Maps for the Appalachian Trail near Springer Mtn., GA

I received a text message from a friend: “My sister and I want to begin a hike at Springer Mountain in mid-July. Do you have maps we can borrow or recommend the best maps?”

My maps are in storage in Virginia while I work out in California! Besides, once you step on the Appalachian Trail, you’ll fall in love with it and want your own set of maps for fanning the flame of your new passion and recording your memories!  Here are my recommendations

MAPS

Maps are helpful for spatial orientation, road crossings, and for locating nearby towns and highway routes. They can also show topography, shelters, and points of interest along the way.  I also enjoy perusing a good map for bedtime reading! Here are suggestions for maps for the southern section of the Appalachian Trail:

The National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps are excellent with detail and scope. A new series since I walked the AT has come out: the Appalachian Trail series (#1501-1513). 13 maps cover the entire trail.  Before this series, it took two maps to cover the trail in Georgia.  If you’re planning to walk trails in Georgia in addition to the AT, including the Benton MacKaye Trail, Brasstown Bald, and Bartram Trail, among others, you might prefer #777 and #778.

#1501 covers the southern 200 miles of the Trail.
http://www.natgeomaps.com/appalachian-trail-springer-mountain-to-davenport-gap-georgia-north-carolina-tennessee

#777 covers Springer Mountain part way through Georgia.
http://www.natgeomaps.com/springer-and-cohutta-mountains-chattahoochee-national-forest

#778 covers the north Georgia section
http://www.natgeomaps.com/brasstown-bald-chattooga-river-chattahoochee-and-sumter-national-forests

GUIDEBOOKS

Guidebooks are good companions for maps because they round out the information on the maps  with data points specific to the trail, distances between landmarks, shelters, and water sources. In addition, current guides also include details about trail towns, post offices, shuttle providers, gear vendors, and even trail profile guides.  Currently, there are two popular guides available. Both are updated annually and have dedicated followers who swear to the accuracy and helpfulness of the guide they chose.

The AT Guide  (“The AWOL Guide”)
http://www.theatguide.com/

Thruhikers Companion and other planning guides from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
http://atctrailstore.org/official-a-t-guide-sets-1/

 

MOBILE PHONE APP

If you prefer a digital guide to the Trail, the Guthook Guide has become quite popular since its first release in 2012.  The app and the demo guide to the Approach Trail are free. In-app purchase of 9 sections gives hikers everything they need to navigate the entire 2,189.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 273 miles of Vermont’s Long Trail. Each section costs $8.95, with a bundle price for all the sections.

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.highsierraattitude.atcomplete&hl=en

Verrry Close

September 18, 2016

We stopped at 6:35 p.m. when we reached the Shooting Star Camp, the northernmost shelter on the Long Trail, just 4.4 miles from the northern terminus. We had talked about pushing on in the dark to the end, but agreed that the risk and slowness of night walking in this rocky terrain outweighed the appeal of getting to the finish line tonight.

This was a fun day! At last I have become neutral about whether the path goes up or down, whether there are rocks, boulders, roots, water, or mud, whether I’m maneuvering down ribbed ledges of mossy rock or gingerly stepping on slippery ladders of roots.

The anticipated rain storm filled the night with pelting rain and wind as we slept quiet and dry in the Hazens Camp cabin. The other four hikers sharing the four bunks with us were congenial, bedding down with us by 9 p.m., quiet except for the one snorer.

By 7 a.m. the rain had stopped, so we left at the tolerably late time of 7:30. We had cooked and eaten our oatmeal breakfast which we usually eat on the trail, so that half hour of rest time was eliminated.

Although the rain was predicted  to return about 2 this afternoon, the sky cleared instead. We walked all day with no more rain, and in warmer temperatures than expected as well. The cold, wet day we had dreaded failed to materialize!

At 11:09 a.m. we reached the road that marked 11.9 miles to the end of the trail! A few minutes after 1 p.m. we reached Jay Peak, the mountain we had been anticipating for the past two weeks from way down at Killington Peak, 150 miles ago! Jay would be our last high peak, at 3985 ft. What a treat awaited us there, as the ski lodge was open, including the grill! We feasted on a pulled pork sandwich and refillable coffee, bonus food to supplement what we were carrying! What a strange contrast it was to our slow climb of the mountain to meet people in flipflops who had come up the mountain in the tram!

By the time we were ready to leave the warm lodge, the clouds were clearing and we got a good view of our next mountains – Doll Peak and Carlton. 10.1 miles to go!

Those last 4 hours walking off the trail from 10 miles left to 4.4 melted away, even though there were plenty of obstacles, which we now humorously call “tricks,” meeting each one with gradings of difficulty, like judges in an obstacle course. The biggest change in the trail today was that last night’s rain had turned a lot of the trail into a stream!  Sometimes we literally were ascending thin waterfalls as water naturally found the rocky trail to be the easiest drainage down the mountain.

