White Blazes From Now On

The “Plaque” at Springer Mountain

 We made it to the Appalachian Trail! Mark and I checked in at the trail register*, did the obligatory photos at “the plaque” and started to follow the white blazes to Maine. For those unfamiliar with the AT, as the Appalachian Trail is known as, white blazes are 6 inch by 2 inch white markers painted on the trees and rocks to help keep hikers on the trail. In some locations they are the only clue to the Trail’s whereabouts. The white blaze becomes an important icon in the thru-hiker’s life and it commands an idol-like presence, a beacon towards Mecca, a divine guidepost. For the next six months, that white blaze would be the primary motivator of our existence.

     The weather hadn’t been that good so Mark and I were thankful to get a space at the Springer Mountain Shelter. There were already people sleeping and it wasn’t even 6:00 PM. I understood as I was ready to do the same. After a meal of spagetti, we crashed hard. Before I closed my eyes, I watched as another hiker took a cartoon-like tumble right in front of me. It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud.

     So it was down the Trail as a team of two. By this time, we had adopted our fictitious company, Half Ass Expeditions or HAE, as our trail name. HAE was the “company” that “sponsored” our expeditions. More a goof for our fireside ramblings, HAE became a comic incorporation of a group of red-eyed, wandering vagabonds. Little did we suspect HAE would become a Bonafide corporation developing games and action sporting equipment!

  It was cooler than we had expected. I assumed the weather would be mild this far south but in the mountains it was just as if we were hiking in the Green Mountains of Vermont. We set up the tarp away from the crowds at Gooch Gap Shelter and woke to a light coating of snow and a brisk, fall-like breeze.

 We were merely four days into our hike of the Appalachian Trail. Mark and I are having the time of our lives even though I have enormous blisters on each foot and Mark’s ankle is double its normal size. At this point we had our first maildrop, one of the many resupply points we’ll use along the Trail. On the way into Suches, Georgia, Mark and I found an expensive looking tent and poncho someone had left behind as if in a hurry to leave. It was curious enough. We packed up the stuff, left a note on a nearby tree and brought the abandoned gear into town where we hoped to leave it at the post office. We hitched into Suches for the maildrop, dropped off the found gear, had a store bought lunch and hitched back up to the Appalachian Trail.

 It was still early enough to hike to the top of Big Cedar Mountain and find a most excellent campsite. We enjoyed an electrified evening looking out over the Georgia landscape with the myrid of lights and distant balls of flame rising as effluents from mysterious smoke stacks. The weather was just right, there were no bugs, and we were well fed, a perfect night on the Appalachian Trail.

     In the morning, military jets flew maneuvers towards our rock face campsite, coming freighteningly close. It was an amazing display of aeronautical skill with a deafening shock of a soundtrack as the planes roared overhead! After a hasty breakfast, Mark and I packed up camp and set off for Blood Mountain under threatening skies. A grueling hike up the mountain, a quick lunch in the cloud enshrouded stone shelter at the top and the it was down to Neels Gap. The clouds grew thicker and the air chilled. I was convinced we brought the New England weather with us.

*Trail registers are located at every shelter and key landmarks along the Appalachian Trail. Usually a notebook left by other hikers, they are a vital communication tool for the family of thru-hikers along the length of the trail. Hikers leave messeges to other hikers, tell anecdotes, add wildlife sitings or just whine about something that’s bugging them. Trail registers become required reading for all thru-hikers.

…continue the expedition, read Cast Party At Neels Gap {link}