AT Section Hike & My “HYOH” Rant

Last Thursday I jumped in my car and drove up to Woody Gap, which as many probably know is a gap along the Appalachian Trail 20 miles north of Springer Mountain. I had a separate pack with my hammock, an UQ, TQ and my GoLite tarp, along with a couple of other items. Once I got there I headed to a camping area just off the trail and hung my hammock for the night…

Around 3 am I awoke to a light show in the sky. Realizing that it was about to start raining pretty well, I decided to take down my set-up and go ahead and put it all back in the car while it was still dry. After doing this, I walked around the gap, just hanging out and enjoying being on the trail for a bit before heading back to the car and napping just a little more before sun rise… listening to the rain beat down on the car…

The next morning I woke up just after the sun came up. The rain had stopped so I went ahead and pulled out my Jetboil and started boiling some water for some coffee. Brian Green had sent me a couple more of the Grower’s Cup coffee packages, so I was able to enjoy a nice cup of Ethiopia in my Kupilka 21…which I have got to admit, was quite nice…sitting there on the trail, enjoying a nice cup of coffee on a cool morning.

Once I finished my coffee and got changed into my hiking get-up, I waited on my buddy Hiking Shoes and his gf, FireStarter to show up. Once everyone was all there and ready, we all hopped into Wes Wissen’s red Jeep Cherokee for a shuttle to the Springer Mountain parking area.

Around 10:30 am myself, along with hiking Shoes & FireStarter all piled out of the Jeep and strapped our packs to begin our hike…

The itinerary for the next 3 days looked a little something like this:

  • Day 1: Springer parking area >> Hawk Mountain Shelter (6.8 miles)
  • Day 2: Hawk Mountain Shelter >> Gooch Mountain Shelter (7.3 miles)
  • Day 3: Gooch Mountain Shelter >> Woody Gap (5 miles)

This was my third time actually hiking this section of the trail, and I have got to say that I thoroughly enjoyed each and every step of it! Just because I had hiked this part of the trail before did not make it any less exciting! To be honest, it was a bit opposite. The first time I ever hiked this section was on my very first hiking trip ever. My wife and I stepped out in September of ’09 from Amicalola Falls Visitor Center and hiked to Neels Gap, so considering this, it is a rather sentimental hike for me. As well, I had also hiked from Springer Mountain to Neels Gap this past January with my boss and his buddy, George. So, along the entire trail, I was filled with memories of my other hikes, and this just made it that much better, at least for me…

I will admit though, that even despite me carrying a number of pieces of redundant gear, my total pack weight was minimal at just under 14 lbs with everything! This has not been my lightest pack, but it was close. So, when considering my “ultralight” pack and the very short miles per day, this was a very casual trip. But, it was fun, and I got to paly with some awesome gear!

The first day was a breeze. In my opinion, the trail between the parking area and Hawk Mountain Shelter can be very misleading to potential thru-hikers. Very little elevation change; nice, wide sections of trail; bubbling brooks running alongside much of the trail…let me just say, it is a very nice, relaxing walk and seems to make some misleading promises… but that don’t mean it wasn’t any fun…  🙂

We arrived at the shelter that afternoon around 5 pm. Due to the constant rumblings in the sky and the muddy looking sites all around the shelter, we decided to invade the empty shelter for the night rather than pitching our tents… So, Hiking Shoes and FireStarter pitched the inner to his MSR Carbon Reflex inside the shelter, and I slung my Borah Bivy out in the other corner…

The good thing about hiking short miles is that I had plenty of time to spend at camp… (almost too much…) However, this allowed me plenty of time to try out my Trail Designs Sidewinder Caldera Cone in wood mode! I scoured the already well picked over camping area for any thumb sized pieces of dead wood, that was not wet, or green. After about 15 – 20 minutes of searching, I finally found what I hoped would be enough…

As I began striking away at my Exotac PolyStriker towards the lint trap with a firestarter nestled within the cone, trying to get my fire going, Hiking Shoes and FireStarter fired up their Coleman F1 canister stove and began boiling water for their meals. After about 10 minutes of small, quick flame-ups in my cone I finally got the wet, green pieces of wood going somewhat. After a bit of tending and feeding, the fire was going well enough to place my 1.3L Evernew UL CookPot with my Fastpack Pad Thai inside over the fire to begin heating. Then, of course, a few minutes later my meal was bubbling up inside the cookpot! Time to eat!

