AT Day 8 – Connections

In the morning, the camp denizens surround the picnic table and eat breakfast. Holly mentions that her knee and ankle are hurting. It dawns on me that my daughter, a doctor of physical therapy, may be able to help her. I have cell reception, so I call her up. When she picks up it also occurs to me that it might not be the best time to call – it is 6:45am. Sheepishly I apologize for waking her, but would she mind chatting with my hiker friend about her pain.

This is how it goes. You meet these travelers that labor along a common footpath, eat the same janky food and sleep in these ridiculous temporary dwellings. And before you know it, you find yourself drawn to them. If you take the time to really get to know them, you may even start to care about them. How is it that the most artificial circumstances can elicit the most genuinely human responses? And why, months after I left the PCT, do I still think about my hiking companions? Because for a while they were my comrades, my family, my tribe, even if randomly composed.

My tribe

Back to the trail

I have taken a couple Advil this morning so I feel really good as I start hiking. Any persistent soreness is ignorable, and I am full of energy. Where the shelter trail connects to the AT, I discover this message.

Gordon with arrow

Trail messages are so wonderful, because if they are for you, they make you feel so wanted, and if they are not for you, they stimulate your imagination. Did Gordon and his companions find each other? Was their original plan to hike here at Deep Gap? What changed, and how did Gordon get lost?

It reminds me of a couple that lost each other on the PCT last fall. Their names were Huck and Nadine. Nadine spent a miserable night in only her sleeping bag beside the trail while Huck walked into the early morning hours trying to “catch up to her,” although in reality, he was walking away from her. I had been with them before they were lost, while they were searching for each other, and then at their touching reunion the next day. It was one of the most fun and dramatic days of my PCT hike.



This is Pete. He is out for only a few days. He is trying to string together a thru-hike one 20-mile section at a time. When I mention that we just witnessed a beautiful overlook of Lake Butler, he corrects me. Lake Burton. Pete is from Columbus, Georgia. He is as committed to his hiking ethos as he is to getting the names of things right. Bravo, Pete. I hope you achieve your goal.

Lake Burton in the distance

Boom! The trail!

The trail looks better than it has all week. The early morning sun is really illuminating the under canopy of the trail. I get some of my best trail shots of the trip.

And then I see what looks like a kind of trail crocus in front of me. This wonderful flower has fallen from above. There are several scattered around. How extravagantly wasteful nature is. How beautifully profligate.


An official-looking AT sign. This kind of sign is all over the PCT, but this is the first of it’s kind I have seen in the first 80 miles of the AT. I wonder how old it is.

Foot Travel Welcome? Whew!

New Yorker in paradise

I screwed up my first photo of John when I met him at the Mountain Crossings. John is from Brooklyn. His parents own some restaurants on Long Island near where my daughter is living. John is fun to be with. He has the goofiest and most unpretentious laugh. At the shelter in the evening we gave him some of our leftover food. What did he crave the most? Mayo packs, of course. It’s like trail currency.

John (photobombed by Keith)

Hangry hiker; angry trail

Ok, so after my beatific morning hike, all my demons rallied and made a successful assault on my emotions. This afternoon, I feel cranky. The photo below really illustrates how I feel – harried, hot, jaded. The climbs today have been hard (relatively) with temps in the mid eighties. Honestly, it’s really not that bad out. It could be so much worse. However, I still want to kill whoever thought the AT was a good idea. Or at least make them carry my pack!

Angry trail

A moment of relief comes when we finally pass into North Carolina on the AT. There are two signs marking the state border. There is a nice painted sign for day hikers. And there is a ratty sign for the hardcore set. Keith is hardcore, so he poses by the ratty sign.

Keith trying to look hardcore

I have been impressed with what Georgia has done with the trail. Now let’s see what North Carolina can do. My first impression is not good. The blazes are confusing and the trail is broken and steep with large loose rocks all over it. It does have one of the coolest trees of the day though.

My kind of tree

Yeah, I am getting pissed. I need to get into camp, put my feet up, eat and sleep. But this trail is not cooperating! But look at the two pictures I took when I was maddest. What a magnificent vista and what pretty flowers!

Mea culpa

My unreasonable grumpiness ends 20 minutes after arriving in camp. Friends from days past show up and soon we are joking and laughing. And here is where I owe you an apology. Hiking is really fun, but I do not enjoy every minute of every day. I try to be honest about the ups and downs, and sometimes it probably makes for hard reading. The long truth is that I am extremely grateful to be out here. The temporary grumpiness is embarrassing, in hindsight, but probably unavoidable. Call it a character flaw. Friends and food are great antidotes for these emotional glitches, at least for me, and I hope everyone that has met me on the trail realizes how much I value them.

Chillin’ at Muskrat Creek shelter

A mysterious appearance

There was one disturbing moment in the shelter though. It seems that this particular shelter was once used as a base for some kind of experimental operations. I would normally be suspicious of such claims. But later an odd blunt instrument appeared in the shelter as if out of no where. I am pretty sure it was not there when I arrived. For what foul purpose is this thing? Is the Muskrat Creek shelter a gateway to the infamous Camp Perry?

This doesn’t look good
  • May 11
  • Miles hiked today: 15
  • Total AT miles: 81
  • States in the bag: Georgia (love you!)

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Comments 1

  • Lisa : Jun 12th

    Hi! I love your photography. I’m so thankful you’re posting these beautiful pictures of your trip! You’ve really got an eye for light and composition.

    If you’re curious, I think the first flower you shot is from a tulip tree AKA poplar. Sometimes called the redwood of the East. They are the tallest tree I believe on the East Coast.

    I think the flowers are bluets.

    Thanks for posting. Keep it up!


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