I was curious when John seemed focused on taking a snack break on Doll Peak, an hour or so after we had left the Jay Peak Lodge. “Let’s get something from your bag!” he said. I opened my food bag and found a PayDay candy bar – something I had not put there! “Wow! Where did this come from?” John had surprised me with an extra snack, a welcome treat for this hungry hiker! I laughed at how easy it is to light me up – with food!

Those extra calories lightened my steps for the rest of our “gymnastics” on the trail to this, our last night out on the trail.

What a summer we’ve had, walking from June 3rd to July 6th from Rockfish Gap, VA to Delaware Water Gap, PA, from August 9 to September 5 from Delaware Water Gap to Killington, VT, and now from September 6 to September 19 from Killington to Canada. I haven’t added up the miles, but it’s close to 1,000! I guess I got what I want, didn’t I – a hiking lifestyle!

I love reading your comments! The comments function on this website is not working, though, so please send me your responses, questions, and stories by email to me at:

regina@forgivenesswalks.com

Thanks!

Regina

7 a.m. Jay Peak is 7 miles away

1 p.m. Jay Peak Summit!

Countdown

September 17, 2016

9 a.m. 26 miles to go! 

Yesterday evening, we reached our goal, the Spruce Peak Shelter. It was a nice shelter, but it was only 5:00 p.m.! There were still two hours of light. We kept going.

First, through Devil’s Gulch, a short scramble through huge craggy boulders covered with ferns. I was glad we were exploring that as an evening activity rather than first thing in the morning. 

We kept walking. The trouble was that the trail skirted the side of a mountain, so no flat spots for tenting were available. “There’s one” would reveal lumps and bumps on closer inspection. Another quarter mile. Now, the trail headed straight up the mountain on narrow stone steps, up and up to Ritterbush Overlook. Now, we’d gone another full mile and darkness was soon to arrive. The trail leveled out. Yay! A decent spot appeared, but John had already moved on. Keep going. Another hundred yards, and John says, “Here’s a spot.” It was a very good spot – flat, with two trees for tying the tarp, and off the trail down an old road about twenty feet. Yes! It was a good spot! We had walked 17.3 miles too! 30.1 miles from Canada!

We almost slept in this morning in our comfy spot. We were surprised it was already 5:55 when we noticed that the sky was getting light. We packed up quickly and got on the trail by 6:30, an impressive start!

And that got us up to our 9 a.m. milemarker – just 26 miles to go from Mt. Belvidere.

Mt. Belvidere provided a view of Jay Peak, our last high mountain. We’re making good time. Yesterday, the trail was mild – we even walked rather than constantly scrambling on rocks!

View of Jay Peak from Mt. Belvidere

We were enjoying our morning oatmeal when another hiker appeared at the Mt. Belvidere summit. As we talked, I rejoiced in another happy synchronicity of the trail – getting just what I need at just the right time from a surprising source! I had asked Suzie, the other hiker, “How did you get to the trail to start?” She answered, “The owner of North Troy Inn works in Burlington, so he gives guests a ride. I flew into the airport, rode to North Troy with him and stayed overnight.” 

Bingo! That’s a perfect answer for our quandary about how to get away from the trail. Later, we called and made a reservation to spend Monday at the Inn. Our ride to Burlington, where we can get to Enterprise car rental, will leave Tuesday morning – at 3:30 a.m.!

Now, it’s 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, and we chose a bunk in the Hazen’s Notch Canp shelter to be out of the predicted rain storm. Even though staying in shelters, usually crowded and noisy, isn’t our favorite sleeping choice, we like the idea of a dry place. 

We’re in a really good position to finish the Long Trail with just 17.6 miles to go! We can do it all tomorrow – if the weather and terrain are congenial. Or, we can go 12 or 13 miles tomorrow, then finish up on Monday. Either way, we have a room at North Troy Inn where we can  clean up and begin our transition back to urban life!

Canada 17.4

Devil’s Gulch boulders and ferns

Corliss Camp Shelter

Hiker Friends

September 12, 2016

“Hiker Friends, we need a hiker friend, to pick us up at this trailhead and take us to town.”

That’s my new thought when I have to hitch a ride into town for resupply. I accept that most of the drivers passing us by don’t know anything about the Long Trail and why backpackers would be hitching a ride. I pass by all the self-hating things they could be thinking about me. They are not who I am signalling with my thumb.

I’m signalling one of the Hiker Friends, who know that long distance hikers need a ride into town every few days. 

And here they are! A car pulls over. The driver hops out and coaxes the dog to the back, puts up the back seat. His wife smooths a cover over the seat, apologizing for the dog hair. Our backpacks go quickly into the back stowage and we’re off.

“I hiked the Long Trail a few years ago,” he says. Yep. He gets us! He’s our Hiker Friend. Waterbury, here we come!

