I have been on the trail for three days and have hiked 27 miles. My neighbor, Don Moffitt, took me to the start of the trail last Sunday, and we started the 8 1/2 mile approach trail on Monday morning. We climbed almost 1000 feet in the first mile! Don stayed with me for a mile more, then gave me a big hug, and returned down the trail to drive back to Durham. I almost cried to see him go. I was on my own.
I hiked another six miles to the top of Springer Mountain which is really the start of the trail. A little farther, I came to the Springer Mountain Shelter, pitched my tent, and pumped/purified water out of a nearby spring. I was joined at the shelter by a young woman, Stephanie from New Hampshire, and a father and daughter with friend from Alabama. Later on, four twenty-something-year-old guys showed up from Florida. After everyone fixed their own supper, we had a great campfire. I pulled out my harmonica and played “Wildwood Flower” and a few more.
That first night, a pack of coyotes came to the spring near our camp and started howling a the full moon. It was pretty spooky, but they did not come any closer!
The next day, Stephanie was feeling a little unsure of herself, so I took her under my wing, and we hiked to a shelter 7 1/2 miles away at Hawk Mountain. Before dark, 25 more hikers joined us there. This is the start of the hiking season, so this was not a surprise. The routine has already set in: get to camp, go pump water, pitch tent, cook supper, socialize a bit, and go to bed. The next morning, you get up, have some sort of breakfast, break camp, hoist your pack on your back (mine weighs between 40 and 45 pounds, start hiking, and do everything all over again.
Today, I hiked my longest mileage trying to match the pace of the Florida guys for twelve miles, my longest day yet. But a surprising thing happened. We got to Woody Gap at my first paved road crossing (the road goes to Suches, GA). There was a big guy with a long white beard standing in the parking area. He was handing out Snickers candy bars to thru-hikers! I stopped and talked to him for a while and ate a couple of Snickers and petted his friendly dog. Then, he pointed across the road and said, “You need to go talk to that guy.” I crossed the road and noticed the van this guy was standing next to had “The Hikers’ Hostel” painted on the side. Before I could say anything, this guy said, “My name is Josh, and I run a hostel for guys like you. You can come stay in my home, take a shower, sleep in a bed, and my wife and I will feed you breakfast tomorrow morning. Then, first thing in the morning, I will bring you back to the trail.” I asked, “How much does all this cost?” Josh replied, “sixteen dollars.” My response: “Count me in!”
So this is how I am able to send you this first email from the trail since Josh has a computer at his hostel.
I plan on making to another intersection with civilzation in two more days at a place called Neels Gap, GA. If I can find a computer there, I might be able to send you another report from the Trail.
The weather so far on the Trail has been fabulous with highs during the day around 75 and maybe 55 at night. I hear rain and colder temperatures are moving in tomorrow, so I may be in for some harder times.