April 2016 AT Section Hike: Unicoi Gap (GA) to Deep Gap (NC)

Last weekend (April 29th – May 1st) I was able to hit the trail again! This time with 6 others, making it a pretty good size group! Earlier in the year I had talked with my buddy Chris and learned that he and a few others were planning to finish up the GA section of the Appalachian Trail during the last weekend of April. I checked my schedule and found that while I couldn’t make the entire hike, I could make most of it… So we started planning…

It was decided that Chris, Jeff, Tim & Ben were going to begin the hike on Thursday morning beginning at Neel Gap. Benny, myself and my son were going to connect with them on Friday morning at Unicoi Gap. From that point on, we were all going to continue hiking NOBO, finishing up at Deep Gap (NC) on Sunday afternoon. Chris booked a return shuttle through Sally & Joyce to meet us Sunday afternoon.

thumb_IMG_3639_1024On Thursday afternoon, my son & I loaded up after work and school and began our drive. Along the way we touched base with Benny, and then Chris. When speaking with Chris I learned that when they arrived at Unicoi Gap they had decided to get a shuttle into Hiawassee and stay at the Budget Inn for the night. (I can’t say I can’t blame them since one of the worst nights I had was camping at Unicoi Gap… and to this day, I discourage others from camping at road crossings unless it is necessary.) So, my son keyed in our new destination into the GPS, and then we notified Benny to simply meet us at the hotel in the morning as opposed to Unicoi Gap.

We arrived around 1130 pm to a room full of sleeping hikers. My son and I quickly threw some self inflating pads and quilts onto the floor and (attempted) to drift off as well. Early the next morning we all awoke and got ready to begin our hike. Benny was at our room before 6 am, so we all loaded up and headed to the Huddle House for some breakfast… and then to Hardee’s… (the waiter called in at the HH, so things were moving veeerrryyy slow…) Finally we were on the road to Unicoi… and then finally there!

The weather forecast was all over the place (as usual) but mostly called for rain and thunderstorms. Thankfully, there was a small window of good weather beginning Friday into Saturday afternoon… We hoped it would hold. And in a nutshell, it did!

Friday proved to be a beautiful day on the trail. Sunny, almost clear skies, a little wind… then eventually, turned a bit warm… especially on the back of our necks (well on me and my son’s neck anyway!) We had all decided that we did not want to stay in a shelter for the night, so we were flexible with our daily schedule, however, we all agreed to hike the 13.xx miles to Deep Gap shelter and go from there. The in between, we just enjoyed!

thumb_IMG_3704_1024 thumb_IMG_3664_1024 DCIM100GOPROGOPR0523. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0497. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0496. DCIM100GOPROGOPR0530. DCIM100GOPROG0071356. DCIM100GOPROG0071337. DCIM100GOPROG0071343. When we arrived at the shelter, there were several others already there, however, we also found lots of places all around the shelter to easily accommodate our tents and hammocks. So, we decided to call this spot home for the night… We all went about our own routine of setting up, collecting water, cooking, cleaning ourselves, using the potty, hanging food, and pretty much just chillin…

thumb_IMG_3698_1024 thumb_IMG_3766_1024 thumb_IMG_3696_1024 thumb_IMG_3692_1024 thumb_IMG_3693_1024 DCIM100GOPROGOPR0549. Night came soon, but once we realized it was upon us, we also realized it was already late too! After the sleepless night I had the night before, I was looking forward to the first night out under the stars… It didn’t take me long to fall asleep, however, as I usually do, I awoke around 2 am to answer the call of nature. I didn’t mind waking up though… the air smelled great, and the sky was beautiful! Before crawling  back in the tent, I decided to set my new GoPro up to give the night lapse a try…

Time lapses/night lapses was one of the biggest reasons I wanted a GoPro. The video above turned out pretty neat, but there is obviously still room for improvement!

Anyway, our plan was to break camp around 7 am the next morning to try to beat the rain to our next camp, which we had decided would be Bly Gap, just past the GA/NC border. But, I was sleeping so good… I kind of slept a little late. I woke up enough to roll over under my quilt when I happened to see Chris walking by outside my tent… already dressed… I quickly realized that while I was still snoozing, the others were almost completely packed up! I quickly woke Matthew up and we began packing our own gear up… Soon after, we were all heading back down the trail!

Saturday was a little less sunny, as expected. All of the morning the skies were overcast, and we had a some nice little breezes. Sometime after noon time, the sky broke loose! My son and I quickly donned our rain gear (he the GoLite Poncho tarp and me the ZPacks rain kilt, Montane Minimus smock and Chrome Dome umbrella) and then continued down the trail. Thankfully though, a few minutes later, the rain stopped… 20 minutes later we had come back out of our rain gear…

thumb_IMG_3814_1024 thumb_IMG_3764_1024 thumb_IMG_3765_1024 thumb_IMG_3674_1024 DCIM100GOPROGOPR0548. DCIM100GOPROGOPR1316.Soon after, we did indeed arrive to the GA/NC border crossing! Then right up the “hill”, we were standing on top of Bly Gap, looking for a flat spot to set up…

DCIM100GOPROGOPR1366. DCIM100GOPROGOPR1365. DCIM100GOPROGOPR1369. DCIM100GOPROG0081409. DCIM101GOPROG0081569.

