Day One of My Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

I woke up to my alarm this morning after a sub-par night of sleep in a sub-par hotel. My good friend Chris Jones and his daughter Kylie had driven me to Georgia yesterday and were up and ready to get me to the Approach Trail (huge thanks to them). We made a quick pit stop at Chic-fil-a and headed to Amicalola State Park to register.

While waiting on the rangers to open the door, I met Jared, a fellow thru-hiker ready to start his journey too.
Like me, Jared had just graduated and was getting a late start because of it. He and I took our photo under the famous arch and I started the approach trail with Chris and Kylie, who wanted to hike with me just up the waterfall, say goodbye, and get back for their long ride home. About a mile into this trip, we see a sign telling us the trail was closed, so, like the skeptics we are, we hiked on. Not long after this, we see why the trail was closed, as the Amicalola Falls steps were being repaired.

Our little group turned around to figure out our plan B, reached the car, and drove up one of the roads in the park until we ended up at the top of the falls. After a photo op, a prayer, and some goodbyes, I headed for Maine. As I was hiking, I ran into Jared and ended up hiking with him for quite a while, stopping often because I kept cramping up when walking uphill. The Approach Trail was brutal and kicked my butt and as I laid my poles down to rest I sat them right on the Southern Terminus of the AT plaque. It was nothing like I pictured, but no less magical as I saw blaze #1. Jared and I started hiking down Springer with our spirits very much lifted. Four miles went by in no time as Jared and I chatted on assorted topics, but we reached his shelter, where we parted ways with an awkward handshake (if I’m being honest). From here I had another 6 miles, 3 of which went beautifully, meandering through magnolias and pines standing tall over a shag carpet of wild ferns. The last 3 miles before reaching Hawks Mountain Shelter did not go as well.

It’s not that this section was any less beautiful, as it was probably even more so. The problem was me, as I was exhausted and had to keep stopping. I ate a few snacks and kept trudging on, murmuring to myself “I think I can, I think I can” until I passed the hilly section. It was somewhere in those hills that my snacks kicked in and I hauled butt the last mile and a half into camp.

Naturally, the shelter was filled with weekend campers, so I set up my tent and laid down for a delicious dinner of fruit snacks, a Clif bar, some Oreos, a peanut butter tortilla, and a pack of peanut M&M’s. Not a bad first day if you ask me.

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.

Comments 17

  • Rolando Torres : May 16th

    Love your writing style and clarity. I am out of shape 60 years old that work never let me think of doing the AT. But reading of others’ adventures getting me out there doing one or two miles. Will follow you on your Trek. Be careful.

    Reply
  • Joey Banannas : May 16th

    Make it to Maryland and I will Trail Angel you some yummies.

    Reply
  • Jason : May 16th

    Dummy

    Reply
    • Csrrie : May 19th

      Really? Guess you haven’t done much.

      Reply
    • MattF : May 23rd

      Hiking is for everyone: straight, gay, trans, etc.

      Reply
  • Jason : May 16th

    Hiking is for gays

    Reply
    • MattF : May 23rd

      Can we erase this guy already?

      Reply
    • Hillbilly Slim : Jun 3rd

      Perhaps you should stick to ridiculing folks your own age. 5 year olds can notoriously be mean, especially when they’re behind a keyboard.

      Reply
  • Phil : May 16th

    Great post and I’m very envious of your thru hike. I hope you have a great trip! Trip of a lifetime.

    Reply
  • Ted Perry : May 17th

    Joe, I did a little of AT last fall, loved it, I’m from Washington, N.C. living in Round Rock, Tx now. Wish you all the best

    Reply
  • Laurie : May 17th

    Planning on the hiking with my daughter 2023. In training now. Will enjoy watching you. Be safe, stay strong!!

    Reply
  • Doug Olsson : May 17th

    Give me a heads up the day you’re going to cross over BigBaldtn… in NC… I hike that part of the trail and other surrounding trails in between BigBald and High Rocks… I’ll make sure to have a couple of extra Cliff Bars mad chocolate in a goody bag!

    Reply
  • Melissa Grant : May 17th

    Wishing you good luck! My son also started late due to finals. He is about 5 days ahead of you.

    Reply
  • Two Heavy : May 17th

    What’s your pack weight? Are you packing a bear canister?

    Reply
  • JimG : May 19th

    I walked The Camino in Spain 2 years back. Not as hard as the AT I bet, but just as magical. I wish you luck. Just keep walking, one foot in front of the other, one step at a time. Enjoy every step. It’s the journey not the destination.

    Reply
  • David S : May 23rd

    Unfortunately, you are starting as a massive heat dome is settling over the southeast.

    Good luck and stay cool!

    Reply
  • Hillbilly Slim : Jun 3rd

    Good luck on your journey man. If you’re in need of supplies or whatnot, give me a holler when you reach the town of Hampton in North East Tennessee. I’ll gladly help a fellar out.

    Reply

What Do You Think?