Updated: Mar 15
Appalachian Trail Section Hike - 21.2 miles
Georgia: Neel Gap to Unicoi Gap
16 October to 18 October, 2020
NoBo. Three hikers. Me, Michelle, and Alan
For me, the toughest part of cold weather camping is the morning. Forcing myself out of my sleeping bag to retrieve my food bag so I can make coffee.
The chilly temperatures encountered on this hike was a challenge for all three of us in our planning. We were stepping a little bit out of our comfort zones. It was not an appreciably cold hike. The lowest temperature was around 34 degrees. The temps during the day were moderate, in the upper 50s, making for pleasant hiking. But I had not been camping in chilly weather since maybe 1991.
On Friday our shuttle driver dropped us at Neel Gap and we were on the trail by 11 AM. This was my third section in Georgia, so I was no stranger to the tough climbs which don’t appear to be depicted on the maps I carry. The first day was no exception. It was not overly strenuous, however, and we were rewarded with plenty of nice views.
We were able to water up at Hogpen Gap, and then walked another mile to an area called White Oak Stamp and pitched our tents. Day one was a total of about 7.8 miles.
Day two involved some pretty good climbs, with the toughest occurring the last mile into our campsite, which was the Blue Mtn Shelter area. There is a water source located a tenth of a mile before the campsite and it was flowing well.
Saturday evening was near perfect temperatures. We had arrived around 3:30 PM. I was able to set up camp and then enjoy a hot chocolate while bundled up in layers. Approximately 12 hikers ended up at this campsite, a fire was built, and we spent some time swapping hiking stories before retiring to our tents. A great evening and example of what is so awesome about being on the trail.
Sunday left us with only 2.4 miles to our car. We immediately drove into Helen, GA, for breakfast, which included very large pancakes.
My past two section hikes I have perhaps become a little complacent hiking on the trail. I’ve tripped twice and have been very lucky. On each occasion there was a tree to catch me.
During my section hike previous to this one, I tripped and was heading off the trail. If not for a nearby tree I was able to grab, the fall would have been a good 25 feet down the side until another tree would have caught me. At a minimum this could have resulted in some significant bruises.
On this hike, due to the thick leaves on the ground, I never saw the root I tripped over. Luckily there was a tree literally in the middle in the trail. Instead of a face-plant I merely ended up with a bruise on my upper arm.
The lesson here; take care in my travels and be more deliberate watching my footing.
What I Did Well
I prepared for my return to cold-weather camping. I packed everything I needed without going overboard on total pack weight. I wore layers in the morning, which were easily shed as I warmed up while hiking. In the evenings I was comfortable in my sleeping bag, and with the clothes I had for the campsite.
In summary, another wonderful section hike on the AT with great friends, and a chance to experience the camaraderie of the backpacking world. Great times!
About The Author
My name is Jerry. Tail name "Monsoon." In addition to running a hiking club, I also own and operate a coffee shop & bookstore. Check it out here.