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May 31, 1981 Sunday From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Nice morning. A little overcast, but it eventually cleared up. Chuck and I had to get up to wait for the ranger to arrive so we could get our backcountry permits before entering the park. Although free, they are necessary to monitor who goes in and out of the park and ensure everyone a spot in a shelter if they want one. Bruce and Mike were already at the Visitor center, but hadn’t hit the trail yet because Mike wanted to catch someone there to mail his post cards. The TVA employee/ranger wouldn’t do it – said it was against orders to give rides or take mail. He had already been at the center and had left before we had arrived. Tired of waiting, Mike eventually walked back to the shelter to give John Smart the mail to take into town. After he got back, Mike and Bruce walked off over the dam. Upon getting about half way across, Chuck and I yelled a good L-L-L-L—ick Me! that echoed around the lake and dam area for a second or two. “Lick me “ had become a phrase that was commonly used by Bruce and Mike, and began to creep into our vocabularies as well. They turned around as the echo subsided and returned the “greeting”.

We waited there for the ranger who seemed to never get there. I decided to call home while we waited and as I was talking – she finally arrived. We got our permits – every shelter the same as the other guys except for the first shelter. They got Mollies, we got Birch Springs Gap. We started off slowly after taking a snack and drinking a Mr. Pibb at the Visitors center. Our packs seemed a bit heavier – mine wasn’t so much of a change I don’t think, it was always heavy! Hiked on as the sun shone brightly in the sky, and just before the firetower on Shuckstack Mountain, I spotted a huge rattler lying on a rock in the middle of the trail. I stopped just in time, and told Chuck about it. We threw some rocks at it in hopes it would move, but it just got pissed and tense. I threw a large rock at it and it really got mad. We should have killed and eaten it but instead decided to go around the snake - off the trail. We ate lunch on top of the firetower – 2 Pop-Tarts and some gorp. The view was spectacular. Took a shot of Chuck and one of Fontana Lake. The rest I figured would be boring, and later I wouldn’t know what it was anyway. Made it to Birch Springs shelter and relieved myself in the woods. When I came back I found Chuck talking to a man who said his party of eight who were supposed to stay at Mollies had decided to continue on and exit the park and hike on to the dam. We decided that since their spots were now open at Mollies Ridge shelter we would take a chance on moving on to the next shelter and getting caught and being fined for being in the wrong shelter. We packed up and pushed on to Mollies -4.5 miles up the trail.

We really picked the pace up, and made it to the shelter just before a cloudburst. Bruce began looking for his expensive Gore-tex rain parka and concluded that he left it where he had eaten his lunch - six miles down the trail. He decided to try to retrieve it. Borrowing Mike’s jacket, he ran back to find it.

Two deer appeared near the shelter as we sat there eating. They don’t seem to be too afraid of humans. I had fixed minute rice flavored with chicken soup, a little butter, mashed potatoes, and a little cheese sause from a macaroni and cheese dinner. Dessert was a bit of pistachio pudding and a Fig Newton donated to me from Chuck’s cookie supply which had been sent by his mother. After some hours, Bruce finally came running back - without finding his jacket. It was almost 8:45 pm or so and night was beginning to creep in. He yelled “stay back!” as he approached because a bear was supposedly paralleling him just off the trail. Mike said he, himself, had seen it earlier when he had gone out a couple of miles to leave Bruce a Snickers and a canteen along the trail. Both hikers had come back soaked from a short hard rain. Mike claimed he had seen the bear ten feet in front of him and said he started clacking two rocks together. The result was that the bear ran down the trail toward the direction where Bruce would be coming on his return. Bruce said he had also encountered a wart hog, and had just finished running away from it when the bear appeared twenty feet in front of him. He was bushed from all the running and started yelling to scare the bear off. He also had gotten out his buck knife. He made it back in one piece, but was mad because he didn’t find his jacket. He also said he saw an eight to ten point buck. The rain had quit before Bruce got back – a hard, short term rain. We made hot tea, cocoa and coffee for Mike and Bruce, the wettened beasties, to warm them up.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1981