08:26:11, Georgia, 34° 54.730’N, 83° 37.126’W – The Green Tunnel is a phrase used to describe the Appalachian Trail as it courses through Georgia in the Summer months because the lush dense forest totally engulfs your P.O.V. A good example is an 8.7 mile section from Dick’s Creek Gap to Bly Gap. The trail canopy is covered in greenery without any fair chance of a mountain top vista. As a result it doesn’t get much traffic in Summer which is reason enough to hike it. So forget about vistas, this hike is all about putting one foot in front of the other, testing your physical and mental endurance. The trail in the Green Tunnel is high and thin and one misplaced step can send you tumbling down the mountainside. 3 buddies, my dog Dawson and I set out for a 3 day hike to Bly Gap and back.
Our first camp was 4.5 miles in at Plum Orchard Gap. There’s an AT shelter here and a few flat campsites. A creek offered ample water although we were warned prior that it could be dry in the late Summer. We pitched our tents at the edge of a sloping hillside decorated with tall trees with contorted branches that gave the appearance of giants looking down on us.
The second day we hiked the remaining 4.2 miles to Bly Gap. Make sure you stock up on water before leaving Plum Orchard because it’s a steady up hill climb that will require plenty of fluids to keep you going. What’s distinctive about this section of the AT trail is it crosses the Georgia, North Carolina Border. Bly Gap is just on the other side in North Carolina. There’s a big area to camp beside a low flow creek that was no more than a trickle when we arrived. We hiked down along the creek until it widen into a nice flowing stream where we filled our containers.
You can pitch down in the Gap or walk the AT up a ridge to camp higher. On the ridge is a great big old bent tree known to AT hikers as the Mailbox Tree because there once was (but no longer) a mailbox where thru hikers left messages for each other. You can climb the tree to see the only available vista. This spot makes a great place for star gazing as well. On a clear night you can dangle your feet from a limb and count the stars in the Milky Way.
The best place to camp at Bly, in my opinion, is located just down the far side of the ridge from the Mailbox Tree. There’s a campsite here where you’ll feel like you’re high in the trees as the ridge takes a steep drop.
In the late afternoon a cool steady wind whipped up the mountain range. The breeze intensified as the sun set and we could hardly contain the fire. We went to sleep with the sound of hundreds of trees blowing in the wind. The next morning we hiked the full length back to Dick’s Creek Gap to complete the round trip.
If you want to do this section of the AT in a day you can probably make it to Bly Gap and back if you get an early start and pack light. Otherwise, camp one or two nights in the height of Summer. Either way, hiking the Green Tunnel will put your P.O.V. on life in perspective.
– Steve Tanner