Appalachian Trail Georgia Start: Thru-Hike Blog Week 1 NOBO (Days 0-7)

Cindy Scott

Are you considering a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail? Perhaps you’re looking to get an idea of what lies ahead? Then you’ve come to the right place!

Hi! I’m Cindy. In 2022, my husband Barrett and I attempted and completed our Appalachian Trail thru-hike.

While on trail, I journaled every day. My goal has always been to have our entire AT thru-hike story up on this website for family, friends, and anyone else who may be interested in reading it.

If you decide to take on this endeavor, I promise you will be in for a fantastic adventure!

I am positive these recollections will demonstrate both how insane and yet also how motivated we were!

If you know us as flip-flop thru-hikers, let me start this story by saying we didn’t know at this point in the journey that we were flip-floppers. However, yes, this ultimately becomes an Appalachian Trail thru-hike flip-flop story.

At this point, though, we had done months of research and chose to go with a NOBO Appalachian Trail Georgia start, in April.

In hindsight, starting either in March or as Flip Floppers would have fit us better. But more on that later.

My advice on picking a route to hike the Appalachian Trail is to start as you wish. You can always adjust and reconfigure along the way!

👉 Click here for tips on figuring out where and when would be the best start for you. 👈
👉 And click here for advice on male and female thru-hiking gear. 👈

Okay. Let’s get into it!

Start of the Approach Trail: Day 0

April 4, 2022

What a bittersweet morning. We were heading off on a new, unknown, scary, and exciting adventure.

That first early morning, as I threw what I knew would be the last tennis ball to our dog until fall, I was sad.

I hugged him tightly and then ran back into the house to find the cat. I proceeded to squeeze the ever-loving shit out of her, begging her not to forget me or be mad at me upon return.

I then tried to twist the doorknob to the closet under the stairs one more time, ensuring all our possessions would be exactly where we had left them upon return.

I exited the house and went straight out to the patio. I grabbed the enormous blue pack that held everything I supposedly needed for my future life and walked toward my friend Tina’s truck, unable to look back.

We had handed our entire livelihoods over to our friends, whom I trusted and knew would take care of our recently purchased home and our pets. But I can’t say I didn’t feel scrambled as we began our three-hour drive south to Amicalola Falls State Park.

Looking at the guys in the truck, I couldn’t help but notice the childhood glee on their faces. They seemed to maintain some level of readiness, which I did not feel myself.

My husband and his childhood buddy Quigley (aka Jupiter) discovered via Facebook that we would all be attempting a thru-hike of the trail in 2022. After a Zoom meeting earlier in the year, we decided the three of us would at least all start together. Why not have one more?

We arrived at the Amicalola State Park Lodge at 1:45 pm, too early for check-in. So, we figured we would kill some time and travel down to the Amicalola Falls State Park Visitor Center to get our AT hangtags and register our hike. (We had also registered ahead of time with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy here.)

As someone who is generally an avid planner, I cannot overstate the rudimentary level of planning I did for this hike.

I didn’t want to read other people’s journeys until ours was complete. I was worried it would somehow influence my experience.

My research was so basic that I did not realize the visitor center was 604 steps below the lodge. 

I would quickly learn lessons like this and add each realization to my future toolbox of what I needed to think about when planning ahead for each day’s trek.

But for today, we were stuck with the stairs because the arch and the start of the AT Approach Trail were 604 steps away.

Tina insisted she at least drive us down before heading back. So, in front of the visitor center, we thanked her again for the ride and all of her future help, hugged, and said our goodbyes.

Once in the visitor center, we got tagged like cattle and went through a short seminar about the Leave No Trace basics.

They saved what we were most eager to do while we were there for last: a backpack shakedown.

The staff saw Barrett’s pack coming a mile away and decided he was priority one. Barrett will describe this incident for months to come as when he was “fat shamed,” but the truth is we both were carrying things we did not need.

We simply didn’t know what we didn’t know yet!

