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I got the itch to fly down there and complete the Georgia section. It was my brother’s birthday, family and friends gathered at a local brewery. I presented this crazy idea to several people, each giving positive feedback on my idea. Once I got home from the party, I began planning. I pulled out my Awol guide book, Thru Hiker’s Companion Guide Guthooks app to look at the elevation, and notebook to begin planning my trip. Typically, when planning trips I mainly focus on mileage per day and not elevation. I am very strong minded and when I sent out a goal, I’ll do anything to achieve that goal even if it means crawling to the next shelter. I looked up flights to see what time I could possibly fly in and what miles I was able to do on arriving and departing days. Prior to making arrangements for a shuttle, this is what I came up with:
1/4/18 Friday: Stover- Gooch Mountain Shelter 12.9 miles
1/5/18 Saturday: Gooch Mountain Shelter- Blood Mountain Shelter or Mountain Crossing Hostel 11.9 or 14.3 miles
1/6/18 Sunday: Blood or hostel- Low Gap Shelter 13.9 or 11.5 miles
1/7/18 Monday: Low Gap to Blue Mountain Shelter 7.3 miles
1/8/18 Tuesday: Blue Mountain Shelter- Tray Mountain Shelter 11 miles
1/9/18 Wednesday Tray Mountain- Top of Georgia Hostel 11 miles
1/10/18 Thursday: P/U from hostel to airport
When was the last time you were so excited about something, you could barely sleep the night before? This was me. I was anxious and elated to be attempting my longest backpacking trip ever and putting miles down on a state I’ve never hiked in before. So excited, I managed to turn my alarm off that was set for 4:45 AM to prepare for the airport. Luckily, my dad woke me up at 5:15AM and we were headed out the door within the next 15 minutes. My flight was at 8:00 AM(PHL) – 10:15 AM (ATL). My shuttle was set for 11:30 AM.
Thus began the two-hour drive to Springer Mountain Parking lot. I’ll spare you the details of our conversation but we talked about previous journeys, jobs, wild hogs (which I knew nothing about), how they took problem bears on the AT and dropped them off near the Benton Mackaye trail, and swapped stories. As we did this, I rearranged my pack, put in my contacts, and prepared my rain gear. The road up to Springer Mountain wraps around the mountain itself and is a long 6-8 mile crawl to the parking lot.
At the Trailhead
I jumped out of the car and said my goodbyes to Richard and knew I’d see him in a week. The weather wasn’t sunny but it also wasn’t raining anymore. I spotted the trail and took off. I felt so happy to be stepping back on that trail only to be guided by the familiarity of the white blazes marked on trees. Soon after I began my ascent up the mountain, I passed some younger college kids with their two dogs. The one girl put her scarf up over her nose as if she didn’t just see me hop out of the car and should have known I wasn’t a thru-hiker that smelled terrible.
After taking my photos, I decided to head to the Springer shelter because I wanted to use the privy. I passed this sign right before heading to the shelter. The actual shelter area was roped off with caution tape.
In awe of actually being in Georgia, I was mesmerized by my surroundings. I only had 1.8 miles to the Stover Creek Shelter. Right before reaching the shelter, I ran into one of the bearded guys. Informing him of his parents, I congratulated him and hiked to the shelter.
First Night at a Shelter
I reached the Stover Creek Shelter a little after 3:00PM and was contemplating whether or not I wanted to try and make it to the next shelter before dark. I had reached my goal for the day. Another deciding factor was two young college boys, Alex and Ben, were sleeping there that night, which meant I wouldn’t have to camp alone. Their tent was already set up behind the shelter, which surprised me because of the incoming rain. Ben claimed he didn’t like shelters because of the mice. I decided I should stay and would sleep up in the loft feeling safer being up higher. I laid out my tent footprint, blew up my air mattress and pillow, set up my sleeping bag, and laid out my sleep clothes.
Ben and Alex, trail names Tree Meister and Brother Bear, and I hung out around the picnic table. They informed me they were college students from Georiga planning on doing a couple of overnights before heading back to school. Ben was in the ROTC and had some backpacking experience. Alex was going to school for Marine Biology and just came to keep Ben company. They were also vlogging the experience and featured me multiple times.
For dinner, I ate half a Knorr Rice Side and a wrap with tuna. We attempted to start a fire but considering it rained earlier that day all the wood was wet. Ben and Alex even tried to use their hand sanitizer with no such luck.
A Nighttime Visitor
The boys had hung all their smell-ables and food using the provided bear cables. I read a notice in the shelter that had read: Bears were getting smarter and were able to chew through or shakedown bear bags from the cables. Bear boxes were to be used