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'97 Trail Journal

In the Beginning
Spring Mountain, Georgia
March 23, 1997

Day 1: March 24 1997
Camping on Springer Mountain, Georgia

Incredible view! Pretty sure I can see Katahdin. Saw the Hale-Bopp (aluha) comet. Met some guys from Tampa section hiking, a guitar guy who did ME->GA 18 years ago and Mike & "Dire Wolf" (who's also Mike). "Dire Wolf" biked "across this great country" (thank you Mr. Phillips) in '95. He said Southwest Virginia (where I grew up) was the only place where people gave him hell and threw beer bottles at him.

Paul also showed up a few minutes after I got here. He started a day early. His pack is about 50 pounds! Mine was 44 pounds at the visitor center. I'm worried I forgot about 4 pounds of stuff since it was 48 in Raleigh.

Stayed with Sara Millet last night in Atlanta. She took me inside CNN then to see Liar Liar with Jim Carrey, and then out for drinks with some friends of hers... my last taste of civilization for a while. OH... I met Dave Walker of Headline News and learned that Don Harrison has a wooden leg!

I couldn't find Rachel in the register... feeling a bit uncertain.

Day 2: March 2 1997
Camping at Hawk Mountain Shelter

Hiked with Paul about 7.5 miles from springer. Starting to feel a bit better about things. Will need some reading material to fill the evenings. Can't wait for the days to get longer.

Met a bunch of people. "Stick," a backpacker store employee who fixed two water filters and a cranky stove in a single sitting. Michael, a 19 yo from Iowa (I mentioned him yesterday.) Couple of guys from Georgia.

About 15 people here. The most interesting: "Bear," the guitar guy from yesterday. He's actually carrying his 20 pound guitar... with case... in his hand. Would've made a great picture in today's scenery of huge trees and thick fog. Kinda damp tonight, but comfortable. Sun's supposed to come out tomorrow. (I feel a ditty coming on.)

Jay Schadler: The sun rose in the East... but we head north... toward the mountains... toward a dream. (Simon & Garfunkel music up for a moment then dissolve to Diane.)

Day 3: March 26 1997
Gooch Gap Shelter

First night in a shelter. Turned around with my head at the bottom to ward off claustrophobia. Beautiful day. Sun came out around noon. Waked here with hikers from Hawk Mountain shelter. Oh... big thunderstorm last night. Tent did well. Met "Saver Turtle" here. She's at least 65, but she's planning on doing the whole thing. She used to be a secretary for Disney. Amazing.

TRAIL MAGIC RULZ. Guy named "Mariner" comes to the shelter around 7:00. Tells us he's got beer in his truck nearby and he's gonna cook chili. Great stuff. Mariner hiked the train in '94. Gonna try for Blood Mountain tomorrow. First 10+ mile day. Continuing to feel better.

Day 4: March 27, 1997
Blood Mountain Shelter

Another good day... did about 12-13 miles. Nick "Switchback" had to walk into and out of Suches, Georgia... no one would pick him up! He walked about 17 miles total today.

Here tonight: Nick, Bob "Mr. Lipton," "Stick," Eric, Mike, and a few others I don't know too well. Beautiful view, big shelter, good night's sleep. No packages to write. Life is good. Neels Gap and Walasi-Y tomorrow.

Day 5: March 28, 1997
Walasi-Y Neels Gap, Georgia

Probably gonna camp a mile or so on down. Hostel here was full at 10:00 am. Bought a bigger pot & some gaiters & a whole bunch of food just to get to Hiawassee. Gotta call home. Mailed back first small pot & bought a t-shirt for Dad... with his money. Ate a whole can of Pringles and some Pop Tarts for lunch. Kinda feel like I've accomplished something making it here.

(insert decorative musical notes here)
I've got miles and miles ahead of me. Tales to listen to, time to spend. Up ahead, the road is bending, and I wonder what's around the bend.
(Dissolve to Charles in motor home)
"We've heard about a story up the road here... but I kind of hope we never get there. With luck, we'll stumble upon something more interesting along the way."

Oh... rain started this morning, so I'm not exactly motivated to put in many more miles.

Day 6: March 29, 1997
Blue Mountain Shelter

Kinda tough 13.5 mile day. Camped about three miles past Walasi-Y last night in driving thunderstorm. Tent stayed dry. "Mr. Lipton," "Hidalgo" and I left the others at a campsite a mile or so before ours. Rain cleared up by morning and made for another great day.

Nick's name "Hidalgo" is from some book he was reading at springer. He didn't know what it meant and asked the folks in the shelter. Still no one knows. In the book, Hidalgo is "The Devil's Own Infidel."

Sat around after dinner talking with "Blue and Brown-Eyed Wolfs," "Bones," and our group. "Trailtrooper" moved on after eating. He's got three months and he's trying to finish the trail. He has a blister the size of a crater on his foot! Gonna try for 11 miles tomorrow. Lots of climbing, so maybe not. "Blueberry Patch" and Hiawassee by Monday?

Day 7: March 30, 1997
Camping at Sassafras Gap

Another tough day. Climbed about 4500 feet... then ate lunch. 6,000 feet of total climbing today. I later found out I was doubling all these figures. About 12 miles. Still with Lipton and Hidalgo. Headed for Blueberry Patch tomorrow. Hear they have blueberry pancakes for breakfast! Started to rain during dinner. Thought of a rotating green laser-looking thing for a weather center glass map. Real tired. "Fumbled through my clothes bag and found my cleanest dirty shirt..."

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