On April 2nd, I was having south fun with Erin, that we decidedI should spend the morning withErin and not start the hike unt the afternoon. We called the Len Foote Hike Innand found that they had a vacancy, so on that day or, I hiked a mere 6 miles to the Hike Inn. Shall I mention that the 6 miles were essentially straight uphill the entire way? Thank goodness I started slow. It gave me a chance to test out my equipment and I did some rearranging and adaptions after my last shower fora while.
April 3rd: I walked the rest of the way up Springer to mile zero. Meaning it had taken me 9.4 miles straight uphill to get to zero. This was a sign of things to come!
When I switched from the blue blazes of the approach trail to the white blazes of the AT, it did get a bit easier. Plush ad adapted my gear. I managed 12.5 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter (8.1 on the AT) Along the way I met and hiked with a variety of people. I hiked for a while with TeenWolf and Shweassel, who had each attempted a thru-hike in the past. They were faster than me, though seemed to take more breaks, so we yo-yo'd past each other all day. I also walked for a while with Bluebird who was hiking with her son.
I met my first "trail angel"-- somebody who puts out food and drinks at the trail for hikers -- Mountain Squid who first thru-hiked in1988. He was recording the number of thru-hikers who started from Springer each day. April1st he counted 58. April 2nd he counted 35. And on April 3rd as I passed him, I was number 25.
When I got to Hawk Mountain Shelter, it was, unsurprisingly full. I hit the privy and started looking for somewhere to pitch my tent. I saw that somebody had set up UNDER the shelter and thought "Hey! Great idea!" So I set up beside her. I spent a cold but dry night (it rained) under the shelter.
April 4: It was cold and drizzly in the morning so I donned my rainwear and warm layers and headed out atthesametime as Highlander and his hiking mate who looked eerily like Bill Bryson. They were quite personable, but somewhat slower than me, so I moved on alone. I walked at various time with Florida Jimmy, Patrick the German, and Gypsy. I did spent some of the time hiking alone, but never for longer than 20 minutes or so before I saw another hiker. The distance from Hawk Mountain to Gooch MountainShelter is a mere 7 miles, but it was oneofthe longest 7 miles of my life!
The temperature quickly dropped to below 40 and a storm rolled in. In 7 miles, I walked through thunder and lightening, rain, hail, sleet, and snow. I found out very quickly how un- waterproof my gloves were and arrived at the shelter freezing, hungry, exhausted, and near crazy.
The first thing I heard was "no room." When there was clearly more than enough room to squeeze on a few people. As I scarfed down a cliff bar and put on every article of clothing in my pack, I discussed hiking to a dirt road 3 miles away and hitching into town with Shweassel versus setting up my tent in the rain and mud and possibly freezing to death on my very first week.
Enter Upstate who moved everybody around and made room for both means Florida Jimmy who was clearly hypothermic as he was babbling nonsense, taking layers off, and running around in the rain.
This night, ther were about 50 people at the shelter. It finally did stop raining and it was like a crazy mixed up party of people from all over.
April 5: After yesterday, I wasn't too keen on walking alone, so I joined up with Chiclet and Big Spoon, who I noticed seemed to be hiking at around the same pace. Plus, they were5'1" and 5'0" respectively and carried around the same size packs as me.
It worked out great! The weather cleared and warmed up to around 70 answer hiked a rugged 15 miles including up and over Blood Mountain, our highest peak to date. We met up with TeenWolf at the top of Blood Mountain and the 4 of us reached Neel's Gap around 7. The hostel ther was full, so we ended up camping on the hill behind the shelter. We took showers and tried to wash out clothes, but the washing machine was broken. Boo! But they did have pizza. So we ate pizza with Pirate, the hotel manager and talked with Shweassel, Upstate, and Sweet K, who were already at the Gap before us. It was a warm, pleasant night of camping.
To Be Continued...