1861 miles on the Appalachian Trail
The 8.8 mile Approach Trail leads from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain, the official southern start of the Appalachian Trail. Three hikers and I share the shuttle to Amicalola Falls, while the rest of the group heads to the Springer Mountain parking lot.
Ray, our shuttle driver, unscrews the top of his Smart water bottle. "These Smart water bottles are really useful," he says. "If you have one with one of these caps, you can use it to flush out your Sawyer filter."
"Where can I get one of those caps?" I ask.
"This one's for sale for $300," he jokes as he hands it to me.
After weighing my pack, I take a picture with the entrance arch, and hike up the Approach Trail. Amicalola Falls cascades down before me. Breathtaking, I think. 9 miles and 600 steps later, I summit Springer Mountain and head to Springer Mountain Shelter.
A couple hikers are already there: Matt, an former Peace Corps member and art major who now works in software, and Tom, an analyst.
I'm glad I did my art degree. I use it every day. It makes me appreciate the beauty in everything."
Curious about being an analyst, I grill Tom about his job.
"You'll need to know R or Python," Tom tells me. "Most jobs, if you need to do something, you'll learn how to do it."
"How much of what you needed to know did you learn in school versus on the job?" I ask.
"Mostly I learned on the job."
The conversation turns to websites. "I own tomesofgarbage.com," Matt says.
"What's that?" Tom asks.
"Nothing, yet. It's supposed to be a collection of love notes. It started as a conversation between me and a friend. We were talking about love notes, and I said, 'That's all just tomes of garbage.'"
Around dinner time, another hiker with glasses and a beanie hat comes up. He introduces himself as a local named Pigpen.
It's kind of embarrassing. My wife gave it to me. I'm always falling and getting mud and stuff on my clothes. She said, 'You're like Pigpen from Peanuts.'"
"How was the Approach Trail?" Pigpen asks me.
"Not bad. I enjoyed it," I say.
"Yeah -- It was definitely worth it."
"That's your trail name! Not bad!" Pigpen says.
And so, I become Not Bad!
That night, a bunch of hikers head back to the summit of Springer Mountain to watch the sunset: a perfect end to the first day on trail.
- The first 175 steps of the Approach Trail were stairs. I found them harder to climb than the rest of the steps, which were spread out along the trail
- The Springer Mountain parking lot is about a mile from the summit, so people thru-hiking from there would have to walk backwards to reach the southern terminus of the trail before heading north