I love good books, nice views, walking with family, delicious food, and talking trail.
Last year, I had the pleasure to receive the book THRU: An Appalachian Trail Love Story by Richard Judy. Who knew the little package in the mail would lead to my first visit to the Appalachian Trail.
What really intrigued me at first is that 100% of the proceeds of the book THRU go directly to the Appalachian Trail Museum. The author Richard Judy was one of the first hikers to thru-hike the AT. He southbounded the trail in 1973 with the trail name, Peregrine. Also, he is the board president of the small nonprofit overseeing the Len Foote Hike Inn. The Hike Inn is located 4.5 miles south of Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. The Hike Inn is dedicated to the mission “protecting Georgia’s natural resources through education and recreation.”
If that wasn’t enough to perk my ears up, Richard is a follower of Lady on a Rock and left a very enticing blog comment with an invite to come and visit the Hike Inn. Last Thanksgiving break, we flew to Nashville to visit my son, Grant (many of you know him as Silly Chili) where he is working as an ICU Pediatric Nurse at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital. The perfect opportunity opened up.
Rockin’s Thoughts on the book THRU:
First off, this is NOT your ordinary tale on the trail. It is about a very interesting group of fictional characters hiking the Appalachian Trail that come together to form the “Bly Gap Gang”. The book is written as a series of journal entries from each of the gang’s point of view. I think this is what makes the book different, along with the fact that clean romance is sprinkled throughout the book.
Given the style and format of the book, I found that I wanted to savor the funny, painful, heartbreaking, joyous and scary events and did not rush through the book. It was uplifting to look forward to reading what the group was going to do next and who was going to end up with love. I even took notes to keep all the characters and their trail names straight. As a newbie to the AT, I appreciated the handy and helpful AT map included in the book.
With no experience hiking in the United States east of Colorado, I was intrigued by the contrast of the AT. I loved that Richard added throughout the book factual background on plants, AT history, and hiker trivia along the way. In my mind, I climbed those mountains, drank the water, trudged through mud, leaned into the wind, and triumphed.
I found the book entertaining and educational.
I give this book a double thumbs up. Heck, the read even put the Appalachian Trail on my radar for upcoming adventures.
Day 1: Visit to the Len Foote Hike Inn
After cruising and site-seeing around Nashville, we headed to Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia. A couple weeks before our visit, I contacted Richard letting him know we were actually heading to the Hike Inn. He offered to meet us there to visit a bit, which was more than I had hoped for. He drove up from Atlanta to meet us on the trail the day before Thanksgiving. With his family visiting for the holiday, it was quite a sacrifice on his part.
The hike to the inn can be started from the bottom of the falls (5.5 miles) or from the top of the falls (4.5 miles). Leaving from the bottom includes 604 stairs. My group, of course, not only hit the stairs, but raced to the top. The rest of the trail from the top of the falls is gentle and designed for families to reach the Hike Inn on foot.
As we were nearing the Hike Inn, Richard Judy and Corinne, manager of the inn were coming up the trail. I immediately bombarded him with questions about his book, “Are one of the characters really you?”, “Really? Why did you end the book with obvious unfulfilled romances?”
Richard and I had a chance to chat a bit about life, family, and hiking before he headed home. It was really special.
Guests at the inn experience sustainably designed buildings, solar panels, rainwater harvesting, composting toilets, hot showers, comfortable rustic rooms, family style dining, and after dinner educational programs. The inn is open year round.
As my family entered the inn, David “Silky” Sullivan and his wife immediately recognized Stealthy from this summer’s PCT blog entries hiking through Washington. It is always fun to meet readers in the real world. Silky and I had fun trading gear ideas and thoughts.
Our after dinner program was presented by Leigh “Star Crunch” Rothermel. She gave an informative, beautiful, and entertaining presentation of her 2015 AT thru-hike. I loved every minute.
Star Crunch is part of a new program to get kids involved with the Appalachian Trail and the outdoors. The aim is to connect 2016 AT thru-hikers as ambassadors with several schools. Jackpot!!!! Her enthusiasm was just what I needed to give this year’s tHInK outsidE class a boost. I am looking forward to sharing ideas with Star Crunch in the future. To follow and support their program visit AT Ambassador to the Schools or on Facebook.
Day 2: Thanksgiving Day – Hike Inn to Springer Mountain
After an amazing sunrise and a delicious family style breakfast, we headed up to Springer Mountain. I have always been intrigued by so many things about the AT and wanted to make sure I saw it all first hand:
In shelter food hanging contraptions
Outside food hanging apparatus
Hills, lots of them
Trees and more trees
Rocky trail with tree roots
Trail with crunchy leaves
Tops of mountains with limited views
The AT did not disappoint.
After a great hike, we neglected to plan for dinner, much less Thanksgiving dinner. On the 4 hour drive back to Nashville, pretty much everything was closed. We pulled into town hungry and desperate. Google helped us by finding a grocery store that was open and closing in 10 minutes. The four of us hit the entrance sprinting as a worker informed us we had 10 minutes. Teamwork at it’s very finest. Dinner complete with appetizers, main meal, and dessert.
A Thanksgiving to remember.
- View all photos from this trip on Flickr