View Full Version : Christmas/New Year's AT Hike in Georgia

Daydream Believer
11-26-2009, 14:35
Is this nuts or a reasonable idea for two greenhorn and somewhat out of shape, middle aged and reasonably well equipped AT hikers? We'd like to do Gooch Gap (where we left off in Oct) to Unicoi Gap in three days...perhaps three days and a few hours in the following morning to get to our car. Not sure how much ground our old carcasses can cover but we did Ok in Oct...no heart attacks on Sassafras Mtn, etc...but we are SLOW. :o We'd be doing about 10-12 miles a day.

We really want to get back on the trail for another section and unfortunately life and jobs...all that nonsense has kept us from getting back on sooner when it was warmer. I'm fairly stubborn when I make up my mind to do something...and I'm not sure if we'll like winter hiking or not...as I've never done it before...but what the heck...you only live once.

I think we can pack enough warm weather gear, various layers, shells, etc... and certainly have a good tent and bags. I doubt the shelters will be overly full at that time so we ought to be able to use them reliably as well. Neither of us is much for the holidays anyway so hiking seems like a good humbug thing to do.

Any thoughts? How many other humbugs will be out there at that time? What weather do we need to be reasonably prepared for? Will standard waterproof hiking boots be enough or should we look into something insulated? All tips and advice from experienced winter hikers are very appreciated! :)


Daydream Believer
11-26-2009, 14:46
I just realized that I forgot to mention that we have done outside activities in winter before. We were at the Grand Canyon in Feb in a major blizzard last winter and we did survive that...not hiking but clinging to the back of a mule on the Kaibab Trail...I'd have rather been on foot honestly. Scared the snot out of me but it was a lot of fun.

Just thought I'd mention that we are not total beginners! :o

11-26-2009, 14:47
Most likely you won't be the only ones out there and 10-12 miles per day definetely isn't slow considering how much daylight you will have to work with.

Daydream Believer
11-26-2009, 15:06
brian039..that is true...good point...the days are much shorter. Do you think that much distance is unrealistic? I think we can get our butts up and moving at daybreak easily enough and cooking in the dark for dinner or setting up a tent is not a problem. How many hours of daylight do we have that time of year...about 10?

I had planned to overnight at the shelters but we could stop almost anywhere with a tent. This is the kind of feedback I need...kick me in the butt if I'm being dumb.

Also glad to hear we won't be the only humbugs out there!

11-26-2009, 15:43
Most likely you won't be the only ones out there and 10-12 miles per day definetely isn't slow considering how much daylight you will have to work with.

I was thinking the same thing. 10-12 miles this time of year is decent miles. I did 12-10-6(before lunch) weekend before last. At that time it was light enough to walk a little after 7 and getting to dark to walk without a lamp by 5 or 5:30. I pulled up short both long days around 3 though. I don't like to be rushed to get settled before dark. My routine is get into camp, take off my socks and shoes, and then take a short power nap. Then I'll get water, set up camp, and cook. just like to try to have all that done before it gets real dark.

But to your hike, the week between Christmas and New Years, I;d say you'd have 8 to 9 hours of workable light in the woods.

11-26-2009, 16:45
When I'm doing a long hike, I start out with 7 miles a day, but if you're doing a shorter hike, even if it's a little hard on you to start out with 12 miles, you'll be able to go home a recuperate! Go for it. (PS- 12 miles a day isn't slow, especially for the start of a hike.) Sounds like fun, good luck.

11-26-2009, 17:16
I'm not the fastest hiker in the pack, and I can handle 10-12 mpd in January. That sounds like a great hike, actually. You can stay at or near Blue Mountain shelter the last night, and walk the last 2 miles to Unicoi the next morning. You could make the third day a longer one, since the 8 miles from Low Gap to Blue Mountain are pretty flat for Georgia, too.

For me, the key to winter hiking is to get up an hour before dawn to have breakfast, pack up, and hit the trail when it gets light enough to walk. Oh, and the second key is hot food and lots of it.

