Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Jaws on the AT

It’s been one week and I’ve traveled several miles along the trail, made a few friends, and a name for myself.

I started late on the 6th heading up Springer Mt where I met Bill.  Bill had just come 8 miles straight up the Approach Trail. The Approach Trail starts in Amicalola State Park and takes several hours of hard work to climb to the starting point of the Appalachian Trail.  I decided against doing this.  I think of the Approach Trail to be kind of like pre-season football, it’ll get you warmed up… but could also cause a season-ending injury. I got a ride up to the top along a forest road and glad I did. Bill still reminds of his trip to the top.

On Springer Mt, Bill and I had talked briefly and together we decided to head to one of the first shelters on the trail, about 2.5 miles in.  It was after all 4pm.  Once we hit the shelter we met several other people who also had started for the day and couple others who were finishing up a section hike.  Most notable was Eric.  Eric is from Wisconsin, just like Bill, and an experienced trucker. Of course you would know this just by talking to him; his ability to cuss made me blush.

The next day the three of us headed out to tackle the AT. In 3 days we traveled over 30 miles to Neels Gap. On the way, we took our time, saw the sights, and had a few laughs.

Eric was not doing too well with his 50 pound pack and his choice of clothing.  Every time we went uphill he began to call himself the furnace.  By mid-day on day 1 he had taken off every layer up top except his jacket, which he kept unbuttoned, earning himself the trail name Bare Belly.  We always knew how far behind Bare Belly was when he started cursing the mountains. We were good to wait him out and give ourselves a few minutes to breathe. This eventually caught up to us though.

On the second day we had planned to hit Neels Gap after 15 miles but it got late before we knew it.  That night we camped out at Jarrard Gap and got pounded by a rain storm that seemed more like a tornado. I had not slept too well any other night as I’m still trying to get used to sleeping on the ground, but this particular night I slept like a baby through most of the storm.  I didn’t care as long as I was dry and all my stuff stayed dry. The tent did wonders that night.

Once we got to Neels Gap, we stayed at the hostel and got that experience in for the first time.  It was great. Mainly because we got to experience our first bit of trail magic too.  Trail magic is when someone does something special or really nice for hikers.  That night a church group came in to cook us hamburgers.  The food they laid out included plenty of fixings, an awesome potato salad, desserts, and cat food.  Cat food!?!?  The hostel had a couple resident cats that had food dishes kept on a table by a window.  One of the hikers, Peter, decided to just go around the room taking what ever food was laid out.  So as I passed him I noticed the big juicy hamburger on his plate and next to it, dry cat food.  I warned Peter that the food was REALLY dry and he may need to some water to wash it down. I then pointed to the cats’ water dish.  He looked at me funny not understanding, so I told him to take the cat food off his plate.  Peter was promptly named Whiskers.

Well after leaving Neels Gap, Bill and I had continued on for a few days of serious hiking. We traveled up several peaks a day, some much longer than others.  All we could think was how Bare Belly would have faired with us. He decided to lag behind since our pace was too much for him.  Probably a good thing as each hiker needs to do what they want on the trail and try not to follow anyone else’s itinerary.

Our unplanned itinerary has been wonderful so far, even with the pains I have in my knees, back, legs etc.  Bill and I landed in Hiawassee yesterday and decided to take a zero day today after all the hard work. A zero day is a day off with zero miles. Tomorrow we will leave behind Georgia and march on into North Carolina with Franklin as our goal destination.

Funny thing happened on the way here. A couple nights ago we saw some transitions as we got ready for another night in the woods. Bill, or Billy Bob as he is known at home, became known as Bobber with other hikers.  And for me well I picked up the trail name of Jaws. It’s either on account that I have several shark tattoos or because I just don’t shut up sometimes…   or maybe both.

1 comment:

  1. My brother in-law and I really enjoyed talking to you and the guy that tented with you on your first night at Stover Creek shelter. We finished the approach trail by noon that day we left and it was the most boring hike we did that week. We did get that BBQ we were talking about.I ate a rib or two for ya.LOL. I will be following your journey, hope every thing goes well.
    Chris (Dazed and Confused)