Appalachian Trail Georgia Section Hike: Day 8

Sunday, June 15, 2014
17 miles to Amicalola Falls State Park

I finally figured out how to sleep in a hammock…hike 16 miles the day before! I fell asleep last night with my phone in my hand. I was trying to finish yesterday’s blog but exhaustion took over. I woke up at 10:40 PM and put my phone away and I was back asleep.

I woke up while it was still dark and I checked the time. It was 5:48 AM. I slept 7 hours uninterrupted! I dozed back off to sleep and woke back up at 7:20 and laid in my hammock finishing yesterday’s blog. We had a leisurely hiker’s breakfast and took our time packing up. One of the women staying at camp here wished mechappy birthday, which was kind. It was a good reminder. Today is my 40th birthday. Unreal. I am glad we pushed hard yesterday because today plans on being an easy day. I will be standing on Spring Mountain on my birthday.

We left camp at 10. I stopped to lead us in prayer as we got back to the AT. Today is Trinity Sunday on the church calendar so I prayed the prayer for today:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

We hiked down the gravel road to the Hickory Flats Cemetery and campground owned by the New Bethel Church. It had a bathroom (which I regrettably used) and a covered pavilion. The sign outside the bathroom said they had a Camp Meeting Revival last week that ended last night. It is strange that I have missed Sunday morning worship two Sundays in a row, but being at that campground on a Sunday reminded me of the people of God. There was even a pulpit in the rafters of the pavilion. I walked the grounds and prayed the prayer the Trinity Sunday again. John and I also played in the two-person merry-go-round and we walked the old cemetery before leaving.

We hiked on to Long Creek Falls, took pictures there. The air was filled with the smell of coffee and donuts. We did not see the food but we could smell it. We made it to the footbridge over Long Creek near Three Forks. The creek and surrounding trees looked like a postcard. We made it to the Stover Creek Shelter and had lunch with Carrie and her husband. We stayed with them last night. We laughed about some of the funny characters we stayed with last night. They are from Atlanta and have two daughters. They want to section hike the entire AT.

They left the shelter and we finished up lunch and were out by 1:30 PM or so. We hiked in the final remaining miles of the AT slow and steady. I continued to review the previous 7 days in my mind and let the anticipation of Springer Mountain build in my head. We made the climb up to Spring Mountain Shelter and Jeff and I sat down on the picnic table. When John arrived, Jeff said we should hike down to Amicalola. It was only 3 PM. I said I felt good and thought we could do the remaining 9 miles and be out by 7 PM. John said he was ready for it. So we changed plans! Instead of 8 miles today and 9 miles tomorrow, we were going to do 17 miles in in one day!

I called Gabe and my Dad to tell them of the change of plans, and I called Jenni too. And then we were off! Before we made the climb down to the finish line at Amicalola we had .1 more miles to the AT.

It was only 5-10 minute hike to the summit. I could see the clearing for Springer in the distance. It was sunny and there were 5 or 6 people there. The summit is small, just a small clearing in the trees with a small view and the two plaques. Carrie and her husband were there. We told them of our change of plans. He took our picture and we each took pictures of the summit plaques. Springer Mountain isn’t a tall mountain but it is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. It is where thousands of northbound thru hikers start their journey and where a smaller number of southbound thru hikers end their journey. It was a special place and I was standing there on my 40th birthday.

I signed the register with these words: I was born on June 15, 1974. 40 years later I hiked the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail! Living the dream! Derek (aka Arrowmaker). We stayed on the summit for 30 minutes. By 3:30 we were down the Approach Trail.

We made it to the archway at about 7:30, hiking the nine-mile Approach Trail in four hours. We stopped once for water and a few times at the falls to take pictures. Finishing was more about the miles than the smiles. The Approach Trail does not count as AT miles but it was a tough trail. We hiked it southbound but it would be even harder northbound. It is up and down and littered with rocks and roots just like the AT. My advice to thru hikers and section hikers is SKIP THE APPROACH TRAIL. There is no reason to going on a hike before going on a hike (HT: Pox Holiday).

We passed through the archway behind the visitor center in a single file line. The guys wanted me to go first. I took off my trekking poles and held them with my right hand and lifted them up in the air as I passed under the archway. My Dad and Uncle Andy and his wife Gail were there waiting for us. They hugged our sweaty necks and took pictures. We were tired but overwhelmed at the sense of accomplishment.

In 8 days we hiked 85 AT miles and when we added up all the blue-blaze miles, we hiked well over 100 miles…33 of those miles on the last two days. Not a bad way to spend my 40th birthday.