Springer to Neels Gap…

This past weekend a couple of buddies and I packed up and headed to Springer Mtn, the southern terminus on the Appalachian Trail. Our plan was to take a nice casual 3.5 days and finish up at Neels Gap! This is a bit of a sentimental hike for myself since it was the very first backpacking trip that my wife and I embarked upon, so I was really anticipating it. As well, for my buddy Andrew (Blister), this was his very first backpacking trip and I thought it would be cool for him to do the first 30 mile section of the AT. My other buddy George (chode) has some past backpacking experience but he was looking forward to this new adventure…

So, this past Saturday morning (1/14/12) we ate breakfast in the small town of Blairsville, GA and then headed to Byron Reece parking area, just down the road from Neels Gap. From here Wes Wissen (706-747-2671) shuttled us to the parking area at Springer Mtn.

Once we arrived here, we loaded up and hiked up to the summit of Springer Mtn, took some opportunities to take a few photos and enjoy the view. We also went down to the shelter on top of Springer before beginning our hike… There were only patches of ice that were along the trail, but unfortunately nothing worth using my Microspikes for. The temperatures were in the mid teens and the wind was blowing… it made for a cool start…

As we went along, the day warmed. The first few miles of the trail teased us with its gentle rises and wide trails. The few water crossings we encountered offered thoughts of a gentle hike…but I knew better!

As the miles slipped away under our boots, the trail quickly grew a bit more fierce. The ascents grew steeper, and ever longer…and the descents were filled with rocks and roots that made every effort to trip us up…but we endured…and we smiled… (Although, it was a bit easier to smile on the tops of the mountain…)

At the end of the day we came to our destination, Hawk Mtn Shelter. When we arrived there were a few high school students in the shelter, but that was ok because we had plans to use our tents… There were quite a few flat spots around the shelter that were suitable for camping. We chose a site directly behind the shelter and made camp. After settling in we gathered fire wood, made our dinner and then a fire. Then we sat back, relaxed, enjoyed each others company and gazed up into the star-filled sky…

The next morning we slept in a little since we had a short day, not to mention that the temperature was quite cold again (estimated in the mid teens again). Once we ate breakfast and packed up we began our hike again.

The 2nd day was much the same as the first, minus the gentle rolling slopes that the first few miles offered. This day had more than a few up’s and down’s, and they were anything but gentle! Coming out of Hightower Gap, summiting Sassafras and even Justus Mtn offered quite a challenge. However, despite the deep breaths and slow pace, we rose up to these challenges and defeated them…and with smiles…

We arrived to Gooch Mtn shelter a little later than we had anticipated, but was happy to find it empty. However, we still decided to pitch our tents, but was happy to take advantage of the picnic table and the bench/table across the front of the shelter. And of course the fire ring…

The next morning we broke camp a little earlier. This day we had 11.9 miles to cover and despite the previous day’s warmer temperatures, on this day, the temperatures had again fallen pretty low. However, we still did our routine…breakfast, pack and hike on out.

We anticipated a fairly easy day up to Woody’s Gap and decided to take our lunch at Dan Gap, which was just over the biggest climb of the day, Cedar Mtn. Once we got near Dan Gap we met some other hikers that informed us that the water at Woods Hole Shelter was rumored to be sparse, which was our destination for the night. So, we decided to refill our water at Jarrard Gap, which was about 1.3 miles away from Woods Hole Shelter.

Along the way we decided to refill before Jarrard’s Gap due to the long hike off the trail to get the water, not to mention that the day was now growing later. So, we stopped and refilled at a small puddle that stretched across the trail…it was interesting, but it was water…

When we arrived at Woods Hole Shelter the sun was setting. It was beautiful, but it was also time to get busy. We quickly whipped up some warm water for dinner, pitched our tents and stoked a fire. Then, as we were sitting there a deer curiously approached, easily within a rocks throw, or actually a toss. After a bit I decided to snap a picture but couldn’t get close enough to get anything but a dark picture…

Before heading off we had decided to rise early and break camp to beat the oncoming precipitation. So, the next morning we woke up around 5:15 am. I had some coffee and then packed up. Around 7 am I decided to head on up to the shelter at Blood Mtn. By the time I got to the summit I was engulfed in a cold dreary cloud. The wind was blowing and rain was falling, but it was great!

I holed up in the shelter and awaited my buddies arrival. Once they got there we began making our way down towards Neels Gap, to the finish…

The last time I was on Blood Mtn was as beautiful as one could ask. My wife and I had stayed the last night of our hike on the tippy-top of Blood. The sky was as clear as could be and we had wonderful views, both during the day and at night. This time was not the same.

