Arriving in a whole New World

The final week before starting the AT

It was wonderful visiting my lovely American family and keeping my body hike-ready along the Rivanna Trail in Charlottesville. There was also a memorable visit to Sugar Hollow on the edge of the Shenandoah National Park, with lots of spring flowers in the unseasonably warm weather (25C / 78F). Surely using up all the sunshine before my start!

Not so ideal in the buildup to my trail start was at the beginning and end of that week. My flight arrived at Charlotte Airport on time but it was more than an hour before we could get off the plane, and then more than two hours getting through immigration (long, snaking queues and two immigration officers). A group of French women were crying because they were going to miss their connection. I of course missed mine, and spent hours more at Charlotte Airport before I was able to get on a rescheduled flight. But no harm done, just very tired.

The other not so great pre-trail trial, was getting a bug end of the week which meant I did not eat for a day and a half. Although not ideal, I seemed to bounce back pretty quickly and felt fine as I boarded a train to the south on a Monday night. American trains are massive including seats which are capable of accommodating supersized travellers But they are surprisingly difficult to get to sleep in. After I unpacked items from my backpack I was able to achieve reasonable comfort, and I arrived at 7.30am in Gainesville, Georgia, ready for the AT.

Minus 9 miles

My shuttle driver, Michelle from White Blaze Shuttles, took me to Amicalola where there was an induction for all the backpackers starting the AT that day. This covered practicalities like bears and food storage, but also startlingly, that norovirus had arrived early on the trail with some very bad cases ending in medivac and hospitalisations. I had already decided to stay in my tent and not in shelters, and this news strengthened my resolve to resist the convenience of shelters (no wet tents to pack up, less time getting away in the mornings etc). My pack weighed in at a too heavy 44 pounds and I set off up to Springer Mountain via the falls. Because of repairs to the regular route, this temporary westerly one added an extra half a mile to the approach trail, making it 9 miles before I would officially start the AT! Most people took the shorter easterly route, which missed the falls, or got driven up to the car park, a mile from Springer Mountain. As I am unlikely to be this way again, I sucked up the extra half mile and was glad that I did, as the waterfall was spectacular. Although it was a sunny day, it was very cold with ice on the trail, and my jacket stayed on all day despite the 3,500 feet of climb which took me to the start of the AT. Goodbye to showers, rest rooms, kettles and the outside world in general, including internet access. So there are likely to be batch catch ups and long gaps between blog reports.

The view from Springer Mountain 

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?