The plaque and southernmost white blaze (upper left) of the A.T.
April 1, 2000 -- Day 1
Destination: Stover Creek Shelter
Today's miles: 10.1
Trip miles: 2.5 on the Appalachian Trail
I've started this entry over twice already. It's one thing to sit at my computer and type out my thoughts as they come to me, then re-read, reorganize and clarify; it's quite another to write about my experience when I'm immersed in it. By hand, at that. This is going to take some practice, so bear with me, if you will, as I babble.
So, okay, it's 3 a.m. Soon after sunrise, I'll begin the eight-mile approach trail to the summit of Springer Mountain and the southernmost white blaze of the Appalachian Trail. At the moment, however, I'm standing alone in the cold laundry room at Amicalola Falls State Park, leaning on the dryer. My friends are back at the campsite, still asleep if I didn't wake them when I wiggled out of my sleeping bag, crinkling my Tyvek groundsheet in the process, then opened the van to get my journal and long underwear.
I've quickly realized how accustomed I've become to being with my partner in life -- my husband and best friend, Steve. When I'm with him, I'm not self-conscious about what I say or do. Now suddenly without Steve by my side, I find myself wondering if I'm saying anything the least bit interesting or funny. I feel awkward in my own skin. Isn't that silly?
Don't get me wrong, though, I'm already having a wonderful time with my companions, two of whom I'd previously met only on the Internet. The ride with them to Georgia was filled with giggles and great conversation. And I'm anxious to hit the trail. But, for now, it's time to head back to the campsite, where I'll stare at stars through bare branches and try to turn off my brain long enough to fall asleep.
10 miles and 14 hours later....
Shhh, I hear something.
Deb's Body: Yo! Whassup widdis? You let us--yaw maw than two thousand body pahts--get all mushy fuh like, two, tree yeis, and now dis?
Deb' Mind (wandering): I'm sorry, are you talking to me?
Deb's Body: Well, I ain't tawkin to myself. Ya know, a little shakedown, a chance tuh dust awf a few cobwebs and oil dah joints, woulda been nice. (lip quivering) I thought you didn't love me no maw. (sobs uncontrollably)
Deb's Mind: There, there. You'll come to love this as much as we do. (Refers to Deb's Soul, lying on the leaves, listening to the creek.) This whole thing, Georgia to Maine, is for you too. You're an equal and vital member of the team.
Deb's Body: (sniffles) Yeah, well, I did feel sorta good today. Hey, did youz say ... Geeawgia tuh Maine?
Deb's Mind: Yeah, isn't it great! Don't worry, though, we'll take it easy on you during this first week or so. You'll do just fine.
Gee, sometimes you hear the neatest things when you listen to yourself.
I'm now sitting at the picnic table in front of the three-sided lean-to known as Stover Creek Shelter. Kathy is teaching Marie, Dianne and "Free-Spirit Fran" how to play Pinochle. Free-Spirit has hiked the entire trail over two years' time and this year is thru-hiking with her husband, Virgil. Joe, who's now known as Joker, is once again boiling water. (We'd considered dubbing him Boil Boy but were afraid people might think he has an unsightly growth somewhere on his person. So Joker it shall be.)
We had a wonderful hike from Amicalola, past the A.T. terminus to this lovely site. The temperature was comfortably cool, and we saw a fair number of people on the trail. Many of them were day-hikers or family members giving their thru-hiker loved ones a big send-off.
Most of the day, I hiked ahead of my friends and enjoyed my own thoughts, the sound of the breeze, and the signs of spring popping out all over. Every once in a while, someone would catch up with me and we'd talk as we walked. Perfect balance of companionship and Deb-time.
As I sit here recording my most personal of thoughts, I am being brutally mocked. You see, I'm wearing my homemade, red fleece, combination-serape- and-sleeping bag liner, which happens to be quite different than everyone else's evening attire. I think it's stylish, myself. They're just jealous.
So, anyhow, here's what I learned today:
One, it seems duct tape really does help prevent blisters. Secondly, I can't squeeze a couple extra ounces of white gas into the fuel bottle, past the fill line, and still get enough pressure to light the stove. Instant, drinkable meals taste very bad. And finally but most importantly, if I chill out and don't worry so much about what I say or do, people actually seem to like me! How neat.
Now I'm cozy in my tent, which I set up on a flat-topped rise about thirty feet in front of the shelter. My serape has become my pillow since I'm warm enough without a sleeping bag liner. My tummy is full of spaghetti, and it's time for sleep. This entry from my first day on the trail will be packed out by Kathy in the morning, when she and Dianne hike back to their vehicles at Amicalola. Which brings me to my final written thought of the day: Thank you, Kathy, for the long ride to Georgia and your great company on the trail for my first day and night out. It was a perfect way to begin the journey, and I looking forward to seeing you when I get to Pennsylvania.
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