Early in April I spent some time in Georgia, visiting my brother. Since I am not overly fond of hot weather, spring seemed the optimal time to go, so with temperatures near 70 I headed south. Unfortunately for the people of Georgia, I brought the cooler temperatures of Maine with me. I don’t believe the temperatures ever climbed above 65 during my entire visit and I am sure I heard a collective cheer from the inhabitants of that state as I boarded my plane back to Maine.
Knowing that I like to be outdoors, we headed an hour north one day, to visit Amicalola Falls. The park, where the falls are located, is the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail and I thought it would be rather fun to have bragging rights that I at least walked a small (very small) portion of the AT. Alas, it was not to be, for the trail to the top of Amicalola Falls is called the Appalachian Trails Approach. Note the word “Approach”. This trail runs 8.5 miles to the top of Springer Mountain where the AT actually begins. I thought that was a bit of a rub since there is a sign and a plaque at the visitor’s center boasting that Mt. Katahdin, Maine is 2108.5 miles away.
Disappointed that I would not be able to tell of my exploits on the AT trail, I was still determined to reach the top of the falls. From the visitor’s center, we began our hike on a boardwalk leading towards the Appalachian Trails Approach. Along the way, I noticed the red buds of Trillium and white foamflowers already in bloom.
Soon enough we crossed the road to continue our journey in the woods. The trail followed a stream before depositing us near the Reflecting Pool. As I gazed up to the top of the falls, I wondered how we were going to make it all the way up. I am not the sturdiest of hikers but I knew my brother was even less so and wondered if these two old fogies were capable of making this journey.
After taking some family photos, we continued around the Reflecting Pool towards the trail that would eventually deposit us at the top of the falls. At this point, the path began an upward incline, but since it consisted of broken down pavement, I found it more difficult to traverse than a dirt trail obstructed with roots and rocks. Once we completed this section, we were greeted by a sign informing us that we were about to ascend 175 steps. I am sure these stairs made the journey easier but it certainly seemed a bit strenuous at the time.
At the end of the stairs we crossed the observation bridge, noting how much closer we were to the falls. It was pretty impressive watching the water flow over the cliffs above. We continued our journey only to discover our hard work was not over yet. When we rounded a curve in the trail, we found another sign indicating that we were about to climb another 425 steps. Fortunately, we found that every 75 steps or so, benches were placed along the stairs (yes, I counted). The more steps we climbed, the more frequently we felt we had to stop, but we were determined to get to the top. Of course my niece had already made it to the top, turned around to meet us with about 100 more steps to go and joined us back up to the top. Oh, to be young and agile again!
Finally, after 600+ steps, we made it to the top. Here, we could absorb the sound of the falls, the early spring foliage of the region and the mountains in the distance. Beauty, only nature can offer. After studying the view (and recovering from our climb), we descended the 600 steps back to our car. My brother bragged about hiking 5 miles, but after studying the trail map, I knew we had only hiked a mile up to the top of Amicalola Falls and a mile down. I did not have the heart to tell him.