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Weekend at the start of the AT

I’ve been slacking with writing trip reports (missed 49 over the last couple of years), so there’s only one way to get started again. Here goes…

What: Springer Mountain & the first few miles of the AT
When: April 6th & 7th

I’ve been up Springer Mountain many times. It’s a special place that I look forward to visiting many more times.

This weekend, a co-worker had a weekend free and had never been to Springer. I don’t need much of an excuse to head to the mountains.

After Chris (Yoti) got off work at 4PM, we drove up to the parking lot on Forest Service Road 42. The parking lot was full, with the exception of one spot that had just become available. Perfect.

We grabbed our packs and started the gradual 0.9 mile climb up Springer Mountain. We headed straight for the camping area near the shelter. The shelter was full, but that was of no concern since neither of us stay in the shelter. We both are tree dwellers; we both sleep in hammocks.

We found a couple of spots and quickly set up our hammocks and tarps. I used my Warbonnet Traveler hammock with my new Hammock Gear Cuben Fiber tarp. The tarp is only 6.5 ounces! For insulation, I used my Jacks ‘R Better Nest underquilt and an opened sleeping bag as a top quilt.

6.5 ounces of cuben fiber goodness
6.5 ounces of cuben fiber goodness

Chris was riding in his Hennessy Hammock with the Super Shelter as insulation along with my DIY tarp.

Through the trees, we noticed another hammock. It wasn’t long before we met Ashman. He was in a Hennessy with a Jacks ‘R Better tarp and insulation. It’s always fun meeting other hammock hangers to talk gear.

The sunset on Springer was amazing. We could see the sun going down through the trees and decided to run up to the summit to watch it. As we were running up the trail, we watched through the trees as the sun slowly disappeared over the mountains. We made it to the clearing at the summit about 30 seconds too late. Still, the light show was spectacular.

Back at the hammocks, I realized we would be in for a surprise. I had set my jacket out and within a few minutes it was damp. Condensation! I felt the tarp. Wet. I felt the underside of the tarp. Wet. At that point, I figured it would be an interesting night. With so much condensation, I had concerns about whether my down underquilt would be rendered useless. There was only one way to find out.

After hanging our bear bags, it was time for bed. Well, that was our plans. A family who had come in late had other plans. They talked and laughed until almost midnight. Ugh!

The sunset was just a warm up for what we were about to see. We watched the most amazing full moon rise as the sun went down. I’ve never seen the moon so bright. I never used my headlamp during the night. It was as if there was a warm glow of a nightlight on the whole night. I kept thinking to myself that it would be amazing to night hike without a headlamp under this moon.

the moon shining through my tarp during the night

The moon wasn’t our only companion overnight. The owls were out in force. It started in the distance with a gentle “WHO”. Before long, there were several all saying “who cooks for you”. They were loud and they were awesome. At one point, a Screech Owl just north of us joined in the conversation.

The temperature dropped to the mid 30’s overnight. Although our tarps were soaked inside and out, the condensation wasn’t a problem for us. We did see some people in tents who had a different experience. There were quite a few people around the shelter who got wet in their tents and endured a cold wet night.

good morning, Springer Mountain

coffee & breakfast from the hammock

Springer Mountain shelter

After packing up, we talked to a few hopeful thru-hikers. They were already dumping gear. One of them offered us his air mattress, but we declined. They were carrying such things as a guitar and buckets of GNC powder. Talk about unprepared for a thru-hike. They’re going to learn the hard way: on the trail.

After a brief detour to the summit, we headed north with no agenda except to hike until we felt like turning around. After pulling a muscle in my leg last weekend at mile 8 of an 18 mile day, I knew I had better take it easy.

Stover Creek shelter

Noontootla Creek at Three Forks

In no time, we made it to Long Creek falls where we set up hammocks and ate lunch. Lunch turned to lounging around. After about an hour, we had to force ourselves to pack up the hammocks and head back to the truck. It wasn’t easy leaving the comfort of the hammock.

I’ve had lunch in worse places before!

Long Creek Falls

bridge near Stover Creek shelter

On the hike back to the truck, we stopped to find a couple of geocaches and I ran into a couple of friends from NC & TN that I haven’t seen in quite a while. We had a nice mini-reunion right there on the trail near Stover Creek. They were continuing on to Hawk Mountain Shelter for the night. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous that they were out for another night. I can’t complain, though. It was a quick trip, but it was a fun trip.

Just before reaching the truck, we met a guy who was hiking north for a few weeks. His pack had to have weighed at least 80 lbs. It was amazingly huge. The pack itself probably weighed 10 lbs. It was bulging at the seams, and he had lots of “gear” hanging on the outside. Between the sound of his bear bell and the cup, two pots, and skillet banging together hanging on the outside of the pack, there was no way for him to sneak up on you. We wished him luck, and just shook our heads in amazement as he slowly forced one foot in front of the other. I was hurting just watching him.

Back at the trucks, there was one thing on my mind: Sonic! We made our way down the mountain and made a quick stop at the outfitters in Ellijay. I always enjoy stopping there and supporting such nice people. And then it was time: chicken strip dinner with tator tots and a cherry slush. That was the best meal I’ve ever had from Sonic.

Even though it was a short trip (1 night and only 12 miles), I got to test out new gear and tweak old gear. This was the first trip I used the JRB Nest on the Traveler hammock. It worked fine, but I want to tweak how it connects to the hammock. I’ve used the Nest on several different hammocks, and it’s just a matter of dialing it in on each one. All that means is more time in the woods. No complaints here!

I also worked on lightening my load. For last weekend’s trip, my pack weighed 23 lbs (with food and water). This weekend, I got it under 17 lbs (with food and water), and had to bring extra clothes due to the colder weather. By summer, I’ll be at around 14 lbs (with food and water). If I’m able to do 18-20 mile days easily with a 23 lb pack, I can’t wait to see how much trail I can see this summer.

Always dreaming of the next trip…

Filed under hiking backpacking appalachian trail at hammock

  1. kenseals said: Great trip report! I’m super jealous. Looks like a blast!
  2. jasonalford posted this