Day 1 – Solo Hiking on the AT

Day 1

Start: Springer Mountain Shelter

End: Hawk Mountain Campground


Last night was blustery cold! The wind howled all night long and I put on every stitch of clothing to stay warm during the night. However, there were still moments when I was still a little chilly. Sleep was found in bursts. I couldn’t get comfortable on my pad and struggled to find that perfect sleep position. I normally find it hard to sleep at the beginning of a trip, so that wasn’t unexpected. However, my body wasn’t fully exhausted from the day before, leaving me without that extra push to get me easily to dreamland.

We woke up with the sun, but tried to stay asleep until around 8:30 am. We only had about 8 miles to hike today. I wasn’t in a big rush, but the need to hit the trail grew as every morning minute passed. The fiance, on the other hand, was not so fast moving. By around 10:30, I’d done my morning chores, packed up, eaten breakfast, and was ready to go. I’d been taking my time with breakfast, making a warm protein drink and enjoying it in the sun that was winning out over the quickly dispersing clouds. But, as I saw him still in the tent with breakfast uneaten and things still unpacked, I knew I was in for a long wait.

After 30 minutes, I made my move. I was going to have to leave without him. We agreed on a rendezvous location – Hawk Mountain Campground – and I started my way down Springer solo.

Solo Hiking

One thing about me is that I’m impatient. I hate sitting around and waiting when I could be on my way. As someone who’s done most of traveling solo, I’m used to sticking to my own schedule. Now that I’m on this trip as part of a couple, I’ll have to work on my patience. While I did exercise some patience today by waiting way past my desired start time, I didn’t have enough to wait until we could start together. Plus, it was the first day on the official Appalachian Trail. I wanted to get out there and see what it’s all about!

Heading down Springer, I passed by a couple of trail maintainers and offered my gratitude. After a mile, I hit Big Stamp Gap and a parking lot of people getting ready to start their weekend trips. I almost got turned around at the sign, but managed to backtrack and spot the white blaze indicating the right way.

Soon, I was among the rhododendrons and crossing over streams. I took a lunch break in what looked like a tenting area near a stream and enjoyed a leisurely 45 minutes in the sun. Part of me wished that we were hiking this section together, but another part of me enjoyed the quiet solitude of the trail. It felt like being back home again.

Why Hike Again?

Last night and this morning, when it was cold and windy, I was questioning my sanity. Why would I subject myself to this again? Is the time and effort really worth it? What am I trying to prove? But, as I sat peacefully enjoying the atmosphere of nature, I was reminded of my why. There are lessons to be learned out here. There is so much growth that happens on the trail. There is so much joy to be found. I belong here.

After lunch, I found a blue blaze to a waterfall, reminding me of advice I received to always see the vistas. I followed the short, snaking trail and was not disappointed. Abruptly, the narrow trail opened into a wide area, with a 50 foot waterfall as the focal point. Long Creek Falls is much bigger than expected and families and other hikers milled around, enjoying the view.

My First Trail Magic

I climbed for another 2 miles and stumbled upon a large sign erected at a crossroads. Trail magic! I took the detour and soon found a pavilion and cemetery filled with people and snacks. The Georgia Adventurers Group was hosting their annual trail magic event and I was more than happy to partake.

See, this is what I’ve been looking forward to. Sitting around a fire pit were club members and past and current hikers. It was the 10th anniversary of one woman’s first NOBO thru hike. She’d done the trail twice, first NOBO and then SOBO. We swapped trail stories and advice, chatted about how everyone’s feet are doing so far, and simply enjoyed being among hikers.

I must have stayed there for about 2 hours before I left to get to Hawk Mountain Campground. I knew I was going to move faster than my fiance and that he probably left Springer about an hour after me, so I figured it was time to go find him. I said my goodbyes and left with a smile. My first trail magic!

After a mile or so, I reached the campground around 5:30pm and found him at the water source. Reunited at last! I chose our tent site, got the tent set up, and we debriefed our day. Tomorrow I will stick with him and we’ll hike together again. As usual, the schedule was dinner, evening chores, and crawling in our tent. After the sun went down, it got too cold too fast, and we were soon bundled up and ready for the night.


And that’s day 1.

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Comments 1

  • DEB : Apr 17th

    Great! I’m enjoying your posts. Great pictures too! You put a smile on my face, especially sitting in the sun on your break. What a good first day! Looking forward to tagging along on your hike. Stay warm & safe!


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