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It was dusk on Tuesday night and I had just been dropped off at Amicalola Falls State Park. Like a little boy on the night before his first day of school, I had my bag all packed with shiny new supplies, carefully organized in just the right pockets. Also like that boy, I’m nervous. I don’t quite know what will happen in the morning. I keep thinking there’s some preparation I forgot. But my ride has left, so there’s no turning back now.

Just behind the visitors’ center is a stone archway marking the beginning of the trail that leads to the trail that leads to Maine. It’s a little bit cruel, but the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail is on the top of Springer Mountain, an 8.8 mile hike from the nearest paved road. For many people, that’s a full day’s walk before they even officially start the trail. I call it the prologue.

But I wouldn’t start that until the next day. On Tuesday night I walked just a few steps on this approach trail to a shelter specifically for people like me  planning to start on the A.T. in the morning. I had packed all my gear. I had counted my daily caloric intake. I had planned my schedule and resupply points. I was as ready as I could be. Two other hikers were waiting for me. My new trail friends, I thought, this will be great! After making a little small talk, I laid out my sleeping bag and tried to fall asleep.

“Hey,” said one of my shelter-mates, who goes by the tail name Spider. “Do you guys know where the next place we can get food is?” I couldn’t even believe he was asking. I had studied the trail guide for so long before getting there that it took me a minute to realize that he actually didn’t know. 

“Well, the first store is at Neel’s Gap about 31 miles in, but it’s not a big one. Then after that, you can hitch into Helen at 51 miles or Hiawassee at 68 miles for a bigger grocery store. Why, how much food do you have?”

“Oh, I don’t really know, I just threw some stuff together. Two days? A week? I don’t know. Hey, so there’s no store on the hike tomorrow?”

“Well, no, there’s no store at all for three days at least.”

“That’s good, I probably won’t spend any money then. I budgeted myself $25 for every day of this hike, and already after tomorrow I’ll have saved some money.”

“Yeah but, aren’t you just going to need to buy several days of food at once when you’re in town?”

“Oh, yeah. Maybe you’re right.”

You might think that I was concerned for poor Spider, worried about him starving in the woods, no knowing what state he was in or which direction to walk. But in reality, all I was thinking at this moment was that maybe I knew more than I thought I did.

“Man, we are going to learn so much out here,” Spider said, after the other two of us in the shelter had almost gone to sleep. “There are just so many people who know so much stuff. Like, I was talking to someone about knots, and he was saying there’s this good knot for tying a bear bag line to a tree, it’s like, you make a loop, and then go through it, and then around and back through or something? It’s called, like, a bowline? Or, I don’t know.”

Yes, that’s a bowline, but no, it would not be a good knot to tie on a taut line. No one responded to Spider’s attempt at knot conversation, and I fell asleep feeling ready to go.

Since then has been four days of rain, followed by one day of cold. Not the most pleasant introduction to the trail, but I guess there’s no better way to start. I am still getting the hang of things, and my feet especially are still learning the ways of the trail. But for the most part, I’m off to a good start. And hey, they sun is out today.

More to come, but in summary:

  • Zero bear sightings
  • At least one mouse has run across my face
  • Already bought $90 in new gear
  • No hunger issues
  • Two giant heel blisters
  • No heart attacks on climbs
  • My trailname: Stone Brown

 

Keep in touch!

-March 30, Hiawassee, GA

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