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  1. #1
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    Question First Overnight Hike - Newbie Needs Advice

    I'm looking at doing 2 days of hiking for my first overnight hike on the AT. I was considering Woody Gap (20.5 miles from the trail start at Springer Mtn) southbound to Springer Mtn. I'm middle-aged and in decent shape having hiked roughly 10 miles in Great Smoky Mtns with no issues but also no camping gear so a lighter pack. I'm not sure how much to hike in a day (10-12 miles?) or if Hawk Mtn would be too far in a day or not. How do I find good camping areas if not staying in a shelter in Georgia on the AT?

    I understand that most of the area I am hiking is through public land. Any rule of thumb advice or specifics around camping on GA public land is appreciated.

  2. #2
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    This will be in early to mid June.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by BusmasterJones View Post
    I was considering Woody Gap southbound to Springer Mtn....or if Hawk Mtn would be too far in a day or not. How do I find good camping areas if not staying in a shelter in Georgia on the AT?

    Any rule of thumb advice or specifics around camping on GA public land is appreciated.
    Others with more experience in the area will no doubt answer, but I'll toss in my couple of cents worth here in reverse order.

    Most places between Springer and Woody Gap you can simply pull off the trail and camp, so far as I know and I have done just that. Obviously, some places are better than others, but there are many, many spots to camp that are not shelters if you practice good Leave No Trace discipline. A few places, like Springer summit itself, do not allow camping. Otherwise, I'd say avoid camping near any roads, including Forest Service dirt roads, simply because they can be noisy and/or popular with car campers. You'll see several established campsites along that part of the AT, mostly near creeks or other water sources. The other answer to the "how do I find good camping areas" question is to grab a copy of an AT guidebook like AWOL's Guide or use an app, like Far Out, both of which will list campsites.

    Woody Gap to Hawk Mountain Shelter would be about a 12 mile hike. I'd consider that doable in a day, but only you know your abilities. For reference I'm 59.

    I assume you're parking at Woody Gap to hike south, spend one night on the trail and end the second day at Springer summer. If so, how are you getting back to your car? There's a small parking lot a tenth of a mile north of Springer where you could have someone come get you. Or are you getting dropped off at Woody and the same person meets you in the parking area at Springer? Your plan sounds like a fun weekend and my only other advice would be to say do it and have a ball.

  4. #4

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    Good advice from DrewBoswell!

    I read your fist post where you mentioned that you have never camped out overnight, in which case I'd say do a short hike (or a few short hikes) near home with all your gear and practice just that part of it. Not too far from your car so you can bail out easily if needed. Even a quick overnighter can expose a lot of potential issues — food prep/using stove, clothing, pitching shelter, keeping warm, dealing with rain — that you don't normally encounter on day hikes.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  5. #5
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    I too was thinking a shorter hike.
    Until you know your abilities with a full pack, the "rule of thumb" is that you can expect to hike at a rate of 2 miles per hour, and add an additional hour for every 1,000' of elevation gain.
    While I'm not familiar with the path you're talking about, based on my experience in GSMNP, sounds like you are looking to do 10+ miles in one day that might have 2,000' to 4,000' of cumulative elevation gain?
    That makes for 7 to 9 hours of JUST hiking. That's not including rest breaks or time to setup camp.

    So, strictly because you say you are a newbie, I would suggest you limit your first few hikes to only 5 to 8 miles per day. That way, you have plenty of time to get the trail miles in and still have plenty of time for trying out different things in camp. Once you have something of a "routine" down for finding/setting up/breaking camp, then go for the 10 to 16 mile days.

    I'm an experienced Great Smoky Mountains National Park back packer... and I still have days where a slow start to the day combined with high mileage (and hills) have left me still setting up camp or cooking dinner in the dark. Got the headlamp to deal with that, but I personally don't like dealing with camp chores in the dark.

  6. #6
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    My mileage SIGNIFICANTLY drops when carrying my overnight gear. So I totally agree with trying out locally with your gear if possible to see what your range really is.

