The First Week

I will begin blogging more and copying my journal not-at-all after this, but I wanted to give you a taste of me first week. So, here is an excerpt from my journal:

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016
Atlanta, Georgia

I’m not entirely sure how ready I am for trek north on the Appalachian Trail, but I begin tomorrow anyway. I’ve been waiting for this day for more than 15 years.

When I was 16 years old, my dad and our neighbor, Mr Jones, had helped me prepare a southbound hike on the AT as an alternative to being stuck in a group foster home in Concord, Massachusetts. At one point my dad, who had been sick for six years with cancer, had even said he was going to join me.  It was not to be. My dad died just a couple weeks before I was to leave.

My childhood was very complicated, and the story really begins there, but I cannot dedicate much space to tell that story right now. Someday I would put that story to paper.

I’m pretty scared. I’ve never mounted anything like this in my life. It’s fitting that I’m taking some of the sand from Half Moon Lake, where we scattered my father’s ashes, with me on the trek. And I’m also carrying my friend Beth’s ashes as well, another kind soul whose stories I always enjoyed as a teen.

There so much to look forward to as well. I want to keep myself open to all of the various experiences that could come my way. Springer Mountain, I hear you calling me home.

Monday, April 4th, 2016
Springer Mountain Shelter, Georgia

Well folks, here I am! In fact, when I first arrived on the summit I said “hineini” as though the Universe were asking. After spreading some of the sand from my dad’s sand bottle and some of Beth’s ashes, we hiked to the shelter.

I got extremely emotional when I arrived at Amicalola Falls State Park. I saw a Benton MacKaye quote on the wall of the visitors center and I just lost it. “The purpose of the Appalachian Trail is to see the trail, and to see what you see.” What a remarkably appropriate reminder to maintain a high level of mindfulness during my hike.

On the approach trail, I met a guy named Jake. He’s from Buffalo, NY and we became fast buddies. We hiked together all the way to the summit of Springer and decided to become tent neighbors. We had our meals together and shared a lot of stories.

As I prepared my sleeping pad and bag to sleep, I began to think of my dad and Mr Jones. I cried for a good ten minutes before I finally decided it was time to go to sleep. I miss them tremendously.

That’s it for now. Off to bed. Live Long and Prosper.

Tuesday, April 5th, 2016
Hawk Mountain Shelter, Georgia

Started kinda late this morning. Well, actually is was already noon. It was really cold so I didn’t end up getting out of my sleeping bag until 10. Neither did Jake. So we got a late start. Neither did Alex, who Jake named Mountain Goat, after the goat skull he’s been carrying on his bag.

We got to the shelter around 5:30pm. Of course, my first act was to sign the trail register. Jake signed in and wrote “my only goal right now is to wake up at a reasonable tomorrow.” This was way more profound than if he wrote what he meant.

Along the trail, we ran into Mountain Goat who told us about a Cherokee carving in a rock by Long Creek Falls. So we took the side trail just to check it out. Not only were the falls quite stunning, but we found the rock! I can’t remember the story behind it, but I took a photo.

Eventually we came to a really old cemetery for a town called Hickory Flats which used be in the hills. Doyal and Oneita Long, locals from nearby, were there to serve up fresh water and snacks to hikers. Sweet!

Okay, gonna go enjoy the campfire now. LLAP.

Wednesday, April 6th, 2016
Gooch Mountain Shelter, Georgia

Started out on my own from Hawk Mountain this morning. I didn’t want to leave Jake behind, but I really wanted to get an early start. It was colder than I would have liked, but after a few minutes, I was warm enough not to mind.

Plodding Bison got a much earlier start than I, but I caught up to her as we approached Sassafras Mountain. We hiked together for a few minutes before I went on ahead.

Sometime after summiting Sassafras, I ran into Papa Crusty. We hiked together for a bit and had a nice conversation about our mutual concern for the future of our society as more youth are raised away from nature. He said we was going to hike slowly, so we parted and I kept going forward.

Walter, fellow I met yesterday, eventually caught up to me, as did Jake. We enjoyed hiking together all the way into camp. Gonna rain tonight. Hope everyone can fit in the shelter to stay dry. LLAP.

Thursday, April 7th, 2016
Neel Gap, Walasiyi-Inn, Georgia

Jake got a trail name today from Walter – Feel Good – cuz whenever he’s asked how he is, he says “I feel good!” Found out when I got to Mountain Crossings around 4:30pm. He and Walter got here around 2:30, in time to get two of the last three rooms in the hostel. So I’m tenting out tonight.

I got out on the trail from Gooch Gap around 8am. Made good time, getting into Lance Creek around 12:30, where I saw a fellow hiker, Steven, and stopped for lunch. I ate an entire bag of granola, topped with powdered milk, freeze dried coffee, and water. Mmm.

Feeling re-energized, I began to climb up Blood Mountain, the highest point on the trail in Georgia. 4457′ of beauty. Then, just an hour later, I was in Neel Gap, where me and my new friends stayed for a zero day and resupply.

This was my first 16 mile day. Blood Mt wasn’t as hard as it was said to be. But unfortunately Rachel got hailed on. Yikes.

I can’t believe I’m doing this. It’s colder than I thought, but I’m warm enough. Gotta get better cold gear though. Looking forward to making dinner for everyone tomorrow.  LLAP

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