Daydream Believer
11-26-2009, 17:42
Thanks! I appreciate the feedback. I guess we are better than we thought we were but I don't want to overestimate what is realistic as we are not in great shape. I wondered about that last day from Low Gap to Unicoi Gap. The guide book makes it look fairly decent but I know that guide books can be deceiving.

How hard is Gooch Gap to Woods Hole or Blood Mtn Shelter? It looks uphill most of the way but relatively gentle in grade. Quite a good long hike from what I can tell.

Also is Blood Mtn to Low Gap a tough day? It looks up and down....especially coming out of Neel's Gap. I just realized a bit ago that Whitley Gap Shelter is over a mile off the trail. That's nuts! I'd rather tent somewhere than go that far off the trail. I'd love to make it from Blood Mtn to Low Gap Shelter but that is quite a long day.

Perhaps we should make this a four day versus a three day hike realistically?

Is snow likely that time of the year? Any special equipment you would not go up there without?

11-26-2009, 18:02
I would definitely plan for some kind of winter weather. I got snow on 2 AT hikes this year April and October. Largerly the biggest chance would be some sort of iceing conditions which would make 10 or 12 miles tough to do in a day.

11-26-2009, 21:14
If it were me, I'd go with a "plan A" and "plan B" scenario...start off at gooch...see where you are by time you hit neels gap and if you need to adjust, make the phone call there for shuttle, etc. In good conditions I don't think the miles are out of the realm of reason. Problem is with N GA- it could possibly be 60 degrees and sunny all day and just as easily, it could be 35 degrees and pouring rain which would be not so much fun. It's really going to boil down to weather I think the actual week you go. As far as time of year though- great time to be out. For many years I had an annual tradition with some friends of hiking from day after Christmas til new years- great way to spend a week in the woods and usually were somewhere in the Nantahalas.

11-26-2009, 21:28
You can do Blood Mountain to Low Gap in a day, but that is a sure enough haul in the winter, short days and all. Blood Mountain is dry, unless you carry your water up from Slaughter Creek. If it were me, I'd try to push to Neel Gap, catch a sweet nights rest in the hostel with some of the best hosts on the trail. That would make for a nice day to Low Gap, or maybe even further. I'd definitely have a couple of scenarios planned out because of the unpredictability of the weather here that time of year, like mentioned above. It was 64 outside here today, but we are going one hour north to GSMNP to hike in some snow tomorrow. It can change in the blink of an eye. Have fun first and foremost.

11-26-2009, 21:55
How early can you start in the morning of the first day? I would be really tempted to slack pack from Gooch Gap to Neels Gap, about 14 miles, on the first day. Leave my big pack at the hostel and take a day pack. If you can start hiking at first light, that's doable with a daypack, for me anyway. But that means you have to stay in the area the night before and get a real early shuttle -- maybe stay at Neels or at the Hiker Hostel? The HH can take your packs to Neels for you.

Or maybe you could go southbound -- start at Unicoi and walk to Low Gap the first day (tough first climb, then easy to Low Gap), then to Neels on day 2 (moderately tough), then to Gooch Gap. That's an easier hike, in my opinion.

Finally, you could park at Neels, get the shuttle to Unicoi and walk back, then get a shuttle to Gooch Gap and walk back, slacking if you want. Plenty of options here.

Daydream Believer
11-26-2009, 23:53
Big Cranky...the slack pack idea is a really good one...especially if the weather is good and clear and you won't need all the equipment from Gooch to Neel's. I'd start at dawn if we could get a ride that early and yes, I think we could make it 14 miles with a light pack. We've done it before day hiking. As someone said though...the weather is the catch.

I had not really considered going SOBO...but I suppose we could easily enough...it would not matter that much but I had NOBO in my head since we started in that direction. We stayed at Blood Mtn Cabins on our last trip and we really enjoyed our visit there. I know that is just down the hill a ways from Mtn Crossings.

Thanks again for the ideas and advice and well wishes. Fun is definitely why we are doing this. :-)