After a whirlwind few days home, I'm now writing from the last (quasi) comfortable bed I'll stay in for a while, at the Stratford Motor Inn, located about 20 miles from Springer Mountain (the start of the AT) in northern Georgia. As someone who could be coined a 'frequent flier' (not entirely to the extent of George Clooney in 'Up In The Air') I'm usually pretty seamless about the packing/rental car/hotel process, but these past few days were an entirely different story.
My normal packing is for 7-14 days at a time, and doesn't consist of everything I could ever possibly need to stay fed, warm, and alive against an altercation with a bear. Leave it to me to plan for a trip for a year and be running around the house 2 hours before my flight freaking out about where my new box of Burt's Bees Chapstick was.... Yes, this is real life. The bag was packed, toss-ups between how many insulating layers were needed were made, extra batteries, my GPS, knife, water filter, Chapstick... All thrown into my suitcase to be checked at the airline to keep my hiking backpack from tearing or being destroyed by baggage handlers. The Audi was dropped off at an exceptionally gracious friend's garage, where she'll slumber for a few months without me (the separation anxiety will be present for both of us, I'm sure), and my lovely end-of-year 2013 donations to the Internal Revenue Service were mailed, a record 13 days before they're due. Things were looking up. Airport was seamless, as it should be, seeing as that's at least one thing I'm good at. Once we got to Atlanta, I gave my dad the choice of what rental car we got. His selection of a new VW Jetta would turn out to be a curse, as the trunk release mechanism broke and it took multiple attempts at my crawling through the rear bench center arm rest to release the emergency hatch lever. Quite the experience... We seriously debated a crow bar.
We spent today running last minute errands to AT&T to transfer my cell number over from T-Mobile in order to have better service on the trail. For those who have my number, it will *remain the same* during my hike. We also stopped by Home Depot to make a clip-on camera mount for my Canon dSLR, and spent a bit of time organizing my pack. Weight is a bit heavy at just around 35lbs, but for the first time that's actually including a few days worth of food that we got at Wal-Mart last night. Oh how I've missed Wal-Mart SuperCenters of the South. Plenty of people-watching to do. After finishing up errands and a quick stop at iHop (is it spelled like an Apple product? I'm now doubting myself...) we headed an hour or so north of Atlanta to Amicalola Falls State Park where at the visitors center I signed into the Official Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker 2014 log book. I'm officially Hiker #920. I've joined the ranks. Per their statistics, 17% of those that start this year will finish.
We climbed the many many 'strenuous' steps up the 700' waterfall to a gorgeous vista and hotel/lodge where we soaked in the 75 degree sunny day before walking back down and finding our way to the Motor Inn. The roads around here are amazingly paved (unlike every single road in New England after this past winter) and are curvy, making me wish I had something a bit more peppy with a manual gearbox to drive. In all honesty, though, the local towns are quaint and gorgeous. Luscious green fields, falling-down and recession stricken barns, old cars, etc... I was saying aloud how it makes me feel like I'm in the History Channel show American Pickers. Being able to spend this kind of time with my dad before leaving I think is exactly what I needed to get me mentally prepared for what's coming, and I can't thank him enough for tagging along.
A lovely last dinner with just the two of us at Longhorn Steakhouse, complete with a 1/2 lb burger, a few Sam Adams Summer Ales, and the Sox beating the Orioles before they head back to open up Fenway tomorrow. Lights out at 2230hrs, it seems like the world's in decent shape for me to go to bed, and wake up tomorrow with quite the adventure ahead of me.