Monday, 25 February 2013

Appalachian Trail Update #1

Location: Hiawassee GA
Total Miles Hiked: 69.6
Total Days: 6
Miles Since Last Update: N/A
Days Since Last Update: N/A
Beard Status: Barely Peach Fuzz
Pain Status: My body was not ready

Hello friends, family, coworkers, and stalkers.  This is the first of what I hope will be many updates of my trip on the Appalachian Trail.  Not all of the updates will be this long, but since I have quite a bit of free time right now, I can write a bit more than I normally would.  I don't have the capacity to upload photos right now, but I will do a proper photographic write up of my trip when I get home

My trip started on February 19 with a long drive to the Vancouver Airport.  I had a 4 hour flight to Chicago, and then a 2 hour flight to Atlanta (I got lost in both airports; luckily I have no pride and am okay with asking for directions).  I took the MARTA Rail to the North Springs Station in Atlanta, and then got driven to Amicalola Falls State Park by Survivor Dave.  He was incredibly helpful and answered all of my questions in great detail.  I spent the night at the Max Efferson Shelter behind the visitor center.

The next day I hiked the 8.8 mile Approach Trail up to the top of Springer Mountain.  The trail starts out with over 600 stairs to the top of Amicalola Falls.  Needless to say I wasn't feeling so great by the end of it.  There was a light bit of snow on the ground, but the trail was very easy to follow.  It was incredibly windy on Springer Mountain, so I didn't have a lot of time to appreciate the view.  I hiked another 2.8 miles to the Stover Creek Shelter where I spent the night with 5 other hikers.

On day 2 I had it pretty easy until I hit Sassafras Mountain.  It's the first big climb on the trail, and the locals have nicknamed it "Yardsale Mountain" because of all the gear hikers ditch as they are climbing.  When I got to Gooch Mountain Chelter (Mile 15.8) it started to rain.  There was a pretty bad thunderstorm that night, and it kept raining for another 3 days.

Despite the rain, I left camp on day 3.  I encountered a lot of muddy sections, but overall it wasn't too bad.  I was going to stay at the shelter at the base of Blood Mountain (the highest mountain in the Georgia section of the trail), but I decided to climb the extra mile and stay at the shelter on top of the mountain.  This was easily the worst mistake I've ever made.  The shelter was like an old dungeon.  It is literally the last place you ever want to sleep in.  The cold concrete floor was crawling with bugs and spiders, and there were mice everywhere.  They came in through gaps in the walls, through the windows, and even scurried around the rafters on the ceiling.  I had them crawling all over me throughout the whole night (I had my headlamp on the whole night and they still wouldn't leave me alone).  Worse still, the shelter was about as water proof as a block of swiss cheese.  Every piece of gear I had got soaked.  The storm was so bad that I had no way of making it down the mountain, so I had to stay in the shelter.  Fortunately the people at Ursack make a very fine mouse proof food bag, so at least not everything went wrong.

The next day I left very early to descend Blood Mountain.  It was incredibly rocky and slippery, and the rain made sections of the trail literally like streams.  I got lost a couple of times, but I eventually made it to Neel Gap.  The hostel was closed which was a let down, but I was still able to buy some more food.  I decided to get a less bulky tent since the one I had kept shifting around and throwing off my balance.  I was also able to use the drier there to dry my sleeping bad a bit which was a huge relief.  From Neel Gap I hiked to Whitley Gap Shelter (mile 38.4) where I fired up my stove for the first time and made some much needed hot chocolate.  That night was better as the rain cleared up, but everytime I heard leaves rustling I got paranoid that there was a mouse somewhere.

The next day I took the wrong turn out of camp, but once again my lack of pride paid off as I was willing to ask for directions.  Most of the day I was doing the long steady climb up Blue Mountain.  It was all pretty easy until the 1000 foot descent to Unicoi Gap, followed by a 1000 foot ascent up Rocky Mountain, followed by a 1000 foot descent to Indian Grave Gap, followed by a 1300 foot ascent up Tray Mountain.  Oh, and I was in the dark from Rocky Mountain on.  Luckily my headlamp hadn't died yet.  I could see the lights of a nearby city which was really neat.  I stopped at Tray Mountain shelter (mile 58.6) having done a 20.2 mile day, the longest I've ever hiked.  Unfortunately the shelter was full so I had to pitch my tent, but I was okay with that.  At least it guaranteed no mice.

Today was pretty rough as my body was quite sore from the big 20 mile day.  I got to climb something called "Young Lick Knob" which is easily the best name ever.  I had a pretty tough climb up Kelly Knob and Powel Mountain before the long descent to Dick's Creek Gap.  I got a ride into Hiawassee and got a room at the Budget Inn for 2 nights.  Between the jet lag, the night on Blood Mountain, and the 20 mile day, I desperately need a day off.  It was nice to get a proper meal though.  I absolutely destroyed the local Dairy Queen (I had about 5 meals worth of food).

So far the Georgia section of the trail is quite hard, but my understanding is it is the hardest part of the southern AT.  Most of the time it stays just under ridges so there aren't a lot of great views, but it is still pretty nice.  The trail always goes straight over things; there is no such thing as a switchback here.  The temperature has been between 0 and 5 C most of the time, though it has gotten quite windy at times.

I think I have one more day of hiking in Georgia and then I am on to North Carolina.  I'll try to do another update either in Franklin or Fontana Dam, but I can't guarantee anything.

Hope all is well for the people I like.  I hope things are absolutely terrible for everyone else.


  1. Hey Trevor,

    Sounds like loads of "fun". Hope the weather gets better, and the mice -- yuck! I figure the first month will be the worst, then maybe you'll settle into a routine. We're thinking of you; good luck on your journey.


  2. That's assuming I actually survive a month. You have no idea how hard it is to survive without Tim Hortons and hockey.