View Full Version : 1 week hiking GA section up to Muskrat Creek Shelter or Standing Indian

07-22-2015, 11:39
I'm a newbie backpacker doing a week in early September starting at Springer Mountain and aiming for Muskrat Creek Shelter or Standing Indian. I'm starting the Saturday of Labor Day weekend and wondering what people and bear conditions will be like. I've done day hikes on the AT but this is my first time overnighting it. Should I expect crowds? Should I try to stay at shelters or do trailside camping? I've heard there are "bear seasons" and was wondering if this is a time when they're likely to be more active?

I'm excited but a little intimidated and trying to learn all I can before I go. Thanks in advance :)

Gambit McCrae
07-22-2015, 12:14
Down that far south you will still be in bear season, and 100 degree days. Its just walking no need to be intimidated, Start at springer, hike south bound the mile or so to the summit, then turn around and start north bound. There is not parking at muskrat creek shelter so you will be shooting for deep gap which is the first parking after ga/nc border. Standing Indian is a mountain no parking at that data local either. Your next road/ parking would be Mooney Gap (I believe).

07-22-2015, 12:44
100 in early September? Not so sure about that. From the website I looked up, low 60s at night, low 80s during the day are average temperatures. 10-15 up or down from there should get you in the neighborhood of record lows and highs.

There is a requirement to use bear canisters in a portion of that area during the spring. I'm not aware of any heightened concern during the fall.

Hope you enjoy your hike, and welcome!

07-22-2015, 14:11
Thanks for the replies and welcome :)

From what I saw on Weather Underground, I was thinking 80s and 60s, which sounds a lot nicer than 100. Good to know it's not likely to skyrocket. I imagine I should be more than safe with a 45-rated sleeping bag, then, right?

Good to know about the bear canisters. I had read about that little stretch where they're required in the spring. I'm wondering if an Ursack is a good investment anyway, just in case.

07-22-2015, 14:30
... I'm wondering if an Ursack is a good investment anyway, just in case.

The Ursack S29 AllWhite is handy. Easy to use, just follow the manufacturer instructions...

Sounds like a great trip! I'll be doing the same thing in reverse a month later. Have fun!

07-22-2015, 15:49
It will be hot and HUMID in GA in early September. I did Amicalola to Unicoi Gap last year starting Labor Day and it was miserable most of the time.

No need for a bear canister, most shelters in GA have bear cables.

07-22-2015, 16:17
The weather will be fine -- it'll certainly be cooler than in Columbia. :) Expect warm days, cool nights, and afternoon thunderstorms.

You'll need to end at a road or parking area where you can leave your car or get picked up. For a first time backpacker doing a week-long section, I would STRONGLY recommend leaving your car at The Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega and letting them shuttle you to Springer, then arrange to have them pick you up when you are done hiking. You don't know how far you'll hike in a week, and leaving your car at the "end" can easily mean two expensive shuttles (ask me how I know this). The most common place to finish in GA is at Dick's Creek Gap, which is also a convenient place for a shuttle driver to pick you up. If you are a particularly strong hiker you could make it to Deep Gap and walk down to Standing Indian Campground, which is another convenient spot for pickup.

Do plan to resupply at Neels Gap, so you don't have to carry all your food at the start. No real worries about bears - you might see one. Do hang your food properly (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bear_bag_hanging_technique.html). This is easier if you tent near the shelters so you can use the bear cables to hang your food. An Ursack will keep the rodents out, which is nice, but it should still be hung on the bear cables where available. Tenting near the shelters is not a bad strategy in general, as there is usually good water and tent sites.

Have fun!

07-22-2015, 18:20
+ 1 for bigcranky above. I have no idea how many miles you can hike per day, but I would look at Hog Pen Gap or Unicoi Gap as my destination for a leisurely five day hike.

07-22-2015, 18:21
FYI: The FS road up to Blue Ridge Gap has been repaired and is now accepting non-4wheel dive automobile traffic up to Blue Ridge Gap. Recent rains washed out and exposed digital cable on the FS road and for this reason all the rocks and washouts have been removed. I do not know how long it will remain this way, but it gives you one more accessible trailhead before you reach North Carolina, which is three miles up the trail.

07-22-2015, 20:22
Thanks so much for the information, everyone! I really appreciate it.