Barrett and I collectively shipped 11 lbs up the trail to the NOC. We figured that would give us time to assess whether we had made a mistake and needed those things back from the box.

appalachian trail registration central

Plus, sending all the extra food north of us would make the resupply we would have to do there easier.

Then the ranger started on my pack. “Girls and their clothes,” she said, simultaneously making me feel both judged and misunderstood.

In retrospect, they were very unbothered by my pack, and it got little attention. It’s obvious they’re looking out for packs of a certain weight. However, I’m not sure that’s the best method since I weigh about 100 lbs less than Barrett, but… whatevs.

Barrett’s pack would now start at a respectable beginner’s weight of 38 lbs. Mine was 30 lbs, and my fanny pack was 6 lbs. (Not sure how much Barrett’s fanny weighed.)

Honestly, at the end of the experience, we felt like just another drop in the bucket. Merely a few more people here to trample all over Georgia and then eventually give up and go home.

It was annoying but also motivated us not to quit and be those people.

Once that was all done, we were left with the 1.2 miles back up to the lodge.

We figured, hell, why come back down and start under the arch in the morning? Then we’d have to walk down here and back up!

So we took our nervous/excited pictures under the arch and began our journey on the approach trail one day earlier than expected.

appalachian trail georgia start - approach trail arch

I remember it being almost entirely up and that I was sweltering. I stupidly wore my fleece mid-layer sweater with nothing on underneath because I didn’t think I’d be hiking.

We slowly took ourselves and our “lighter” packs up the 604 stairs past Amicalola Falls and flocks of tourists.

Amicalola Falls on appalachian trail

PS: There is a shelter near the arch we could have stayed at instead. It’s worth considering if you don’t like the sounds of what I’m describing.

And with that, our first day was in the books! It wasn’t supposed to be our first day, but it ended up being that way, and we survived!

We cleaned up with wonderfully warm showers all around and splurged on a fancy “last meal” at the lodge buffet. The guys spent the evening enjoying the queen beds situated in front of some action flick. I stepped out and watched the sunset, taking pictures as it set behind the Georgia mountains we were about to head into, and then returned and climbed up into my queen bed loft, falling asleep with my Kindle.

Rain would be coming tomorrow, but we figured f*** it, we’ll be seeing rain for months. We went to bed, knowing tomorrow started it all.

  • Length: 1.2 mi
  • Total Ascent: 789.4′
  • Total Descent: 0′
  • Total Grade: 676.6’/mi

Completed: 0 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

0 %

Finish of the Approach Trail, Ending Slightly Past Springer: Day 1

April 5, 2022

The lodge lobby had a massive map of the Appalachian Trail, which must have been 15 feet high. I told Barrett I wanted a picture with it before we left.

appalachian trail map in the lodge at the start

An older man approached us as we stood beside it for our picture.

“You think anyone actually ever does the whole thing?”

“We’re gonna try!” I said.

Cindy, Barrett and Quigley hiking

Feeling a bit intimidated by the man and the 15-foot-tall poster, our hike started cold and drenched.

As Barrett would say, “We got dumped on.” And I’ve since heard other people from his area of the nation say the same thing. What a weird way to express being doused in rain, but I guess it’s solid.

I wrote that it was in the 50s on this day, but I remember it feeling closer to the 30s.

I shook, freezing in a shelter we paused at for lunch during the middle of the day. The shelter was packed with chatty guys. I was too cold for chattiness.

I instead pondered if we’d all make it. I also wondered if they were as cold as I was…

At one point, Barrett asked me if I would do him a favor, and I remember shooting him the glance of a frozen, murderous psychopath. 😬

What about me? I can barely move. Where is my favor?

Not my proudest moment, but I don’t handle being cold well.

Rainy days would become synonymous with landmark days on our hike, but we didn’t know this yet.

Day one radar screengrab

We hiked 8.3 miles that day, officially conquering the Approach Trail and ending just past the official starting point of the Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain.

Cindy and Barrett at the official appalachian trail georgia start

When we arrived at Springer Mountain shelter that evening, it was still raining. We bonded with others and waited out the rain in the shelter before setting up our tent.

I was still soaked and freezing.

