Monday, April 18, 2016

AT 2016 -> Days 17-27 (4/14-4/24) (miles 266-469)

Photos from the last 200 miles of trail from Hot Springs NC to Damascus VA.  

The first 3 states and 465 miles are now in the books.  Up next is 540 miles through Virginia, the longest state of the AT.  

Hot Springs, NC mile 274

Trail goes right down Main Street in Hot Springs

Crossing Tenn route 212 at Devil's Fork Gap 

Mile 319, approaching Big Bald
Sunrise near Big Bald mile 321

Morning on Big Bald
Looking up Grassy Ridge Bald, Roan Highlands area

Little Hump Mtn, TN mile 385

Crossing the "Hardcore Cascades" mile 409

Piped spring with cold water that doesn't need filtering, lots of these along the southern AT

Old cabin just before Dennis Cove, mile 418

Laurel Fork Falls, TN

Trail along Laurel Fork

Pasture walking in Tennessee

Morning fog mile 450

Tenn/Virginia border

Damascus, VA mile 469

Trail through downtown Damascus, VA

Woodchuck Hostel, Damascus VA

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

AT 2016 -> Days 10-16 (4/7-4/13) (miles 145-265)

The last section of trail took me into and out of Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Starting at Fontana Dam, the AT climbs into the park and oak forests give way to fir and spruce trees at the higher elevations.   Much of the park is a temperate rainforest.

The big negative of GSMNP is that the park service requires all hikers to stay at designated shelters, meaning no dispersed tent camping is allowed.  You can tent at the shelters only if the shelter is full when you arrive.  This means there is a greater risk of getting sick (norovirus is a real problem), and also that you sometimes have to stop hiking before you normally would in the evening because the next shelter may be too far to reach.

Fontana Lake NC

Crossing Fontana Dam

Highest damn dam east of the Mississippi

Spence Field shelter, GSMNP

Early morning climb up Rocky Top - GSMNP

Beech tree forest - GSMNP

Clingman's Dome, highest point on AT - GSMNP

Snowy rain forest - GSMNP
Newfound Gap mile 207 - GSMNP
Charlie's Bunion mile 211 - GSMNP

Camp near Davenport Gap

Max Patch bald, first real landmark after leaving GSMNP 

Mile 254

Friday, April 8, 2016

AT 2016 -> Days 6-9 (4/3-4/6) (miles 80 to 144)

The mornings and nights in NC have been cold and clear thus far, with wind on the ridges gusting to 30 mph and night temps in the 20's.  It feels more like fall than spring, which makes for great hiking weather during the day. 

Since entering NC the views have been more expansive with several lookout towers on top of the various balds (mountain tops) that allow for 360 degree views.  

There are definitely a lot of other northbound thru-hikers around but I've still gone 10 miles here and there without seeing anyone else, which is nice.  By avoiding the trail shelters (there is generally a shelter every 10 miles or so) you can have a more wilderness experience.  I always prefer to disperse tent camp away from the shelters, there is less noise and less chance of getting sick. 

I'll be entering Great Smokey National Park after taking a rest day at Fontana Dam Village.

Tunnel through rhododendrons

Camp above Betty Creek Gap

Climb up Albert Mtn

Albert Mtn lookout tower - mile 100

Winding Stair Gap,  Frankin NC hitch

Wayah Bald

Wesser Bald

Bridge across Nantahala River at NOC 

Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) - whitewater rafting hub

Mile 140

Sassafras Gap Shelter mile 144 (hanging food to keep away from mice)

AT 2016 -> Days 1-5 (3/29-4/2) (miles -8 to 79)

In 2016 I'll be hiking the Appalachian Trail northbound from Georgia to Maine.  Passing through 14 states and stretching almost 2,200 miles, the trail heads mostly northeast along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katadin in Maine.

I started at Amicalola Falls State Park and hiked the 8 mile approach trail to the official start of the AT atop Springer Mountain on 3/29.   The first 5 days of trail took me 79 miles through north Georgia to the NC border at Bly Gap.

The trail passes mostly through mixed hardwood forests in Georgia, with abundant water flowing from springs and small creeks.  While the climbs/descents are not long in this first state, they are fairly steep and rocky.  The high point of the trail here is Blood Mountain which tops out at about 4,400 ft.  

Starting out at Amicalola Falls State Park 3/29/16

Weighing the pack at the visitor center

Starting the Approach Trail up the steps to the top of Amicalola Falls

Top of the falls looking south
The official start of the AT atop Springer Mtn, Georgia
First white blaze of the AT 
Long Creek Falls Day 1

Camp near mile 10
Morning Day 2 through oak forests

Trail magic at Woody Gap, mile 21
Steep climb up Blood Mtn
Shelter on summit of Blood Mtn
Neels Gap
Stormy evening at Whitley Gap shelter 

Climb up Tray Mtn
Mile 70

Another clear cold day, trees are still mostly bare
Day 5

Crossing into NC on evening of Day 5, mile 79