Saturday, April 25
The view is magnificent. I’ve already forgotten about all the huffing and puffing to get here. The first order of business is to find that plaque that I’ve seen so many pictures of. Where is that thing? Well, it’s obvious, actually. Right there embedded in the rocks where one hundred million hikers have taken the same obligatory photo.
The top of the mountain has a nice grassy area perfect for setting up a little camp. And it has a wonderfully nice sign on plasticized 8.5×11 paper asking people to please not camp on the wonderfully grassy area atop the mountain which is perfect for camping. After all, if everyone camps there, how will it remain wonderfully grassy and perfect for camping. Instead, please walk down the trail a couple of hundred yards where the Georgia AT Trail Conservancy has prepared a place of dusty, hard-packed camp sites around a rustic, though mouse-infested, wooden shelter.
DT and I hike to the shelter where I am compelled to take more obligatory photos. After all, it’s doubtful I will ever be here again, in this famous spot of great notoriety. And why would I return? If I need more time on the trail, there’s still 2200 hundred miles left to choose from.
After the tent is set up and I have something to eat, darkness arrives and some wonderful soul has built a fire in the fire ring in front of the shelter. Fires will be few and far between on the trail, so we enjoy this one. The fellow who has crafted the fire is doing a weekend hike, having walked from some obscure point a ways further in Georgia, bucking the traffic moving south. His trip is almost over since tomorrow he needs only to travel downhill toward the falls. I wonder if he’s laughing to himself, knowing what we greenhorns have in store for us as we proceed in earnest tomorrow?
On the way into the Springer Mountain camp area we meet Roger. Roger is hired by the Georgia AT folks and spends 10 days on and five days off, greeting all who make it to this summit. His gray-white beard goes to mid-chest and he has, no doubt, been selected from central casting for the role. I think I should be having a lengthy, awestruck conversation with him, probing him for his vast knowledge of the trail, but darned if I can think of one single thing to ask him. Perhaps if he wants to make a little more money he can seek Bic Razors as a sponsor? On second thought, that probably won’t work.
I have been made aware that the Georgia AT folks have another person in their employ, someone called The Ridgerunner, who is constantly hiking the trails and greeting the folks along the way. It seems the Georgia folks are down-right hospitable and I genuinely appreciate the efforts they make to make me feel welcome.
For the vast number of people who attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, most start here and move north with the spring. I’m told that some staggering number, like nine out of ten, quit in the next forty miles. That would make this Georgia section of the trail possibly the most-hiked section of the entire trail, trampled by greenhorns and veterans alike.
After a fitful night’s sleep on a thin foam mat, I wake and pack. The first order of business is to find water. Amazingly, there is a spring right here on top of the mountain. (Suspiciously, I wonder if that’s why this is called Springer Mountain? I’m no rube, I’m able to put pieces of random facts together and come up with feasible postulations like that. Or was the mountain named for old-man Springer who just wanted to get away from everyone?) Coincidence or not, it’s great to fill from a fresh spring. I’m not a water connoisseur, but I find amusement in drinking pure filtered mountain spring water. No, not the kind you buy in the store that probably came from the city tap, but the real deal. It tastes absolutely great, I guess. I mean, if water ever tasted great, I’m sure this tastes great. Well, let’s face it, water is the most boring drink ever created, but it soothes me knowing I’m drinking the finest water that can found on the globe. I guess.
Packed and ready to go, I intend to get a picture of the aforementioned Roger. I neglected to get a snapshot yesterday, and I’m kicking myself for shyly missing the opportunity. But alas, as we walk out of the camp area, Roger is bedded down inside his tent. He’s no fool, sleep in and enjoy the mountain spring water, why go walking when everything is right here? I tip my cap in the direction of his tent and we’re off, finally on the official trail and walking. What a feeling!