Posted by: pjbarr | March 23, 2010

Emotional High

Start: Hawk Mountain Shelter
Finish: Gooch Mountain Shelter
Distance: 7.3 mi.
Trip Distance: 15.1 mi.
Side Trips: Hawk Mountain Summit
Side Trip Miles: 0.6 mi.
State: Georgia
Highlights: Clear Weather and Sunshine, Hawk Mountain Summit, Realizing I’m Really Doing This

“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” -Winston Churchhill


Gooch Mountain Shelter

Today I realized that I’m not the hiker I once was. I realized that this trail is going to be hard. Real hard. Today I struggled. Huffing and puffing, bending over on my trekking poles or leaning on trees sucking wind. The climbs up Sassafras Mountain and Justus Mountain are nothing to speak of, compared to the ascents I’m used to. I’m angry at myself for finally hiking the hike of my dreams and being so miserably out of shape. I knew I would struggle emotionally, but I never imagined I would struggle as much physically as I have been. While I stopped today because of a favorable shelter situation, I was also spent. I may have been able to muster only another 3 or 4 miles. Six years of ambitious hiking and backpacking trips, about 2000 miles of trails, hundered of tall peaks – and I’m like a newbie out here. My general six month hiking hiatus was ill timed. Still getting over this cold turned to bronchitis isn’t helping. My feet are holding up well – hopefully the legendary hiking calluses will return soon.

The weather was beautiful today. Clear, chilly, albeit a bit hazy. The inaugural night in the tent went less than swell. It sleeted all night so I kept the door closed but had the end vents open. The tent condensated on the inside miserably and rained on me throughout the night. Didn’t affect my sleep though – I slept 10 hours straight without waking. My sleeping bag got a little wet but I think it has mostly dried now. I am, however, doubting my tent for the future of this trip. Another guy had a Tarptent Contrail with the same issues. He’s also doubting carrying it much longer.

The trail today was much like I imagined Georgia’s AT. Constant ups and downs over the ridgeline with open woods. The great weather made it very exciting.

Today was more about people. I hit an emotional low last night because I didn’t make any friends (this and the condensation issue). Tonight I am at an emotional high. I met several great people on the trail. While I feel like a poor hiker now, I apparently am still faster than the majority of the folks out here. This is certainly encouraging.

On the trail I met “Old Grandad” who attempted a thru hike several years ago. He had to get off in Pearisburg. He’s now planning to do a 600 mile hike starting in May and another next year in order to finish. I caught him at Horse Gap where he turned around and headed back to Amicalola. This was just a shakedown hike for him. He told me that not finishing the trail the first time ate at him. Lesson is to finish the trail this year at all costs. Nice guy. I hope I see him again in May, though I am hopeful to be farter than Pearisburg then.

I also wolfed down 6 pieces of bacon and a few handfuls of macadamia nuts at Horse Gap. Mmmmm…bacon.


Max Factor at Justus Creek

I met Max Factor at Justus Creek. Older guy, real nice guy. I like him. He’s at shelter tonight – good natured dude.

I stopped early at about 2:30pm, hoping to get a shelter spot and make friendships that didn’t present themselves last night. Turned out to be a great decision.

Superman is here – a hilarious guy from Georgia who attempted in 2007. He’s 29 and very outgoing. We like each other’s jokes. He’s definitely the “life of the party” kind of guy. He said goodbye to me this morning even though I was inside my tent – and he remembered my trail name – a feat not easy at this stage of the hike with so many new faces. I hope our schedules continue to align.


Superman & Hercules

Also here is Jim and Peggy from Ohio – and older couple and very sweet and nice. 3Bears, a 27 year old guy from NJ headed back there and not to Maine, is another good, funny guy. I like him too. Rachel from PA, Ripple whom I met on the way up to Springer as she was coming down, and Cope are here too – I like all of them as well. Ditto for Carlos who is on a two week section hike. TA Hiker is another guy with good conversation. Hercules is here too.


3Bears, Eric, TA Hiker, Supermann, Max Factor

Lots of laughs, fun and bonding tonight here at Gooch Mountain Shelter. Lots of friendships being forged. A few people I hope to never see again but the majority I hope to see often. Not too cold tonight. Lots of stars… A great day and night on the Appalachian Trail.

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