By Linda Mosely
My amazing sisters and I made a pact as adults to get together on all the “big 0” birthdays. My oldest sister chose a visit to New York City, complete with the bright neon lights, shows, luxury hotels, and fine dining. A few years later I picked hiking the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail, complete with a deep black sky filled with twinkling stars, fleeting deer, filtered water from bubbling streams, trail mix and sleeping bags. Raised to be true to ourselves and celebrate our differences, we take pride in experiencing life from different perspectives.
my sisters were happy to embrace my itinerary, they did not hide their fear of
running into a bear on the trail. I informed them that only 25-27 people
have died from encounters with bear in all of North America in the past 20
years. And none of them were in Georgia. They were not impressed.
showed up with bear bells to hang on their backpacks and an overpriced canister
of bear repellent spray. Being the more seasoned hiker, I brought the
bear bag to hang our food in at night, and off we went dingaling down the
the first three days of hiking the only “animals” we saw were ants, spiders,
and lizards and a single, apparently deaf chipmunk. We didn’t see
one possum, rabbit, raccoon, squirrel, deer or even a bird. And every time we saw any brush disturbed
they just knew it was a foraging bear.
we sat around the campfire that third evening, I took a deep breath and in my
sweetest sister voice ever told them I was going to hang them up by their
toenails if they didn’t disable the bear bells. I reminded them we came
on the trail to see wildlife, not scare it away.
a good night’s sleep, we started the hike from the Springer Mountain Access off
of highway 52 between Ellijay and Dahlonega. We weren’t sure how many miles we
would average a day, but our research suggested between 10 and 20. As a runner,
I scoffed. How could we only go 10 miles a day?
had seven days and six nights to complete the 78.2 miles of the Georgia section
of the A.T. So, with fifty-pound packs and matching straw hats courtesy of our
Dad, we headed off excited about the weight we would lose.
older sister decided to leave her glasses at home. She would not need them to
read and felt confident she could see the six-inch white trail markings.
And since I have “direxia”– dyslexia for directions–we left the
navigating to our younger sister.
A gorgeous day ushered us off on our easy
level, downhill trail. We had a blast catching up on life, solving the
world’s problems and singing silly camp songs. We took off our
boots and wiggled our toes in the gurgling streams as we filtered our water for
the next leg. We stopped to picnic and to look at flowers and colorful fungi
The highlight of our day was a long refreshing shower in Long Creek
Falls. Before we knew it dark clouds were gathering. No problem, our younger sister, cum astute
navigator, assured us we were almost to the Hawk Mountain Shelter
We walked rapidly toward the shelter.
Twenty long thunder filled minutes later we decided we must have missed
the shelter and decided to set up camp before the rain hit. Within five
minutes the tent was up and we dove in just as it deluged. We had a blast. My sisters were convinced no bear would come
out in the rain making us safe for the night. In the safety of each
other’s company, shared a lantern-lit dinner. After which my bear canister
carrying younger sister ran through the rain to add our supper remnants to the
bear bag we strung high across the tree branch.
next morning we woke up early, packed our tent and started our day. Within
twenty-five steps, we looked at each other and rolled over laughing. The
shelter was right around a slight bend in the trail, less than 100 yards away
from where we had pitched the tent in the rain.
Only 70 miles to go! So much for averaging 20 miles a day.