By the time we finished cleaning up our cook kits, sorting the rest of our gear and hanging our bear bags it was around 7 pm and the sun was still going strong. Not too much longer, Hiking Shoes & FireStarter decided they were ready to lay down, so I went ahead an did the same…

This is where I decided that I had too much time to spend sitting around at the shelter… I was hardly sleepy, and the hike that day did little to tire me out. So, I laid there… Finally around 9 pm I decided to take a couple of Tylenol PM’s…

The next morning, we got up around 7 am. We pulled our bear bags down and started  going through our morning routines. My breakfast consisted of 2 small bags of the Hostess Mini Muffins, a Snickers bar and a cup of coffee, which gave me reason to yet again use my Caldera Cone! Although I didn’t have time to collect more wood, or to let a wood fire burn out, so I opted to use Esbit to boil my water for the coffee. And I have got to say… the Cone worked beautifully…

We pulled out around 9 am and started making our way towards Gooch Mountain Shelter for the night. I will admit, even though the miles were still short on our 2nd day, the terrain had a bit more to offer in terms of challenges, but still nothing major. The 2 big climbs of the day was about a 750 foot climb out of Horse Gap, up Sassafras Mountain and then a little over 400 foot climb up Justus Mountain.

When we arrived at Horse Gap, I decided to hike out at my own pace and then to wait on Hiking Shoes and FireStarter at Cooper Gap, 1.6 miles farther down the trail. I was pleased that it only took me 35 minutes from start to finish for this section, although it made me want to continue on at the same pace. So, while I was waiting at Cooper Gap I decided to shoot some more video on something that had been on my chest the last few weeks, my thought on “HYOH”… This can be seen in the video at the beginning of this post at around 10:00 into the video. This piece is immediately followed by a quick look at everything I carried with me on this trip…

A little farther down the trail we made our way to Justus Creek. This is a very cool little area on the trail to me. The trail heading up to Justus Creek is a fun stroll, a constant, but small series of up’s and down’s in a nicely wooded area which comes out to a series of steps leading down to the creek. Once I got here I waited on Hiking Shoes and FireStarter to catch back up. When they arrived, there was actually 2 more in their party. Erich and Nick had hiked out that morning at Springer Mountain and were heading to the same shelter that we were that night. When they arrived at justice Creek we found out that their filter had broken earlier that day, so Hiking Shoes kindly filled their bottles with his filter while he was at it.

After filling our bottles we all talked for a bit and then headed on down the trail…

Around 4:30 I hiked into Gooch Mountain Shelter. It was empty at the moment, but I knew that there was going to be at least 4 more at the shelter for the night. So, I began walking around the woods again and collecting more wood, although I must admit, the wood that I was able to find here was much drier and less green. Although, this wood was so dead that much of it was crumbling apart…so I picked through it and kept the best pieces.

By this time everyone else had also made it to the shelter. I went ahead and started the fire up inside my Caldera Cone to get my meal going, which was much easier this time (as can be seen about 30 minutes into the video above). While cooking my meal, another young guy and his gf showed up at the shelter. They had hiked in from Woody Gap for a simple overnight hike. They immediately began stringing their hammocks up in the surrounding trees.

Just as I was finishing up cleaning up my Caldera Cone and putting it away, the rain started to fall. I ran out and helped the younger guy pull his hammocks down and carry everything into the shelter. After this, we all sat inside the shelter, talking amongst ourselves, just waiting on the rain to stop…

A couple of hours later the rain finally did stop, but by then we had all already made our beds inside the shelter. Erich and Nick had claimed the top bunk in the shelter, my bunch claimed the bottom platform and the couple that hiked in had hung their hammocks inside the shelter. So, as the sun began to settle below the mountains, I again laid there and tossed and turned… Yet again, the day did little to actually tire me out and I was restless…

Around 9 pm I again took 2 more Tylenol PM’s… They worked again, however, only until around 3:30 am. When I woke up at 3:30, I found that I was unable to go back to sleep. So, around 4:30, me, Hiking Shoes and FireStarter all got up and made our breakfast. After this, we got our packs all packed up and then headed up the trail to our final destination, Woody Gap!

This was definitely a fun part of the hike…night hiking! I strapped on my super-awesome ZebraLight H51 headlamp (of course with my DIY headband) and took off! The night was quite dark, and the clouds and fog made it seem that much darker, and of course, the ZebraLight really shined! This has not been the first time that I got to use this headlamp on a night hike this summer, and after some use, I can say that this is a really great light for everything from using around camp in the midst of other people, to night hiking, to throwing a bear line!

