Friday, July 17, 2009

AT Section Hike 10/08 - Amicalola Falls to Neels Gap

Tom, Alex and Alex's buddy Charley hiked the first 35 miles of the AT including the full approach trail (full meaning at the welcome center and not the top of the stairs.) We spent the first night in our tents outside the shleter on top of Springer. A bit of a spooky shelter compared to some of the others. The water source was decent. The weather was crisp. We could hear machine guns in the background in the late evening from the fort in the valley. Actually when we first arrived atop Springer there was an army dude sitting there alone looking out at the valley and mountains, clearly in deep thought. I was told later that this is the last bit of mountain training before these guys head out to Iraq. I would be sitting on top of a mountain too I think.

The second night we ended up not quite making it up to the top of Sassafrass Mountain where we were planning to camp, so we ended up down on a forest road in Horse Gap. Spirits were low so we made a little fire ring to create a little mental comfort and had a fairly quick dinner before the sun went down. There just isn't much to do when the only light you have is a tiny LED on your forehead. Alex swears we were visited by soldiers in the night.

The third night we tented on top of Thunderock Mountain where the view of the valley was nice. There are lots of makeshift spots for tents on an overgrown mountain road. Tom and I camped in the tent site right on top of the mountain. There was a very strong gust coming up from the valley that rushed through the trees above us all night. It was fine in the tent for most of the night. One problem I encountered was my own fault. Thinking I was crafty I kept the wind from "stealing" the heat from inside my tent (I was worried about sleeping comfortably in my bag as I like to use it more like a blanket to kick out a knee) by piling up leaves around the bottom edge of my outer tent, thus totally defeating the power of the breeze to carry away moisture and avoid compensation. Becuase the zoid is double wall I did not have condensation directly on me, but I brushed up against the walls with my bag, thus getting the down in the footbox wet. This would come back to haunt me - slightly.

The next day we were planning to hike to the Bird Gap shelter and then have a short hike out the next morning, but it had started to rain as we were leaving camp in the morning and the cold rain did not let up. Charley ended up getting off of the tral at Woody Gap. We pressed on. We got to Bird Gap shelter (after a long backward blue blaze) and were not in good shape. Alex was soon shivering and spirits were dampened more when we found that Alex's waterproof bag had done its job in not letting any water out. His sleeping bag was drenched. With no way to keep warm through the night we had to call an audible and hike all the way out over Blood Mountain. We ended up on top (see picture below) at around 6pm and we decended in the dark down to the car. We were a sight in the Walmart (we hadn't planned on needing clothes until we got to our shuttle car the next morning). The shower in the hotel room was amazying. We hit the Pizza Hut in Dahlonega and made our way back home the next morning.

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