Appalachian Trail journal

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Week Two: Leaving Georgia - entering North Carolina

Sunday, April 17th, 1983
I woke this morning to the sounds of several Junco's tweeting and looking for food just outside the shelter. The temperature was quite brisk, and a dusting of snow had accumulated quietly on the ground as I slept last night. I had slept soundly and peacefully. This was the first time that I had been alone in a trail shelter so far; and this is what I had envisioned the hike being in the years preceding this hike. I've been on the trail now for over a week, and finally I feel like I am getting into the swing of things; up at 7:00 am, packed and hiking by 7:40 am.

Hiked from the shelter at Low Gap to Montray Lean-To, a good fifteen and a half miles, after which I was exhausted. After all, between Low Gap and Montray shelter there is Poplar Stamp Gap, Cold Springs Gap, Chattahoochee Gap, Uniquoi Gap, Indian Grave Gap, and Tray Gap. This means that in between each one of those gaps there is at least a hill, if not a mountain of some significance. Lots of up and down. The last three miles after Indian Grave Gap and the climb up Tray Mountain were a real struggle for me, but I stuck it out. Fortunately, the view from Tray Mountain was exquisite!

(View from Tray Mountain)

Today I witnessed a grouse up close for the first time. I didn't think that they were that big! I also saw a wild turkey. I had never seen one before, but I could tell what it was by pictures I've seen.

I ran out of Tang, my usual drink, so I mixed up some grape Kool-Aid I bought in Blairsville. It wasn't too bad. Change is good. On the subject of change, while last night was tent city in Low Gap, tonight I am all alone. As I sit here alone looking around the place, I see on the wall an article from the Atlanta Constitution dated March 26th. The article is about the current rage of Appalachian Trail fever, and claims that out of 200 thru-hikers last year, only 110 completed the trip. Another statistic stated that the Appalachian Trail Conference has so far recorded 1,110 successful 2000 milers since the formation of the trail only forty some years ago. In a few months, I will be in that group. Somewhere next to the article appeared a sticker placed by some guy named Phil Goad. Apparently this self promoter is attempting to hike from Springer to Springer. By that I mean hiking to Katahdin from Springer, and then returning to Springer. Another guy, who I think started before Phil, but is more low key about his accomplishment is a guy named Steve, simply known as "Yo-Yo Steve". Steve only writes his trail-name which tells the story, while Phil leaves stickers plastered on just about everything advertising his attempt.

Rob Spaulding slept here last night according to his entry in the register, and he also writes that he will be staying at the next shelter to "wash clothes and daydream." I will be looking for him tomorrow.

It's getting dark so I'll sign off.

Monday, April 18, 1983
Woke up this morning to snow. The weatherman's voice coming from my radio said that it was the coldest temperature ever recorded on this date. Since all the recording instruments are down where people live, I imagine that it was even colder here in the mountains. I do not remember the temperature that the broadcaster reported, but I was fortunate to have my cold weather EMS -40° Robson down bag to keep me warm.

I left Montray shelter happy that I was wearing my denim bib overalls, and hiked about five and a half miles in snow, changing to sleet, and then to rain. A couple of miles after that I decided to stay at Addis Gap Lean-To because the next shelter was another eleven miles away. I had only traveled roughly five miles, but the temperature was cold and I did not need to develop hypothermia.

When I stepped into the shelter I met two girls who had not left yet, but had spent the night with Rob. The girls said that I missed Rob by two hours so I guess I'll have to see him tomorrow. I laughed and commented to them that maybe he decided that the weather was too cold to wash his clothes. They would have been freeze dried by the time it was all said and done, and stiff as a board.

A couple of other thru-hikers showed up during the day, and are sleeping here tonight in the shelter: Tim Platts from Pennsylvania, and Greg from Missouri. Tim was an easy going guy who loved his peanut butter and honey mix. He also had a a large bag of GORP (Good old raisins and Peanuts) that he kept close by and snacked all day. Greg was just out of the marines and looking for an adventure.

