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Take-aways from my first time on the Appalachian Approach Trail.



 I did the Appalachian approach trail from Amicalola Falls to Springer this weekend. Awesome trip and learned, I think, some pretty cool stuff. Going to try to do a brain dump before I forget.

- You can't park at the top of Amicalola Falls overnight. I had planned to skip the 604 stairs to the top of the falls and just start on the trail. I found out when I registered this isn't an option. So, hitch a ride or do the stairs.
- The stairs suck, especially as a prelude to the trail.
- It gets dark faster than you expect it to on trail.
- It gets colder than the weatherman says it will on trail.
- Water is always downhill. Usually, WAY downhill.
- This is the "biggest" trail I've done so far. It's only about 10 +/- miles (I believe 8.3 from Amicalola to Springer plus the walk from the long term parking to the arch and then .9 from Springer to the parking lot), bit it's a completely different kind of trail than I'm used to (or I expected).
- I routinely do Pine Mountain and have gotten pretty comfortable doing both loops (about 4.9 miles with 1,390 feet of elevation gain) in about 3 hours with a light day pack.
- I've done the Gahuti trail a couple of times, an 8 mile loop with 1,551 feet of elevation gain that, like the approach trail, is rated as hard.
- Based on those, I figured the approach trail would be a challenge but just another trail. That wasn't quite the case, it was harder than I expected but an awesome hike. The tougher climbs were rewarded with more spectacular views than I've seen on any other hikes.
- I saw a LOT of people on trail, even past what I call the 1 mile barrier where most folks tend to fall off. I met folks all along the trail this time.
- On trail, they don't laugh if your pants fall off. Just in case that's why you were afraid to go, the trail is apparently a safe place for things like that. Don't ask me how I know. 🙂
- Everyone that I met on trail were pleasant. Sometimes just a passing 'hi, enjoy your hike" or sometimes actual conversation. Everyone was pleasant though.
- I met white people, black people, asian people, Indian people, Hispanic people, just about every demographic I could think of. No one seemed to care who I was voting for, what I thought about anything that's been hyper politicized, we were all just humans out enjoying God's country together. That was pretty awesome. I wish we could do that off trail.

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6 Replies

@nathanuthat's pretty funny!

This time of year, biggest non weather issue you'll have is finding enough 'deadfall' for a small campfire, since areas like that are pretty much picked over by now.

But we need to set a good example and never cut living stuff for fires.  And I personally don't mind gently confronting folks taking an hatchet to a low branch (no death wish)

REI Member Since 1979

@PhilreedshikesI'm the same way about cutting down trees, but I fear my motivation is more selfish (I'm too lazy to carry the hatchet onto the trail and, once I get to where I'm stopping, I've barely got the go-juice left to drag the wood to my campsite, much less cut it down). 

That said, there was a good bit of deadfall around.  The little pile that you can see to the left of my fire was from two small trees that had been knocked down from a falling larger tree.  Also, lots of small twigs and branches lying around for kindling.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@nathanu love, love, love this update - thank you so much for circling back and sharing!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.


Great write up! Thanks for sharing with us here in the community. I see you took your hammock out again, is that working pretty well for you? Any other things you've learned about hammock camping?


At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-JohnJ yes, took the hammock and used the underquilt for the first time.  Getting better at it and was surprised at how warm I stayed .  I literally had no idea how cold it was until I got out.  The underquilt is one that I got from Amazon for $60+/- that was rated for 40F and my bag is a Nemo Tempo 20 from REI. 

I used my closed cell foam pad as a Swiss Army Knife (sit pad, place to keep my shoes under the hammock and stand, etc).

The only thing I'm still struggling with is what to do with my pack.  I had some leftover Tyvek from a footprint project from a while ago.  I tried to make a little "house" for my pack but it was basically a fail.

I also swapped outy Gregory Paragon 58 pack for an Osprey Atmos 65AG.  I love the stow and go trekking pole holder and the huge hip belt pockets on the Osprey but I'm not sure which I like better overall.  Will probably take the Gregory on the next trip and just alternate a bit to try to figure it out.  Both are awesome, just not sure which is awesome-est.

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

I've been hammocking for several years. Would never go back to a tent. I can always stake out a shelter on the ground with my tarp if need be. I normally just put my pack under my hammock and if it's raining, I wrap it in the trash bag I carry with me. I froze my butt off in my hammock trying out cheap solutions for underquilts, and found UGQ. I haven't slept cold since. Interestingly enough... I took my grand daughter with me a couple of years ago on a 6100 mile motorcycle trip. Went through 19 states, and the only place we had to make a shelter on the ground was YELLOWSTONE!! LOL