Sunday, April 26, 2009
Start: Springer Mountain, GA
Finish: Hawk Mountain Shelter, Georgia AT
I fully expected to meet people. In case it’s not obvious, I’m writing this after the fact, as I was not interested in creating lengthy entries and observations while hiking. I did however, make notes about the people and notable events that took place.
As DT and I walked off of Springer Mountain on Sunday morning I was wondering to myself who we might see.
The first official day on the trail starts with a four mile downhill walk, much welcome after the previous day’s uphill struggle. The trail is rocky at first and it is difficult to make quick time. I kept looking to my left at the expansive valley that opened up.
I turned to DT, “I’d love to get this in a photograph.”
“Then why don’t you?”
I looked at the magnificent forest below and the line of trees that lined the trail, “I can’t get a good shot of the forest because there’s too many trees.”
I’ve heard about Trail Angels, people who leave drinks, supplies or goodies at places along the trail for hikers to partake in. As we reached Highway 42 a mile from the start of the hike, I saw a box of Little Debbies on a large rock which sat at the corner of the parking lot there. I puzzled over it briefly until it dawned on me, these must be placed by some unknown Trail Angel. I pointed it out to DT who was removing his pack. Apparently DT had decided he had too much food and was no longer interested in carrying some of the lunch items he had in his pack. I can’t blame him, pack weight was a struggle from the outset. Instead of eating the Trail Angel goodies, DT merely added to them with no-longer-wanted food.
A man and a woman came by carrying full packs and walking at a brisk rate. I spoke a few friendly greetings which they returned then they were gone, moving rapidly up the trail.
About half way down the hill is the Stover Creek Shelter.When we arrived it was empty. Each shelter has a notebook inside a large zip lock bag. Hikers leave notes and comments which are occasionally interesting to read. DT isn’t feeling too well. I’m encouraging him to eat, I don’t think he’s had enough fuel to energize the trip.
I check out the privy. It’s a hi-tech privy with special microbes to help break everything down quickly. After use, one is supposed to throw in a handful of wood chips from the bucket in the corner to help the process along. In the trail ledger someone glibly noted that it appeared a grand game of Jenga was being played in the privy. Enough said about that.
After a break we’re ready to go again. The trip to Three Forks was uneventful. At Three Forks I craftily observed that two rapidly running streams were forming a third, hence the name Three Forks. It never ceases to amuse me when I’m able to figure out the reason for local names. Though I must confess, I’m still working on the name Woody Gap.
With packs off, we had lunch and spoke to three southbound hikers before continuing uphill toward Hawk Mountain. The next three miles posed an 800 foot climb. By the time we reached the Hawk Mountain Shelter, the day was through for hiking. DT had been fighting not feeling well all day and it was pointless to go on.
DT and I walked up to the shelter, lowered our packs, and sat on the shelter floor, legs hanging over the side. The couple we had seen at route 42 in the morning was there, and as far as I could tell had been there for hours. We made introductions.
They were a married couple who had done hundreds of miles on the trail in previous years. He was from Alabama and she from Missouri. They spoke at length about the trail and never lacked for giving advice. We began to refer to them as the hardcore couple. Hardcore as in hardcore hikers. One thing is for sure; they motored by us earlier in the day without any perceivable effort.
A young man arrived and wordlessly took off his pack and sat in the corner of the shelter, keeping to himself, reading his trail guide. I thought of him as Shy-Guy. Mike eventually arrived. Mike had been at the Springer Mountain Shelter the night before and covered the same distance a little later in the day than we had. His plan was to through-hike, though he had no particular schedule. He was easy-going and soft-spoken.
HC Couple pointed out an empty laptop computer case resting against a tree, “Some guy up ahead has a laptop. I guess he got tired of carrying the case.”
“A laptop? You gotta be kidding?” And yet, there it was.
As evening approached, another hiker arrived and introduced himself as David. David was from North Carolina and was on the trail for a week attempting to get to North Carolina, the same goal we have. David spoke briefly about his wife and children, both of whom were in college. He explained that he was given mandatory time off so it seemed like a good idea to use some of it on the trail.
HC Couple added to the mandatory time off group, stating that they both worked for H & R Block and were on a mandatory eight week vacation. Well, it’s late April and tax season is over, I guess it’s the time.
Shy Guy never said much of anything. His personality was suggestive of a dog who had been given a few good beatings. I always wonder about the quiet types.
After a brief meal I explored the trail that went back to some low crests behind the camp, away from the Hawk Mountain peaks. It was warm, clear and good to be alive. There was a fresh water stream with a tapped spring flowing, providing good water. Unlike yesterday when water seemed scarce, today’s hike provided ample streams and springs.
We covered almost eight miles for the day. My original plan was to cover 12 to 14 today and make this the biggest day of the week under the assumption that we would be our freshest. It didn’t quite work out that way, but tomorrow is another day, we’ll see what happens then.
People: HC Couple from Ala and MO, Mike, David, Shy guy