Day mileage: 10.5 mi
AT total mileage: 9.5 mi
Time: 5 hours
The morning resumed at the Stratford Motor Inn. My 'Last' shower was exceptionally anticlimactic as I don't think the shower head has been replaced in 10 years or so. I'm spoiled by the Marriott and Starwood shower heads that I so often get when traveling. This morning's left a lot to be desired, but nonetheless hot water that has an (almost) limited supply is something I'll soon be yearning for, so I enjoyed it and hopped out to get ready for the day. The complimentary buffet at the Motor Inn was a nice combination of muffins, donuts, cereal, and juice from concentrate. Certainly enough to fill me up, as we shared the room with an older gentlemen who smelled like a strange mixture of marijuana and cigarette smoke, and my dad and I talked about adventures of the past.
Thirteen miles on rainy two lane roads brought us through some amazingly diverse landscapes and social situations. One second there'd be a large house with a few nicer American made cars/trucks, the next a barn that had collapsed in on itself a decade or two ago and had been left to rot. The whole 'welcome to Appalachia' really hit when we drove by a woman standing on the deck of her leaning wooden house, leaning in the door frame smoking, surrounded by clothes air drying on the porch with a few busted pick-up trucks on the property. It was truly an eye-opening sight. A few miles later we came across a turnoff for 'Springer Mountain' (please make note of the bullet hole in the sign photo), where the Appalachian Trail begins for northbound hikers. After turning on we were challenged (as was the rental car) with a one-lane dirt road that reminded me of something I'd take a few beginners of my Jeep club on. After a 6.5 mile 'Volkswagen Suspension Check' as I called it, out of the heavy fog came a parking lot with a half dozen cars and a handful of hikers wrapped in neon rain gear.
This just got real.
A 1 mile jaunt up to the summit of Springer allowed me to sign into the hiker registry, take the obligatory photo, and meet a few other hikers. My dad and I hiked back down, and parted ways at the parking lot. Strange to have him drive away and know it might be a few months till I see him again. Nevertheless I began walking with Rory from Chicago. Easy conversation and winding trails made for a quick day, and around 1400hrs we met up with Bill from Maine. Not long after, the three of us stumbled upon 'Trail Magic' which is hiker lingo for a kind individual leaving a beer, candy bar, cold drink, etc. on the side of the trail. As you'll see in photos below, it was a pop up tent with a cooler of ice water. Very appreciated.
So the three of us kept walking for the remaining 4 miles, continuing on to a campsite I had picked out last night as the one to stop at. There are probably some wondering why I wanted to stop at only 5 hours of walking, given the amount of daylight available (sunset was 20:00hrs).. Although I'm sure I could physically continue for further than 10.5 miles today, my goal here is to make it to Maine. I'm going to aim to stay in a 10-12 mile/day range until I get my legs in trail shape and can push further. Also, it was nice to be at camp, fed, and in bed by 7. I'm tired!
Rory didn't make it to camp with us tonight. He at one point about a mile from this campsite said he was making a phone call and would meet up with us. He never made it here, so I wonder if he's stopping at an earlier campsite (there was one between where we split and where Bill & I stopped). So Bill and I made camp at the top of this mountain and settled in for the night. It's quite windy up here at 3,067 feet of elevation, and there has been constant rain since we got into our tents. Thunderstorms have been in and out of the area, and the wind has remained. I'm sure It was quite comical to watch Bill and myself hang out food bag in a tree to keep it from 'da Bears' but it hangs nonetheless, thanks to a couple useful knots I've been taught by riggers on tours/show sites. Hopefully it's still hanging after the wind tonight.
I went to sleep at 7:30 and tossed and turned before taking some ibuprofen and finally falling asleep. Woke up at 0030 and feel better, figured I'd write this. For those interested, the 'location' page is now updating with my GPS coordinates as I go.
It's happening, guys. I'm here. In Georgia. With 'the plan' of walking to Maine.... Anyways, lights out. Aiming for 12 or so miles tomorrow with Bill. I don't know if we'll keep pace together, I think I'm in better shape than I thought, but it's fun to watch these like-minded people come and go. What an experience I'm in for.
Until next time.