After cooling down a bit I felt like some sort of celebration was in order, so I loaded up the pack with all my gear inside, except the tent, and headed up to the Pine Mountain Trail. Before leaving town, however, I decided to stop at a nearby Subway to take advantage of their February footlong special. I ate half of the sub there and took the other with me for a second lunch on the trail. Since I have been known to carry a coke at times when hiking, I thought today was also the perfect day to take along a 20 oz soda which somewhat made up for the weight of the tent.
For today’s hike I selected the easy to moderate 7.8 Big Poplar Loop. I began the trail south from the nearby Mollyhugger parking lot. A slightly overcast cool early afternoon afforded a perfect day for a walk through the Georgia woods. I averaged right at 20 minutes a mile early with short breaks for snacks and water. I wanted to work on drinking more water to ensure that my hydration levels were good.
The afternoon progressed quickly as I ambled along the winding path. With a little less than two miles to go, I determined that it was time for a longer break to finish that other half of the sub. So when I came to the last campsite on the loop, Beech Bottom, I meandered down the side trail to an open area with a fire ring. Just as I was putting back on my pack, I spotted another hiker coming into view on the trail. As I approached the solitary sojourner, we both remarked that we did not expect to see anyone else on the trail today.
A. H. explained after a few minutes of casual hiker talk that he was getting ready for a thru hike of the AT. When I told him that I was as well, the talk turned to the trail, gear, and a few other topics. He had already spent one night in the woods on this prep hike and planned to camp for two more on this trip. From Jacksonville. Florida, A. H. had been making occasional visits up to the Pine Mountain Trail to get in some practice hikes. I hope that the little information I shared with him about the AT will prove helpful as he begins his thru later this month.
After wishing him well, I quickly negotiated the final 1.8 miles, arriving at my SUV a few minutes after four. Even though I felt somewhat tired, overall I had run and hiked well. The drive home enabled me to access just where my fitness level is right now. So far all is going well. It had been a good day for training indeed! Only a little over 6 weeks until I begin my trek on the Appalachian Trail.