604 steps. Six hundred and god damn four. The approach trail, approximately 8.5 miles, beginning at the archway behind the Amicalola State Park visitors center, leads to the southern terminus of the AT atop Springer Mountain.. This seemingly harmless and altogether optional portion of the journey begins with 20 or so sections of staircase which zig zag off in every different direction. This was not an encouraging first mile. The only thing compensating for the agony of such an unbelievable climb was the phenomenal view from the top of the falls (thus the name Amicalola Falls). Foggy and approximately 40 degrees was the theme of our ascent to springer. Happy to be on the trail at last, but still a bit apprehensive as we noticed the temperature dropping with every foot of elevation. Turns out the remainder of the approach trail was quite challenging too, as we began to plan our first night in the woods we were offered a little motivation in the form of torrential downpour... Initiation had officially begun. We arrived at Stover Creek shelter, about 3 miles into the actual AT (making for about an 11 mile day, not too shabby for our first stab) ABSOLUTELY BEAT. and saturated. We quickly threw our packs on some realistate in the shelter and sprawled out our rain gear with unrealistic hopes that it would all be dry and cozy by morning. True rookies. The mixture of people who filed into the shelter as the evening passed, in all honesty, made for a bit of awkward age and experience gap. There were a few "ridge runners" who apparently are responsible for patrolling the AT by state or by section to ensure safety and maintenance of the trail. All in all we're happy to have them, but they insisted we hang our food on the bear resistant cable which hung from a nearby tree. As a precaution its usually a good idea but the 10 or so other first-day-thru-hikers at the shelter felt it too be more hassle than it was worth. Let me remind you of the dumping rain that is going on at this time. So as 5 or 6 of us all stand underneath what looks like telephone wire with hooks and loops and plates and bells, we finally muster enough common sense between the lot of us to raise our food about 15 feet into the air. After returning to the shelter we realized our idiocy had provided a good bit of entertainment for the experienced hikers, some of which had absolutely no intentions of hanging food this early in the the season when bears are few and fairly inactive. Perfect.
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