The Appalachian Trail: Days 1-4 And Serendipity

Hey there, folks! Here’s a run-down of the days leading up to our hike. This is also my first time blogging from my phone so here it goes.

The Lead Up

The week leading up to the hike was pretty crazy. We had to get all of our stuff packed up and put into a storage unit. I hung out with my kids the entire week, getting as much time in as I could with them. We booked a room at Amicalola Falls Lodge. We also decided we were going to just drive our car up to Amicalola and try to junk it for cash, rather than spend the money to rent a car. More on that later.

We left on Friday, March 24th, and it took us 2 freaking hours to get out of Miami because of the traffic. I considered that a nice little parting gift from the city. We drove 6 hours up to Jacksonville Beach to hang with some of my old friends on Friday and Saturday and left for Amicalola on Sunday around noon.

The drive to Amicalola was LOOOOONG. We hit traffic on I-75 north of Macon and I think Waze routed us around the entire northern part of the damn state to get around it. Speaking of navigation, I put Amicalola Lodge into Waze and apparently, there is an Amicalola Lodge that is NOT the Amicalola Falls Lodge. Idiot.

I double checked my reservation to make sure it was the Falls Lodge I booked, because that place looked REALLY rough. Thankfully, I booked the lodge at the falls and had to re route there. We arrived at the lodge at a quarter to 9, checked in, quickly and grabbed some food and a bottle of wine from the lodge restaurant before it closed, and retreated to our room (which had an amazing view) to watch The Walking Dead.  We were beat.

The view from our room at the lodge.

Pre Hike Day

Our hike was supposed to start the next day, Monday, March 27, but we were so dang tired from all of the driving we decided to rest up that day and start Tuesday.

We slept in a bit and went down to the visitors center to sign in for our AT thru-hike. We purchased our AT Passports and got them stamped, as well. After everything was squared away, we checked out the falls, went and got some lunch and then took a drive up to Springer to scout it out.

Now, let me just say FSR 42 is NOT a road you want to drive up in a Chevy Cobalt. No. It’s bumpy, rocky, rutted, muddy and rides a ridge most of the way up. It’s pretty insane. Carolina was a nervous wreck the entire 6.5 miles up but we made it up with car, and bodies, intact.

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, we were approached by a tall guy in glasses and a boonie hat who goes by the name Mountain Squid. He’s a local AT Volunteer and Ridge Runner who keeps count of North Bounders. He’s also a wealth of information.

We discussed our plan to junk the car and shuttle to Springer because we didn’t want to do the approach trail.  He wasn’t confident in our ability to find someone to sell the car off to, but he did say that Amicalola had a “rot lot” where we may be able to park our car for the length of our hike for a cost.

He also asked if we had anyone specific to shuttle us up. We didn’t but told him we would check the guide book and I had a list from a website saved on my phone. He told us right now just about all of the drivers are pretty busy and we would want to call someone ASAP to ensure our ride. He mentioned that Ron Brown had been up there a few times today and to look him up as he may be our best bet. Sounded good to me.

We thanked him for all of his help and headed up the 0.9 miles to Springer.

Springer views

Springer views

Serendipity Pt. 1

We made it to the top of Springer relatively quickly. There was a group of hikers already up there who made it there from the approach trail that day. We chatted with some of them and snapped some pics. It was at that point, seeing the first white blaze and that view from Springer that it really hit me; this is happening.

We hung around for a little while until the hikers started to disperse and headed back down to the parking lot. As we got to the bottom, we noticed Mountain Squid talking to a gray haired, heavily mustachioed man with a truck that had a big sticker on the windshield that said “Yellow Blazin'”. Mountain Squid waved us over and introduced us to Ron Brown. Serendipity.  What timing!

We explained our situation to Ron regarding our car and need for a shuttle. He couldn’t believe we got our cobalt up that road.  He found it hilarious. Like Mountain Squid, he said that we would have a difficult time finding someone to junk the car with, but Amicalola has an extended parking lot we could probably park our car in. He explained exactly what we would need to do to get the car parked and then checked his schedule to see when he could get us the next day.

As it turned out he had to be at the Atlanta airport the following morning to pick up some hikers flying in but he could pick us up around noon. No problems there for us, so we booked his time, thanked them both profusely for their help and headed back to Amicalola to prep. To Caro’s dismay, he did warn us that he would be taking us up the other side and that road was much, much worse. I think Caro turned a bit green at that. It was pretty damn amazing, though, because we hadn’t even started hiking and the trail was already providing.

Thru Hike Day 1

We awoke the next morning giddy with excitement, focused and a bit stressed over wondering if we had everything we needed. The restaurant in the lodge was closed so we didn’t get to eat breakfast. Instead, we headed down to the visitors center to get the car situation taken care of.

It’s funny,  because we planned on junking the car for a little bit of cash and instead ended up PAYING $55.00 to keep it in the lot. I could not find anyone to come pic the car up. Crazy. Anyway, we got it registered and drove it to the “rot lot” to hang out for the next few months.

We hoofed it back to the visitors center, got some coffee and snacks, and hung out until Ron got there. He arrived at noon. On the dot. “This guy’s timing is IMPECCABLE”, I thought to myself. He had two other hikers with him. We loaded our stuff up, he made sure we were all set and off we went.

