We finally made it to Springer Mountain and the start of the Appalachian Trail in March 2011. The kids were doing great running around talking to all the hikers who had just come up from the approach trail. We eventually found the journal and wanted to sign in but there seemed to be a line forming so we left that to the thru hikers and prepared to head back to the parking lot. These next steps mark the official start of our northbound hike and a series of small section hikes that will lead us north getting one step closer to Maine with each step. The weather was a crisp 40 degrees and bright blue sky sunny, so for a day of hiking this was perfect.
Going downhill across the big rocks to the parking lot was a breeze. We got back the car and began the self shuttling jigsaw puzzle that we eventually scrapped the next time we came back to the trail. The next reasonable road crossing was Three Forks, so we took both cars down the dirt and gravel bumpy road over to the tiny parking area next to the Three Forks Creek bridge crossing. This spot was gorgeous and we all wanted to hang out for a while, but with daylight ticking away I was ready to start hiking. We all piled into a single car and headed back to the Springer lot.
Back at Springer, we were ready to start a legit hike. With everyone all saddled up we headed over to the big sign toward the trail entrance heading north. With so many hikers hanging around we had some difficulty actually finding the entrance and I had to ask for directions to a couple hikers literally sitting on the markers to enter the trail. Stacie handed out Snickers bars to the kids, checked water levels and off we went.
The adrenaline going through me must have made me oblivious to the fact that I was well out of sight of my family at some point in the first mile. It was that familiar mom voice I heard from behind me yelling to slow the heck down before I hurt myself. This is welcome advice that I seem to refuse to take and on every hike, it’s usually me that’s dragging ass behind the rest of the crew at the end. This part of the trail is extremely easy and covered in super soft pine needles which gave it a bit of an extra padded bounce. I reluctantly slowed down and took up rank at the end of the pack.
The kids were crushing it!! This was a rare time where nobody was complaining and everyone got along. The kids were singing songs, skipping and even all out running at times. My 9 year old daughter was filming everything on her phone throughout the hike and did a decent job getting a couple really amazing shots. You can watch her handy work and this hike on YouTube.
This section was only about 3 miles and we only really stopped to catch a nice waterfall and with all the water everywhere we got to use our water filter. We really didn’t need water, I had 2 liters on my back and everyone else had at least a water bottle full, just wanted to try some waterfall mountain water. We were using a filter that you drop into the water like a fishing lure and pump water. It took some work to fill up but it worked pretty well. We eventually switched this out for a gravity bag system.
We got lucky with the crowd in the sense that while Springer and the parking lot were packed, we only ran across one solo hiker who passed us, and an older hiker couple. The lady was carrying a pack that must have weighed 50 pounds and she was crawling slow. I think her husband was with her for morale support and had no pack. Anyhow, every time we would pass them, they would pass us right back when we took a break. We played leap frog a few times until they stopped at Stover Creek Shelter.
We hiked on and before we even knew it we had come across the bridge over Three Forks Creek and our car. This time we did hang out at the creek for a while. The kids just had to stick their feet in the freezing cold water and see who could stand it longer. This creek was running strong and fairly deep with a strong current. We had a great time so far nobody was hurting or tired. We hopped in the car and headed back to Springer Parking lot to pick up the second car. Spirits were super high to this point and we were doing much better than anyone had anticipated.
Before we headed out to Georgia, I put some heavy YouTube time into researching the section between Springer and Woody Gap and found that Sassafras mountain was the mighty beast of this section. I’m not gonna lie, this mountain got into my head a bit and throughout our training I was literally replaying Rocky 3 in my head only instead of Clubber Lang, I was training for Sassafras. I was ready to keep hiking and crush this next section. At the current moment I was seriously underestimating what was coming. Three Forks is nothing compared to the roller coaster that was now in our path. Back at Springer parking lot to pick up the second car, Stacie made the call to head back to the cabin for the night and come back in the morning. It must have been a sight to see a full grown adult man throw a hissy fit!!! Alas! It proved to be solid advice yet again and she never gets tired of my confirming she was right!!
The next section from Three Forks –> Hawk Mtn Shelter –> Hightower Gap –> Sassafras Mtn –> Cooper Gap proved to be tough and also really exciting as this is the home of the Park Army Rangers who literally train on and near the trail. These guys have amazing camo and its damn near impossible to see them until you’ve walked right into their training exercise, damn near giving me a heart attack. I’ll explain what happened with the Rangers and my title bought with Sassafras in Part 3.
This is the end of Part 2. 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!!
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