A.T. NorthI was heading out for a hike on the Appalachian Trail. My girl friend woke up before dawn to drive me to the trailhead at Springer Mountain, Ga., but we got lost, so she dropped me at Cooper Gap, 10 miles north of Springer on the A.T.
I was planning on staying right near Cooper Gap on my first night, so I was already a day ahead and I was just starting. After my girl friend dropped me off, I decided I would hike back towards Springer to the shelter I had planned to stay at, so my schedule would still be on track. So, off I went, hiking towards the Hawk Mountain Shelter.
After about two hours of hiking, I ended up at the Gooch Mountain Shelter. It turns out that even though things were plainly marked, I had hiked north instead of south, and now I was at the shelter I planned to sleep near on the second night. It was 2 p.m. on my first day and I had already been lost twice.
I continued hiking north, and when sunset approached, I was still far from the next shelter. Without a tent, I slept beneath my tarp on a beautiful, rocky overlook. It was perfect—until I started feeling the hardness of that rocky overlook beneath me. Sleeping on the ground in the Appalachian Mountains is slightly less comfortable than sleeping on carpeted concrete, even with my ½ inch thick ground pad.
Then, around three in the morning, I heard some scratching just above my head. Then I heard a rock scrape against another rock. A small bear was near my tarp looking for leftovers. I banged on my tarp and slapped my ground sheet, and fortunately my noise sent the bear running away.
I did not sleep at all that night.