I climbed into the shelter’s small, dark loft, convinced it might be warmer up there. I don’t know why climbing into cubbies makes me feel more comfortable, but it does. I’ve always loved small spaces.

When I was a kid, I used to dig out hiding holes underneath the structure of our playground to hide. And I don’t remember anyone ever finding me. It was peaceful there.

Eventually, we set up our tent, oh… I don’t know… maybe a quarter mile away from the shelter. Don’t ask why. Barrett felt it was the first flat spot permissible, but to me, it was insane.

We had survived the first two hiking days, and I started questioning what the actual f*** it was we were doing as I finally began to regain warmth in my sleeping bag, eventually falling asleep.

  • Length: 7.6 mi
  • Total Ascent: 2417.7′
  • Total Descent: 1190.6′
  • Total Grade: ~466.3’/mi

Completed: 0.2 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

0 %

Day 2

April 6, 2022

We woke up to a wet and foggy daybreak. A tiny snail was crawling down the side of our tent.

Snail on Tent

Yesterday was pretty gross. Everything was still soaked in the morning, and we couldn’t envision it drying out any time soon.

I made a quick video mental note this morning saying I completely understood people who quit at this point and go home.

After only two days, you’re already confronted with the long reality of what you’re in for.

In the video, I said I was “trying to keep spirits high and hike on.” This leads me to believe I was 100% questioning what the f*** we were doing, and it probably wasn’t just me.

Once the fog lifted, we had great weather that day, a welcomed reprieve after yesterday.

Cindy hiking on the Appalachian Trail

Along the way, we passed many rhododendrons, pine trees, and roaring streams and noticed tiny spring flowers starting to pop up.

Barrett hiking on the Appalachian Trail

A possible storm was looming throughout the day, but it never hit us.

I changed my clothes often because I could not figure out what to wear or when. I was still assessing that situation.

We took the last three miles slow. We ran into a woman who was having a hard time and was conflicted about whether she could accomplish the hike.

It was heartbreaking. She had all the proper gear and the dream. She was not someone who just decided to show up one day; she had planned.

We accompanied her to the next shelter, where we also called it quits for the day. We never saw her again, but others told us she got off the trail the next day.

We hiked 8.6 miles that day overall and had dinner with many others who were also starting out on their thru-hike.

That night, there were some reasonably intense thunderstorms. I slept through them mostly, but Barrett said the lightning was so bright and constant he had to wear his buff over his eyes.

At this point, I remember having nightly cocoa and quickly learning that evening cocoa almost always meant having to get out of the tent in the middle of the night to pee.

I don’t believe the cocoa nights lasted much past that realization.

However, on that particular evening, it was storming when I got out to pee. I waited for a slower pace of rain, jumped out of the tent, and tried to pee quickly so I didn’t have to sleep soaked for the rest of the evening.

As I crouched not too far from the tent, using my red headlamp to ensure I wasn’t peeing near someone else’s tent due to the density of people on the trail, I noticed two beady little eyes glowing up at me from the ground. That small salamander and I held eye contact the entire time I peed.

I finished, said goodbye to him, and went back to bed.

  • Length: 7.9 mi
  • Total Ascent: 1132.5′
  • Total Descent: 1631.9′
  • Total Grade: 349.9’/mi

Completed: 8.1 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

0 %

Day 3

April 7, 2022

We got hiking a bit earlier today than yesterday and made it another 9.2 miles down the trail.

One mile seemed entirely up. Otherwise, today didn’t seem too bad.

The day took us ~5.4 hours, so we’re hiking ~1.7 MPH.

We walked through some canopied trees and along some mountaintop ridges, encountered a few more stream crossings, and saw a lot of spring coming in overall.

Cindy hiking on the Appalachian Trail

Budding flowers and sprinkles of green were all around when we weren’t in the thicker canopied parts.

However, everything was still wet and gross, which made us eager to book a stay at the upcoming hostel, Above the Clouds.

We figured we could clean everything (including ourselves), get a warm meal, and spend a night inside four walls.

