Saturday, May 28, 2016

A Brush with the Appalachian Trail

Rain has followed us to this tip of northeastern Georgia. So we planned shorter hikes around forecasted rain showers. We took the advice of another hiker, and found the Panther and Angel Waterfall Trail near Rabun Lake. We started in a forest of twisted tree trunks.

We have totally lost count of the number of waterfalls we have visited since we came to the Georgia mountains 10 days ago. We also know there are many, many more that we won't have time to see. Is it appropriate that we took a picture of Mark standing beside the vicious Panther Falls . .  .

and a picture of Denisa in front of the gentle Angel Falls?

Once we got in a 3+ mile hike, we did some driving to other points of interest. We went to the Georgia state fish hatchery. We found this facility uses these long troughs of water to raise brown, brook, and rainbow trout that will be released in 100 different cool water streams in Georgia. It was interesting to see a bird swoop down out of the trees to grab one of the smaller fish for an easy catch.

Another state facility actually hatches the eggs and grows them to about four inches. Then the fish are transported here for six months to grow to nine inches before they are released. The different troughs had different sizes of fish, but there was one container with trophy size fish that were well over that nine-inch size.

When Denisa was looking at the map, she realized that we were very near to part of the Appalachian Trail (AT). For those that have never heard of the AT, it is a hiking trail that stretches through the Appalachian Mountains over 2,100 miles from Georgia to Maine. We were close to this famous trail when we visited Amicalola State Park with Blake last week. We took a picture at the "approach trail" made famous by a Robert Redford/Nick Nolte movie, "A Walk in the Woods." The movie is based on a book of the same name that chronicles the true story of two men's journey on the Appalachian Trail. This approach trail is eight miles away from the actual start of the trail. But many start here because of better parking and it's easier to get a ride to this state park. And when you are hiking over 2,100 miles, what is an additional 8 miles anyway?

Denisa started reading the book, and we definitely need to watch the movie. It peaked our interest about the people that think it's fun to walk through the woods from Georgia to Maine. The logistics are interesting, so it was fun to find an AT trail head at Dicks Creek Gap, about 80 miles from the beginning of the trail.

We decided to hike a bit of the trail, following the white blazes on the trees that run those 2,100 miles. This section is completely canopied, so it was a cool hike, but without any views of the mountains around us. This is called "the green tunnel" and it goes on for many miles (and many days) on this trail that rarely breaks into the open.

For those traveling the entire AT, hiking between ten and twenty miles each days means camping in the woods 150 times. There are camping sites throughout the trail, and we found several on our little hike.

This camp site even had a bonus--some flame azaleas still blooming right overhead!

As we hiked, we tried to pretend that we were ten days into a hike that usually takes a total of 5 months. When you see sign posts in the woods like this, do you try to determine how much further you can hike before you need to set up your tent and cook something to eat? We asked ourselves empirical questions like, "Will we make the 4.5 miles to Plum Orchard Gap before dark?"

The trail was up-hill much of the mile we hiked today. Then we turned around and walked back to our car and civilization. We also weren't carrying the 40-50 pound backpack that hikers need to carry all their shelter, bedding, cooking utensils, food, water, and clothing.

As we were contemplating the logistics of making such a hike, we met a family of four in the parking lot. They were taking an eight-day vacation to hike the 80-mile Georgia section of the Appalachian trail. They were leaving their car at this parking lot, and a shuttle driver picked them up to drive them to the beginning of the trail at Springer Mountain. Their children were around 11 and 14, and we will be thinking about them this week.

We were just leaving the trail head parking lot when we saw another couple coming out of the woods across the road. Seeing that they had very heavy backpacks, we stopped to chat. We found they were 80 miles into their Appalachian Trail hike, fully intending to walk all the way to Maine this summer. After 11 nights in a tent, they needed to do laundry and buy more food to continue down the trail. They had a guide book with detailed trail information, including the nearest hotel, and the phone number for a shuttle driver that could pick them up and take them 11 miles to the nearest town. When we asked if we could take them into town in exchange for more details of their trip, they happily agreed. 

So we came to find out that Erin and Willis just graduated from college and are taking the trip of a life-time down the Appalachian Trail before they start graduate school. They told us about foods they have packed, and apologized that they hadn't had a shower in over a week. They have a GPS device so their parents can track their progress, and an external battery pack to keep their phones charged for a week. They are keeping a journal, and will perhaps write a book at the end of their journey. They also told us about "trail angels" that help hikers along the way by leaving fresh water on the trail, or offering support in other ways. We never know what we will learn and who we will meet each day. But we got to be a "trail angel" today and our little brush with the Appalachian Trail was fun!

1 comment:

  1. I've walked very short stints of AT in Maine and in VA. I was MUCH younger. I suggest a good read.....AWOL on the Appalachian Trail be David Miller. I got it on Amazon.