Started the AT approach trail

I think my biggest struggle today was not the 866ft ascent of the Amicalola Falls approach trail, but the fact that I have to summarize the day with only a single photo on the trailjournals.com blog. Picking a high point turned literal and I picked the highest point in altitude I reached on the AT approach trail before bailing out back to the car to go back to work.

I’ve done the Amicalola Falls AT approach trail several times with my family between the visitor center at the entrance to the lodge at the top of the park. I have 2 Canyon Climbers Club t-shirts as evidence, which I gladly use to advertise the GA State Park system. Today, I packed the Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor to the top, including tent, sleeping bag, food, and water, and did it all over again. This time, I made the strictest effort to follow the blue blazes (not that hard). I imagine myself as a white blaze purist - none of that shortcut trail nonsense. We’ll see, I guess.

When I really started the day, I was working in the Amicalola Lodge for the morning hours. On the second landing, they’ve installed a table for puzzles where I setup my MacBook, did some work with Ansible, Jenkins, GitLab, and had a Skype conference. The bandwidth is crazy - 16 mbps down, 175 mbps up. I’m used to working on the 1st floor, where the conference center is, but they’ve remodeled to turn that into the private conference area. They even blocked-off the huge outdoor seating area for conference rentals, too.

I imagined working at the lodge a lot this Fall, doing hikes up and down the falls, but with as little workspace as they have remaining, I’d likely be noticed and questioned about what room I’m (not) staying in. Perhaps I should just ask about it instead of assuming the common areas are for paying guests only.

The hike down the falls was rougher than going up. By the time I got down to the state park office at the park entrance, my legs were trembling uncontrollably. After standing at the stone gateway to the approach trail for a couple minutes to get a granola bar from my pack, I recovered and started back up, just in time to hear a rumble in the distance. Have you ever noticed how distant thunder sounds like the trash trucks that pick up dumpsters and lift them to dump into the lid of the truck? That’s what I was hoping I heard the first time, and the second time. By the third time, I was resolved to getting rained on. And I did. Fortunately it was intermittent until I was driving out of the park. I noted that my pack does appear to have some degree of water resistance. Yay!

At the lodge parking lot, I sat on a bench with my Rite in the Rain No 371FX-M stapled notebook I carry in my Maxpedition and used my 10-year-old trusty space pen to make notes as follows:

  • I got off the the trail by the lodge, on to a cut-thru trail. I’m appalled by my own trail etiquette and I should pay better attention. I fear it will happen again quite easily.
  • Bending over with my pack on makes my spine jab into the internal frame of my pack. Its like a shock. Unpleasant. A few more times this will happen and hopefully conditioning will stop me.
  • I had a Probar Meal on the way down and a Probar Protein bar on the way up. It was a nice switch-up, but I didn’t realize the protein bar was a bunch of soy and probably won’t purchase that variety again.
  • There used to be a foot bridge by the pond at the bottom of the falls for the approach trail. I saw a bunch of fallen tree debris instead. There was an alternate path passing next to a pavilion, which people have switched to, but with a steep stairway versus an inclined trail on the previous route.
  • Don’t take rain gear out of the backpack - ever. I had my travel umbrella in the car, so was able to stuff that in my water bottle sleeve. I felt that was adequate. I need to compare the umbrella weight to my rain jacket. If they’re comparable, I’d prefer to hold an umbrella than sweat in a jacket.
  • I liked my Lt Thorlo hiking socks just fine today; there was no noticeable foot disturbance. I thought it was much better than the Darn Tough + Injinji toe sock combo. Next, I’ll try the Darn Tough socks by themselves.
  • I need to switch my Fisher space pen back to black ink. The blue ink runs when it gets wet.
  • I keep doing my shakedown hikes in my convertible Marmot pants (I don’t know the model) and I don’t like them. I’m eager for the prAna Convertible Stretch Zion pants to arrive in the mail on Monday. I don’t like clothes shopping. I keep stuff for 10-20 years - it’s a big commitment when I add something to the wardrobe. I recently donated a whole garbage bag of free t-shirts from tech conferences. They were full of brands I don’t want to advertise and were 100% cotton. There’s just not that many days where wearing 100% cotton t-shirts in Georgia makes sense, so when I do, I wear a branded shirt I want to advertise (like GA State Park promos, BSA, cycling races I do).
  • I’m undecided about the Saxx boxers. They seemed sort of sticky today, but they’re light, full of breathing holes. I need things to compare to, but it’s not like I can go hiking in a pair of underwear then return it.

Wife offered to go on a one-way trip with me to hike the Springer Mountain segment of the trail before my November GA thru-hike so I don’t have to keep the 30 minute mile pace for 20 miles a day we’d been planning on. Our joint concern is my calorie intake - I’m already sort of skinny and don’t have a lot of weight to spare. Daylight would be tight, too. If it would be nice to spread 83 miles over 5 days instead of 90. I need to recalculate my target campsites for each night to start from USFS 42 at AT mile 1 instead of the Amicalola Lodge approach trail to see what that would look like. The original plan had me sleeping at Stover Creek Shelter the first night.

See also