Hiking 400 miles to start the Appalachian trail
Bama to Baxter Day 33&34
Day 33: 19.7 miles
Today I woke up feeling a bit sore. Nothing major but my body was definitely feeling the increased uphill over the past few days. And today would be no different. Plus I’ve been doing close to 20 miles a day for the last 6 days.
I got moving and had about 5-6 mountains to climb over the course of the day. But I just did my usual routine of hiking for a few miles and then taking a nice break. I found that the climbs felt a bit easier today as well. Truly they have been feeling a bit easier every day.
Later on in the day I enjoyed a great break by a suspension bridge over a river. There were a lot of day hikers there. Some of them chatted me up and asked about where I was headed. The Benton MacKaye has been really quiet, so it’s really nice to talk to someone over the course of the day.
As the day went on I noticed some smoke rising up in the distance. But it seemed to be pretty far away from me. I was able to see it fairly clearly as I was high up on a ridge. But later in the day I descended a good bit and no longer could tell which direction it had been in.
As I hiked on over the course of the day though I realized I was actually getting closer to the smoke. I kept thinking that the trail would turn and I would head in the other direction. But I wound up hiking right in the direction of the smoke. The final mile or so before camp loads of smoke rolled in and filled the air. It was a bit concerning.
Luckily when I got to camp for the night I had service and called the local sherif to ask about nearby fires. There had been 4 controlled burns earlier in the day. That posed no risk to me luckily but did explain all the smoke. I felt better after that and set up my camp for the night.
I also used my Garmin to text an emergency fire information number. If you text (765) 553-4737 on your Garmin you will receive a response letting you know if there is a fire within 50 miles of your location. That can be an invaluable source of information if you are in a similar situation without service. It’s hard to set up camp in thick smoke when you don’t know if there could be an active fire nearby.
Once I knew that I was in the clear I set up my camp for the night. Tonight is my last official night camping on the Benton MacKaye Trail. Tomorrow I will hike the last 11 miles of the BMT and reach Springer Mountain. Once I get there I have a shuttle ride scheduled to take me to Amicalola Falls so that I can begin hiking North on the approach trail of the Appalachian Trail.
Day 34: 16 miles
This morning I woke up nice and early. I felt really excited like it was Christmas morning. I can’t believe that today I am going to reach the approach trail of the AT. I’ve been walking for over a month and 400+ miles to reach this point.
I broke camp and set out to do the final miles of the Benton MacKaye Trail. The trail was pretty cruisy and I was feeling really good. About half way through the day the trail even began crossing over with the Appalachian Trail. The two trails would intersect and I even passed some thru hikers. At some points the trails over lapped and I hiked a mile or so on the AT for the first time. The funniest part was knowing that I’d be walking that same mile going north sometime tomorrow.
Around 1pm I made it to the final mile of the BMT. It was quite an odd feeling knowing that I was about to complete the first leg of my journey. And then in an instant the BMT ended and the AT picked up. I followed the Appalachian trail for about a mile north to a parking lot where I had scheduled a shuttle ride for 6pm. I was classically 5 hours early of course.
There in the parking lot I got some trail magic from a guy which was a great surprise. I caught up with my dad on the phone and let him know that I was officially about to start the AT.
While I was on the phone a person overheard and let me know that the registration office closes at 5pm today, so if I wanted to get my pack tag I would have to get there before then. So I made a game time decision to change my plan a bit. I texted the shuttle driver and asked if I could cancel the ride. Then I asked some nearby trail maintenance guys if I could hitch a ride down to the falls with them. One guy offered to take me right away and I was off. Headed to Amicalola Falls much sooner than expected. On the way down he even offered to stop off so that I could get a bit more food.
Then he dropped me off at the registration office and I headed on my way. I checked in and got my tag. I weighed my pack which was about 27 pounds with food and water. Not too bad. Then by 4:30pm I began my climb up the stairs of the approach trail! To my surprise I found the climb up the stairs to be pretty easy. I climbed up without having to stop. Apparently the last 4-5 weeks of walking has gotten me into pretty good shape.
I wound up doing about 4 miles on the approach trail before deciding to set up camp. That was much further than I had previously expected which was great. When I did set up camp I was by a father and daughter and their dog. They were really nice. And I wound up making dinner and having a super early night. I’m so excited to finish the approach trail tomorrow and officially start the AT!
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