Took Jay (Tapeworm) and Peter (Tortoise) on a 3 day sectionhike over Memorial Day. We were up early on the 26th and drove up to the Springer Mountain Parking Lot. We arrived at about 1015, 15 minutes before we were supposed to meet Wes our shuttle driver. He was going to drive us to Woody Gap and we would walk back to Springer Mountain. He showed up right on time and we piled into his Jeep Cherokee and off we went. We ate a quick lunch at Woody Gap and started hiking. The weather was really nice. The forecast called for temps in the 90s but at most it was in the upper 70s in the mountains. We had a goal of making it to Gooch Mountain Shelter for the day. Just a short little 5 mile hike. We had short steep uphill at Jacks Gap after a mile and a half. I was really worried about Tortoise. He stole my hiking poles on the short uphill and was really winded after a very short uphill and we still had almost 18 miles to go until we got to the car. We got to the shelter at 2:30 and it was way too early to stop walking. So we pressed on to Justis Creek which was only a mile away. It was the last water location until Hawk Mountain Shelter which was 7 miles further so we stopped for the night. We set up our tents, ate dinner, and pumped water all by 5:20. We still had about 4 hours of light left so the boys worked on getting a fire going. It took awhile but they got the fire going really well. There were a lot of people on the trail today but it wasn’t too crowded.
We were up at 6 and on the trail by 7. The boys did a great job getting things packed up this morning. Our original plan was to go from Gooch Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter, about 7 1/2 miles. The boys did real well and we did 6 miles from 7 to 12 and made it to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Part of that was going over Sassafras Mountain. Going southbound it wasn’t too bad. Going northbound the climb would have been a 1/2 mile longer and about 300 feet more in elevation. We were going down so it wasn’t as bad. We took and hour and a half break at the shelter for lunch and relaxed for awhile. We met a young couple at the shelter who was out for their first backpacking trip. The were headed in the opposite direction. The didn’t have anything more than one 32 ounce water bottle a piece and 7 miles to go to the next water source in 85 degree heat. I got to play trail angel. I had an extra 100 oz camelbak in my pack and we were able to filter water for them and give them enough water to make it to Justis Creek where we had camped the night before. Then we were off. It was up to Tortoise how far we went. The six miles we did in the morning had worn him out pretty well. I planned a stop at Long Creek Falls so he could swim a little bit and enjoy the falls which he did. He wanted to stay in a shelter for the night so we still had about a mile and a 1/2 to Stover Creek Shelter. He pushed through and made it but 8 miles is probably his daily limit right now. It also reduced our last day mileage to five miles and the last two of those without our packs.
We were up at 6 again but not as rushed so we didn’t get on the trail until 7:30. We were at the car by 9 and put our packs in the trunk, got a bottle of water and a Clif Bar and headed to Springer Mountain. We made it up to the top, signed the register, got a photo and headed to the car. We had a great trip. Peter’s first backpacking trip was a success and he is ready to go again.