The Trail Journal


"Full Moon" and "Celestial Spirit"

April ~ 1995

Springer Mountain to Spence Field Shelter

Map courtesy of Georgia Appalachian Trail Club

April 5 Springer to Three Forks Campsite 4.1 miles

Arrived at Amicola Falls around 10:00 a.m. this morning. We weigh in our packs on the scale at Amicola and feel sick. 52 lbs. for Full Moon and 42 for Celestial Spirit. Maybe we should change our trail names to Dead and Deader.

"Jimmy" and his bloodhound are there ready to depart on the trail as well. He comes running up to Janet shouting "Lemmer,Lemmer". Apparently he thinks Janet is wearing Lemmer boots (she's wearingMerrill Wilderness). Quickly turns out that Jimmy is not all there. Here we've just arrived and already we have visions of hiking with crazy "Jimmy" and his bloodhound all the way to Maine. Scary thought. Fortunately, he leaves ahead of us, after non-stop babbling in our ears.

A good friend of mine and former fellow employee from my days at Ryder,Yavonne Rodriguez, has spared Janet and I the long approach trail climb by giving us a ride up to USFS 42.

The butterflies begin as we put on our packs and turn to hit the trail to Springer. A short climb and we are at the top studying the plaque. We don't see the sign in register - only find out about it a month later. Now no one will believe we hiked the trail! We even forgot to pick up that pebble to deposit at Katahdin! (Think we were a bit nervous?) Turning around, we retrace our steps back to USFS42 and head towards Stover Creek. Stop to try out our water filter for the first time and take a break. Still trying to figure out how to adjust these packs (since we've only worn them once around the block!).We're still in awe that we are even out here. What an exhilarating feeling of of freedom!

Onward to Three Forks - the sun is out and it is beautiful - mid 70's. Beautiful campsite at Three Forks. Try out our first meal - Leonardo Alfredo Fettucini. Wonder what Daniel Boone would think of that? Tastes great! Stove works! (good thing I had tried it out before we hiked - likes to flame up when you first fire it up - I would have thought it was going to explode! - ah,it is such an adventure when you are a greenhorn!

April 6 Three Forks to Justis Creek Campsite 9.5 miles

It takes a long time to get organized this a.m. Don't get out of camp till 10. Gads! We find out today the true meaning of the word "Gap" as we ascend and descend 3 very nasty mountains. "Gap" will not be a nice word in our vocabulary, as it only means you are going to be ascending once again!

Stop at Hawk Mtn. Shelter for a break. Meet "Nitesprite" and her dog "Maggie", who are thruhiking as well. (We will not see them again until on top of a hilltop in New Jersey!)

We keep hiking - seems like forever - finally reach Justis Creek around 8 p.m. - almost getting dark. Set up camp - cook a freeze dried dinner of "Mountain Chili". Bad mistake - during the night, we wondered if we might lift off and land in Maine . Wishful thinking.

April 7 Justis Creek to Campsite near Granny Top 9.3 miles

Temps hitting 75 today - pretty warm for April. Hit Gooch Gap around noon - shelter is up the hill - forget that. Sit down to filter water and eat some Gouda cheese we had been carrying - also wash our hair. Nice break. Big news today - Celestial Spirit learns how to go to to the bathroom without taking her pack off. Figures this secret may be worth big bucks.

April 8 Campsite to Neels Gap 7.8 miles

Onward to Neels Gap and our 1st Mail Drop. Beautiful day, but heats up fast. Climb up Blood Mtn. isn't that bad. Beautiful views from the summit. Meet "Orange Slice" and "Primal Tang" (later known as the "Citrus Brothers") and "Terrapin" with his two dogs. They are all out hiking for a few months after having just finished high school. We contemplate stopping and spending the night, hoping to catch a great sunset. (Should have done it - there was naturally a knockout sunset). But the bunkhouse was luring us on.

Down Blood Mountain - ah, now our knees know what they're going to live with for the next few months! By the time we make it to the bunkhouse, they're not happy. Here at Neels Gap, we meet "Chameleon" ,"Album", "Eaglewing", "Keebler", "Capt. Morgan", "Flamingo Freeze", and "Mr. Procrastinator". We meet our old friend "Lee" who works in the store and thruhiked southbound in '94. Great kid - they got a dandy when they hired him! He helps us with an important pack adjustment lesson. We also run into a guy who has the entire AT tattooed on his back. Incredible - I got a few pics of that!

