We couldn’t believe it was finally time… Mark and I were off to hike the entire Appalachian Trail. The months of exhausting preparations had been made, the maildrops packed and the farewells to family and friends were finished. We boarded a plane from Boston to Atlanta and our adventure had begun. We stood around the airport lobby in our HAE tee shirts with our matching HAE duffels and waited for the pre-trip press conference. There was none. A couple of guys with a bunch of hiking gear was not enough to excite the tabloids today. We shouldered our packs and headed for the bus station. It was off to Gainesville then an extended taxi trip to Amicalola Falls State Park, the site of the Appalachian Trail’s southern terminus.
Having never hiked for more than eight days, in a single trip, our backpacks had been amateurishly stuffed for a six month adventure. Needless to say, our loads were far too heavy. By now our “taxi driver” drove us the 45 miles to Amicalola Falls after a quick stop at a supermarket to top off our food supply. The access road to the camping area was less than a mile walk, but I was already huffing and started planning what equipment was going to be chucked. I was regretting bringing a hardcover Peterson’s Wildflower guide and the binoculars. The hotspots on my heels also indicated boots that were inadequately broken in. It was shaping up to be a pain filled adventure.
There were other hikers at the park throughout the day, most hoping to hike the 2100 miles to Maine. Over 800 would start the trip, walking with spring and hiking north. We shared our taxi ride with Bilbo* from Indiana. A friendly character with a pack much larger than mine, Bilbo seemed to be more suited to an overstuffed couch than the Appalachian Trail. Never the less, he planned to complete the thru-hike just as we did.
The three of us shared a campsite at the park and left for the start of the Trail at dawn. 7 miles up hill, the Appalachian Trail begins on the summit of Springer Mountain with a promise of more than 2100 miles of adventure. We fired up a haebar, hoisted our enormous loads and trudged through the mist to what would be our home for the next 6 months.
*As you may already know, hikers on the AT refer to themselves using “trailnames”. We met many others on the trail I will always use their trailname in this text.