Dear Herm’s Hkers,
The first week of Mother Nature’s boot camp on the AT is finished! We have survived, but barely. So far, we had 2 days of sun, 3 days of rain, and, of course, the spring snow storm (as promised by those previous thru-hikers). On Day 1, we checked-in with Many Sleeps (the legendary caretaker at Springer Mt. where the journey begins). The first ten miles were relatively easy with rolling hills and a few mountains in a cold heavy fog. The next 3 days we hiked the mountain in rain, at time monsoon type downpours. Did I day mountains? This ain’t John Denver’s Rocky Mountain highs, but these are the MOUNTAINS where the weather changes in a matter of seconds. Everyday there are at least two serious mountain climbs that take us straight up for a 1,000 feet within a mile and then straight down for a 1,000 feet in another mile. Usually, the path up the mountain is filled with small rocks while the trail down the mountain is strewn with boulders that require some rock scrambling. Believe it or not, it’s easier to hike up the mountains then to hike down the mountains. Most of the mountain tops have been fogged in, but when there is a clearing, the view is magnificent. For a far as the eyes can see, there are mountain peaks. Truly, inspiring and motivating! Enough to keep a hiker on the move to see what around the next corner or mountain peak.
After the ordeal by water, we had 2 clear days before the snowstorm yesterday. We did sixteen miles with 2 major mountains and then hit the blizzard. On the last mountain climb, we hit the storm on the windward side. Didn’t want an Everest Expedition, but that’s what we got. The snow was blowing (just a ground covering) with “sustained” winds at at 356-40 MPH. Hands were so cold that we had troubled unzippking our backpacks to get to our lunches. On the other side of the mountain, the winds eased, but the hike down was hard on the knees. In the far valley, the sun was shining brightly. Thank you Mother Nature for a peek at the sun!
Water, water everwhere and plenty to drink. The drought seems to be over in the Southern Appalachians. We get our water from cold mountain streams, filtered to avoid any bacteria. It is sweetwater, indeed. Okay, back to water. On Day 3, we slogged 15 miles through 2 to 4 inch mud in a cold, steady rain. The room at the inn (shelter, actually) was filled so we were forced to camp near Slaughter Creek (how appropriate) in a valely (that was another mile downhill and uphill, oops I mean down-mountain and up-mountain). It was a monsoon throughout the night. Walls of water beat againt the tent (Big Anges, you are a great company that makes a great waterproof tent). At around 2:00, the rains stopped and then a wall of water crashed down the waterfalls near the creek 20 feet away from us. ALll I could picture was the Posideon Adventure, and the searchers finding our bodies in somewhere east of the Mississippi. It was scary to say the least. but we were too tired to even move a muscle. We went to bed at 7:30 and spent the first 2 hours shivering in our sleeping bags trying to regain our body heat.
But here’s comes the sun, the mountains, and trail angles. At 3 road crossings, we experienced trail magic by trail angels. The first was a soda and the next 2 were picnics with hamburgers, hotdogs, sodas, and even beer. Thank you AT Trail Servants and Smurf, the redneck thru-hiker for your generosity.
Running out of computer time at the Hiawasee library, so I’ll have to make this quick. We’ve met a wonderful bunch of hikers, townspeople, and eccentrics that I will describe later, I guess the eccentrics look at me the same way. The Pilgrim of St. James, or the Mad Mick, as we call him, is just one of those characters. He’s an irishman with a long white beard and long white hair who carries a wooden walking staff and a chessboard. He’s knowledgeable about Irish politics, writers, and, of cours, Irish whiskey. Very coy and evasive in his answers. We know where he’s from, but we don’t know where is going too. Typical of many thru-hikers.
Southern hospitality is alive and well! Compassion and caring are the trademarks. I just love the accents. More on that later! Tomorrow we hit the trail. We took an off day (zero day) today because of snow and cold in the mountains. Temperature today is mid-30’s in town which translates to mid-20’s in the mountains. So much to write about and so little time at this time!
Spread the word about Herm’s Hike. I’m trying to line-up a radio interview in town for today. Keep us in your thought and prayers! Happy trails!