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Drove down to Georgia after work on Friday and got to Woody Gap around midnight my time and 1am Eastern. Curled up in the back of the Fit for a fitful night’s sleep and woke up to a trail angel named Y Not 2K brewing some coffee parked next to me. After chatting for a bit and getting everything packed up I started south on the AT at 8:30am.
Obviously it’s peak thru hiker season and today being the Equinox and first day of spring AND a perfect Saturday the trail was slammed. Woody Gap, Gooch, and Hightower all had hiker feeds going on. Needless to say I had coffee jitters for a solid 4 hours. I stopped to hang by a fire and chat with would be thru hikers who were mostly on their third day. A nice hiker named Olivia and I had a lovely conversation about gear, fears, and what may be to come for her adventure. I wondered if i could hike my loop fast enough to pass her again going south once I reached Blood Mt.
Speaking of which, my route was to be the Georgia Loop; a 60 mile hike connecting about 25 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 35 miles of the Benton Mackaye/Duncan Ridge Trail.
I felt extremely fortunate to have mid 60’s and sunny weather considering the last week had been cold and rainy. This meant all the springs were flowing well, but the trail was dry and the wind kept me at the perfect temperature for cruising at 3mph all day.
I reached Laurel Creek Falls for the BMT cutoff around 2pm and started my first big climb. If you think the AT is steep try this trail out. Geezus, literally all the climbs were straight up and down the mountains. At least the AT had a FEW switchbacks. Benton must’ve been a hardcore kinda guy.
After about 7 miles I came across a long haired and long bearded smiley fellow who offered me some water and a Yuengling. “Don’t mind if I do.” He was to crew for a friend running in a 75 mile ultra out here in a couple weeks. Runners have to carry a railroad spike the whole time and the race ends at the top of Amnicalola Falls. Yep, you have to climb all those heinous stairs before finishing AFTER 75 miles. Psychotic. Inspiring. A mix of both I guess. The conversation was good and he gave me some beta on where to camp. I was gonna try to put in another 9 miles to get a 30 mile day in. That would put me very close to the BMT/Duncan Ridge Trail split.
I ended up getting into camp about 8:15pm. The sun had just set and the wind had a bite to it. Of course the spring at the campsite was a 1/4 mile straight downhill. Whatever. Had the pleasant surprise of getting some fellow campers in about 8:30pm. When you see headlights bobbing through the woods you know you’re about to meet an actual hiker. So I greeted them with a friendly, “you made it!” and proceeded to hear about these two’s East Coast Trail experience thus far a little bit. Lots of road walking was the gist of it lol. I guess they were super tired though and crashed almost immediately. Didn’t even catch their names. They’d already been walking around 2,000 miles by this point so I’m sure they’ll blow past all these droves of thru hikers and be in Newfoundland before they know it.
Cold soak dinner of couscous and curry and spicy salmon tasted halfway decent. 30 miles helps anything taste decent though to be fair. Sleep came fairly easy and looking forward to tomorrow.