View Full Version : Amicalola to Deep Gap, NC -- We Did It!

Mountain Laurel
05-14-2018, 15:13
Thanks for all the help and tips and information gleaned from lurking over the months. First of all, the weather was incredible the entire time. Freakishly so. Best insurance for good weather is apparently pack those rain pants (which I wore for laundry days) and buy a fabulous new raincoat (that stayed in the mesh the entire time).

5/4 -- 3.5 miles on approach trail. We had a chance to sneak out of town and hopefully get to the visitor's center in the nick of time. Which we did -- 5 minutes before closing. Got on the approach trail about 5:30 and the stairs were really not bad. I counted them to pass the time, which made me dizzy a few times, but it worked. :) We hiked on until about 7:00, stopping 3.5 miles in at a nice little private site. Weather amazing. Loved hearing the owls (which never grew old the entire time we were on trail). We did end up forfeiting our prepaid hotel room, but we decided it was worth it. No regrets.

5/5 -- 13.5 miles, Hawk Mountain Shelter. We got on trail and worked our way past Springer and decided we were feeling good and would just see if we could make Hawk. We camped, went to the WONDERFUL water source, where I soaked my feet (well downstream from where people would get water). We misinterpreted the Guthooks comment about the campsite past the privy on the hill. It was further up and a beautiful flat site with a great view. Next time! There were some folks in the shelter and about 5 other tents. The only rain on trail of the trip was at 9 that night, after we were already in bed.

5/6 -- 16 miles, Lance Creek. This was an accident, straight up. It was our 30th anniversary and we set a few options as stops for the night. We got to Woody and I was sure there would be a nice site about a mile past, where a water source was. Nope. Once we hit Preacher's Rock (photo), a lady suggested a great hilltop site. We saw it and loved it. But it was a good distance up trail to water. So we decided to just keep moving and headed to Lance. Which was pretty crowded when we rolled in at 5-ish. But we got the first site past the creek and it was fine. I was tired, managed to blow the top off my Mountain House Stroganoff in my cooking cozy, but otherwise it was a fine anniversary dinner :) We met some of the kids who were thru hiking as well. Still not crowded, though, and we spent most of our trail days just the two of us. The blowdown damage at Lance was heartbreaking to see. Harvey/Irma did a number on that area to be sure.

5/7 7.5 miles, Nero to Neel and Blood Mountain Cabins. We feared Blood. We were apprehensive. Turns out it wasn't bad for us at all. We were fresh and I'm sure that helped. The weather, again, was stunning and the views incredible!!! We rolled into Mountain Crossing around 1:00, called Blood Mountain and found out they had a cabin. I pretty much ran down the hill at that point. We checked in, showered, passed off laundry (donned my rain pants, how fashionable) and went to resupply at Mountain Crossing. It was a bit pricey, but the convenience was good and still way cheaper than our usual vacations. We met Joe from Boynton Beach during his pack shakedown while shopping. He's 69 and thru hiking to Maine (shed about 2 pounds there). We had preordered a Hunt's Brothers pizza at Blood Mountain General Store, and went back and snagged it, our laundry and ice cream sandwiches. Back at Squirrel (Freddy on the wall over the fireplace is terrifying; just sayin) we ate on the deck overlooking the creek, I iced my feet because I COULD and we relaxed. I got up and took another shower because, well, again, I COULD and we got a nice early start sans packing up the tent, etc.

5/8 14 Neel to Poplar Stamp. A friend had told us he hated Hogpen and so we were again apprehensive. For us, though, it was a great day of climbs and fabulous views. Cowrock took my breath away. (There was a shirt with a guy's name, Ryan, there as a memorial. I never heard anything about it on trail.) Ran into Joe at Cowrock and he was having a blast. We went past Low Gap and into Poplar Stamp. Another site hit hard with the storms. We set up camp right off the trail and then discovered the really nice sites down by the water source afterward (so when Joe and another hiker, Steve, came through, we told them about them and they camped there that night). It took literally an hour to try to find a bear hang. All that was left were saplings and huge trees that were too high. Finally had to hang it basically over the trail, which was embarrassing, but we vowed to get up early and get it before anybody came through (one couple got past while we were taking it down). We saw Joe one last time, heading out that morning. I learned he had not treated his clothing or self for ticks. I made him promise to rectify that in Helen, where he apparently had a resupply box awaiting. We lost track of him then. Hike on, Joe!!

