On Springer Mountain (Photo credit: marklarson)
Day One: Hiking begins! It’s a long haul up Springer Mountain. Starting at the approach trail at Amicalola Falls State Park. I found the first mile of the trail an ordeal. One hiker is carrying 65 pounds – I’ve got 55. I pass Frosty Mountain, the Nimblewill Gap at midday. I begin my ascent of Springer Mountain at 5 p.m. at a slow, stop-start-stop pace. I stumble into Springer Mountain shelter at sunset. Dinner is a goulash of cooked rice with sausage and pea soup. I read my first shelter register and it’s fascinating, filled with tips and tales and gripes and glories shared by other hikers. As I shuffle into my sleeping bag
Barred Owl (Photo credit: Bob from Caledon)
the sound of barred owls is heard echoing in the forest – a wonderful, eerie chorus which puts me to sleep.
Looking back on this entry today, I’m first impressed about how sketchy it was before I transcribed it. This was the result of sheer exhaustion and the pressing wish to simply crash for the night. Still, even without photographs, I can clearly remember the experience: the drenching sweat of the ascent and the agonizingly slow pace; the expectation of doing more than my body was ready for; the surprising lack of appetite for food; the continual thirst for water; the incessant aching of my feet; the elation in my spirit and sense of adventure!
Amicalola Falls (Photo credit: J. Stephen Conn)
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.
Map of Appalachian Trail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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…