AT 2016: Shakedown Day 2, Black Oak Shelter to Hawk Mountain

I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run

Springer Mountain

The biggest challenge of backpacking with boys is camp organization. Soon after arriving in camp it often looks as if several packs have exploded, and the camp remains that way until they get it in a Leave No Trace condition just before we depart.

DateSunday, June 19, 2016
WeatherPleasant, with temperatures in the low 70s to mid 80s
Trail ConditionsDry and dusty
Today's Miles8.9
Trip Miles16.2

Related to this, typically, is a challenge of getting the boys up in the morning and on the trail in a reasonable time. At least for this morning that particular challenge was not a problem. We were all up before 7:00 and on the trail by 8:30.

Walking up Springer Mountain

The hike from Black Oak Gap to Springer Mountain is just .8 miles. We found it to be a surprisingly easy and quick climb to the top.

Bronze marker on Springer Mountain

Though the summit lacks a dramatic, inspiring view, being there and seeing the two bronze markers designating it as the southern terminus of the AT was an inspiring moment for me.

At the southern terminus

I spent some quiet time thinking about when I will be there again in about 9 months. Then, however, instead of a goal of hiking 52 miles to Unicoi Gap, the goal will be hiking all the way to Maine.

From Springer we hiked down the trail toward Stover Creek Shelter. We didn't get far, though, before I noticed a commotion ahead of me.

The boys who had hiked a bit ahead of the rest quickly scrambled back to where we were.

They said they had just come upon a bear climbing a tree. After freezing for just a second the boys did an about face as the bear began to climb down. Though the bear took off in the opposite direction, they weren't about to take any chances.

They came running back with their eyes and mouths wide open.


When we reached Stover Creek Shelter we stopped for lunch. It is a large, double-deck shelter, so the boys climbed all over it to check it out.

Hiking to Three Forks

Our original itinerary called for stopping at a spot called Three Forks, but we had already decided that would make today's hike much too short. As it was, Three Forks would not have been a good choice. Today was Fathers Day and many families were walking in both directions of the trail.

The several signs placed around the area saying camping was prohibited would have also put a damper on plans.

Continuing on to Hawk Mountain

We pushed on with our sights set on a new camping area called Hawk Mountain Campsite.

Creek crossing

There were several creek crossings on this section of the trail.

When we arrived in the vicinity of the campsite there was some initial confusion about its location. Guthook's app indicated we had already passed the junction with the trail leading to the campsite. We soon discovered,though, that the junction was actually just another 50 yards ahead of us.

The campsite opened earlier this year and is very nice, using the latest techniques for wilderness camp construction. A long trail follows the side of a ridge, with several tent pads cut into the side of the ridge.

Bear vault

The site also features a new privy, and instead of bear bag cables there are steel boxes for storing food overnight.

After checking it out, the boys decided they wanted to move on. I suspect they were turned off by the campsite layout, which didn't allow them to camp, cook and hang out near each other.

The next camping option was Hawk Mountain Shelter, just .7 miles away. When we arrived at the junction of the access trail to the shelter the boys plopped their gear down and decided to camp there. I was not thrilled by the idea of camping alongside the trail, but we try to maintain a boy-led unit, so it seemed right to pitch our tents there, and it was an established campsite so we were still practicing Leave No Trace principles.

We didn't realize until later that there were plenty of nice camping spaces nearer the shelter and water source. Oh well.

After the usual camp chores I relaxed in my tent and got caught up on the blog post I failed to finish yesterday, as well as work on today's post.

For dinner I prepared garlic mashed potatoes with a package of Chicken of the Sea tilapia in marinara sauce. The amount of tilapia was minuscule and the marinara was bland. About the only good thing it added was a few extra calories.

For tonight's dinner entertainment the other leaders and I watched a boy try to adjust his burning stove, first with his fingers and then with his lighter.

As leaders we try so hard to teach fire safety.


We hear you're leaving, that's okay
I thought our little wild time had just begun
I guess you kind of scared yourself, you turn and run
But if you have a change of heart


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.