Appalachian Trail Section Hike – Trip 2
Unicoi Gap (Mile 52) to Deep Gap (Mile 85)
November of 2019
The Captain had a long weekend off school, so we decided to get a few days of hiking in. We quickly realized that if we are going to make it to Maine – we need to cover more than 52 miles in a year. Our goal this trip was to get to Deep Gap, NC 33 miles away.
I made a tactical mistake, one I won’t make again. I was hurried and was planning on finding a shuttle guy the morning of our hike to drive us from Deep Gap to Unicoi. However, by the time I decided to start making calls, I had no cell phone service.
So I decided that we were going to hike this section backwards (or southbound). We would then figure out a way to get shuttled back to the car.
While this wasn’t the worst thing that ever happened, it was frustrating to have to get a shuttle and then drive back to the car when done. I would have been nice to get in the car and go home.
Pro Tip: Don’t park your car at Deep Gap. It is at least 15 minute drive on a squirrely dirt road to get to the trail. There are much better places to leave a car.
I made a couple significant investments on this trip. I purchased the Guthook App. On the first trip, I used the AT Guide book, and was very happy with it. However, carrying a book was a bit heavy so I actually ended up just taking pictures of the pages I needed.
The Guthook app uses your GPS on your phone, so you can always see where you are. What I did on my first trip was to use the fitness tracker on my apple watch to track distance. I would start a ‘walk’ activity at the beginning of the day, and use that mileage to judge where I was. Guthook is a much better option.
Below is a typical screen shot of the app:
There are several features I like about Guthook. I like how it shows the elevation change. I like how it gives you distances to different landmarks like shelters. I like how it allows users to provide comments at those landmarks – for example if a water hole is running dry. It was a bit expensive at $60 for the entire trail, but well worth it.
One big difference between this trip and the previous was hiking in the cold. The lows got down to the mid-20s at night, and it was in the 40s during the day. This required us to carry a lot more weight than in the summer.
I made another big investment in my sleeping pad. I had been using a Klymit pad that I purchased on Amazon. I believe it is a good value for the cost, but I wanted something with a little more cushion, more insulation and one that wasn’t as noisy. I roll a lot when I sleep, and the Klymit pad crumpled a bit when I moved.
I ended up purchasing the Nemo Tensor pad. This is 4x the cost of the Klymit, and probably a 4x better pad as well. It is still very light. It has an ingenious blow-up method. It is a three or so inch pad that is very comfortable and keeps the cold ground off of you. This made a big difference in my quality of sleep.
I did struggle a bit keeping my feet warm at night. The rest of my body was good, but I had cold feet despite wearing heavy wool socks I bought specifically for sleeping. I was using a 30 degree bag, but wrapped myself in my sleep quilt inside the bag. We also used my old military wool blanket on top of us. Next winter I’m going to invest in a cold weather bag. Should enable me to carry less stuff and be warmer at the same time.
I did not do a good job packing snacks this trip. I wish I would have packed a few more for The Captain. Won’t make that mistake again.
On the food front, we were introduced to Trail Magic for the first time. At one of the gaps some Trail Angel left several MREs for hikers passing through. It has been years since I had an MRE, and was looking forward to having one. My son did not share the same excitement.
So I feasted on ravioli and cheese and crackers. Wish they would have left chili Mac but can’t win them all. I was worried that I wouldn’t crap for a week, but it brought back good memories.
It gets dark early in the winter. We were in our tent by about 730 each night. I planned ahead, and downloaded Rudy on my phone. We watched that together in the tent before bed. I figured it was important for me to share the classics with the boy, and I plan on doing that on our journey.
As for the trail – we did great. Day 1 as a piece of cake. Day 2 was a bit tougher because of the elevation change. Day 3 was easy peasy. We did cross the NC/GA border – so we have officially completed the Georgia section. The Georgia AT club sells a patch for those who complete the GA section, so I purchased those and will get them sown on our packs.
We came up with our battle cry this trip. Whenever the hike would become challenging, I would ask The Captain “How do you climb a mountain?” He would yell, “one step at a time!”
That is one of the lessons I am trying to teach my son. You can accomplish very big goals in life. However, the only way to accomplish those goals is to break them into small pieces and keep moving forward.
Section Hike 2 was a big success and will be the last one for 2019. We learned a lot in year 1. I think it is very possible we double our mileage in 2020. Can’t wait to get back out there.