In joy,

Regina

Intown Ingenuity

September 12, 2106

I bought a backpack in Waterbury. It’s very cool, emblazoned with “I ♡ 1 Direction” and a photo of the boyband. “Whaaat?” you say!

Actually, it’s perfect…….because…

It has a zipper! My pouch needs a new zipper, and this backpack has a good one. I can cut it out and use it. And it only cost one dollar at the Bargain Boutique in Waterbury.

With my tiny swiss army knife scissors, stashed needle, and multi-purpose dental floss, I can switch out the failing zipper in my pouch.

Well, sorry boys, you are  not coming along, but glad you had a zipper I could use.

I ♡ 1 Direction

Grocery Shopping

September 8, 2016

I’ve spent almost as much time shopping when I lived in Decatur, GA, than I did today starting from the trail! When I lived in Midway Woods, John Reiter and I would don our backpacks (we had no car then) and walk 45 minutes to the Dekalb Farmers Market, shop for a while, sit outside and eat a snack, then walk home. That would take 3-4 hours, and we enjoyed it!

Today, Hiker John and I reached Rt 125 at about 10:30, not knowing who would be givi g us a ride to Middlebury, VT, 10 miles away. John noticed a bus schedule posted at the trailhead. He called the bus company to confirm that the bus made a stop at this spot later in the afternoon.

While he was calling, I thumbed. The second car pulled over, then parked in the lot. Immediately, the passenger jumped out and started rearranging things to flip up the back seat. Yes, they were going into Middlebury, knew where the co-op was (the dayhiker we had met earlier said, “Go to the co-op!”), and were going there themselves!

It was as if we had all known they would be meeting us! We talked like old friends – about her growing up on Long Island, how they enjoy vacationing nearby, how we love the CA desert. “You’re selling it well! We might have to go there!”

I forgot I had to get out when Ireet (isn’t that a beautiful name?!!) pulled up to the co-op. “Oh right, this was just a hitch with strangers”, I reminded myself.

The co-op worked great for our resupply. We did our tried and true Three Passes Shopping method. First, walk through the store getting ideas. Second, buy something to eat immediately and take it outside. Three, make a list, then go back in and carefully choose our purchases. This method gives us a better chance of walking out satisfied and with light packs!

Oh, we had fun! What was great was the pancakes the rep from Gormly’s Farms was cooking up for sampling, Kombucha on tap, and…..maple syrup – real Vermont maple syrup sold by the ounce!

We really appreciated buying olive oil, spaghetti, dates, cornmeal, cayenne pepper, and salt in the exact quantities we wanted. We filled our empty plastic almondbutter jar with maple syrup.(The cashier graciously recalculated the maple syrup price when the code reader picked up the almond butter price. Hazards of reusing containers.)  Seems heavy, but it’s been a staple for our delicious cornmush or oatmeal breakfasts!

Dried mangos and apricots, fresh local apples, garlic, EmergenC, and a block of Vermont cheddar filled our bags……but not too full or heavy!

1:30, we were packed up and ready to find Merchants Row to catch the 2:15 p.m. bus. 

While waiting for the bus, we sought the shade in front of on of the row of stores. “What would make you come on in?” a woman setting up a sandwich board was suddenly asking us. “People here just stand outside and look in the window, but won’t just come in! It’s just a store! You can look around!” 

Wondering what she meant, we noticed that this was called Curve Appeal, a boutique for sexual pleasures. Oh! So she thought people were shy!  “We would just need more time! We’re catching a bus soon, and don’t want ro miss it. So, I asked her, “What made you go inside?” That got her talking about herself and her degree in psychology and how this county was the incest capital of the country, and how the town tries really hard to have an image of prosperity, but all the poor people live downtown and she really wanted to help people feel comfortable with their bodies and their sexuality and not just pretend that everything is ok. Very touching really! 

But, the bus came, and we rode with Robin, the bus driver, who told us a lot about the local hotels and Middlebury College, and her bus route in our 45- minute ride back to the trailhead. There’s a popular ski slope here too, which is why there’s a bus stop here.

Then, we were there! 4 1/2 hours for a town visit was pretty good! I got a couple of phone batteries charged (well, now one is back down to 29% after writing this) and we have great food choices for another four days of walking!

I celebrate living on the trail. We just go grocery shopping like always!

Thanks for the ride, Robin!

3 hours later, our view from the shelter

Slabbing- with Bears

September 7, 2016

The local hiker we met a couple of hours after our 6:43 a.m. start on our first full day of this walk said, “This slabbing makes for quite a walk, doesn’t it?” I was unfamiliar with the term, but realized she was talking about how the trail was carved out of the side of the mountain. Sometimes the trail was very narrow and slanted sideways making it hard to keep from sliding down the steep mountainside! I had called this kind of trail “sidehill”, but “slabbing” is a good name for it too!

