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Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

I spent six nights at Above the Clouds Hostel as part of one of their group slackpacking trips, arriving the afternoon of September 23, and greeted by Nimrod’s heavenly-smelling kitchen. (Nimrod made fresh bread everyday.) As stated in my earlier post, the group was small and intimate with only one other person, Robyn, a nurse and runner–and with much more stamina than I! Lucky (hostel owner) hiked with us on day one, but after completing the first day on the trail, he felt confident that we could increase our mileage for the remainder of our stay. On days two through five, Lucky hiked only parts of the trail with us, typically dropping us in the morning and meeting us on the second portion of the hike. What a wonderful experience! I’ll always remember the entire trip, but here are some of the highlights:

Day 1Springer Mountain to Hightower Gap8.9 miles
Day 2Hightower Gap to Woody Gap   11.9 miles
Day 3Woody Gap to Neel Gap10.8 miles
Day 4Neel Gap to Hogpen Gap             6.9 miles
Day 5Hogpen Gap to Unicoi Gap14 miles

On day one, we were on the trail by 9:00 and hiked the one mile to the top of Spring Mountain, the start of the trail, before hiking the same one mile back down. We hiked over rocks and and roots and paused to lunch beside Long Creek Falls. After six hours of hiking, this Florida girl’s body cried for a break! I returned to the hostel, sliding out of the truck on wobbly legs, and greeted by a room scented with candles and a delicious steak dinner.

The Trail Begins: Spring Mountain

Day two hiking started with Nimrod’s yummy blueberry pancakes, sausage, and home fries. Our hike began at Hightower Gap, and within the first couple of hours, we had climbed Unnamed Mountain and Sassafras, somehow avoiding the forecasted rain. We lunched beside Justus Creek before ascending some very ominous-looking stairs. Before lunch, Robyn had spotted two bears, and that afternoon, I came across one just off the trail. Dang! Those things are fast! We completed 11.9 miles and returned home to a heavenly-smelling dinner of boneless chicken thighs sauteed in a teriyaki sauce and smothered with a fruit salsa.

View from the Top of Ramrock Mountain

We began day three with a quick breakfast of egg and bacon sandwiches and departed to Woody Gap by 6:15. At Woody Gap, we hiked one mile in the dark to the top of Preacher’s Rock to watch a gorgeous sunrise. What a glorious and ethereal start to the day!

Sunrise from Preacher’s Rock

Neels Gap to Hogpen Gap on day four was the shortest hike so far–only 6.9 miles, but the last climb to Hogpen proved the toughest to this point. The day started sunny, but cold–so, I layered up, happy for the buff I had picked up at the outfitter the day before.

View from Cow Rock

Our last day on the trail began with a breakfast of french toast, home fries, and fruit. It ended with shrimp primavera and homemade cornbread. We hiked about eight hours and covered the last fourteen miles to Unicoi Gap. The trail started out easy and mild, but the last two to three miles were nuts! The path was narrow, rocky, and rooty, and at times, I had to search for a spot to step. We completed the 52.5 miles, and I was thrilled to have suffered only muscle aches and pains during the five days.

Reflection on Day Five

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Woo-hoo! I escaped the heat and humidity (and Hurricane Ian) of South Florida early Friday morning, and I arrived at Above the Clouds Hostel in Suches, Georgia, early in the afternoon. My flight took me to Atlanta where I jumped on the MARTA train to North Springs. Here, Lucky, owner of Above the Clouds, picked me up. We stopped in the beautiful and quaint town, Dahlonega, for a quick lunch at Spirits Tavern before finishing the very winding, elevated trip to the hostel in Suches.

Above the Hostel, Above the Clouds

Who doesn’t have hiking the Appalachian Trail on their bucket list? It’s been on mine for years—although I did finally agree with myself that rather than attempting to conquer all 2,190 miles, I would complete at least one section hike in each of the fourteen states. I have hiked parts of New Hampshire and Georgia in past years.

However, with retirement in my very near future (November 30—yikes!), I needed to make a dent in my bucket list, and I was thrilled to discover slackpacking—thank you Facebook! When I first heard the term slackpacking, I thought, slacker, but after experiencing five days on the AT, I do not believe that slackpacking is for slackers at all.

I stayed at the hostel for six nights with five days of hiking planned. My slackpacking group was small and intimate with only one other person, Robyn. Robyn is a nurse, a runner, and a wee bit (20 years) younger than I. However, this trip and my newfound trail sister were among the best experiences of my life.

We planned five days of hiking a total of 38.2 miles, but after Lucky hiked with us the first day, he felt confident we could increase our hikes for the remaining four days. In the end, we hiked 52.5 miles.

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