Friday, May 2, 2008

In the beginning


The nervous energy and anticipation continued through the night. I may have slept an hour before the sounds of Mike's pre-dawn shower roused both Ryan and I from our slumberless rest on an air mattress built for two.

Two hours later Mike dropped us off on the side of an unmarked forest service road whose ruts had out matched his low slung Mazda sedan. Our local host assured us that we were within a mile or two of an intersection with the Appalachian Trail and, after trading hugs and snapping a few photos, we began our journey south by foot as Mike completed a four point turn in his Mazda and headed off in the opposite direction.

Rule number one of back country hiking: Do not allow a friend to drop you off in the wilderness without a map or certain knowledge of your location.

Had we known where we were at, we would have actually began walking north instead of south. Instead, we stumbled around in the woods for a mile or two before we intersected a trail marked with blue blazes. We stood still for a bit and scratched our heads. All the prep books we had read had described the AT as a trail marked with white blazes.

We were lost.

I squatted and took a dump.

Mike had dropped us off nearly six miles away from our intended start. It was nothing short of miraculous that we were close to any path at all. What we didn't know at the time was that the trail marked with blue paint was the Amicolola Approach trail to Springer Mountain, the official starting point of the Appalachian Trail.

After a little more investigation, we noticed a hand-scrawled marking, made with a sharpie, in the middle of one of the blue blazes. It read "AT - N," which we interpreted to mean, "This trail heads north to the Appalachian Trail."

And so, an hour into our journey, we finally set foot in the proper direction. Three point four miles later, we stood on top of Spring Mountain, posing for the picture that marked the true beginning of our hike on the AT.


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