On 13 DEC at about noon I parked at Vogel State Park just north of Neel Gap, got my required permit and headed up the Coosa Backcountry Trail towards the AT. I made it to the blue blaze trail that leads to Dockery Lake and set up the tarp/hammock in a light rain.
A turkey clucking gave me my wakeup the next morning. I got a late start and headed south/east on the AT. I made it to Horse Gap right before dark. It was a cold windy day. I hiked in an underarmor short sleeve tee and wore my Precip jacket as a windbreaker. Worked great. A group of four hikers with ALICE (DeSade!) packs and military garb headed north as I was packing up the next morning (Tuesday)
The next morning I hiked to the BMT turnoff and headed north on the Benton MaCaye Trail. I ran into a couple of guys with a dog at the food plot/clearing/heli LZ. They were headed south. These guys were the last hikers I would see on the trip. I made it to the Toccoa River suspension bridge at 4PM. I was behind schedule and had to keep making tracks past that stunningly beautiful campsite on the north bank of the river. That would be a grand sight for Southern Hang this spring! I made about halfway between the river and HWY 60 before dark.
Next morning I got packed up early and made it to HWY 60 and walked east to Martin's Dixie Depot and picked up the resupply box I'd dropped off earlier and had a cup of coffee. I'd included a yellow bottle of HEET and left it there for the clerk to give to Mr Martin with a note explaining that it would be a big favor to hikers if he'd stock this stuff. I spent a bit of time chatting and packing up and finally got back on the BMT headed north. I made it to the turnoff for the Duncan Ridge Trail and headed east on the DRT. The first peak, Rhodes, lived up the the DRT's reputation for a straight-up, no switchback trail. I made it to Sarvis Gap before dark at about 530 PM. As I sat in my hammock for a chair and cooked supper, the lights in and around Blairsville GA appeared from 8-9 miles away to the northeast. The DRT is truly a ridge hike. Winter, or early spring before leaf-out will offer the best views as there are no true balds this far south.
I hiked all day after an early start the next morning (Thursday) and made it back to the Coosa Backcountry Trail/DRT junction about 3PM. After making it to Wildcat Gap I decided to bail off the trail and head back to Vogel as I had to pick my daughter up at the ATL airport after lunch on Friday. I hiked east on hwy 60 and quickly got a ride from a local guy in a van (thanks). He dropped me off at the hairpin turn where the eastern portion of the Coosa Backcountry Trail crosses the road. I headed south towards the Vogel campground and found a place to hang the hammock in a stand of white pines.
I got up the next morning and packed up in the rain. I made it back to the Vogel parking lot in about 15min and drove my car up to the bath house and took a HOT shower and headed for Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap. The guy who runs the place, Alpine, retrieved my Asolo FSN 85 boots from the pneumatic boot stretcher and handed them to me, no charge. I came within an eyelash of picking up a Montbell hooded down jacket, SOOO NICE!
So, 4.5 days to hike about 95% of the AT/BMT/DRT Loop. Five and a half or six days would allow more time to enjoy the views on the DRT. Don't be afraid of this hike, the DRT is tough but it isn't Everest like some on the net have posted. Verizon worked great everywhere I checked. The GA ATC is now maintaining this trail and I found it well/adequately blazed. The treadway is faint in places but discernable.
ULA Catalyst-best pack I've ever used
JRB MW4- first trip with this quilt, I use it with a no-net hennessy hyperlite. I did get CBS one night and was able to easily fix it from the no net hammock by tightening the suspension above my head. This UQ was overkill for the low temps I experienced (slighty above and below freezing) but I was dying to try it out. I think a no-net hammock is the way to go in the winter, makes fiddling with UQ suspension a quick, easy, and no-chill proposition. I also plan to try a different suspension with this UQ. I think heavier shock cord is called for, (3/16th's?)
JRB Rocky Mtn No-Sniveler-again, way overkill for the temps experienced. My feet did get cold a couple of nites (I'd caught a chill before bed) because I didn't change my socks. It took about an hour and a half for them to dry out and my feet were then quite warm. Still, I've decided the footbox on that quilt is WAY oversized. I intend to taper the quilt from the waist to about 40in or so at the foot.
MSR Titan Kettle/Caldera Cone-my go to cook kit now. Bushbuddy was out because of the Blood Mountain fireban. Little or no dead conifer limbs on the AT for fuel, plenty on the DRT though.
Marmot Precip- I don't understand folks who post that this stuff doesn't breathe well(I think they dress too warm under it), it worked great again for me.
Vasque Sundowners MX2's- had these boots for years, wore them around to break them in but never hiked much in them. ZERO blisters. Now my go-to boots for hiking on southern winter trips. Too bad the Italian versions are no longer available.
JRB Gear Hammock- worked great as a pack cover, covers a loaded Catalyst with a ridge rest on top.