  7. #7
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    Be like Nike and " just do it " !!

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by dmperkins74 View Post
    My mileage SIGNIFICANTLY drops when carrying my overnight gear. So I totally agree with trying out locally with your gear if possible to see what your range really is.
    Especially as I've gotten older... I'm 66 and starting to get a creak here and there... I appreciate that lightweight and ultralight gear can lessen the load substantially, to the point that the load for an overnighter or even a 4- or 5-night trip really doesn't slow me down too much. I carry less now for an overnighter than I did in ye olde dayes for a day hike!

    Tomorrow I'm heading into the woods for the first by-gawd spring trip, low temp only 47įF, and my total pack weight, including food and water, will be around 12.5lb.

    I wouldn't expect, or advise, new folks to go with a very light load until they have some experience and have developed a good skill set for dealing with adverse conditions. However, if one sticks with it, it doesn't have to cost a huge sum for very light gear and the skill set can be developed quickly if the desire is there.

    Here is my pack list for my outing tomorrow. Not heavy, but not stupid light either... very comfortable in fact. And none of the gear is outrageously expensive, pretty much the same as decent-quality traditional gear.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  9. #9
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Someone else will have to provide a link to the Forest Service bulletin detailing a very short bit of trail that requires a bear canister for overnight camping.
    Most people breeze through the mile or two and therefore donít bother with a bear canister.
    I suggest that you mark the area on a map and AVOID CAMPING THERE.
    Good luck and practice in your backyard if thatís possible.
    Cheers!
    Wayne

  10. #10
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    Busmaster Jones--I second the suggestion that others have made that you spend at least one night "backpacking" relatively close to home before taking your trip to the southern AT. Here is a one idea concerning a place for taking that kind of shakedown overnight hike.

    You apparently live in Frisco, a bit north of Dallas. When I lived in Stephenville, Texas (SW of Fort Worth) the only nearby backpacking location available was Dinosaur Valley State Park. It's not perfect. The distances that a person can walk there are limited, even putting together all of that park's various trails. Also, their fee for staying at a "hike in primitive camping site"is a nuisance. It's currently $15, per group, per night. But found peaceful seclusion there and also enjoyed viewing the dinosaur tracks within that river bed. As a backcountry camping location Dinosaur Valley is considerably closer to you than either Colorado or the AT.
    https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/d...ties/campsites

  11. #11

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    I think your questions have been covered pretty well, so I'll add a bit of advice you didn't ask for.
    A pack full of "maybe I'll need this" items becomes very heavy.
    My first week-long section hike was with a pack that weighed almost 50 lbs. My recent hikes have my pack weight down to 27 lbs - including food and one liter of water.
    I mention this because the likelihood of injury goes up as pack weight goes up.
    As Andrew Skurka has said, there is a difference between ultra-light and stupid-light. Be sure to bring what you need to be safe and warm, while leaving home luxury items and lots of extra/ redundant clothes.
    Also food; I tend to make a menu for each day and bring only those items.
    Breakfast: pop tart and instant coffee and cocoa.
    Snack one: cliff bar.
    Lunch: 3 tortillas and hazlenut/peanut butter.
    Snack two: cliff bar.
    Dinner: one foil packet chicken and one Knorr sides meal.
    Maybe a few caffeine-free tea bags for a week, as well as some condiments packets like soy sauce, hot sauce, spicy mustard, and mayonnaise.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtDoraDave View Post
    I think your questions have been covered pretty well, so I'll add a bit of advice you didn't ask for.
    A pack full of "maybe I'll need this" items becomes very heavy.
    My first week-long section hike was with a pack that weighed almost 50 lbs. My recent hikes have my pack weight down to 27 lbs - including food and one liter of water.
    I mention this because the likelihood of injury goes up as pack weight goes up.
    As Andrew Skurka has said, there is a difference between ultra-light and stupid-light. Be sure to bring what you need to be safe and warm, while leaving home luxury items and lots of extra/ redundant clothes.
    Also food; I tend to make a menu for each day and bring only those items.
    Breakfast: pop tart and instant coffee and cocoa.
    Snack one: cliff bar.
    Lunch: 3 tortillas and hazlenut/peanut butter.
    Snack two: cliff bar.
    Dinner: one foil packet chicken and one Knorr sides meal.
    Maybe a few caffeine-free tea bags for a week, as well as some condiments packets like soy sauce, hot sauce, spicy mustard, and mayonnaise.
    Good advice...
    I recall how I didn't pay much attention to pack weight on my 1st back packing trip, and my pack weighted at LEAST 50lbs if not more.
    I recall I had a 4lb sleeping bag, a 9lb tent, MSR Alpine steel cook set, separate plates, a kitchen cookset, white gas stove, 1lb Sven Folding Saw, tons of heavy cloths (heavy weight cool max sweat pants and sweat shirt, rain jacket with liner), a 1.5lb first aid kit, large water filter (large compared to any of today's Sawyer systems), heavy Nalgene bottles, external frame back pack that's more than 6lb empty, and more.

