First Step on the ATSiler BaldSelf Portrait in WhitesWhite Mountains

Bird Man's AT Journal

Trail Updates and Photos from the 2002 AT "Flip-Flap" Hike
© Bruce Nichols - 2002

Springer to Franklin, NC
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May 10, 2002

I'm sending this email from the Library in Franklin, NC.

Some of you may not know of my latest little odyssey. On May 1 I began walking north from Springer Mountain on the Appalachian Trail. Actually I started from Amacalola State Park about 9 miles further south. In the first 10 days I've walked 106 miles of the trail and about another 10 or 12 on the approach and side trips. It's been a great adventure so far. Many interesting people and experiences. And the mountains here in Georgia and NC are exceptionally beautiful at this time of the year. Wonderful tunnels of Rhodedendron which will be in bloom in another week or two. Spring flowers along the trail - bluets, red, white, and pink trillium, miniture iris, buttercups, salmon colored wild azalia, and many more that I do not know the names of. The birds have also been constant companions. From piliated woodpeckers seen on my first day, to barred owls that whooted and wailed above my tarp one night (I hear them almost every night but not usually that close). There have been ravens soaring over the ridges of the 5000 foot mountains climbed here in NC. And along the trail, many wonderful warbles whose names I do not know except for one, the yellow throat. I even found the nest of a junco tucked secretly under a log near the trail. A conversation with a couple at a road crossing tipped me off to their nesting habits. I've looked for many but only found one because they are so well hidden.

My most interesting and exciting experience so far has been a close encounter with a rather large timber rattlesnake just before leaving Georgia. I probably was fortunate that it saw me first and coiled and rattled. It was about 4 or 5 feet off the trail and perhaps 15 feet away. Once the initial burst of adrenalin subsided I took out the camera and moved in to about 8 feet for a photo then very carefully and quietly walked past assuring the snake that I had now intention of doing it any harm. It was about as big around as my wrist in the middle and perhaps 6 or 7 feet long. Quite a site. In talking to several people later that day who were well acquainted with the Georgia mountains, I discovered that such meetings are extremely rare. I consider myself fortunate to have had an opportunity to see this snake in it's natural environment. Can't wait to see the photo.

I thought I might stay here in town tonight but find there is a convention going on and all the rooms seem
to be booked so I will head back to the trail after a stop for some dearly craved scrambled eggs. I walked
three miles on the AT this morning but have probably lugged my pack and the groceries I bought earlier 5
miles around this sprawly town taking care of the chores I set for myself. One of these included sending a couple of unused items home. Peace Pilgrim said, "Unnecessary possessions are only unnecessary burdens." And nothing proves that faster than trying to haul them around on your back. I started with way too much food and finally, coming in to town today with most of that gone, felt that my pack weight was getting managable (about 35 lbs now). But I'll have to eat up some of the grub I bought today to get back to that lighter weight. I actually hope to hone another 5 lbs. out of the pack by trading for a lighter sleeping bag in another week, and making a few other changes.

Don't know when I'll have access to a computer again. No need to reply to this email though you are
certainly welcome. It's being bcc'd to a number of you.

As far as future plans are concerned, my initial intent is to walk to Damascus, VA another 350 miles
down (up?) the trail. Perhaps another month of walking with days off. After that I'll decide if I want to continue or move on to other activities.

My love and best wished to all - sorry for any duplication of this message. Some of you may be listed seperately and also as members of sub lists and so get a couple of copies.

In Peace and Friendship

p.s. There is this tradition on the trail called "trail names". It's often easier to remember someone by a nickname than their real name. Anyway, my trail name for this journey is Bruce "The Bird Man" Nichols. I've been folding origami cranes and pasting them into the trail registers that are located in the shelters along the trail. I also give them out as little gifts to other hikers and people I meet along the way. Thanks to all who ate chocolate to supply me with the wrappers.

p.p.s (This is the last one.) It is also an honor to be walking in the footsteps of Peace Pilgrim 50 years after she did her AT hike from May to October of 1952. I often think of her recommendation to spend time among the beauties of nature and I try to devote the first part of my mornings on the trail to walking prayerfully and peacefully.

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page created - 11/21/2002
updated - 9/8/2004
All text and photos © Bruce Nichols