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May 18, 1981 - Monday From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

I woke at approximately 2:00am as the older Bill quietly called me and said he thought he heard something chewing on my pack. He told me to kick my pack. I did, and then sat up and listened. I heard a little gnawing, and decided to check it out. I found no mouse, but something was there sometime - I noticed part of my toilet paper was shredded. I closed up my pack and tried to get back to sleep, but couldn’t keep from thinking about a mouse chewing a hole in my pack (Later I decided that leaving the zippers partway open would at least keep the mice from chewing a hole in the actual pack, and to this day I do not have any holes in my pack from vermin). Bill & I eventually decided to get up and hang our food bags since the register at the lean-to mentioned that someone had seen a bear somewhere between the shelter and Springer. A wide area I know, but who knows...

We hiked about 14 miles today according to the guides. Sometimes I wonder about the accuracy of the guides. We spent two hours at Justice Creek. I bathed my upper body and ate chicken noodle soup. Mike and a friend of his, whom I was going to hike with on the spur of the moment yesterday, caught up with us at the creek. We bullshitted with them for a while. William and I are hiking together, and later Bill catches up. We (William and I) made it to Gooch Gap before everyone else, left a note and walked 2.5 miles to Suches for supplies. I felt as though I was short on supplies. (Now that I think about it, if we hiked 2.5 miles to Suches and 2.5 miles back, that is five miles that we should add on to the 14 that we supposedly hiked on the trail that day for a total of 19!) Had a Dr. Pepper, a Pepsie, 2 candy bars, and a pint of strawberry ice cream. Sent off two post cards & called my sister, Julie, collect.

(I sent a Postcard of Brasstown Bald Mountain to my family which survived these thirty years and gives a glimpse of how I was really feeling and how I had already given up). The text on it reads:
“Mom, Dad, Julie, Jay and everyone else, This doesn’t have anything to do with where I am at (Brasstown Bald view), but it is a way to get in touch. I am now at Suches, a very small town and just bought some groceries & ate some strawberry ice cream. Have been and will be hiking with two guys both named Bill. We are taking it as easy as can be and I don’t plan on making it to Maine. We have gone about 30 miles as of Monday – today. It’s lovely out here but very hard work. I sometimes want to come home because it is easier there, but I am trying to stick it out. Got some blisters bothering me, but I hope they will heal soon. See you later, Love, Alan”

I don’t know who I sent the second post card, but I would imagine it was my girlfriend, Constance.

It was nice to talk to someone familiar. Apparently I had given up after only three days in the woods – actually, only two days on the actual Appalachian Trail. Familiarity, it is something nice, but in this case it had caused me to become homesick in just a few days, but was also making me hang out with William and Bill because they were “comfortable” to be with, and I felt I needed to be with someone rather than just hiking my own hike.

We walked back to Gooch Gap, only to find Bill, Mike and his friend, as well as two other guys. Eventually, another hiker showed up at the shelter as well. Feeling there was not enough room at the shelter for everyone, William and I picked up our gear and walked down to a nice area below the shelter and proceeded to eat the 1.5 lb can of chicken and dumplins (MMM!) I bought, and drank some cold tea (instant) he had bought. We pitched our tents and made a nice fire. William spent the evening waterproofing his shoes. At the store in Suches, he got rid of several articles of clothing plus a couple of pots to make his pack weigh less - besides he didn’t need the stuff. I spend $17 and some change at the store, but it feels good to have the sweets, the dumplins, and other stuff ready for the next few days. We have decided that we will probably travel about 5 miles a day now and enjoy ourselves. Time will tell if we can really stand this low mileage. With these blisters it may be just right, although they feel pretty good except when going uphill.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1981