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3/1 I am headedfrom Neels Gap Hostel (pictured) to Low Gap Shelter which is about a 12 mile hike. We’ve already seen some folks drop out. A couple in their 50’s didn’t think the trail would be so hard and dropped at Neels Gap. Around 8:30 last night a young man stumbled into the hostel in bad shape. He’d been hiking in the dark for a few hours. He was dehydrated and vomiting. We gave him Gatorade and some leftover pizza. He seems like a nice kid but you never who will keep going another day. Today and 3/15 are the busiest start days on the AT. Someone said that 60 people were starting today. That’s unofficial because when you register it doesn’t mean that you’ll start on that day. Still, that is a lot of hikers setting out in this journey. I do hope that since we are one week ahead it won’t get too crowded or that we’ll be competing for tent sets, hostel bunks or a place at the shelter.
It is finally raining. Freezing rain forecasted for the northern counties and so I am off this morning in search of a gullywasher. If there is one piece of gear that I am still on the fence about it is The Packa. I love the concept but it's twice as heavy as say the OR Helium rain jacket. I will return in about 6 hours either loving it or hating it.
A few curious people have asked, “What's up with the Gumby thing?" Well, there is a story in that. When I was young, I had a Gumby companion and it went everywhere with me. I was on a camping trip with my Father and I made Gumby a raft and set him down in a fast-moving river. Some accounts were that it was a Class V and based on other events that I can remember more clearly from my childhood, I would say this is accurate. As Gumby was swept from my hands, my father took chase but couldn’t keep up with Gumby and his raft. He was gone. Lost forever. To help ease the pain, my family has gifted me many Gumby items over the years including ties, socks, key chains, snuff boxes, handkerchiefs, etc. So, I suppose the name is a fitting tribute to my brave Gumby friend.
This is the first entry in a new journal that I will use to document the places I'll visit, the people I meet and any thoughts or aspirations that I'd like to share as I trek northbound along the 2100 mile footpath known as the Appalachian Trail. I'll begin my hike on February 25 at Springer Mountain, GA. I'll travel to Atlanta and meet Donnie and his wife Mary (photo attached) at the North Springs MARTA station. Our first stop will be at Amicalola State Park to sign-in and pick up my Thru-Hiker Badge before heading up the fire road to the Springer Mtn parking lot. From there, I'll hike back to the plaque at the southern terminus , sign the registry, and depending on the time, stay at the Springer Mountain Shelter or push on to Stover Mountain about 3 miles to the north. I do remind myself that these are just plans. As the poet Robert Burns wrote, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry" and so to hike to a rigid schedule would likely dilute the experience and allow all that is new and unknown to go unnoticed.