March 6th and 7th, 2018
Well, after probably two or three years of talking about it and making plans, my friend and hiking companion, Wayne Garland, has finally set out on his attempted thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
Wayne is 70 years old and recently retired from a long and distinguished career as an EMT. In the months since his retirement, he’s done a lot of traveling and has already been to Europe, Guam, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Wherever he goes, he tries to hike some of the local trails. While in Europe, one of the notable places that he had hiked was the Black Forest in southwest Germany. The Black Forest is said to have served as inspiration for the Brothers Grimm as they wrote some of their fairy tales, including Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, and Sleeping Beauty. According to Wayne, though, the hardest hiking that he’s ever done was in Guam. In addition to the very steep terrain, the hiking was made more difficult by a proliferation of Sword grass. Besides being razor-sharp, the Sword grass was so tall and dense that it made it nearly impossible to see the trail, or even the other people that he was hiking with.
Now, back in the States, Wayne is tackling his next challenge; hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail from it’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, nearly 2,200 miles away. Wayne has a lot of experience and grit, so unless something unforeseen and beyond his control happens, I feel confident that he’ll do well.
On Tuesday, Pam, Jan, and I drove with Wayne from our homes in upstate South Carolina, to a gravel parking area near the top of Springer Mountain. From there, we were shuttled to Amicalola Falls State Park. After Wayne registered (he’s number 719 to register), we hiked the one mile from the famous and oft-photographed Arch, to the lodge. Along the way, we climbed 604 steps, gained about 800 feet in elevation, and got up close and personal with the park’s namesake waterfall.
After watching a beautiful sunset from the lodge, having dinner, and taking care of a few details, we went to our rooms and tried to get in a few hours of sleep. Wednesday morning, we were up bright and early, ate a quick breakfast, then set out on the Approach Trail towards the summit of Springer. The morning air was cold, with temperatures well below freezing. The wind blew hard on us the whole day, gusting to close to twenty miles per hour. Except for my hands and face, though, I was actually feeling fairly comfortably warm.
While not terribly difficult, the Approach Trail is no pushover either. It’ll definitely make you think twice about lugging a heavy backpack up and down mountain after mountain, mile after mile, day after day, for five or six months. Heck, it gave me second thoughts, and I’m not even the one doing the thru-hike, lol.
When we finally reached the summit of Springer, we spent a few minutes taking pictures, including pictures of the bronze plaque and of the first official white blaze, then hiked the one mile from the top back to our waiting vehicle. From there, we said our goodbyes to Wayne, prayed for his safekeeping, and watched as he headed down the trail alone.
If you’re interested in following Wayne, he’s going to try to post a daily update on his blog at https://wanderingswithwayne.wordpress.com.
As for me. I’ve compiled some of my photos and video clips into an eight minute “movie”. I hope that you enjoy it and thanks for viewing.