Sunday, April 10, 1994 (Max B. Epperson Shelter) – After a month of planning and packing, I started my thru-hike today on the Appalachian Trail and despite the excitement (and because of a big night on the town in Atlanta) the day got off to a slow start. I slept until after 10am then took a shower and made some phone calls to Mo and Mom/Dad from Elizabeth’s apartment. By 12:30pm, The Sister and I were on the way to The Weasel‘s to pick him up for the drive to the Approach Trail at Amicalola State Park in North Georgia. We stopped for a late lunch at Subway in Dawsonville and eventually made it to the park by 3pm. I registered at the visitor’s center, then we checked out the main falls (which drop about 700 feet) and had a look at Amicalola Lodge and the nearby Approach Trail. By 5pm some showers and thunderstorms were brewing in the area, and I decided to stay in the Max B. Epperson Shelter rather than hike a few miles this evening. The Sister and The Weasel hit the road for Atlanta by 5pm and I headed for the shelter which sits a short distance behind the visitor’s center. This turned out to be a great call. Two other hikers were here tonight: I met a thru-hiker named The Red Rainman (Rich) and a section-hiker named Bull (Richard). It was great to spend the evening with them and talk about the Trail. In Chicago I didn’t know anyone with much knowledge on the A.T., but these guys were well read on the topic and they helped reinforce my interest in the thru-hike. We had some great conversation over dinner then sacked out sometime after 10pm tonight.
Mostly Sunny Afternoon Thunderstorms Cloudy Night70’s 60’s
Monday, April 11, 1994 (Springer Mountain Shelter) – We were up at 6:45am this morning and Bull gave the Red Rainman and I a ride to the top of the falls for breakfast at the lodge. Bull hitched a ride with a park ranger from the base of the falls at the visitor’s center where he parked his truck. We had a great breakfast at the Amicalola Lodge and enjoyed the views from the window. A local guy offered us a shuttle to the trailhead at USFS 42 for $20/each, but we decided to hike the Approach Trail and got started on the 8.1 mile hike around 10am from the top of the falls (which saved us about 0.6 miles of walking.) A small plane crashed in this area recently and we walked by a large amount of debris scattered along the trail. After a short break at a new shelter in Black Gap, we made the summit and got a look at our first white blaze at 3:30pm. That was a rush to say the least. We took some photos then headed to the nearby Springer Mountain Shelter for dinner. A bunch of thru-hikers rolled in tonight: Sarge, Motor City Ramblers (Bob and Diane), Cheesasurus (Shannon), Hatchet Man (John), etc. The Red Rainman and I walked back to Springer Mountain around 9:15pm to catch the sunset and a great view to the southwest. As we snapped some photos, Cheesasurus arrived at the summit after a long day on the Approach Trail. We all headed back to the shelter and spoke briefly to the other thru-hiker’s that were sitting on the picnic bench. The skies were clear tonight and the stars were out in force (and easily discernible through the barren trees), but most of us sacked out around 10pm this evening.
Sunny Clear Night Upper 70’s/Low 80’s 60’s
Tuesday, April 12, 1994 (Hawk Mountain Shelter) – Despite the rain, everyone was up early in the shelter this morning to pack up and hit the trail. (First day enthusiasm?) I woke up at 7am and discovered that a mouse ate through a plastic bag and into my GORP during the night even though it was suspended from a rope. After the cleanup, Bull and I hit the trail with The Red Rainman around 9:30am but we lost him near Laurel Falls at the junction with the Duncan Ridge Trail. Laurel Falls is very pretty and was gushing from the heavy rains today. There are some nice campsites in the area and also at Three Forks which is a short distance away. Bull and I snapped some photos then continued on to the cemetery where we ran into the Motor City Rambles. Bob (from MCR) and I tested out a steel device that resembled a rotating teeter-tooter, then continued on to Hawk Mountain with Diane (also from MCR) and Bull. The shelter was packed this evening because of the weather, and three groups had to camp outside tonight. Apparently the shelter was built last fall and it has two stories with a loft. Bull and I got to Hawk Mountain early enough to claim a spot up top, and the Motor City Ramblers and the Red Rainman joined us for the night. All was well until around 11pm, when I woke to a pitch black shelter and loud screams and rumbling. Someone scrambled for a light, and we woke to find that a mouse had crawled into Bob’s sleeping bag and then inside his shirt. The weather was nasty outside with thunder, lightening, and tornado warnings in North Georgia and my first thought was that we had been hit by a twister. The chaos was caused by a mouse, however, and after the barn dance ended we slowly fell back asleep. All of the thru-hikers from Springer Mountain stayed here tonight, plus Slowly and Surely, Kung Fu Rob, and some southbounders that were out for a long weekend.