  13. #13
    Registered User Tennessee Viking's Avatar
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    Test out your gear and weight near home.

    Get an AT trail guide or phone app.
    Have idea where water sources, shelters/camps, elevation/profile.

    Weather will be humid and warm. Expect rain.

    I have done Springer to Hawk Mtn. Nothing too hard other than the occasional steep hill.

    Only rule for USFS is not camping at trailheads or prohibited areas.
    ''Tennessee Viking'
    Mountains to Sea Trail Maintainer
    Former TEHCC (AT) Maintainer
    Falls Lake Trail: 2011

  14. #14
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    I'm just a do it kinda guy . My first hiking/backpacking trip was the Md. 40 miles. Of course I had all Walmart stuff all heavy and challenging to say the least hence the hard school of knocks best lessons learnt!!

  15. #15
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    And a smart move coming on here and gathering as much Intel as possible

  16. #16
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    Testing out your gear near home is a valuable way to help you figure what you really need to bring and what is unnecessary.

  17. #17
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    As others have noted, Woody to Hawk Mountain should be "doable" in a day, especially if you start early. Obviously fitness levels vary, as do weather conditions, so "your mileage may vary". There are places you could stop early like Justice Creek or Horse Gap if needed. For day two you could likely arrange a bail out at Three Forks USFS 58 if needed (don't remember how good cell coverage is in that section). Would recommend the short side trail to Long Creek Falls. You will likely do fine, but always good to know there are bail out points.

    Parking your car at the Springer lot and getting a shuttle to Woody Gap would make your return easier in that you are hiking back to your car and don't have to be back at a certain time to be picked up.

    If this is your first trip to the area and you have more time, make sure you visit Amicalola Falls State park where the approach trail starts ie. the famous arch. The lodge is also a great place to stay if time and funds allow.

    Have fun!

  18. #18
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    Great tips! Thank you for your response. I'll check out the guide and app.

    Yes, I'd have a family member drop me off at Woody Gap and then pick me up at the parking lot near Springer, so I can hike one-way and have the transportation covered.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by cmoulder View Post
    Good advice from DrewBoswell!

    I read your fist post where you mentioned that you have never camped out overnight, in which case I'd say do a short hike (or a few short hikes) near home with all your gear and practice just that part of it. Not too far from your car so you can bail out easily if needed. Even a quick overnighter can expose a lot of potential issues ó food prep/using stove, clothing, pitching shelter, keeping warm, dealing with rain ó that you don't normally encounter on day hikes.
    Good call. I plan to do this in the next 3 weeks close to home.

  20. #20
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Iím always amazed when folks in Texas choose to go east for their first backpacking trip.
    Speaking from years of experience, leaving from north of Tyler, I can be in New Mexico before dark & Backpacking the following day. Frisco is even closer.
    But hey, H Y O H. Iíll hike mine.
    Wayne

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