It took me the better part of three weeks to make a final decision on how best to get from southern Oregon to the Amicalola Falls Visitor’s Center.
My first and most ambitious plan was to travel by train. I’ve taken Amtrak cross-country between Oregon and Boston twice, but each time I was on the northern route through Chicago. I thought it would be great fun to take the Coastal Starlight south to Los Angeles, switch to the Sunset Limited to New Orleans, then hop onto the Crescent to get to Atlanta.
For not much more than the price of a direct ticket, it’s possible to get a 15-day rail pass that allows for eight travel segments, so I plotted out a glorious two week extravaganza that involved visiting Hearst Castle, spending three days playing tourist in LA, renting a car in El Paso and driving to Roswell and Carlsbad Cavern, visiting Austin and having 36 unforgettable hours in New Orleans.
Doesn’t that sound like fun?? It totally does.
Which is why I’m still bitter it didn’t work out. When I was laboring under the misapprehension that my mother’s surgery was scheduled for the 21st of March, I thought I could wait for her to come home from the hospital, stay an additional two weeks until she was cleared for regular activity, and leave sometime between the 10th and the 15th of April. Even leaving as late as the 15th would still put me into Atlanta on on the 29th, and I could start the trail on April 30th. That’s a little late in the season, but I had already accepted I would need to leapfrog or flip-flop at some point. No big deal.
Unfortunately there was a miscommunication with the surgeon. Two days before what we thought would be the day of the surgery, we were informed by his receptionist that March 21 was actually just an office visit. At that appointment, it was determined some additional tests needed to be run, but they had to be done by a new doctor working out of a different office. After several weeks of back-and-forth phone tag, the test dates were finally nailed down for the first week of May. The results would take at least few days and only then could the surgical procedure finally be scheduled.
Yikes. By now it was already the 7th of April, so clearly that sweet train trip wasn’t going to be possible. At this point I decided my best option was to start the trail as soon as possible and have my parents notify me about the surgery date once it finally got scheduled, at which point I could arrange to fly back in time.
I did some frantic searching for affordable plane fares, bought a one-way ticket from Portland to Atlanta leaving the 17th of April and arriving the morning of the 18th, and did some last-minute browsing through the forums to see what my best shuttle option might be for transportation between the airport and the trailhead.
The Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega, Georgia, has received a ton of glowing reviews, so on the 9th of April I emailed them to see if they had any last-minute vacancies for the night of the 18th. I was honestly shocked when they said yes. They run a Thru-Hiker Special between February 24th and April 20th where, for $80, they will pick up up from either the North Springs MARTA Station or Gainesville, GA, drive you to a supermarket so you can buy supplies, give you a bunk for the night in a shared dorm, serve you breakfast, give you eight ounces of white gas or denatured alcohol for your stove, and shuttle you to either the Amicalola Falls Visitor Center or the Springer Mountain parking lot. That’s an unbeatable deal.
All told, it took me about 22 hours, door to door, to travel from my parents’ house to the Hiker Hostel. My parents drove 90 minutes to drop me off at the Eugene airport, where I picked up a one-way car rental from Budget and drove to the Portland airport. I caught the 10:15pm US Airways flight to Charlotte, switched planes, and landed in Atlanta at 9:12am.