The Southern Terminus of the Appalachian Trail- Springer Mountain, GA

This Thursday Cathy and I will depart for our first multi-day trip; a three-day two-night backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail. Our plan is to park at Neel Gap (NG), shuttle to Three Forks (TF), and hike back to NG over the three days. The total mileage for this hike is roughly 26 miles.

The first day we will need to hike about 12 miles, from Three Forks to Justus Creek (JC). The reason being, it is six miles from TF to Hawk Mountain Shelter (HMS), and another six miles to JC. There is no water available between HMS and JC. So we would either have to do a really short first day of six miles, or carry a bunch of heavy water out of HMS to our overnight camp somewhere short of JC. (Did I mention water is heavy?) So, we have decided to just make sure we have enough to drink for those six miles, and we will resupply at JC for cooking and the next day’s needs.

I’m excited about this trip, but I do have some concerns. First of all, the distance. Cathy has never hiked the kind of miles we will need to put in on consecutive days. (I have, but that was many moons ago when I was a hard charging US Marine.) I’m pretty sure we can both handle it, but we will both be tired. When we are tired we aren’t always on our best behavior, and we can rub each other the wrong way more easily than other times, so I’ll have to be sensitive to that.

It will be hot. The forecast is calling for low-to-mid 90’s. We will have to strike a balance in between not carrying too much water, and carrying enough water to make sure we stay well hydrated. We’ll have to make sure not to push too hard, too fast, and be aware of symptoms of heat related injuries such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

My next concern; I am expecting some thunder showers. I have heard about how intense the weather can get up in the mountains and I’m hoping we won’t see anything too severe. We will have to adapt on the ground to the conditions. This will be a good test of our preparedness. I have decided against any rain gear beyond an emergency poncho, because as warm as it will be, hiking in a rain jacket will make me just as wet as hiking without one. I imagine if our shoes get wet they probably won’t dry out before our trip is over, and this could lead to feet issues. Another challenge to our preparedness.

Concerns aside, I am really excited about this trip. I am looking forward to seeing how we hold up over the three days. We have been training pretty hard for the last month or so and I am really seeing it pay off in Cathy’s performance, and mine too. I’m in the best physical condition I’ve been in since I left the Corps, and Cathy is as well. This will definitely be a test of our conditioning and endurance, and I really feel like it is one we will pass with flying colors.

I’m also excited because- DUH it’s the APPALACHIAN TRAIL. From Georgia to Maine! Since the first time I heard of the AT when I was young, it has always captivated me to think someone could go out and walk from Georgia to Maine on a footpath through the woods. And even though we won’t be going to Maine (yet), we will be on that same footpath. As Tolkien said in The Lord of the Rings

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

We probably won’t end up in Maine this time. Probably. But, “there’s no knowing…”

Shortly after we started hiking, last December, Cathy and I talked about starting to hike the Appalachian Trail. Our first goal is to complete the section of the trail that’s in Georgia, about 79 miles. So far, out of all the miles we have hiked, only a paltry four(ish) miles have been on the AT, from the southern terminus at Springer Mountain to Three Forks. This trip will knock off a goodly chunk of that stated goal.

I want us to be able to take longer trips. This trip will be a good gauge of where we are in that area, it will let us test out some new gear and we will have a better understanding of what it might be like to be out for longer periods of time. It will test our endurance for multi-day hikes.

We’ll be together night and day for three days. That’s a plus. We’ll be out there. Another plus. A new adventure, a step towards meeting a goal. All pluses.

I can’t wait! We’ll talk about the good, the bad and the ugly when we get back. Until then!