My First Days on (and off) the Appalachian Trail
It couldn’t have started better. Dixie and I departed Duluth via rental car and arrived in Kennesaw, Ga., the next day. My friend Patrick picked us up and brought us to his home. We were welcomed by his wife, Brittany, and dogs Cash and Gracie. For the rest of the evening the dogs played and the humans talked over pizza and beer. My hosts couldn’t have been more welcoming or gracious. The next morning Patrick drove us to Amicalola Falls. Once there I registered — number 1,027 — received a briefing and a Snickers bar, then took some obligatory pictures at the arch. It was clear but cold. The butterflies were flying, and I couldn’t believe this long-awaited moment was at hand. I could tell my fellow hikers had the same nervous excitement. Finally, with no special fanfare, we took the first steps on the approach trail and were on our way.
Days one to six: Amicalola Falls, approach trail (8.8 miles) to Top of Georgia Hostel (AT mile 69).
I loved my first six days on the AT, although I was in a constant state of disbelief that this was really happening. Unfortunately, Dixie had the same feeling but her disbelief was from a different perspective. More on that in a minute.
As I stated the weather was clear and cold. The falls and dreaded steps were absolutely gorgeous. 8.8 miles later, on Springer Mountain, I took a few pictures and started meeting my fellow hikers. Everyone seemed to be in a similar mind-set: excited, nervous, and a little uneasy with declaring themselves thru-hikers. I went with aspiring thru-hiker. We continued another 2.8 miles, real AT miles, to the Stover Creek Shelter and our first night.
The next few days brought a mixture of warmth and rains. We camped at Gooch Mountain Shelter (15.8), Neal Gal (30.4), Low Gap Shelter (42.9), and Tray Mountain Shelter (58.3). We met great people and experienced trail magic in the form of hiker feeds. Dixie developed a real fan club. A lot of hikers miss their dogs and Dixie soaked up the love. Every time we met hikers they called out Dixie by name.
Unfortunately, the extra trail love wasn’t enough to keep her happy. She made the miles without complaint, and slept fine in the tent. However, I couldn’t help but notice she wasn’t happy. Her tail wagged less, her big goofy smile faded. If those clues weren’t enough the obvious indicator was that she stopped eating. With a lot of time to deliberate I decided my dream wasn’t Dixie’s dream; she needed to go home.
A dog trail name is born: Day Hiker.
We arrived at Dicks Creek Gap (69.0) on the 19th and walked the half mile to Top of Georgia hostel where we had a reservation. The staff and guests were welcoming and poured on the dog love. Dixie was indoors and finally happy. She was given the name Day Hiker for her love of both hiking and hotels. I made arrangements for a shuttle to a rental car agency the next day. Essentially I took a time out to drive her to “Grandma’s” — my in-laws home — who had graciously offered to take her in. Thank you Roberta, Al, and Dan.
Four zeros for Day Hiker.
If you read my post on taking Dixie I clearly stated I was responsible for her health, safety, and enjoyment. I was ready for this possibility so I have no regrets at all for trying to take her. I also have no bad feelings for having to return her. Except that I’ll miss her a lot. I love my dog and wanted to share this experience with her. She wasn’t happy or healthy on the trail so it was an easy decision to spend the time and money to return her. In truth my hike will be much easier now. I gave it a try and feel good about it.
I’m back and it’s game on!
This afternoon, March 23, I returned to Top of Georgia. It’s good to be back. Tomorrow my hike resumes and I couldn’t be happier.
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