Today’s trail, at least ’til about 2 p.m. when we crossed VT 73, our first paved road, was mostly slabbing as we wound around a few mountains with gaps in between. The mountain forests here are dense spruce woods, thick with moss and shrubs in between massive paper birch trees. Huge boulders stick up from mats of thick, humus-rich soil. “Green” mountains is a perfect name for them.

Within our first hour of walking this morning, we started climbing up out of Telephone Gap (no idea why it’s called that!), hearing a bellowing noise that made me think  cows, or some kind of farm animals, were nearby.  But where? We were in a forest! A few minutes later, a treetop shook. A lot! “That’s not a squirrel,” John said. “That’s a bear! Two cubs!” 

Then, I saw them too, shimmying down a tree maybe 50 yards in front of us. “We’re too close. They’ve modified their behavior – and there could be a mom too.” Yep. A crash in the brush to our right was a good sign of that. We retreated on the trail a good fifty yards and waited. Silence. “The cubs are gone and there’s no other movement. Let’s go forward.” No further sign of the bears occurred, but we were happy to have seen them!

After crossing Rt 73, Nineteen miles from yesterday’s starting point, our route changed from slabbing to straight-up peak climbing. Within the next 5 miles before we reached the Sucker Brook Shelter, our rest stop for the night, we went up and down three mountains – Horrid Peak (what a name, eh?), Cape Lookoff Mtn., and Gillespie Peak. All were fairly steep  climbs of 100-400 feet, not too bad. 

It was a full day, though, a focused twelve hours of walking with short rests for water, meals, and snacks. I’m ready for a rest and grateful for this lush forest that stretches for miles and invites us to walk!!

Green mountains

We Started

September 6, 2016

8 miles completed on this section of the Long Trail! We got out on the trail about 2 p.m. A sense of home at the Inn at Long Trail pervaded the day. Was it the familiarity with that spot since we had stopped there last year, even though we didn’t stay. The hefty breakfast, included with our stay could have had something to do with the feeling. Perhaps the homelike arrangement of the furniture in the common living room or the laundry room tucked in a hallway next to the kitchen. The place seemed, well, livable, not like a hotel. I got a surprise service from the Innkeeper, Maury. Another hiker and I were waiting at the bus stop across the road from the Inn, with plenty of time to catch the 10:38 bus. We stood, chatting about our hikes, when zoom, the bus passed by! Right on time too! “Hey! It’s supposed to stop here and it didn’t!”

John, who had been waiting with me even though he wasn’t going along with me to the post office, volunteered to go back in and call the bus company. He found out that the bus had indeed passed us by and that someone with a truck would take us to the post office.

I found out that our driver was the Innkeeper. He even waited for me at the P.O. and while I picked up a bottle of hand sanitizer at the store next door. “Thanks for the ride! Now I have some extra tip money for the room attendants!” I said when he delivered me back to the Inn.

It’s notable that this is the first time in a while that I’ve walked on unfamiliar trail! My walks lately have been on the AT and Pacific Crest Trail, both familiar ones. 

The forest and general terrain are the same as we’ve walked for the past week here in VT. It was a pleasant walk this afternoon. We did see another hiker on the Long Trail – a southbound Appalachian Trail hiker who had been confounded by the white blazes marking both trails! He had walked a few miles north on the Long Trail before concluding that he had made a mistake!

Otherwise, as we settled into our campsite, a previously used undeveloped site 8 miles from the Inn (I know that because the new Guthook App told me so!), John said, “I guess since we’re still out here hiking even though we finished the AT, we must be living  on the trail!”
Maybe that’s why it feels like home!

White blazes like the AT!

Please comment or ask questions via email at regina@forgivenesswalks.com (The comment function isn’t working. If you know how to fix it, let me know!)

In joy,

Regina 

A New Journey!

September 5, 2016

The sign here we left the Appalachian Trail, finished and new complete, and a little sad, said “Please Stay on the Trail.”

In my mind I sang along with Arlo Guthrie, “That sign was made for you and me.” And we also knew that what we really wanted to do was heed that sign and stay on the trail.

But, not the Appalachian Trail. We finished that – twice! You may not know that for 100 miles in southern Vermont the Applachian Trail coincides with the Long Trail, 372 miles on a vertical axis through Vermont.

We bought the map and food for a few days. John has been researching resupply points, since we like to travel light and go into towns for food. We won’t have our trusty maildrops filled with our favorite homemade dehydrated trail foods. We’ll do our best shopping at grocery stores. I also just bought my first section of the Guthook’s Guides, a new favorite tool for smartphone hikers. (I’ll try to ignore that gastly name. Guthook, eeww!)

Stay tuned! This is a new trail for me, so you’ll get to see me in new territory. I’ll post as signal – and courage – allow!