawk Mountain Shelter.
We took a short break at Stover Creek Shelter (2.8) and explored the area. It was too early in the day to stop. We found a stream just over the hill from the shelter to top of our water bottles.
We arrived at Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1) at 4:30 pm.
Ken who was 73 and Lewis who owned a coffee shop were all ready at the shelter and were collecting wood for a camp fire. They were both from Florida and started at Amicalola Falls on Friday. It was now Tuesday and they had traveled about 16 miles but their hike was over. They couldn’t go any farther and had a shuttle scheduled to pick them up at Hightower Gap the next day.
We talked & laughed over the camp fire and turned in around 10 pm.
Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain Shelter
8.1 to 15.7
7.6 miles hiked
I was rewarded with another great night of sleep in the hammock. It sure beats sleeping on the ground.
We got up around 7:30am and broke camp. I collected our water from a spring over the hill behind the shelter and decided to carry 1 liter of water each to make it to the next water source at Cooper Gap. There was an Army Ranger water buffalo (water tank on wheels) there that we could use.
As we left camp we checked with Ken and Lewis to see if they needed anything and they offered to carry our trash out. This is a kind jester as no one wants to carry trash but it must be done.
As soon as we left the shelter we started climbing. The summit of Sassafras Mountain (11.5) was three and a half miles away. We gained elevation for two and a half hours. Sassafras came out of no where and kicked our butts! There was a reward though. On the other side of the mountain at Cooper Gap (12.2) we found the water buffalo. We took a long break, cameled up (drank lots of water), cleaned our bodies and had lunch. We were there for 2 hours. After eating and cleaning up we felt refreshed and ready to push on.
We rolled into Gooch Mountain Shelter around 5 pm. There were two ladies there and they had set up a tent to sleep in.
Dabo and I set up camp about 200 feet from the shelter and their tent to give them and us some privacy.
Roughly 4 more guys rolled in and slept in the shelter that night.
We cooked dinner and chatted some but I was feeling a bit antisocial. I hung out at my hammock and sent text messages to Amy on my gps. There was no cell service there so I used my Garmin Inreach Explorer GPS messenger. I’m able to send text messages through the satellite system. Maybe I was just a little home sick? I find solitude in hiking and camping and like to withdraw and ponder life and the choices I’ve made. I also think about my goals and future plans. I like the quiet time.
Later that evening Dabo and I hung out and talked. We turned in around 10 pm as I was whipped from the day’s activities.
Gooch Mountain Shelter Jarrard Gap
15.7 to 26.1
10.4 miles hiked
It was a long uphill as we hiked up Ramrock Mountain (18.7) and got our first real view of the mountains that we had been walking over. The AT is called the “Green Tunnel” because of the thick forest that blocks all views of the mountains.
Right after we passed Preaching Rock we saw a female hiker standing on the trail with a large rock in hand. She had just seen a snake and was going to persuade it to move along. I asked her to wait so I could get a picture. As I was videoing the lifeless snake it slithered across the trail and into the forest. It was a small Timber Rattle snake.
The snake didn’t get stoned to death and we had seen our first rattle snake on the trail. We were sure it wouldn’t be our last either.
After that every stick we stepped on made us jumpy. Dabo was doing the skip step.
This section of the trail was without a reliable water sources till we arrived at Lance Creek camping area (23.9). As we explored the area we filled up with water and took a 20 minute rest break. I took my shoes and socks off to let them cool down and Dabo took a restroom break.
As we were leaving we hiked about a quarter mile on a side trail. It happens when you aren’t paying attention to the white Blazes on the trees that mark the AT.
We arrived at Jarrard Gap (26.1) around 4:30 pm and called that camp. It’s at the base of Blood Mountain and it positioned us for a shorter day tomorrow. The one thing we were counting on was a water source but it was dry. We had about a liter of water each and made it count.
Dabo was able to find a drip of water coming out of the side of the hill and collected another half liter that he gave to me.
This was our last night on the trail. The days were long but the week was short. I was surely going to miss the trail and the cool nights in the hammock. I was going to miss hanging out with Dabo.
Jarrard Gap to Neel Gap
26.1 to 31.1
5 miles hiked
We were up and out of camp by 9 am so we could get up and over Blood Mountain before it got too hot.
The climb was long but really not that bad. We reached the Blood Mountain Shelter (28.7) around 12:30 pm.
We explored the area, took lots of pictures and had a quick lunch. We drank the last few ounces of water we had and headed down the mountain.
On the way down we spooked a Timber Rattle snake that shook its rattle at us and after a few tense moments it slithered into the underbrush.
We arrived at the parking lot around 2pm and did a quick body clean up. We stunk pretty bad. We were parked at the Byron Reece Memorial Park (30.0).
We were done hiking and drove up to Neel Gap (31.1) and the Mountain Crossings Outfitters store.
I bought a Coke and refrigerator magnet. After living for a week out of my back pack I had no desire to buy more things I didn’t really need.
We spent 5 days and 4 nights hiking around 32 miles on the Appalachian Trail. It’s the longest duration I’ve ever been back country camping at one time. The mountains of Georgia are no joke and you need to have some level of fitness before you tackle them.
I got new hiking shoes before the trip and wore cheap nylon socks. I didn’t get any blisters and my feet held up well. I made sure to take my shoes and socks off during our lunch break or when we planned to be stopped for 15 minutes or longer. I think that helped prevent blisters too.
All my gear held up good and with 4 days of food and a liter and a half of water I started with a pack weight of 25 pounds. On the descent from Blood Mountain I had one meal left and no water. My pack weight was around 18 pounds. This was a great weight to be at and I’m going to see if I can lighten up by about 5 pounds.
I took my smaller tarp and it performed great. I’m not sure it would have been enough coverage if it had rained though so going to check into that.
This has been one of the greatest hiking experiences I’ve ever had. I couldn’t have asked for a better hiking partner than Dabo. He motivated me on the hard climbs and kept me laughing throughout the day. He’s a strong hiker and has a level head even when we run out of water and daylight. He inspires me to be a better hiker and person. Everyone calls him Dabo but I call him my friend.
#backpacking #appalachiantrail #hammockcamping #stevegullettatsectionhike