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Appalachian Trail... photos and journal

Spring of 2002... In the deep south...


(Page 1 of 10 pages)


From my journal (April 16th) Day-0..."This was almost a solid travel day taking the bus from Birmingham then a cab to the state park and the trailhead to Springer Mountain. Many thoughts raced through my head as I watched the miles pass by, mainly recalling how I swore that I'd never hike this trail again back in '94 after completing my first thru-hike... but eight years later here I sit about three miles up the approach trail to Springer Mountain and the beginning of the Appalachian Trail...AGAIN! In '94 my parents drove me here on a two day road trip but dad passed away in '98 so watching the scenery go by through the bus window while recalling a more joyous time made this an all too long and lonely ride. A full year had passed from that first thru-hike before I knew that some day I would hike the trail again some day. The AT is special because it is in my own backyard and because this is the first long distance wilderness trail that I've ever attempted a repeated effort.

The cab dropped me off at about 7:30p.m. and the driver insisted that I take his business card since according to some of his stories he has quite a return business from a lot of failed hiking dreams. After a quick repacking of my backpack and a photo I was hiking for another hour nearly straight up this very steep approach trail. I started from atop Springer Mountain last time and dearly wanted to hike this nine-mile trail that I've heard so much fuss about. There were two hikers at the shelter near the visitorís center but I desperately wanted to get on the trail so thatís just what I did. Today and the next few are unseasonably warm and know that I must readjust to hiking in the heat and humidity again, but down on my tarp tonight under a clear windless Georgia night and as a whippoorwill sings not too far away, I wonder myself to sleep thinking about what the trail could possibly have to offer during a second thru-hike attempt. I was anxious to explore this question, but only the days to follow had the answer that I needed to know. "


Amicalola Falls State Park in northern Georgia


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Here I am behind the visitors center right at the beginning of the 9 mile approach trail leading up to Springer Mountain. I arrived late in the day but managed to make it a few miles. There were a few hikers at the nearby shelter but I was just much too anxious to start hiking.

WOW! What a sunset I had for the first day on the trail, even if it was just the approach trail. You can only imagine the excitement running through my veins during this first evening and this heavenly sunset only added to my condition!


From my journal (April 17th) Day-1..."What a fantastic full first day it was on the trail, once again enjoying the pure freedom to get up and move as I choose without the restrictions and routines of my otherwise "civilized" life back home. I was awoken by the daylight then up and moving toward Springer at about 7:10a.m. The nine mile approach trail wasn't as bad as all the fuss I'd heard (although I was running more on pure excitement more than "sense" at this point) and I was atop Springer at 9:50a.m. Although very hot and humid it was a nice walk as I watched the sun peek up over the distant eastern horizon. So great to be back on the trail! I pause for an hour at the first white blaze for pictures, reflection, and to sign the register. One south bounder spoke about a bear tearing into everybody's food & gear at the shelter last night as he anxiously handed me his two quart metal water canteen pierced through with bear teeth holes!

I was pouncing with pure joy as I came down the mountain and was glad that I'd taken the approach trail this time while also revealing a new side to Springer Mountain that I'd never seen before. This was especially nice since the whole mountain could be seen from the south side unlike any such possibility from the north side. About a mile before the new Gooch Gap Shelter I met several other hikers and we all ended up staying at the shelter tonight, which was a bit crowded. I knew that I needed to stop early allowing my body to adjust to the trail. It was a pleasant evening talking gear with the other hikers and a few took special interest in my 22-ounce P-1 backpack and 19 ounce Tarptent which kept me talking and talking... "


I was up and hiking very early the following morning anxious to get to the top of Springer Mountain and the begining of the AT, and I came across this bear track directly in the middle of the trail providing me with a brief moment in reality... I wasn't gonna be sleeping in my bedroom for a while, but amongst the animals again!

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This was the first view of Springer Mountain and a view that cannot be seen from north of the mountain so if there is a stong argument for hiking the 9 mile approach trail then this photo offers a compelling reason. Many hiker's (like me in '94) are driven to the top of Springer Mountain and never actually "see" the mountain.


Welcome to the top of Springer Mountain!


By late morning I am finally at the top of Springer Mountain and that famous monument. And finally I can actually begin hiking on the Appalachian Trail!!! But first I had to stop for a moment to sign the register embedded inside that big rock and to just try and grasp the gravity of the moment!

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A close-up look at the plaque.

It was good to see that first white blaze of the trail again after not being here for eight years. After thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail last year which isn't so well marked, I suddenly felt a blanket of security that I wasn't sure if I really wanted. But it was still so nice to be here again.

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After about an hour spent reflecting at the monument I finally take that first step north. You can only imagine the excitement running through my system... once again it would be the freedom of the trail that would rule my days and NOT the routines of home and work, although there is certainly a time and place for everything.

As I was leaving Springer Mountain I turned around and took in this view (and the only view) from atop the mountain. I couldn't help but to wonder about all the many thousands of hiker's who had been here and looked out over the land with such big dreams ahead of them. This was a special place.

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I hadn't been on the trail for an hour when I'd already run into my first snake and a very black one at that!

That's me out front of the new Gooch Gap Shelter shuffling through my gear and cooking a hot meal... and where I spent my first night. The shelter was already rather full when I arrived so I stayed in my tarptent which I was anxious to use anyhow.


From my journal (April 18th) Day-2..."It was after 8:00a.m. when I was finally on the trail as I lingered too long at the shelter as I continued to talk "pack weight" like the disease it is! It is VERY hot and humid so early in the day and I'm already squeezing my shirt in the cool spring water right away. I was to Gooch Gap shortly as I quickly inspected the place where I almost lost my life in '94 during a severe electrical storm and where I acquired my trail name "Lightningbolt" , but that's another story.

Most of the day was up and down but it wasn't too bad considering that my body was still adjusting to the trail. The south side of Blood Mountain was a relatively easy climb after considering the endless maze of switchbacks on the other side. I spent less than two hours at Neels Gap where I completely resupplied out of the store and hiker box, then eating all of the fresh food and ice cream that I could muster down the hatch... then I walked under the only covered breezeway across private property (or anywhere else) on the entire trail. After a late afternoon thunderstorm threat that was blowing across the distance, I finally made a cozy stealth campsite on the northside of Cowrock Mountain and high up above the trail. Here I felt safe, content, and fulfilled about my third day on the trail as I drifted fast into sleep... a moment anticipated each day on the trail as much as eating a fresh meal, summiting another peak, or meeting a new friend. "


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Some beautiful trilliums already breaking through the spring mountain soil.

Pausing for a moment at a scenic overlook just before reaching the base of Blood Mountain.

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Looking ahead to Blood Mountain through the trees.

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