Tuesday, April 16th

It is 8 AM. It is a welcome dawn. Chuck's leaving wakes me up. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and dead. My breakfast consists of oatmeal, a pop tart, a hot chocolate. It took two packets of hot chocolate to make it taste decent, and three of oatmeal to put a dent in my hunger. Lisa and Grant make biscuits and gravy for breakfast. They took the advice in "The Well-Fed Backpacker". They will eat well.

As I'm pulling out of camp, two more people pull in. First is Kevin Hoffman. He and I had e-mailed one another earlier. Right behind him is Dan Kohn, who has already acquired a trail name - High Tech. It seems that he's heard of me, and realizes that maybe he's been out-high-teched. He has brought a Hewlett-Packard palmtop. It contains all of the vital information he needs to hike the trail, from food schedules to sunup and sundown times. I'm not that industrious. I've got some friends addresses and some Linux documentation. My favorite thing on my laptop is letters. People all over the Internet and all over the world have been sending me letters of encouragement. People I've never heard of, people I'll never meet, people who've never even heard of the Appalachian Trail. I'll take the letters over the sunsets.

I leave around 11 o'clock. Screw starting with the sun - I'm a 17-year-old, I sleep in. I spend two and a half hours hiking the 5.2 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. I spend much of that time hiking through rhododendron enclosures, a leafy subway tunnel, my hiking partners birds and gray squirrels. I end up at Hawk Mountain Shelter. It is a huge shelter, double-leveled, fitting ten or so comfortably. There I meet a few guys that I'd met on Springer the day before. They are from New Hampshire. They leave as I come to the Shelter. In the distance I hear helicopters. I'd read that this is a Ranger training site. They fly just over the treetops, waggling from side to side. One of them waves to me. Soon yet another thru-hiker comes by. Jeff Scanniello. He tells me of his job. He works in Antarctica as a surveyor. He gives me his name and number. They're looking for programmers, he says. It sounds good to me. Before he leaves, Kevin, High-Tech, The Purple Pirate and Lisa arrive. The five us seem to be the evening's crew here at Hawk Mountain. Lisa tells us how she seemed to have trouble finding the blazes on the trees today, missing even the most obvious ones. She may end up with the trail name "Blaze Blind". She seems to like "Nomad". I'm rooting for Blaze Blind. We all cook dinner, three MSR WhisperLite stoves a'blazin' on the porch. While cooking, a woman comes into camp. She walks past us without even a glance and sets up her tent behind the shelter. After half an hour, unresponsive to our greetings, she begins to pump water. She soon asks for the trail register as we eat. She signs in and retreats to her tent. She goes by "The Grim Creeper". Lisa seemed a little freaked out by this. We later learned that this is her third thru-hike. She's apparently an excellent hiker, doing twenty to thirty mile days frequently. She's on the front of the Appalachian Adventure book, the top center photo. She has my respect.

We all shared dinners, making my bland meal an awful lot more interesting. The Purple Pirate and Blaze Blind made popcorn over their glowing stove. We munched on popcorn and talked into the night as darkness enveloped our little oasis of light.

The song stuck in my head today: "Celia", by Simon and Garfunkel. I know it's actually "Cecilia", but there's a sweet gal I know in Maryland named "Celia", and I just can't sing it correctly anymore.

"For me, the whole thing touched bottom when I was gently accused of escapism during a TV interview about a book I had written on a length-of-California walk. Frankly, I fail to see how going for a six-month, thousand-mile walk through deserts and mountains can be judged less real than spending six months working eight hours a day, five days a week, in order to earn enough money to be able to come back to a comfortable home in the evening and sit in front of a TV screen and watch the two-dimensional image of some guy talking about a book he has written on a six-month, thousand-mile walk through deserts and mountains." Colin Fletcher, "The Complete Walker III".

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