Day 1. Today was a good day. It was a very cold, wet and painful day, but it was a good day nonetheless.
We got up at 7am and enjoyed a delicious warm breakfast at the Lodge (The Captain was especially fond of the butter biscuits). Then we drove down to the visitor center to officially register, weigh our packs, and take a picture at the famous approach trail arch (above). My pack cane in at 33 lbs with 4 full days of food and 2 liters of water. Not bad but I’d like it under 30.
We meet up with Mike and Kyle, the two guys we were supposed to share a shuttle with last’s night, and decide to hike together today. Mike is pretty well prepared, has minimal experience and is a large fellow, but has significant knowledge on what the trail will bring. Kyle is less prepared and less experienced, but is young and nimble. He doesn’t have a true rain jacket or any winter hat, but he has a great attitude. The Captain, like a good father, looks after our young friend and loans him a beanie.
After a short discussion, we opt not to hike the 1 mile from the visitor center back to the Lodge, since we needed to drive the car back up anyway. Thruhiker purists will turn their noses up at this, as it means skipping the 680 stairs that humble so many hikers at the start, but I have no problem sleeping tonight with that unofficial mile missed.
The approach trail is an optional 8.8 miles to the summit of Springer Mountain, the official AT Southern Terminus. From the lodge it is only 7.6, but still a formidable foe. After about an hour of cold, foggy weather, the the rain started. A cold sideways blowing rain that stings as it pelts you in the face. It’s 7pm as I write this and the rain still hasn’t stopped. But it’s not so bad if you keep moving and can dry off in a nice shelter.
After 30 minutes, Mike falls behind, an hour later so does Kyle. I think they’ll both do well but hope this day wasn’t too rough on either of them.
Keg, The Captain and I reach Springer Mountain around 2pm and huddled briefly in the tiny shelter to dry off, eat lunch, and strategize. The original plan was to stay here but it is early, cold, and sleeping at the foot of the mountain sans wind sounds like a better place to rest. So we throw the packs back on and make our way to Stover Creek Shelter another 2.8 miles away.
This is a much easier section of trail and the rain almost lets up as we quickly pull in to the shelter a couple hours later. A much nicer and larger shelter by the way, with a picnic table under the awning. Dry dinner table, score! We hang the wet gear to dry, set up camp and I cook up some ramen noodles for dinner. Delish.
There are some very nice people here, and more keep coming before bed. There are probably a dozen hikers in or around the shelter. I keep an eye out for Mike and Kyle but don’t expect either to come this far today. They don’t know it yet but I have given them both trail names: Big Mike, since he appears to be a bigger version of me. And 8-Bit for Kyle, because he is an avid video gamer, having dropped out of high school to play online games competitively. He even brought a tiny modified gameboy handheld system as a luxury item (thus the name). I hope we meet up with them again so I can see if they like the trail names.
Back to strategy … today’s longer hike puts us in a bit of a dilemma, First off, these 10 miles were a painful start and our legs are screaming profanities at us while we recuperate. Second, the next shelters are either 5 or 15 miles away. So it’s either a very short day or an even longer one. Keg is feeling it a bit more than us, so I think I’ll let him make the call in the morning. But a late slow start doesn’t sound too terrible to me.
- Start Mile: -7.6
- Start Time: 09:40
- End Mile: 2.8
- End Time: 16:00
- Miles Hiked: 10.4
- Miles to Go: 2188.1
- Lodging: Stover Creek Shelter