Conquering The Approach Trail
It still feels like a dream, but Miguel and I finally made it! From the drive to Amicalola Falls, to staying over at the lodge, to our “final” breakfast, it all felt so surreal for it to be officially starting. Once we arrived at the Amicalola Falls Lodge (10/10 would recommend), we drove around to get a feel for where the falls and Approach Trail were so we were prepared. The next morning, we packed up, ate entirely too much food, and headed for the trail.
The Approach Trail Kicked My Butt
To be honest, what physical preparation I attempted was nothing compared to this. I’ve seen all the photos of the signs showing “175 Stairs: Difficulty Strenuous” but I said ehh can’t be too bad. I was wrong. I guess I didn’t realize that after the 175 steps comes a separate set of 425 steps. Which then leads off to the remaining 8 miles of inclines and declines. It was TOUGH.
That being said, please don’t misunderstand my intentions of telling you this. The last thing I want is to deter someone from the Approach Trail. I simply want you to be more prepared than I was.
Couldn’t Ask For a Better Day
We had been monitoring the weather reports all week leading up to our departure. The forecast showed a rainy start and we had come to terms with it. Once we were fully prepared to start out in the rain, the forecasts changed at the last minute and it looked as though our day would be rain-free. Not only was it rain-free, it was the most beautiful day. We just kept saying over and over how lucky we were and how nothing could mess this amazing day up. Or so we thought…
When It Rains, It pours
Since I’ve already highlighted our near perfect weather conditions, it is safe to say that my cliche heading is referring to something else. We got to camp feeling giddy and high on life. After walking 9 difficult miles, all we could think about was our mashed potato mountain we were about to devour. We set up our tents then went to filter water. At this point, we realize that Miguel’s Sawyer Squeeze is nowhere to be found. Not the end of the world since I also had a filtration system. Now it is FINALLY time to cook dinner. The stove doesn’t work. It is still unclear if it was the stove or the gas that was malfunctioning, but at this point, most of our breakfasts and dinners we packed are out the window.
We were bummed at this point but still kept a positive attitude. Just the fact that we got to leave on such an amazing day really set the tone. We weren’t going to let a few little mishaps get us down. We just ate a tuna packet and crackers and decided to call it a night. Our first night on trail was in the low 40’s to high 30’s. I was so ready to just snuggle up and sleep. Would you even believe that my sleeping pad miraculously had a hole in it? Well, believe it. At this point I felt as though the trail was just taunting us.
A Silver Lining
Even with the incomparable hike, enough went wrong at the end of the day to leave me frustrated. Even still, I slept it off (barely) and woke up to a new day and a new attitude. We had met a sweet woman named Tina on our first night. That next morning Miguel asked her how her night had gone and she let us know her water filtration system broke. Long story short, we’ve been filtering water for Tina who has in exchange been kind enough to let us boil water with her stove to cook a hot meal at night. She was even kind enough to offer up a ride into town a few days later to resupply and replace our stove. This mutually beneficial relationship helped us to keep a smile and keep trekking.
Now, Just One Step at a Time
With a bumpy first day, we have gotten a small taste of “embracing the suck”. Those little bumps or any other, however, will not be enough to break our spirit. All we need to do is just put one foot in front of the other and appreciate every moment, good or bad. The fact that we even have the opportunity to be doing the Appalachian Trail is something to be grateful in itself. And rain or shine, cold food or hot, I will have a smile on my face all the way to Mount Katahdin.
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