A final taste of the Appalachian Trail

After spending three days in Georgia, my good friend and I had hiked from Amicalola Falls out to Hawk Mountain. Waking on our last day on the AT, we had viewed the sunrise cresting over the horizon with the intermittent sound of birds. This vision had seemed like something between Sauron’s flaming eye from movie Lord of the Rings or the appearance of the Good Witch from film Wild at Heart. In these moments in the sun, we had drank some water while enjoying our makeshift breakfast. With dwindling food supplies, we had discussed our options for the day. Part of both of us had wanted to stay longer on the AT; however, another part of us had yearned for a hot plate of Chicken Parmesan @ Oliver Garden. With the dawn just breaking, the later impulse had won out. The plan for the day had encompassed hiking 17 miles back to our vehicle at Amicalola Falls State Park. The physical challenge for the day was exceeding our personal best for traveling this terrain in one day, 8 miles.

After packing up, we had walked back on the AT traveling at a reasonably good pace. With this tempo, we had predicted returning to Amicalola Falls by dusk. Returning to the top of Springer Mountain, we had eventually revisited the southern terminus for the AT. This time, clouds hadn’t obscured the mountains in the distance. This was a memorable sight for anyone living at sea level or Florida most of their lives. After another round of photo ops on Springer, we had moved back down the trail.

What I hadn’t expected next, the grind of the last couple of miles with the setting sun. Along the way, a few issues had cropped up for us. For myself, water and carb loaded food had run in short supply for energy. For my buddy, there was the additional weight of his belongings and the number of declining slopes on his knees. Engaging the last 6 miles of a series of ridges, I had thought, “Just one more mountain.” Seeing another ascending trail after another, I had felt crestfallen. After a while, I had focused on traversing step after step on the ascents. Removing the emotional impact of any topology changes, the logic was to keep my motivation on the earth below my feet. In the last two miles to the end, my friend had took the lead hiking. At first, it was little demoralizing to switch roles. Though, the motivation for keeping up had beat back the accumulating exhaustion from my two concurrent trips to California and Georgia. In the end, this switching of horses had provided us with the necessary daylight on our way back to the top of Amicalola Falls. After taking another brief break above the Falls for the restroom, we had quickly navigated down the side of the mountain face.

Returning to our vehicle finally, looking worn, we had smelled awful. One of the most gratifying parts of this arrival was turning the ignition on in the garnet 96’ Ford Explorer. After sleeping nights in the 20s and 30s F, the onset of heat blowing on our cold bodies was a cathartic experience. With the rumbling of the engine, we had drove out of the park turning right onto the darkened highway. We were searching for our destiny with Chicken Parmesan @ Oliver Garden in Gainesville, Georgia. After about 30 minutes, we were seated at an Olive Garden. Soon after, we had received some bread sticks with soup and salad. Savoring our food, we had pondered the day and the road ahead. This trip had meant different things to each of us. For myself, it was an expression of wanderlust, companionship, and physicality. The final taste of the Appalachian Trail was continuing to foster the idea to be truly wild at heart with adventure.

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Read More:
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (IMDB)
Wild at Heart (IMDB)

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Amicalola Falls State Park @ Dawsonville, Georgia

On the morning of Saturday, December 14th 2013, I had embarked on 8 hour plus drive to Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, Georgia. What had made this destination so alluring after a prolonged business trip? An unrepentant desire had filled my head with a need for physical adventure serving as counterpoint to the mundane nature of work in IT. Why now? For some of the road trips earlier in the year, sometimes the amount of “time off” hadn’t allowed the proper conclusion for random excursions. This go around, I had requested a whole week off. Earlier in the year, I had visited Vogel State Park, Georgia and some of the surrounding hiking trails. It was one of the best times outdoors ever because of precarious descent of up-tempo mountain side hiking despite, tempting fate with one wrong slip at dusk. Yet, beyond the scope of that hike was the untapped desire for convergence onto the Appalachian Trail by way of Blood Mountain. This idea had sat dormant after the last road trip into Georgia. As with any good master plan, the seed for a return was planted long ago in my friend’s mind. All that was required, a response to the question,”Wanna do anything this weekend?” Of course, I had formed the answer to the question well in advance. Free will was a beautiful thing. Now, the specific details for this hiking trip, I hadn’t mastered at all but, enter my buddy’s advance preparation. Even without that consideration, I had probably signed up in my current mental state for anything outdoors sans nuclear war.

After a supply stop in a Cumming’s Georgia Walmart, we had pushed for the final portion of our drive. Arriving in the state park off-hours, we had registered with park’s log book for hiking the A.T. Around 8 PM Eastern, we had headed out to the park trail going toward Amicalola Falls. With light from my friend’s head lamp, we had forged toward the sound of falling water. At the base of ascent, we had seen a sign cautioning strenuous activity of 175 steps. I had figured,”Not too bad.” Though, in my haste to get moving, I had left the top portion of hiking bag chest strap undone. This oversight had doubled the amount of effort on the ascent. At the beginning, I had enjoyed the exertion on my body; however, at the end of the night, it had caused some cramping in my right calf. In contrast, it had still beat sitting in car or airplane for hours on end. After clearing the 175 steps, we had both worked up good amount of perspiration. Completing the 175 steps and a walk across a wooden bridge, we had seen another sign for strenuous activity a few moments later. That sign had outlined a step count of 425. I had thought, ”You got to be kidding?” With some angst, we had eventually cleared those steps as well. About 2 miles later into the hike, we had started the approach trail toward our final destination of the A.T. With the cold wet dark night, we had let common sense prevail agreeing to double back to beginning of the park until daylight. Staying on premises, we had camped out in the first shelter to make way for the next day.

The good news the following morning, the views of the falls were astounding on ascent. The great news for you, there was road side access at the base and top of the falls for those with less of an inclination to cover the 600 combined steps. Amongst the four waterfalls in Georgia and Florida I had seen, Amicalola Falls, claims a special place in my memory with backdrop of the surrounding mountain range. That view had kicked off the 2nd of 5 days in Georgia. If you had decided to travel the Southeast, strongly recommend taking a trip out to Amicalola Falls State Park @ Dawsonville, Georgia.

Amicalola Falls State Park
Address: 240 Amicalola Falls State Park Road, Dawsonville, GA 30534
Phone: (706) 344-1500

Read more:
Appalachian Trail (National Park Service)
Amicalola Falls State Park (Georgia State Parks)

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