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Appalachian Trail week one

Where to begin?

I sleep on the plane, head against the window, teeth rattling in my mouth like bingo balls. A brief train ride later and Survivor Dave ferries me to Amicalola Falls and the start of the approach trail. I enter the visitor center and register as a thru hiker. The park ranger is skeptical. "Did your ride leave already?" She asks. "Yep," I say "Good luck," she says. It dawns on me then that I'm alone in Georgia with only my legs to take me to Maine. The approach trail begins with anywhere between a hundred and a million wooden stairs straight up a waterfall. It's beautiful. It's murder. Beatles songs find their way into my head, and I sing to keep up my spirits. After passing a few tourists I am alone for hours in the woods. It is very quiet. But there is no rain and for that I am thankful. Around six I reach the summit of Springer mountain and the official start if the Appalachian Trail. There is a plaque to commemorate the occasion, and a vista to greet me. I take a step forward and a snake darts away from my impending footfall. I yell. He hisses. We scare the shit out each other. He slithers away. I sit to enjoy the view. There is a metal slot in the rock next to me. I open it and pull out a notebook. It's the trail journal. I flip through and read messages from people who came before. I see there are people who signed in just before me and create imaginary personas based on their messages. Then I go to meet them. The first shelter is just a few yards ahead. I still can't believe how lucky I am to meet these people. We have in our crew a scientist, a business man, a Connecticut survivalist, a techie, and a poet--yo. We call ourselves variously Bear Squad, Bear patrol, awesome Squad, and loser Squad, depending how the day goes. I'd like to write more but for all the down time there is little free time in the trail. There are always chores to be done--hanging your socks to dry in the trees, water to be fetched, tents to be erected, rain flies to be wrestled into place, ropes to be tossed over limbs to dangle away from the reach of a bear. Most important is the task of sitting around the fire with your companions, laughing and joking to buff your morale against the eroding forces of wet and cold and soreness and itch. I sent my keyboard home first opportunity, not because of the weight, but because it was too isolating. WiFi is also rare, and battery life is precious. Updates will be sparing. I love (almost) every minute. It is a grand adventure.

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