Sometime over the winter of 2012/2013 we rediscovered the Appalachian Trail by stumbling across a few videos on YouTube. This moment forever changed my life as ever since my entire existence and nearly every thought has revolved around getting back to the trail. I spent nearly every waking moment scouring YouTube and planning out our first trip starting at Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and going 20 miles a day and hitting North Carolina by day 4. We’re going to crush this trail!!!! Thank GOD my wife Stacie has the good common sense and straight shooting ability to tell me I was insane and we need to dial it back. While hiking the AT was a long time bucket list item for her, she had many more questions than I had solutions.
Here’s a few of the questions she had:
What about the kids? ( we have three ages 9, 7, and 5 )
Work and School?
How much is this going to cost?
What gear do we need?
How long and how many nights?
Are we going to freeze to death?
What if we get lost and cant find a white blaze?
What if we get hurt?
Is it safe?
Can the kids handle this?
What about the Bears and Snakes and Spiders??
Are you going to be happy if we don’t do 20 miles per day??
Where do we pee?
What do we eat?
How do we get there?
Where do we park?
Is the car safe?
How do we get back to the car?
What do we wear?
How do we train?
Where do we train?? We live in flat North Texas!!
Over the course of a few months we researched and dug into every single question until we had answers and a plan. We hit up our local REI at least a half dozen times and easy a couple thousand dollars later stockpiling gear for 5. The kids still had no clue what we were about to get into. They happily played hiker in the house and backyard trying on all their gear. We sized them up with backpacks and they carried everything they needed within reason. Mom and Dad were going to carry a little extra weight so the kids didn’t just topple over immediately. We were ready for all out survival and looked like a pack of suburban Armageddon prepper wannabe’s with super new and super shiny everything!! We started hitting the pavement of Plano, TX trails wearing full pack all throughout the neighborhoods of walkers and runners getting every odd and curious stair you can imagine.
The day finally came in March of 2011, the minivan was packed full of gear and extra gear and food, the kids squeezed in and we set off from Texas to Georgia. We ultimately decided to stay at a cabin near Blue Ridge, GA to get a lay of the land before we hit the trail. We rented a second car so we could shuttle ourselves from point A to point B on the trail and do small section hikes. The logistics of that worked well, we would drive both cars to our stopping point on the trail, then leave one car there, drive around to our starting point, hike to the car at the end, then drive around to the beginning. Rinse and repeat. Yeah my head is dizzy just trying to make sense of that!! It worked, but we later learned the hassle wasn’t worth it and it’s super easy to get a ride from any number of awesome trail shuttle services.
Our first stop was Amicalola Falls where the approach trail heading up toward Springer begins. This is where the unofficial trail begins and where thru hikers kick off right around March through April. When we arrived the place was buzzing with people both hikers and normal civilians alike! The waterfall was breathtaking and huge!! There’s a giant set of stairs that goes up to the top of the falls. Hiker purist will take these stairs as the initiation and first climb of the “unofficial” trail. We were not going to hike the approach trail, but we did hike up the stairs. That was hard!!! I was gassed and my legs were killing me. The irony of the whole thing was my kids ran up those stairs and kept going like it was nothing. Foreshadowing of things to come.
From here we drove both cars around to the Springer Mountain parking lot. The drive up the mountain was a fun dirt and gravel windy road full of pot holes a mile deep on the side of a steep cliff most of the time! I was pumped!! We’re finally in the mountains and about to be on Springer!! We pulled into a packed parking lot full of cars and a bazillion hikers of all manner. I can only guess many of them were attempting a through hike, but there were also many locals and day hikers in the pack too. The beginning of the trail is about 1 mile south of the parking lot, so the first section will be an out and back. This section was full of large rocks and got me winded for sure. I wouldn’t say it was hard, just that I may have been too excited and all the adrenaline was wearing off while my body started going into the shock of hiking on a real mountain with real incline compared to the flat Texas trails we had been training on. My daughter who was the oldest of the kids at age 9 was also having some breathing problems. So we took our time and inched our way forward at times taking many breaks. Looking back on this stretch, it was NOTHING compared to what was to come throughout the state of Georgia. We finally make it to the top and the hiker crowd really grew in numbers. We find the AT sign and the first white blaze and take a couple pics!! We made it!!!
Stacie and Adam later known by their trail names Raven and Lokë ( pronounced Low Key ) and the kids.
This is the end of Part 1. If you interested in some bad video and worse editing you can check out this trip on YouTube on our channel The Lokë Raven. Join the conversation over on Facebook and ask us anything. We’d love to hear about your experience as well!!
Thanks for reading!