April 9 Neels Gap - Baggs Creek Gap 4.2 miles

We leave out late today (1:45) after our lesson from Lee. After a short climb up, we stop to take a break. A day hiker comes along and is eager to take a picture of us thruhikers. Wow, we feel like old pros.

For some reason our legs feel like lead today though - maybe the climb down Blood Mtn. Make it to Baggs Gap and pitch our tent in a dusty area near "Album" ( a software guru from Minnesota). Scout troop camping nearby. It sure is dry for this time of year! We pray for cloudy days!

April 10 Baggs Creek Gap-Low Gap Shelter 6.4 miles

We break camp around 9. Obviously still perfecting the art of gettin out of camp early! (Actually 9 is good for us!) Down to Tesnatee Gap, where we take a short break. "Album" shows up minutes later and tells us he fell down the mountain. Few scrapes, but is ok. We try to get psyched for the climb out of the gap. It's now about noon and the temps are in the 90's. More gaps - give me a cloud dammit!

Shortly before Low Gap, "Full Moon" runs out of water and starts to get heat exhaustion. Has to sit on a log for about a half hour, while we contemplate what we are going to do. "Trail Magic" occurs. "Album", knowing "Full Moon" is heating up, comes back to check on us. He gives us more water and we are able to continue. This act of kindness will never be forgotten.

We reach Low Gap and practically dive into the nice cold stream. As it gets dark "Capt. Morgan" (chef from Disneyworld) cooks up incredible lasagne dinner with special spices. We all die - everyone gets their stoves out and start cooking again after witnessing this spectacle!

April 11 Low Gap - Blue Mtn. Shelter 7.2 miles

Feel amazingly good today. Unusual how your body can recover each day - really makes you appreciate what an incredible thing the human body is.

Weather has changed today - much cooler - we start off in mist. Not a bad hike today, though "Celestial Spirit" is having some problems with her toes getting squashed in her boots and a blister on the ball of her left foot. Looks like it may take a while to fully break in those Merrill Wilderness boots. Meantime, my Fabiano Rios are doing wonderful, but I don't remind "Celestial" of that fact.

We do a rock scramble before hitting Blue Mtn. Shelter, where there is no view and it is getting quite cold and nasty. We tent, because the shelter is full. During the night, the trees are bent in half and the side of the tent collapses during a sudden gust and hits me in the face. Fortunately, we had weighted down the guy wires with big rocks. In the morning, it is a muddy mess.

April 12 Blue Mtn - Tray Mtn. Shelter 7.7 miles

We hit the trail in the rain and mist this a.m. "Album" is staying in his tent - says he doesn't care to hike in the rain. Hmmm... - could be a long time before we see him again! As we hit Unicoi Gap, "Primal Tang" and "Terrapin" are hitching a ride into Helen. We continue on.

As we descend into Indian Grave Gap, we see a guy standing by his pickup truck. What is he doing there? We are out in the middle of nowhere and are hesitant to proceed, but we definitely aren't walking backwards! As we approach him, we notice an ATC patch on his cap - a good sign. He asks us if we're thru-hiking the trail and when we say yes, he tells us to look in the back of his pickup truck. Magic! Bananas, oranges, sodas. Not exactly your everyday backpack special! "Celestial Spirit" consumes two bananas before I can even peel mine.

Turns out this fellow (Mark Lenick) is from a Publix grocery store in Atlanta and comes up each Wednesday on his day off to this road crossing to dole out food donated by Publix. He was just getting ready to leave for the day, when he heard our voices on the trail. As we headed towards Tray Mtn., we were loaded down with so many oranges and bananas and sodas, we weren't sure we would be able to climb the mountain. A few hundred yards down the trail, we see two cans of soda taped to a tree that he has left for future hikers. We know they'll be surprised!

Climb up Tray is not as we had feared - switchbacked - glory hallelujah! Great views as we hit the summit, but cold and windy so we grab some quick pictures and head for the shelter. Run into "Diesel" and "Graybeard" there, along with "Lima Bean" (set director for the newly revised Mickey Mouse show). Temps drop to 28 tonight with even lower windchill.

