Sunday, May 7, 2017

GA Appalachian Trail - Section 17 - Springer Mountain parking lot to Cooper Gap

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles

Directions: Parking lot north of Springer Mountain to Cooper Gap 

We at breakfast at the hostel, and started to meet some thru hikers starting today. There were some other section hikers there as well. There was a lot of nervous excitement in the air. We had originally planned to work with the hostel so that we would hike to our car, but we ended up deciding to use their shuttle service both to and from our hike. The previous owners said we could save a lot of money by having us hike to our rental car, but the new owners said it would be less expensive to use their shuttle service both to and from the hike. This was a bit confusing, but we decided that it would be easier to have them deal with driving on the forest roads than us. There was a long drive on the forest roads to get to the parking lot just north of Springer Mountain. Part of the shuttle ride entertainment was discussing FUD's (female urinary devices) and whether they increase your pack weight too much. I can't imagine what my non-hiking friends would think, lol.

At the trailhead, a member of the Georgia AT club greeted folks in our van. He gave some advice, and told them he'd watch their backpacks as they went up Springer Mountain (you have to hike 1 mile south, and then backtrack to the parking lot before continuing north if you didn't do the approach trail). He asked the group if anyone had pack weights over 40 pounds, and multiple people did! Yikes! I don't think I would make it very far carrying that much weight. Glen and I have accumulated most of the things we need for backpacking, and have started working on weighing it all - the first step to getting a lower pack weight.

We started at 10:15 and had a 4:15 pickup time scheduled. The hostel said most people average 1.5 miles/hour, but the amount of time they gave us would have us needing to go more like 2 mph. We changed our original plan to go further - to Cooper Gap instead of to Hightower Gap. We walked at a faster pace, knowing we needed to average more than 2 mph at the beginning, because the end was supposed to be hard. We heard multiple people say that Sassafras Mountain was an "ass-kicker", and this would be at the end of our day.

We did decide to take a short side trail to some falls off the trail. We sat and had a snack, and watched a dog playing in the water. We continued on, and took another short break at Hightower Gap. We arrived at Hightower Gap at 1:15, so it would have been a short day for us if we had decided to end there, which was the original plan. We passed a few thru hikers today. I slowed down to talk to them. Glen pressed on, not wanting to slow down. I love listening to everyone's story. Every person has one.

Sassafras Mountain didn't turn out as hard as we had heard. Our legs still felt pretty good. We just took it slow and steady. Our heart rates went up, but we've hiked many mountains like this before in the Catskills. We hiked down and got to Cooper Gap at 3:45. This gave us 30 minutes to have our soup. On some hiking trips, we bring dehydrated soup, which you just add hot water to in a thermos. The thermos is really heavy, but for a day hike it's usually fine.

Back at the hostel, we opened the sliding door to our container cabin and let the breeze come in. What a beautiful day for a hike. No rain! Spring! So happy! There are so many wildflowers in Georgia this time of year. It's so much greener here than in NY right now.

Trillium - these were all over

There were thousands of these mini irises on the trail, in various shades of purple.

Crossing a forest road

I think this is Sassafras Mountain

Columbine, which we didn't see much of

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