So It Begins
Which means we leave the cabin in an hour.
Which means we start the approach trail an hour after that.
I slept relatively well for someone about to start a thru-hike. Getting out of bed, it’s time to put on my trail clothes. It dawns on me that I’m putting what will essentially be my only clothes for the next six to seven months. That’s something to process at a later time. For now, it’s time to think about breakfast and whether my nerves will let me stomach anything. A bagel with cream cheese manages to stick the landing, but only because I know I’ll need the calories today.
It’s a blur as we pack up our rental home and get driving down the mountain roads. Then we’re back at Amicalola Falls.
It’s significantly different from yesterday. The parking lots that were briming with hikers on Presidents’ Day are now mostly empty. It just seems to be some park employees and the construction workers here today. What I assume is the park’s new visitor center is still being worked on.
My parents, my cousin and myself walk around the construction fencing towards the famous archway that starts the AT approach trail. A quick photoshoot, the exhanging of hugs and “I love you”s and we’re finally off. My parents to their car and Jake and I towards the falls.
How Many Stairs?
The stairs up the falls are as strenuous as advertised, but no match for my first day adrenaline.
It’s becoming real.
I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.
We pace ourselves up the steps and summit our first of many hills. The reward is a stunning view of the valley and a conversation with other winded NOBOs.
The Rest of The Hike
After catching our breath, we continue onwards. This will be our rhythm for the day. Hike until we feel a bit tired and then rest until we’re ready to hike again. I suppose this is my strategy for completing the whole trail.
While it is February, there’s an unseasonably warm patch of weather this week. This translates to perfect hiking weather. Just warm enough that the breeze feels nice, but not so warm as to feel grilled alive under the sun.
The famous “green tunnel” of leaves and plants hasn’t come close to forming yet and we are able to see the mountains cascading into the horizons from any ridge. I think I finally understand the concept of grinning ear to ear, because that’s what I’m doing. Every couple of minutes I find myself staring off into distance and almost chuckling “mountains” under my breath. The pictures I take will not do these views justice. And that’s okay. Not all of this needs to make it back home or to the internet. It can just be for us in this moment.
I can understand why people complain about the approach trail. There’s some mean inclines and the trail is rocky and rooty. But I’m too happy to care. This is where I’m suppose to be and I feel it flowing across my body.
My emotional regulator flicks on to remind me this isn’t how the whole trail will feel. Which I know will be true. But I cast those thoughts to the side for the day. I indulge in the feeling of everything lining up, of being past pre-trail anxiety. The feeling of being a speck of a creature lumbering up this mountain range.
Eventually, we arrive at Springer. I’m well ahead of Jake as I cross my last blue blaze and eye my first white blaze. This brings me a moment of solitude with the southern terminus. I take some quick pics and then call my girlfriend. She would love this and I would love nothing more than to have her sitting with me. I express this to her, catch up quickly and then sign off. My cousin and another hiker will be here soon and I don’t want my squawking on the phone to ruin their experience.
Camping on a Mountain
We scoot our way 0.2 miles down the trail and into the Springer Mountain Shelter. It’s an impressive structure, especially when you consider that they had to bring all the supplies up a mountain to bring it. I do not plan on staying in shelters unless necessary. I’ve read to many blog posts and FarOut comments about mice. Plus, I have my beloved tent to keep me dry.
I set up my home on a flat piece of soil close, but not to close, to the shelter. After making use of the privy and nearby water source, I get to making dinner and chatting with tonight’s residents. Dinner is buttery instant potatoes and a pepperoni wrap I cobbled together while I wait for my water to boil. I’m joined by my cousin and two other hikers.
Andy is a retired man from Canada and is on trail for six weeks. He explains that this trip is a bit of a trial run to see if he wants to do the whole thing some day and, more importantly, a trial run for his wife to see if she is comfortable with him being gone for so long.
Joe is from Wisconsin and is also making use of a recent retirement to pursue a hike. He’s got his eye set on the whole thing. We chuckle at how the population of the campground is some how 75% Wisconsinite.
I do my best to stay in the conversations but my head is so heavy. I can’t tell if its the elevation or just fatigue but I need to get to bed. At 7pm everyone calls it a night and I crawl into bed to journal on my phone before I pass out.
I am a little nervous about sleeping outside but I’m too tired to care at this point. You can’t be scared if you’re unconscious, I decide. I finalize my notes for the day and pass out.
Thanks for giving this a read! My first day went great and I’m excited I get to share my experience with you. I am certain that future posts will cover multiple days at a time, but I thought that my first day deserved special attention.
Take a hike!
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