The Trek Begins: Springer Mountain to Neels Gap
I’m Finally Starting!
When I arrived in Georgia with my family, I felt awful. I was still getting over a recent bout with Covid, which didn’t help my anxiety and nervousness. Luckily, I was spending a few nights at Amicalola Falls Lodge with my family, which helped me calm down before the big day. After taking a picture and hiking up the falls with my pack, my nervousness turned into excitement and I was ready to go.
I registered at the visitor center, where volunteers weighed my pack (total weight with 3 days food and 2L water: 25 lbs) and gave me my AT thru-hiker hangtag (ngl, I feel pretty cool having this on my pack).
After that, I was ready to go! I had told myself that I was going to take it slow the first week or so, but after hitting Springer Mountain around noon, I couldn’t resist pushing to a total of 16 miles on my first day.
When I arrived at Hawk Mountain Shelter, I was surprised to see 40-50 people set up to camp! After finding two nice trees near the main shelter, I set up my hammock and got ready to go to bed around “hiker midnight”, when it gets dark.
When I received my hiker tag at Amicalola we were told that there was a military base nearby, and I’m glad that I knew this info beforehand, because around 10PM the whistle and bang of mortar shells, staccato of automatic gunfire, and whirring of helicopter blades burst out of the woods. There apparently was a field exercise going on a mile from trail.
I woke up the next day and hiked another 12 miles to an unmarked campsite. It was cloudy with some spots of sunshine, and I managed to get sunburned. About halfway through my hike I came to a “water buffalo” water cart that the army put out for hikers (maybe to say sorry for all the noise). There were some beautiful views later in the day.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the amount of people at the shelter, so camping alone was a nice contrast. At night it was eerily silent—no wind, nothing. Even though I wished there was some white noise, I managed to get to sleep.
The next day I woke up at 5:30AM and pushed 10 miles into Neels Gap in an attempt to beat the rain. Unfortunately, I failed. I climbed up Blood Mountain soaked, and then made my way into Neels gap for some food and a resupply at Mountain Crossings, an outfitter right on trail.
With more rain in the forecast and being pretty tired from hiking longer than I anticipated, I decided it was time to head into town. I met an experienced thru-hiker on the trail who helped me hitchhike for the first time! After about five minutes of sticking our thumbs out, waving, and generally trying to look like not-so-dirty hikers, we were picked up by a nice couple in a Subaru and driven into Blairsville. My new friend and I rented a motel room and then went out for drinks at a local moonshine distillery. Once the storm passes we’ll head back out on trail to continue our journey north. So far, I’ve been having a great time getting used to trail life!
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