The adventure began when Cheryl and I boarded a Delta flight to Atlanta. We caught the MARTA to the North Springs stop, north of the city. Our hotel/hostel picked us up at the station and drove us the 55 minutes to Dahlonaga, GA.
We stayed in an “Eco- cabin” which was tight, but fine. Saturday we went to Amicalola Falls, registered for my thru-hike (I am officially Thru-hiker # 292), spoke to Mighty Blue for the podcast, was greeted by some podcast listeners who drove 90 minutes to wish me well, and talked with the AT.Ridge Runner who was registering everyone.
Cheryl and I then passed through the famous arch with just day packs and started the 8.8 miles to the top of Springer Mountain where the AT actually begins. We first tackled the 600 stairs that bring one to the top of the falls, reputed to be the highest east of Mississippi River. The day was clearing (after early morning clouds) and the falls seemed powerful, fed by many early winter rain storms.
After the falls Cheryl and I hiked the excellently conditioned and modestly difficult trail. Perhaps the only strenuous section (less so for northbound hikers like us) was the long climb down Nimblewell Gap. We had a lunch break of apples, cheese, and some other snacks that Cheryl packed and eventually made it to Springer. We celebrated with photos at the plaque, M&Ms from our neighbor Wendy, and another podcast session with Mighty Blue.
We finished the day by hiking the actual, first white-blazed mile northbound, thus starting my formal trip and returning to Katahdin. We were picked up by our hostel/hotel at the Springer Mountain parking lot (1 mile north of the summit) and returned to our Eco-cabin.
The next day we returned to that same parking lot, I put a full pack on my back, and said goodbye to Cheryl. As I headed off it was sad to leave Cheryl, but I was also excited to have started this journey.
The first three or four miles of the trail, despite a continuing light rain, we’re beautiful – both the flora and streams as well as the quality of the trail. The hiking was, or seemed, very easy – perhaps my excitement helped carry the load somewhat effortlessly at first. I met my second 2018 thru-hiker classmate (Joe, later given the trail name, not by me, ” Slow Joe) (I met my first classmate, Will (now “Traveler”) with Cheryl on the stairs to the falls on Saturday.
I took a side trail to explore the beautiful yet powerful Lower Creek Falls, where I had lunch and met Katie, an AT. Ridge Runner. I finished Day 2 by pulling into the Hawk Mountain Shelter area, where I set up my tent without incident. I was very pleased with the start. After a quick dinner, I zipped up and prepared for the evening – sleep and rain were both expected and both came.
On Day 3– I was the first packed and out of a camp where there were about seven other tents and another six or eight in the shelter. Again, despite a very thick morning mist, I was excited to be onto the next day of the adventure. Early on we were met with two tough climbs, including one out of Horse Gap up Sassafras Mountain. I ran into Joe again and carried on. The day cleared and the hiking was excellent. I had a wonderful lunch stop at the beautiful Jutus Creek (where I met section hikers and some new classmates) and then moved on.
Having noted there was good tenting on Ramrock Mountain with chance for good sunsets, I headed there. Running into classmates: Pritch, Lizzy, Hailie and Scars & El and section hikers, all of whom I told about Ramrock (because the info was in the Guthook app (more about that later), but not the AWOL Guide. We had a great collection of new friends on Ramrock and watched a lovely sunset despite cold weather and a strong wind.
Day 4– saw me again the first up and out as we headed this day for the first major target of an AT NOBO thru-hike – Blood Mountain and Mountain Crossings at its base. I watched a sunrise from Ramrock that rivaled the prior evening’s sunset and then hiked throughout a beautiful day. I ran into our evening friends from Ramrock as well as new Classmates Danny and Vapor & Boss (Vapor is completely blind).
Scars & El and Danny and I made the gradual climb up Blood and, after obligatory photos of the iconic shelter, we all started down the mountain to Neel Gap to end another great day. Despite being bright and dry, the trail down required much work (I’m really not sure how my friends who had to navigate the 2 miles down did so in the cold, pouring rain that came the next day.)
I grabbed a cabin for the night at Blood Mountain Cabins, which I shared with Livvy, Hailie and Cuddle. Laundry was done, a shower was had and our section hiker friends ran us into town for a burger.
A great start to my adventure.
Last modified: March 8, 2018