5/9 14 Poplar Stamp to Tray Mountain Shelter. Turned 61 climbing three mountains. Again, gorgeous weather and amazing views. We ate lunch on top of Rocky and just soaked it all in. The wild flowers, the vistas, the birds (panorama photo attached).

5/10 11 miles, short day, Tray to Dick's Creek Gap. I wanted a hamburger and a beer. Badly. We had decided we could do a town day and stop at Deep Gap or plow through and make it to the 100 Mile Tower. But that would also mean a horrifically long day Saturday if we could even get back to our car. So we let go of crushing miles and decided to just have some fun. Hiker Hostel had no cabins available, and we didn't really want to do bunks. Husband found Henson Cove B & B in Guthooks. We were able to get room there and they would pick us up in the parking area at Dick's Creek. It started to rain about 10 minutes from the lot, but not really hard enough to even mess with rain gear. By the time we got to the lot, it had stopped. During our stay at Henson Cove, they shuttled us to and from the trail, to and from town, took us to the grocery, did our laundry, had complimentary wine (and satellite so we could watch Game 7 of the Preds-Jets, which ended badly). We ate at Barney's in Hiawassee, on the porch, and it rained again briefly for the last time of our trip. Timing in life is everything. The half-pound burger and fries tasted better than anything I'd eaten in a while, and I ate every bite. Hubs had the banana pudding and declared it amazing. Got up and had lots of coffee (because we could) and a fabulous breakfast before being taken back to the trail around 9:30.

5/11 11.8 miles, Dick's Creek to Muskrat Shelter. Told Rich it was "just" 11 miles. Well, during the hockey game he showed me the elevations. Oh, dear. BUT we were going to FINISH GEORGIA today and I was jacked. We had a great time at the state line, did the mandatory poses with the tree and then started to trudge up toward Sharp Top. Still very little traffic and we figured out by this point that for old farts we were keeping a pretty good pace, or so it seemed. We did get passed on the way up to Sharp by a young French guy, but that was about it. :) Sharp was hard. And it was pushing 2 p.m. and getting hot. After Sharp was more of the same and I almost missed the vista because Rich had stopped behind to call his office. I saw the path, wondered if it was worth walking DOWNHILL even that short bit for whatever was there. Yes, it was. Very much so!! After the vista, we trudged on into Muskrat, first ones there. (The French kid showed up a few hours later. Must have taken a long lunch stop somewhere). Poor Muskrat is sort of sad. The blowdowns and maybe heavy use? But we found a nice flat site near the creek. It was buggy -- first real bugs we'd encountered -- but otherwise just fine. We ate early and planned to follow a suggestion from Guthooks and do the .5 miles out to Raven Rock Point to see the sunset and the remains of a downed Cessna. We encountered blowdowns right away, and maneuvered around them. And saw bear scat, probably a week old. Gave us pause, but moved on to another blowdown. Got around it and saw more bear scat. NOT a week old. Maybe same day. With that, I said, "Let the bear have the plane and the view," husband quickly agreed and I turned around in such a hurry I whacked my head on a tree branch. Night was uneventful and no bear noises -- only the owls carrying on as usual, which always made me laugh. The stars were AMAZING. 180-degree, horizon to horizon. I wished so much for my good Canon and a tripod because I wanted to capture that view forever.

