Appalachian Trail Kickoff Event at Amicalola Falls
As most AT (Appalachian Trail) hikers know, Amicalola Falls is one of the names that resonates deep within the psyches of AT hikers. This is where the Appalachian Trail begins. To be perfectly concise, the AT begins at Springer Mountain, which is several miles further up on an approach trail (If you ask me, the AT should begin at Amicalola Falls).
In any event, Amicalola Falls is the logical place to have a seasonal kickoff event for the great annual migration northward on the AT. All Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, from whatever year, vividly remember arriving with excitement and trepidation in this area. In recent years, there has been an outstanding event the first weekend of March to mark the beginning of the season. But it had an incoherent name. Now, Lauretta Dean of Amicalola Falls, who organizes this event, has re-branded it the Appalachian Trail Kickoff (March 8-10). This only makes sense, especially as some thru-hikers choose to attend the event before heading off the very next day. The Pacific Crest Trail has a kickoff party that has been very successful in ratcheting up the hiker population.
The event offers two things: outfitters with clothing exhibits, and ex-hikers making presentations. Indeed, Winton Porter of Neel’s Gap Mountains Crossing Outdoor Center is always on hand, along with Travis Crouch of Dawsonville, Georgia. Presenters include Skywalker, author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail, as well as AWOL, author of the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker’s Handbook, as well as the trail narrative, AWOl on the Appalachian Trail, and Gene Espy, the second AT thru-hiker in 1951. Aspiring hikers can drop by and chat with all; indeed on Saturday evening there is a fireside chat in which both ex-hikers and future hikers can relate their most specific quirks, idiosyncracies, and thoughts.
I wish they had had it this event the year I had thru-hiked. It would have saved me a lot of anguish and poor equipment decisons, as readers of my AT narrative will probably remember. It is destined to become one of the marquee events of the outdoor community, along with Trail Days on May 17-19 in Damascus, Va. and the season ending ‘Gathering’ of the Appalachian Long-Distance Hikers Association. Surprise both ourselves AND yourselves by turning up this weekend at Amicalola Falls.
Bill Walker is the author of Skywalker–Close Encounters on the Appalachian Trail. He is also the author of Skywalker–Highs and Lows on the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as The Best Way–El Camino de Santiago.