And so it begins

On March 30, 2017, Lauren aka Dust Buster, started her trek on the Appalachian Trail.

Day 1 March 30

The trail starts off in Georgia.  The terminus is Springer Mountain at an elevation of 3,782 feet (1,153 m).[74] At 4,461 feet (1,360 m), Blood Mountain is the highest point on the trail in Georgia. The AT and approach trail are managed and maintained by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. See also: Georgia Peaks on the Appalachian TrailGeorgia has 75 miles (121 km) of the trail.

Day 1 March 30
Trail Marker at the top of Springer Mountain.

Some information from Wikipedia about this part of the trail:

“In 1958, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail was relocated from Mount Oglethorpe to Springer Mountain. The reason for this relocation was because of increased development around Mount Oglethorpe.[6] Springer Mountain was considered to be less dramatic than Mount Oglethorpe, but because of its remoteness, Springer Mountain was also considered to be less susceptible to development.[3]

One way to climb Springer Mountain is from a parking lot on Forest Service Road 42, located 0.9 miles (1.4 km) miles north up the Appalachian Trail from the summit. Hikers desiring to hike north from Springer Mountain would begin by hiking 0.9 miles (1.4 km) miles south on the Appalachian Trail before turning around to hike north. At the peak of Springer Mountain is a bronze plaque with the Appalachian Trail logo, a register for hikers to sign, and a benchmark.[7]

In addition to the Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain can be reached from the south via the Appalachian Approach Trail.[8] The approach trail starts at the visitor’s center of Amicalola Falls State Park and is 8.5 miles (13.7 km) in length.[7]

Benton MacKaye Trail

Springer Mountain is also home to the southern terminus of the Benton MacKaye Trail. The trailhead for the Benton MacKaye Trail is located around 0.3 miles (0.48 km) north of the summit.[9][10][11]

Shelters

The nearest shelter from the summit is the Springer Mountain Shelter, located about 0.2 miles (0.32 km) north of the summit. A water spring located near this shelter.[12][13] Another nearby shelter is the Black Gap Shelter, located about 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of the summit on the Appalachian Approach Trail.[8] “

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Springer Mountain GA in May

I found this information from the Sherpa Guides: “The Georgia portion of the AT [Fig. 55] extends some 75.6 miles through primitive areas of the Chattahoochee National Forest. Although rising at times to elevations of over 4,400 feet, the trail is mostly along ridges at elevations around 3,000 feet. Ascents and descents are sometimes steep but often reward hikers with grand views from rocky outcrops and open summits.

Most of the AT goes through deciduous hardwood forest—largely hickory, oak, and poplar. Rainfall is heavy and frequent, especially in the spring; ridges are often snow-capped or ice-covered in the winter. Mid-April through mid-May is the peak wildflower season. Flowers found along the trail include trillium, bloodroot, mayapple, bluets, wild azalea, and sometimes pink and yellow lady slippers. In June many sections are covered with flowering rhododendron and mountain laurel. The heavy rains ensure lush vegetation during the summer months; ferns are found in abundance all along the trail. The last two weeks of October are usually the best time to find autumn colors at their height. In winter when the leaves are off the trees, the trail offers ever-present scenic vistas of the surrounding countryside and of the mountains to the north and west.

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Lauren may see this in her hikes but more than likely, they’ll see her and be gone long before she sees them!

The Georgia portion of the trail is managed and maintained by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club, through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Forest Service, Chattahoochee National Forest. Members of the club may be found on the trail almost every weekend cutting weeds, clearing blowdowns, painting blazes, repairing shelters, reconstructing portions of the trail, or participating in recreational hikes.

The trail’s southern terminus is located atop Springer Mountain, near FS 42. Since this area is difficult to reach by automobile, an 8.1-mile approach trail begins at Amicalola Falls State Park on GA 52. Mountains along the trail with outstanding scenic views include Big Cedar, Blood, Cowrock, Rocky, and Tray. One of the many side trails leads from Chattahoochee Gap to the highest point in Georgia, Brasstown Bald. The trail passes through five of Georgia’s wilderness areas: Raven Cliffs Wilderness between Neel’s Gap and Tesnatee Gap; Tray Mountain Wilderness between Tray Gap and Addis Gap; the Southern Nantahala Wilderness north of Blue Ridge Gap; Mark Trail Wilderness between Unicoi Gap and Hogpen Gap; and Blood Mountain Wilderness from Neel’s Gap to Woody Gap. Bly Gap on the Georgia/North Carolina border is the northern end of the AT in Georgia.

