From the journals:
04 April 2002. At Hawk Mountain Shelter with about 20 other people this first day hiking the Appalachian Trail. Red, Gary, Maggie and I are camped in the upper level of the shelter. Long day hiking--6 hours--but we got in early enough to grab a space under a roof. After dinner the sun is setting and the air is cooling. Dinner was Ramen noodles with textured vegetable protein. I still worry that we will run short of food before we reach Neels Gap. I guess the stress of the city and and getting to the trail head is still with me. Even so, today was a great day. We encountered many people, most of whom seem to be here at Hawk Mountain this evening. Sitting at the table in front of the shelter, I count seven tents. More are out of direct sight. The Appalachian Trail is a crowded place this fourth day of April.
04 April 2005. Camped at Stover Creek Shelter on the first night of my Appalachian Trail "make up" hike. Walked a blistering 3.5 miles today, barely half of that with a pack. Brother Neil drove me up from Atlanta to Forest Road 42 about a mile north Springer Mountain summit. We walked south to the AT southern terminus there, touched the plaque there and returned to the road. Then I stared walking solo. Easy walking, much more so than three years ago. Feels strange to be out on my own--no Red and Gary, no Maggie, just me and this year's aspiring 2,000-milers.