Day Three: Cooper Gap to Lance Creek, 12.2 miles / 24.3 total AT miles.

Note: My signal is too weak to upload photos. I’ll add them in later. They’re only alright anyway.

The shame of yesterday’s late start, coupled with my lack of water, drove me to pack up and leave camp at 6:30. I used my headlight to navigate for about 15 minutes and made it to the top of Justus Mountain in time for sunrise.

I made to the Justus Creek by 8:00 and took advantage of the fresh water by having a quick breakfast and scrubbing my face, neck and hands in my collapsable bowl. And then I was off again.

The trail was very nice today. I think I must’ve hiked these trails as a kid or in middle school – certain spots stood out very strongly in my memory.

After leaving Justus, I threw on the headphones and cranked out some miles arriving at the Gooch Mountain Shelter by 9:30. I’m surprised I enjoy listening to music so much while backpacking. It’s easier for me to find a hiking rhythm if there’s literally one playing in my head.

I didn’t really pass anyone on the trail or run into another hiker until reaching Gooch Gap, about 5 miles away from the day’s start.

It was here that I ran into what would become the first of many instances of “trail magic” – it’s where someone either mans a location, handing out free snacks and stuff OR sets up a cooler at a strategic spot and leaves the contents free for the taking.

At Gooch, I met “Slowride”, who offered some trail magic in the form of cookies and Mountain Lightning. That’s something else that I’m getting used to – trail names. Some folks start off, day one, with a name picked out for themselves. Other hikers have earned their name, often by doing something stupid along the way. Still others are given a name by another hiker. I’m biding my time.

My goal leaving Gooch was to catch a ride to a small outfitters in Suches, GA when I reached Woody Gap, 3.5 miles away. After enjoying the views at Ramrock Mountain, I was stopped by Dr. Pepper, a politely religious man who gave me a very generous bag of chocolate and candy.

Woody Gap was, by far, the busiest exchange I’ve had with non-hikers since starting. I was given a Sprite and then a brownie. It was great. Not seeing a shuttle, I started walking down the road towards Suches, about 2 miles away.

Within minutes, an employee of Woody Gap Outfitters picked me up in a giant cargo van and drove me the rest of the way.

I was able to remedy my water problem, at least temporarily – I bought their last Platypus 1 liter water bladder. I also grabbed a new dry bag for all by tech gear and some much needed sunscreen. While they do have a limited selection, it’s kinda refreshing to see that it’s all stuff you actually need, not stuff you think you need. I was dropped back at Wood about 45 minutes later and was given a coupon to stay at their hostel up trail.

Due to the bear canister situation ahead, I knew I needed to get to Lance Creek before the campsites filled up, as I was told they did yesterday.

I ended up finishing today’s hike with a guy who pulled off at Cooper Gap kinda late last night – it’s refreshing to know that, at any given time, there’s generally someone out there hiking your pace and to the same destination. You’ve just got ran ask around.

I arrived at Lance Creek and, sure enough, all the proper sites were taken. I’m camping on what I’d call a “hybrid” site. It’s a little bit trail, a little bit hill, but I fit.

A group of guys came in really late and had to set up way in the back of camp in what was previously the bathroom zone.

I had a nice hearty dinner and joked around with the few familiar faces I’ve run across. Of the group that left Amicalola three days ago and camped at Springer the first night, only a few of us are ready for Blood Mountain tomorrow. Most are at least a day back at this point. A few have even left the trail for good.

Tomorrow is gonna be a problematic. Thunderstorms are rolling in sometime between 10:00am and 2:00pm and Blood Mountain is 5 miles away. It’s actually supposed to start raining tonight. A small group of us have decided to wake super early and tackle this thing before the rain hits – or at least make it to one of two shelters and ride it out.

I spent the better part of half an hour this evening preparing my pack for all the rain tomorrow. I should be able to get up and go.

I’m still very excited to be out here, despite the forecast for tomorrow. It feels good to exercise hard like this. It feels good to have an amazing appetite at the end of the day. It’s fun trying to figure out the daily logistics of trail life – mileage, road crossings, campsites, etc.

The vast majority of the skills I’ve had to utilize since I got out here were largely theoretical when I started. I’m slowly figuring out how best to pack my pack and organize the pile of stuff I carry as well as other things.

My goal tomorrow is to reach Whitley Gap Shelter, about 14 miles away. Getting over Blood Mountain in the rain is gonna be tough.
I ate like a pig today.

Breakfast: one cup of dried cranberries and sunflower seeds, one bag of beef jerky

Snack (Gooch Gap): two chocolate chip cookies, one Mountain Lightning

Lunch: 5 mini chocolate bars, one flax seed bar, half cup of almonds (all gone now)

Snack (leaving Woody): one brownie and one Sprite

Dinner: pesto pasta with 2 Spam singles, half cup dried cranberries and sunflower seeds (all gone now), dried figs

Money: $19.47 for a one liter Platypus, small dry bag and some sunscreen for Woody Gap Outfitters.

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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