Happy Trails!

Follow the blaze!

Early April 2023 found the AT crew back at it again, this time the journey began in Tallahassee and after a day’s northbound drive temporarily ended outside the Iron Horse Station in Hot Springs, NC where a fire had shut off the town’s power for a few days. Leaving the truck in Hot Springs the group was shuttled another 50 miles north to the launch point at Sam’s Gap where the five day trek south back to Hot Springs began. ‘Twas a good week, but make no mistake…it was a very tough week. What follows is our story…..

Hot Springs NC was eerily quiet after several days of no electricity due to a fire nearby. Could this be an omen for the week ahead?
Waiting for the shuttle to Sam’s Gap Jay and the packs are lined up ready to go!
As Jason the shuttle driver pulls away Kevin, Lawrence and Bob are left under the interstate bridge excited to finally begin the leisurely walk back to Hot Springs!
And so it begins…..

The first day found the group trekking 11.2 miles from Sam’s Gap to the Flint Mountain Shelter. If all goes well this trip will bring the group about 327 miles from the original starting point of the approach trail at Amicolola Falls to Springer Mountain where it all began several years ago.

Moye Rest monument at Sam’s Gap.
Rusty barbed wire hangs off a weathered fence post along the trail, a reminder of those brave pioneers who came before us.
The “AT”
The team takes a “breather” after a long uphill climb.
This blue blaze indicates a water source in this direction. Water is called “the source of life” and that is no more important than on the Appalachian Trail. Everything revolves around a water source.
Old fallen hardwoods slowly decay along the trail as nature takes it’s course.
The trail continued along this old fence line.
A downhill portion of the trail. Some say the downhills are more difficult that the uphills…I don’t agree!
Recent rains made water plentiful which is important, however if it is not coming from out of the ground it is best to filter or boil it before consuming, this was strongly advised by the “Pipe Snob!”
Kevin looks for his water filter before filling his bottles!
This large rock was covered with lichens that appeared to have been burned by a fire. They hadn’t been but they were certainly different!
This handmade bridge allowed hikers to cross this stream without getting their feets wet!
Follow the blaze!
Lawrence and the team catch a breather after climbing a steep hill.
Broken and overhanging trees and limbs were prevalent on the trail. These “widowmakers”” are to be highly respected when setting up camp at night in a tent or hammock. Medical help in these remote mountains is many hours away at best.
Although it was early April the trees had not yet begun to bloom. In spots groundcover was beginning to awaken after a long mountain winter.
This unique snag appears to be some type of Gargoyle greeting hikers as they walk past!
The Appalachian Trail offers some incredible mountain views! It’s not called the “Blue Ridge” for nothing!

The team takes a break in the action!
One of many mountain waterfalls!
Mountain woodpeckers are making the most of this dead tree!
As we descended late in the day we encountered two old graves. This lady lived 100 years and was buried here 58 years ago. I couldn’t help but think about what life in these mountains must have been like 158 years ago when she was born. What an incredible life she must have lived.
At the end of day 1 we found deluxe accomodations at the Laurel Hostel.
For only $25 each we stayed in this hostel which offered cold drinks and cold beer! It did offer a great place to get out of a cold mountain wind. We were awakened early by several roosters who lived nearby. Yes the small building on the left is what you think it is…and it worked great too!
Inside of the hostel. It had a shower and small heater and it kept the cold wind at bay. I slept great!
This old sawmill was just down the road from the Hostel. It still works but I wouldn’t use it. No telling how many arms this thing has claimed! It is a death trap!
This radiator keeps the sawmill engine cool.
Stacked lumber from the sawmill.
Jay and Kevin navigate a cow gate to start day 2.
The AT continues thru this pasture, there were no cows in it today.
Someone carved the AT Logo into the end of this log.
Jay, Kevin and Bob exit the pasture and cross a highway to continue the trek.
Kevin stands atop a large rock on day 2.
The trail can be very rocky and slippery when it is wet.
Kevin, Lawrence and Bob take a lunch break in one of the shelters.

