7.9 miles, 8.1 total (Hawk Mountain Shelter)
At 1:30 I wake up to the sound of rain. I sleep off and on for the next 5 hours but by 6:30 I’m ready to get moving. It is still dark out and I can’t hear anybody else up. I begin to pack and by 7:45 i am on my way. There is a sense fog, but the rain has let up for now. My objective is to get to the next shelter 2.5 miles away before the group that I think is ahead of me leaves. This serves 2 purposes: first, I am curious about he hikers ahead of me and want to meet them. Second, I anticipate the next shelter after theirs will be full tonight, especially with the wet weather, and I want to make sure I get there early enough to claim a spot.
By 9:00 I get to Stover Creek shelter and find the other hikers packing up. We exchange pleasantries while I sign the register. When I remark on how beautiful the day is one of the hikers remarks “what, this?” Later I find out he has been dubbed the Meandering Snail and has taken 7 days to get just this far. Others tell me he is also on day 12 of a 30 day fast, which may explain his dislike of the weather.
I push on quickly to get ahead of the others. The hiking is pleasantly cool and dry. The streams and rhododendron thickets remind me of my days at Coweeta, which makes sense with it only about 70 miles away. I make good time on the downhill from Springer but on the uphill toward Hawk I have to slow down and grab a snack. By this time there is a light but steady rain. I don’t want to put my rain gear on because I am comfortable but I know I will need to change quickly once I get to the shelter.
When I arrive at the shelter around noon there is another hiker who is out for a few weeks. He is an Alabama football fan and regales me for several minutes with his opinions about college football until other hikers arrive. They are some of the ones I met at Stover Creek. Over the next couple hours several more arrive, some of them stopping for the day and some pushing on the next 8 miles to Gooch Mtn shelter. I have no interest in continuing and risking injury, so I am happy when a bf-gf pair decide to stay. They have brought a ukelele and a fiddle, so I look forward to them providing a soundtrack for my hike. A young man named Stephen from NY stays for a few hours before finally deciding to push on. In that time he waffles back and forth between staying and going and tells us he is an indecisive bastard. The name sticks, at least for now. A suggestion that he be named IBS (indecisive bastard Steve) is offered. It’s hard to tell at this point whether either will stick for good.
Several other hikers wander in by nightfall and it stops raining around 3. After dinner the musicians set to some old-timey tunes and folks gather around to listen. Tomorrow I plan to get up early again and get moving to get a spot in the next shelter. The musician pair isn’t sure if they’ll make it that far and that disappoints everyone who plans to join me. Word is tomorrow will be another rainy day on the Appalachian Trail.
FYI – I don’t get good cell service in most places so later I will update each post with pictures