First Section Hike – Springer Mountain, Georgia to Dick’s Creek Gap/Hiawassee, Georgia
Friday April 13th to Thursday April 19th 2012
Friday April 13th – 11 hour drive from Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania to Hiawassee, Georgia
If I am this drained from a long drive, then I can’t wait to be drained from an 8 hour hike in the days ahead. Staying at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee, Georgia. It’s simple and “clean enough.” It’s full of hikers, who, I’m sure, appreciate the free soap and ice more than I do right now. Tomorrow, I’ve arranged to be picked up at 8:00am for a ride to Springer. Can’t wait to get on the trail. Had my last fresh veggies for a while, in a sandwich with some beer for good measure. Watching some television in the room until I nod off. Some sort of Wilson Phillips reunion. I won’t miss that box.
Saturday April 14th – Springer Mountain to Hawk Mountain Shelter
Ron, my shuttle driver, picked me up at 8:00am at the hotel. I was ready. He told me that shuttling hikers is his passion. He chanced upon it during his day job as a forester. Ron witnessed a hiker getting ripped off for ride fare and had no cash left for food. Good guy. Told me about his cats, really his wife’s cats. They are fond of the Maine Coon breed. Made me think of and miss my guy, Winston. He dropped me at the closest he could to the beginning of the trail at Springer Mountain. From the parking lot, I hiked .9 miles south bound to reach Springer. Took some pictures. I met two Georgia Tech boys hiking for the weekend. We talked about external versus internal framed packs. To each his/her own we agreed. I turned around to hike back down and continue the 8 plus miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. Got to the shelter at about 1400 hours. My pedometer tells me I took 21,592 steps and traveled 8.52 miles today. It’d be a bit more a I remembered to reset it after I hiked the .9 miles to Springer. I’ve got to repack my weight somehow. My shoulders seemed to carry too much of the weight and not enough on my hips. I am already getting blisters. The sides of my big toes must rub. I felt “hot spots” for the last couple of miles. I got warm, but now I’m chilly with the wind blowing at the site. A group of two guys left not long ago and it seems as though a pair of young ladies are getting ready to leave, but they’ve been packing up since I got here and it’s now 1520, over an hour later. Not much time to get in miles today. I won’t lie. It was a rough first day, but I know how to stick it out.
Update in the PM – Army training helicopter just passed by! So low and close…and loud.
Dinner – Ate the whole pack/2 servings of green bean dinner, still got only maybe 1300 calories today with pop tarts, Clif bar, soup, some granola. More folks here at the shelter for the night now.
Sunday April 15th – Hawk Mountain Shelther to Gooch Gap Camp Site
First Sunday after Easter. Last night I heard the strangest bird. It was loud and had a very intricate mating (?) call that repeated every 5 seconds. It sounded almost electronic. Eventually, a mate returned its call and I heard it burst away. I learned it to most likely be an owl from overhearing the other campers this morning. Here come the bugs! I reached the camp site at Gooch Gap at about 1600. It was a slower but more enjoyable day of hiking. I spent a very mountainous 8 miles with Louis. He thru-hiked the A.T. in 1973 when he was 17 years old with his buddy in 110 days! That is super fast. He’s from Georgia but married a Cajun woman in the early ‘80s and moved to New Orleans. He’s testing the Georgia section in the hopes of gearing up for another thru-hike in 2013 for his 40th anniversary of the first one. Louis (I called him “Cajun Louie”) wants to lose some weight first, too. I feel bad in that I may have misguided him on the distance of a shelter. I know he’s capable of recovering. He thinks the strange owl sound last night was a way for the owl to scare the mice out into the open in order to hunt them. Sounds quite reasonable. The weather was a bit hotter today than it was yesterday. It may have been off the mountain. The morning breeze was nice. My pedometer tells me I walked 27,676 steps and 10.92 miles from Hawk. Tomorrow I’ll do almost 12. I think I’ll have some quinoa tonight.
Monday April 16th – Gooch Gap Camp Site to Blood Mountain Shelter Bull Gap Camp Site
Last night, I shared a campfire with Craig, a middle-aged sports photographer from Raleigh. I had met him while stopping for a break at Cooper Gap. Hope to see him down the trail. Last night I woke up with a hungry belly. I feel like I am eating enough, but maybe my body is trying to repair itself. I also heard the same kind of owl call last night, but not as close.
