Strip of America

Trip Start Mar 07, 1997
Trip End Dec 25, 1998

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Where I stayed
Mountaintop Lodge

Flag of United States  , Georgia
Friday, July 10, 1998

Go with me? What's 2,015 miles long and goes up and down, up and down, up and down? Any hiker who has walked even a small portion of the Appalachian Trail will tell you it's mostly up. But what a grand strip of America!

It's so near we take it for granted, but we shouldn't. Completed in 1937, but not federally protected until 1968, this splendid retreat is within a day's drive of more than 125 million Americans, stretching from Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin in central Maine. The trail passes through 14 states, eight national forests, and two national parks.

Our nearest touchpoints are interesting places on their own. Amicalola Falls State Park is a marvelous stop for a day trip, overnight camping, or a week's stay in the mountaintop lodge. The falls are the highest east of the Mississippi (a nice brag) and the trout fishing is good. But best of all, here's where you find the Approach Trail to the biggie. It's an 8.5-mile hike to Springer Mountain. Uphill.

Did you know the Appalachian Trail has only one covered spot in its entire length? At Walasi-Yi, south of Blairsville at Neel Gap on Blood Mountain, the trail passes under a stone archway. Hikers can shower, attend to their blisters, and get supplies in the well-stocked store. Day trippers can browse the huge map-and-book collection and picnic on the stone patio of this 1937 structure.

We'll find access to the trail through North Carolina and Tennessee too - some easy to reach, near Franklin and Fontana; some more out of range at Sadie and Siam. My favorite entrance is Newfound Gap, straddling the states at elevation 5,048, on that winding road between Gatlinburg and Cherokee. Bring boots and bandaids. See you there.

Amicalola Falls State Park, Georgia, Gateway to Appalachian Trail
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