The Beginning: The Approach Trail and Catan

The Day Of

When I woke up from a night sleeping in my grandfather’s RV at the Amicalola Falls Campground, I had no idea that what I thought were seasonal allergies was actually seasonal allergies and a cold. I felt overheated and only ate two spoonfuls of cereal before needing to stop. I merely chalked it up to nerves because I was ready to hit the trail and begin the journey of a lifetime.

Photograph credit: Thomas Schmidt

After signing in at the visitor center and learning that the first stretch of the Approach Trail was closed due to maintenance, I decided to take the Creek Trail so I’d get to see the namesake of the state park. The hike to the base of the falls was nice, but I was starting to feel how heavy 31 pounds actually was. Overlooking the falls, I met Aaron, another attempting thru-hiker, and we hiked up the multiple sets of staircases to the top of the falls. We parted shortly after that.

Me at the base of Amicalola Falls right before traversing hundreds of steps up. Photograph credit: Arron

The Stairs

I have no way to describe how it felt hiking up those stairs. I should have taken a picture of how many steps it was, but I didn’t think that far ahead. My legs were shaking, I struggled breathing due to the climb and the tightness of my pack, and I constantly wanted the water in my outside pocket, but didn’t want to take off my pack to do so. The falls was really pretty, but was constantly overshadowed by my need to not die.

After the Falls

The rest of the journey to Black Gap Shelter was a struggle. I was still feeling nauseous, but managed to scarf down some homemade apple chips to keep going. Everything was uphill. I never did like hiking until I applied to be a trail crew member, so all the hiking I did was in the west. East coast trails are built differently. In the west, the grade of the trail tends to remain consistent and they have these wonderful little things called switchbacks. The east, however, built trails thinking, “I want to hike to the top of that mountain” and made a straight line up. I was not prepared. On a normal day, 2,500 feet in elevation gain isn’t too bad, but it very much depends of how the trail is structured.

About a mile or two away from Black Gap, I met Moxie, one of the trailrunners in Georgia and she mentioned that the rain I’ve been expecting all day was going to be bad and that the Springer Mountain Shelter was going to be ‘blustery.’ She recommended I stay at Black Gap for the night. I thanked her for the advice and continued on.

Black Gap Shelter

When I first saw Black Gap Shelter, I knew that was going to be my final destination for the night. I was planning on making it to Stover Creek Shelter (over 4 miles away) that night, but knew I couldn’t make it in the condition I was in. I plopped down on the edge of the shelter, reflecting on my life choices. Aaron, who I met previously, and a few others who passed me eariler in the day, were there talking and invited me to stay in the shelter. Good, I thought. I have no energy to set up my tent. 

I threw my sleeping pad and quilt down, changed into my sleeping clothes, crawled into my bag, and starred. Just starred out into the trees, watching the wind pick up, and the fog roll in and out of the area. Nick, the man next to me, saw my expression and said that he too was planning on going farther that he actually did. Arron, overhearing, said, “I trained for months and months for this trail. And here I am, not actually on it.” Everyone laughed, relating. Mentally, I was glad that I was keeping up with people who trained whereas I did not. Shortly after, I ask, “What time is it? It feels like bedtime.” Someone said, “It’s 3:30.”

Evening Preparations and Games

At around 4:30, Moxie, the trailrunner, came back to make camp and started cooking dinner. Someone said that she was eating rather early and she said, “Well, I’ve checked radar so I suggest you start cooking too.” That got everybody up.

Kitchen Sink, Moxie, and others playing Catan while the rain starts pouring down.

By the time I finished cleaning up, the rain came. And boy, did it rain. We all hundled back into the shelter and another hiker named Kitchen Sink asked, “Anybody want to play Catan?” And want did he do? He pulled out the full boardgame. Out of the eight of us, half played the game while the other half either looked out of the shelter or began falling asleep. By 7:00, it was lights out.

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Comments 6

  • Brian Gladstone : Mar 11th

    Good luck on your thru hike!

  • Kevin Shinn : Mar 11th

    Good luck on your trip, ill keep up with your daily progress, I was at the arch by the visitor center a couple of weeks ago, just thinking how it would be to do this trip some day. I watched the movie Walk in the woods with Robert Redford and nick Nolte and I’ve always wanted to see the arch and the lodge, so I had lunch in the same area they did and I got my pictures with the arch. Stay well and safe.

  • jen l : Mar 11th

    Good luck! You’re doing an amazing thing! One day at a time, much to be learned. I look forward to following. Peace.

  • James : Mar 11th

    Hello .it rains a bit on that trail.make sure to have nice pair of socks.

  • Mine : Mar 11th

    Congratulations! That is really cool and good luck on your hike.

  • Pcs : Mar 12th

    Nice post…you made me feel like I was right there next to you


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