Well it’s been exactly a few days since I started my Appalachian Journey and I’ve got a lot to catch you up on!The first day as I neared te starting point I began toget extremely nervous. We’re there bears waiting to eat me? “Deliverance-esque” rednecks waiting to laugh while they stole all my stuff?! There was a light mist on Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the AT, as it’s called for short by most hikers and enthusiasts alike. I was careful not to slip within my first few minutes on the trail.Being the newcomer I was, I had way too much stuff and way too much weight, making day one’s ten mile hike ridiculously tiring and full of hassle. I was constantly stopping to re-adjust my pack, tie my shoes, or just rest from weariness the heavy load brought on. I didn’t see anyone the entire 10 miles to the first shelter, and was o incredibly worried I’d be spending my first night on the trail alone!
After 4.5 hours, though, I reached Hawk Mountain shelter and was greeted by 7 people beginning to cook dinner! Among them a girl named “Sweet Pea” (actually Catherine, that was her “trail name”, aptly given to her for eating some wild sweet peas found along the trail), “Firewalker” and his dad “Old Man”, and “Goof”, who had hiked the “Triple Crown” of America’s long distance trails, including the AT, the “Continental Divide Trail”, and the “Pacific Crest Trail”. They say you lose between 20 and 40 pounds during a “Through-Hike” (hiking the entirety of the trail); Goof did not seem to be in the trail shape of his Through-Hiking days though!
The most interesting hiker there that night though was “Possible”, or Scott from Virginia. It was his last night of his four and a half month “South Bound” (a hike that starts at the northern Terminus in Maine and works its way South to Georgia)Through-Hike, and man was he excited! He told me that he had never felt so relaxed and at peace with himself in his life, and that the trail had opened his eyes to the kindness and generosity of the human race. He also said that he had been averaging 20-25 miles a DAY for the last month or so. I couldn’t believe it. He even gave me his phone number and email address and said to call him if I needed a place to stay for the winter! Talk about kindness and generosity!
What was incredibly amazing to me, though, too was that Firewalker and Old Man were from my hometown! AND they lived about 5 minutes away from my mom! What are the odds?!
Day two landed me in “Gooch Mountain” shelter where I discovered that my growing pains of hiking were only beginning. My hip flexors pained with every step. My feet blistered as if I had sat them in the sun all day with deep tanning oil lathered generously. My wrists were swollen and aching from gripping my hiking poles for hours on end. That was when Old Man introduced me to “vitamin I”, the trail name for ibuprofen. It was a godsend.
On day three we all set out for different destinations, Old Man and Firewalker having to head home later that day. Thus, they’re what’s known as “Section Hikers”, who do three or four day sections of the trail then head home. At that point, I kind of wishes I was going with them! From Gooch Mountain Shelter it was 13.2 miles to the next shelter, called “Wood’s Hole”. I knew it would be tough, but I thought I could do it. And hey, I’ve run that far before, couldn’t be much different, right?! Wrong! 13.2 miles with a 45 pound pack on your back is NOTHING like running that far! By the end if the day I was ready to die. I honestly thought I was going to faint and never be found again for about the last four miles. I finally made it though, and met an Engineer from Daytona Beach, Florida named Pete, or as he was called on the trail, “Tailbone”. We slept in the coldest, windiest conditions I had encountered on the trail yet.
We awoke this morning and summitted Blood mountain, the highest leak on the trail yet, with by far the most amazing view! (See picture of smaller mountains with clouds in between them). I sat on a big rock uprooted for about an hour and two Scottish through-hikers passed me, South bounder a like Possible, only 30 miles from the end!
Tonight I’m at mountain Croasings hostel at the Walasi-Yi visitor center in Georgia, 31.2 miles into my journey. I still don’t know how far ill be going, but I can already tell its going to be getting pretty cold pretty fast! Check back in a few days for another update!
Bio: Evans Prater is a writer who also has his own personal blog, http://www.hiketilyourehigh.wordpress.com, which will include my personal nightly journal entries describing the day’s events and emotions. Other than that, it’s time to get hiking!
Photo Credit: Evans Prater