I'm putting Neel Gap on my itinerary as a place to stop. I'm trying to get my pack under 20 lbs., and the ability to restock should help significantly. Do y'all think it's possible to get my pack weight down that low? I'm having trouble and I can't afford to spend big bucks on all ultralight gear.

I have friends dropping us off at Springer Mountain (not going to do the approach trail) and then someone on standby to pick us up with the vague directions of "we'll probably be wandering somewhere along Rte. 64 near Standing Indian Campground." It's good to know about the FS road, though, in case we need an out. I'm taking AWOL's guide with me (or at least the relevant pages) for shuttle and other information.

ChrisJackson, thanks for the recommendation on the Ursack! I'm going to check it out.

Abatis1948, we're actually doing a full 7 days, so I'm hoping we can make it a bit into NC. However, that being said, if we're tired or just not feeling up for it, we're not going to push ourselves. I'd rather enjoy myself than set an imaginary finish line.

bigcranky, thanks so much for the information and link! I'll practice a bit before getting out there so I know what I'm doing :) (more or less. ha!) I'm new posting here, but I've been lurking for a while and find your posts very informative. Thanks!

07-22-2015, 20:44
Zeldaminor, I am doing that same route second week of October. I have not hiked the AT since I was17 hmm I'm 54 now!
I'm very interested in what gear you are using, food stuffs and any then you think might help me.
i am driving up from south florida by myself and the info on the parking and shuttles is of great help all, any further advice is certainly appreciated.


07-22-2015, 20:58
I would think its a good idea to do a weekend hike to make sure your familiar with your gear and to get some kind of routine with water,cooking,setup and things like that before jumping into a full week.Also to make sure your ok with hiking more than one day.I do a shakedown every year.Just something to think about.Good luck.

07-22-2015, 21:26
Springer to Dicks Creek Gap (US 76) is about 70 miles and could be a good weeks hike. The dirt road at Deep Gap is another 15 miles or so. Depending on what you mean by 7 "full" days. It can take longer than you think to get to the trailhead, call a friend, that sort of thing.

The difference in weather between the first week of September and 2nd week of September can be amazing. It is often when the heat and humidity breaks. Also you will see a lot of people if you are out on Labor Day weekend, not so many afterwards.

Bears are not much of a problem. The campgrounds are still pretty full and the campers have fuller coolers than backpackers. Exercise a little caution around Chattahoochee gap as there is a private campground with a garbage problem just over from Jacks Knob trail. Hanging your food, snacks and garbage on the cables or a line is a really good idea. You don't need a fancy bear bag, I tend to use a stuff sack and I've hiked with people who use grocery bags or big ziplock bags.

I wouldn't worry too much about "ultralight" work with good gear and avoid duplicates. You won't need a heavy sleeping bag and you could likely camp with a fly and groundsheet. Generally, people who are starting out add weight with duplicates such as a back-up knife, too many clothes, and other duplicate equipment.

07-23-2015, 09:26
I'm putting Neel Gap on my itinerary as a place to stop. I'm trying to get my pack under 20 lbs., and the ability to restock should help significantly. Do y'all think it's possible to get my pack weight down that low? I'm having trouble and I can't afford to spend big bucks on all ultralight gear.

It would be unusual to get your total pack weight including food and water below 20 pounds on a first time backpacking trip. I generally plan for my food and other expendables to weigh in at 2 pounds per day, then water is 2 pounds per liter, so three days of food and two liters of water is ten pounds. (Note that "three days" of food is really most of four days on the trail, as you can eat breakfast on the first day and dinner on the last day in town.) That means that a 20 pound pack is 10 pounds of base weight and 10 pounds of food and water.

Most beginning backpackers find it very difficult to get their base weight below 20 pounds -- or even 30 pounds! :) If you can get your base weight (*everything* in your pack except food and water) down to below 20 pounds, you are doing very well. That gives a total starting weight of about 30, which is doable, and of course drops every day as you eat your food.

The key to a sub-20 pound base weight, like the key to any lightweight pack, is not in spending huge amounts of money on "ultralight gear" -- it's knowing what to leave at home. After all, you can easily load up a pack with 40 or 50 pounds of "ultralight gear." :) Assuming you have a reasonable "big four" -- that is, pack, tent, sleeping bag, and pad -- then the places to keep an eye on are your cook kit, extra clothing, and the "just in case" stuff. This is where I see excess weight in a lot of packs.

