Backpacking the Appalachian Trail

Under The Hemlocks

Appalachian Trail Plaque

Springer Mountain and Blood Mountain

Hiking The Appalachian Trail

Springer Mountain is the official start of the Appalachian Trail, and where we started this trip. It runs from Springer, GA to Mount Katahdin, ME. We love hiking the Appalachian Trail in sections. Someday I plan to through-hike the length – beginning to end. The top of Springer Mountain is marked with plaques. Seeing those beautiful plaques brought on a rush of excitement. Every section hike I’ve ever accomplished has always left me wanting more. A week or 2 is just never enough. In that moment, as I stood there, I realized I was mentally ready to embark on that journey. And someday I will.

We arrived in Dawsonville, GA and decided to set up camp at Under the Hemlocks (located one mile from Amicalola Falls State Park which has the tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River). This campground was located at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. It’s small and quiet and hands down the best campground around. The others were crowded and higher priced. It was very rustic, but we were well shaded and the owner, Mike, was very accommodating. There was one nice bath house building and Mike said he would start up the water heater if we wanted to shower. He even helped us search for kindling for our fires. We felt at peace during our stay.

A Thrill Ride

The next morning we would be hiking the Appalachian Trail. Our drive to the AT parking lot for Springer Mountain was quite the thrill. A curvy one lane Southern road – we wove round and round as we descended into the hills. Quaint farms would briefly pop in and out of view leaving us feeling jealous. For that lifestyle has always called to us.

When we hit FS42 the road got more narrow and rough. But that’s expected for a forest service road. We finally arrived at our parking lot.

We started our hike by heading North on the AT to the Benton Mckay Trail intersection. East on Benton Mckay we passed a sign for Owen Vista Overlook. I believe this was Ball Mountain, but I am not positive. We continued our summit to Springer.

Here is where we saw those plaques mentioned above. If you’re ever hiking the Appalachian Trail along this section, be sure to check out the metal box behind the back of the larger plaque. Inside is a traditional notebook that many backpackers have written in. Leafing through the notebook warmed my heart. It was an honor to be standing there reading through a few stories.

Appalachian Trail Plaque

AT Plaque at Springer Mt.

Next up: Blood Mountain from the famous Neels Gap 

Mountain Crossings, at Neels Gap, is a sanctuary. Here you will find an oasis for those hiking the Appalachian Trail: backpackers, hikers, and weekenders alike. It’s a little piece of treasure in the heart of the Mountains. For those starting out with through-hiking it’s a place to readjust/shed any gear or add something you forgot. After you have clamored down the mountainside, you can hang up your shoes and kiss the front posts of their building. Resupply, grab some new hiking shoes, and continue your journey. The trail literally goes right through their building. It has a little something for everyone. I witnessed one through-hiker drooling over a pizza. You wouldn’t expect a frozen pizza (being heated up right there) would be anything spectacular, but that pizza was like gold to him! They have everything and anything you could think of for the trail and for weekend campers. Hostels and hot showers to boot! Don’t forget to grab a t-shirt representing you being there – you know I didn’t leave without one!

Shoe tree at Neels Gap

Just wait for the stunning views

We started there, hiking the Appalachian Trail for about 1.5 miles, and reached the top of Blood Mountain. The story behind the name is that it may have derived from a battle waged nearby between the Cherokee and Creek Indians, turning the streams running down the mountain side to blood.

The views from the top in the early Spring were wonderful. The trees were just beginning to bud. My favorite view was a long section of rock with almost 180° views unobscured by trees. I felt like I was on top of the world. The greatness of it all always gets to me. The more you experience nature at its fullest the more nature calls you home. We continued on to the grand stone shelter, originally constructed from local stone in 1937. It’s a 2 room shelter with windows on the top level. We climbed the outcrop just next to the shelter for another glorious view.

It was another magical time hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Blood Mountain