Day 1: Hiking Out of Spring…Springer…

Hiking Out of Spring

Spring had sprung around the iconic Approach Trail arch at Amicalola Falls State Park. Mountain violets, azaleas, and various trees and flowers this Arizona boy didn’t recognize were blooming. Most of the deciduous trees already had their leaves.

At the top of the stairs, Spring was a little further behind. And the further up I climbed toward Springer, the further out of Spring I walked. I’d hoped to see the last vestiges of Winter slowly disappear as I hiked through Georgia and North Carolina, so today’s bare branches and brown hillslopes were a welcome sight.

So was the sun. Campers along the Approach trail still had their tents up when I passed at 11:00 am, with an overstuffed clothesline hanging low with soggy socks, pants, shirts, and sleeping bags flapping in the breeze. I talked to one hiker who had planned to start yesterday, but took one look at the rain forecast and spent the afternoon and night in his car outside the Visitor’s Center.

Leaving Amicalola

Finding the arch was a bit of a challenge due to construction. Funny, none of the videos and photos of hikers at the arch I’ve seen this season showed the construction fences and the bulldozed mess all around it. Maybe Facebook pics don’t tell the whole story. Who knew?

The Terrible, Horrible, Not So Bad Approach Trail

Also, don’t believe the Approach Trail horror stories.

The stairs aren’t easy, but they’re no worse than 600 stairs anywhere else. And the view from the stairs is so much better than some of the high-rise stairwells I’ve trained in. After the stairs, the climb out of Amicalola State Park was steep, but it leveled out after a few miles. Most of it was a lovely walk in the woods.

The hiker registration portal indicated that 19 thru hikers were starting with me, with double that number the day before. But I saw less than 10 possible thru hikers, and twice that many day hikers. Not bad for a holiday weekend. I hiked alone and out of sight of any human for 99 percent of the day. So much for rumors of trail crowding.

I stopped and chatted with nearly everyone I passed. Most were friendly, a few were not.

Washed Out on the Approach Trail

Just before the Springer summit, I came up on an older gentleman sitting in the middle of the trail underneath a huge backpack. He struggled to stand up as I approached, nearly falling over with the weight of his pack. I stopped and asked how his day was going, but got nothing more than “Fine.” Something seemed off, so I asked again if he was okay, but he replied “See you later.” Thinking I’d been dismissed, so I hiked on.

Five minutes later an ATC Ridge Runner coming down the trail asked if I’d seen a hiker in distress. I described the old guy and he hustled off in that direction. When I came down to the parking lot after the Springer summit, five emergency vehicles pulled up, two of which had ATV’s in trailers. Uh oh.

Mrs. The Incident and I had planned to camp at the Springer parking lot, so we spent the next five hours watching the (non)drama unfold. The ATV’s were never unloaded, a few EMT’s hiked up the trail, and apparently the old guy recovered enough to hike in without too much assistance.

Trail Magic!

I also got my first trail magic after leaving Springer summit. Josie (YouTube: Olive’s Oyster – named for her Boston Terrier Olive) handed me a chocolate Easter egg after finding out I was thru hiking. Josie is Prius-camping the AT this year – hiking a bit at each gap and doing some low-key trail magic.

We walked into the Springer parking area together, so I invited her and Olive over to meet Mrs. I and play with the Doodles. We all sat and enjoyed the sunshine and the EMT drama for a few hours.

A Thru-Hiking Family

We also met a thru-hiking family with three preschool-aged children. Both parents had HUGE packs. Plus, mom was carrying the littlest one. The two other kids had tiny packs. One of the kids wanted to hike barefoot, but his dad said he could only do that a mile or so per day until his feet got stronger. I can’t imagine. They finally packed up and hiked out around 4:30, intending to do four miles before dark.

Josie eventually said goodbye and drove off to the next gap, and we took advantage of the poor cell coverage and managed a short nap before dinner.

I’m hoping for an early start tomorrow and an 11-mile day to Cooper Gap.

Today’s stats:

  • Start: Amicalola Falls Visitor Center, Mile -8.2
  • End: Springer Mountain Parking Area, AT Mile 1.0
  • Weather: Sunny with clouds, low 60’s.
  • Earworm: Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone
  • Meditation: Mt. 28:6
  • Best Thing: Sunshine
  • Worst Thing: Hiker Rescue Emergency

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