Follow the Adventure:
Day 1: Amicalola Falls to Springer Mt. Shelter – Approximately 9 Miles (from parked car).
Day 2: Springer Mountain Shelter to Hawk Mountain Shelter – Approximately 8 Miles
AT Miles: 0.2
March 24th 2019.
This was the first day of our trek along the Georgia portion of the Appalachian Trail. Our group of 4 consisted of my Dad and his hiking buddy Jeremiah, my little brother Steven and me. This was Steven’s first hiking trip of his life, but he likes to do things big and he was very optimistic. We discussed at length whether or not we wanted to start at Springer or hike the Approach Trail up to Springer. During the planning and travel phases of the trip I was against the Approach Trail. I wanted to maximize the amount of time that I’d spend on the actual AT. Not only is the approach trail approximately 8.1 additional miles, but the section of the trail at the actual falls consists of 604 metal stairs that are incredible intimidating once you’ve gone about a quarter of the way up them. In the end, I was outvoted and we decided to start at Amicalola Falls and hike up to Springer Mountain.
The falls are breathtaking and the pictures really don’t do it justice. Having now completed the approach trail, I absolutely recommend it to anyone who hasn’t hiked it before and anyone who’s planning to attempt the trail. The stairs were a beast, but once we made it to the top and filtered some water we felt energized and optimistic. To be honest, after the stairs were complete the rest of the approach trail up to the summit of springer was a breeze. The summit of Springer Mountain is not what I was expecting. It’s merely a small plaque embedded in the rock. After seeing all the pictures of NOBO hikers finishing their hikes on Katahdin I wondered for a brief moment how all the SOBO hikers must feel when they reach Springer. After a few short moments of reflection, we jumped on the actual Appalachian Trail and headed for the shelter about 2 tenths of a mile away. At the time I was around 285 pounds before gear and when we made it to the shelter I could have done another 8 miles comfortably, my Adrenalin was pumping and I was ready to greet some mountains.
At the time I was happy to take it easy and try to stay around 10 miles a day. The past few “long” hikes that I’d attempted had been cut short for one reason or another. My first adventure on the AT back in 2015 had ended after a day, at the time I had only been hiking on flat trails in Indiana and severely overestimated my ability, while simultaneously underestimating the Smokys. The Lone Star Trail was ended after 3 days because of wet feet and poor planning and the Knobstone Trail was ended after a day, when I finally realized that I’m not (currently) built to hike in the heat and humidity. I really wanted to see this hike through till the end. Our plan was to hike to the GA border, but in reality we’d had to stage our vehicle at Dicks Creek Gap at right around the 70 mile mark (including the approach trail).
Springer Mountain Shelter was a cool experience. We got to meet a ton of cool people and share stories, I really think that the encounters that you have at the shelters after a tough day hiking make the experience that much more enjoyable. Feeling included in the community of people that are all voluntarily transient helps lessen the feeling that you’re “missing out” on anything back home. Laying in my hammock on the eve of my 30th birthday, listening to the laughter and chittering conversation flowing out of the nearby shelter I really started to feel like I was in the right place.