North Ga: Dicks Creek Gap to Winding Stair Gap A.T. Trip
United States Georgia Hiawassee
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My Adventure Story
-- Hiawassee Ga area - Dicks Creek Gap to Winding Stair Gap NC --
Earlier in the year, I hiked Neels Gap to Unicoi Gap. This trip, I skip the Unicoi Gap to Dicks Creek Gap section and cover the next 40 miles northbound to Winding Stair Gap.
Day 1 (8/12/2010)
I got a shuttle ride from Dave out of Franklin NC. He met me at Winding Stair Gap on Hwy 64 10 miles west of Franklin. Dave drove me over to Dicks Creek Gap. He's thru-hiked before and was interesting to talk to. At Dicks Creek, there is room to park several cars. One hiker was finishing a trip from Unicoi Gap and a group of 4 women were about to start a trip north. I chatted a bit with everyone, before heading uphill.
The climb out of Dicks Creek Gap isn't bad. The trail up over Little Bald Knob, through Cowart Gap and over Buzzard Knob is good trail. There's a stream along the way and the forest is fairly open through here. The hikers behind me catch up before Cowart Gap. Two moms and 2 college age daughters are hiking up to the state line and Bly Gap and heading back to Plumorchard Shelter to camp. This trip finishes up Georgia section hiking for one of the moms. I leap frog this group a time or two and we head over to Plumorchard for a break and to get water. The shelter is downhill a bit on an old forest road but is worth the walk. This shelter is really nice, has a loft, bear cables, privy, overhang - a Conrad Hilton shelter in other words. I eat some snacks and hydrate up. Grab some water from the stream and head back out.
The weather has been nice so far but it is a hot humid day and afternoon clouds are building up. I hike up over the next knob and through a gap and up the ridge climb toward Bly Gap. The ladies day hiked out of Plumorchard behind me and catch me and make it up to Bly Gap and back. I pass them heading back to the shelter just before I reach the GA/NC state line sign. About this time, it starts to rain hard with some thunder and lightening thrown in for good measure. I make it to Bly Gap and hang around a bit. There are no views today with all the rain. I snap a pic of the knarled old tree in the gap. I need to pick up some more water but cannot find the stream nearby and decide to just head on.
I head up over Sharp Top and through the next gap. The rain finally stops and about halfway up Courthouse Bald, I take a lunch break on a big rock outcropping next to the trail. I rest up here and drink most of the rest of my water. It's been a hot day and I've sipped a lot of water from my hydration pack to stay hydrated. I head on up over Courthouse Bald and down into Sassafras Gap. The forest here is really pretty with lots of hardwoods and is open in places. I use up the rest of my water through here but don't have far to go to the shelter. I crest the next knob and make it to the Muskrat Creek Shelter by about 6:30 to put in a 12 mile day.
Muskrat Creek is a decent shelter. The water source out back is good. The shelter is single level and has a overhang roof over side benches and a big cooking table. There's a nearby privy. I filter some water and cook dinner. About dark, another fellow shows up. He's a German exchange student and is hiking about 100 miles of the A.T. north from Springer before school starts.
Day 2 (8/13/2010) Friday the 13th!!
The next morning I'm up about 6 or so. I hope to hike about 16 miles north to Betty Creek Gap today. If I fall short, the plan is to shelter camp at Carter Gap. The German guy, David, leaves before me and I'm walking by 7:30. I make good time to Deep Gap where some roads and trails come out of the Standing Indian campground. Several cars are parked here.
I start the 2 mile, 1000 foot climb up Standing Indian Mtn. The trail is well graded and the slope is gentle enough so that the climb isn't so bad. Up top, I take the side trail to the summit and take a break. There is a 50 foot, grassy clearing, with great views of the area. A cluster of wildflowers border the clearing on one side and are just loaded with butterflies This is a great place.
I head back down to the A.T. and run into a big group of Florida hikers just coming up out of the campground. There's 2 older guys and several college age guys. I point out the side trail to the top for them and head on down the mountain.
It's three miles down the mountain and I take advantage of the trail and terrain to move at a good pace. I'm still looking for a 16 mile day and see this as my chance to get it done. Big mistake. I've skipped lunch, gotten low on water and skipped snacks too, so I just run myself in the ground. When I bottom out at Beech Gap, I'm really feeling the day and heat and decide that the next shelter is as far as I'm going. I get some water and break for lunch and rest up before pushing on to finish off a 12 mile day.
I take it easy the rest of the day. The Florida hikers pass me in Coleman Gap and I catch up to them at the Carter Gap shelter just before a thunderstorm hits. Actually Carter Gap has an old falling down shelter just above the water source and a newer one about 200 feet away. The Florida hikers take up all the main shelter space. I consider staying in the old shelter but it is too decrepit. So, during a lull in the rain, I pitch my tent in a flat spot next to the main shelter under some rhodo cover. I get some water and make it back to the main shelter just as it really starts to pour. It rained hard for about 2 hours.
During the big storm, we all cook dinner and get to know each other. The older guys have hiked before up here and have some good stories. I trade SEC football stories with the younger guys, most of whom are Gator fans. I'm a Tennessee fan and they get a kick out of my Lane Kiffin stories. After the rain stops, I head back to the tent and crash for the night. It's been a long day.
Day 3 (8/14/2010)
I'm up early today too, do breakfast with the Florida guys in the shelter and am out walking about 7:30. They power hiked yesterday and I thought I'd be passed by them later today but I never saw them again. I walk several miles over the next ridge and make it to Betty Creek Gap. I take my time going up Albert Mtn. Today I can do 16 and get out or do another 12 and shelter camp again. I'm pacing myself better today. It's socked in with clouds from last night's storm and a lot cooler today. Near the top of Albert, I run into a family hiking out of Standing Indian campground. They're doing the rock scramble up to the top of Albert Mtn. Since it's socked in, I decide to take the bypass trail and make some time.
I ran into another group of hikers out of SI campground on the bypass trail. They were doing a loop hike back to SICG. We leap-frogged some for a few hours. It's about 4 miles down Albert Mtn to Glassmine Gap. I made good time on easy trail and enjoyed the different types of tree cover, laurel and rhododendren this section passes through. With the cooler weather, I feel good and do trail snacks as I go. After Glassmine Gap, I cross another knob and reach Rock Gap Shelter. It's early enough to make town so I decide to go for it. Franklin has some good beer and steak places and they have me in a tractor-beam.
I take a big break at Rock Gap and eat a late lunch. It 3 miles through Wallace Gap and over Rocky Cove Knob to Winding Stair Gap and my car. I push on. By now, I've picked up some blisters in new boots and have some shoulder and neck pain I can't shake. So, this last section was tough. I slow down and take it easy. Pretty soon, I can hear traffic in Winding Stair Gap. It takes forever to wind down off this knob, but I finally make it to my car. Feels great to be done! Today was a 16 mile day to finish off a 40 mile trip.
In Franklin, I stayed at Ron Haven's Budget Inn. It was a comfortable place and the guy running it was real helpful arranging my shuttle. I ran into Ron out in the parking lot and got to talk with him a bit. After that, I got cleaned up and limped over to the Blue Ridge Roadhouse (or something like that) for much needed beer and steaks.
----- Another great trip. I ran across a lot of hikers and saw some pretty country. The view from Standing Indian was fantastic. I need to get back to Albert Mtn sometime in clear weather to do the rock scramble. -----