We made our way slowly down. The rock face was wet and the wind was blowing with occasional small gust, however, we successfully made it off the mountain. Once we came to where the Byron Reece trail intersected with the AT, my buddies took this trail while I continued down the AT. They hiked back to the truck and then drove to Mountain Crossings.

And the rest is history…

Click here for my pictures.

Thanks for reading!

~Stick~

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
This entry was posted in The Trail, Trip Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to Springer to Neels Gap…

  1. Isabella Delatorre says:

    Hi, I’m planning to do this hike with my dog in a few weeks from now. I was wondering if it is possible to do it in just 3 full days.

    Thank you

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Isabella,

      Hi. This section is only 29 miles, and I would say it is easily doable in 3 full days. In my opinion, the first 7 miles or so are very easy, with lots of water. After that it becomes a little more difficult and water is not as abundant, but still not bad. Just check your maps and be sure to ask others as you see them. Water is a popular talking point. 😁

      However, it always comes back to you and your ability, and in this case your dogs. Check out some profile maps and figure out what you and your dog are capable of doing. If you can’t make it all the way there are several places to bail and get a ride. Woodys Gap is a good spot if you need it.

      Hope this helps, and happy hiking!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  2. Pat Combee says:

    NIce vids! Took me back to my ’06 hike of GA. I loved the section you did, a lot. But you be right about Sassafras Kick-my-butt (would use other word, but I like to keep is somewhat PG). Nice info on your gear. I really like to see gear, as well as people, in action. It helps to assess whether it will work for me or not. I might have to try me some of the Hawk vittles.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Pat,

      I was pretty excited to do this section again too. But I am also looking forward to doing more. I would really like to finish GA at least, which shouldn’t be much since I have up to Unicoi Gap done…

      I encourage you to check out the Hawk Vittles. I really loved the Cowboy Pasta and the Sweet Italian Sausage w/ Pasta. I will be getting those again!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  3. Dave Jenkins says:

    Great update! Did you get a chance to toss a large NeoAir in the tent to see the fit?

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Sorry Dave, the guy that had the large NeoAir had to bail on us right before we left. Maybe I can track ne down on the trail eventually. Again, I apologize that I couldn’t get that picture for you.

      Like

  4. Martin Rye says:

    Like it and thanks for sharing.

    Like

  5. Jester says:

    Great vids man! I love bad weather too. It allows me to really test my gear and push its limits. I hike the AT in NH all the time (since I live in MA). Love GA and hoping to start section hiking in the next few years.
    -Jester

    Like

  6. Mockingbird says:

    Hi Stick! I enjoyed the taste of what I have coming to me on my thru-hike. Hoping to try the Hawk Vittles at some point as well. Looks like you had a good time!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Mockingbird,

      Glad that you enjoyed it…and I know that you are probably itching to get out there! I wish you the best of luck on your journey…and I wish I could be joining you…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  7. Brian Green says:

    NIce trip report, makes me miss the AT even though it’s on my doorstep. You’re two buddies look like they packed everything they own in those huge backpacks, didn’t you give them any tips on cutting back – even just a little? Poor guys.

    Looks like you all had fun though and that is what it’s all about. I just realized that we’re really not that far from one another are we? We should think about doing a long weekend hike this year, if you’re interested? There are a bunch of us all within a few hours, we could see who else is interested. Would you be game?

    Like

    • Joslyn says:

      Brian, with a good 1-2 month notice (stupid job), you can count me in for sure!

      Great post, Stick. Sorry you didn’t get any snow and ice to try out those microspikes in. It’s been a really warm winter and even now we’re back up to 50-60F in the city. Last year around this time we needed microspikes to walk to the grocery store!

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Brian,

      Actually, the blue pack was my first pack, and pretty much all of the gear in it was my old stuff too…when I first stepped out at Amicalola with this gear my weight was 56+ lbs! Then, I started picking up “cool stuff” that I found along the way…like I needed more weight. Anyway, this was Andrew’s (the guy carrying my old gear) first backpacking trip of this magnitude so he wanted to be sure that he had what he needed, which I completely understand because that was me back a few years ago… but, he also had plenty of stuff to share with other hikers that he met along the way and I am sure that they really appreciated it… But, one night sitting around the fire, he did make the comment “You may just have something to this ultralight stuff.” Haha…

      A trip together would be fun. How about maybe a Friday – Sunday, maybe the weekend of the 6th or the 20th of April? I could probably leave Thursday after work to meet everyone and then we could hike out Friday, but I would have to be back on the road by noon Sunday… And where would you want to do the section at? Just let me know.