Carolina sat in the middle of the back seat between me and one of the other hikers to make the ride a bit easier on herself. She didn’t want to be anywhere near a window where she could see out while we drove. Good thing, because the other road was definitely worse.

On the ride up, Ron let us all know what to expect for the first part of the hike. The first part to Stover Creek was cake. The hike up to Hawk would be our first decent climb. Oh, and Sassafrass was going to kick our ass, followed by a second, immediate beating from Justus. Awesome. He was absolutely correct.

After a teeth jarring bumpy, but very informative ride, we made it up to the Springer parking lot alive and unscathed. Now, even though we hiked up to Springer the previous day and we technically didn’t have to go back up, we decided to do it again to make it more “official”. We thanked Ron for everything and Mountain Squid let us leave our pack with him for the hike back up.

We went up to Springer, hung out a bit more and took in the fact that this was happening NOW.

2nd time at the top

2nd time at the top

We signed the log book and headed back down to the parking lot. Mountain Squid recommended that we limit our hike to Stover Creek because it was so late in the day. That sounded like a plan to us. We thanked him again and we’re on our way!

The hike to Stover Creek Shelter was a cake walk. There were a couple of people there, including a fellow The Trek blogger by the name of “Stubbs”. We chatted a bit and then set up our tent, got water and made some food. Quite a few people showed up later on and we all spent the rest of the evening chatting before retiring for the night.

Day 2

We woke up “late” by hiking standards around 9 and were on the trail at almost 11. Slow, I know, but whatever. We are hiking, not working, so piss off schedules.

Footbridge over life blood.

Footbridge over life blood.

Carolina’s shoes started hurting her feet pretty badly soon after we started, which hadn’t happened on any previous hikes. Granted, we were used to hiking around sea level Florida, not the mountains of Georgia. It got worse as the hike progressed to the point where it got difficult for her to walk. We made it slowly up to Hawk Mountain Shelter by 1:30 and decided to call it a day for her feets sake. 

Rest.

Rest.

Now a couple of things I’ll say about Hawk Mountain Shelter are flies, bees, and the sound the wind makes whipping through the mountains at night is one of the coolest things I’ve ever heard.

Day 3 And Serendipity Pt. 2

 

Sunrise on Hawk Mountain

Sunrise on Hawk Mountain

We woke up much earlier on day 3 at around 6:30. We heard the day before there would be no reliable water for the next 6 miles so we loaded up all we could carry. The plan was to just knock Sassafrass and Justus the hell out and cruise on to Woody Gap. That wouldn’t happen, however.

The climb down Hawk Mountain was quick. But it’s all a damn set up for Sassafrass. The trail lulls you into a sense of confidence and then just breaks it.

We felt great going down. But, then we went up. And up even more. And up even more steeply. Caro’s feet were killing her. I’m pretty strong on uphills. I prefer them. Caro’s amazingly fast on downhills. She prefers them. The up and over and down of Sassafrass hurt us both the whole way.

Almost over Sassafrass!!

Almost over Sassafrass!!

When we got down to Cooper Gap, we met three other hikers and hung out for a few.  We decided to try and get a shuttle into town to get Caro new shoes. It was also supposed to storm so we figured we’d get a hotel, too. I texted Ron to see if he could get us but he was super swamped and was nowhere near us. Then, the trail provided yet again.

A green van with Angel wings and a smile face on the roof pulled up right then. It was Miss Janet! And a Trail Angel she is!! She gave us all Mr. Pibbs. That was the best Mr. Pibbs I’ve ever had. She had a pair of Salomon shoes in her truck that were Caro’s size! What are the odds of that?? She helped one hiker with properly adjusting her pack. She was a wealth of knowledge. She also gave us a ride into Blairsville to get a hotel room. Seren-damn-dipity, my friends!

Trail Angel, indeed!!

Trail Angel, indeed!!

She charges NOTHING for a ride but takes donations for gas. As she put it, “I’m not a business. You guys are the reason I’m doing what I do.” Amazing woman and human being. I gave her a $100 anyway and we checked in to the Best Western. $75 for the night was a great price.

As we were going to the room, she told us to let her know the following morning if we were going to zero as it was supposed to storm again. She said she would arrange to have us picked up even if she couldn’t. Again, she’s definitely an angel. 

We said our goodbyes, dropped our gear in our room and bee lined directly to the Italian restaurant right across the parking lot for a late lunch. And beer. A few beers. Afterward, we washed clothes, ate dinner, resupplied at Ingles and hung back in the room for the night, watching TV in our bed and listening to the storm outside.

Day 4

We decided to take a zero today and let Caro’s feet rest. I’m having a issue with my left quad that I need to stretch out and its supposed to storm again later. So, today it’s Vitamin I and relaxing. Back on trail tomorrow! Until next time, guys!

 

 

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Comments 2

  • Avatar
    Allan Scott : Mar 31st

    Good luck to you both.

    Ron Brown was dropping me off when you met him and Mountain Squid at the Springer parking lot on Monday evening.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Sean Kearns : Mar 31st

      Oh, wow! That’s awesome! You’re the reason he was there when we came down. Thanks, man! Good luck to you, too!

      Reply

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