Day 35: 13 miles
This morning I woke up bright and early. There was rain in the forecast and I woke up with a dry tent, so I figured that I would pack up quickly in case the rain started up. If I can keep my stuff dry I’m certainly going to try.
I left camp around 7am and set out to do the final 4.4 miles on the approach trail. It was so exciting knowing that I’d be on the Appalachian trail soon. The morning consisted of a good bit of gradual climbing but nothing too steep. I passed loads of hikers who were still set up at camp and in shelters.
When I got to Springer Mountain it was a pretty surreal feeling. After 430+ miles I am officially here at the start of the AT. I walked here over the course of 35 days from Alabama. What a wild thing to think about. I took a break up at the top of Springer Mountain and then I officially began my journey north to Katahdin.
Just as I was coming down off of Springer Mountain I passed the Benton MacKaye junction which I had been on yesterday. I retraced my steps to the parking lot where I had planned to get a ride from a shuttle service; but instead got a ride down with a trail maintenance guy. When I got to the parking lot today the same guy from yesterday was there. We talked briefly and he gave me a muffin. Then I continued along.
I had my sights on Hawk Mountain shelter for the night. It was only about 8 miles down along the AT so it was going to be a short day. But there is a ton of rain forecast for later today and tonight so the the idea of sleeping in a shelter was pretty appealing.
I took the day nice and easy and enjoyed some breaks every so often. It surprised me that the trail wasn’t packed with hikers. For some reason I had just expected that the bubble would be absolute chaos. There were definitely some hikers out but not nearly as many as I’d expected. Every now and again though I would come upon a thru hiker or two. We would chat briefly and then generally I would pass them and continue along. At one point I even passed a guy on an uphill stretch and was shocked to turn around and see that I’d flown by him. I just kept thinking how grateful I was that I was doing Bama➡️Baxter and already had my first set of trail legs.
About 2 miles out from the shelter I walked by a woman who was standing by herself at a trailhead. She told me that there was trail magic down the hill! Apparently rangers had come by and made her take down the sign, so she just had to stand there and notify hikers herself. I walked down the hill and stumbled upon a massive trail magic operation.
There was a covered area with tables and tables of different snacks, numerous coolers filled with drinks, and even a skillet to cook on. A nice man made me an “Elvis” sandwich with peanut butter and banana. I sat and drank a coke, ate my sandwich, and talked to the folks running the trail magic. The guy who I had passed earlier arrived and joined the party. His name was Keagan and he was from Maine. He also planned to camp at the shelter nearby so I’d likely be seeing him later on.
After enjoying the trail magic I continued on to do my final 2 miles to the Hawk Mountain shelter. The terrain was easy enough so I just cruised along. Right before I arrived at the shelter I passed a hiker who was lounging under a nearby tree. His name was John and he was from Scotland. He was debating staying at the shelter as well. But it was only 1pm, so both of us felt like we should probably continue walking. Though the rainy forecast made us both decide to just have an early day and call it.
By 1pm I was setting up in the shelter for the night and was the first person there. It was a double decker shelter and probably could fit about 10-12 people. John arrived just after me and we wound up having a lazy rest of the day. We talked and I journaled. And as the afternoon went on more and more hikers arrived. One guy arrived named Matt who had started the trail with an ice axe. Yes, you read that right. An ice axe. He thought it was make a good weapon just in case. But to no surprise he left the ice axe at the registration office down at Amicalola Falls.
Loads more hikers arrived as the day went on. In time the entire shelter filled and the surrounding area filled up with tents as well. By 5pm there were probably 40+ individuals camped around the shelter. Inside on the bottom floor of the shelter I cowboy camped besides Keagan, John, Matt, and Maria.
Others outside made a fire and sat up talking. One man arrived who had hidden himself bottles of liquor at a road crossing. So he had 2 massive glass bottles and was offering shots to anyone who wanted some. It was a truly fantastic first night on the Appalachian Trail.
Day 36: 16 miles
This morning I woke up in the shelter and it was dumping rain outside. It hadn’t rained much over night but picked up in the early morning. The downpour was intense and I felt so grateful to be comfortable and dry. Apparently it was supposed to clear up around 8am so I decided to get a later start to the day. I packed up in the shelter and then sat and made myself a coffee. It was a really nice slow paced morning.
Right around 8am the rain began to let up and I decided to head out. John who I had met last night was starting the trail in really good shape. So he also intended to do about 16 miles today. That was exciting because I loved the idea of hanging out and hiking with new friends. But most people start the AT doing about 8 or so miles a day. So I wasn’t expecting to be hiking with a lot of people early on in the trail.
The trail had a good bit of climbing to start the morning off. Some of it was steep but it wasn’t as bad as I’d thought it would be. And about 4 miles in the trail dropped down to a road and I stopped there to take a break. John was there and we broke and snacked together. Then we continued along.
That routine kept up for most of the day. We would hike for a handful of miles and then stop for a break. Personally that’s my preferred method of hiking, so it was really nice to be walking with someone else who had the same routine.
About 11 or so miles into the day the trail had another fairly steep climb. And as I was nearing the top another hiker passed by me going South. She let me know that there was trail magic up ahead at Woody Gap! That was such an amazing surprise. I passed another hiker Robin as I excitedly flew down trail. I jokingly said to her “I’d do anything for a hot dog right about now.” And she looked mortified. She said back, “You can’t be saying things like that!” But the funny thing is that when I’m hiking sometimes I just say whatever pops into my mind, no matter how absolutely ridiculous it is. It’s a shameless world out here on trail. So I certainly don’t mind joking around and making a weird comment to a total stranger.
When I arrived John was already there drinking a soda. I joined in and the amazing guy Paul (Rain-man) running the trail magic offered me a hot dog with all the fixings. Plus baked beans and a Mountain Dew. It doesn’t get much better than that. When I introduced myself to Paul he said he recognized my name. And after a minute or so he realized that I was from reading my posts here on the Trek. That blew my mind honestly. He was the first person I’d met who had read my blog before meeting me.
At the trail magic I met two other hikers Purple Pioneer and Kyle. Purple Pioneer was wearing almost entirely purple clothes, per the name. I also talked to two other ladies Kim and Judy who were really nice.
After I took a nice long break at the trail magic I decided to continue along. There were only a handful more miles to do for the day which was great. The time truly flew by and before I knew it I was at Lance Creek Restoration Area. At the water source before camp I met two hikers Magic Jim and Gucci who were really funny guys. It was only 4pm and there were already a bunch of other hikers set up for the night. I was glad that we arrived early because there were only a couple more tent sites available. I set mine up and got comfortable right away. Then I made dinner and had a really chill rest of the night. Kyle and Purple Pioneer wound up hammoking nearby. As well as a couple other people who I had met at the trail magic or earlier in the day.
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