Week one on trail

This one is long, but not totally as complete as i would like. I had phone issues and lost pictures and power so some of the days journaling couldn’t happen. So, you will see around day 4 it got shorter, now you know why. Question for you readers, leave a comment as to layout of this. Do you want this much info? Do you want other info? Let me know in the comments.

Well, 4.3.21 has now come and gone! I have now been on trail for 6 days, well, currently sitting in a Fairfield Inn in Helen, Ga. The first day started off great! Woke up and went down for breakfast at Amicalola Falls Lodge, not a very good buffet, but, it was food so I ate! We went from there down to the arch at the visitor center at Amicalola Falls to sign in and get our starting number. I am number 1501 and my packed weighed 24 pounds without my 2 liters of water, final destination, I put, Katahdin! From here, we all, Stuart, my girlfriend Suzann, Kelly (my hiking partner), James (Kelly’s husband), and my youngest son Elijah, loaded into the truck and headed up to Springer mountain to start the adventure of a lifetime. This was a change in the original plan, originally we were going to start at the arch and hike up the approach trail, but we decided to save our legs, lungs, feet and bodies and not attempt this 8.8 mile, 3,137.1 foot ascent on the first day, since, of course, this trail was not a white blazed Appalachian Trail.

We arrived at Springer Mountain parking area, and all hiked South for 1 mile following the white blazes to the plaque on Springer Mountain. After taking the obligatory pictures in front of the plaque and signing the trail log, we hiked the 1 mile back to the parking area, where we began our teary goodbyes. It is hard walking away from your youngest son and your girlfriend knowing you won’t see them everyday like normal. All in all, we did pretty well with the goodbyes and they didn’t last long, knowing I would see them again in 2 weeks in Franklin, NC made it a little easier.

Day 1: Mile 0 to Mile 8.1 where we stayed the night at Hawk Mountain Shelter, but we didn’t stay in the shelter. We are staying away from shelters for the most part because of the mice and rat problems that are around them and the overall uncleanliness of the whole shelter idea. We descended 1,800 feet and ascended 1,094 feet for a 350 feet per mile grade. As a whole, it was a good day, there were no really difficult climbs nor were there any major muscle pains or aches. 🙂 With the first day came our first trail magic, at mile 1, it was a AT greeter just welcoming thru hikers and section hikers to the trail.

We hiked a few miles and then Tim came up behind us. Tim is out here as hikingsober, he is celebrating two years of sobriety and wants to do this to show others what is possible in sobriety. I think he wants to have the trail name, “soberhagen” because he is sober and dips Copenhagen! Haha
We continued on and came to a white truck sitting by a road, on this truck was a signs that read, “trail magic” with and arrow pointing down the road. It was one scary site and Kelly and I both agreed we shouldn’t go down there. We started back down the trail but stopped as I read Guthook and the notes saying how great the trail magic was, so, we went for it, and it was a good bunch of trail magic for sure.
We continued on for about 1.5 miles to Hawk Mountain shelter. Here, we setup our tent, cooked our food and chatted with other hikers. By 7:00 I was in my quilt all bundled up. Now to figure out how to stay warm in here! So long for now!

Day 2: Mile 8.1 to Mile 16.9 for a day total of 8.8 miles. Ascended 2,142 feet and descended 2,454 feet for a 505 feet per mile grade. Today, we avoided the shelter all together, when we arrived at the shelter, it was too early to stop and it was already a little crowded. Today, we ran into Tim again and “soberhagen” has in fact stuck as his trail name, and he seemed pretty excited with the name. We stayed at Gooch Gap tonight and met Shawn and his Lab Jake, they were hiking south bound, just for a few days. Just as we were getting into out sleeping bags to go to sleep, bedtime on trail is 8:30ish, a car drove up the forest road and asked if any of us wanted water, and then if we had any trash that we wanted to get rid of. One thing that I have learned on trail is that the rumors were true and part of the reason I chose to do this hike.

