Day 1 – Or Is It
Getting To Amicalola
So after spending a few extra days at my parents house trying to get rid of a cough that both Rebekah and I brought down from Michigan with us we finally decided to set the plan in motion. We grabbed a rental car in Bardstown, KY, on Thursday and started heading toward Atlanta airport. All our planning came crashing down and suddenly we were on the road with a solid winging it attitude.
Both her parents and mine had been briefed on the resupply boxes but we requested nothing to be sent to the first drop. We had no shuttle reserved for the moment we made it to ATL to complete the journey to Amicalola Falls State Park. We had no cash on us. My phone had no screen protection. We were behind schedule almost a full week.
It All Starts To Come Together
I put Nancy Drew on the case of the missing transfer while driving down to the airport. Bam! Problem solved. Some shuttle legend named Ron was going to pick us up at a hotel near the airport and get us to our destination. We stay at a hotel a couple hours outside of Atlanta and finish the drive in the morning.
After dropping off the rental we ride the tram into the terminal and save our marriage by getting my new phone screen protector put on at one of the kiosks. Rebekah is pleased with me getting this completed after passing by the phone stores repeatedly during the week at home. A free shuttle to the hotel gets us there in time to have a little breakfast. They didn’t normally let people just walk in and eat without a nights stay but they couldn’t resist the power wielded by Nancy and her persuasive $7. In the lobby we meet our shuttle companion Klaus who is visiting from Stuttgart Germany to do the trail also.
As I said before, a legend completed our transfer. RAV4 Ron picked the three of us up with only a slight delay. Easily understandable since the RAV4 we were riding in was pushing 400k miles on the odometer and had all of 3 gears out of its usual 5 available. The ride was way better than you would think after reading that last sentence.
Klaus had limited English so he somehow got me to sit in front while Rebekah and him rode in back. Ron spent the whole trip bouncing between telling us everything we needed to know about the first week on the trail, pointing out the sites along the way, fielding calls from others for rides, and trying to get his mechanic and his transmission parts guy on the same page. It was the most efficient use of time I have ever seen. When we got dropped off I was ready to pay him whatever he wanted and pressure him to take more straight outta my pocket. His legend status is well deserved.
Right inside the door of the park headquarters was the signin for thruhikers. #1641 for myself and I believe Rebekah was next with #1642. We will sign in again at Harpers Ferry and again at Katahdin. Both our packs weighed in at 22lbs. Klaus brought the kitchen sink and tipped the scales at 46lbs. He could have carried both of our packs and saved a few pounds. I felt pretty good about our gear preparation at that moment.
Off we go. The Appalachian Trail southern terminus was a measily 8 miles away. First up was the Falls the park was named after. Stairs would take us to the top. First sign: 175 stairs; difficulty: strenuous. That same sign was posted on a second flight as we continued up. Holy shit this is killing me. Rebekah wanted to skip this but we opted to do it because the alternative was to wait for RAV4 Ron to return a few hours later with another shuttle load before he could take us to the start of the trail.
The third sign was a little different: 425 stairs; difficulty: strenuous. I’m dead. My legs feel like lead weights. We make it to the top where 64 year old Klaus is waiting for us while enjoying a cigarette.
Finally We See The Approach Trail
We get started on the Approach Trail and never want to visit Amicalola Falls and see those stairs ever again. Ron sold us on a side trail that would take us by Len Foote Hike Inn. You can only get there by hiking 5 miles to its doorstep. The trail was designed so kids could do it, he said. After those stairs it seemed a little more difficult. It did have rocks that glimmered in the sunlight all along the path. This was a walk to some utopia we were on. Long story short; we get there and their 20 rooms are booked. No stopping for us. No family style dinner. Move along now.
Crushed, we continue on the last mile of this side trail. We make it to the point it meets back up with the Approach Trail. Rebekah is lagging behind as she didn’t believe they were full. I immediately want to stealth camp at the first spot I find a flat spot of ground to accommodate our tent. Klaus has his eye on another 4 miles to the start of the AT. We just met and already we say our goodbyes.
This Isn’t A Bad Sign (I Tell Myself)
Uh oh. Guess who forgot to fill his water bottles back up at the Len Foote Hike Inn before hurrying off in a hissy fit? Rebekah and I continue on. I’m watching the sun and trying to gauge how much daylight I have to find a suitable site. Finally, it’s late enough we have to settle for a slightly angled piece of ground. Can’t use my sleeping pad because it is slippery and I keep sliding downhill off it. I settle for the ground. Rebekah doesn’t have the same problem because she has a different sleeping pad. A sleeping pad that I ridiculed as not sufficient earlier when we were finalizing our packs before leaving.
I am going to bed concerned about my water, my sleeping arrangement, and completely exhausted. Day 1 and I am still 3 miles from the actual start of the Appalachian Trail.
Note: Klaus actually spells his name with a C and goes by the trailname Sunny Hedgehog. I hope we see him again.
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