The trail is marked throughout its length with rectangular white blazes and is generally easy to follow. Double blazes indicate caution, usually meaning a turn in the trail. Side trails and trails to water are blue-blazed; signs are placed at road crossings, shelters, and other important intersections. There are 11 shelters on the Georgia AT, placed more or less at intervals permitting easy day hikes. All but one of these shelters are three-sided, open-front types with floors. Springs are reasonably close by. The exception is the stone, two-room structure atop Blood Mountain. It has four sides, a fireplace, windows, and a sleeping platform. There is no water on top of Blood Mountain. ” ( Sherpa Guides)

One of the more fun or interesting (at least to me) things I found when researching the GA part of the trail was the “Shoe Tree” at Blood Mountain.

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Hikers who have done 30 miles on the trail leave their worn out boots and shoes in an old tree at the center. Those who have completed at least 500 miles can hang their shoes and packs inside to inspire other hikers.  There is a significantly better picture on Brian Brown’s Blog, however the pictures are copyrighted so you’ll need to visit HERE.

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The Native America’s have a huge influence over this area:

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This is the shelter on Blood Mountain, which I must say looks a lot nicer than some of the others ones.

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This will be Lauren’s first week of hiking.  As it’s April 15, you know I have a few weeks to catch up.  =)

~ Linda

 

What is the Appalachian Trail?

In short, the Appalachian Trail is 2190 miles of trail through 14 states (verses 3 states for the PCT).  Backing up a bit to before when Lauren left for her journey, here is some information about the Appalachian Trail courtesy of Wikipedia.I have thrown in some pictures of information I found interesting about the trail in between the different state breakdowns of the trail.  The scenic pictures are not necessarily representing the area mentioned.  They are representative of the different terrain Lauren will experience throughout the trail.

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Route:

The trail is currently protected along more than 99% of its course by federal or state ownership of the land or by right-of-way. The trail is maintained by a variety of citizen organizations, environmental advocacy groups, governmental agencies and individuals. Annually, more than 4,000 volunteers contribute over 175,000 hours of effort on the Appalachian Trail, an effort coordinated largely by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) organization. In total, the AT passes through eight national forests and two national parks.[44]

AT Main to Georgia

In the course of its journey, the trail follows the ridge line of the Appalachian Mountains, crossing many of its highest peaks, and running, with only a few exceptions, almost continuously through wilderness. The trail used to traverse many hundreds of miles of private property; currently 99% of the trail is on public land.[73]  A hiker signs the register on Springer Mountain, Georgia.

Georgia has 75 miles (121 km) of the trail, including the southern terminus at Springer Mountain at an elevation of 3,782 feet (1,153 m).[74] At 4,461 feet (1,360 m), Blood Mountain is the highest point on the trail in Georgia. The AT and approach trail, along with many miles of blue blazed side trails, are managed and maintained by the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. See also: Georgia Peaks on the Appalachian Trail.

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North Carolina – Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

North Carolina has 88 miles (142 km) of the trail, not including more than 200 miles (320 km) along the Tennessee Border.[75] Altitude ranges from 1,725 to 5,498 feet (526 to 1,676 m). The trail enters from Georgia at Bly Gap, ascending peaks such as Standing Indian Mountain, Mt. Albert, and Wayah Bald. It then goes by Nantahala Outdoor Center at the Nantahala River Gorge and the Nantahala River crossing. Up to this point, the trail is maintained by the Nantahala Hiking Club. Beyond this point, it is maintained by the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club. 30 miles (48 km) further north, Fontana Dam marks the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park.[76]

Tennessee – Sign denoting access to the Appalachian Trail at Clingmans Dome, the highest mountain in Tennessee.