First time to sleep in a shelter - watch little mouse run behind Celestial's head - decide she doesn't need to know. When we wake up in the morning, discover that one of the little devils had discovered the tape in my tape recorder and has totally unwound it. I can hear him chewing on the tape after "Celestial Spirit" helps me put it back together. Think he was after some peanut butter cookie crumbs left in my pocket. Also discovered that those little critters chewed a hole into my little zip lock baggie full of my pain killers and decided they didn't like the taste of them, so I now have suspicious little yellow spots all over my pills. Wonder what that could be?

April 13 Tray Mtn-Deep Gap Shelter 7.5 miles

"Celestial" decides to let her pet doll "Ju Ju Be" out of her pack. This is supposed to bring us good luck and I have been telling her that it can't bring us good luck stashed away. We shall see.

Reach Addis Gap and lay down in the grass for a nice 15 minute break. Feeling rather good, I must say. Foolish me -Felix,Bandit, We are now climbing Kelly's Knob and climbing and climbing...When we get to Deep Gap shelter we see a note in the shelter that says "Kelly's Knob,K-2,Everest". That sums it up. "Felix" is there. (Felix is on the right in the picture along with Bandit and Celestial Spirit- click on picture to see full scale picture with notes) "Felix" is about 50 and is a big,burly guy wearing long pants and plaid flannel shirts and claims to be hiking to Maine and funding his hike by reading palms along the way. Says he can't wait till he gets up North and can fleece them "damn Yankees". "Felix" is pretty funny.

April 14 Deep Gap-Dicks Creek Gap 3.5 miles

Ah, today the Blueberry Patch! Amazing how the thoughts of a hot shower can put the juice back in the ol legs! 2nd Mail Drop here.. As we reach the road, Lennie Poteet is just dropping some hikers off at the trail -we are in luck! The Blueberry Patch is great and Lennie is a wonderful person. Sat down at the stream cooling my feet in the water and enjoying a picture perfect day - blue skies,sunny, in the 70's. A shower,bunk,blueberry pancakes from their organic garden, rides to and from the trail and all for $15. Now that is tough to beat! A note to future thru-hikers - be kind, drop a tip on them! This sort of Trail Magic doesn't come along every day!

We hitch into town (first hitch ever for "Celestial Spirit" - she is lovin' it!) and eat at the Georgia Mountain House with "Lima Bean". Great chicken dinner, complete w/ coffee and dessert for $4.50.

We hitch back to the Patch. During the night an awesome "Full Moon" rose up over the Blueberry Patch - an omen?

April 15 Dicks Creek Gap to Campsite past Blue Ridge Gap 6.6 miles

Hiked past Plum Orchard Shelter today to a campsite along the trail. Tough getting going again, especially with the weight of another mail drop. Camped w/ "Capt. Morgan", "Flamingo Freeze", and "Whistler" (from California, always missing the sunshine) . "Capt.Morgan" made strawberry cheesecake with crumb topping, but it wasn't cold enough to set up, so he covered it with the intention of us eating it in the morning. Sneaking over to get the first piece in the morning, I noticed that this cheesecake had some "life" in it - as in hundreds of little ants devouring each tasty crumb. It looked like the whole damn thing was moving! "Capt. Morgan" was not amused. We went back to eat our pop tarts.

April 16 Campsite-Standing Indian Shelter 9.8 miles

Crossed Bly Gap today and its big old gnarly tree. Saw "Felix" just finishing up breakfast. He said he would come along to hike with us. Immediately we climb up Sharp Top to Courthouse Bald - holy moly! Thank God, we have these Leki hiking poles! (donated by "Full Moon's father for our hike - best gift we've ever had!)I hear "Felix" teaching "Celestial Spirit" some new words (or maybe it was the other way around?). We stop to take a break, while Felix explains the "I Ching" to us. He then sucks down some honey from his little honey bear and off like a rabbit, not to be seen again till Rainbow Springs.

Just past the intersection with the Chunky Gal Trail(how can you be chunky hiking on this trail?), "Celestial" takes a nose dive into the dirt and starts hollering. I turn around to see her sniffing dirt and proceed to hump it back up the trail. Having never run in a backpack before, I promptly end up sniffing dirt myself. Where are the video cameras now? Meanwhile, "Celestial" can not arise, if she goes to the left she goes over the ravine, and she can't roll uphill to her right. Finally, I tire of chewing dirt and arrive for the rescue. Fortunately,she is ok. I suspect this won't be the last time that we are acquainted with the trail.

Long walk over boulders to road crossing before climb to Standing Indian. Apparently we have missed an entire Easter morning Trail Magic breakfast put on by some folks for the thru-hikers. But hey, they didn't get to eat dirt either!

April 17 Standing Indian-Carter Gap Shelter 7.7

Got up around 7. Ate oatmeal,cream of wheat,coffee and cookies , washed our hair and hit the trail. Hiking is not bad today. Planned to make it to Betty Creek Gap, but the bodies were not willing, so stopped at Carter Gap.

"Full Moon" went way down the hill to get water in our water bag and upon returning trips over a tree root hidden under the leaves, nearly breaking his big toe, but even worse, our water bag sails through the air and splats! on the ground. "Celestial" is dispatched to the water source. Upon returning, "Celestial" flies thru the air landing in the fire pit after not noticing the guy wires on the tent. Her knee looks nasty. And we're gonna make it to Maine?

Ran into our first trail maintainers today. They are staying at Carter Gap as well. "Airborne" and "Chameleon" show up. "Airborne is pissed that the shelter is full. Makes an ass out of himself - we're glad we're tenting it.

April 18 Carter Gap-Big Spring Shelter 6.8 miles

Got out early - 8:15! Crossed over Big Butt today (must be a lot of fat people somewhere up here) Lots of rocks and straight vertical drop offs. "Full Moon" watches a wild turkey take off over the valley from the trail some 25 yards ahead of him. Surprised at how big it is.

We start our hike up Albert Mountain near high noon. Cooking. Wow, what a climb. Pulling yourself up through narrow chasms, grabbing for tree roots. Hit the top of my pack on one, almost dislodging myself to the Happy Hunting Grounds. Slowly, but surely we make it to the firetower where we get some great views, despite the ever present haze. On to Big Spring shelter where we meet "Buzz" and "Spazz" for the first of many times.

April 19 Big Spring Shelter-Wallace Gap 6.0 miles

Broke camp at 8. Hiked with the one armed "Bandit" into Rainbow Springs Campground Lots of our fellow hikers here - we decide to stay. We pitch our tent, knowing this will make it rain. We are not disappointed. Nice stream,picnic area. Tomorrow is "Felix's" 56th birthday.

April 20 Wallace Gap to Wine Spring Campsite 11.3 miles

Hard rain during the night. Not much fun packing out."Felix" is looking green. Apparently his fellow companions have done him in. Met "Wild Goose", a retired Air Force colonel for the first time. Hit the trail at 9:40. All day climb or so it seemed to Wine Spring Campsite. "Lima Bean" and a new hiker "Winged Monkey" (good friend of Arlo Guthrie's!) are there. Poured all night on us - hard to sleep. Stayed dry in the tent,however. Discoverd that Janet's cheap K-Mart pack cover is worthless.

April 21 Wine Spring Campsite to Campsite past Rocky Bald 9.8 miles

After the rain, didn't get started till 10:40. We'd be great soldiers,huh? Beginning to see a lot of flowers. Spotted Dutchman's breeches today - neat little white flower. We pass "Bear" (former English version of "Green Beret", just retired from the military there and hiking for a few months till he goes to his new job as a bodyguard for someone in South Africa - we will be nice to "Bear" - and the "Citrus Bros" at Cold Spring shelter. We decide to keep going another 3 miles or so. Camp for the night along the trail and watch the sun set. During the night, we practically fly thru the tent as we hear an ear-splitting crash resonate through the forest and then just as quickly, deathly silence. Blood pressure 300/150. Our only guess is that a tree fell in the forest. Sounded like two locomotives hitting each other.

