Springer Mountain to Fontana Dam
Georgia-North Carolina

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The journal of Andy Linger ... thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine in 1997

April 13—Stover Creek Shelter (Day 1 ~ milepoint 2.5)
After coming up with this "crazy" idea last July, and enjoying/enduring the subsequent months of dreaming about and sweating out the details of preparing for such a journey, day one has finally arrived! I arrived at Amicalola Falls a little after noon with a ride thanks to my roommate's father from Atlanta (thanks Mike!). I weighed my pack, got a ride to the top of the Falls, and was off. The weather was great. Sunny and breezy with highs in the low 60s. I had an eyelet pop off of my boots on the approach to Springer ... already! Arrived at Stover Creek Shelter in the early evening. Another thru-hiker, Moss Man arrived a little later. Couldn't get his stove to work that night, it just shot flames four feet into the air. I was really surprised that there were not more people in the shelter that night. Katahdin or bust!—Andy

April 14—Campsite south of Woody Gap (Day 2 ~ milepoint 19.1)
Today marks the first time I've spent more than one night backpacking! Another beautiful day. The effects of Hurricane Opal are very evident around this area. All the ridge lines have large trees toppled over, and many of the mountain tops are almost bare of mature trees.—Andy

April 15—Blood Mountain Shelter (Day 3 ~ milepoint 28.5)
Hitched a ride into Suches today to call my parents for a maildrop. My first time hitchhiking and definitely not my last (it took 20 min for someone to pick me up). The skin on the right side of my body is starting to get fried from the sun—time to get some sunscreen. The view from up here is great. I was up here once before on a spring break trip to Vogel State Park (I can see it from here). At 7:30, so far I'm the only one here. Makes me laugh at the fact that I thought all the shelters were going to be full with the mid April crowd. April 1 to 15 used to be a popular start date. Trail talk with a half full shelter would be nice though.—Andy

April 16—Low Gap Shelter (Day 4 ~ milepoint 41.5)
Wow! Today the shelter is half full. Debated about whether I should take my first shower at Neel's Gap ... and did it (it felt great!). Looking at the trail that shot straight up Wildcat Mountain looked like lots of fun. Actually it was much easier than I thought. The weather was great again, Unfortunately it won't last forever.—Andy

April 17—Tray Mountain Shelter (Day 5 ~ milepoint 56.3)
Woke up this morning to some fog and sprinkles. However, it was the first night I actually got more than 2 hours of sleep. The last couple of nights I found it impossible to sleep at night. After about an hour of hiking, the fog lifted and the sun came out. The view from Tray Mountain was spectacular. Could see Blood Mountain behind me and almost all the way to the Smokies. When I arrived at the shelter, Gutsy was there ('96 thru-hiker) shuttling section hikers Smilin' Bob and Broken Spoke. They went on to "make fun" of my food jar I carry on top of my pack (hey, keeps the mice and rain out).—Andy

April 18—The Blueberry Patch (Day 6 ~ milepoint 66.9)
The weather this morning was cooold! Below zero windchill, and anything that contained water was frozen solid. It was so cold, the six of us in the shelter were trying to find ways to hike in our sleeping bags, At 8 AM, I told myself get up now and get off the mountain, or stay in my sleeping bag and freeze. The weather was windy with highs in the 50s, great for hiking in. Tonight I stayed at the Blueberry Patch, a hostel that caters exclusively to thru hikers. The stay was wonderful. $15 got me a hot shower, bunk, laundry, breakfast, and a ride back to the trailhead. There's a total of twelve of us here tonight, eagerly telling our trail stories ranging from a hiker carrying a propane tank on his pack, to Gordo's free crablegs and beer party on the trail (and of course talk about my food jar, which (thanks to Alien) henceforth will be refered to as the "food keg".—Andy

April 19—Muskrat Creek Shelter (Day 7 ~ milepoint 78.5)
The Breakfast this morning at the Blueberry Patch was phenomenal. There was a plate of pancakes stacked a foot deep. The twelve of us each drilled through well over 8 pancakes apiece, smeared with blueberry syrup. The food and the stay were wonderful. After breakfast, Gary gave us a ride back to the trailhead, the worst part of the morning. Today marked my first day crossing a state line (only 13 more states to go!). The next few miles were the most strenuous of the entire trip so far. All straight uphill and no switchbacks during the climb. I ran into Backdraft, who thru hiked over a period of two years. He's on his way from Springer to Damascus, VA for Trail Days. He gave me great insight on what to expect over the next several months, including some of the insect species I'll encounter, golf ball size black flies and mosquitoes, etc.—Andy

April 20—Carter Gap Shelter (Day 8 ~ milepoint 91.2)
So much to look forward to the next several days, including my birthday a week from today, continued great weather, meeting my roommate from Vail at the NOC for some spelunking, and the Smokies. Last night the shelter was full and four of us had to tent it. However, with the thunderstorms (nice "fireworks" display), I'm glad I did. Also feels great to start losing weight off the last mail drop (10 lbs).—Andy

April 21—Siler Bald Shelter (Day 9 ~ milepoint 110.8)
Today was a big day—in more ways than one. Hiked my first twenty miler, and got to the shelter at 8:45, cooked dinner and went to bed 10 minutes before a heavy downpour, and a great lightning display. This morning at Carter Gap Shelter, one of the hikers I'd been with the last several days—who shall remain nameless—decided to build a campfire, he decides to build one of white gas. So he's sitting there with a small fire built and dumps his fuel bottle over it. The flame traveled up from the fire to the fuel bottle. He drops the bottle, and it rolls down the hill, resulting in a ring of flames that surround our shelter. Fortunately the ground was wet, and the flames didn't spread. Well, at least it got all of us up out of bed early. Later that day I hitched a ride to Franklin to call a friend about meeting me at the NOC. It took me a good twenty minutes to get a ride into town that time. I made the call, and to reward myself, went into a fast food joint and ordered a large chocolate milkshake. I think that's what gave me the extra push to make the 20 miler to Siler Bald.—Andy

April 22—Cold Spring Shelter (Day 10 ~ milepoint 122.8)
This morning I hiked to the top of Siler Bald to score some great views. The Smokies and Wayah Bald were clearly visible. This evening there are more thunderstorms, and the shelter is filling up fast. Fortunately, I reached the shelter half an hour before the rain did.—Andy

April 23—Rufus Morgan Shelter (Day 11 ~ milepoint 133.6)
Tonight there were two of us in the shelter, me and Okie Bob. Okie is in his mid 60's, up at 7 AM every morning, and averaging 12-15 miles per day.—Andy

April 24—Cheoah Bald (Day 12 ~ milepoint 142.6)
My friend from Atlanta couldn't make it today, so the caving trip didn't happen. I'm kinda glad it worked this way. I ran into Screaming Knee, Alien, Double Dutch, and Homer, hikers I was with for several days until my ride into Franklin for a phone call. They were in for three days of rest and rafting. I hiked up to Cheoah Bald that night. It was me and Canada Goose ( a section hiker) looking for the great sunset that never happened.—Andy

April 25—Fontana "Hilton" Shelter (Day 13 ~ milepoint 163.1)
I think I'm going insane. The uphills, no switchbacks just straight up have become so numerous today that I put a fat smile on my face when I approach the next one and let out an occasional laugh as I climb. Today was my biggest so far, over 21 miles. I arrived at the Fontana Dam Shelter at 9PM. The main purpose in doing so many miles was to make it to the Post Office before they closed Saturday morning.—Andy

April 26—Fontana Shelter (Day 14 ~ milepoint 163.1)
Taking my first day off was great. Seven other thru hikers did, and I figured I should too. The all-you-can-eat buffet in Fontana Village was ... well, it wasn't that great, I ate way too much, and could feel the effects all day long, the other thing I will feel all week long will be my maildrop. Outside the post office, there were a bunch of us trying to figure out what items to bring, and which ones to add to the hiker box outside the General Store. I think my food bag stands at 12 pounds right now.—Andy

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