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Monday May 16, 1983 (2136.8 miles to go) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Rained last night, but there was a time during the night when there was no rain… virtually no noise… just the picturesque sounds of a Barred Owl hooting nearby. It wasn't that the owl kept me up, but I did not sleep much. I wasn't restless, and probably got more sleep than I thought. Perhaps it was the excitement of our first day on the trail. I don't know, but I got up at 6:50 am after realizing that my Casio wrist alarm had not gone off, or perhaps the sound was muffled under the sleeping bag that kept me nice and toasty. Why would anyone want to get up any earlier than that anyway? Had a nice breakfast consisting of my last whole banana to help rid my pack of extra weight, and soon were off on our quest for Maine once again. Today we were slated to go over Sassafras Mountain, a climb that I remembered from two years ago that left an impression in my mind as being a "ball breaker". It probably wasn't that bad, but being one of the first mountains of my backpacking career, I made a mental note of it. For a while I thought that maybe the trail had changed and Sassafras was no longer part of the AT since I didn't see it mentioned in the data book. Well it was still on the AT, and although Jim was already suffering from a partially immobilized leg, and big blisters on his feet, we made it over that mountain and then Justice Mountain as well. While on Justice Mtn., we heard the drumming of a Ruffed Grouse. We were blessed to see a type of orchid today that sported small flowers - pink and white - I believe it to be called a Showy Orchid. We rolled into Gooch Gap shelter after a 15.6 mile day, a big mile day by most standards on the Appalachian Trail, especially for those just starting out. Most people who thru hike the trail do so in the direction that Jim and I were traveling - South to North; however, most people try to average about 14 miles per day or so. I felt compelled to travel at a faster pace since we were starting about one month past the time that the majority of hikers begin, and I did not want to encounter any snow in Maine, or worry that the Northern terminus on Katahdin was closed as it usually is after October 14. Regardless, the distance of our first full day was a bit much, but Jim and I had figured we would travel at roughly 18 miles per day no problem. Then reality set in for Jim.

At the time, most thru hikers began around the first weeks in April, although many begin in March. Recently it seems as though the start day is getting earlier and earlier. I think it has someting to do with the crowded conditions due to more hikers attempting the journey. Jim and I began as soon as we could after completing our semester at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. At least we were fairly sure that we would not get caught in any snowfall, and there was no race for a space in the shelter each night. Spring was well on its way and there was greenery everywhere. Some of the mountaintop trees at higher elevations were just beginning to leaf out.

I remembered Gooch Gap shelter from my first trip as being the first place that I became "homesick" and felt as though I was ill prepared for the trip in the food quantity department. In 1981 Gooch Gap shelter was reached on my third day, and I had serious doubts about my trip in general having huge blisters and a feeling of imminent food rationing before my next resupply point. Another hiker and I made our first off-trail resupply journey into the town of Suches, Georgia, which as I recall was no more than a general store. I remember how good it felt to talk with my mother on the payphone outside the store, and how I felt that I had been on the trail forever! Time does strange things during the first few days of one's trail adventure. A few days seems like a few weeks, and there is a discontinuity with real time.

We stayed at Gooch Gap Shelter and chose not to go to Suches on this trip, there was no need, we had "plenty" of food, and our next resupply point was only two days away at Neels Gap. Rich came struggling in later in the day and needed some help. Wade (probably Wade Skelton), another prospective thru-hiker staying at the shelter, gave him some soup to help him out. Later, Rich gave Jim some medication for his blisters. Charity in the hiking community is wonderful. Everyone seems to want the others to make it.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983
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