Friday, March 25, 2022
Amicalola Falls State Park (MM -8.7) to Springer Mountain (MM 0.2)
NOTE: We are currently hiking through the unceded homelands of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ (Tsalaguwetiyi/Cherokee) and Mvskoke (Muskogee) peoples. Most of the ᏣᎳᎫᏪᏘᏱ and Mvskoke were forcibly removed from these lands by white settlers, beginning with the Spanish in 1539 and culminating in 1850 with the United States' program of ethnic cleansing called the Trail of Tears.
We arrived at Amicalola Falls State Park yesterday. Trek's sister Valerie drove us up from her place, where we stayed for a few days. Last night we got a room at the Amicalola Lodge and awoke this morning to enjoy a scrumptious buffet breakfast before heading out to check-in at the Approach Trail Basecamp.
Basecamp is where thru-hikers register their hike, get a quick and dirty Leave No Trace presentation from the Ridgerunners, and receive their pack tag. Here is where we met Ridgerunner Brian and Trail Ambassador Jay. They were friendly and incredibly kind to us, and we are grateful for their service to the trail. When we received our tags, Trek was hiker #1917 of the 2022 season, and Justin was #1919 (someone signed in between us).
Before heading out, Trek checked the weather. Mostly cloudy, mid-40s, with major wind gusts of 30 MPH. Oof. It felt chilly. We weren't looking forward to the low of 32 with that wind, either.
Around Noon we took our first steps on the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain, the Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Before even setting foot on the AT, the smart hiker must first hike 8.7 miles to the summit of Springer Mountain. Within the first mile of the Approach, you come to the base of Amicalola Falls, the third tallest waterfall east of the Mississippi River. We climbed 604 steps to the top of the falls before continuing. The initial climb up the stairs was rough but not as harsh as Trek remembered from his 2016 thru-hike.
As we hiked along, we noticed we were in a mixed deciduous forest of beeches, oaks, maples, walnuts, and sweetgums, dotted with young eastern hemlocks and eastern white pines. Mountain laurels, rhododendrons, and mature American holly trees made up the understory, creating a green tunnel. Underfoot, the approach trail was dotted with white quartz and red clay dirt.
Our ascent continued non-stop for 4.7 miles until we reached the 3389' summit of Frosty Mountain, after which we enjoyed a 300' descent into Nimblewill Gap. We stopped for a snack. Trek continued to stay warm while Justin adjusted the items in his pack before following behind. As we approached Black Gap Shelter, a three-sided lean-to a couple of miles shy of the summit of Springer, an enormous Barred Owl flew right across the trail just ahead. Moments later came its telltale call: who cooks for you?
We reached Springer Mountain about an hour before dark and took some pictures. We made it! Now begins our hike on the Appalachian Trail. We hiked two-tenths of a mile to the Springer Mountain Shelter and Campsites, set up our tent, ate a dinner of hard cheese and starburst with mayo (If you think that is crazy, give us a few months), and zonked out.