17 years ago, on a spring-like April morning my dad dropped my friend and long-distance hiking buddy Bryan, aka. “Blue Cougar,” and myself off at the parking lot for Springer Mountain. At that point, I had hiked the northern half of the Appalachian Trail except for Maine, and I was ready to conquer the long green tunnel they call the southern half. I remember being rather unimpressed at the time having recently hiked the incredible White Mountains a few months earlier. After all, I’d grown up in Georgia and visited the area dozens of times as a child visiting Amicalola Falls and Dahlonega. At this point I was thinking, “let’s burn some miles.”

Fast-forward 17 years later. I’ve got a 10-yr-old that loves the AT, a 5-yr-old that is game for anything and a fearless 2-yr-old … all boys and all ready for adventure. So, I packed up the two oldest and we trucked it up the long forest road up to Springer for a quick overnight backpacking trip. This was the 5-yr-old’s first backpacking trip and it turned out amazing.

“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” — John Muir

It was strange how this time around, in anything but a hurry to rack up some miles I was able to thoroughly enjoy this iconic stretch of trail. The views at the top at sunset were outstanding of the valley below and Fort Mountain looming in the distance. We tented out by the shelter in a little grove of trees and gave the boys the full tour of the shelter, the bear cables, the spring and of course the privy. The privy is quite the object of wonder to a boy, especially the ones with open doors … and views to boot.

I’d love to thru-hike the trail again at some point but for now I get to slow down, savor the moment and teach my boys about backpacking. Hooray for the wilderness!


In the tent on Springer Mtn