Day #2: 3-10-2016
Springer Mountain Shelter —> Justice Creek camping area
Tonights episode will not be broadcast live as I have no cell reception in the creek valley. (Unbelievable! Sprint, step up your game!) I’ll post sometime in the morning when I walk into service. Had I camped where I, perhaps, should have in the Hawk Mountain Shelter six miles back, you could be reading this tonight. Instead? I pushed on at 4pm from that shelter with cell service to rush here to meet up with people I began the hike with. Moonboots, Canuck, and Shaggy are here as are a few others. I hope I’m not forgetting anyone. I’m a little tired.
The day began in the fog and all too early. In the quiet of the campground, dripping water from mist settling in the trees woke a group excited to begin. None slept well last night. Air mats crinkling in the quiet as campers toss and turn. Cramping from the strenuous hike up the falls and Springer Mountain set in. I woke and spent time stretching away the tension.
After morning coffee, I began hiking my first official day on the Appalachian Trail. I caught up to Canuck. Together we walked through tunnels of Rhododendrom and mountain laurel to the Stover creek shelter, 2.8 miles into the trail. Like Hobbits, we ate second breakfast, lightening our load more than fueling hunger that hasn’t fully set in. We are all carrying too much food.
Canuck is from Hellifax, Canada hence his trail name. He’ll stick with it he said until something better comes along. Trail names are an important part of the Appalachian Trail. There primary function is simplifying names. No-one remembers the name Bill, or Harrison, but names like “Lost” and “Moonboots” are easier to remember.
Trail names also serve a secondary purpose. They strip away labels that have followed many since childhood and expedite the transition into trail life. What’s in a name? The freedom to choose a new identity and change your life. Trail life eats those comfort zones like a South Bound thru-hiker trudging through waist deep snow.
Thru-hiker is our new label or the one we hope to earn. The subject is touchy and difficult for many to answer. “Are you a thru-hiker?” is dodged the same way Hillary Clinton dodges questions about her husbands affairs. Ok, maybe I’m wrong here. Thru-hikers are honest folk that are just afraid of the question.
No-one wants to say yes and then not complete the trail. Some are leaving themselves an out with a peer-group they are not sure they belong in. Most just aren’t confident yet and often rightly so. Thru-Hiking comes with a learning curve as steep as some of these mountains. So, when is one a thru-hiker? Only after completion?
Today was interesting in this regard. Attitudes are changing. My fellow hikers are beginning to believe in themselves as they realize this is possible. I ran into Lady Samantha (totally wrong. Lady Something. Sorry) on the side trail to Hawk Mountain shelter. She was beaming with joy and accomplishment. She stood tall appearing inches higher than I remember. She survived two days on the trail and finds her fears unfounded. She will go far. Much strength she has. Mhhmmm Hmmm! (Master Yoda?!)
Today was about learning. For many, they are learning the basics: pack adjustment, properly packing the backpack, setting up a tent, and using camp stoves. The more experienced are fine tuning systems. Some of us are learning how to blog from the middle of nowhere. An interesting challenge!
That’s all for tonight. I’m very tired. The last few miles past Hawk Moutnain Shelter are killer and I hiked ‘em as fast as possible to get here before dark. I wanted to meet up with my new friends. This life really is about the people.