Josh from Hiker Hostel met us at 4pm at the North Springs MARTA stop along with another hiker from Canada, Alex. We drove through the commuter traffic to the Hiker Hostel for about an hour and half.
We first stopped at Walmart to pick up some dark glasses--lost my Rx ones along the way, alcohol for my stove, and a one liter bottle for extra water. When we left the store, it was pouring down rain so we waited for Josh to drive the van right up to the front entrance.
The hostel was just as we had seen it on line with a big covered porch with rocking chairs, log cabin design that was clean, comfortable and neat. Josh showed us our bunk beds upstairs to a room with just two bunk beds with a bathroom. They provided all of the linen as well as a full---really full---breakfast the following morning. The cost for the shuttles from Atlanta and to Springer Mountain the following morning, bunk bed with towels and bed linen, and a huge breakfast cost just $60.
One of our bunk mates was Peta from Germany who had just completed his final section of the Appalachian Trail who gave me a 16 oz alcohol container
We were surprised to see so many people at the Hostel. Many of them were here just to hike a few days and even do some slack packing on the AT during the day with a return by shuttle to the Hiker Hostel.
We arrived at the Springer Mountain parking lot at 10am and then hiked up a mile to the mountain top which is the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. We then headed back down following the white blazes on the trees that are abundantly marked.
The tread was usually fairly smooth except when heading up the frequent hills--they call them mountains here---where you find lots of rocks and roots. Many times the rocks are set up as staircases.
For the first two days the hike is like walking through a green tunnel with very few views of the rolling hills below. We finally get a view of the surrounding hills---they call them mountains around here---at Woody Gap.
We spent our first night at the Gooch Mountain Shelter---15.5 miles up from Springer Mountain-- which was a completely full double decker shelter, and all of the 15 or so campsites were full---a real hiker trash ghetto---- so we ended up setting up our tents on a slopped campsite----guaranteed to provide us with a restless sleep. No pictures here since we were so tired and disappointed with the crowds and our lousy campsites.
As we prepared our dinners, Yami and Kara both had hammocks so the sloping campsites did not bother them. We also met Reems, a 17 year old HS grad and Karen a Dr from Syracuse, and originally Seattle, who would meet up with us over the next few days and also hike with us.
We would meet up with all of them frequently as we made our way to our second night at the Mountain Crossing Hostel at Neel Gap---31.7 miles up the AT. It is a WPA building that the AT passes through. Look at the white blaze that designates the AT that is on the left wall at the entrance to the tunnel.
Kara, Yami, Reems, and Gary at the Neels Gap Hostel
The good news about this hostel is that they are a full outfitter so I was able to get a lightweight North Face rain jacket to replace the one I lost along the way.
This was a pretty bare bones hostel with worn out mattresses and bunk beds in a dank room with few amenities compared to the Hiker Hostel. At least the shower was hot and they provided a towel, but little else.