AT Approach Trail Hike

The weekend before Thanksgiving, my family decided to go on a impromptu camping trip along the 8-mile-long AT Approach Trail to the top of Springer Mountain, which is the southern terminus for the Appalachian Trail.
Before this trip, I had never actually gone on a proper camping trip, so I was really excited to have the experience and spend a weekend outdoors, exploring the trails of Georgia.

The hike turned out to be interesting.  Which is code for: I thought I was going to die approximately 27 times.  Let me explain:

The hike started off beautifully: the weather was cool but sunny and we were making good time on our hike.
About a mile from the top of Springer Mountain, we begin to hear gunshots coming from somewhere in the distance.  I become convinced that some crazy redneck is trying to hunt us down.  That’s probably not what was going on but regardless, the fear was real.
We get to the top of Springer and it’s awesome: there’s a plaque for the Appalachian Trail and everything.  There’s also a piece of paper taped to a tree warning prospective campers that due to BEAR INCIDENTS, overnight camping on the mountain is discouraged.  We’re too tired to hike anywhere else and there’s quite a few others staying at the summit so we still decide to camp there.  I become convinced a bear is going to attack us in the middle of the night.
We set up camp and all is fine and dandy.  It begins to get colder, so we pile on the layers.  We have a fire and make s’mores and all that good stuff and end up going to sleep around 7 because apparently everyone in my family is 85-years-old.  I wake up in the middle of the night and hear a sound outside my tent: obviously, I believe it is the crazy redneck from before trying to kill me.  I lay awake in fear for about 30 minutes before falling asleep.  The next time I wake up, I am convinced a bear is outside my tent, trying to get inside to eat me.  Somehow, I fall asleep again.  By the third time I wake up, I don’t even care if something is trying to attack me: I just don’t want to see it coming.  So I zip my sleeping bag up all the way and go to sleep for good.
The next morning, I stick my head outside and it’s like a winter wonderland.  Everything iced over throughout the night so everything is winter-y and peaceful and I feel like singing some Christmas carols.  Until I notice how cold it is.  We break down our campsite in about 10 minutes and realize our water is frozen so we can’t make breakfast.  We eat some mixed nuts and hike on.
About a mile in, my hands get so cold they burn and I have a meltdown because I remember that movie Everest and I become genuinely convinced that my hands are going to have to be amputated.  I am not as tough as I thought. My dad gives me his hand warmers like a true gentlemen and we carry on.
We stop once some of our water has melted to make some coffee and end up hiking the rest of the 8 miles back to Amicalola Falls on nothing but a protein bar and some mixed nuts.  Once we reach the end of the trail, we go to the lodge to stuff our face with the only vegan food available: salad (which wasn’t even vegan because there were bacon bits mixed into the lettuce).

And there you have it folks.  Even though camping at the end of November probably wasn’t the best idea, I still had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed my weekend with my family.  I can’t wait to go on another camping trip with them and share all of the adventures with you.

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Photo Diary: Harney Peak

A couple weeks ago my family traveled to Colorado and South Dakota for a family hiking vacation.  The first mountain we decided to tackle was Harney Peak in South Dakota.  Harney Peak is a beautiful mountain located in the Black Hills of South Dakota that shares a fascinating history with local Native American tribes and is still considered sacred Native American ground today.
The hike itself was between 7.5-8 miles and was no walk in the park, although it was insanely beautiful.  It was interesting experiencing the terrain and landscape of the Black Hills in comparison to the forests and mountains my family typically hikes here on the east coast.  If you ever find yourself in South Dakota, I would highly recommend hiking Harney Peak; the history of the peak and the surrounding areas is fascinating, and the views are spectacular.  It’s also fun to spot the local wildlife: we even saw a lone buffalo in an area near the peak!