Monday: 12.9 miles / 20.8 km

“Are you two going all the way?”

“Well, we’re married so… that’s really none of your business, my friend.”

The Trail is social. Camaraderie at the shelters — even along the trail with 27 pounds strapped to your back — people open up, crack jokes, ask questions. The intimacy creates a warmth much needed while spending days outdoors.

We launched from Stover Creek Monday morning headed for Gooch Mountain Shelter – the first official day on the AT.

The sun didn’t join us, but I took my long johns off before noon. K2 hikes in shorts and tee shirts as a rule.

Although the overall elevation dropped 931′, a few big Georgia hills showed me what the Top of Georgia is all about.

We came up Hawk Mountain, then Sassafras, then Justus – three hills close together in less than seven miles.

Do you know where you are?

You’re in the jungle, baby!

Between Justus Creek and Blackwell Creek I napped while hiking. Seriously. I had to wake up to fjord Blackwell.

As the tent sites around Gooch Mountain Shelter came into view, I began to sing Angel from Montgomery, my voice wavering as the aching in my body turned to ennui. When I dropped my pack I could barely raise my arms.

Our good news, “we beat the rain” met the bad news of the hikers jammed into the shelter: “no tent sites left.” Luckily we snuggled our 3-man Big Agnes next to Tyler’s tent. Tyler had attempted once before and was thinking this night might be his last on the trail.

Don’t quit on a bad day.

The rain held off until after dinner and tea. The rain on our tent gave me the best night of sleep thus far on the trail.

This post was updated to reflect proper mileage. Muscle exhaustion and forest dampness combine to lay a fog over my memory.

Sunday: First Hike Up

The Appalachian Trail begins at the top of Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at the top of Katahdin in Maine.

We started this sabbatical hike at the Approach Trail from Amicalola Falls State Park on a beautiful sunny day. This 8.8 mile trek climbs 1,982 feet to the top of Springer Mountain, which stands at an elevation of 3,782 feet.

The journey of a lifetime begins with a single step… or literally a whole slew of steps up a waterfall.

Then down from the peak to Springer Mountain Shelter Stover Creek Shelter (2,916 feet) where we took our packs off, ate dinner, and then slept in the bottom bunk with a hiker from Australia by way of Scotland, Scotty Roo, on the opposite bottom bunk and a couple other hikers in the loft. After a total of 11.6 miles of hiking, I slept well.

Highlights of the day:

  • The waterfall, its mist, and the 600+ stairs up – what a feat of engineering
  • Chatting with Louise, an octogenarian out for a constitutional
  • Top of Springer – the history as well as the view
  • Learning I should keep my mini Sayer water filter in the tent or sleeping bag so it doesn’t freeze
  • Helping a less-than-prepared hiker with her piezo-igniter stove (I had mixed feelings about touching her stuff after she barfed next to the shelter – Yay Dr Bronner’s!)

This post was updated to reflect the correct shelter. Apparently, confusion is indeed one of the first signs of hypothermia.

Today we hike!

We drove about 1,100 miles from TX to GA in about 17 hours to get in position. We stayed in Helen, GA and today we drop the car at up the trail and a dude picks us up and drops us at the state park in Amicolola.

Highlights from the drive –

  • Bridges along I-10 – it’s no wonder that interstate shuts down so much. It was actually still closed for a brief stretch in Houston.
  • Swanky gas station privies
  • Gorgeous moon rises – huge full moon all orange and mesmerizing
  • Listening to the Bruins pull out a win the Habs in overtime