View Full Version : Some Last Minute Advice to the Class of 2015

Double Wide
01-21-2015, 12:51
Hey gang--

I'm sure you're all pumped up and excited to go, having sweated over every detail and obsessed over schedules, plans, etc etc etc. First let me say "Congratulations!" for deciding to something so many other people will never attempt. You will have a great time!

I attempted a thru hike last year, but I was a Blood Mountain casualty--one of those statistics who ended their hike 32 miles into it, and not a day goes by that I don't wish I could rewind and go back in time, knowing what I know now (Long story short--I wrenched my knee severely coming down Blood Mountain, limped in to Mtn Crossings, and ended up in the hospital the next day, doc saying my hiking was over for the season, otherwise I was facing reconstructive surgery).

Anyhow--if you'll allow me, I'd like to offer a few tidbits:

If at all possible, attend ATKO before you go. It was a great experience, kinda like band camp without flutes. Or chaperones. Honestly, you will meet trail legends you've all heard about--Miss Janet, Sir Packsalot, AWOL, Skywalker, Chuck Norris, etc etc etc. All of them are helpful and kind souls. Plus you will meet fellow hikers you will see again, along with getting some valuable info that may come in handy down the trail. A great weekend of fun and camaraderie, and you will be so motivated after it's all over.
Slow down, especially on the descents. You've got all summer, don't blow out a knee or an ankle trying to be an Alpha-hiker. There will always be somebody faster and in better shape. Don't bust your ass trying to keep up with the first people you meet. You will be miserable after a couple of days if you do--plus there are always more cool people behind you.
Bring a long-sleeve synthetic shirt if you go in March. The wind never stops in the Georgia mountains. Never. Even after all the prep, I didn't bring mine, trying to save weight, and it was misery because the fleece and the wool didn't stop the wind. And it really sucks when you're too tired to keep hiking and too cold to rest.
After climbing Sassafrass and Justus Mountains, if it's later in the afternoon, stop and camp at the tentsites above Justus Creek. Gooch Mountain shelter will be full and there are very few level campsites there. Unless you're a hammock-hanger, then it's all good.
Enjoy the easy rolling trail on the north side of Justus Mountain. It may be the nicest hiking in all of Georgia.
While the new owners of Mountain Crossings have done a fine job with the hostel, you can't beat the Blood Mountain Cabins just a quarter mile away. $60 a night split four ways is cheaper than the hostel, with your laundry done for free thrown in. Great place to zero out a snowstorm, I'm just sayin'...
Get to Lance Creek early to get a tent spot. Because of the springtime bear-cannister rules further up the trail, it's a natural stopping point for pretty much everyone.
Stover Creek is a great shelter and all, but camping at Three Forks is excellent if you're not going all the way to Hawk Mountain on your first day.
Long Creek Falls is definitely worth the .2 mile walk.
You won't need as much food as you think you do. I easily carried twice as much as I needed to get from Springer to Neel Gap. Two pounds a day is too much in the beginning. You'll LOSE your appetite at first. Well, at least I did. I had to force myself to snack during the day.
Neel Gap has a surprisingly good resupply. Except that they were completely sold out of knee braces.
Blessed are the trail angels that leave water at Cooper Gap.
Big Cedar Mountain is a good climb that nobody really talks about, but it's so worth it. On a clear day the views are incredible.
Leukotape. Buy some.
The Hiker Hostel is a great place to start your trip. Good food, good times, and good people. But then again, isn't that what this hike is all about?

Anyhow, take it for what it's worth, and just know that I am so jealous of all of you. You are in for an epic adventure. Good luck and Happy Trails to everyone!

01-21-2015, 14:13
Good luck next year Blueberry, will be following your trip and following up with my thru in 2018(hopefully). Sounds like good advice to the Class of '15. Wishing them all the best of luck.

01-21-2015, 14:36
Great tips from Blueberry. I've hiked that AFSP to Neels Gap section 8 times since 2009, in almost every season of the year, including spring NoBo thru season, and his advice is spot on. (I also got bumped off on the Blood Mtn downhill in Oct-2009 due to ITBS). One of the most repeated mistakes that eager thru hikers make is trying to do too many miles too soon. I am guilty of this myself on too many section hikes too. Ditto .... the tent camping at Gooch Mtn shelter is limited, and most of the spots will be mudholes when it rains. I may have to checkout the ATKO this year. Good luck

01-21-2015, 15:57
Double Wide makes some good suggestions! I would like to emphasis.. 2) slow down. Let the rocket feet go. You only need to avg 12 miles a day to complete the trail in six months! Figure 2 pounds of food per person per day. A little less in mid summer, maybe a tad more in winter months. 3) don't stress out about pack weight. You will figure that out as you go along. 4) lastly, don't cut it too close on funds. Have more resources than you think you'll need. You will eat at restaurants and gear will need replacement. Especially boots.

01-21-2015, 23:41
Doublewide - Sorry about your mishap on the trail. It is such a bummer for it to happen so early (I had a friend screw up her knee on day 1 coming down from Katahdin years back; she came back in 2012 & did her SoBo thru). Hope you're able to give it another go & be successful.

Good advice overall. Especially to us 'seasoned citizens.' I consciously kept my mileage down in the beginning & was very timid on going downhill in slippery conditions (I wished I'd brought my MicroSpikes for the snow & ice, though).

My actual hiking itinerary is in a link in my signature below. It shows what time I started hiking each day & when I stopped. Obviously, I was no speed demon & I didn't hike long into the evening.

Best of luck to all the hikers this year.