May 9th 2018
Amicalola visitors centre to Hawk mountain shelter (mile 8.1)
Miles 16.9 (8.8 miles approach trail, 8.1 AT)

I woke up at 5. I have woken up at 5 every morning I’ve been here so far. A combination of jetlag and apprehension I expect. I had my last shower for a while. Some avocado on toast and strawberries for breakfast. Making the most of that fresh stuff.

After telling me if I need anything at all and that they can jump on a plane of needs be, I can assure my mum and dad that I will be fine out here because I have a small army of American adoptive parents looking out for me. How cool is that!

Aileen drove me to the start of the trail which was about an hour and a half away, having lived in Atlanta for many years Aileen has never been to Amicalola falls so I think she was looking forward to seeing it too. In the car I was equal parts excited that the day had finally arrived and I was getting to hike again, and the other part of me didn’t want to get out of the car and just go home with Aileen!

We arrived at the visitors centre and signed in as an AT hiker. They give you an orange tag with a number on it. My number was 2562. So there are 2562 hikers ahead of me!!

When you get to the half way point at Harper’s ferry they give you another tag to say which number you are now. So – leave your guesses in the comments as to which number i am going to be. (Here are some helpful hints – a lot of people don’t even make it through Georgia, and i already passed 5 people today. And the three i am camped with i will probably get ahead of tomorrow.)

Aileen did the first mile with me, which takes you to the top of Amicalola falls. It’s a brutal start. You see the falls ahead of you which are just straight up. And you have to climb 600 steps to get there. I saw one guy at the start who was reorganising his stuff. Haven’t seen him since. And I saw a young couple climbing the stairs, I asked them if they were enjoying it and he look awkward as she very quickly said no. I don’t think i will ever see them again! They asked me my name and I told them I was Puff Puff as I was struggling to get my breath as i climber the stairs. I think my name takes on an extra meaning on this trail!

At the top of the falls it was time to say goodbye and I was alone. I found an outhouse at the car park at the top of the falls. Yes, you don’t have to climb all those steps but where’s the fun in that?

The trail was long and tough and I saw a lot of people coming towards me. Just casual overnighters most of them I think. 2 very large groups of Asian people. Only 3.4 miles in to the approach trail I came across a smoking camp fire. This really pissed me off. First of all there have been a whole bunch of people who have clearly just walked past it and down nothing, of it was one of those groups of people I saw who left it without putting it out properly. I didn’t have extra water and there was no nearby so i wasn’t entirely sure what to do. All the rocks around it were too hot to touch, so I got my trowel and tried to turn I’m the ground over a bit to cool it down. After a few seconds my trowel became too hot to hold. There was a huge log on it which was smoking and glowing red so I got that out of the middle of the pit to stop the heat getting to it and propped it up on a rock to try and cool it down. I knocked some of the top bits off with the heel of my shoe, and after about half an hour I was satisfied (but not entirely confident) that it wouldn’t burn the forest down.

The trail basically went straight up with some insignificant down parts in there. It was hard. My body didn’t like it. My pack feels so heavy, I don’t know why because it’s the same old shit that’s been in all my hikes mostly. I haven’t carried a backpack for over a year though so my body will need some time to adapt. aside from a tiny stop to scoff down some chocolate I didn’t stop until I got the springer mountain and the official start of the AT. There were a couple of people there, a guy who took off straight away and a girl who was very busy with her smartphone, but I eventually found out her name was Fawkes. Not sure if it’s a trail name considering it’s her first time on a trail. And a guy called Tony came up with Baxter the wonder dog. So cute. Who doesn’t love a dog carrying a rucksack?

I stayed up there for a while but there was absolutely no shade so the only nice bit was when the sun went briefly behind a cloud. Another guy came up who was pretty unfriendly and had a rat style dog called Sarah! Who calls a dog Sarah?!

On the way down springer I saw a couple of ridge runners and I told them about the fire, so now it is someone else’s problem! They were great and said I did the right thing.

The mile down the other side of springer was the easiest of the day. I carried on intending to go three more miles to a place which looked like a nice campsite but when I got there it was 4:30 and I thought I should carry on. I really didn’t want to. My legs were pulsing and I felt a bit headachy from being dehydrated probably. I had my first wee since the outhouse at 4:30.

Boys with external frame packs…

I saw some other hikers passing me, intending to go further so I decided to carry on 5 more miles. What a tough 5 miles they were. My body was protesting. It hurt everywhere. When i put my back back on I could really fell the bruises developing. There was a whole bunch of uphill which is never fun, and with 2 miles left to go i lay in the middle of the trail thinking about what a terrible decision I made. My left hip was becoming really painful and my knees were starting to hurt. I felt like there was no way I could make it. I had not eaten much today so I got a bag of sweet out and munched them as I went along.

There wasn’t too much wildlife today, we saw a turkey on the drive up and other than the bugs I saw a few squirrels.

I am pleased I carried on because there are a bunch of others at the shelter. There are bear boxes and a long drop. I met three thru-hikers and a few section hikers. Most of them have taken 2 days to get here. Some three. No one had done it in one like I had and they were all quite surprised. To be honest I was surprised I made it there too.

I pitched my tent rather than sleep in the shelter. Only one persons is in the shelter but I wanted to make sure everything was ok with my new tent. I shovelled down a mountain house beef stroganoff, not thinking I was that hungry but I was starving.

Everything is zinging. My feet and my legs and my knees and my calves and my back and my shoulders. My shoulders are really sore. It feels like there will be no way I can put my pack on tomorrow.

It’s 9pm now as I’m writing and I can barely keep my eyes open. Absolutely shattered.

It was a green tunnel. There was basically one view out the top of springer mountain but that was it. The rest was trees. It varied from nice terrain to rocky.

I’ve definitely not drink enough. I have a headache. I have a bit of a hot spot on my foot. I kicked things off with 2 Aleve. I remember my friend Fancypants saying you can take two to begin with. Then I’ll keep them topped up. Stupid to think I could do it without them!

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