In memory of Susan Ramsay and Robert Mountford Jr.
special thanks to Constance, who although
she did not know it, played an integral role in my final success.
16, 1981 Saturday From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal
the end of the school year 1981, I finished gathering the items necessary for
my trip to the Appalachian Trail. I ordered some guide books early in the year
as part of my preparations. I bought my boots, backpack, stove and cook-kit, and
thought I was ready to go.
was not home for more than a few days after finishing finals before it was time
to be driven down to Georgia to begin the Adventure of a Lifetime.
My brother Carl drove me down in what appears in a photo to be our grey Oldsmobile.
I believe it was the first brand new vehicle that my family had ever owned (other
than the van dad bought for the business). This would be the first time I had
really gone backpacking - I did not really count the trips around Carbondale
picking up aluminum cans, or those taken with the Shawnee Mountaineers climbing
club. I dont really know what my folks thought about the undertaking, but
Mom had become quite involved with it since she would be the one who would be
sending me whatever I needed. Dad never did say much.
arrived at Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia, where the approach trail begins,
on May 16. The approach trail is the trail that leads you to the Appalachian Trail
(A.T.) which begins on the summit of Springer Mountain. I unloaded what little
I had from the trunk of the car, which amounted to my backpack and the contents
therein. Over the next few months that would be all that I had - or really needed.
For a short time we explored the ranger station, signed the register, and took
a few photos. After saying our goodbyes, I trudged off up the approach trail with
my sister, who followed me until we reached the top of the Falls. After this point
I would be traveling alone, or so I thought anyway. I set off carrying way
too much weight, but thinking this was normal. I also wore boots that even
though I had them for over a year, were apparently not totally broken in yet.
(In those days boots were made of very thick leather and took a long time to break
in.) What I did have was determination and desire, but would that be enough?
I began my hike at 1:56pm.
I began the Approach trail, it was overcast, and a cool 56 60 degrees.
quiet out here. I walked by myself for a couple miles and then caught up to Bill,
another hiker from California we had met in the parking lot. He was with another
guy, also named Bill, and the three of us hiked together for the rest of the day.
Eventually, we all decided to camp atop Frosty Mountain. We think we are about
3.5 miles from Springer. Starting to drizzle - 4:56pm, the time we arrived on
Frosty, but it quit soon after just a few drops. I ate an apple and the "Little
Casserole" that Amy (A fellow Zoology student and my girlfriend Connies
old roommate) gave me as a parting gift. I have developed a little bit of a blister
problem on the back of my ankles. More than I had expected, but I seem to be O.K.
otherwise. I had my doubts about the walk when I walked away from Carl, Julie,
and Jay, but I think now that everything will be just fine. I might take it easy
these first few days until I get adjusted. It is a long way to Maine, and many
months of travel to get there, so no need to rush. Took pictures of the plaque
at Amicalola Falls as well as the falls, and one of each of the Bills. There is
a spring a little ways from Frosty Mountain where we filled our canteens with
water. Approximately 50 degrees at 6:16 pm. I miss everyone and wish they could
be here. I would like to stay with Bill and Bill, but unfortunately they plan
on traveling a little bit slower. I may stay with them for the next couple of