So, just finished the section from Springer to Hightower Gap and had an absolute blast. Incredible trail, nice views (I tend to prefer ridges, so it wasn't a 10/10 but it was a solid 9/10) and I met some absolutely incredible people along the way and at the Hawk Mountain Shelter.
The next section will be Hightower Gap to Gooch Gap but I don't have a date yet. The elevation profile definitely looks like more of a challenge than Springer to Hightower but not quite as challenging as the Approach Trail (I may have missed the mark here, but I didn't see 604 stairs to start the hike 🙂 ).
So, I'm wondering if any of the folks more familiar with the trail may have some pointers, suggestions, warnings, etc. for the trip. My typical plan is to drive to the destination, park and get a shuttle to the starting point and then hike back to the car. Looking to arrive on trail on a Saturday and start hiking around 10:30am ET and camp at Gooch Mountain Shelter. Then just hike out Sunday morning. Water looks sparse for about the first 5.5+/- miles and I'll be hiking in hot weather, so will definitely be packing a little extra water and will be sure to camel up before the start.
And, go 🙂
First thing is that there's no water from Hightower to Justus Creek, 5.7 miles! Not just sparse, but non existent, at least that I could find. Back when I hiked it, the guidebooks I was using left out that little thing. I started at Springer, and blew past Hawk Mountain Shelter (which you've already passed) without stopping to top off my bottles. Up and over the mountain to Horse Gap. No water. I hear thunder. Loud thunder. Hmm... Up and over again (good views, by the way and some good dry campsites) to Cooper Gap. More no water. Getting dark. Darn that late start! All my food is dry, for the most part. Still....up and over again, and the light is really failing. At least the thunder is getting fainter. Finally, around 9:00, there's Justus Creek!
Don't be like me! Pack extra water for that section. Sounds like you've got that covered, though. Oh, and it never rained on me. My wife was with her family, and said it poured there, worrying the heck out of her. (No cell phones back then).
The tops of the mountains there do have nice views, or did back in the 90s. It's a lot more like a roller coaster than a ridge, though. After Gooch Mountain Shelter, it's reasonably level for Georgia, with only a 439 foot elevation gain over Ramrock Mountain. Woody Gap is a pretty cool spot. There's a path on the left side of the trail that leads to a spring. If you want a heads up on the next section, head up Big Cedar Mountain to Preachers Rock, 0.9 miles from Woody Gap, I think. The views there are spectacular.
Do, just nailed down a tentative date a few weeks put from now. Looks like it'll be warm, so that'll save me some weight on the underquilt that I can use for water for that first 6 or so miles 🙂
Anyone know of any transportation options between trailheads? I've got a shuttle that I've used in the past but wondering if there's another (cheaper) option to get from Gooch Gap back to my start at Hightower on a Saturday morning.