Tuesday, April 19th, 1983
This morning at 7:00 am it was 35° Fahrenheit. Greg was cold because his sleeping bag was not the right comfort range. I guess he thought it would not be this cold in the south at this time of year. (Some time later I found out that he left the trail). Both Greg and Tim informed me of their decision to go into Hiawassee so they could sleep in a hotel and bathe, and of course pig out at The Waffle Shack located there. I thought about it for a while....... but passed on the idea. I did hike with Tim for a while this morning, and due to his height and long legs and long gate, his casual stroll was my slow trot.

(Ribbonulite ice crystals on the ground near Hooper Gap) (deer in Hooper Gap)

By 11:00 am I had arrived at Dicks Creek Gap (Us. Rt. 76) and hoped to find water. Just then, an R.V. pulled into the small rest area located there. Out popped a man, about 65 years old, who offered me a hot coffee. At first I was apprehensive, but I went for it anyway. Turns out the man and his wife were none other than Al and Anne Weed, two of the nicest people you'd want to meet. They fed me homemade whole wheat bread (four slices), apple sauce, and apple pudding - fantastic! They told me that the R.V. is now their home and that they are touring the country. They expounded upon stories about the good old days back in 1979 when they thru-hiked the A.T. Since then, they have been helping hikers whenever they can. Currently they have been helping a guy they called "Crazy Roger", who has a place in New York State near Greenwood Lake. Roger, who is section hiking from New York State to Springer, has accommodations for seven at his summer house. He feeds and puts up all hikers that he sees for free. I'll have to look him up when I get in that area. He is a schoolteacher who during his summers sections-hikes between the time classes are out until about June, when he returns to New York to assist thru-hikers at his cottage.

The Weeds and I talked for a while before Roger took my picture. He said two copies will be made, one he will put on his wall, and the other he said he would mail to me. The Weed's did say that later in the season when the majority of the thru-hikers begin to arrive at Katahdin they would be there to feed them and assist in any way possible. They had also done this in previous years.

After their thru-hike in the '70s, they bought motor scooters and traveled the Florida peninsula. The Weed's were not young people, but looked to be in their late sixties or early seventies. How inspiring!

The Weed's and Roger were very nice to talk with and very generous, but it became time to move on.

The next eleven miles I hiked today seemed to fly by. Unfortunately, it's too late to go on to the next shelter so I'll stay here at Plumorchard Gap Lean-To tonight. Tomorrow I will say good-bye to Georgia, and hello to North Carolina. At that point I will have thirteen States to go, and twelve miles to the next lean-to.

Wednesday, April 20th, 1983
I slept with two north-bounders last night. They're headed for Bly Gap this morning to take pictures and "catch some rays". Also in attendance at the shelter was "Wild Bill" from Minnesota. He is as crazy as a loon. When he left camp this morning he let out a blood curdling scream. He's a section hiker, and heading south for Springer on this trip.

North Carolina greeted me with a big mountain named Sharp Top. It lived up to its name with some uphill climbing that took me until 12:30 pm. I hiked all day and didn't see a soul. What beautiful country around here, Dia would love it. Wonder what she is doing now? I sat down in this beauty for a half hour today and just listened to the snow as it melted off of the trees; I never noticed the sound of it before. It seems that when you're alone up in the mountains for a while your senses become sharpened. But I really was not alone; I also saw a hoot owl today. He must have had a wing span of about three feet - a big one! - all the other birds were scrambling for safety.

I sauntered into Standing Indian Lean-To by 3:30 pm, good time. There is still quite a bit of snow on the ground left over from the storm that had fallen during the Montray to Addis Gap section. It seems to have hit this area quite a bit harder as these mountains in North Carolina are 1000 feet higher on average. A guy I ran into a day or so back that lives around here said that this was the coldest spring in 100 years of record keeping. Many of the other hikers have complained of being cold at night, but not me, this sleeping bag is great, and the bibs too.