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Tennessee has 71 miles (114 km) of the trail,[77][78] not including more than 200 miles (320 km) along or near the North Carolina Border.[79] The section that runs just below the summit of Clingmans Dome in Great Smoky Mountains National Park is along the North Carolina and Tennessee border and is the highest point on the trail at 6,643 feet (2,025 m). The Smoky Mountains Hiking Club (Knoxville, TN) maintains the trail throughout the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to Davenport Gap. North of Davenport Gap, the Carolina Mountain Club (Asheville, NC) maintains the trail to Spivey Gap. Then the remaining Tennessee section is maintained by the Tennessee Eastman Hiking & Canoeing Club (Kingsport, TN).  The Pocosin cabin along the trail in Shenandoah National Park.

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Virginia

Virginia has 550.3 miles (885.6 km) of the trail (one-fourth of the entire trail) including more than 20 miles (32 km) along the West Virginia border.[80] With the climate, and the timing of northbound thru-hikers, this section is wet and challenging because of the spring thaw and heavy spring rainfall.[81] Substantial portions of the trail closely parallel Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and, further south, the Blue Ridge Parkway.[80] The Appalachian Trail Conservancy considers as excellent for beginning hikers a well-maintained 104 miles (167 km) section of the trail that the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed in Shenandoah National Park. Climbs in this section rarely exceed 1,000 feet (300 m).[13][80] In the southwestern portion of the state, the trail goes within one half mile of the highest point in Virginia, Mount Rogers, which is a short side-hike from the AT.

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West Virginia

West Virginia has 4 miles (6.4 km) of the trail, not including about 20 miles (32 km) along the Virginia border.[82] Here the trail passes through the town of Harpers Ferry, headquarters of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Harpers Ferry is what many consider to be the mental midpoint of the entire A.T., although the actual midpoint is further north in southern Pennsylvania. (The exact midpoint moves due to trail rerouting.)[83]  The AT crosses the railroad bridge at left in this photo of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
Maryland

Maryland has 41 miles (66 km) of the trail, with elevations ranging from 230 to 1,880 feet (70 to 573 m).[84] Most of the trail runs along the ridgeline of South Mountain in South Mountain State Park.[85] Hikers are required to stay at designated shelters and campsites. The trail runs through the eastern edge of Greenbrier State Park. This can serve as a luxurious stop point for a hot shower and a visit to the camp store. The trail runs along the C&O Canal Towpath route for 3 miles (4.8 km). Hikers will also pass High Rock, which offers spectacular views and is a popular hang-gliding site. The section ends at Pen Mar Park, which sits on the border of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Annapolis Rock Overlook, found along the trail in South Mountain State Park.

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Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has 229.6 miles (369.5 km) of the trail.[86] The trail extends from the Pennsylvania – Maryland line at Pen Mar, a tiny town straddling the state line, to the Delaware Water Gap, at the Pennsylvania – New Jersey border. The Susquehanna River is generally considered the dividing line between the northern and southern sections of the Pennsylvania AT. South of the Susquehanna, the trail passes through Pine Grove Furnace State Park. The Pennsylvania section of the trail north of the Susquehanna, from Duncannon until the Delaware Water Gap, is noted[by whom?] for its eroded and rocky terrain which can slow hiking.[citation needed]

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New Jersey – Sign for the Appalachian Trail within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in New Jersey

New Jersey is home to 72.2 miles (116.2 km) of the trail.[87] The trail enters New Jersey from the south on a pedestrian walkway along the Interstate 80 bridge over the Delaware River, ascends from the Delaware Water Gap to the top of Kittatinny Mountain in Worthington State Forest, passes Sunfish Pond (right), continues north through the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Stokes State Forest and eventually reaches High Point State Park, the highest peak in New Jersey (a side trail is required to reach the actual peak). It then turns in a southeastern direction along the New York border for about 30 miles (48 km), passing over long sections of boardwalk bridges over marshy land, then entering Wawayanda State Park and then the Abram S. Hewitt State Forest just before entering New York near Greenwood Lake. In New Jersey the New York – New Jersey Trail Conference maintains and updates the Appalachian Trail.