You can get the "big four" to total around ten pounds without spending a lot of money -- that's a 3 pound pack, 3 pound tent, 3 pound sleeping bag, and 1 pound sleeping pad. These items are ubiquitous at outfitters, and come at all price points. (It wasn't long ago that "lightweight" gear included a 5 pound pack and a 5 pound tent. Seriously.) That leaves up to ten pounds for clothing, cook kit, personal items, etc.

What does your gear list look like now? There are lots of threads here on what to carry, and I'd be happy to PM you my standard gear spreadsheet.

07-23-2015, 16:02
Glenlawson is dead on about September weather. You can definitely feel summer ending right about mid-September in these parts. Just keep your eye on the long range weather forecast before you go and pray for no tropical activity. :)

08-12-2015, 19:49
My section hike back in mid-May was as follows:

Day 1 - Beginning at 8:30am. USFS 42 to Springer, then Springer to Cooper Gap. Mileage 13.3.
Day 2 - Cooper Gap to Lance Creek. Mileage 12.
Day 3 - Lance Creek to Swaim Gap. Shower and resupply at Neels Gap. Mileage 10.3.
Day 4 - Swaim Gap to Blue Mountain. Mileage 15.9.
Day 5 - Blue Mountain to Deep Gap. Mileage 15.5.
Day 6 - Deep Gap to Bly Gap (NC). 1.3 mile, 2 hour diversion for resupply at Top of Georgia Hostel. Total Mileage 13.9.
Day 7 - Bly Gap to USFS 71. Stopped about noon. Total Mileage. 6.8

The temps were VERY hot, which contributed to my sluggishness. We stopped short at Lance Creek, as we did not have a bear container for the 5 mile section between Jarrard and Neel Gap. We also had several blue blaze diversions for water and shelter which added mileage not listed here. Our pack weight when full was at about 26 pounds. Our days were not really long, could have hiked several more miles each day had we chose to start earlier, hike a bit later.

08-17-2015, 16:46
Thanks for your log, juniorace! Really helpful for me to see what other people are doing. I'm hoping it will be a bit cooler than it was in mid-May, but who knows? I've been training with a full pack on the weekends to try and up my endurance, but I know if it's hot it's just going to sap my energy.

08-17-2015, 17:46
If you are new to backpacking, do not try to get in a lot of heavy miles the first few days. What is easy to some hikers can be a little more difficult to others. I do not sleep in shelters unless the weather turns really ugly, but I do sleep close to a shelter at times because most have a good water supply and I do like people. The Hawk Mountain Shelter is about 8 miles in and would be a good distance for the first day. Gooch Mountain Shelter is about 15.8 miles from Springer and will be a good location to stop the 2nd night. By this time you will know if you can do more miles per day and have a pretty good feel about shelters. Again, I do not know your abilities, but I do know being able to 3 miles an hour in Columbia can decrease sharply when you hit the trail. Starting at the time stated expect to see many people over the weekend. Good luck and have fun. Explore Long Creek Falls and the cemetery at Hickory Flatts.

08-17-2015, 20:47
Ah. I am in Columbia, but I train in the mountains in NC on the weekends. Middle Prong Wilderness, Shining Rock Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest, etc. The only thing Columbia would be good training for would be extreme heat! I've been able to do about 12 miles fairly easily up in NC in a day, but that's starting around 11 and finishing before dinner. So I'm hoping I can sustain at least that pace, although that being said I'm not going to knock myself out to accrue miles. Defeats the purpose in my opinion. I'm also in pretty good shape otherwise, working out 2-3x per day. My plan is to go in with high hopes but not sweat it if it doesn't pan out exactly like that :)

Good to know about your shelter strategy--that's kind of what I'd like to do. I'm not keen on rodents and don't really want to sleep packed in a shelter when I have a perfectly nice little tent.

Thanks for the heads-up about the waterfall and cemetery! Sounds really cool. I'll make a note!

08-17-2015, 21:42
From the sounds of your conditioning, I expect you will have no problem maintaining a schedule similiar to the one I posted earlier in the thread. I would also expect that will leave you with sufficient time to set-up/break camp, and enjoy some nice stops along the way.

I freaking hate the shelters....simply because of the mice. Only stayed in one, Deep Gap in GA. Mice kept me up most of the night, sqraking and scurrying about. Mainly fearing they were going to chew something up. While at Bly Gap, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sight of a mouse scurrying back and forth across the outside top of my tent. Must have kept at it for about an hour...