A final taste of the Appalachian Trail

After spending three days in Georgia, my good friend and I had hiked from Amicalola Falls out to Hawk Mountain. Waking on our last day on the AT, we had viewed the sunrise cresting over the horizon with the intermittent sound of birds. This vision had seemed like something between Sauron’s flaming eye from movie Lord of the Rings or the appearance of the Good Witch from film Wild at Heart. In these moments in the sun, we had drank some water while enjoying our makeshift breakfast. With dwindling food supplies, we had discussed our options for the day. Part of both of us had wanted to stay longer on the AT; however, another part of us had yearned for a hot plate of Chicken Parmesan @ Oliver Garden. With the dawn just breaking, the later impulse had won out. The plan for the day had encompassed hiking 17 miles back to our vehicle at Amicalola Falls State Park. The physical challenge for the day was exceeding our personal best for traveling this terrain in one day, 8 miles.

After packing up, we had walked back on the AT traveling at a reasonably good pace. With this tempo, we had predicted returning to Amicalola Falls by dusk. Returning to the top of Springer Mountain, we had eventually revisited the southern terminus for the AT. This time, clouds hadn’t obscured the mountains in the distance. This was a memorable sight for anyone living at sea level or Florida most of their lives. After another round of photo ops on Springer, we had moved back down the trail.

What I hadn’t expected next, the grind of the last couple of miles with the setting sun. Along the way, a few issues had cropped up for us. For myself, water and carb loaded food had run in short supply for energy. For my buddy, there was the additional weight of his belongings and the number of declining slopes on his knees. Engaging the last 6 miles of a series of ridges, I had thought, “Just one more mountain.” Seeing another ascending trail after another, I had felt crestfallen. After a while, I had focused on traversing step after step on the ascents. Removing the emotional impact of any topology changes, the logic was to keep my motivation on the earth below my feet. In the last two miles to the end, my friend had took the lead hiking. At first, it was little demoralizing to switch roles. Though, the motivation for keeping up had beat back the accumulating exhaustion from my two concurrent trips to California and Georgia. In the end, this switching of horses had provided us with the necessary daylight on our way back to the top of Amicalola Falls. After taking another brief break above the Falls for the restroom, we had quickly navigated down the side of the mountain face.

Returning to our vehicle finally, looking worn, we had smelled awful. One of the most gratifying parts of this arrival was turning the ignition on in the garnet 96’ Ford Explorer. After sleeping nights in the 20s and 30s F, the onset of heat blowing on our cold bodies was a cathartic experience. With the rumbling of the engine, we had drove out of the park turning right onto the darkened highway. We were searching for our destiny with Chicken Parmesan @ Oliver Garden in Gainesville, Georgia. After about 30 minutes, we were seated at an Olive Garden. Soon after, we had received some bread sticks with soup and salad. Savoring our food, we had pondered the day and the road ahead. This trip had meant different things to each of us. For myself, it was an expression of wanderlust, companionship, and physicality. The final taste of the Appalachian Trail was continuing to foster the idea to be truly wild at heart with adventure.

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Read More:
Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (IMDB)
Wild at Heart (IMDB)

Sponsored by Seminole Scuba

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Get to know Paul Shepherd and his competent team at Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida, whether getting certified or making a once in a lifetime trip like AFRICA 2014.

More Information: website: www.seminolescuba.com phone:  407-333-8856

Hawk Mountain, Georgia on the Appalachian Trail @ Chattahoochee National Forest

Kicking off a third day of hiking in Georgia, my friend and I were coming down Springer Mountain heading toward our destination of Hawk Mountain on the A.T. The first mile on the trail was a soft downward descent. Clearing the mountain, we had encountered a few different creek crossings until reaching another wooden shelter. This shelter was open faced with two floors, a picnic table and two wood window doors opening on the second level in the rear. It had appeared the last occupants left in a rush. They had left a tarp, toilet paper, a t-shirt and few other pieces of trash. Needing to take “nature’s break,” the outhouse was thankfully not too far away. While at the outhouse, I had read a posting on the wall regarding the methodology regarding composting of human waste. Apparently, the process had included a two year breakdown with some general upkeep.

After our interlude, we had continued our trek coming to a medium sized bridge going over a creek appearing more like a river. From the horizon, the water had rolled through the greenery at a slight incline with the vestiges of snow fall on the ground. The rumble of water passing underneath had provided a serenity similar to listening to the cadence of waves on a beach. After collecting filtered water, we had moved back onto the trail. Walking only a few hundred feet, in the corner of my eye, I had got a glimpse of a small open air campsite down the slope. As curiosity took over, I had decided to scale down to take a closer look. Appearing in my vision, a series of rocks had wrapped around some cold grey ash. Just past the ash was a downed log where a person could easily sit gazing into this water way. I had wanted to stay longer but, our goal lay further up the mountain ridge. Rejoining my friend, we had proceeded up the side of mountain for a mile or so until bumping into another set of hikers making their way toward Springer Mountain. We had swapped information about the Hawk Mountain shelter and details of building a fire atop Springer. At this point in the day, the sun had raised the temperature a considerable amount. My buddy and I had shed most of our upper layers of clothing to avoid overheating. The bright sunny day was a welcome contrast to the gusty cold overcast previous one. During the last two miles of the trail toward Hawk Mountain, we had seen a few military helicopters conducting maneuvers. At first, I had thought maybe a rescue operation but, according to my friend’s guidebook, standard training fare.

Arriving mid-afternoon at the Hawk Mountain shelter, we had run into another group of travelers from earlier in the morning. While getting settled, we had snacked and refilled our water. Later in the afternoon, we were joined by an older gentleman. He had inquired about the general direction of the water. After some instruction, he had hiked on. Returning later, he had managed to go five miles over the next ridge top looking for water versus just down an opposing slope. After some casual conversation, one of our fellow shelter guests had started collecting wood to build a fire. This day, I had opted to cough up my bag of Doritos as kindling. I had seen YouTube video demonstrating their flammability. After trying the wet wood, the dry Doritos had proved the means to start the fire. Though, one of the other travelers had mocked the idea of carrying the Doritos, saying “Why pay for something, when you can get something for free.”

With the onset of dusk, I had opted to sequester myself socially allowing my buddy the autonomy to talk it up with our visitors. I was looking forward to get good night’s rest after the previous evening on Springer Mountain. With the evening in full swing, the sound of military helicopters had filled the night air a few times. This sound was a bit of a buzz-kill wanting to get away from “civilization.” Laying on my back, I had listened to the fire and fellow hikers for a bit slipping into unconsciousness. It was the best rest on the trip up to that point just for the dreaming. These unconsciousness dreams I had not remembered. For dreams becoming a reality, my dreams, I had believed that’s a different thought altogether.

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Sponsored by Seminole Scuba


shrimptall

Get to know Paul Shepherd and his competent team at Seminole Scuba in Lake Mary, Florida, whether getting certified or making a once in a lifetime trip like AFRICA 2014.

More Information:
website: www.seminolescuba.com
phone:  407-333-8856