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1983 Journal

In memory of Susan Ramsay and Robert Mountford Jr.

and special thanks to Constance, who although she did not know it, played an integral role in my final success.

May 16, 1981 Saturday From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Towards the end of the school year 1981, I finished gathering the items necessary for my trip to the Appalachian Trail. I ordered some guide books early in the year as part of my preparations. I bought my boots, backpack, stove and cook-kit, and thought I was ready to go.

I was not home for more than a few days after finishing finals before it was time to be driven down to Georgia to begin the” Adventure of a Lifetime”. My brother Carl drove me down in what appears in a photo to be our grey Oldsmobile. I believe it was the first brand new vehicle that my family had ever owned (other than the van dad bought for the business). This would be the first time I had really gone backpacking - I did not really count the trips around Carbondale picking up aluminum cans, or those taken with the Shawnee Mountaineers climbing club. I don’t really know what my folks thought about the undertaking, but Mom had become quite involved with it since she would be the one who would be sending me whatever I needed. Dad never did say much.

We arrived at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia, where the approach trail begins, on May 16. The approach trail is the trail that leads you to the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) which begins on the summit of Springer Mountain. I unloaded what little I had from the trunk of the car, which amounted to my backpack and the contents therein. Over the next few months that would be all that I had - or really needed. For a short time we explored the ranger station, signed the register, and took a few photos. After saying our goodbyes, I trudged off up the approach trail with my sister, who followed me until we reached the top of the Falls. After this point I would be traveling alone, or so I thought anyway. I set off carrying way too much weight, but thinking this was normal. I also wore boots that even though I had them for over a year, were apparently not totally broken in yet. (In those days boots were made of very thick leather and took a long time to break in.) What I did have was determination and desire, but would that be enough?

I began my hike at 1:56pm.

When I began the Approach trail, it was overcast, and a cool 56 – 60 degrees.

Very quiet out here. I walked by myself for a couple miles and then caught up to Bill, another hiker from California we had met in the parking lot. He was with another guy, also named Bill, and the three of us hiked together for the rest of the day. Eventually, we all decided to camp atop Frosty Mountain. We think we are about 3.5 miles from Springer. Starting to drizzle - 4:56pm, the time we arrived on Frosty, but it quit soon after just a few drops. I ate an apple and the "Little Casserole" that Amy (A fellow Zoology student and my girlfriend Connie’s old roommate) gave me as a parting gift. I have developed a little bit of a blister problem on the back of my ankles. More than I had expected, but I seem to be O.K. otherwise. I had my doubts about the walk when I walked away from Carl, Julie, and Jay, but I think now that everything will be just fine. I might take it easy these first few days until I get adjusted. It is a long way to Maine, and many months of travel to get there, so no need to rush. Took pictures of the plaque at Amicalola Falls as well as the falls, and one of each of the Bills. There is a spring a little ways from Frosty Mountain where we filled our canteens with water. Approximately 50 degrees at 6:16 pm. I miss everyone and wish they could be here. I would like to stay with Bill and Bill, but unfortunately they plan on traveling a little bit slower. I may stay with them for the next couple of days though.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1981