On a mission to hike our 14th of 14 AT states, Hannah and I fly to Atlanta to hike the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain, Georgia this first week of October. This flying Saturday is problematic as Hurricane Joaquin is off the coast but pumping up to 20 inches of rain into nearby South Carolina. As it turns out Delta never blinks and gets us to Atlanta ahead of schedule.
No truer words have been spoken than Delta is ready when you are. I had no idea the new Delta has more space above the seats for carry-on luggage. Which is sweet for us who haven’t checked bags in ten years, even for two week trips to California. While ESPN beams from the TV in front of my seat for our 2+ hour flight, I think where would we be if we were driving to Georgia from Maine? Hmmmm, it turns out we’d be somewhere in Jersey, 850 miles from Atlanta.
As the biggest airport in the United States, Hartfield-Jackson in Atlanta has us walking long wide corridors towards the shuttle train that takes us to the rental car center away from the airport. Along the way we see a couple in their 50s holding hands laughing and sparkling; so in love with each other. Classic second marriage! So appreciative and happy at a second chance for the best that love can be. They remind me that we first marriage folks got to step up our games and exube (verb form of exuberance) our love day in and day out.
Surprised that there is no rain here in Atlanta when 100 miles away the deluge is inundating the Palmetto State, we start rethinking our plans for this travel Saturday. With just a light intermittent mist in the area, we learn that our need to hike can be satisfied just three miles from our Comfort Inn at the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Going from Kennesaw strip mall craziness to rural forests in a matter of ten minutes, we learn at the Visitor Center that it’s a 700 feet elevation gain over the first mile of the trail to the top of Kennesaw Mountain. Checking the Weather Channel app on my iPhone, I learn that the chance of precipitation over the next two hours is 30-40%. Dismissing these odds as the weather folk covering their butts, we forego our ponchos on this muggy 64F degree late afternoon. Please! What’s the worst that can happen? We get soaked within a mile or two of our car.
The ranger at the desk gives us an excellent detailed map of a six mile hiking loop. Sounding perfect at 330P, the six mile trail will motivate us to maintain a steady pace on a day in these hills and mountains of Georgia, the home of our 39th president and humanitarian, Jimmy Carter.
On this Saturday the parking lot is nearly full of Georgians, a hearty lot, who have taken to the trails despite the threat of rain. As the mistiness begins, the hike to Kennesaw Mountain is a steady, rocky climb with many granite steps for our hiking pleasure.
Our one mile climb to the top of Kennesaw Mountain takes 25 minutes and we begin to wonder about the wisdom of hiking the entire six mile loop. In an act of maturity, which is no small feat for the two of us who think that a good day on vacation is hiking three to four hours, we opt for hiking just to Little Kennesaw Mountain, 1.8 miles into the 6 mile loop.
Hiking down to a gap between the two mountains and then up to Little Kennesaw Mountain with its still very rocky trail, we are feeling righteously smug that we didn’t choose to do the macho hike and be Les Miserables.
As we summit Little Kennesaw Mountain, the valley below opens up, but the mist we have had through much of the hike becomes steady light rain; we U-turn for the trailhead. In the light rain, I shoot this video of the trail to give you an idea of our afternoon in Georgia.
Surprised, that despite the rain, Georgians keep coming our way; we see couples, groups of guys, and single women not bothered by the steady precipitation. Three male runners are using this climb as a training workout; one young man with a full pack runs past us going up and then later coming down the mountain.
Meeting a couple just a few years younger than we are with their pooch, we learn that they hike this mountain every weekend. She adds, We aren’t gone to melt if it rains.
As we hike on back to the trailhead in steady light rain, we find we don’t melt either. And by the way, who knew 30-40% meant it actually could rain?
Travel tip – If you only carry-on luggage when you fly, consider requesting a seat in the back of the plane. In our experience, airlines load from the back after they board their high paying customers. By selecting a seat in the back and boarding earlier, we have a better chance to stow our bags above the seats rather than be forced to check them at the gangway and be delayed when we arrive at our destination.