Springer Mountain Southbound Summit

I picked up my poles by their mid sections and sprinted toward the summit of Springer Mountain. The trail is well-trodden, but still retains the character of Georgia’s rock and rubble. My pack was emptied of all food – I’d stuffed the remainder into my face earlier that day. Because I didn’t need it anymore. It was November 14th 2014. I was done.

I ran that last mile to Springer, the cold air burning not only my cheeks and lungs, but biting at my nose, already cracked and bleeding from the wind and cold of past weeks. I passed a few day hikers in jeans who murmured amongst themselves as I whizzed by them in a fury of black polartec and purple silnylon. I’d been asked by countless northbounders I passed on my way south,

“Who would ever want to end at Springer Mountain?! It’s so anti-climactic!”

My heart beat not only with exertion but anticipation. I’d seen a photo of Springer at Elmer’s Sunny Bank Inn in Hot Springs, North Carolina not more than two weeks ago. In the photo sunlight beamed onto the summit plaque, dancing on bronze and rock and moss. I’m sure that mile is longer than the Mahoosic Notch – when I turned the final corner, I almost didn’t recognize the unassuming frost covered stone that lay on the wide forested summit.

Katahdin is beyond beautiful –  it is awe inspiring. I can imagine crawling up its rocky, exposed route at the end of a thru hike – dirty, gaunt and hungry as hell. Hungry for the last push, the last summit, to complete a journey all the way from Georgia. And at the summit, reaching the iconic wooden sign and looking out on hundreds of miles conquered.

The summit of Springer Mountain has no such views. It has no great paintings by American masters bearing its name, no great works of nature writing make it a subject.

But little bits of golden light caught specs of frost in the thick Georgia woods that grace Springer’s summit. A thin coating of rime frost melted under my warm gloveless fingers as I touched the summit plaque. I sank down onto my knees and kissed the raised map that showed a thin line running from Maine to Georgia. I cried – hard.

The summit, though wider and more wooded than the exposed summit of Katahdin, was cold, empty, and eerily silent except for my sobs and occasional bursts of hysterical laughter. Soon I would take out my phone and call my parents, wait for my companions and my ride to arrive, and inadvertently scare the crap out of a couple day hikers with my sobs.

But for a precious few minutes, I was still on the Appalachian Trail I had traveled the past four months and fourteen days – surrounded by a green tunnel, feet under rocky trail, head under a canopy of branches.

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Comments 6

  • rob : Nov 18th

    You just made me cry…

    Reply
  • jenn : Nov 19th

    Nice!

    Reply
  • Jeremy Morris : Nov 20th

    Totally awe-inspiring. Traveling SOBO this june and I can’t wait. Relieved to hear that the end is just as perfect as an end at Katahdin. Thank you for the encouragement 🙂

    Reply
    • Caet Cash : Nov 21st

      YES! Jeremy I am so excited for you to begin your SOBO hike! I think the endpoint of any 2,000+ mile journey is special (shoutout to the SOBO’s and Flip Floppers). But I have a soft spot for Springer Mountain. I love the green tunnel – I think it’s a perfect embodiment of the AT. But then again I may be a little biased!

      Reply
  • David C Miller : Jan 24th

    Great short story Caet Cash.. I too, have thought about ending my 2,200 journey at Springer Mt. and 12 car parking lot.
    But then I thought, it really is the journey and the people you meet. I am doing a flip-flop and my half-way point will be Mt.K. And that’s ok. The benefits far outweigh (for me) starting in Harpers Ferry. I’ll be crying with joy when I make it there.

    Reply
  • terri : Jul 27th

    This me tear up, the AT is such a special place. My daughter was a Nobo thru-hiker last year and Sobo this year. I’m sure her summit to Springer will be just as exciting as the summit to Katahdin after 2189 miles.

    Reply

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