I ended up hiking past Blood Mountain shelter to Bull Gap camp site, which is 3.5 more miles than I had initially planned. I knew I would have been the only one there with the bears as I didn’t know of anyone else with a bear canister. Stopped at Neels Gap for a short time. Saw Craig there and Yellow Jacket, whom I had talked to in previous miles. Nice hostel, but I wanted to camp with less people. It’s just me and Corey here at Bull Gap. He is a 22 year old thru-hiker from near Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m in my tent with the rain coming down. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain through tomorrow. There is a chance. My feet are so very sore. I’m going to try moleskin tomorrow for a 10 mile day. My pedometer says 48,099 steps and 18.98 miles. I need to adjust it as it overestimates my mileage and makes me excited. Tired. Time for bed. Blood Mountain was the 1,000 Steps hike, only twice as hard and with 30+ lbs. n my back. Zzzzzzzzz
Tuesay April 17th – Bull Gap camp site to camp site just north past Low Gap shelter
Last night Corey and I heard coyotes yipping and quite possibly bears ranging around his food bag. Didn’t rain much on us during the day, but tonight we are tenting just off of Low Gap shelter. Right as I got my tent up, it began to pour. It let up for a bit, enough for me to get water and cook my dinner. I ate it in my tent as it began to pour, and now continues. I’m waiting to secure my bear canister. Another long day. The camp site we had planned on didn’t look to be safe from a washout in the rain, so we back tracked to this one. It’s supposed to rain into tomorrow, but I’m praying it lets up enough in the morning for me to pack up the tent. Feeling weak. Camping with Corey and another thru-hiker, Jim, a retired Army recruiter from Tennessee. Corey tells me his feet smell like Fritos. It’s not first time I’ve heard such a comparison to stinky feet. A few minutes later, he popped his head in my tent and with a melancholic face tells me “My feet are making me hungry.” On a better note, I just changed my underwear! Pedometer reads 35, 519 steps and 13.72 miles. Having bean and lentil chili. Scorched it in my JetBoil, but still tastes good.
Wednesday April 18th – just north outside Low Gap shelter to Tray Mountain Shelter
I had thought to change my plans today and get back to home a day later, forgoing an obligation with the arts council on Saturday. The rain, thunder, and lightning storms were horrendous last night and steady rain continued to fall throughout the morning. I resolved to pack up the drenched tent and leave by noon. Corey and Jim left by around 8:30am. After I got sick of waiting, I packed up in the rain by 10:30am and hit the trail for Blue Mountain shelter. My pace was so good, that I realized I could surpass the 7 miles at Blue Mountain and make it to my original destination of Tray Mountain shelter, 8 more miles up the trail. I met Bruce, a thru-hiker, along the way and Tree Trunk and his dog, Pearl, when I stopped for lunch at Blue Mtn. Bruce and I met an older, slow hiker in the fog who tried to convert him to the Hare Krishna beliefs. Bruce travels so lightly and wears Teva type sandals. Don’t think I could do that. Got to Tray Mtn. shelter at 1830, called for a shuttle to pick me up the next day at Dick’s Creek Gap to Hiawassee. Ate some instant potatoes and a Clif bar. Still wet, but staying in a shelter. I smell incredibly bad. Eleven more miles tomorrow. Pedometer reads 42,265 steps and over 13 miles. Still adjusting this thing. I shivered until I remembered my long sleeve Techwick shirt still dry in my bag. Genius.
Thursday April 19th – Tray Mountain shelter to Dick’s Creek Gap/Hiawassee
Writing from Super 8 Motel in Abingdon, Virginia. Pedometer reads 29, 572 steps and 9.37 miles, but I know that my final day was 11 miles. Sleeping in the shelter was easy, but another hiker snored as loudly as I’ve heard anyone snore. I got up around 6:30am and taped up my blisters on my feet with fresh tape and moleskin, packed up my sleeping bag, and made my oatmeal and coffee. Thru-hiker, Mark, is heading to Hiawassee as well, hoping to catch a ride to town with me. After talking with thru-hikers MegaMind and Queen Bee, I took off at around 8:30am. Aruil left shortly before sunrise with his headlamp on. He’s a many time thru-hiker from Lithuania, very fast. Mark caught up with me within a mile and we hiked the 11 miles to Dick Creek’s Gap together. He’s a former finance accountant from Nashville. When he turned 30, he quit his job and decided to thru-hike the trail. A great human being from what I could gather in our 11 miles of hiking and the previous night’s sleep next to each other in the shelter. We made good time today, so I called my ride, Joyce, to see if she could pick me up a half an hour earlier at 1400 instead of 1430 and take Mark into town as well. She called when I lost cell service to affirm both requests. We got to Dick’s Creek Gap by around 1345 and Joyce showed up to drop off another hiker. She’s a stereotypical “butch lesbian” with short hair and a single long braid. She drove us around Hiawassee for Mark’s benefit. Great lady with hilarious stories. Mark and I may hike some of Pennsylvania together when he gets there. I hit the road after I checked my oil having left my car in the Budget Inn’s lot. Stopped at a Super 8 in Abingdon, Virginia for the night. The shower felt great. I doctored and popped some blisters on my big toes. Bought some self-made six pack of microbrews, an Amy’s bean burrito, and some pretzel M&M’s from the nearby grocery store. Tired, but high on the trip. Thought I was hungry but I think my stomach has “shrunk” so to speak. Traffic, television, and microwaves seem so strange even after six days. Just started break in my “thru-hiking feet.” Not this year. Some trying days, but what a spiritual path. God is good.