Thursday, April 18th

I slept very well last night. It seems that the farther I hike, the better my sleeping gets. Makes sense to me. The first thing I did that morning was take my Vitamin I (Ibuprofen.) That should help my back. I woke up with a thought I'd milled around as I'd slept, tumbling it like a rock. The polished version reads "A wise man once said that we are merely a collection of all the people we've ever met. If this is so, then we will all leave the trail better people."

I munched on granola and raisins for breakfast and packed up my tent. As Kevin and I were preparing to leave, a man pulled up in his car. He got out and sat down next to us, producing a McDonald's bag. Eating an Egg McMuffin, he told us of the trail we had coming up. He talked for several minutes, and was then whisked away by a friend. Kevin left while I was still packing. I passed Kevin soon after I had begun. The day promised to be beautiful. It was in the mid-70s with a nice breeze. It seemed to be entirely uphill. I'd heard from a lot of people that this would be a tough but lovely hike. Today's goal was Blood Mountain, Georgia's highest mountain. The geek in me (which is a good chunk of me) was not saying "Imagine the views", it was saying "Imagine the cellular phone reception!"

I had a lunch of dry Pork ramen noodles and M&Ms. I think I need an M&M sponsorship, with the amount I've been going through. I hit the top of Blood Mountain at 2:30. What a view! I swear I could see all of Georgia from there. In some countries such a site would be illegal. I spent a while at the top, talking to a section hiker and just enjoying the view. There seemed to be endless layers of mountain ranges in all directions, some so close I could touch them, some mere silhouettes on the horizon. I would have walked 28.5 miles to see this. Come to think of it, I did.

An hour later I found myself down in Neels Gap, full of energy and happy as a thru-hiker. Here was the Walasi-Yi Inn, where I would be spending the night. I've heard a lot of this place. For $11 you can spend the night in a bed and take a shower. I clomped into their main store, where they sell backpacking supplies, and ordered a room and a shower. Going into the hostel, I found the New Hampshire guys. Derek "Monsoon" Derosier, Matt "Icculus" Raiche and "Comet Kid", whose real name I didn't get. Monsoon was immediately friendly, recognizing me from our last meeting up at Hawk Mountain Shelter. I didn't stay long, however -- the shower called. My smell was probably audible by then. The shower was great. Best I've ever had, to be sure. I checked out my feet. (I'm sure that sounds odd, but your feet are the most important thing while you're hiking.) They're doing great! No blisters yet, just happy, pink and wrinkly. I grabbed some microwavable stuff at the store and and had dinner. Comet Kid gave me some of his fettuccini, which was appreciated. Walasi-Yi keeps a photo journal of everybody who passes through, so they took a snapshot of us. It now rests in their album on their front counter.

I called my mother. The pay phone says that you only need 10 cents for a local call. Amazing. My mother was awfully glad to hear from me, and it was good for me to hear a familiar voice. She told me that my twin brother has already taken to wearing my sneakers, and that the house is far too quiet without me. She told me that the Daily Progress (a Charlottesville paper) put their story of me out on the AP News wire. Already they've had a request for an alternate photo of me. I hope that people who see reprints of that story in their paper will mail them to my office at Comet.Net. She told me that some of her chocolate-chip cookies are on the way.

I shaved for the first time in a few days. Most people just let their facial hair grow while they're hiking. And for most people, that looks just fine. But I'm 17. Realistically, I'm limited to looking like a scraggly moron if I don't shave. So I will, about once a week.

Monsoon helped me go through my pack and ditch unnecessary gear. We decided half of my bar of soap and the handle of my toothbrush were superfluous. I also lost my metal cup, a bandana, a neck gaiter and a shirt.

We hit the sack around 9:00 AM. A welcome rest.

The song stuck in my head today: "Hotel California", by The Eagles.

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