Don’t Quit in a Trash Bag Dress and Other Observations

And it begins…

Here We Go - Notice No Pack on Spiderwoman!

Here We Go – Pack Has Yet to Meet the Mountain

We started on the approach trail, a mere 8 mile trek to summit Springer, the beginning of the AT.  Our plan was to make it to Stover Creek, very doable; furthermore, we saw it done by several people – not us.

A couple of days later and we are at Woody Gap in a shuttle to Dahlonega – not part of our original plan.  What happened?

But not without issues

First, our packs were too heavy.  We had several last minute additions and an over abundance of food items that pushed us into that 40lb arena. It seemed a general observation that those with the lighter packs were saying things like “OMG. Look at the mountain laurels and the rock formations!  I can’t wait for dinner!” Those of us with the heavier packs were often just saying “OMG.”

The World on our Shoulders

Next, those with recent  backpacking experience on similar terrain were more accustomed to the physical challenges.  No real surprise here.  We had done similar backpacking in similar terrain, but in 2022.  We had completed no backpacking trips in 2023 or 2024.  Our conditioning was not beneficial to the current mission.

Finally, our third day of hiking we pulled out the stops and did 13 miles, which according to the Fitbits  and the Apple Health counters was really 16 miles – with 40 lb packs.  I was pretty tuckered out and while taking in Long Creek Falls failed to repack my rain gear.  Pity, as the thunderstorm the next morning would have been much more bearable with that gear.  I fashioned a trash bag dress and pack cover from the two I had brought as extra internal rain protection.  Combined with the loss of a SmartWater bottle cap, it seemed a good idea to regroup.

Long Creek Falls - Stunning! Really wish I had not left my rain gear there!

Long Creek Falls – Stunning! Really wish I had not left my rain gear there!

Initial Observations

During our first few days, we learned a great deal about this particular trail, the people that work and play on it, and the support staff.

Waffle House

There is a wide cast of characters on the trail, especially in the bubble.  Almost all of them are very pleasant and a number of them have very interesting stories.  We saw a sixty year old hiker take his last smoke.  He then proceeded to burn his last cigarettes as well as his other trash on the fire in a befitting ceremony, bringing tears to the eyes of all those in the shelter.  Yes, please read between the lines on that one, but we were still happy for him.

Last Smoke

Last Smoke

Trail Angels

There is a group of people out there that show up when you least expect it to provide support to hikers.  Unpaid actors performing voluntary service.  In our case, it was an older gentleman who was handing out candy (and water) out of the back of his car.  Anywhere else, this might be the beginning of a news story on a police blotter; however, here it’s pretty common – most say they do this service because they are former thru hikers or feel that they have been called by a higher power to help those in need.  Believe me, coming over Sassafras Mountain with a 40lb pack – I was definitely in need!  These people are just awesome.  You can learn more about this one here.

Trail Angelbto the Rescue!

Trail Angel to the Rescue!

History and Geology

Amicalola is an anglicized version of the Cherokee words for Falling Waters.  All of the surrounding land, with its beautiful scenery, was Cherokee land.  In the 1830s, the government moved the Cherokee out of the area, better known to history as the Trail of Tears.  This just happened to coincide with the first major discovery of gold in the region – gold that was upwards of 90%+ pure, which is a rare find even in today’s gold markets.  The stories associated with this treaty, the trail, and the politicians involved have filled volumes.  I often feel humbled to be standing in these areas where history was made.


The Cherokee Homeland

Cherokee Homeland


Every 8 miles or so, there are semi permanent shelters placed for use of those hiking the trails.  These things are usually three walled structures, at least through GA, often with a fire pit and a picnic table. There are also bear boxes to store your food, usually a nearby water source (creek), privy, and several tent sites.  These shelters are places of congregation and you will have multiple people sleeping in these confined spaces, especially in poor weather.  One should not cook and eat in the shelter, but they do – so mice are pretty common as well.

Gimme Some Shelter


Read the signs and they tell a story.  My favorite sign was in the privy near a shelter.  Don’t discard your soiled underpants in the privy.  They had to put that up as a sign, as it’s a common problem.  This journey is not an easy one.

Soiled Undergarments Are Not Allowed Anymore!

No Soiled Undergarments!

Trail Philosophers

In this Waffle House bubble of people, you hear some things that are funny, brilliant, poignant, or at least memorable.  In one case, we heard from a man with a heavy New Jersey accent explaining to us how he was dry retching in the privy from the smell.  “…like maybe a 100 people sh@! in there just today.” Then he realized that it was his own funk pushing him over the edge.  “Gotta stop eating so much tuna.”

In another case, I was sitting in a shelter, in a trash bag dress, shivering being both sopping wet and cold.  All others in the shelter knew my story.  I felt compelled to tell it as I walked into their presence wearing a big glad bag.  Asked for my future plans, I said that we would head into town to get some new rain gear.  One of the hikers, apparently seeing a little despondency, sat down and identified himself as an Army veteran who had seen tough times.  “Don’t quit on a bad day.  You can’t quit wearing a trash bag dress.”

Words to live by.

Back on trail tomorrow – More soon!


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