By the fall of 1999, I had been at MRNRA for over a year, and was beginning to feel the urge to move on, but the time wasn’t right. I honestly felt that I had enough experience to start applying for other paid positions. They would come in time, but the urge to spend time hiking in new places loomed large. So after leading a few crews during the late summer and early fall, in late October I set off to hike the Georgia section of the Appalachian Trail. I had seen the northern end of the trail; now it was time to see the southern end.
On October 20, I was let out at Winding Stair Gap, a major point in the road that runs between Franklin and Murphy NC. I would hike from here southward ending atop Springer Mountain, in the heart of Georgia’s Chattahoochee National Forest. There were plenty of views to be had as well as nice, graded trail to hike on. Many places still stand out in my mind from that trip-Standing Indian Mountain, Bly Gap, Plumorchard Gap Shelter, and Trey Mountain. I met several hikers during the eleven days I was out, a couple of whom are still friends to this day. DG, a hiker and trail maintainer from Maryland, would help me out on a future hike in 2001, and we would swap stories through the years.
Although the hike lasted eleven days and covered 109 miles, it would be the final three days and 30 miles that would provide the most lasting memories. It would be an area that I would come back to several years later, spending over a year working, living and playing on the Appalachian Trail. The only building that the AT goes directly through would play a big part in that future, but it was on this trip that I met once again a legendary hiker and his dog. The first time we met, I had not even dreamed of hiking and had never heard of thru-hikers. Our first meeting was nowhere near the Appalachian Trail. It was in the desert southwestern city of El Paso, Texas.