There were a number of other folks already set up at Bly Gap, however, most of them were in hammocks on the low side of the gap (near the water). This thankfully left more of the flat spots up top to those of us with tents. Being that the wind was kicking up, and the clouds in the skies looked pretty threatening, it didn’t take us long to get our homes set up. After this, we prepared our dinners and got our bear lines thrown. Then, just about the time my son and I were cleaning our pots from eating, the rain began to fall… We quickly finished cleaning our stuff, got it hung and then retreated into our tent, as did the others. From this point on, it pretty much rained constantly until almost 6 am the next morning. But that was ok… we laid in our tents and just listened to the rain hitting the canopy… and relaxed… all was well, as it should have been!

thumb_IMG_3756_1024The next morning we got another early start since we had to make sure we met our shuttle by 11 am another 7 miles down (or should I say UP, the trail). This time though, my son set an alarm so I was up on time. After packing up and putting away a few chocolate pop tarts (I splurged!), we were ready to go. The morning was wet, with clouds frequently rolling over the mountain tops. Through the trees we were able to see clouds nestled in the valleys… It was a very beautiful morning…

DCIM101GOPROGOPR1632. DCIM101GOPROGOPR1631. DCIM101GOPROGOPR1630. DCIM101GOPROGOPR1622. thumb_IMG_3786_1024 thumb_IMG_3787_1024 thumb_IMG_3785_1024 thumb_IMG_3742_1024

Despite the huge climb up and out of Bly Gap, we made good time hiking out Sunday morning. Around 10 am we were dumped out at Deep Gap. Just before arriving at Deep Gap though I was able to meet JessicaHikes (which is another ZPacks lover!). When we arrived at Deep Gap, we pulled our packs off and celebrated a successful hike. We sat around and talked with other hikers until the twin Outbacks’ driven by Sally & Joyce arrived. At this point, Benny, my son and I hopped into one Outback and Chris, Jeff, Tim & Ben hoped in the other. About an hour later we were back to our vehicles at Unicoi Gap. After changing into some clean clothes, my son and I said by to Benny, then began the long, sleepy journey back home…

thumb_IMG_3818_1024 thumb_IMG_3799_1024 thumb_IMG_3801_1024 DCIM100GOPROGOPR1360.So came another end to another hike… This is the second time I have hiked this section now, and it was just as much fun as the first time. As well, if I hike the section from Neel Gap to Unicoi Gap again, I will have hiked GA 2 full times now, which is neat to think about… Anyway, it may be a while before I get to go on another hike, but until then, I will continue to think about it… Until then, thanks for stopping by!

~Stick~

Worth noting, some of the photo’s may be out-of-order… I had some photos on the GoPro and a number of others on my iPhone. They are all out-of-order on my computer, but I tried to put them together in some kind of order… Also, on the trip report video, the waterproof door on the GoPro blocks a lot of sound, so I decided to note the sound and add audio via the YouTube editor… Unfortunately, the options kind of suck, so I went with one that was around the same length of time as the video… If you would like when watching it, just mute it and play your own music…

Also, for those that like “stats” check out this link. I used the Gaia GPS Pro app to track our hike. As well, I used the app to take photos along the way, which are conveniently tagged on the map at the exact location. Really loved the app for this…

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 Backpacking, Hiking, Trip Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to April 2016 AT Section Hike: Unicoi Gap (GA) to Deep Gap (NC)

  1. Richard Mock says:

    Great blog post. Again.

    Like

  2. EXCELLENT report and pitcures. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

  3. BJ Clark says:

    Had to laugh. I was through there 3-4 days before you. One of your pictures looked like my YM Cirriform! Currently at Fontana Village. The AT has been kicking my butt since Amicalola on 4/20! Enjoy your stuff. Papa

    Like

    • Stick says:

      BJ,

      It’s pretty cool coming across something that you were just at… At times I read others posts and say the same thing… And that Cirriform was Chris’s. He actually sold it while he was on the trip (he had already packed it and got the email before walking the trail that someone wanted to buy it). He is picking up a ZPacks Duplex now… Anyway, the trail sure can be a real butt kicker at times… hope you keep up the good work!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  4. Bob Beaullieu says:

    Hi Chad,

    Great to see you out on the trail again. I always look forward to your great pics and an account of your adventure. Makes me look forward to my next tome on the trail….

    Bob Beaullieu

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Bob, glad to hear you enjoy my posts! And this is part of why I keep the blog… I can still relive my hikes until my net one… lol! 🙂

      Happy trails!

      ~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