Updated: Nov 24, 2020
Appalachian Trail Section Hike - 31.3 miles
Georgia: Springer Mtn to Neel Gap
30 October to 1 November, 2020
NoBo. Four hikers. Me, Teryl, Ashley, and Michelle
My section hikes this year have been so much fun I did not want them to end. This one especially. As we made our final rendezvous at Neel Gap we each expressed the same desire to stay out just one more day.
Due to the threat of parking being an issue at the Byron Reece trailhead, about ½ mile from Neel Gap, we decided to arrive Thursday night instead of early Friday morning. After conversing with our shuttle drivers the week prior, they offered us their back porch Thursday evening. This set the tone for a great weekend.
Donald and Mary run The Further Shuttle Appalachian. Like so many people I’ve had the pleasure to meet on and near the AT, they are wonderful, genuine people. Thursday night was an evening of camaraderie with like-minded people.
Mary was ready at 8:00 AM Friday morning and we departed with the destination of the Springer Mtn parking lot. The drive was longer than anticipated as the primary route was blocked by a large tree. Hurricane Zeta had blown through the area a day prior, so there was a significant amount of blow-down throughout this hike.
Despite the obstacles we were able to step off by 9:45 AM. I headed south to Springer Mtn while Ashley, Michelle, and Teryl began hiking north. The plan was to rendezvous a few miles before our desired campsite of Sassafras Mtn, at the last known water source.
I encountered a bit of blow-down on the way to Springer, but still made it there and back in about 50 minutes. I’m not likely to hike the approach trail to Springer, unless I decide on a thru-hike, so I wanted to make sure I got there on this trip.
Overall I would classify this section, from Springer to Neel Gap, as a relatively easy hike. Day one certainly fit that bill, especially the first 5 or 6 miles. It was mostly gently sloping terrain.
I arrived at Sassafras Mtn around 4 PM after approximately 12.5 miles of hiking. My three companions were nowhere in sight. We never did meet up along the way. I had received a message from Ashley that they went off trail by accident. It turns out the exact area where they went off trail is where I was passing through (Hickory Flats). We probably missed one another by five minutes. But alas all was well. They arrived just over an hour after I did.
Our target campsite on Saturday was the Lance Creek Restoration Area, which would mean a 12.4 mile day. Again, this was a fairly easy hike without too many climbs or steep descents. It was a day of walking beneath beautiful, crystal clear skies.
We had decided on an interim target for lunch, 7.4 miles into our hike, a known lookout spot listed on our maps and on Guthook. We made it there by Noon, and were pleased with our decision. It is tough to imagine a more scenic place to have lunch. With only 5 miles remaining to our campsite, we spent a full hour relaxing and enjoying the view.
We once again made it to our campsite by 4 PM. Lance Creek Restoration Area is a great campsite. It is peaceful and spread out, and there are bear cables.
Overnight, early Sunday morning, a bit of rain moved into the area. Fortunately the rain stopped by the time we were up and on the trail.
Our last day was 7.4 miles and included the infamous Blood Mtn. Evidently Neel Gap is the first place where many thru-hikers decide “this is not for me”, and head home. Perhaps a good decision. Blood Mtn is far from the toughest climb I’ve encountered in Georgia, much less North Carolina and Tennessee.
Something which added to our enjoyment on this hike was our decision to hike at our own pace throughout the three days. This allowed each of us to really enjoy the trail instead of worrying about matching someone else’s pace.
About The Author
My name is Jerry. Trail name is Monsoon. In addition to running a hiking club, I also own and operate a coffee shop & bookstore. Check it out here.