Nimblewill Nomad: AT Thru-Hiker
November 11, 2000
Just shy of the first white blaze, the blaze that marks the beginning (or the end) of such a once-in-a-lifetime journey, begins another trail, the Benton MacKaye Trail, a trail so named in honor of the dreamer whose idea gave birth to the greatest of all trails, the trail now known as the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. Carole and I hike the short distance from the beginning of the Benton MacKaye to the beautiful bronze monument that has been affixed to a wall of stone here on Springer Mountain. This is such a special place, a spiritual place, a place where I experience the most intense feeling of pride. For it is humbling to have been chosen by fate and by time and circumstance and by the will of the Almighty to be the person to initiate the idea and start the fund to place this beautiful tribute to Benton MacKaye. In the snow this shrine is so pure, so peaceful. No one has been here before us today, the blanket of snow undisturbed. I hesitate, not wanting to invade the spell cast by such a wintry scene. Carole urges me forward and I finally go to have my picture taken with Mr. MacKaye. There is just no way in words I can express how very special this moment is in my life.
We finally turn to hike the short distance to the summit where Lee is waiting to greet us. He sweeps the snow from the last of the three beautiful bronze plaques placed years ago by the GATC. . .and it's picture taking time again. I cannot see the last white blaze just beside the plaque, for it's covered with snow. But I know exactly where it's located, for I have cast my eyes down upon it many a time.
The snow has ended and the clouds have lifted for just a moment. Time to look, as Benton MacKaye would say,". . .to truly see that which we look upon." Nearly 3,000 miles completed on this journey o'er the Appalachian Mountains Trail (AMT). Three-hundred more to go to complete the first southbound thru-hike of the entire Appalachian Mountain Range. . .thence to continue on along the Eastern Continental Trail (ECT) to Key West, Florida, a total distance of near 5000 miles, most-near a year on the trail.
The Len Foote Hike Inn (LFHI) is a beautiful facility. It's located on a parallel trail between Amicalola Falls State Park and Springer Mountain, requiring a hike the distance of some five miles for those who wish to enjoy its comforts. I had the pleasure of working there for over six months while I labored over the manuscript for my book, Ten Million Steps. I've been invited to be their guest this evening, so plans are for me to hike on in from Springer while Lee and Carole drive down, around and up the service road to the Inn.
Just at dusk, and to cap this perfect and most memorable day, I'm greeted by the great folks at LFHI. There's Naomi, Josh, Shane and girlfriend, Kelly, Jeremy, and my great friend and fellow "Class of '98" thru-hiker, Dan "Cornbread" Briordy. Lee and Carole soon arrive. . .with a bottle of bubbly to celebrate the occasion, and Josh has prepared a hiker feast for me. The snow adds to the magic that is the LFHI, casting a spell of beauty and peaceful calm over this high-held place.
The second leg of this grand journey, "Odyssey 2000," is now historymy southbound thru-hike o'er the AT, now history. So many memories, so many great people to thank for making the journey so special. And to my sponsors, most who will continue on with me. . .Vasque, New Balance, GORP.com, Conquest, Wanderlust Gear, GVP Gear, Cascade Designs, Leki, Rexall Sundown, Appalachian Outfitters, and Feathered Friends. Thank you, one and all!
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication