Days 1-3: Beast Mode from Springer
Day one started out just as you’d expect. Fail to really pack your pack the night before, sleep in a little, have a leisurely breakfast at the lodge, go back to the room to finally pack, head to registration, say some tearful goodbyes, and then start the lackluster East Ridge trail around the Falls after 10 a.m. because the stairs broke.
Heads up, you can go around on either ridge trail, or, if you start the normal approach, you can apparently finagle your way around the damage relatively easily. That will have better views than the fire road I took.
Next, the approach trail was a beast. I made decent time up and made some friends on the way, but I failed to realize that the trees may be in the south, but they are also high up. There were zero leaves, and I now have some nice trucker “tans” healing on both arms.
Finally, getting to the top of Springer brings your total mileage on the AT up to a flat 0.0, which is not a psychological win. It was still amazing to slap the plaque and touch the first white blaze. This is the beginning, it just took a little work to get there.
The Stover Creek Shelter was a nice spot to stay the first night. The next day, a few of us pushed on to Gooch Mountain Shelter, which was filled to capacity in the tent grounds. I highly recommend soaking your feet in Justus Creek just a mile and a half below Gooch. A++ experience.
As a heads up, the privies are officially closed. Unofficially, they are allegedly being lightly maintained. Use at your own risk.
On the way down to Woody Gap, a bearded man by the name of Beast Mode caught us at a water source. He had started at Springer that morning and was apparently behind schedule. His itinerary has him hitting over 50 miles per day. Yes, 50. He is attempting an FKT, so keep an eye out and cheer him on.
Hike your own hike is a great mantra, but it was a combination of awe-inspiring, funny, and depressing seeing this man tear down towards us, power squeeze his water through his Sawyer faster than any of us, and then mention something about how hitting 5mph is totally doable, and then pack up before hopping over some rocks and disappearing over the next hill.
My feet hurt just thinking about it.
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