Rain Showers Storm Warning Night Thunderstorms Breezy 70’s
Wednesday, April 13, 1994 (Gooch Gap Shelter) – We found out that tornados did touch down in North Georgia last night (via radio), but the sun started to break through the clouds around 9am today and stayed out as we hit the trail. Bull, The Red Rainman and I hiked together for most of the eight miles to Gooch Gap shelter and it was an exhausting afternoon. I am sore from the first two days on the trail and my hip belt was thrashing my waist a bit. I finished the last few miles with Bull and the Motor City Ramblers and camped with them at a small camping area just passed the shelter (since it was full tonight). There were eight hikers here this evening and everyone is thru-hiking except Richard – although I think he wishes he was. It was nice to be in a tent again after two nights in some mouse-infested shelters.
Partly Sunny AM Mostly Sunny PM Breezy Partly Cloudy Night 70’s 50’s
(The Gooch Gap Shelter was rebuilt and moved away from U.S. Forest Road 42 since my thru-hike in 1994. It is now a two story structure about a mile and a half south on the Appalachian Trail.)
Thursday, April 14, 1994 (Jarrard Gap) – I packed up and left the Gooch Gap shelter with Bull this morning at 9am and we hiked uphill most of the day. The Walkman came in handy for the hills and I picked up a Georgia State radio station (88.5FM) which made the miles go faster. We pushed on to Jarrard Gap for a total of 9.2 miles by late afternoon and we had nice weather for the hike (which was a long one). The Red Rainman, Kung Fu Rob, Hatchet Man (John) and Bull camped here tonight and we had a nice fire in the evening and the first one of the trip. I ate some of Mom’s freeze dried food (left over from the 80’s) but I think I’ll stick to Lipton’s in the future. It was clear tonight with lots of stars in the sky and the sun set through the trees. It’s too bad we didn’t make it to Blood Mountain tonight because I’m sure the sunset was awesome. Regardless, we sacked out around 10pm this evening.
Mostly Sunny PM Clear Night Low 80’s 60’s
Friday, April 15, 1994 (Neels Gap) – Bull and I packed up tents between rain bursts this morning around 8:30am and hiked 5.4 miles to Neels Gap after a brief stop and some photos at Blood Mountain (the highest point on the A.T. in Georgia) and the shelter was barely visible in the thick fog. We made it to the hostel by 1:30pm this afternoon and were the last of ten hikers to check-in including: Bull, Motor City Ramblers, Slowly & Surely, The Red Rainman, Kung Fu Rob, Hatchet Man, and Sarge (who hitchhiked to get here after a day off). After some food, a shower, and some laundry, I had a cool evening in the hostel. It rained heavily this afternoon and evening and we were all glad to be here and not camping on the trail tonight. I talked with Mo, Snyder, and Barber tonight from the pay phone at the gap, and Barber is in Z-town at Mom/Dad’s apartment and moving to South Carolina tomorrow. Mom/Dad were out on the town tonight with some friends.
