Springer to Stover: A late start. A short day. And meeting family in NoGa
Having been given my trail name by a mouthy old mountain man before I even stepped onto the AT, I said goodbye to my friends and turned North to face the temperate rainforest climate of the Southern sections of the journey. Two hikers sat near the trailhead, arguing but laughing about the hardships which they had been dealt during the approach the night before. They introduced themselves as “Commander” and “Jellylegs”. Commander, dressed in an actual Confederate Civil War reenactment uniform (100% wool) was telling me how they had had to throw away a good half of their gear after only a short time on the approach trail. Jellylegs, his wife, was talking about how proud she was that she had hiked the number of clicks they had covered the first days. I decided to head out and the quirky pair followed behind.
It was a beautiful day. Mid-April in North Georgia is just wonderful if you feng shui the days upon days of rain. Fresh legs and the excitement of starting a life-long goal I had set for myself had me skipping through the first few miles. I lost the couple immediately. Making sure I followed the white blazes and stopping for water at small streams only made me more excited to be in North Georgia. I made it to Stover very quickly. I decided that I had gotten such a late jump, that I’d hole up at the beautiful structure instead of going out another 5.5 or so to Hawk.
I set my pack down and was welcomed by 2 gentlemen. City Slicker, who is no doubt a legend on the trail, offered various morsels of badassery from his pack with a hearty New England accent. Boogie, a man who walked from his house in Blue Ridge to the trailhead, was comfortably rolling cigarettes in his camp shoes and comparing gear with the others. More and more hikers showed up at the shelter and spirits were incredibly high. Most hikers, after a series of safety meetings, were also incredibly high. I originally set my tent up opposite the shelter but would later move to inside of Stover. It seemed as if people were hesitant to claim a spot on it’s dry beams. Two by two or one at a time, more and more hikers filled the area.
I had the absolute pleasure of meeting two of my favorite people on the AT that evening. Mike, or “Dr. Green Thumb”, which I named him shortly thereafter upon learning that he runs a 45 acre organic produce farm near Dayton, OH, was a thin, bearded gentleman with whom I hit it off with immediately. Intelligent, talented and a true lover of life, he became my best trail friend and someone I will keep in touch with as long as I live. Green thumb suffered from a form of intestinal cancer for several years. I say suffered. In actuality, he completely whooped it’s ass and lives life to the fullest every day. Dan, a retired US Army Veteran was another. He had a gigantic, beautiful, 128lb Burmese Mountain Dog named Timber with him. Timber is a prince. Dan suffers from PTSD and has a ton of anxiety. His heart however, is as pure as the water from a fresh mountain spring and I enjoyed the pair as if I had known them all of my life. Birds of a feather, eh? Various other unique hikers filtered into the shelter area and we all laughed and enjoyed watching first time backpackers try to figure out the bear cables until they were humbled enough to ask for help. My favorite was a man whom had named himself “Zorro” from Texas. A bit awkward. Ok, a lot awkward, you could tell he hadn’t had much “smartassery” in his life. He had never hiked nor backpacked. As I would come to find out, he was very underprepared for the thru-hike. I’ll save that for another entry… Look for “The Legend of Zorro”. (Not to worry, he’s a good sport!) Ha. Anyhoo, I would’ve slept like a log had Zorro not been sawing them in his tent which was parked 5 feet from the back of the shelter. Boogie, Dan and I simply couldn’t believe the decibels that were produced from this gentleman’s respiratory system.
Nevertheless, we slumbered, deeply. At about 3AM, it began to rain and wouldn’t stop until a week later. My hike had begun.
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