Earth Day! I celebrated by taking a long walk in the woods.
The day's hike was a slow and easy one. I took breaks whenever I felt like it, knowing that I only had 7 miles ahead of me. I ate whatever I pleased, since I could restock the following day in Hiawassee. Around noon (note: I retain my watch in my pack only to know the date. All these times are gauged by the sun. It's really freeing to know that it really doesn't matter what time it is.) I ran into a couple of hikers, Jeff and Megan. They, too, were thru-hikers. They told me that they'd just come from Gordo's 3rd Annual Addis Gap Feast. They pointed me in the right direction, and off I went.
About 1/2 a mile down a fire road I found a setup of a few tents and some hikers lounging in the sun on their Therma-Rests. Before I could say a word, a guy walked up to me and handed me a plate of scrambled eggs with fried potatoes and mushrooms. They gave me fruit, Orange Juice (I loooooove orange juice. They only thing more satisfying at that point would have been an Orange Mango Nantucket Nectar.), water, Gatorade, salad, and lots more stuff. Why? Just to be nice. They said that they'd been following the Dead for a few years, but now they want to follow thru-hikers. They may be up in Maine to meet some hikers there, too. Sounds good to me!
I found Comet Kid lounging there, along with a girl that he'd met, Gina "The Accident Waiting to Happen" Varrichio. Seems she'd taken 17 days to get this far, having spent a number of days off of the trail, in towns or just chilling. On her 8th day she managed to fall off a cliff, landing her in the hospital for a little bit. Now she refers to herself as a thru-hiker ("I call myself a thru-hiker 'cuz I'm going to hike 'til I'm through!", she says, reading over my shoulder as I type.), but she doesn't seem to expect to actually make it to Maine at this rate. Who knows, maybe she will?
I took a while to leave, finally hiking the mile to Deep Gap Shelter in mid-afternoon. Deep Gap is a beautiful shelter. It's two levels, with a big front porch, large roof overhangs and a picnic table out front. The shelter was made as a joint effort between the U .S. Forest Service, the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club (GATC), and Upper Loft Designs, Inc. I sat on the picnic table and read a book about the GATC that was hanging in the shelter. ("Friendships of the Trail", I think it's called.)
For the first time this year, the gnats were out. Flowers were in bloom around the cabin, the ants were marching (red and black, antennae waving) over the picnic table, the birds were singing...and they were all mine. Sometimes it's nice to have a shelter to yourself. (Though thoughts of bears creeping up on me were, admittedly, not far from my mind.)
I spent the evening eating all excess food, writing a letter to a friend, and writing poetry and prose for both this journal and my own consumption. I've found that nature really is full of beauty that comes out easily in writing. I don't give myself credit for my writing, I give it to nature.
"Hiking the AT is a fate that I would not wish upon my worst enemies. It is a fate that I would wish only upon the best of my friends."
The Song Stuck in my Head Today: Still "Not Athena", by Monsoon. Must be a good song.
I remember being very young, - 2, maybe 3 - living in a small townhouse in Columbia, Maryland. I remember lying on the thick, white carpet on the floor of the living room. I would be doing whatever it was that 2- or 3-year-olds do on the thick, white carpet on the floor of their living room in Columbia, Maryland. Suddenly I would feel my father standing over me. Before I could react, he would lift me up with his strong arms and toss me, laughing and spinning, into the air. I'd fly upwards, giggling, towards our unfathomably high ceiling, then fall back into my father's strong arms for yet another toss. And each time he'd throw me upwards, in my joy would become embedded a splinter of fear. What if I missed his strong arms and hit our thick white carpet? What if I hit that ceiling? Of course, he always caught me and I never did hit that ceiling.---
Each day, on the Appalachian Trail, I am tossed out of the shelter, off of the dirty brown floorboards, up into the mountains of the Blue Ridge. Each day is filled with the joy of nature, life, and my own accomplishments. Yet in each day is embedded that splinter of fear. What if I give up? What if I break my leg? But every day make it to the shelter, landing in the strong arms of a force far greater than I.