We thought we were getting a room with two twin beds, but to our surprise, we ended up getting our own little private cabin on the property! It was adorable.

Cindy and Barrett at their mini private cabin at Above the Clouds
Inside the mini private cabin

The hostel had a future SOBOer (Caddyshack) pick us up at Gooch Gap and bring us in.

While waiting, Barrett set up the two chairs he was still committed to hiking with, and we enjoyed some free beers from some new friends.

Once at Above the Clouds, we were spoiled. Nimrod made Chicken Parmesan.

Chicken Parmesan

We enjoyed homemade breakfast and dinner, chocolate, ice cream, some fantastic loaner clothes, a foot massager, wonderful fireplace conversation, and showers. They even did our laundry, and we made an adorable little kitten friend!

Cindy in foot massager
Cat at Above the Clouds hostel

While talking around the fire, we mentioned hating our sleeping mats, and Caddyshack told us about the Etherlight mats. I’ll discuss these further later on, but I wanted to note that this was the first time we heard about them.

😴 We went through a fair amount of sleeping pads on trail… Click here to read more about the one that actually ended up working in the end.

  • Length: 8.8 mi
  • Total Ascent: 1947.5′
  • Total Descent: 2286.7′
  • Total Grade: 481.2’/mi

Completed: 16.9 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

1 %

Day 4

April 8, 2022

I woke up bright and early to get some coffee from the hostel. Once I twisted the doorknob to enter, the cat came out of nowhere and ran inside ahead of my feet.

I spoke with Nimrod for a bit. We had an excellent brekkie.

Barrett and I then took a goofy morning GoPro video, which noted:

  • We’re still trying to maintain 8-10 miles per day.
  • Barrett hints that he really wanted us to be called Slow and Steady. (Looking back, those would have been pretty fitting names!)
  • Barrett also notes in the video that he’s starting to get blisters and has some “pretty serious chaffing.”

Once packed up, we got a shuttle back to the same spot we stopped yesterday.

Cindy, Barrett and Quigley hiking

We spent much of the hike on this day with our new “tramily” of friends, whom we kept crisscrossing.

There was a lot of conversation and laughter. I also remember a portion where I was in front, leading everyone, and it absolutely terrified me.

Tramily photo on the Appalachian Trail

I had one little trip along the way because I was hoofing it, trying to look speedy and cool.

We hiked 9.5 miles and had a great pace all day. (We even had one 22:53 split!)

It snowed a tiny bit on and off throughout the day’s hike.

Around 5:20 pm, it was ~40 degrees, and the weather said it would go down to 30.

We tucked our water filters into our sleeping bags so they wouldn’t freeze.

The wind was wild that night, making it feel much colder.

We had dinner around a fire that was doing its best to keep going. I couldn’t finish the soupy bottom of my backpacking meal and told Barrett I was full.

Yogi heard me across the fire and asked if he could have it. I told him it was just the soupy leftovers, but he was low on food and didn’t care. I gave him the sad extras and then ran straight to the tent to hunker down in my warm cocoon.

This was also the first stop along the way in Georgia without a bear box, so the guys did the first PCT bear hang of the season with all our food and toiletries. It started to snow and hail on them mid-process.

  • Length: 9.3 mi
  • Total Ascent: 2130.9′
  • Total Descent: 1649.3′
  • Total Grade: 404.9’/mi

Completed: 26.2 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

1 %

Day 5

April 9, 2022

It ended up going down to 28 degrees overnight and snowed.

Today was a shorter day, 5.2 miles in all.

However, we did climb the “first big mountain” in the snow and in temperatures in the low to mid-30s.

Cindy and Barrett hiking the Appalachian Trail

When I say “first big mountain,” I mean the first big fearmongered mountain. There was a lot of trail talk about this dreaded Blood Mountain.

(I learned in the end that they’re all just that, mountains. Don’t let people get in your head. If you want to do it, you’ll do it.)

Barrett and I both used the Blood Mountain mountaintop open-air privy in the snow. It was cold.

Snowy privy on the Appalachian Trail

There was no view atop Blood Mountain – just tons of gray and snow.

Cindy and Barrett in the snow on the Appalachian Trail

However, on the walk down, for a few moments, the gray lifted, and we could see mountains.

Foggy view on the Appalachian Trail

We started at 3250’ in elevation, then hiked up to Blood Mountain shelter at 4457’, and then ended back down at 3125’.

Then, at the bottom, we hit Mountain Crossings. This is the first significant landmark on the trail (except for Springer).

It serves as a store that cooks frozen pizzas for you upon arrival for $8. It’s also a resupply stop, a gear store, a shipment center, and a spot that provides gear shakedowns.

We had been here before during RV life and saw hikers sitting and eating pizzas in the store. After seeing that, Barrett really wanted that experience, so he immediately walked in and ordered himself a Red Baron Supreme.

Barrett with pizza at Mountain Crossings

Post-pizza, we checked into the Bobcat cabin at the nearby Blood Mountain Cabins with Quigley and Yogi.

Blood Mountain Cabins

Tomorrow will be our first zero day.

This evening, on what was shaping up to be another below-freezing night, we enjoyed indoor warmth, satellite TV, a fridge, stove, shower, bed, and laughs.

40.1 miles hiked in total now, including the Approach Trail.

  • Length: 5.1 mi
  • Total Ascent: 1360.9′
  • Total Descent: 1546.3′
  • Total Grade: 574.2’/mi

Completed: 31.3 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

1 %

Day 6

April 10, 2022

Our first zero day!

The day started with making a hiking plan for the next few days.

I then watched two mid-30-year-old men attempt to teach a 25-year-old man about the 1990s.

After that excitement, the rest of the day consisted of resting, resupplying, swapping some gear (we sent a few items home and bought a few new items that we thought would do the job better), and washing clothes.

We finished the day enjoying food and drinks with new hiker friends in another cabin, including a bit of afternoon trail magic from Radio Mojarra listeners Familia Gonzalez Galarza. They filled us up with delicious, homemade, authentic Mexican food.

Food with Tramily at Blood Mountain Cabins

It was here a hiker named Shaggy said, statistically, only 25% of people finish. There were eight of us in the room, and he wondered who the two would be to finish. (Over half of us ended up completing the hike, so I guess we were a good sample!)

On the way out, a trail friend, Hugo, gave us extra tamales, which he called Mexican power bars.

Our room in the cabin had no working lights or plugs, but life was good, and we both felt ready to hit the trail again the following morning.

  • Length: 0 mi

Completed: 31.3 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

1 %

Day 7

April 11, 2022

Cindy at Mountain Crossings on AT

This morning, we got up and out of the cabin around 7:30 am. Overall, this was the first day that the trail felt like what I expected it to feel like this time of year.

Cindy and Barrett on the AT

That’s mainly because it was a beautiful day of hiking along mountain ridges with epic mountain views, fantastic spring weather, and many ups and downs.

Cindy on the Appalachian Trail

We walked 11.8 miles, climbing 2976 feet in total and descending 2956 feet.

Midday, we came across some happily received trail magic from a man named Roy, gifting thru-hikers water, bananas, apples, and oranges.

Trail Angel Roy with Trail Magic

When I saw Roy, I instantly got emotional. I think it’s so incredible that people take time out of their days to gift hikers with treats.

One more thing that contributed to making this day feel “as expected” was that, at this point, we were 100% engulfed in the “AT bubble.” Now that the weather is nice again, everyone is hoofin’ it up north! There must have been at least 40 tents set up around the shelter spot we were at that evening.

Overall, it was a lovely day, and we’re moseying right along.

This evening, a man played a guitar at the shelter. Falling asleep to his music was very peaceful.

We ended this day at mile 42.7.

  • Length: 11.4 mi

Completed: 43.1 of the AT’s 2194.3 Miles

1 %

Read more:
👉 AT Thru-Hike: How Long Does It Take to Hike The Appalachian Trail?
👉 A Complete Appalachian Trail Gear List: Realistic Packing for an AT Thru-Hike
👉 How to Plan a Backpacking Trip in 16 Easy Steps