Saturday, April 9, 2016
Approach Trail 1.1 – Approach Trail 7.3 – 6.2 miles
Today is the day! We leave for the Big Adventure!
This particular morning, as we left our room at the Amicalola Falls State Park Lodge, we passed through a lounge/seating area that was located downstairs. The decor was done in a muted woodsy color palette – greens, browns, oranges – my favorite colors. The lights were off, and the one wall was nothing but windows looking out at the majesty of the mountains. Over the speakers, a beautiful classical piece was playing. I was reminded of the scene in the movie Soylent Green where Sol gets euthanized; after all, that room contained all of MY favorite colors and scenes! I found the setting lovely but somehow unsettling. So, this is the memory I remember of the start of our hike! haha!
After getting over the euthanasia scene from the movie, and having a great buffet breakfast, we were finally ready. We suited up in our cold weather gear as it was chilly, and off we went! I think we were all excited, but a bit nervous. We planned to hike up the approach trail, which is 8.8 miles. Like many newbies, we underestimated the first day of our hike. We definitely found the trek up Springer Mountain strenuous and I know our traveling companions from Florida were in agreement! Plus, being our first day, there were a lot of stops with pack adjustments, water breaks, etc. We made it to Black Gap Shelter around 4:00 that afternoon, and we were about a mile and a half short of the summit. Still on the approach trail! There were several hikers already at the shelter and we had no difficulty selecting a tent site. Across the approach trail was a spring, and we filled up with water there. There were two guys already down there; “High B” and “Pyro” were using this cool pump device. I just filled up my Platypus bladders and planned on using a Sawyer Mini Filter (I would ditch these bladders in a couple of days) along with some purification drops.
Later, Pyro (true to name), built a fire at the shelter, and we met some other hikers. Lindsey, who was a solo female thru-hiker. She was having problems with her stove, but with the help of another hiker, she was able to cook her dinner. Chris, who I called Chef, was also attempting a thru-hike. We found everyone there to be friendly, and helpful. I learned how to use bear cables (not hard at all), and we were in our sleeping bags well before it got dark.
This night, the forecasted low was 29˚, the actual low I saw was 22˚!!! Now, we have the Marmot Helium 15 bags, which are rated for 15˚ used with the Thermarest NeoAir XLite (R-value of 3.2). We also wore our Icebreaker merino wool base layers, which were quite nice. We kept warm, though I think I was a bit chillier than my kids.