Saturday, May 6, 2017

GA Appalachian Trail - Section 17 - Approach trail to the parking lot north of Springer Mountain

Date Distance Time Elevation Gain Average Moving Time Year to Date Miles

Parking: Across from AT visitor center

Directions: Start the hike behind the AT visitor center. Pass Springer Mountain summit (the start of the AT which has no vehicle access), and continue 1 more mile north to the parking area.

We weren't sure what we were doing today. We had stayed at the Amicalola Lodge. We originally had planned on doing the whole 9.8 miles of the approach trail. I hadn't called a shuttle driver ahead of time as I had planned. Before our trip, I had a cortisone injection in my hip joint. The doctor's nurse had scheduled a call with me today to discuss my pain level since the injection. The call was scheduled for 3:30, and I didn't know how long it would take to hike the approach trail, nor did I know where I'd have cell service. We had heard that the approach trail was tough. So, we started out thinking we'd just do an out and back, making sure I got back to our car by 3:30 for the call. We did end up having cell service on and off along the trail. But we knew we couldn't do a 20 mile out and back hike.

The approach trail starts with 600+ steps next to a waterfall. You'll hear a lot of people saying they are the hardest part of Georgia. Yes, they are hard, but you can stop and catch your breath. We did fine. The falls are nice, and we didn't see anyone on the trail. After the falls, we saw a sign saying it would take 6 hours (one way) to hike the 7 miles to the top of Springer Mountain (plus, there is still another 1 mile to get to road access). We left at 8:10 am, and figured we could hike until around 11:30 before turning back. We were supposed to get thunderstorms today, and figured we might be in for a short day. I hate hiking in thunderstorms. I was thinking, maybe I could hide in the restroom at the parking lot above the falls if we got lightning!

By 11:10 am, no thunderstorms and we had covered a good distance, making it a shame to turn around! I had the phone number of just 1 shuttle driver on me, just in case. We were in luck! I was able to reach Ron Brown, and he could pick us up at 4:15. Woohoo! We'd be able to hike the whole approach trail. I asked him if I'd have phone service in the parking area, and he said no. I ended up emailing my nurse to say, just cancel my call with him. Luckily he got my message before we lost cell reception.

Even though we are section hikers, not thru hikers, there is a certain thrill about reaching the summit of Springer Mountain, the start of the AT. We met 2 young men starting their hikes today. I am so excited for their adventures! We started out tracking our hikes a few years ago. I like to find new places to hike all the time, and so we decided, why don't we hike the whole Connecticut section of the AT. We had already done some hikes on it, just because they were listed in some hiking book or website. Then, why not do the NY section? And hey, NJ isn't far. And we love hiking in the Berkshires, so lets do MA too! Then, we visited my brother in order to knock of MD. Oops - we've run out of states within easy driving distance. Hmm. What a shame. Maybe we should go to Georgia and hike the AT there. Hmm. Are we trying to hike the whole AT? Well, how about knocking off 200 miles per year, and actually finishing it? So, it looks like we are now trying to hike the whole AT! Just because I like to hike in new places all of the time.

We hiked down to the parking area and arrived at 1:50. We had 2 1/2 hours to kill. I considered trying to ask someone in the parking lot for a ride, but Glen wasn't happy about that idea. We also don't know what the proper etiquette is for cancelling a shuttle we just booked. In the meantime, we hung out under a kiosk overhang trying to keep dry. I took off my shoes to try to dry out my feet. Ron texted us to see where we were. We got on and off reception in the parking area, so we were able to let him know we were already done. He was able to come earlier and picked us up at 3pm. I figured it would just be a 10-15 minute drive back to the visitor center - after all, we had only hiked 10 miles. I was so wrong! Ron was a hoot! He had so many stories to tell us - he was very entertaining. The ride back to the visitor center is on forest roads. I was so happy not be driving. Some of the forest roads are in better shape than others.

We drove our rental car to the Hiker Hostel which had recently changed owners. It is a little odd, as the new owners are a corporation, which seems odd to own a hostel. We stayed in a container cabin, which was cute and comfortable. It is small, but has a shower, microwave, mini refrigerator, bed, heat/cooling, etc. I do wish we could have met the previous owners. We have heard so many good things about them. And they built the hostel & container cabins themselves! The new manager is friendly and works very hard, and I do wish him the best of luck.

We changed into dry clothes and headed into town to look for food. We found a Mexican restaurant which was pretty good. We also stopped by a health food store and a Walmart. I had only brought one pair of shoes, and decided I could use a $1 pair of flip flops to let my feet dry out when not hiking.

Wearing the huge Frogg Togg pants I found. I kept tripping on them! I decided if I needed to keep wearing them, I'd "hem" them with scissors and duct tape.

Flaming orange azaleas

The location of the only trail register we signed. We have heard of a lot of Norovirus in Georgia on the trail, and some people said signing trail registers is a good way to spread it. So we were cautious throughout the trip, doing a lot of hand washing.

THE first blaze.

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