When was the last time you were so excited about something, you could barely sleep the night before? This was me. I was anxious and elated to be attempting my longest backpacking trip ever and putting miles down on a state I’ve never hiked in before. So excited, I managed to turn my alarm off that was set for 4:45 AM to prepare for the airport. Luckily, my dad woke me up at 5:15AM and we were headed out the door within the next 15 minutes. My flight was at 8:00 AM(PHL) – 10:15 AM (ATL). My shuttle was set for 11:30 AM.
Once I arrived at the airport, my nerves were still a problem. I was nervous about flying with my backpack. I was concerned I had left something in there I shouldn’t have and it would get confiscated or even damaged. For those who have never flown with a backpack, you can’t bring any type of pepper spray or a fuel canister for your stove in either bag. In your checked bag, you must keep your trekking poles, pole tents, pole stakes, and knife. Basically, anything that is sharp or can cause harm to someone else. In my checked bag, I had to have my portable battery charger and lighter on me.
Upon walking up to the American Airlines employee, I had asked if there was a bag they provided that I could wrap/ protect my backpack in. I had heard some airlines would offer you the clear bags used for car seats or strollers. American Airlines did not offer me one. Thankfully, I had a plan B. I stepped off to the side, tightened all my loose straps and tucked them away. I proceeded to take out a large compactor trash bag and wrapped my pack in it, looping it through the handle, so the tag would still show. The bag loosely fit around the pack and I was again concerned it was going to get stuck in a belt and rip. Luckily, this did not happen either time!
After the flight and train ride to baggage claim, I grabbed my trash bag covered backpack off the belt, quickly inspected it, stowed the trash bag in my carry on bag, loosened the straps on my pack, tossed it on my back, and headed to fill up my two water bottles. Being in communication with my shuttle driver (Richard), I anxiously waited (in the wrong pick up location) for my shuttle driver until I realized we were in opposite terminals to be picked up. Realizing what I had done, I headed back in to soon spot the canary, yellow vehicle.
Thus began the two-hour drive to Springer Mountain Parking lot. I’ll spare you the details of our conversation but we talked about previous journeys, jobs, wild hogs (which I knew nothing about), how they took problem bears on the AT and dropped them off near the Benton Mackaye trail, and swapped stories. As we did this, I rearranged my pack, put in my contacts, and prepared my rain gear. The road up to Springer Mountain wraps around the mountain itself and is a long 6-8 mile crawl to the parking lot.