Rain Showers Fog Afternoon Thunderstorms Cloudy Night 70’s
Saturday, April 16, 1994 (Low Gap Shelter) – I hiked 10.6 miles to Low Gap shelter today and spent most of the time on the trail hiking solo. Left Neels Gap around 8:30am after grabbing a quick breakfast in the store and I eventually rolled into the shelter area by 3:15pm. The hiking was great today and I finally feel like I am getting in shape for the miles ahead. Bull and I split up today since his son-in-law met up with him this morning at Neels Gap. They didn’t make it to the shelter tonight, but a number of other thru-hikers did: The Red Rainman, Hatchet Man, Motor City Ramblers, Slowly & Surely.
Mostly Sunny Clear Night Windy Low 60’s/Upper 50’s 30’s
Sunday, April 17, 1994 (Tray Mountain Shelter) – I was the first thru-hiker to leave Low Gap shelter this morning at 8:15am and cranked out 14.9 miles – the most yet in a single day. At noon, the Red Rainman and I took a long break with Maineac at the Blue Mountain shelter and snapped some pics of the view to the east. By 1pm, we were back on the trail and hiking the final 7.7 miles to the Tray Mountain shelter. The last three miles were tough and entirely uphill, but I cranked some Van Halen on the Walkman and the last few miles went surprisingly fast. A guy named Chris and his dog were camped near the shelter tonight and he offered the Red Rainman and I a steak (much to the displeasure of his pooch.) Chris also built a cooking fire which we expanded during the evening and it was nice to have because the wind kicked up and the temperatures dropped after dark. Maineac was also in the area tonight but chose to tent rather than stay in the shelter. Before we sacked out at 10pm, The Red Rainman and I checked out the sunset from Tray Mt. (although it was obstructed by trees to some degree) and enjoyed the clear skies and stars from the small clearing in front of the shelter.
Mostly Sunny Clear Night Windy, Late PM 70’s Low 40’s/Upper 30’s
Monday, April 18, 1994 (Deep Gap Shelter) – The Red Rainman and I were the only two hikers in the shelter last night, so it was easy to sleep late until around 8:45am today. Everyone else had left by the time I hit the trail at 10:47am, and I decided to take it slow and hike only 7.1 miles from Tray Mountain to Deep Gap shelter this afternoon. I made it there by 3:30pm, but the miles went slowly due to the heat and soreness from the double digit miles the last two days. I passed both the Red Rainman and Maniac (Gardner) on the way to Deep Gap shelter and the Walkman (and Mo’s tape) motored me up and over the final climb at Kelly’s Knob. The Red Rainman and Maineac were the only other hikers in the shelter tonight, and it was clear again with hardly a cloud in the sky this evening.
Mostly Sunny Clear Night Low 80’s Low 40’s/Upper 30’s
Tuesday, April 19, 1994 (Bly Gap) – I hiked solo most of the day, but caught up with the Red Rainman at Plum Orchard shelter after about seven miles. We considered going to Bly Gap near the GA/NC state line and the decision was final once we saw a six foot black snake in the Plum Orchard shelter. The shelter was a three-level design and it was very cool, but the snake was staying for the night and we weren’t sharing the shelter with it. On the way to Bly Gap, we ran into a weekend hiker named the Brown Falcon (Lance). The Red Rainman told him about the snake and he decided to camp with us at the state line. We reached the pipe that marks the GA/NC border between 6-6:30pm and hiked a short distance north on the A.T. to Bly Gap to pitch camp for the night. The Red Rainman and I were pretty tired after the thirteen mile day, but the views from here were decent and we made it in time to catch the sunset (and stars that followed after dark.) The bugs were pretty aggressive this evening, so we stoked up a fire which lasted until 10pm when we sacked out. The Brown Falcon didn’t have a tent since he planned to use the Plum Orchard shelter, and he ended up sleeping under the stars tonight.
Mostly Sunny Clear Night Low 80’s Low 60’s
To continue reading BirdShooter’s Appalachian Trail journal from 1994, click this link for the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina