Saturday, March 31, 2012

Appalachian Trail Approach Trail

When I found out I didn't have much schoolwork going on this week and Cortney was coming in on Friday night and suggested we go hiking, I figured it would be the perfect chance to go to Amicalola Falls and hike the AT Approach Trail up to Springer Mountain. It was nasty and rainy on Friday night when I picked her up from ATL. We stayed in Alpharetta and got an early start on Saturday morning to drive up to Amicalola. After registering at the Visitor's Center we headed up the trail a little after 9:00 AM. It was a perfect spring day for hiking. The temperature ranged from 60-70 and it was mostly cloudy unless the last few miles. The first part of the trail is up Amicalola Falls via 604 steps. In the first mile we did about 1000' of vertical climbing.

Cortney and I before we started out!

Beautiful girl and beautiful falls!

Once we hit the top of the falls we headed out of the park and towards Springer. I was hoping to see lots of discarded gear from prospective thru-hikers who brought too much stuff. In one bag I found, there was a box of granola bars, lots of clothes and an entire package of aluminum foil. Another had 4 big cans of dog food and a cast iron frying pan. Sadly, there was no abandoned gear worth taking with me.

We started out at a pretty good pace; only having about 10 lbs of stuff makes it a lot easier going up those mountains. I had imagined that the Approach Trail would be almost all up going out and all down coming back, but we identified some downhills on the out-leg that we were pretty sure were gonna suck coming back. It only took us about 3 1/2 hours to make it to the top of Springer.

The top of the mountain was different than I expected. I expected there to be more information about the trail and more to the southern terminus. However, the views were amazing and it was very nice to see somewhere so beautiful that had not been commercialized at all.

Marker showing the southern terminus of the AT and the first blaze!

We made it to the top!

We signed the register and I looked for my friend Jesse's signature as he had set out just a few weeks earlier. I was bummed to see that the book started with entries the day after he started north from Springer.

We didn't stick around at the top for too long as we didn't want to tighten up or get cold. We huffed it down the mountain but sure enough, those sections that we expected to suck, sucked! For the last few miles both of our knees were starting to bother us. All the steep, rocky downhills were taking a toll on my bum right knee and tested the strength of my ankles.

When we got back to the top of the falls, we ran down the 604 steps and the final mile back to the Visitor's Center. We figured that the last mile was gonna suck no matter what, so running at least made it suck for a shorter period of time!

Out and back it was 17.6 tough miles and we were really hurting at the end of it. But it was worth it (for both of us!) to see the view from Springer Mountain and has inspired me even more to spend as much time as I can out on the trail. I'm also very glad that I will be marrying my hiking partner in just over a year!!

Awesome view from the top

The next time I make it up Springer Mountain I hope to be carrying more gear and have a longer itinerary!!

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