Friday, April 19, 2019

Appalachian Trail: Hiawassee, GA To Franklin, NC

Update: A map has been added to this post. 


The continuing adventures of Little Hill.
It's a tradition to have a trail name on the Appalachian Trail (AT).  The informal rule is that they must be given to you by someone else.  I got my trail name last week when, after explaining that I did all my training on three hundred foot hills, Curry said "That's a little hill." A week or so later the trail name seems to have stuck.

Day 9 - I left Hiawassee on the 9:00am shuttle.  I had a short hike planned for the day but it had some significant climbing.  It was cold, drizzly, and foggy most of the day.  More evidence of the near record moisture Georgia is getting this year.

The bright spot was when I arrived at a Gap to find three old men offering up trail magic.  I'd missed my first two trail magics so I was greatful for the hot dogs, fruit, and cookies I received.  The roaring bonfire helped a lot on this chilly morning.

More and more flowers are making an appearance.
I arrived at Tray Mountain shelter and claimed a spot.  Rumour had it the shelter leaked during storms ... and a storm was on it's way.  I decided to stay though a lot of people moved on to the next shelter.

The hard wind and rain came in over night and the four brave souls in the shelter stayed nice and dry.   Rumours have not always been reliable on the AT.

Day 10 - For some reason I decided to push it on day ten.  I actually chopped a day off my plan.  I hiked 11.5 miles (18.5 km) to Dick's Creek Gap where I promptly ran into Crow and Curry.  I'd expected them to be at least a day or two ahead of me but here they were. They were heading out so they still were ahead of me but only by a half day.

My first snake of the AT.
From Dick's Creek Gap I walked the half mile to Top of Georgia Hostel.  Llama Mama and a few others I'd met along the way were here.  The hostel shuttled us back to Hiawassee so we could resupply.  I used some of the time to get all you could eat at Daniels Steakhouse (the fourth time in a week).

The calm before the storm offered views.
Day 11 - The weather forecast was ominous for the next day.  My original plan had me staying at Blythe Gap campsite but heavy rain, wind, hail, and thunderstorms were coming in.  The weather was nice today though so I decided to push it to the next shelter.

The border crossing.  Note Curry and Crow's stones.
The little blue fish is a hand blown glass fish being left
at each border crossing by another thru-hiker.
As I approached Blythe Gap I passed the sign marking the Georgia - North Carolina border.  My first milestone on the trail - a state border.

I left the border and on the way up the next mountain I caught up to Crow and Curry (!) and we finished the last couple of miles of the 11.8 miles (19 km) to Muskrat Creek Shelter.

Yep ... the weather was in the Sheeter.
Day 12 - The storm hit and boy did it hit hard.  It poured rain.  The Appalachian Trail Conservancy warned hikers to stay off trail so Crow, Curry, and I, along with several others, hunkered down in the shelter.  It was boring and a bit cold but it did let my legs recover from the back-to-back eleven plus mile days I'd just done.

Taking a zero day at the shelter was the right thing to do.

A fallen tree, blown over in the storm, blocking the trail.
Day  13 - It was very cold this morning.  Someone said it was 16℉ (-8.9℃).  My food bag, which was hung in a tree all night, had ice on it and the cord was frozen stiff.  By the way, the bag is hung in a tree to keep it away from bears.  Shelters in North Carolina do not have bear boxes or bear cables so you have to hang the bags yourself.

I was so cold I packed my bag and left early so my hiking would warm me up.  I also had to make up the time and distanced lost during the zero day in the shelter.

A happy Shadow Walker makes an appearance on the AT.
A few miles down the trail, as I was heading down a mountain toward Deep Gap, I suddenly realized that I was F-ing Happy.  It's been a while since I've felt so happy.  I was almost giddy.  I think the rest and the energy from all the food I ate in the shelter made this long day easier (but not easy).

Crow left the trail and went to Franklin.  Not sure when he will be returning to the trail.

This was a 12.5 mile (20.1 km) day.

Day 14 - I decided to try to get as close to Winding Stair Gap where I could catch an early shuttle into the town of Franklin, NC.  The hike took me up the steepest rock climb yet to the summit of Albert Mountain.  It was a bit grueling but the rewarding view at the top was incredible.

I can see for miles and miles and miles ...
On the top of Albert Mountain is a fire lookout tower.  The room at the top was padlocked but you could still climb three stories to admire the endless view.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the mountains seemed to go on forever.  This tower is also very close to the 100 mile (161 km) hiked milestone.

The rest of the hike, while mostly downhill, actually went on forever.  I was exhausted when I got to the shelter.  Curry, who was going to the join me at the shelter, stopped at another one when her knees started bothering her.

The shelter was a little run down and the floor slanted a bit.  North Carolina needs to improve their shelters.

This was the second twelve mile day in a row.  Not wise on my part.

Day 15, 16 & 17 - I hiked the four miles to Winding Stair Gap and caught the 9:30am shuttle to Baltimore Jack's Hostel and grabbed a reasonably priced private room.

The Easter Bunny made an early appearance on the AT.
Curry arrived on the 11:30am shuttle.  Talking with her about her knees and looking at the weather we decided to take two zero days instead of one.  I think the ball of my right foot which has been bothering me the past few days agreed with the decision.  With the extra zero day I wiped out the extra day I earned by doing all the long days.

Crow was at Baltimore Jack's Place too so we chilled together.

Confederate statue in Franklin, NC.
Franklin turned out to be an awesome town to stop in.  Lots of history, nice stores for resupply, and nice people.  The Confederate statue in the downtown area is a reminder of where you are.

I spent some of my down time reevaluating my hiking distances before and through the Smoky Mountains.  I think I will add a few days to shrink down the miles per day.  It's nice to know you can do long days but I think it would be wise if I ramped up to those distances at a slower pace.

We will get back on the trail on Saturday which, sadly, will be a rainy one.

Pictures can be found in my 2019 Appalachian Trail Google Photos album.

Total Distance: 113.33 Miles (182.39 km)
Section Distance: 57.85 Miles (93.10 km)
Section Elevation Up: 13,792 ft (4,204 m)
Section Elevation Down: 14,374 ft (4,381 m)

Note: this map is missing some elevation data.

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