AT Journey Across 2016 – 2021 Days 1 – 3

– 8.8 mile Approach Trail to Springer Mountain Shelter –

Planes, Trains, and Cramped Shuttle Vehicles

After Branden (trail name Radar) and I (trail name Transporter) got off the plane in Georgia, we waited for an hour with a few other hikers to get shuttled to the MARTA subway. Shortly after boarding the subway, we arrived at our stop. The Hiker Hostel shuttle picked us up and we were underway.

This was a beautifully set up place in 2016. It had rooms, breakfast, mini post office, entertainment, shuttles, shakedown area (help you decide what is not needed in your pack), views, laundry, wifi, and much more for reasonable pricing.

After settling in, chatting with as many people as we could, it was time to sleep for the night and get started on this unbelievable journey.

When we woke up, the scent of coffee, eggs, french toast, oats, and much more was heavy in the air. Breakfast calls.

The Journey Begins

Once breakfast was greedily devoured, many hikers were piled into five awaiting shuttles. Most were headed for the trailhead start. We chose the 8.8-mile Approach Trail.

The trail was an arduous climb. It never stopped going up. Later, this would be repeated a lot. The waterfall-like beauty was entrancing.

After admiring this, we moved on after what seemed hours before wearily reaching the top.

Springer Shelter (1st One)

After hiking the 8.8 mile Approach Trail, (actual trail wasn’t started yet,) we arrived at Springer shelter after 11 miles. Branden went to talk to everyone. I went upstairs, had no dinner or snacks, rolled out my sleeping bag, and collapsed from exhaustion.

Later that night, a storm moved in. The skies opened up and blasted the shelter roof like a firehose. It sounded like a tent was in the middle of 20 showerheads while aiming them at the tent and then full blast water pressure was unleashed. This went on full power for hours then lulled and repeated several times. The storm relented and the occupants finally fell asleep until dawn broke the horizon.

It was in the 20s for temperature and was tough to get out of the cozy bags.

Morning chores?

Filter water, break down camp, get food bags and rest of gear, hike to another location, eat and do it all over every day? Hmmm.

After gathering all of my gear, I was wondering where Branden had gone. It was about 40 minutes or more and he was nowhere to be seen. He finally came trotting up a small hill. I asked, “where were you?” He said, “it’s the first time I used my water filter, so it took a lot longer.”

Smacks my forehead…

Onward for the 1st time after camp

After breaking down camp, we follow the white blazes and the well-worn trail. Right away, the snow and fog sets in.

After hiking most of the day, a tent site was located at Horse Gap and we called this home for the night.

What do hikers eat?

We ate oatmeal packets, dried fruits, kind bars, trail mix, pop tarts, and ramen noodles accented with olive oil at the start. This changed a bit later.

Moving On in the AM

Horse Gap camp was torn down and we hiked the trail for about a half-day with decent weather. This is where a few thru-hikers were seen.

Cheryl, Dave, and Mark were chatted with for a short while. They told us it is always a good idea to plan ahead. This is especially good for reserving hostel spaces for the nights ahead. They gave up their 2 spots after calling the hostel, and we were gladly and thankfully able to bunk for the night.

The new morning arose and onward the trek went. A hiker named Dave was sighted. We hiked with him for around 5 miles, then he doubled his pace and he was off.

As the path was followed, the snow began to fall. The winds howled to and fro. After dumping about a slushy inch of snow, the storm subsided. Brrrr. Why is this happening? We do not understand.

Walking in mid 20s weather with fresh snow, a trail magic sight came into view. They offered soup, some hot tea, and energy bars to eat with shelter for a bit from the slush storm outside.

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