Jarrard Gap to Ramrock Mountain
North to South
It’s funny how adding the extra day to the trip immediately affected us. The first manifestation was hanging out in the tent for an extended breakfast. It took a while for the day to warm up and we weren’t in as much of a hurry. Just knowing that we only needed to cover 9 miles per day for the rest of the trip was enough of an excuse to brew and extra cup of coffee and wait for the sun to do it’s thing.
When we left the gap at 10:00, it was still in the 40s. I was glad we saved the little climb til this morning, as that would warm us up. The trail was gorgeous – just a really fun walk through the late fall Georgia forest. The cold weather of the last few nights would surely hasten the foliage to turn, but for now it was still mostly greens with splashes of yellow and rust. With my muscles no longer barking at me,I was completely free to enjoy the hike, That, in turn, meant that I could easily dash off the 4.3 miles to the next landmark – a big, rocky slab on the side of Big Cedar Mountain (3737′), known as Preaching Rock.
The view here was incredible. I put down my pack, curled up with my arms around my knees and drank in the lush green mountains that rippled ahead of me. Far beyond, in the flat land, I could pick out the white wisps of a paper mill. To the left, at the end of the rolling mountain range, was a lone rock faced peak. Two local guys (college kids) who had shown up told us that it was a training ground for Army Rangers.
We stayed on the slab in the now warm, nearly windless noonday sun. More lingering, but much needed for the soul.
Next up, a one mile plunge to Woody Gap, a knee knocking, glad you have hiking poles affair. When we arrived, we de-packed at a picnic table in the sun and ran a few errands, namely throwing our trash in the garbage cans and calling Amtrak to change our departure city on Monday from Atlanta to Gainesville (closer to Amicalola State Park).
Trail Shuttles – The Cottage Industry of the AT and Section Hiker’s Best Friend
Just as we were getting ready to leave the Woody Gap parking lot, a guy drove in and dropped off two north bounders. He rolled down the window to ask if we were doing alright and also offered us water. We said yes to that.
Ron came over with a gallon jug and simultaneously poured Wayne a quart, while handing him a business card for his hiker shuttling enterprise. We asked him about availability on Monday to get us from Amicalola State Park to Gainesville. Unfortunately, he was booked.
Over the years, we noticed an explosion in hiker shuttling businesses along the trail. These enterprising good samaritans provide an essential link between mass transportation hubs and the innumerable trailheads between Maine and Georgia. Thanks to them, it is now possible to get on and get off the trail virtually anywhere the trail crosses a road – paved or not.
They are also the eyes and ears for trail conditions, passing along what they’ve heard recently from the hikers they’ve shuttled. In this case, Ron knew that water availability was sketchy and he was taking full jugs of water to trail crossings, so hikers could stay hydrated.
He told us to tank up with jugged water at Cooper’s Gap and stream water at Justice Creek, for example. What a godsend for everyone who hikes through. Thank you Ron, Joyce, Sally, Bill, Curtis and everyone else who has helped make our journeys run smoother!
We climbed up Ramrock Mountain and found a camp spot 50 feet from an overlook. Friday evening brought out the weekend hikers. One couple walked past our site on a side path. Soon thereafter, we smelled their campfire. They chose a good weekend to be out. I hoped the same for their campfire. The woods were incredibly dry.by