(View from Bly Gap)

Thursday, April 21st, 1983

(View from Standing Indian Mountain) (View from Little Ridgepole Mtn)

The mountains treated me to some breathtaking views today, and the weather was perfect for hiking and viewing them. Mt. Albert was a killer. As I climbed, the cartoon character Fat Albert came to mind. Don't know why, but that character just popped into my brain. The trail was hand over hand, practically like rock climbing, straight up for about a half mile during the last push to the summit. The view offered me after the tedious climb made it all worth it!

(Albert Mountain area and firetower)

At the summit of Albert Mountain, the trail passes directly under a fire tower, so I went up the steps to see what I could see. I was surprised to find someone already inside the upper tower, a forest ranger. I talked with Charlie, the ranger stationed at the tower, for about a half an hour. While conversing with him, he offered me a Mountain Dew - which I guzzled on the spot. A real nice guy.

Today I covered about fifteen miles from Standing Indian Lean-to to Big Spring Lean-To. Big Spring shelter is only one half mile from Albert Mtn summit, so I did not have too far to travel after descending the steps of the fire tower Spending the night at this shelter will allow me to head into Franklin, North Carolina tomorrow for laundry, and a Pizza Hut pig out. Civilization also provides the opportunity to take a hot shower while in town. I definitely need one 'cause I can smell myself. While I'm there I'll call home too.

Looks like I'll be sleeping alone tonight, which is not too bad - in fact, I like it.

Friday, April 22nd, 1983
Up and out of the shelter by 7:30 am. I hiked down to Rock Gap Lean-To and lo and behold I found Rob there. I did not catch up to him the other day like I thought I would have, but now I have. He's headed up to Wesser, North Carolina and even though at the moment I'm going into Franklin, North Carolina, our paths will cross again. We parted company as I continued on less than a mile to reach Route 64, the road to Franklin.

(Route 64 through Wallace Gap)

After two miles of road walking on Route 64 sticking my thumb out at every passing vehicle, I finally got a lift into town. I checked into the Woods Motel, did laundry, stocked up on food, and of course ate at Pizza Hut. After I got back from "The Hut" I called "the folks" and talked for a while before repacking my bag with my new supplies. I guess I must be getting that thru-hiker appetite as I can tell that I bought too much food!! The pack will be heavier than normal for a few days. At 9:30 pm I will call Dia. It will be nice to hear her voice! Since I had time on my hands with nothing else to do, I cleaned my Svea stove.

My feet ache today; I hope that they will feel better tomorrow! Unfortunately, the forecast is for rain, leading to perhaps a rotten hike along the road back to the trail.

Saturday, April 23rd, 1983
Oh, the wonders of a nice soft bed! I woke up at 8:30 am, put the final touches to packing, then watched Bugs Bunny until 11:00 am. The swelling in my feet went down considerably since last night, but just to be safe I bandaged them up anyway.

I thought about this adventure in town as I prepared to depart and came to the conclusion that Franklin was actually a bit too far off the trail to go on a trip like this, plus I had lost a lot of time. I could not afford to spend so much money in towns for I had only $2000.00 for the whole trip. Because of my slow start I was further behind on trail miles than I should have been, and was worried that I would not be able to complete the journey before they closed down the trail up Katahdin. I should have been averaging fifteen miles per day and I hadn't.

Before leaving town, I hiked down to the local outlet and bought a new set of batteries for my miniature radio. I spent about $45.00 during this town stop. I hope in the future I can control myself or my trip will come to a premature end due to lack of funds.

I stood on the roadside with my thumb out for a short while in the pouring rain, and was quite surprised when I actually got a ride. The guy was nice enough to give me a ride all the way up to the trail-head.

I backtracked the short distance to Rock Gap Lean-To by about about 1:00 pm, sat down to eat, and have been catching up on my journal ever since. Three thru-hikers just came in from the south with a similar plan to the one I had just executed. They will be going into Franklin, North Carolina tomorrow.

I will continue on and plan on stopping at Siler Bald Lean-To tomorrow.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983