Black bear activity along the trail in New Jersey increased rapidly starting in 2001. Hence, metal bear-proof trash boxes are in place at all New Jersey shelters.
Island Pond, Harriman State Park

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New York

New York’s 88.4 miles (142.3 km) of trail contain very little elevation change compared to other states.[88] From south to north, the trail summits many small mountains under 1,400 feet (430 m) in elevation, its highest point in New York being Prospect Rock at 1,433 feet (437 m), and only 3,000 feet (910 m) from the border with New Jersey. The trail continues north, climbing near Fitzgerald Falls, passing through Sterling Forest, and then entering Harriman State Park and Bear Mountain State Park. The lowest point on the entire Appalachian Trail is in the Bear Mountain Zoo 124 feet (38 m). It crosses the Hudson River on the Bear Mountain Bridge. It then passes through Fahnestock State Park, and continues northeast and crosses the Metro-North Railroad’s Harlem Line. This track crossing is the site of the only train station along the trail’s length. It enters Connecticut via the Pawling Nature Reserve. The section of the trail that passes through Harriman and Bear Mountain State Parks is the oldest section of the trail, completed in 1923. A portion of this section was paved by 700 volunteers with 800 granite-slab steps followed by over a mile of walkway supported by stone crib walls with boulders lining the path.[5] The project took four years, cost roughly $1 million, and was officially opened in June 2010.[5] The project was done by the New York–New Jersey Trail Conference. The New York–New Jersey Trail Conference maintains and updates the Appalachian Trail in New York.

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Connecticut – Housatonic River’s Great Falls in Falls Village, Connecticut as viewed from the Appalachian Trail.

Connecticut’s 52 miles (84 km) of trail lie almost entirely along the ridges to the west above the Housatonic River valley.[89]  The state line is also the western boundary of a 480 acres (190 ha) Connecticut reservation inhabited by Schaghticoke Indians. Inside it, the AT roughly parallels its northern boundary, crossing back outside it after 2,000 feet (610 m). The trail proceeds northward through the Housatonic River valley and hills to its west, veering northwesterly and, at Salisbury, ascending the southern Taconic mountains, at Lion’s Head affording a view northeasterly towards Mt. Greylock and other points in Massachusetts, and at Bear Mountain, reaching over 2,000 feet (610 m) in elevation for the first time since Pennsylvania and yielding views across the Hudson River valley to the Catskills and across the broad expanse of the Housatonic valley and the Berkshire and Litchfield Hills to the east. Just north of Bear, the trail, as it crosses into Massachusetts, descends into Sages Ravine, a deep gorge in the eastern Taconic ridgeline which is home to a fragile old growth forest. As the trail crosses the brook in the ravine, it leaves the area maintained by the Connecticut section of the Appalachian Mountain Club.

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Massachusetts – View from Mount Greylock in Massachusetts

Massachusetts has 90 miles (140 km) of trail.[90] The entire section of trail is in western Massachusetts’ Berkshire County. It summits the highest peak in the southern Taconic Range, Mount Everett (2,604 feet (794 m)), then descends to the Housatonic River valley and skirts the town of Great Barrington. The trail passes through the towns of Dalton and Cheshire, and summits the highest point in the state at 3,491 feet (1,064 m), Mount Greylock. It then quickly descends to the valley within 2 miles (3.2 km) of North Adams and Williamstown, before ascending again to the Vermont state line. The trail throughout Massachusetts is maintained by the Berkshire Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Vermont

Vermont has 150 miles (240 km) of the trail.[91] Upon entering Vermont, the trail coincides with the southernmost sections of the generally north/south-oriented Long Trail. It follows the ridge of the southern Green Mountains, summitting such notable peaks as Stratton Mountain, Glastenbury Mountain, and Killington Peak. After parting ways with the Long Trail at Maine Junction, the AT turns in a more eastward direction, crossing the White River, passing through Norwich, and entering Hanover, New Hampshire, as it crosses the Connecticut River. The Green Mountain Club maintains the AT from the Massachusetts state border to Route 12. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains the trail from VT Route 12 to the New Hampshire state line.
New Hampshire – Franconia Ridge, a section of the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire

