I recently had the opportunity to hit the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia right in the middle of thru hiker season. It was such a wonderful chance for me to relive some memories from my first few days on the AT with a woman who was setting out on her own to try tackling the trail. From meeting newbies in the Springer Mountain parking area to seeing the Benton MacKaye Trail terminus to summiting Springer for the third time this trip was full of memories. Here are some reflections I have from those few days down on the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail.
Since it was a long ride down to the southern terminus I had lots of time to think about all the feelings I had flowing through me. No matter how many times I head to Springer over the course of my lifetime, I suspect that I'll always feel that nervous energy. While I know I've successfully completed two trails with a terminus here, the feeling in your stomach is always the same - the excitement of getting out on trail and the uncertainty of knowing what each day will bring. When we went to Amicalola Falls Lodge to pick up the friend I'd be hiking with I was just so excited to be seeing the Approach Trail. While I've been to Springer twice before, I have never hiked the Approach Trail to the top. There were quite a few newbie thru hikers (thrubies I've seen them called) and you could almost feel their excitement. From the lodge we had about an hours' drive to the top of Springer going the back way the GPS device took us (which I would never recommend by the way - ALWAYS take Doublehead Gap Road!)
After climbing out of the car in the Springer Mountain parking lot the nervous butterflies mostly disappeared and I was mostly feeling excitement - excitement for both myself and my friend who would be experiencing the trail for the first time. I made the 0.9 mile walk up to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail with her, talking to all the other thrubies hitting the trail for the first time. To my surprise, I met several blog followers and Instagram followers up there! For being a Tuesday in April there was a lot of activity happening up there at the summit. Signing the registry book in the rock up there for the third time just made me feel like I was at home. After walking the 0.9 miles back to the parking area I was reintroduced to Warren Doyle, whom I had met briefly when working at the AT Lodge in Millinocket back in 2013.
The first day and evening on trail were a flurry of happy activity. We did approximately 4 miles down to a campsite near a stream where I taught my friend how to throw a bear bag and we camped in relative cold temperatures. The next day brought more hiking and quick thinking, using my finely tuned Yogi skills to get us a ride to cell phone service and a shuttle to Wolfpen Gap Country Store/Hostel in Suches, Georgia. Riding through the Georgia countryside gave me a whole new view of the BMT and AT - it was very cool to see the mountains I have climbed so many times from a different perspective. We stayed in the hostel and I got to see two old friends - Carry-On from my 2012 hike and Odie (of Hiker Yearbook fame) from my time working in the hostel in 2013 and going to The Gathering in 2014. I helped Carry-On do pack shakedowns at the amazing Top of Georgia Outfitters satellite store at Wolfpen Gap. By the time our ride came to pick us up the next day I had felt like I already assimilated back into the Hikertrash Culture and wasn't ready to hit the real world again.
Being back on the Georgia section of the AT brought back so many fond and happy memories for me. I made it through Georgia in about 5 days during my thru hike, so going a little slower and meeting those hikers in the beginning really reminded me more of meeting hikers up in Maine. Too many people with no experience wearing packs that don't fit and carrying so much gear they're blowing out their knees. We saw so many injuries and so many ill-fitting packs! I often wonder about some of those people I met down in Georgia that first week of April and I hope to see some evidence of them making it through the Smokies soon. It was such a great experience to get to go back to those first few miles of trails with a thrubie and share those wonderful memories with her. I can't wait for my next trip back one day.