5/12 4 miles, Muskrat to Deep Gap, NC. We got up, headed out and were in the parking lot by 10, even though we dallied. We were both lost in thought and neither of us really wanted to leave. I considered making a run for it and heading on to Albert anyway, but Mary from The Furthest Shuttle was already there (30 minutes early!) and so I gave up and resigned myself to leaving the trail. Got back to the car 2.5 hours later, went and turned in our car tag AND TOOK A PHOTO AT THE DARNED ARCH (attached) and headed back home.

Final thoughts?

We know -- weather like that is rare and definitely impacts your trail experience. We'll take the great luck but realize it may never be that way again. (Still don't know how my shoes handle being wet and they have 100 miles on them)
Hats off to the fabulous people who maintained the trails in Georgia. AMAZING, AMAZING, AMAZING. We're donating right away as a show of thanks.
I packed my fears. I was so worried about my feet, but I last-minute got Merrell MQMs that were perfect. By three days in, I shed the knee sleeve and the ankle sleeve and just used some leuko tape on my posterior tib and all was fine. Didn't even take ibuprofen the last three days. I think we were well on our way to getting our hiker legs!
Yes, I would love to go all the way to Maine. Maybe start back at Deep Gap and go to Katahdin and then back down to Deep Gap and SOBO to Amicalola because that way I won't have to flip the Sassafras Gap sign the bird again (yeah, I did; how mature, I know, but I do love that photo now!)
Trail magic? Didn't see a single thing. Apparently somebody was giving out ice water in Unicoi but we either got through early or blew right past it. The serenity and peacefulness of our week out there was so perfect. Just enough people to keep it fun. I know the NOBOs who started when we did will have to keep a pace on it, but what a great environment to hike in!

No trail name earned, so still just Mountain Laurel

Preacher's Rock
Panorama Rocky Mountain
Arch at the end. Oops!

05-14-2018, 15:49
Nice report! Makes me feel a little bit of nostalgia. :)

Now that you've done 100 miles, you have become an expert and are entitled to answer newby questions with an air of authority. ;)

05-14-2018, 15:51
Hey, what happened to the emojis???

05-14-2018, 15:56
Glad to hear you two had a great time and great weather!

Mountain Laurel
05-14-2018, 16:05
Hmm, I dunno. I hope I didn't break them -- but it's entirely possible!

It was such a great time. I spent the day going to Tray trying to remember every song I'd ever heard with "hill" or "mountain" in it. I had a pretty good list going by the time we hit camp. I didn't actually sing them. I did make the mistake of bursting into "I'm Gonna Be" as we headed up Cowrock as a joke. And then the darned song was stuck in my head for two days. No bears and no deer. Lots of chipmunks and squirrels and one tiny copperhead that either hit the trail between Rich and I or he stepped right over it and didn't see it. I did and gave it a wide berth. Then he had to come back and investigate it. It's a guy thing, I'm sure!!

Thanks, Leonidas!

Gambit McCrae
05-14-2018, 16:09
Great report! Glad you had a good first experience

Mountain Laurel
05-14-2018, 17:28
Thanks, Gambit! Have you and your lady gone out yet? I hope she has/had a great first adventure!

Mountain Laurel
05-15-2018, 10:45
I just realized I left out why I called it THE DARNED ARCH when I attached that photo. When we went into the visitor's center, we didn't realize the approach trail actually started out the back door. We were in such a rush, we got registered, grabbed the car tag and shot right out the front again. When we parked and walked back, the front door was locked, of course. We just walked down the road a little bit and found the trail using Guthooks and walked over and got onto it probably a tenth of a mile or so past the visitor's center. Obviously I had no idea where exactly said arch was. I figured maybe over by the steps up to the falls. But when we got to the top of the falls and still no arch, well, I realized the error of our ways but had zero intentions of going all the way back down and starting over! So any newbies who are wondering, yeah. It's behind the visitor's center, so you may want to start there. When we got the car and turned in the tag, then we went back there and got somebody to snap that photo. Guess we left something for the real thru hike in Amicalola after all. :)