      How about you Joslyn? The more the merrier… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Joslyn says:

      For sure! As a vote I’d go for the 20th but either would work for me.

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Sounds good Joslyn. Let’s see what everyone else has to say!

      Like

  8. Gizmo Joe says:

    Hey Stick,

    Liked the videos and glad to see all the gear is working out well for you. I just got my zero pack with a few addons and am waiting on my hexa tarp and inner tent, cant wait to try them out myself haha. It was nice to see some of the places I stayed at on that section of the trail like Hawk and Gooch shelter, GA is nice but it can get steep real quick.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Joe,

      Sweet! I gotta order a Zero pack in a small. The only add on I will get will be a front pocket. I will use my Multipack in conjunction with the Zero. And I am curious about the interior space when using one of the inner tents, so you will have to let me know how that works out. I love the versatility that an inner tent offers though. When I got my Hexamid I liked that the floor offered the full amount of possible interior room.

      And I agree, those trails can get steep, quick. But it was cool because my pack weight was not a problem! 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Gizmo Joe says:

      Yea the zero pack is really awesome…….I would agree with you that the front mesh pocket is worth getting. I will let you know how the tent floor space looks………I am finally going to suck-it-up and start reviewing some of my gear……heck the hexamid might be the first review I do.

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Joe,

      The only thing that I really use my side pockets for now is my fuel and just some other things that don’t have to go in them. As seen in my packing video, they are pretty empty actually. One of the reasons that I wand the front mesh pocket though is in case I need to dry put some of my gear/clothing. I like that the cuben is lighter than the mesh by half the weight so I am debating a cuben pocket with a mesh strip at the bottom to allow drainage. I don’t know though…

      I will look forward to your reviews!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  9. Keith says:

    Hey Chad,
    If the LT4s won’t lock just pop the pole apart and turn down the rubber gasket, put it back together and you should be good.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Keith,

      Thanks for the tip. But I actually tried that. When I couldn’t get it too lock down I pulled it apart. What baffled me is that even with the expander screwed all the way down (in the locked position) the shaft would just glide right over it. After just messing with it for a minute or so it finally caught. I did call and talk to Michael at GG about some stuff and brought this up. I think that it came down to the fact that it was next to a heater vent in the truck on the ride down, and then immediately exposed to mid teen temps when I got out of the truck and started hiking. So, the weather actually caused the temporary condition, but after that, it was no problem at all. So, I just guess that when going from one extreme to the other, I need to try and warm up the pole a bit before locking it down.

      ~Stick~

      Like

  10. Jim Henegar says:

    Hey Chad,

    Just wanted to say: Awesome and Excellent video’s buddy. When I saw 3 forks, all I could thing about ( trout trout trout ) I know that has to be a good place to catch supper 🙂 Looks like you were pretty whooped that one nite you were talking about stayin in the shelter (woods hole maybe). I’m probably 20 yrs older than you, just wondering if I could have kept up….NOT. Anyway, thanks for taking us along on your hike buddy.
    Oh yea, what kind of camera are you using, it looks like it would be fine for a tru hike. Reckon you ain’t using a stick pic so guess you just hold it in your hand while your hiking? I will have to check your still pics and see how good they are.

    thanks again

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Jim,

      We didn’t see a thing in the river there. Not saying there wasn’t, but we didn’t witness anything. Currently, I am not really a fisherman, nor a hunter. However, eventually I would really like to try my hand at Tenkara…

      And yeah, you coulda kept up with us. We took it slow and as easy as possible. Speaking of which, Brian made mention of a group hike a few posts up (or down?). Maybe if we get something up you can come along?

      The camera is a panasonic Lumix FH20. I do like it, but I am afraid that I have scratched the lens(?) or the glass part when the shutter opens up. The only thing I don’t like about it though is that it will not zoom when videoing. Other than that it has been a great camera!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  11. Wallace says:

    thanks man. It was a good read and I appreciate you bringing me back to all the memories of the hike I had over blood mountain.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Wallace,

      No problem man…trust me I totally enjoyed it…especially over Blood. The “bad” weather was great man! Sometime we need to get out together…

      Say, you want to hit up the Wonderland Trail in September?

      ~Stick~

      Like

Leave Your Comment Here:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s