So, at just under 3 hours later I was standing back at Woody Gap. My hike was done. Hiking Shoes and FireStarter was still back on the trail, but I had a long drive ahead of me so I cleaned up as best as I could with about half a gallon of water and changed back into some clean clothes, then headed back home…

(Click HERE for all the photos from the hike.)

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.
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21 Responses to AT Section Hike & My “HYOH” Rant

  1. moka says:

    hi Stick,
    late answer, lots of work after 5 days off. i was walking about 25-30km daily, depending on the island. great places, not many people at this time of the year, now i know why, typical autumn weather here:(
    thanks for tips.
    how is your taped hexamid doing? do you really want to change it for duomid or only test it?
    i did have a look at enLIGHTened equipment’s, thanks. great stuff, big choice. they do not though do twin quilts. i might contact them, maybe i still will be able to order one there.
    i decided to purchase backcountry boiler. before i buy it want to find a mug which can nest the boiler. will see if i find anything on youtube.
    thanks again for all tips, really helpful.
    best regards from rainy sweden…

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Moka,

      Is Autumn really wet and rainy in Sweden?

      My Hexamid is doing great. Still no complaints.

      As far as the DuoMid, I don’t need it by no means, however, I like it. I would like to try one of these with a Solo Inner Net inside it. I like the idea of having a fully enclosed sleeping area as well as an open, yet still covered area. To be honest though, since I don’t need it…I will more than likely go with the Silnylon version simply because it is less expensive, however, I will still have to wait until I can afford it…

      I know that Tim doesn’t have any double quilts on his site, but I was just wanting to make a suggestion if you thought about just going with a single person quilt.

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Adam Chance says:

      I’ve just done day hikes, I may try a overnight in the area in November.

      Like

  2. Adam Chance says:

    I would LOVE to section hike the AT. I hope my GF and I can eventually find a likeminded group.

    Like

  3. moka says:

    Hi Stick,
    Thank you for the video! It got me thinking. Would it be more efficient to cook 2 cups at the time? And choose caldera for smaller pot? 0.6l? I am using dehydrated food, so I am only cooking water for that and some tea/coffee.
    I looked at your UL cooking system, amazing!!! I am a beginner, so no doing myself stuff right now. But I found amazing T.E.A. system from Suluk46. Even Caldera keg is available for esbit, seems great too. Wonder if those systems might be something for me. If that is not enough for 2 persons maybe we have 2 of those, one for cooking water for food, the other for warm drink. Considering weight this is still a win. ?

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Moka,

      Glad that you liked the video…thanks for the inspiration! 🙂

      I would always suggest to boil all the water at the same time if you can. However, saying that, with smaller cookpots, I have been known to fill the pot up and begin boiling the water. Once it is hot and there are tiny bubbles in the bottom I sometimes pour some off for my hot drink and then top of the water in the cookpot again… However, when I do this, it is because I am using a smaller volume cookpot, and truth be told, I don’t do it too often.

      As far as choosing a smaller pot, that is a personal decision kind of thing. It will depend on your cooking method mainly. However, for one person, I would suggest the 0.9L cookpot, for 2 though, I would suggest the 1.3L. Also, I would make the decision on how most of your trips are planned to go…if most are going to be solo trips with an occasional 2nd person, I would go with the 0.9L. The 0.9L can still easily work for 2, especially if you are doing Freezer Bag Cooking. However, if you are planning to have 2 people more often, I would go with the bigger 1.3L. This is just my suggestion though…

      I know where you are coming from thinking about all of this and then the DIY part of it…but, don’t sell yourself short on it…this stuff is pretty easy actually. Plus, if you Google it, you will come up with something to help guide you, or even better, search for it on YouTube…it is amazing at what they put on there… Plus, the satisfaction of using something that you made is great!

      As far as that T.E.A. system, if you are considering something like this, I would say go for it! He just made that available on his main page not too long ago. By this time I had already had my system…however, if not, I would have bought his system…and just for the fun of it, I still may one day… If you haven’t noticed already, I enjoy tinkering with different cook systems, and own a few…I love just about all of them! 🙂 Anyway though, I have had good experiences with Steve, so yes, I do recommend his stuff…

      Backtracking a little…but yes, having 2 of those systems for each person could also be a good thing. I myself like to have my own kit, even when I go with others (unless it is my wife, then I carry stuff we can share so her pack is as light as it can be…) Even with my 10 year old son though, most of the time he has his own set-up. I like it though, especially with friends. You never know if someone may need to get off the trail, but then you have to figure out how to divvy up all the “shared” items. Anyway, just a thought…

      Hope this helps some and good luck with your decision!

