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So my 10 year old daughter, Kaylee, and I have decided that we want to do some hiking on the Appalachian Trail this year. It all started last fall when we went to Amicalola Falls State park here in Georgia, where we hiked the path to the base of the falls from the visitor’s center which is around ¾ mile. She did a great job on that, but wanted no part of the 425 more steps to get to the top of the falls so we called it a day and headed back to where we parked at the visitor’s center.
On our next visit to the park we were going to be attending a survival skills class at around 3pm. We got there an hour and a half or so earlier so we decided to hike on one of the side trails for half of the time we had until the class started and the turn around. I think this was the first time she had really experienced a trail with all the normal hazards such as switchbacks, exposed roots, steep sides, and of course the random branch on the trail that I always seem to run into. She handled it very well and without complaint. On parts where she was unsure about here footing on a big step or over a big rock she would ask me to hold her hand and assist her.
Only occasionally did she trip over a root or slip a little, but never completely fell down. It really did make me proud. She had my love for the outdoors and the wilderness and I was going to keep encouraging it as long as I could since her teenage years are not far away and she may end up hating me through those.
We made it to the reflection pool and headed back down to the visitor’s center on taking the path most visitors would that follows the road. We made it back down with time to spare so we explored the shelter near the visitor’s center. While checking it out I explained to her about the Appalachian Trail and how hikers would start here and hike up to the Springer Mtn. where the Appalachian Trail actually began. “Dad, can we hike up there next time we come?” She asked. After telling her it was 8 miles or so to Springer Mountain and it would most likely take us an entire day to get there.
She was a bit disappointed, but I told her we could do it sometime but it would take practice and planning because we would have to spend the night when we got there and hike back out the next day. She was happy with this even though I told her we probably wouldn’t be able to do it until next year since winter was going to be closing in soon. We made it to the class which was on primitive fire building and tried our hand at a few different methods of making fire all the while my brain was turning over ideas on how to accomplish the goal we had set.
Still with no real plans set we attended the next class on making cordage the following weekend. We had to park in the lot at the reflection pool since the park was busy and we hiked down the Creek trail we had hiked up on our previous visit. We loved the way a trail seems almost completely different hiking it in the opposite direction. She still occasionally asked for help over rocks or roots that she was unsure of. All of her enthusiasm was still there and raring to go again and so was mine.
This brings us back to current time, er, well a couple weeks ago. Spring was on us now even though the weather hadn’t seemed like it. She still had her enthusiasm for wanting to hike (and so did I) so the first nice weekend we decided we were going to go hiking. That weekend finally happened when the temps were going to get in to the upper 60’s and be sunny. We made plans to return to Amicalola but got invited to go walk up Stone Mountain with her Aunt (my sister-in-law). So off to Stone Mountain we went. I was excited to get out again and Kaylee was super excited. You could tell it in her mannerisms, literally bouncing up and down and ready to hike up that rock. There was no stopping her on the way up, she led us the entire time. Her and her new hiking poles stayed 20-30 feet ahead of us and me constantly telling her to slow down. That youthful energy we wish we could bottle kept her going as I tried explaining that a steady pace was better than going full speed the entire time and that her Aunt and I were old and couldn’t go that fast. Kaylee wasn’t having it, but we did get her to stop a few times so we could drink some water and let Kelly (aunt and sister-in-law) rest since she was the least in shape out of us. Not that I am in great shape either but Kelly needed a few more breaks but persevered and made it all the way to the top. My daughter on the other hand was ready to hike back up again as soon as we got down.
That brings us to today. Over the last couple weeks I went and got Kaylee and I hiking boots at Merrell (my wife works for a sister company so we got a discount) and picked up a set of poles for myself. Kay thought it would be cool for both of us to have poles and I figured it couldn’t hurt. We wore our new boots every day in the evenings after we each got home so we could break them in and finally the day came to put them and ourselves to the test. I have a decent day pack with an internal frame and a waist strap that I have had for years and loaded things in it to give it some weight and then put the water and food I was going to eat while we were out for the day. She took the small backpack I had carried when we went to Stone Mountain and put water, snacks and a light jacket in it for her. My thought on doing this was that we would kind of ease into carrying a load, increasing the weight and going a farther distance each time we went out until she and I could carry all we needed and make it a decent distance in a single day.
We loaded up the car and headed to Amicalola and in 15-20 minutes we were there (we live close). Upon arrival we went to the Visitor’s Center and purchased a Friend’s of GA state parks pass (Basically a year pass to all the state parks in GA for a year), Bill Bryson’s book “A Walk in The Woods” that she thought seemed interesting after reading the back cover, a map of the AT in GA, and an AT sticker.
The quote on the sticker resonated with me, “A footpath for those seeking fellowship with the wilderness.”
I have always been at peace in the woods and it seems Kaylee is like her old man in that.

Stay tuned for the exciting conclusion of the Melton’s journey into the wild! And thanks for sharing with the Sasquatch Matt!

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