As I read through others' journals I keep feeling the pangs of guilt from not updating this one. So, here goes...
Last week The Only Wanderer (from WhiteBlaze.net) came through Nashville and several of us met at Hooters downtown to help him pass the time of his layover. It was great fun. While there Lil'red was trying to talk Ewker (successfully) into going to Amicalola Falls the next weekend for the Hiker Send-off festivities the park was having. Zak (cerberus) told me quietly that he was going to start his hike that weekend but wasn't telling anyone but family and me. All in all, I decided to go down to Georgia myself. Shiloh, who had stopped by my house after the Whiteblaze dinner a couple of weeks ago PM'd me and said he had a campsite that he was willing to share. So, Friday night I headed south.
I got to the campground at the park around 1am, and Shiloh already had a tent set up. It was cold enough and dark enough that I didn't want to fiddle around finding trees to hang my hammock, so I slept in the tent on an air mattress while he slept in his van. I knew when I started that I should have more insulation between me and an air mattress in winter, but was tired enough that I convinced myself that the quilt he had on it would be enough. It wasn't, and I was chilly most of the night even though I had my down sleeping bag and my down underquilt over me. I was disappointed that again my new 'winter' down bag just isn't keeping me warm enough. Both times I've had the problem, though, I've been ground dwelling, so maybe in my hammock I'll be ok.
The next morning we discovered that our campsite neighbors included Kirby, a 16yo guy who is a kind of minor celebrity on Whiteblaze because he's thru-hiking this year as young as he is. We found Zak and Lost at their site, and headed to breakfast at the lodge. Kirby's group arrived for breakfast, too, and we were all in the same corner of the dining room. At one point Jan Liteshoe, an AT celebrity of sorts, came over and said that our corner had 'that look' of being hikers. The fact that we had 6 thru-hikers all together there was a tip-off. Kirby and Zak both got their pictures taken with her. When we went down to the visitor's center after breakfast we found Lil'red and Ewker. As we wandered around the booths and such I met some more of the names I've read on the message board. It was fun.
At some point Shiloh and I went looking for Lost and Zak, since we weren't sure when Zak would take off. He was in a group that included someone I hadn't seen before. I knew we were waiting on Cannibal to show up, and as I walked up this person said 'THAT'S SHADOWMOSS' and I knew it had to be Cannibal (from HammockForums.net). He gave each other a big hug hello. From that point on for most of the weekend we were a group, me, Shiloh, Zak, Lost, Cannibal, Ewker, and Lil'red. Cannibal and Zak started their thru hikes on Sunday. Shiloh will start his this next Monday.
I may try to upload some pictures of the weekend. Mostly it was just hanging out having fun. We heard Cannibal checking in with his Dad on his cell phone saying 'I just met a bunch of friends I didn't know I had', and that was how it felt. The guys put off starting because it was just so nice to hang out. We did to the 624 steps up Amicalola Falls that is the start of the approach trail now. The guys did it without their packs. I did it with them, and was slow but not a total zombie. Cannibal said he liked hiking with me because it made him feel like a strong hiker.
On Sunday after breakfast we dropped Zak and Cannibal off at the top of the falls where we finished the hike the day before. That was the last I saw of Cannibal. Lost left immediately to drive around to the parking lot near Springer to meet Zak at the summit that is the start of the actual AT. Shiloh, Ewker Lil'red and I went to the campsite and played around showing Lil'red the hammocks and I think we have converted her to the dark side (using a hammock instead of a tent). After she and Ewker had packed up and headed back to Nashville, Shiloh and I drove to the parking lot near Springer and hiked up the mile to the summit. We met Lost who was leaving having said her goodby's to Kak on the summit after getting the pictures of the start of his real hike. Shiloh and I went up and sat with Zak and Many Sleeps, who is the caretaker up there during the busy season. We were waiting on Cannibal, who didn't show up. We decided that he stopped at an earlier shelter for the night. Zak headed out to make it to the next shelter before dark, and Shiloh and I took our time hiking back to the parking lot.
All in all, it was a totally magical time from the dinner at Hooters through the time at Amicalola Falls State Park. I am concerned that I need to toughen up a lot. I was cold the entire weekend, and it wasn't that cold. I need to be in a lot better shape in general. And, I need to decide if my sleeping bag is really a winter one or not. I need to get this together before I can feel I seriously have any chance to make it on my own hike. Also, I need to get this journaling together better. I really enjoy the trail journals, and most of the folks who keep them update them every day. They may not get posted every day, but the journalist is writing about what happens every day. I'm at home with electricity, a computer, a full kitchen with food, hot showers, etc., and I only manage to write about once a week. Lots to work on in the next 2 years.