I haven't been keeping close track of my progress lately, but I found this cool AT distance calculator web site, and checked this evening. I passed the 600 mile mark today (Tuesday 20 March - the first day of spring). That's 1200 miles of hiking for me since I'm religiously passing every white blaze both ways. And that's more than a quarter of my journey. I'm feeling strong and healthy (knock on wood), so maybe, just maybe I'll actually do this thing.
Today's leg took me over three balds, the most renown of which is Wayah Bald. And frankly I was expecting a vast, broad open field like Big Bald or Max Patch. But ... no bald ... nothing! Just a wonderful masonry observation tower sticking up out of the woods. Wayah Bald is not bald? This ranks up there with learning that Santa Claus doesn't exist. (Well, actually I passed a full-white-bearded hiker and his wife first thing this morning. His trail name is ... you guessed it ... Santa.)
It was a summery day, complete with some humidity, but the haze didn't obstruct the view enough to complain about.
The other two balds had no grassy clearings. But Rocky Bald ... I suppose the equivalent of skull bone ... had views from its bare-bedrock south slope.
In the above you can see Cold Spring Bald at left and Wayah Bald in the distance at center. Cold Spring Bald did offer one vista from a rock outcrop on its north side. So I did not feel completely deprived or deceived by the fare that the AT served me today.
Now about the population on the trail. It's exploding. Today my hiker count approached 40. Of course I didn't have in-depth conversations with most of these, but everyone I did ask was indeed a NoBo thru-hiker. Modest young 'Bootstrap' confessed that he wasn't comfortable calling himself a thru-hiker since he's only reached the 120 mile mark. He's been on the trail for twelve days. Freshly retired 65 year old 'Bird Man' from Jackson, Tennessee has been plugging along since March 1st. He has a good attitude and the patience of Job. His knees aren't strong, but I give him a good shot at making it a long way. Katahdin may be snowed in by the time he gets that far, but 'Bird Man' won't quit easy - long as his knees hold up. When he told me his trail name he raised his arms and his smiling eyes lifted skyward, ready to fly to the top of the next mountain--no knees necessary. I laughed - I had to tell him about my little AT themed poem - a 'fourteener' (same form as the subtitle of this blog). I wrote it on the occasion of photographing a little bluebird sitting on a post with a white blaze and posted it here back on December 12th, but will repeat it since it made us both smile.
I cannot fly
like this small guy,
who soars upon the gale.
But that's no shake -
I'd rather take
the Appalachian Trail.
The hiker count was 21 yesterday, 15 the day before, and around 10 for a few days before that. The March madness had begun.
Other random highlights of the day: additions to my 'green tunnel' and 'AT logo/white blaze' photo collections, and after I finished hiking I passed a flock of wild turkeys and a 'spring is bustin' out all over' scene at a beautiful farm, both on Tellico Road. (Be sure not to miss the Monarch Butterfly on the flowers at far right).
It was a great 20 miles, and I can't wait to get up and go see what tomorrow and the next 600 miles will offer. This life suits me.