Failure is not something I make part of my life. When road blocks of failure present themselves to me I just find another way. Sometimes that is pushing my way through by brut force and sometimes it is just by looking at things from a different angle. This hike to Springer Mountain, the terminus of the AT trail, had already shown me, I was not mentally or physically ready for a 15 mile strenuous hike in cold weather. My plan now was to visit the park visitor center and then head back to my cabin in Cartersville with my head hung in defeat.
Sometimes, the universe has other plans for me.
I walked into the Visitor Center and met the kind soul of Amanda. She is the park employee who encourages or discourages hikers like myself, she is the last reality check before thru-hikers hit the AT. I think, I was her first customer of the day, as she asked me if I needed to register for the AT thru-hike. I laughed and told her my morning experience with the trail. No, I was not a thru hiker I just had wanted to get to Springer Mountain and found that whole idea went right out the window when I saw the sign on the approach trail. I don’t remember if I told her I had an emotional breakdown from the sign experience.
We continued our conversation and she shared information I needed if I was ever going to hike the AT in the future. I was a sponge, she gave me information, I asked questions and she graciously answered them. I am sure she has seen it all working behind the desk helping hikers get a realistic view of what they will encounter on the trail. The best part was I actually was starting to believe I could hike a long portion of the trail just by talking with her.
She showed me the 2019 book written by David “AWOL” Miller, all about the AT trail. Where to camp, where to find clean water sources, and things to watch out for along the trail.
“Get the 2020 book when it comes out, which should be soon. Come and take the class we have here at the park in March that tells you all about how to pack (pack shake down) for the AT. It is a great way to sort out what you need and what you don’t and get some great advise from those who have hiked the trail.” she explained.
I explained that my trip to Georgia was shorter than I expected and that I was only here for the day. I only had wanted to hike to Springer Mountain.
Amanda reached under her desk and pulled out a sheet of paper handing it to me with a smile. I now held the answer to finishing my quest. Driving directions to get close to Springer Mountain. She explained I could hike one mile in on the AT to reach the summit! I couldn’t believe it!
I thanked Amanda and headed out following the typed instructions. The blacktop two lane roads took me through some beautiful countryside. Tyson chicken farms seemed to be the main vocation in this North Georgia area. Then I reached the turn off into the Blue Ridge Wildlife Management Area. I stopped and got a picture. Then I texted the Hubby I was heading into the wilderness (not that he could help from The Netherlands if I got into trouble, but at least he would know where to start looking).
This road reminded me of many of the forest service roads I have taken to trailheads in the Pacific Northwest, minus fewer potholes. I didn’t come across another car the entire way up, but always expected in each hairpin turn some crazy pickup truck to be flying down the mountain at break neck speed. Experience has taught me to expect anything on these forest roads anywhere in the country. I proceeded with caution. Soon I was driving in a wonderland of glistening trees, tiny snowflakes were floating down. I couldn’t have been happier. The views of the valley below were breathtaking.
When I reached the parking lot at the end of the 6.5 mile drive there was one other car. Most likely another hiker heading North on the trail as I never saw them. The sign for the AT was clearly marked. I was soon hiking towards my destination, Springer Mountain.
The early morning clouds had disappeared and the sun was a welcome sight to start this hike.
All those fears, frustrations, disappointments from earlier in the morning were forgotten. One mile in… one mile out.
But, the AT was not going to make it easy on me, I had to work for the hike. The start was on the shadowed part of the mountain, the views breathtaking, or maybe it was the increase elevation that took my breath away. I was warm as I hiked but the air was cold and the trail iced from groundwater cascading out of the mountain and freezing on the AT trail. I picked my way carefully around the icy path, glad that I wasn’t loaded with a heavy thru-hiker backpack.
Soon the trail opened up with signs pointing to camping sites and a trail merge. I knew I was close to the summit.
I stood there taking it all in, I wanted to remember this place, feel it’s power, know that only a few have made the trek here and now I was one of them. I quickly texted my Hubby with the pictures of the views. Amazed that I had cell phone service here.
Then I sat and read the log book that most sign when they come to this point in their journey. Some were at the end of the six month trek and some wrote at the start of a day hike. It was comforting. I now signed the book too. I dedicated my hike to my combat buddy.
Then snapping a selfie with the other AT plague at the summit.
On my way back along the trail I checked out the campsite and found a wonderful outhouse. Nice to have on the trail! I couldn’t help taking a picture of the view from the structure nicely framed.
As I came into sight of the parking lot I was riding a natural high. What a great accomplishment for the day.
I drove back to the Park Visitor Center, went in and thanked Amanda. She may never know really how much I appreciated her help and encouragement that day. She had given me hope that my lost accomplishment was to be gained and achieved. She was my AT trail angel of the day.
Special thanks to all the caretakers of the AT.
The 2,190 mile foot trail is maintained by wonderful volunteer organizations and individuals that donate money and time each year in keeping the trail healthy and safe for all to enjoy.
© The Cedar Journal, 2020, all rights reserved.