The Winter Trip to the Trip
The Road Trip
This old goat left Washington DC for the last time and drove west on Interstate 66. That part of my life is now behind me. I called family and friends for the last time in a while as I turned south on Interstate 81. I shared what I thought would be my last great meal with friends who would drive me to Amicalola Falls the next day and take care of my car until I finished my hike. Then came the winter snow.
Waking up extra early on a full stomach of steak and lobster tail, we drove south in a rare Virginia winter storm. Once out of the mountains in Knoxville, Tennessee, the sky cleared. Low clouds hugged the Great Smokey Mountains to the east. The snow along the side of the road deepened as we passed into Georgia.
I always knew that snow would fall during my hike, though I didn’t think it would happen the first day. Ice coated the short road into Amicalola Falls State Park and snow sparkled in the sun as a stiff breeze blew through the pines. Discovering the visitor center closed, I grew anxious about how to go about registering for my hike. Further, there was little time to turn my driver back so he could be home by dark. I also have a standing contingency that when snowed in, I will peel off the trail and find a hotel until conditions improve. Notwithstanding the extent that snow was already five inches deep by the time I arrived, a room was fortunately available at Amicalola Lodge.
What an amazing place. I never imagined this location to be so grand. An immaculate facility, courteous staff, and delicious well-prepared food. Doug Grant, a resident naturalist at the visitor center, came to the lodge to share a presentation on raptors. He brought five birds rehabilitating from various accidents, three owls, a red tail hawk, and a black vulture. Providing a very informative presentation on the unique aspects of each bird, he also elaborated on the importance of the role of raptors in human health, as the birds consume rodents that carry insects and diseases such fleas and rabies that put people at risk. During this time, SOBO thru-hikers coming off Springer Mountain warmed themselves in the lobby. I turned in after an amazing sunset over steamed mussels. After months of preparation I was finally here.
The First Section
I made my way the next morning back to the visitor center and registered for my hike. I saw Mr. Grant there and we chatted about wildlife, geology, and the trail. I hiked the first section of the approach trail back to Amicalola Lodge and saw him again that afternoon for his well received snake presentation.
The Way Ahead
The Yaktrax worked great and my pack was three pounds lighter with me wearing all my winter clothes. After a second amazing sunset over a glass of wine, I plan to step off tomorrow morning. The weather promises to warm enough to put the trail in safer condition. The plan, fluid as it may be, is to make it to Stover Creek Shelter. I am in no hurry and will stop with enough daylight to cook dinner.
Such is the plan, and such is the trip this far.
See you on the high ground.
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