Come join the hardcore hiker crowd at the Appalachian Trail Kickoff -- better known as ATKO -- at Georgia's Amicalola Falls State Park over the first weekend in March. They'll help you learn and unlearn all that it takes to complete a hike of the AT from end to end.
Hoping to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail this year or someday? Slap on a T-shirt, a pair of blue jeans and work boots. Grab your heaviest backpack, camp stove, machete and frying pan and head to ATKO.
Sure, they'll begin by kindly telling you to ditch everything I suggested that you bring. No problem. That will leave plenty of room for the stuff you'll really need and will have the strength to carry for 2,189.2 miles
ATKO begins on Friday, March 6th at Amicalola Falls State Park, in the shadow (almost) of Springer Mountain, the beginning of the Appalachian Trail for northbounders (aka "nobos"). It's like grad school for hikers.
The ATKO website describes this hikers' conclave as:
The Appalachian Trail Kickoff is an annual event held at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia for the last 14 years.
"AT" experts, authors, vendors, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, hiking clubs & organizations and "newbie" and veteran hikers alike congregate in one place to meet, greet, educate and give the north-bound "thru-hiking" class of 2015 the send-off of a lifetime!
Not going to thru-hike any time soon? Come anyway. Pseudo-writers clog all the tables in coffee shops to look like writers. So, all wannabe-hikers are welcome to rub elbows with real hikers at ATKO, even if you're not heading out to hit the Trail with a plastic spork and a shower curtain.
Please Note: You will not want to rub elbows with real hikers at ATKO. They smell and they're dirty. Although, to other hikers, few scents are as pleasing as eau de Trail. Please bring disposable gloves if you must shake their hands. Thank you.
I'm not sure who you'll find at ATKO 2015, but last year David "Awol" Miller was there. If you give me $25, I'll ask him to sign a copy for you!
Friday, March 6th will be here before you know it.
Registration only takes a minute or two. Lodging will fill up too, so plan ahead. Rooms in the lodge, cabins and campsites are among your choices at Amicalola Falls State Park.
Come for the fun, the weirdly fun folks or for the wisdom of Bob Gabrielsen, aka: Sir Packs a Lot. One of his famous bon mots is "Don't quit on a bad day."
That will grow on you. Wise words to hike and live by on all kinds of life's paths.
You might be able to meet Morgan Sommerville, Regional Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and his crew.
Be sure to ask if they're offering any special deals for trail crew volunteers this summer.
Previous winners got free water in return for their time at the hardest job they'll ever love.
Whiners need not apply.
You are free, however, to come to ATKO and whine all you'd like -- with friends and strangers -- if you can't hit the Trail this year or anytime soon. We'll all understand.
ATKO isn't like going to a Trail festival or sharing hot wings with hikers. It's a happily intense and intensely happy time all about hiking the Appalachian Trail from hilltop to mountaintop.
Tags: Attractions, Events, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Appalachian Trail, Camping Gear, News, Appalachian Trail Conference, Appalachian Trail Festival, and Robert Sutherland Travel Writer
The latest Appalachian Trail season for northbound hikers unofficially began at ATKO 2014 at Amicalola Falls State Park.
Reserve the first weekend of March for ATKO 2017. Be with all your stinky hiker pals (they clean up pretty good) at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia.
ATKO 2015 -- the Appalachian Trail Kickoff -- was the perfect way to meet those who have trod the Trail & to meet new friends about to try for themselves.
The Appalachian Trail Kickoff (ATKO) is a type of Mecca for pilgrims who seek wisdom on hiking the Trail from end to end.
Doctor Grumpy Says Go to ATKO 2016! That's the place to learn about the Appalachian Trail from real hikers and to take a whack at the killer Approach Trail.
Hike up to Neel Gap on Blood Mountain on Saturday, February 28, 2015 for the Thru-Hiker Kickoff Party. Free gifts, fabulous folks, fancy fiddling and food!
You can hike the entire Appalachian Trail through the wilderness or you can drive from town to town partying at fun Appalachian Trail events. Choose wisely.
Appalachian Trail events take place from early March until September from Georgia to Maine. It's the best way to see the Trail without getting blisters.
We hope to see you at one of the 2014 Appalachian Trail events that take place all along the AT -- from Maine to Georgia.