It was a wonderfully warm mid-April afternoon when I arrived, a friend having driven me to the southern end of the Appalachian Trail from North Carolina. Months of planning and anticipation surrendered to reality as the pickup truck dropped me at the park. April 20, the day before I was to set out for Maine. The approach trail to the official end of the A.T. lay deeper in the forest. Amicalola Falls State Park was a place to camp and prepare for the trip. The weather was clear and dry and leaves were popping out on trees. This would soon result in the “green tunnel” effect for which much of the A.T. is known. For now it was time to set up camp, and meander until dinner.
The waterfall which gives the park its name was the main natural attraction. The blue-blazed approach trail began nearby, a footpath which would lead about eight miles to the official first “white blaze,” one of countless hundreds which would show the way to Maine, some 2100 miles up the Appalachian range.
The night before was star filled. After dinner, gazing into the vault of the heavens, with no ambient light from nearby towns to obscure my view, I felt myself being drawn out and away from the ordinary work-a-day world. Something rugged and wonderful and powerful lay ahead, just over the next ridge line.
At the time I had no idea whether I would be able to pull it off, and walk “five million steps” to Katahdin. I just knew I planned to travel as far as I could. Would I be a thru-hiker, finishing the entire trail in one season? Would I even make it out of Georgia? I didn’t not know. I just wanted to hike and take each challenge as it came.
I believed the trip would be a monastic journey; I would be alone in solitude and isolation, making human contact only when stumbling into a town for mail or to buy groceries. I was wrong about that…