New Hampshire has 161 miles (259 km) of the trail.[92] The New Hampshire AT is nearly all within the White Mountain National Forest. For northbound thru-hikers, it is the beginning of the main challenges that go beyond enduring distance and time: in New Hampshire and Maine, rough or steep ground are more frequent and alpine conditions are found near summits and along ridges. The trail reaches 17 of the 48 four-thousand footers of New Hampshire, including 6,288-foot (1,917 m) Mount Washington, the highest point of the AT north of Tennessee. The Dartmouth Outing Club maintains the AT from the Vermont border past Mount Moosilauke to Kinsman Notch, northwest of Woodstock, New Hampshire, Randolph Mountain Club maintains 2.2 miles from Osgood Trail near Madison Hut to Edmands Col, with the AMC maintaining the remaining miles through the state. The weather includes strong winds and fog.

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Maine – Northern terminus of the trail atop Mount Katahdin in Maine

Maine has 281 miles (452 km) of the trail. The northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is on Mount Katahdin’s Baxter Peak in Baxter State Park.  In some parts of the trail in Maine, even the strongest hikers may only average 1 mile per hour (1.6 km/h), with places where hikers must hold on to tree limbs and roots to climb and descend, which is especially hazardous in wet weather.[93] The western section includes a mile-long (1.6 km) stretch of boulders, some of which hikers must pass under, at Mahoosuc Notch, sometimes called the trail’s hardest mile.

Although there are dozens of river and stream fords on the Maine section of the trail, the Kennebec River is the only one on the trail that requires a boat crossing. The most isolated portion of the Appalachian Trail, known as the “Hundred-Mile Wilderness”, occurs in Maine. It heads east-northeast from the town of Monson and ends outside Baxter State Park just south of Abol Bridge.[94]

100-Mile-Wilderness

Park management strongly discourages thru-hiking within the park before May 15 or after October 15.[95]

The AMC maintains the AT from the New Hampshire border to Grafton Notch, with the Maine Appalachian Trail Club responsible for maintaining the remaining miles to Mt. Katahdin. The international extension, called the International Appalachian Trail begins at Mt. Katahdin.

Impressive, right?  Exciting to follow this journey of Lauren.  Some other great resources for the trail:

Appalachian Trail Conservatory

 

Until next time

~ Linda

Where’s Lauren?

Lauren called us on April 10 to wish SG Happy Birthday.   Lauren’s currently on the Appalachian Trail.  When she called, she was at the Sassafras Gap Trail  Shelter (Wikitrail info).  It took me a few days because I needed to research where she was because I did not write the name down completely.  Let me tell you, I really, really miss the Half-Mile maps we had for the PCT.   On Monday night, Lauren was at mile marker 143.7!

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In a few days, which may be today, Lauren hopes to be at Fontana Trail Head and will be met by a friend from PCT, “Box Drogo”.  Trail names are important and you can read more about this here.

Sassafras Gap Trail Shelter is located in North Carolina, on the hike from Franklin to Fontana Dam.  It’s along one of the ridges of the Nantahala Mountains headed into the Great Smokey Mountains.

Sassafras Gap Shelter
Sassafras Gap Shelter (source)

Lauren told me she would not sleep in the shelter because of the mice.  =)  It was great that she was able to get cell signal from the ridge.  The shelter is in the Sassafras Gap Recreational Site.  You can see a satalite image here.

The Sassafras Gap Shelter is located in Swain County, North Carolina. Swain County is a county located in the western portion of the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 13,981.[1] Its county seat is Bryson City.[2]Swain County is home of the Nantahala River (along with Macon County, North Carolina). The Nantahala is one of the most popular whitewater rafting rivers in the nation. In 2010, it was announced that the Nantahala River would host the 2013 World Freestyle Kayaking Championships.[3] The Oconaluftee River also flows through Swain County in the town of Cherokee. (Wikipedia Swain County).   She’s somewhat close to Bryson City, NC from what I can tell.

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What Lauren is seeing right now:

That’s all for now.  I will be going back to when Lauren started in Georgia to give us all a better idea of her trek.

~Linda