As we continued to walk south on day 2 we came across a sign leading to the Shelton Graves. There are 3 people buried together on top of this mountain. Two were brothers who were home on leave during the Civil War. While on leave they were discovered by Union troops and shot and killed. Their family buried them here. One young Confederate Soldier was only thirteen years old.

The sign leading to the grave site.
W.D. Shelton is buried here.
Thirteen year old Millard Haire is buried on this mountaintop after being shot and killed by Union troops. He was born in 1850, killed in 1863.
The Exposed Ridgeline Trail (ERT) took us up and over a rocky mountain top some of which required the use of hands and knees to get over some of the rocky climbs!
A view from the top of the ERT.
Kevin prepares to walk down a rocky part of the trail on the ERT.
Looking west off the ERT, we believe that the flat part in the distance is probably the Tennessee Valley.
The ERT was treacherous and we were warned about sunning rattlesnakes before we started.
These rocks indicate the 300 mile mark, the distance from Springer Mountain which is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
Upon reaching the shelter on night 3 this fellow showed up talking to himself and walking barefooted. He is on his third “Thru Hike” and is walking northbound from Springer Mountain, Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Ironically his trail name is “Feet”. He wears sandals when he is walking around camp, otherwise he is barefooted. For a lack of a better word this is incredible!
This “North bounder” is on his second “thru hike”. He had this dog with him which is almost 16 years old. The dog’s claim to fame is that she is the Appalachian Trail record holder for the oldest dog to walk the entire Appalachian Trail on a leash. She is a rescue dog and is attempting this feat again where if she is successful she will once again break the/her record!
The shelters fill up fast at the end of the day, especially when a night rain threatens.
After dinner Jay hoists the food bags up on the bear cables to keep the bears, rats, and other critters out of our food.
Our food bags are hung high on the bear cables overnight. Thankfully we have not lost any food to critters……yet.
The trail takes a toll on the feet…..
Everything revolves around water sources on the trail and some are better than others! This green leaf directs water into a stream so that it can be easily collected.
Once the water is collected in bags it is run thru filters and into water bottles for drinking. Here Lawrence and Jay filter water thru Sawyer filters. Staying hydrated is imperative and the last thing anyone needs is a waterborne illness on the trail.
Water can also be boiled in a kettle and used for making meals. This old kettle along with a Pocket Rocket stove system has served us well for many years.
Lawrence and Jay enjoy a hearty breakfast before making more miles on the trail! Most of these dehydrated meals are really good, some not so much…
Spring Mountain Shelter was to be our last stop on the trip, rain was forecast for the coming night and this would offer us a good place to stay dry. Unfortunately we had previously learned that a thru-hiker had holed up in this shelter for 3 days/nights suffering from the Nora Virus and had just left about a day before we got there. The shelter stunk of illness and biting gnats were swarming the area. We opted to push on another 3 miles and camp in the woods on the last night on the trail.
With about 47 miles behind us this was our view thru the rain of the town of Hot Springs as we descended the mountain and brought the trip to a close.

This trip brought us to approximately 327 miles completed since leaving the approach trail to Springer Mountain at Amicolola Falls walking northbound. We will continue our efforts to conquer the trail until we no longer can. The further we venture the tougher the logistics become. This was a great trip but make no mistake it was very arduous. This was the toughest leg we have accomplished so far and that is saying something. We introduced two new hikers to the trail which was rewarding in and of itself. We saw two bears which was a treat as we had not yet seen a bear until this trip. The timing of this trip allowed us to encounter numerous northbound “thru-hikers” who’s goal will be to make it all the way to Mount Katahdin, Maine. They are unique individuals and we wish them the best. Our hat’s are off to anyone who can reach that goal. Until you spend some time on the Appalachian Trail its tough to appreciate what a tremendous undertaking that is! Kudo’s to five member team and their families who made this trip possible. We worked together as a team and looked out for each other and accomplished our goal. This trip reaffirms our belief that life is short and we had all better take the time to enjoy the blessings God has given us. If you want to do something then DO IT! Thanks be to God for giving us the resources, desire and strength to make this happen. We are already in the planning stages for the next leg north on the trail. Thank You for taking the time to check out this blog and allowing us to share this trip with you! (Dave Ferrell).