Nimblewill Nomad: AT Thru-Hiker
Sunday, November 19, 2000 Trail Day 180 on the ECT/131 on the AT
Trail Mile 2861 on the ECT/2160 on the AT
Location: Springer Mountain, thence on to Len Foote Hike Inn
From the Perry home in Cumming it's an hour's drive back to Gooch Gap, so we're all up by seven. Before loading, Carole prepares a full-spread breakfast for me. The plan is for Lee and Carole to drop me off at Gooch Gap, then for Lee to drive Carole on ahead to each of the road crossings so she can get in some hiking with me. But these plans start looking iffy as we begin climbing the mountain towards Suches. The rain came off and on all night, and this morning we no sooner get on the road than the rain begins again. As we continue climbing, the rain continues, slowly turning to snow. At first the snow seems not to stick, but nearing Suches the road turns slushy as the flurries intensify, finally turning to steady snow showers. I ask Carole please not to take chances for mewe can hike another day. She responds by shifting into four-wheel drive! On we go, making it in good order to Gooch Gap. Here Carole and Lee drop me off, then head for the next gap. I watch as they disappear into the wall of white.
The snow begins blanketing the trail and the woods all around as I ascend from Gooch Gap. I'm thinking, "What a fitting way to end the second segment of this odyssey. . . in the snow, just as I began the first nearly six months ago, some 2800+ miles to the north."
In just a while, I see a hiker coming towards me. It's Carole, sporting the happiest and broadest smile. Ahh yes, me too. Two kids playing in the snow! It's really coming down now and it's starting to pile up on the trail, making the slippery rocks and roots under the slippery leaves, under the slippery snow. . . very slippery! Out of necessity, in order to remain upright, our usually smooth, gliding gaits turn to a slow, cautious shuffle. But oh, are we having a grand time! Lee is waiting patiently and snugly in their warm vehicle as Carole and I gain the gap. Carole has prepared sandwiches and I am offered one before they head out again, disappearing into the ever intensifying wall of snow.
What a grand and exciting day this is turning out to be as Carole soon greets me again and we glide on together in the snow to Hightower Gap. By this time the snow has piled up in my hair and on my beard, making me appear as a snowman. Lee is taken aback with glee as he rolls down the window to get a better look. Another sandwich and a few pictures and I'm on my way again, bound for Cross Trails, just this side of Springer Mountain.
The snow slows me down considerably but I do not mind. The hike today is a different hike, different than all the hundreds before, just as a southbound hike o'er this grand old AT is so different from a northbound hike. It's a joy to have the company of a great friend today, for this hike has become mostly a solitary affair. I have seen many dear friends from "Odyssey '98" and have made many new friends, some who have hiked along for awhile with me, but for the most part I have been on this journey alone. So I have had much time to think, time to find out more about who I am and what I am. There have been times of struggle, both physical and mental, but just as was the case during "Odyssey '98," I am finding within a deep inner peace and joy as the days click away. I am a better person, that I know. I am stronger of will, more tolerant, with greater patience, and am slowly gaining of wisdom as I learn to trust in the ways of God and not in the ways of man. . . and of this earth.
By the time I reach Cross Trails, the last short leg to Springer, I am plowing along in nearly a half-foot of snow. What a glorious sight, what a glorious feeling! Lee and Carole are here waiting, and they bundle up to hike the last mile on the AT with me. We're giddy and full of chatter as we head for the summit of Springer.
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What is he carrying? Check Nimblewill's gear list.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication