Day Two: Springer Mountain Shelter to Cooper Gap, 12.1 miles/12.3 AT miles

I dozed off shortly after finishing last night’s post and woke up to some fairly heavy rain. I didn’t fully tighten the guylines that keep my rainfly taut and a little water got in on the storm side. Learned my lesson there, assuredly. For the most part, I slept well.

I was up at 6:15 and started repacking and organizing my backpack. I retrieved my food bag and made a hearty breakfast. I leisurely collected water and washed my face. I played around with my pack some more and before I knew it, it was 9:45.

I didn’t want to be in camp that late. I was excited to start hiking.

There were only a few camping options today – Hawk Mountain Shelter at 8 miles away or Gooch Mountain Shelter at nearly 16 miles.

I realized right away that my screwing around at camp potentially cost me about three hours of hiking time. There was no way I was going to make it to Gooch, but I didn’t think Hawk Mountain was far enough.

The hike to Hawk Mountain was nice, nothing too major. I inadvertently put some distance between myself and the hikers I left with that morning. I hiked alone most of the day. It was very, very nice.

It’s evident that spring still hasn’t arrived in North Georgia. The leaves, the trees, the trail – everything is a shade of brown. Hardwoods have yet to bud at the higher elevations. It looks like winter, but again I hiked in shorts and a t-shirt today.

 

Winter is still here, if in appearance only.
 
I made to it Hawk Mountain by 1:30, had a quick lunch and grabbed as much water as I could carry. An AT volunteer at Hawk confirmed that, if I were to leave, I wouldn’t run into water again until I hit Cooper Gap four miles away. He told me that the military keeps a tank of water at the pass and hikers are allowed to refill.
That little inside scoop was enough to send me 4 miles over Sassafras Mountain and into Cooper Gap – only to find this water barrel to be nonexistent. I set up camp with the sun setting and just enough water to get me to a stream two miles away when I wake up.

 

View from the top of Sassafras Mountain.
 
The weather was deceptively bright today. I got a sunburn. I bought one of those little sunscreen sticks thinking it would be enough to protect me until Spring officially arrives. I was completely wrong.

My legs still feel great, but my shoulders and neck hurt. My goal is to get up and outta here ASAP to get some delicious water. Full disclosure: I’m starting to reek.

Tomorrow, I’ll only be able to hike another 12 or so miles before hitting a “bear canister” zone. I should arrive early in the afternoon to tent near Lance Creek, the last stop before bear canisters become mandatory. They are only required for six miles, so I should be able to hike through the zone, no problem.

I really enjoyed the peace and quiet of hiking alone today. Tomorrow should be a little more crowded as the weekend is upon us and Blood Mountain awaits on Sunday.

Breakfast: one cup dark chocolate granola mixed with dried figs and almonds, served hot, with coffee

Lunch: beef jerky and almonds

Dinner: more couscous, kale and bacon, this time with Spam added in, and dried cranberries with sunflower seeds. More beef jerky.

Author: Chris Kummer

Hey y'all - Cool Dad here. Ever since I was a little kid, I wanted to thru-hike the AT. It remained a nagging thought for nearly a decade - then it got loud enough to warrant my attention. So I quit my unfulfilling job(s) in Seattle and commenced hiking north from Springer in the spring of 2016. And I'm exceedingly thankful I did. The people I met, the things I saw, the gross foods I ate - not a day goes by without fondly remembering life on the trail. If you've already thru-hiked a long trail, you know exactly what I'm talking about. If you're thinking about tackling a long-distance hike, do it. Do it now. I'm probably gonna do it again...

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