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Dont trail behind this hiking season
Amicalola event covers everything hikers need to know before setting out
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Appalachian Trail Celebration and Backpacking Clinic

Where: 7-9 p.m. March 2, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. March 3, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 4

Where: Amicalola Falls State Park, Dawsonville

How much: $5 parking

Contact: 706-265-1969

Spring is on the way, and many folks are making plans for the warmer weather.

If your spring and summer plans include a hike on the Appalachian Trail, you should beat feet to Amicalola Falls State Park this weekend for the Appalachian Trail Celebration and Backpacking Clinic.

For a 10th year, the celebration and clinic is being hosted to educate hikers and give them a chance to mingle with other like-minded outdoor enthusiasts.

The event will feature a slew of vendors who specialize in any and everything hikers will need to make the trip, according to Amicalola Falls State Park interpretive ranger Lauretta Dean.

"A big thing that people don't know about sometimes is what to pack, and how to pack your backpack," said Dean.

"It's a good way to find out what you'll need. Even experienced hikers may find themselves saying ‘I never thought of taking this or needing that,'" Dean said.

Vendors from REI, Appalachian Trail Wilderness Guides, North Georgia Mountain Outfitters and several others will be on hand to display products and give hikers an inside look at gear and supplies.

Aside from vendors, hikers can find entertainment and be educated by several authors who document all things "AT."

Author David Miller, who is responsible for updating the all-inclusive "Appalachian Trail Guide" on a yearly basis, will be there as well, said Dean.

Other notable authors include Gene Epsy, who made the first complete Georgia-to-Maine trip known as a "through-hike" in 1951, and "Walking with Ghost Hikers" author J.R. Tate, who is a noted AT historian.

Dean said Friday evening would be the welcoming for the event, with clinics going on during the day on Saturday.

Saturday evening will feature a virtual campfire where hikers can get questions answered and just enjoy mingling.

"This weekend is really just a celebration of all things Appalachian Trail. It's a much talked-about event in the hiking circles, and it's starting to get a buzz further up the trail," Dean said.

"We always hold it at the beginning of March, since that's when most people (through-hikers) start. A lot of folks come to the clinic because they want to see what's new and talk to each other before they hit the trail. It's a really good idea, for both novices and experts," Dean said.

The clinic and celebration starts with a 7-9 p.m. block March 2. Saturday, March 3, is jam packed with events going on from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday, March 4, activities begin at 9 a.m., and the event winds down that afternoon at 4 p.m.

Dean said the event is always popular. Unfortunately the campsites are already booked, but that the event is still open to anyone who wants to participate, he said.

The Appalachian Trail Celebration and Backpacking Clinic is free to attend, with a $5 parking fee per car. For more information, call the park at 706-265-1969.