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We left out of the Visitor’s Center and moved the van (yes, I am driving the wife’s old minivan since Kaylee doesn’t like riding in the old car I drive back and forth to work, which she affectionately calls “The Trashcan”) to the parking lot across from the visitor’s center. We parked next to a full size Bronco and I was checking it out (used to have one so I am kind of fond of them) as we were getting out packs and poles out of the van.
As we were walking behind the Bronco I saw a sticker on the back of it with this Bigfoot guy with a backpack on reading “travelingsasquatch.com” and made a mental note to check it out when I got home. I am glad I did since it lead me to a cool site about hiking on the AT and I need all the info on it that I can get on it.
We made our way back over to the visitor’s center, hit the restrooms and proceeded to head up the East Ridge Trail. The East Ridge Trail is the old AT approach trail that goes from the Visitor’s Center to the top of the falls and is about a mile long. We had mapped out our path a few days before and it was going to be up the East Ridge Trail and back down the stairs and regular path back to the visitor’s center for almost a 2 mile round trip. Looking at the trail from the back of the Center it didn’t seem like much but once we got stated going up it we realized how much different it was. It was more difficult than hiking up Stone Mountain.
I suppose the angle of ascent and the additional weight of our packs made it so. When they noted that the trail was rated moderate to strenuous they were not kidding and we could feel it in our legs and in our breathing. We took our time going up and checked out our surroundings since we hadn’t been on that trail before. We spotted some neat looking trees and enjoyed the Mountain Laurel canopy on the lower part of the trail before it connects into the old service road. Kay surprised me and did a great job of pacing herself. The incline and the extra weight we carried made it tougher than hiking up Stone Mountain so we took a few more breaks. The conversation and light banter between us spanned several topics and kept our morale up as we followed the trail. Once the trail joined up with the old service road I thought it was going to be easier going but it wasn’t. The incline was steady and between the larger rocks in the road bed and the washed out area it made traveling up it slightly more difficult than it seemed. Upon arriving at the Hike Inn parking lot at the top we sat on a rock wall and had a snack. We both had the feeling of accomplishment and felt that the hike up wasn’t as bad as it seemed like while we were doing it. Hikers high Maybe?
We finished off our snacks and proceeded to take the steps down from the top of the falls and followed the path to the reflection pool. This is where our legs start to feel tingly. The 600+ steps that are on the path sent a sensation up my legs that was neither good nor bad, but you could feel it. We stopped a couple of times to look at the falls and take a few picture. A nice couple offered to take a picture of us and we returned the favor for them. Making it to the reflection pool we took the Creek trail that runs off to the right and leads back to the parking lot across from the Visitor’s Center. Once back at the van, completing the almost 2 mile trek, we were both a bit tired and ready to go but were already making plans to return the following weekend. On that weekend we will push ourselves a bit farther attempting 2.5-3 miles and carrying more weight. Were we crazy to want to exhaust ourselves and punish ourselves by doing more? Does the need to “seek fellowship with the wilderness” and find peace in nature override some of the logical sense we have? Is it the thrill of the accomplishment? Maybe a bit of it all and for reasons I can’t explain.
We have a goal set for ourselves of being able to hike out, spend the night, hike more the next day, and doing it this year. We are going to do our best to reach it, and who knows, maybe even go farther and complete the 90 mile length of the AT in GA. Practice and planning are keys to making this happen for us. We are going to need a lot of both since we are new to backpacking. Since we do not have any equipment other than our feet and some daypacks, I have been looking to find us some decent gear at affordable prices. This seems to be harder at times than actually hiking the trail with the sheer amount of gear out there to choose from and the range of prices. Being new at this, I feel like I don’t want to spend an arm and a leg but also don’t want gear to fail on us if we are out overnight. I have put out feelers to friends and family and have gotten a couple of hits from people saying they had some gear they would give us. I am still waiting to hear back to find out what kind of gear it is. Hopefully some of it will work out and keep me from putting a huge dent in my wallet. In the meantime, I will be researching the how, what, when, and where of future hikes for us. I hope this is something that will make the bond between Kaylee and me strong enough to last through her teenage years and make memories for a lifetime.
This post was part two of Matt and Kaylee Melton’s AT adventure. Check out part one right here. And thanks for sharing with the Sasquatch, Matt!
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