When I have something I’m looking forward to, I always like to imagine how it will feel in that situation. I think about how it might look, how it might feel being there, and even how it may smell. The Appalachian Trail is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I’ve seen the photos of all the major landmarks countless times and watched my fair share of AT videos and documentaries. I knew how Amicalola would look. I’d seen the arch. I’d seen the Amicalola falls. I’d seen the plaque on Springer marking the beginning of the Appalachian Trail but I had never truly seen it. Until now that is.
Those imaginations I’d had before quickly dissolved when I finally reached my time to hike. They were replaced with real memories and the true vision of the trail. I started the day driving with Jessie from Cumming, GA (about 45 minutes south of Amicalola Falls) where I had stayed the night previous in order to make my first day on the trail an earlier start. I wanted to take my time on the trail and really break in my body. I signed in at the visitors center and received my tag and number. 1113. Wow a lot of people have taken off so far, I thought to myself. After a brief safety talk from the rangers and a sad goodbye to Jessie, I was finally on my way.
It didn’t really feel real. It still doesn’t. I suppose that will come with time. I made my way up the dreaded Amicalola Falls stairs and they beat me up good. With no other excuse other than laziness, I hadn’t practiced much hiking with my full pack weight. I thought 20lbs wouldn’t feel so bad but the stairs had me feeling different. On top of that there was a parking lot on top of the falls that made me feel like this was more a hazing ritual than an actual climb. Irregardless I needed the butt kicking to start me up.
The next few miles came with relative ease and not much fanfare. I was far too in my head running through various thoughts ranging from doubt to excitement to really take much of it anyways. I met my first fellow AT thru hiker at one point and he was originally from Massachusetts like myself. Small world. I eventually ran into two more day hiking couples from Massachusetts at the top of Springer as well. I guess Massachusetts people travel well.
I went pedal to the metal for a while because my body felt pretty good. It was a relief for me. I had been dealing with some tendinitis issues in my knees and feet for a while and did all I could to address them but they were never 100%. Minus a couple of minor aches, I was pretty much pain free. I think most of the aches was my body not being used to lugging so much weight over such a distance. It will adjust with care.
My first real stop was at Black Gap Shelter for some water. The water source was about a quarter mile away from the shelter and about 250ft down in elevation. It was here I laughed to myself that I had never realized that the water sources at these shelters would probably always be a small hike down in order to get to them. I mean of course they are. Water is in the valleys and we’re hiking in the mountains. I just never had put any thought into that. I’m sure there will be other ground breaking revelations. Stay tuned.
Springer Mountain was packed. It was the first time I had run into more than 2 or 3 people at once. There was probably around 25 people up there and most were day hikers. I quickly took my pictures and briefly took in the view and got out of there. I was a little bummed it was so mobbed but mostly happy to see people outside enjoying their day. With my feet and legs starting to have enough, I hiked 2.8 more miles to Stove Creek Shelter where I’ll be staying the night. I assume many will spend the night here but I got a nice spot for my tent with some distance from others.
First day feels like a success. All thats left to do is stretch, eat a good meal, and get some sleep. It’s going to be a cold night with temperatures dropping below 30 degrees. I have plenty of gear to stay warm but cold weather is cold weather.
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