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • moka says:

      hi Stick,
      thank you for your reply, appreciate a lot your time and your advice. must admit it’s a great thing to read your blog while preparing my morning coffee (at the moment cooking water on a fire). here in sweden morning, 6grC, autumn. i am doing few days light trekking in stockholms archipelago, by ferry from one island to another, then walking across islands to catch next boat. beautiful!
      i always liked to be independent, so 2 UL sets might work for me/us. need though a little bit more time before making my choice. TEA set is a winner at the moment. there is also backcountry boiler. i love to make fire, this great feeling of freedom, no need of caring around fuel of any sort. and now thanks to Devin, its small, light and very efficient. 4,5 min for 2 cups! wow. well, will see what i/we will end up with.
      as i mentioned before i am a beginner to light/ultralight backpacking. ahead of me making lots of choices: cooking set, backpack, quilt and tent/tarp. i did not choose yet backpack, i have troubles to find “woman” backpack here in europe. i would like to try it, feel it. receiving a backpack from us and then sending it back to us if not suitable for me feels complicated. unfortunately most of the amazing ul stuff is us made 🙂 maybe huckepack made in germany…
      i am afraid a little bit of tarp idea, so first stop on a way to ul backpacking will be light tent i think (at the moment thinking about tarptent double rainbow). quilt – first choice a double quilt by zpacks. waiting though for first reviews on youtube. what do you think about those choices?
      ok, my water is boiling. have to run 🙂 thanks again. moka

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Moka,

      No problem at all, I enjoy the interaction! 🙂

      Your walk sounds fun. How long are you taking to do it and how much land are you covering?

      As far as the stoves, if you enjoy making fire, then the Backcountry Boiler may be a better way to go. Obviously you cannot make fires in the Tea Systems. Also, if you prefer wood fires, maybe something like the EmberLit, or the FireFly would be better for you? These stoves are wood stoves first and foremost, but the great thing about these stoves is that they will work with a wide range of different cook pots. Also, I believe that they can also use alcohol stoves or Esbit tablets with them to, although there may be extras that you would need? (Say with Esbit, you may have to have a stand or something to put in them to get the tablet closer to the bottom of the pot. However, as we talked about earlier, if you will only be using one cook pot though, then the sidewinders really are great systems…

      Concerning the backpack, I understand the frustration of getting one and it not being what you expected, although I imagine that it would be worse for you considering the shipping prices! However, it is always good advice to get your pack last. Get everything else first and then based on the rest of your gear, determine what size pack you need. And I hear lots of great things about the Huckepacks! Hendrik Morkel from Hiking In Finland loves them! I see them mentioned in other places to, but they are not easy to get in the US, so not many reviews around here of them. I myself would like to get my hands on one though… 🙂

      As far as a light weight tent, Six moon Designs has the Lunar Solo and the Skyscape Trekker which are both nice tents and rather lightweight. (I owned the Skyscape Trekker, but then sold it for a cuben fiber tent.) As well, Henry Shire’s TarpTents look really ncie too. I don’t feel like you could go wrong with either option…

      On the other hand, if you were interested in an enclosed, floorless shelter, the Pyramid design shelters are a great way to go too. Check out the SoloMid and the DuoMid from MLD… (Eventually, I want to get a DuoMid…)

      As much as I love my ZPacks gear, I cannot comment on his quilts. However, based on everything else I have, I think that I would be happy with the quality of the quilt. I can vouch for enLIGHTened equipment’s quilts though. I recently bought 2, but sold one and am waiting on another one right now (actually, I believe that it is getting sewn today!) Tim is a superb guy to deal with. Very interactive and his quilts are great quality too. And his prices are really good too. He sells his X quilts which the shell is made with seconds, however, the seconds is because of cosmetic defects, and from everyone that seems to have one, it is very minor, hard to tell really. The quality is still there though, but he can use less expensive materials for the shell, so he can sell them for less expensive…

      Hope this helps some!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  4. moka says:

    Hi again,
    Here comes more details:
    I am using cooking set only for cooking water, so simmering option is not needed. Usually need 4 cups boiling water. So all comes to the question: Which system (ti stove & ti windscreen) is more efficient? caldera sidewinder ti-tri or flatcatgear bobcat?
    Time for boiling 4 cups? Would 2 esbits be enough?
    I would very much appreciate your suggestions / opinion. I did not find any comparing of those cooking systems.
    Best regards from Sweden.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Moka,

      Again, I cannot say about the Bobcat system. However, I did go out today and filled up my 1.3L cookpot with 4 cups of water and set a single Esbit underneath it…I am uplaoding the video right now and should have it all posted by tonight…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  5. moka says:

    Hi Stick,
    Which system in your opinion is better: caldera sidewinder ti-tri or flatcatgear bobcat? I am looking for a light cooking system for 2 persons. I would probably choose evernew 1300 pot. I would use mainly esbit. Any suggestions?
    Thank you.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Moka,

      I have not used the Bobcat system, so I can’t really comment on that set-up. I can say that I have been happy with my Caldera Cone so far though. However, I would like to point out that the Bobcat system cannot burn wood, so if you ever want to burn wood in it, then the Bobcat system would not be an option. On the other hand, if burning wood is something that you never plan to do, then either system will work.

      As far as the pot, for 2 I think that 1.3L is a good size, however, it also will depend upon what type of cooking that you like to do…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  6. Keith says:

    Going over the same section of trail can be different each time. Every mile changes by the season, weather, personal mood, companions. I heard an interview with a hiker named Baltimore Jack. He’s done the AT like 8 times (plus sections). He said it never bores him.

    Like

  7. Joslyn says:

    Amen! I know I can get going on rants myself pretty good too, but that was a good one! I recently had a conversation with John A. about some of the things you brought up in your HYOH rant and I think it’s really interesting that there have been several people recently to really be going back and really thinking about what those four little letters really mean. One of the ones that I’ve been working through myself is, Unless I’m hammocking, I like tents and I don’t like tarps with bug netting. Now I do prefer tarptents and not the traditional type of tent, but there are many people who would try to tell me that I can’t really be experiencing nature to the fullest in any tent. Well I’m asleep. I don’t need to experience nature in my sleep, in fact I prefer not to. Waking up with any guests is one of my deal breakers. That’s me. Hiking is one of those really cool things where there is a system and gear that will fit any hiking and camping style out there and there are so many different types of people that hike. Why do so many people try to force all hikers to conform to only one way when there are so many cool things to try that all work just fine? People aren’t cookie cutter copies of each other, so why should all our gear and methods be?

    Like

  8. So, I’m curious…is this a common thing to take your hammock down if it starts raining? Because I live in Oregon and that would never fly! I’d never be able to go backpacking!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Heather,

      No, it is not a common thing, however, I will admit that I am still quite green when it comes to hammocks. I enjoy their comfort, but a tent just seems right to me when “camping” so I don’t get a lot of use with it. However, what really made me decide to take it down and retreat to the car was because I was not sure how well my GoLite tarp was going to keep the set-up dry. It was pitched as an Asym, and to be quite honest, I was not sure it was perfect… So, rather than chance packing up a soaked down top quilt, underquilt, hammock and tarp…I decided to pack it all up dry while I had the chance. Especially considering it would have sat in my car for 3 days soaked…

      I probably should have just brought my larger 8×10 OES tarp, or just carried another tent (I didn’t want to unpack my pack that night). That and probably shouldn’t have believed the weather forecast the day I left…which called for a 20% chance on Saturday…

      Anyway, I need to practice with my GoLite tarp some more around home…

      Thanks for reading!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  9. Jim Henegar says:

    Nice write buddy. I see your using the ever new bags. Do you like them better than what comes with your Sawyer filter. I haven’t had a failure yet with my sawyer bag, just wondering if you have ?
    I recognized several places you took photos of, it looks like someone has moved the picnic table at Hawks, lots closer to the shelter.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Jim! I actually just got this Evernew bag in to try, and I gotta admit, I like it. I like that the cap/top has a keeper and that I can see through the bottle as opposed to the Sawyer Squeeze bags. Saying this though, I have still not had any issues with my Squeeze bags. And yes, the picnic table has been moved at Hawk Mtn Shelter, but I have found that people do this often at the shelters…

      Anyway, thanks for reading!

      ~Stick~

      Like

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