At the side of the Greyhound in Gainesville, GA, I was collecting my baggage when I noticed a nice Osprey pack. The owner is George, “Bear Bait.” He’s taking a 30-day leave from work in Wisconsin and is trying to go as far as possible in that time. Reckons he’ll make it to Hot Springs.

We split cab fare to Amicolola State Park and start from the Visitor’s Center.

Pack Weight: 22 lbs gear, 20 lbs food.

I brought way too much food.

At this point I realize that I still have my black backpack which was my carry-on for the bus ride. I ask the folks at the info desk if I can mail it home, and they said the first mail spot will be Neels Gap, 40 miles out. Oh well. I strapped the bag to my pack and headed out.

Pack Weight: 22 lbs gear, 20 lbs food, 10 lbs crap.

I made it to the top of Springer Mountain where I met up with Scott. We met Scott earlier at the visitor’s center. He has a little less time and hopes to reach Fontana Dam before going back home.

The shelter is “only a few yards north” of the summit. Here, we met “Gums,” a more experienced hiker. His first thru-hike was in 1970 and at this point he’s jumping from place to place, staying a few nights and moving on. What a character.


Ed is also at this shelter. He was an Army Ranger, and carries an army ruck sack with some fairly heavy equipment. I’m not sure where he plans to go, but he moves fast.

A little later, some girl and guy come by and decide to tent rather than stay in the shelter. Two girls arrive an hour later, and tent also and we never heard from them again. I guess that’ll happen here and there. The beans I packed are awful. First thing when I get to a town: Ditch the beans. They’re heavy and taste like tree bark.

-Grandpa Joe