AT Journal and Credits that Make My Head Bigger

First of all, I was chosen to be part of this
It’s with Noel Paul Stookey!

Second of all, here are some notes from my latest hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Second Section Hike – Dick’s Creek Gap/Hiawassee, Georgia to Winding Stair Gap/Franklin, North Carolina
Thursday August 30th to Sunday September 2nd 2012

Thursday August 30th – Drive from Beaver Springs, Pennsylvania to Franklin, North Carolina

“Headed down south to the land of the pine”…I’ve had “Wagon Wheel” running on repeat in my head for the past several days in anticipation of this trip. I just had to get in another section of the A.T. before next year. I’m eating a grilled veggie sandwich from a local place called the Hungry Bear. I bought a big bottle of microbrew from a gas station (an imperial IPA from Ska Brewing out of Durgano, Colorado). The liquor laws here must be haven for beer snobs.
I arrived here in Franklin around 6pm after driving from my parents’ place where I left Winston in their care. I trust he’ll receive plenty of catnip.
Everyone has a long southern draw (drawl?) here. The lady running the hotel office of this Budget Inn has quite a long one. When talking to her, I felt an impatience waiting for her to finish her dialogue. Afterwards, I realized that reason she hesitated after every question I asked her. I was speaking too fast. I’m the one with the accent. What a perfect sign to tell me to slow down, step by step. Follow the white blaze.
I prefer listening to talk NPR and talk radio on long drives. This means I heard a lot of coverage of the Republican National Convention. Switch to the AM and Rush Limbaugh is giving me heartburn.
My driver picks me up at 8am. Step…by…step.

Friday August 31st – Dick’s Creek Gap/Hiawassee, Georgia to Standing Indian Shelter in North Carolina

In my tent with my headlight on. I hiked about 5 more miles than I had planned for today. Just felt it. I wanted to knock out my long day first instead of saving it for the last day. That makes 17 miles today. Maybe just as many blisters.
Kathy, my shuttle driver, picked me up from the Budget Inn this morning at 8am. Sweet southern lady. She talked about her grandchildren. So I talked about my grandmother. She kept going back to “why” I would be a prison librarian. Maybe she was just worrying on behalf of my grandmother.
I only saw four people on the trail today. There was an older couple, a very fast young guy, and a middle-aged gentleman from Georgia. He stopped to talk to me after I was about 8 miles in. I could tell he was eager for human interaction and company. I obliged. We talked about gear, tough mountains, and food choices. He loves his grits. He keeps his food in used plastic coffee containers. That might be easier than a bear canister. I’m just hanging a dry bag this trip.
After setting up my tent a the shelter, another group of hikers came. There were three generations: grandfather (“Granddad”), father/uncle, son, and niece. Incredibly sweet folks.
I burned my tongue on my dinner as I needed to get something in me before the sun went down. Took some ibuprofen. Didn’t get a chance to play guitar. Maybe over breakfast.

Saturday September 1st – Standing Indian Shelter to Big Spring Shelter, 14.5 miles

The grandfather of the group at the Standing Indian Shelter was so happy to have met a woman hiker in order to show his granddaughter, Sarah, that other young ladies are on the trail. I posed for a picture with 13 year old Sarah for her to take home as proof of her safety to her parents on behalf of “Granddad”. I shared a few tips with her on safety and hygiene. They gave me a strawberry muffin, which was like pure sugar that I added to my oatmeal.
I did 4.5 miles in about 2 hours due to the easy terrain.
Going up Albert Mountain was the toughest terrain I’ve ever come across on the A.T. Many times I was thankful for my trekking poles. It was the bouldering. There is nothing so confidence boosting as pushing yourself beyond what you think you are capable of doing. No limit. Maybe it’s simply masochistic.
When I stopped at Betty Gap, I turned on my phone and found cell service. There was a voice mail message from Liz at Music2Life. I’m selected to perform for the songwriting workshop. My pack felt lighter after that.
Sounds like a storm is coming here at Big Spring Shelter. The group with young Sarah showed up! I’m impressed and proud that they made it so far and only a couple of hours after me. Quite a trek. I’m also glad to be ahead of schedule so I can see my niece and nephew when I get back to Pennsylvania.
I met four guys at the Albert Mountain lookout. They helped me take a picture and talked about what it was like to solo hike. One man, Rick, about my father’s age told me he was impressed. He has four daughters and knows it can be risky. I don’t know. Living is kind of risky in general.

Sunday September 2nd – Big Spring Shelter to Winding Stair Gap/Franklin, North Carolina

It thundered and they sky came through on its threat Saturday night around 8pm. Just enough time for me to stick my guitar and pack in my tent. I sat in the tent reading until I felt exhaustion sink in. 31 miles in two days. 35 pounds on my back.
I need to remind myself that I am writing this Monday afternoon. I left the trail after a quick 9 miles on Sunday. Ahead of schedule. Don, John, Sarah, and Tyler offered to give me a ride to town should I wait for them at the road crossing. I ended up calling Kathy for a shuttle back to my car. I drove 10 hours through the night to my parents’ place.
I saw only two people on way to Winding Stair Gap. While the rain ended by around 11pm Saturday night, leaving my tent relatively dry with the breeze, the leaves of the greener trees held onto the water, cradling it until the light breeze caused them to drop their puddles onto the trail, onto me.
My triceps began to ache with the hard movement and climb of my trekking poles. I got very lost in thought, helping me to almost reject the pain. I can certainly see how one would want to live on the trail. Like any religion, it is a “way”. It gives one the impression that she is going her own way. Quite the opposite. You are free, but from what? Not everything. Your life is simple. You follow the white blaze. That’s it. It’s not your own way, though. Someone has blazed that trail for you…and others. Your boss is the weather. Your body tells you how far you can go, if you listen to it. You get admonished: blisters, soreness, aches, damp/heavy equipment, meager food supply. But there is something about having everything you need on your back. If they could just dehydrate beer in a successful way….

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