April 22 Campsite to Wesser,NC 9.3 miles

Stayed at the campground in Wesser. Hitched a ride on the running boards of a Bronco with our packs on! 3rd Mail Drop at the Outfitter We indulge ourselves and buy 2 Crazy Creek chairs to fit our Thermarests into - tired of nothing to lean our backs agains in camp. Also buy the smoked gray Nalgene bottles to replace our white plastic ones, since they don't trap tastes. Lady at the campground does our laundry for us for a $1! Ate dinner in town with "D&D" from Minnesota, whom we had met at Wayah Bald.
April 23 Wesser-Sassafras Gap Shelter 6.9 miles

Left late today -around 1 p.m. Tough climb out today - temps started dropping. Big rain and lightening at the shelter. Met "Pass-a-long" - he was suffering from hypothermia. This guy carries everything - bongo drums, butane torches, batteries of all kinds, juggling sticks - turns out he used to work for one of those Renaissance Fairs. Glad I'm not carrying all that stuff!

April 24 Sassafras Gap to Brown Fork Gap Shelter 9.1 miles

Lat start again - 11 a.m.Cold today -sleeting on Cheoh Bald- hiked in long johns and rain jackets all day. Cold here at Brown Fork. Mice are bold - sat next to hiker's stoves in shelter - watching them cook! Tented next to shelter."Snowball" w/ hypothermia.

April 25 Brown Fork Gap to Cable Gap Shelter 6.1 miles

We thought we would hike to Fontana today, but ran out of zip. Too many blowdowns to cross. We both fell in the mud. Tried out our new Crazy Creeks - excellent! Old shelter. Met "One-Wing" (got badly hurt at Laurel Falls Gorge). Beautiful Irises here. Tented near shelter. Janet lost one of her water bottles today - fell off her pack and whooosh - right down into the rocks-who knows how far down? "Full Moon" also dropped his fuel bottle down a hillside and barely made it back up after retrieving it.

April 26 Cable Gap Shelter to Fontana Dam 4.5 miles

Gorgeous hike this a.m. Birds singing. Big downhill into town. Caught a ride on the town garbage truck to P.O.! Jeff at the Fontana Motel picks us up and takes us to his place - nice folks! "Bear" and "Symbol" also here. "Beetle Bailey & Sarge" (hikers in their 70's who had thru-hiked the trail before - this was their 4th time to do the trail - this time in sections) came in as we were leaving. "Bear" wants a bottle of Capt. Morgan (he likes to boil up Sassafras roots and then put in a good dollop of the ol' Capt. Morgan, the rum that is!), so Nancy takes us into Bryson City - we get to eat at MacDonalds - I think I like Liptons better. 4th Mail Drop at the P.O.

April 27 Fontana Dam Motel to Fontana Dam "Hilton" Shelter 0 miles

Our first day of No hiking! "Will's" parents gave us a ride to town. Ate dinner at the cafeteria there with "Symbol". Met "Invisible Woman" (got her name from hiding out from "Bandit" on the trail - can't blame her),"Two Cents","Amy". They were staying at hostel. Beautiful views of the Lake from the "Hilton". Shelter very nice - no mice that we saw!

April 28 Fontana Dam to Birch Spring Shelter 6.9 miles

Get ready for a dandy climb out of Fontana. Too much weight - thought I would die 100 yards up the trail. Hiking with "Dos Dilberts" (more of those computer folks , only this time from Texas - retired and having a great time!). His legs are too long for me! Have a nice fire tonight at the shelter w/ "Dos Dilberts","Bandit" "Bear", "Two Cents","Amy" and "Sarge and Beetle Bailey"

April 29 Birch Spring to Spence Field Shelter 9.7 miles

Hit the trail around 9:15. Beautiful views as we arrived at Spence Field. Shelter full of Day-Hikers. First time for "Bear boxes". Mice got in them though! Hiked out next a.m. in dense fog.

April 30 Spence Field-Derrick Knob Shelter 6.3 miles

Just beat the rain into the shelter. Mark "Bear" took a wrong turn back at the rocks on Thunderhead (where blazes are confusing and where Full Moon is shown standing in this picture - click on picture to see full scale view) and fell head over heals down the side of a mountain. Took him 20 minutes to climb back up. Knocked a bit silly. First time he tries out Vitamin I.

Back to AT Journal Page On to May Journal Back to AT Interview Page