Carey Kish is currently thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, a trek that he expects to take about six months. The big hike began recently on Springer Mountain, the official start the AT in the mountains of northern Georgia. En route to Katahdin in Maine’s North Woods, the journey will require about 5,000,000 steps and climb more than 500 mountain summits with a cumulative elevation gain of some 565,000 feet. Excerpts from Carey’s trail journal are presented here.
March 20, 2015: Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain Shelter, 7.7 miles, 9:45am to 2:45pm.
A mass of hiker humanity at Hawk Mtn last night… Wet gear, wet people, wet wet wet. And mud, lots of it. Slept like a Hungarian sausage wedged between two guys, both of whom overlapped on me. One rolled frequently onto me while the other kicked me throughout the night on a regular basis. I fought back with elbows and knees myself. Nicely of course. I’m not anyone who can complain about snoring (just ask my wife), but damn, there were some strange sounds in that shelter I’d never heard before. Yikes. How I do love full shelters in bad weather!
Was just falling asleep after laying there for about three hours when some guy who’d been in the shelter started yelling from far out in the dark and gloom. Help, help! Apparently he’d gotten lost getting back from the privy. Good God. Yes, the fog was thick, but jeez. Before any of us could wake up enough to help he’d made his way to “safety.” Wide awake now I got up to pee. The lost dude made a point to warn me about the danger of going out too far from the shelter. Right. I flipped on my headlamp and went to the privy to pee. I was back in about 30 seconds. Rookies.
With no elbow room and not much to do I’d gone to my bag at 6:30pm. Heavy rain continued through the night. Read “The Hobbit” on my Kindle app.
Still dark out and still pouring, the morning shelter commotion began around 7am. I stayed in my bag till 8 letting the chaos settle down and folks clear out some.
By the way, there must have been at least 20 tents pitched around he shelter. Wow.
Straight forward hiking on contoured trail way with a few monitor ups and downs to Horse Gap. Oh do I ever love hiking in the sweet Georgia mountains in springtime!
No rain, clouds breaking in the valleys, even a hint of sun. And a hint is all there ever was.
Steady climb up Sassafras Mtn at 3500 feet, then steep descent to Cooper Gap, followed by healthy climb up Justis Mountain. Plodded on feeling very and quite strong. Loving it. Pack is fine, feet are great.
Good wash-up near stream a half-mile out from Gooch. Arrived at shelter to find it not anywhere near as busy as Hawk last night. Will probably be full before evening, but grabbed a corner spot anyway with a smile and hope for a good night.
Soup, pot of tea, freeze-dried pouch of dinner, all good. Appetite is amazing already. AYCE baby, bring ’em on.
Vowed to keep up with the daily journal and so far so good. Was not the case in 1977 and on many other big hikes. I always make up for it with photos, but a written journal of the AT is something I said I would do and I will. Must say, however, that writing in my notebook and then transcribing to the iPad Mini is a lot of work. May have to shot gears on that arrangement. We’ll see.
Leaving a trace where there should be none
An amazing amount of stuff, much of it just plain trash, is being left along this early part of the trail. That trail itself is generally pretty clear of detritus, but the shelters and campsites are often appalling. At one shelter, found a heavy rain jacket, bag of assorted heavy useless gear (for backpacking anyway) and a big bag of food hanging from the bear cables. Damn people, what’s wrong with you?!
Found tents – yes, tents! – abandoned at Three Forks and at Hawk shelter. Every shelter it seems has a pile of discarded gear and food and trash, and it’s sometimes found on the ground along the trail and hanging trees. Damn.
Leave No Trace people! Carry in, carry out you morons. The problem is certainly not all the fault of beginner thru-hikers, as there are many careless and thoughtless other campers and weekenders and section hikers out here now. Sad and quite unnecessary.
Unprepared for the task at hand
There a a fair number of ill-prepared hikers out here. Army surplus gear, cotton clothes, crap gear. Some are out of food and fuel already and we’re just two days out. What’s more, there’s an alarming number of hatchets, Bowie knives, machetes and the like, plus camp chairs, big candles, lanterns. Sorry, but these folks just aren’t going to make it.
All told, there are few really experienced hikers out here at this point. Many, if not most, are out for first big backpacking experience of their lives. They bring great energy and enthusiasm and are cheerfully learning the ropes by trial and error. Many have heavy packs, some will make a major gear dump at the outfitter at Neels Gap. Figuring that a good percentage of these hikers will get pretty far along, if not all the way to Maine.
Final note: There are shuttles that regularly patrol the paved and dirt road crossings where the trail emerges, ready and willing to take hikers who’ve had enough back to civilization. Many disappear this way and most never return to the trail.