This post seems to have been a long time comin’! We’ve finished six days, and it’s impossible to describe it all in a post. I’d have to be typing for six days. I’m going to try to attach several captioned photos at the end; I hope they’ll give some sense of what I don’t have enough time to put into words.
First of all, everyone we’ve met along the way so far has been very friendly, the guys who drove Tim and I down to Hiker Hostel, the hikers we met there, Josh at the hostel who gave us tips at the start and drove us to the trailhead parking lot, and all the hikers we’ve been meeting along the way. AT hikers typically adopt trail names; sometimes a name given to them by other hikers, sometimes they think up their own, but almost always related to their hiking style, gear they carry, their food preferences, a funny occurernce, or anything else that seems to just “fit”. Some that we’ve met repeatedly (either because we hike about the same pace, or have camped at the same sites) are “En Zed” – a woman from New Zealand, “High Five” – a young lady who did the first few days with her dad (I think Melissa and I identified with them a bit for that relationship), “Rainbow”, “Wild Card”, “Black Thunder”, “Prophet” – who’s soon going to be a minister of some sort, “Nosebleed,” and “That One Guy” – so named because everyone seems to have an amusing story about him, along the lines of “Did you see what that one guy did?”, or “Do you know that one guy is carrying 13 pounds of books?” Almost everyone has commented on the 3 1/2 pound camera Melissa brought, so sooner or later she had to get a name related to her camera. Someone named her “Click” and it stuck. We just met “Art Gypsy”, another professional photographer; Click and Art Gypsy were talking f-stops or memory cards or something when I left the group to type up this post. I’ve taken on the name “Long Time” (in part short for “Long Time Comin’ “, since I’ve wanted to hike the AT for so long, and it seems in part because it takes me a long time to get over the mountains and finally end up at the campsite each night).
Until today, we were averaging a bit over twelve miles per day, but today we quit early, hiking just 6.2 miles to catch a shuttle at 11:00 AM into Hiawassee, GA. This town is 11 miles off the trail, but here at the Hiawassee Inn, everyone’s a hiker. We needed to shower, do laundry (yes, every bit – we wore just our rain jackets and rain pants and nothing else while we washed it all), then we picked up drop boxes at the P.O., and caught an all-you-can-eat buffet at Daniel’s Steakhouse. It didn’t include steak, but for just $5.98 each we had fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, corned beef and cabbage (Happy St. Pat’s Day!), collard greens, tossed salads, every other imaginable kind of salad, rolls globbed with butter, desserts and bottomless iced tea. Incidentally, I’ve lost five pounds already (well, that was before lunch – now I’m not so sure).
Until tonight, we have tent-camped every night. The shelters have either been full or we’ve reached them too early in the day to quit. Lot’s of folks seem to quit around 2 PM, and they get the “prime” shelter space. I think we’re better off in our tent next to the shelter – we can get the cameraderie, campfires, pick up bits of useful info from other hikers, and not have to put up with the mouse infestations! We’ve only had one rainy night in the tent (and it was miserable most of the next day). Tonight it’ll be heavenly to sleep in a bed, but the shuttle leaves at 8 AM, so the luxury will be short-lived.
Tim (now a.k.a. “Tenderfoot”) has to part ways with us; his blisters are too bad to go on – by the time he healed, he’d just have a few days left anyway, so he’s reluctantly quitting now. He promises to meet up with us for some more of the AT when we reach New Jersey.
Our next town stay might not be for another week or so, so we’ll try to do some small posts in the meantime from Melissa’s iPhone. Thanks to all for your comments, encouraging and humorous. It really helps to know you’re all following us! Keep ’em coming!