Yesterday, I received a text message from our Appalachian journeyman stating all of his belongings were soaked. Sunday night at Hawk Mountain Shelter proved to be a wet one. There was no room at the inn as some forty hikers filled the interior and surrounding area. Each of them soaked to the bone and having just started their thru hike within the last couple of days or even hours. The trail has a special humbling power that knows no favorites. A single shelter could house a vast spectrum of demographics night in and night out; from college dropouts to millionaire retirees.(“Shelter” meaning a three-sided hut with a roof in the middle of the woods, for those unfamiliar with the trail).
Despite the low clouds his spirits seemed high. Monday night he got off the trail at Woody Gap and headed into Suches, GA (about a mile from the trail). It is not uncommon for hikers to get off and back on the trail, as long as they get back on where they left off of course. In fact, this is how Murph will resupply many times along his way to Maine. Andrew spent the night at a local country store that offers rooms, showers, and most importantly somewhere dry. Many small towns offer services of the like, with hikers mental stability and the small towns economies each benefiting.
Still gray and wet this morning, Murph’s willpower was tested as I’m sure the dry lodging he acquired Monday evening was just as enticing at daybreak today. But Murph didn’t set off on this journey to sit in Suches, GA. He sloshed back to the trail and ascended to the tallest point in Georgia on the Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain. The descent of Blood Mountain poses more difficulty than the ascent in my opinion. It is steep and i’m sure slick as Andrew walked down this afternoon.
Now i’m a firm believer in Karma and what goes around comes around, and the trail has a special way of exemplifying this. In Murph’s first post on the blog titled “The Beginning” he speaks about a “Trail Magic” trip he and some friends (myself included) went on. Trail Magic is more or less glorified random acts of kindness with the flow of kindness going from complete strangers to the thru-hiker beneficiaries. There was a fellow trail enthusiast posted-up off the same forest service road as our group to enjoy the company of hikers and trail community. He went by the name of Onisimus and his four-legged friend by the name of Super Sergaent Spencer (no relation).
And they were the exact ones who took Murph into town for some man sodas from Neels Gap, a small outfitter at a highway crossing at the bottom of Blood Mountain, this afternoon. Being part of the trail community is most certainly an experience unlike any other. Hey Real World, take some notes. Andrew ought to settling into his tent right about now. The onset of nighttime is known as “hiker midnight” on the trail. Early to bed and early to rise.
The milestone of reaching Neels Gap is a major benchmark for a lot of hikers. Per some online data of hikers between the years of 2005 and 2011, a dropout rate of 10% happens by the time hikers get just 30 miles into their hike at Neels Gap. It is the first place hikers have the opportunity to send home all of the items they thought they needed but did not. There has been talk about everything from full-on kitchen pots and pans, to machetes, axes, and samurai swords being sent home. I think Murph is so well prepared gear wise, that if he sent anything home it would be foolish to do so, at least until he gets a few more miles under his belt.