Thursday, August 8, 2013

(Almost) Long run on the (almost) Appalachian Trail

We were in northern Georgia for the weekend so I had the luxury of doing my Saturday training run on the Appalachian Trail.  Or at least, kind of the Appalachian Trail.  As I learned from Janette, a friend of a friend, before I got there, the southern end of the AT is actually in the middle of the woods.  The only way to/from it is a roughly 8 mile trail that starts from Amicalola Falls State Park.  (It seems logical to me to just include this trail as part of the AT, but never mind...)  So, technically, most of my run was on the approach trail, with just a few miles on the AT itself.

I didn't have much time to run Saturday morning so I left the hotel bright and early at 5.  I made it to the trailhead at 6, which is when I learned my first new piece of information about the area:  it doesn't get light until 6:30.  No, I didn't have a headlamp.

I hung out at the car for 20 minutes and then decided there was enough light to at least be able to walk.  Within a few minutes it was light enough to run.

Only a few miles to Maine then

Amicalola State Park is centered around a very beautiful waterfall.  Janette had explained to me that I probably wanted to park at the top of the waterfalls, but I failed to take heed of that and parked at the bottom.  That made my first mile and a half straight up the steep hill, though it was worth it for the view:

After the waterfall you finally get on the approach trail proper.  From there it's about 7.5 miles to Springer Mountain, which is where the AT actually starts.  It was GREAT running the whole way:  just the right amount of hills, a nice mix of technical and non-technical parts, and really not very hot for how you would imagine Georgia in the summer (this section is between 3,000 feet and 3,700 feet altitude, so that helps a fair bit).

I felt strong the whole way and had a hard time convincing myself to turn back when it was time.  Although I'd had 25 miles on the schedule, I couldn't fit it all in, especially with the delay to the start, so I had to settle for 20.  This was a little disconcerting; I only have two pre-Sawtooth long runs planned (this one and one on the 17th), so shortening one of them wasn't exactly ideal.  It was at least good to get some practice on rocky sections, but I probably could have done with a little more distance.

Another good part about this run was learning how friendly the local walkers and runners are.  Everyone I saw smiled and said hello and seemed to be really enjoying themselves.  How could you not, I suppose?  The trails were perfect.

The hills were deceptively big, though, and I was getting tired on a few of them.  Fortunately it turns out that trying to learn how to use your camera's self-timer is an excellent way to get a rest while pretending that you only stopped to play with the camera.

I might have a bit more work to do on learning to work the self-timer though:

About 8.5 miles into my run I made it to the official Appalachian Trail.  How could you not want to run to Maine when you see this?

Maybe someday...


  1. There is so much I want to do "one day" - the AT, PCT, CDT, JM, so many more...the thing is, when you have a partner, you need to account for his needs too, and while I plan to semi-retire soon (a.k.s. work part-time on my own terms), someone needs to maintain an income job and an leaving for long periods of time are not visible. to dream though!

    1. Yeah, I think an AT thru run would have to be a post-retirement adventure, which is a shame because I would love to do it sooner.

      Speaking of partners though, mine is off to run the JMT starting this weekend, so I guess that means I get a free pass to go run the AT sometime, right?:)

  2. I just watched a National Geographic documentary on the AT last night! I've never been to that part of the country and was surprised to see how beautiful some parts of it are. Sounds like a great trip, were you down there just to run or for something else?

    1. Oh weird! Good timing then:) Yeah it is definitely beautiful--everything is so green, and the mountains really are mountains. Somewhere like Asheville would be well worth a trip.

      I was down there for something else, but that is the subject of a future blog post...

  3. Looks like a lovely section of trail!

    1. And great Sawtooth training. Although I ran on the Duluth part of the SHT tonight and it *still* felt brutal. What is it about that trail that, no matter how good of shape you're in or how easy you take the pace, you still end up feeling like you've been beaten with a crowbar?

  4. It is unique in that aspect. The Duluth section has some brutal bits, all while remaining within city limits!

    It must be the special mix of roots, rocks and elevation change.