Click on Katie’s name above to see all of her posts!

Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 I happened to check the weather for Amicalola falls Dawsonville, Georgia and it was going to be sunny mid-fifties and mid-thirties at night.

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:

1/3/18 Thursday: Springer-Stover Creek Shelter 3.8 miles

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

Once I created my proposed itinerary, I figured if I was able to get a shuttle driver so last minute it was meant to be. I preceded to contact Ron’s Appalachian Trail Shuttle to arrange a ride from Atlanta International Airport (ATL) through Facebook. Ron apologetically informed me he had nothing available that day and directed me to Richard Anderson for a shuttle. I called Richard and was shocked he had availability to pick me up at 11:30 A.M on 1/3/18. He had informed me my plan to section hike the entire Georgia section was a little ambitious not knowing my abilities and the road I wanted to end it was not open at this time, which resulted in the above timeline. Once I scheduled with Richard, I booked my flight and began preparing my gear.

Pre-flight Logistics

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.

Once I arrived at the airport, my nerves were still a problem. I was nervous about flying with my backpack. I was concerned I had left something in there I shouldn’t have and it would get confiscated or even damaged. For those who have never flown with a backpack, you can’t bring any type of pepper spray or a fuel canister for your stove in either bag.  In your checked bag, you must keep your trekking poles, pole tents, pole stakes, and knife. Basically, anything that is sharp or can cause harm to someone else. In my checked bag, I had to have my portable battery charger and lighter on me.
Upon walking up to the American Airlines employee, I had asked if there was a bag they provided that I could wrap/ protect my backpack in. I had heard some airlines would offer you the clear bags used for car seats or strollers. American Airlines did not offer me one. Thankfully, I had a plan B. I stepped off to the side, tightened all my loose straps and tucked them away. I proceeded to take out a large compactor trash bag and wrapped my pack in it, looping it through the handle, so the tag would still show. The bag loosely fit around the pack and I was again concerned it was going to get stuck in a belt and rip. Luckily, this did not happen either time!
After the flight and train ride to baggage claim,  I grabbed my trash bag covered backpack off the belt, quickly inspected it, stowed the trash bag in my carry on bag, loosened the straps on my pack, tossed it on my back, and headed to fill up my two water bottles. Being in communication with my shuttle driver (Richard), I anxiously waited (in the wrong pick up location) for my shuttle driver until I realized we were in opposite terminals to be picked up. Realizing what I had done, I headed back in to soon spot the canary, yellow vehicle.

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.

Quickly recovering from that action, I continued to summit Springer Mountain. Springer Mountain is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Whether you start a southbound hike or a northbound hike, it is either your starting or ending point of the 2,189-mile journey. I was definitely a little disappointed by the view and felt like I understood why so many people choose to hike Northbound to Katahdin because of the big payoff/ reward.

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 order to summit Springer Mountain, I had to hike the 1 mile up and the 1 mile back to the parking lot. After using the privy, I was headed back towards the parking lot. I ran into a middle-aged couple, who stopped and asked if I was a thru-hiker. I politely declined and informed them that I just started a section hike. The women informed me even that would be quite the accomplishment. They proceeded to ask me if I had seen two bearded guys.  I hadn’t. Then they told me their son and his friend were completing their Southbound thru hike today and planned on meeting them at Springer. I told them I would keep an eye out for the pair as I was continuing to hike on.

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.

Then I walked around trying to find cell phone service, which I happened to find long enough to send a text or two. If you stood by this one tree or post, you could get service for about 2 minutes. I began to settle in for the night.

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.

If people have a trail name, that is usually what you introduce yourself as mine is Rogue. Alex and Ben attempted to re-name me “Cheeky Knot” because I had shared prior to coming to Georgia and hiking I had a knot in my one butt cheek that hurt when I walked.  They claimed I talked about it for 15 minutes… hence the new name. We also talked about our jobs, different gear, school, and our plans for the next day.
I planned to hike to Gooch Mountain shelter and they said they were willing to hike there to keep me company as I had expressed I found comfort in knowing someone else was close by because I didn’t know how many people would be out on the trail this time of year. For this trip, camping alone at a shelter by myself was my greatest fear.

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

Sitting around the benches and having gotten dark, Ben thought he heard a noise. He used his flashlight, but couldn’t see anything. Remember those kids and their dogs? Yeah, well they had stayed the night before at the shelter sleeping with their food up in the loft a big no, no and dumped a bunch of dog food and a few Cheerios on the ground. A mouse began eating the kibble. Shortly after, we all retreated to bed. I took a Benadryl to help me sleep, read from my Kindle a little, and turned on my music/ sleep timer. Barely sleeping much, I woke up to something creating light pressure on my feet. I kicked my feet and the mouse flew off. A couple times I felt something was near my head and would jolt up scaring it away… probably another mouse.
Sometime after the rain began to start (it echoed on the tin roof),  I began to hear a constant clawing and gnawing on the steal bear box. I tried to tell myself it was just the rain but after 5 hours of hearing this sound, I was pretty sure it was bear. I was too afraid to point my flashlight at the bear box because I didn’t want the bear to know I was in the loft. As the hours passed by, I began to wonder if the guys could even hear what I was hearing behind the shelter…