Amicalola & Springer Mountain: Day 1

Amicalola & Springer Mountain: Day 1

The 8.8 mile Approach Trail leads from Amicalola Falls to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Three hikers and I share the shuttle to Amicalola Falls.

Ray, our shuttle driver, unscrews the top of his Smart water bottle. “These Smart water bottles are really useful,” he says. “If you have one with one of these caps, you can use it to flush out your Sawyer filter.”

“Where can I get one of those caps?” I ask.

“This one’s for sale for $300,” he jokes, handing it to me.

“Any last minute advice?”

“Yeah. Don’t do it. You’re going to have so much fun that once you get back…”

⁃ Ray, Hiker Hostel shuttle driver and former thru-hiker

I hoist my pack onto the pack scale, note down the weight (36 lbs), and pass through the entrance arch. Amicalola Falls cascades down before me. Breathtaking, I think. Local hikers mingle with backpackers. I pass by a man hauling several pounds of photography gear, snapping close-up shots of the falls. 9 miles and 600 steps later, I summit Springer Mountain and head to Springer Mountain Shelter.

Amicalola Falls

A couple hikers are already there: Matt, a former Peace Corps member and art major who now works in software, and Tom, an analyst.

I’m glad I did my art degree. I use it every day. It makes me appreciate the beauty in everything.”

⁃ Matt, NOBO thru-hiker

Curious about being an analyst, I grill Tom about his job.

“You’ll need to know R or Python,” Tom tells me. “Most jobs, if you need to do something, you’ll learn how to do it.”

“How much of what you needed to know did you learn in school versus on the job?” I ask.

“Mostly I learned on the job.”

The conversation turns to websites. “I own,” Matt says.

“What’s that?” Tom asks.

“Nothing, yet. It’s supposed to be a collection of love notes. It started as a conversation between me and a friend. We were talking about love notes, and I said, ‘That’s all just tomes of garbage.’”

Around dinner time, another hiker with glasses and a beanie hat comes up. He introduces himself as a local named Pigpen: his trail name and hiker alias. Trail names are a longstanding tradition for long-distance hiking: nicknames either chosen or bestowed by other hikers.

“It’s kind of embarrassing. My wife gave it to me. I’m always falling and getting mud and stuff on my clothes. She said, ‘You’re like Pigpen from Peanuts.’”

⁃ Pigpen, local hiker

Dinner at Springer Mountain

“How was the Approach Trail?” Pigpen asks me.

“Not bad. I enjoyed it,” I say.

“Not bad?”

“Yeah – It was definitely worth it.”

“That’s your trail name! Not bad!” Pigpen says.

That night, a bunch of hikers head back to the summit of Springer Mountain to watch the sunset: a perfect end to the first day on trail.