After over one year of planning for a hike on the Appalachian Trail, I have now discovered the most difficult thing to plan for. It wasn’t researching and selecting the best gear. It wasn’t getting physically prepared for hiking. It wasn’t food planning and preparation. The most difficult thing was preparing for the flood of emotions that overwhelmed me as I was about to take my first step.
On the one hand, I was overcome with excitement about starting an adventure that I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember. On the other hand, I felt a profound sadness, and even a little guilt, because I was about to be away from my wife and best friend for six months. I cannot begin to express the depth of my gratitude to my wife for her love and support in allowing me to follow this dream. I dearly love her.
But in the end, I did take that first step. Or more accurately, I took that first 604 steps. The A.T. Approach trail starts at the archway behind the Amicalola Falls S. P. Visitors Center and, in less than one mile, climbs 416 feet to the top of the falls utilizing a labyrinth of 604 stairs with a dozen landings where you can catch your breath.
Honestly, I was intimidated by this start, fearing knee injury, but in the end it wasn’t bad at all. Since you can drive to the top of Springer Mt., there is always the question, “Approach Trail or no Approach Trail?” To me, the climb to to top of the falls, as well as the remaining eight miles of trail, is strikingly beautiful and should not be missed.
There is a mineral in the rocks on the trail (I’m guessing it is mica) that is there in abundance. Today the temperature was in the high 40’s, breezy, and with partly cloudy skies. Every time the sun would come out from behind the clouds, the rocks looked like they were covered with diamonds and the trail looked like it was sprinkled with fairy dust. It was an amazing effect.
Today, I was assigned thru-hiker #480 by the ATC representative at the start of the trail. #481 skipped the stairs (he’d did them yesterday) and I ran into him at about the five mile mark. We walked together for the rest of the day, and I discovered that he was a really nice guy in his mid 30’s from Memphis named Thomas.
We were both so excited to finally be on the trail. I told Thomas the the odds were pretty long that we would summit Mt. Katahdin on the same day, but there was no reason we couldn’t summit Springer Mt together. So that is what we did. Standing there at the summit, by the plaque marking the start of the A.T., can only be described as a surreal moment.
So, I have completed .2 miles of the A.T., I’ve made some new friends, I’m warm and dry in my tent, and my tummy is full. I can hardly wait to see what tomorrow brings.