Hawk Mountain Shelter was my second night along the Appalachian Trail. It felt like breaking ice, having moved on from Spriner Mountain Shelter. Evenings found the lean-to full of hopeful thru-hikers, and there was lots of excited conversation and pot banging as dinner was well underway. Any idea I may have had of the “monastic sojourn” was now long gone, replaced by aching feet and hunger. Funny thing is, you bring a lot of food at the outset and you’re bound to learn you’ve brought way too much. It seems that it’s only after you’ve carved off the body fat you carry by putting down grueling miles than the real appetite kicks in. More on this later.
Army Rangers seemed to be using this stretch of the Appalachian Trail for training maneuvers, so being buzzed by helicopters and roused by soldiers running past was the norm. Personally, I never saw a one, but other hikers said they’d been by recently.
An early highlight came as I learned just how low the ceilings of the lean-tos really were. This reality was of course impressed on me by my banging my head against the ceiling most every time I stood up! I’m not particularly tall, but quickly became frustrated at how soon I “forgot” what was above me and promptly rose too quickly to my feet. Ouch.
Carrying earplugs is a good idea, since the respiratory repertoire kept some of the light sleepers up way into the night. Bleary eyed, they awoke just before dawn, gathered their gear, ate breakfast, and headed out. The early days were quite exhausting, and honestly at times it all seemed like a self-imposed forced march. The “why am I doing this?” question did come – but my desire to endure so I could move past it kept me going. I just knew glorious and easier days were ahead.