Day3: Mile 16.9- 26.2 for a day total of 9.3 mile. Ascended 2,215 feet and descended 1,656 feet for a 404 feet per mile grade. When we were at the first trail magic, by a cemetery, we met a gentleman called, Papa Smurf, white hair with a white beard and round face, who told us he may see us again at Woody Gap. Around noon we can down the short hill into Woody Gap, we didn’t see Papa Smurf, but we did see “the bus”. “The bus”, belongs to the Twelve Tribes, which, as it was explained by a gentlemen there serving, is a religious organization that follows the pattern of the early church written in Acts 2:44 and 4:32, sharing all things in common. For many years this group has provided trail magic to the “pilgrims” who have chose to make this journey north to Katahdin. The group provided lentil stew, a maté tea, which is a highly caffeinated tea leaf that is used in South America in place of coffee by some, and maté trail bars. We continued north from here up and over a few nice climbs to a part of the trail called, Jarrard Gap. Jarrard Gap is the last place one can camp without a bear canister between March 1 and June 1 until Neel Gap, and being that we have no bear canister and didn’t want to hike the 15 miles to Neel Gap, we stayed at Jarrard Gap! Saw our first rattle snake on trail, right in the middle of the trail, today, and it was a pretty good size. Around 2.5-3 feet long with a more rattlers than my boys crib when they were babies!

Day 4 mile 26.2 to mile 35 for a day total of 8.8 miles for the day. Ascended 2,586 feet and descended 2,341 feet, for a grade of 539 feet per mile. Today was the day, today we would climb Blood Mountain and then descend it into Neel Gap! Blood mountain is the highest peak on the AT in the Georgia section and the fourth highest peak in Georgia. Blood Mountain and nearby Slaughter creek, aptly named for a battle that is said to have taken place between the Creek and Cherokee Indians, where, the story goes, the battle was so brutal, the mountain ran red with blood. Coming into Neel Gap, named after a government surveyor, W.R. Neel, one sees the stone building with and arch off to the left side of the building. It is through this arch that an AT Thru-hiker must walk. Fun fact, this is the only man made structure the Appalachian Trail goes through. Towering above the Mountain Crossing Outfitters is an old tree, dangling from this tree are hiking boots and shoes of all shapes and sizes. The story goes, hikers attempting to reach Maine, who get beat down by Sassafras Mountain and Blood Mountain, throw there shoes up into the tree giving up. To me, some of those boots look too perfectly placed, too old, with some really long strings to fit that story, nonetheless, that’s the story and we will go along.

Day 5 mile 35 to mile 44.1 for a 9.1 mile day. We ascended 1,994 feet and descended 2,384 feet, for a grade of 489 feet per mile.

Day 6 was mile 44.1 to mile 52.5 for an 8.4 mile day. We ascended 1,534 feet and descended 1,892 feet, for a grade of 408 feet per mile. At mile 44.1 we setup tents in Poplar Stamp Gap. Mile 52.5 we ended that Thursday hike at Unicoi Gap where we waited for Suzanna to come pick us up. We were staying in town for the weekend and the hike over to the next highway was too far to do in one day so we decided to stay a extra night in town. We chose to go east of the trail into Helen, Ga. instead of west to Hiawasee, Ga.

10 thoughts on “Week one on trail

  1. I like the layout.
    “Day and trail stats” followed by experiences, thoughts, and a few nuggets of info.
    Personally, i like the animal sightings, history, and legends.
    Funny what you said about the “rattlers and the crib”. First thing i told my son when we saw the picture was “more than I’ve ever seen except being held by a medicine man in an old Western” 😆


    • Thanks Patrick. It’s a work in progress. I’m trying to give folks some info about the trail as well as my life on it and it can be a lot so I’m trying to figure what works the best.


  2. Great update! My wife & I know the feeling about leaving a son behind. We moved to South Africa in 2/2014 & returned back 2/2019 with only seeing him through Skype calls or a couple of short trips home about once a year. Place your kids in God’s hands & it will be taken care of. Sounds like a great start. Just spoke with part of your work team. Looking forward to connecting up. Stay safe!


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