March 3, 1998

3/3/93 Springer Mountain Shelter

8.3 miles (0.2 total)

Jesse and I got a very late start on Monday, leaving Atlanta. We didn't arrive at Amicalola Falls State Park till some time after 1:00 in the morning. Although it wasn't snowing, the wind was brutal. We couldn't see well enough to know which of the buildings was the thru-hiker shelter. So instead of camping, we slept in the car. Boy was it cold! Jesse would wake up every hour to start the car to run the heater. There was a dusting of snow in the morning on everything.

We decided to celebrate the start of my thru-hike by driving up to the Amicalola Falls Lodge for breakfast at the Maple Restaurant. Bobbi, our waitress, turned out to be married to a thru-hiker, so she gave us a "hiker special." We did an AYCE (all you can eat) meal for only $1.50. Is this a great country or what! We drove back to the Visitor Center to sign the hiker register and start the 8.1 mile East Ridge Trail to Springer Mountain, the official start of the Appalachian Trail. My pack weight with fuel, food for a week, and water was 43 pounds. Not bad but it could be lighter.

The hike was hard but I kept a good pace. Snow covered most of the ground but the sun would tease us occasionally. When we stopped at the Falls, a few hikers passed us heading down after spending the night on Springer Mountain. They were from Wisconsin and said if they wanted to camp in weather this cold, they could have stayed home. We also met Ottie and his hiking buddy several times heading up the trail. They were out for a week and taking it easy. We finally got a chance to talk to him at the Black Mountain Shelter. Ottie was a past thru-hiker and he gave us a lot of encouragement. "Have Fun!" There was another would-be thru-hiker from Florida resting at the shelter. He just stayed covered by his sleeping bag the whole time and didn't look like was moving anytime soon. The only muffled words he said from underneath his sleeping bag were "Florida doesn't have mountains."

A view of Georgia on the way up Springer Mountain

At Springer Mountain, we met Mad Max and Brodder. They wanted to be the first thru-hikers to wear kilts the whole way to Katahdin. If they weren't standing there taking pictures, I would have almost walked by the official start of the Appalachian Trail. It wasn't what I'd expected. You wouldn't have realized you were on a mountain peak, and the plaque is mounted at ground level. After a few quick pictures, we wanted to get out of the bitter wind.

Dragon's Breath and Frozen Mexican
at the beginning of the AT

At the Springer Mountain Shelter, we met up with Prince of Darkness and Monkey Boy, who are brothers, and their friend, Duke. I knew Snore Bear from the AT98 list, an e-mail list on Trailplace to share questions, ideas, and thoughts. And Treasure and Gypsy Man amazed me by strolling in after-dark. Everyone crowded the picnic table to cook and talk. My dinner was edible, the stove worked fine and the company was interesting.

We stood near the campfire, warming our hands and talking about our expectations and hopes on the trail. Jesse got everyone laughing when he decided his trail name should be Frozen Mexican. It was a tight squeeze to get both Jesse and I into my tent, leaving our backpacks leaning against a nearby tree. It was cold but I still had more clothes I could have put on. I got to bed about 8:00 and slept soundly. It got down to the 20's and a little bit more snow fell during the night. Jesse said I snore.