On Saturday, April 5th, we drove with my parents nine hours to Amicalola Falls State Park. We registered at the visitor center (#s 996 and 997) and weighed our bags. Eric’s starting weight was 31lbs, mine 26lbs. We stayed the night in a cabin there, which was nice. I was on an emotional roller coaster–super excited to start but dreading saying goodbye. It had been such a nice month being home again.
Day 1: Amicalola to one mile past Stover Creek Shelter // 11.6 miles: Sunday we got up for our last civilized breakfast: eggs and bacon and fruit salad. I felt pressure to eat a lot but my stomach felt so tight! My parents dropped us at the approach trail and we set out. They would meet us on top of Springer, driving to Black Stamp Gap where they could hike a mile south back to the start. It was a chilly day, and windy, but the hiking kept us just barely warm. They’d told us to allow 8 hours to do the approach trail, which I felt was probably a huge overestimation. It took us three. We waited for my parents for an hour up there. It was cold, so I had all my layers on and was doing a lot of jumping around, but it was fun to chat for a minute with everyone who came thru. Lots of dogs. We hiked with my parents to the parking lot where my mom had hot tea and coffee and chicken salad sandwiches. Then what I dreaded–saying goodbye. I spent my first fifteen or so minutes on the AT crying. We saw Stover Creek Shelter through the trees and it looked and sounded super crowded, so we moved on and camped a mile or so past it in a nice spot out of sight of the trail. We were giddy in the evening, couldn’t believe we were actually here and how delicious our dehydrated chili was. It started to sprinkle as we went to bed. Woke up in the middle of the night to torrential downpour.
DAY 2 // ~Stover Creek Shelter to Justus Creek // 11.2 miles: It was still raining hard when we woke up. The rainfly had been funneling water between our ground sheet and the bottom of the tent all night, and water soaked through the floor. Not enough to call disaster, but enough to be dismaying. It rained all day, and there was nothing to see but mist and tree trunks. It was miserable, but we certainly weren’t miserable alone–we saw plenty of other shapes hunched over and trudging like us. We camped alone again at the base of Justus Mountain by the creek. The tent pads were mostly puddles, but we managed to squeeze ourselves onto a slanted high patch. I didn’t feel too bad considering the weather. It feels like, well here’s an AT challenge right off the bat better rise to the occasion!
DAY 3 // Justus Creek to Lance Creek // 10 miles: Woke up to quiet (no raindrops on rainfly) and some sunshine!! We hung things around camp and took our time packing up to let them dry some. Thought it was going to be a relatively easy day but it got long and hard right at the end. We camped in a non-official spot back from the trail, still avoiding crowds for now.
Now we’re at Neel’s Gap, our first big milestone. I feel like we made it through the first test. Overall we feel better than expected. Some knee pain and tired muscles. We’re figuring out our routines and systems for taking breaks during the day, setting up and tearing down camp, cooking, etc. Our food so far has been amazing. So, so, so worth the time and effort. I was very happy to have our dehydrated salsa that weighs almost nothing when we saw a can of it someone had left behind. That’s my only complaint so far–the preponderance of stuff people are ditching out here like there’s a janitorial service that will come along and take care of it for them. And there are a lot of people in general. Sometimes it isn’t so easy to get into a rhythm hiking because you’re always having to pass or being passed by someone.
Blood Mountain was a tough climb today but so beautiful at the top. We’ve just had showers and are about to relax with a soda for a bit before hiking on one more mile to camp tonight!