AT 2017: Day 0, On the Way to Springer Mountain

I think it's about time, time for us to begin


It took most of the day before I realized why this day felt so unreal, as though it wasn't really happening.

For more than 10 years this was always a day that was coming "someday."

And yet it was real. It was finally the day Kim and I had planned for, saved for and thought about for so long.

Now there will be no more somedays. There is only today and the beginning of many days to come.


We started today by driving south to Chattanooga, where we stopped for lunch and a required visit to a chocolate shop.

Amicalola Falls State Park entrance

It took less than two hours to drive from Chattanooga to Amicalola Falls State Park.

Amicalola Falls State Park Visitors Center

The first stop for us was the park visitor center.

Weighing pack

Outside the visitor center is a scale for weighing packs.


My pack weighed in at 26 lbs. That's with 2.5 days of food, but without water, so add two pounds to that for one liter of water.

All the years of testing and all the money spent had finally paid off. I had assembled and dialed in a "comfortable" lightweight collection of gear.


A volunteer trail ambassador from the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club was waiting to register me for my hike, which I will start tomorrow morning.

He told us his trail name was Blue, a name he earned after he discovered that blue-blazed trails in the Northeast often lead to restaurants.

Blue was there to check packs to make sure hikers had enough food and warm clothing, and to remind them to practice Leave No Trace principles. When he learned I'd been backpacking for 50 years and had done the first 52 miles of this trail once already he quickly shortened his spiel.

I registered as NOBO (northbound) hiker number 1494 of the season. Blue said I was the 33rd hiker to register today.

Amicalola Falls

After registering we spent some time looking at the falls.

Amicalola Falls drops 729 feet, making it the tallest cascading waterfall in the southeast.


A series of staircases run parallel to the falls to give an up-close view.

The stairs are part of an 8.5-mile approach trail to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain.

I hiked the approach trail last June. The 8.5 miles are not considered part of the AT, so I didn't feel a need to hike it now. The trail is plenty long enough without adding more that don't count.

Lodge lobby

We're staying tonight at the lodge in the state park. It's a nice place, but it's not the AT.

I'm here to start a hike. That happens tomorrow.

Perhaps then the experience will start feeling real.

That's the way it all should happen
When you're in, when you're in the state you're in
You've got your pen and notebook ready
I think it's about time, time for us to begin


"Nothing to tell now. Let the words be yours, I'm done with mine."ref.