Wednesday morning we got a good start and hiked the 4.5 miles to Springer Mountain, reaching the summit by about noon, to officially start our journey on the Appalachian Trail. It was a gorgeous sunny day. After a short stop at the summit for photos we moved on. Only to get about 300 yards down the trail to realize we hadn’t signed in at the trail register at the top of Springer. I insisted we go back to sign in. I guess I like the idea of signing in at each end of our 2,185 mile adventure. Jonathan humored me enough to go back and sign in. Off to a great start you could say. =)
That day we walked an additional 8.1 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Along the way we ran into several people who had started the day before as well as people many others who had started that day. We also met our first platoon of Army Rangers who train in this part of the Georgia mountains. They pointed us toward a delightful waterfall called Long Creek Falls, where we refilled on water and took a break.
That night we met up with a huge group of Thru Hikers at Hawk Mountain. I think we had almost forty people camped there including the people sleeping in the shelter. It was a little tent city. Mostly we just wanted to make dinner and go to bed. It is amazing how early you can fall asleep when you have been hiking all day. Plus, as temperatures cool off in the evening everyone would rather snuggle into their warm sleeping bags than stay up and talk around the campfire.
Wednesday night was the coldest night by far on the trail. I’m not sure anybody slept very well. The temperature was down in the teens that night. We woke up the next morning to find that our bottles of water were either solid or slushy, even though they had been less than a foot away from where we were sleeping in the vestibule of our tent. The person tenting next to us had a collapsible bucket filled with water that was completely solid when I tapped it with my knuckle out of curiosity. Cooking breakfast was interesting with fingers stiff and painful from cold, but once we got moving it turned into a beautiful, although cool sunny day.