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My trail name originated during the second day of my 1994 thru-hike. I had always wanted my "new" name to come about naturally while I was persevering on the Trail, and not from ponderings while still at home planning the trip. For me, this method would be more meaningful in the long run of memories, so I just let it happen... and 'Oh Boy, did it happen!!!

On March 27, 1994 (Day-2) it was about 2:00p.m. when I reached Gooch Gap shelter, still too early to stop hiking despite a drenching rain so I just filled my water bottles and continued to make some mileage. (The following is an exact excerpt from my journal...) "The rain had already been falling for an hour and I was drenched. Just as I located a campsite I thought someone had hit me in the head when I saw hail beginning to fall. I pulled my plastic ground cloth out and pulled it over myself for protection from the large quarter-sized ice balls while crouching beside my backpack. According to my tiny radio there was extremely bad weather presently moving across northern Georgia. No Kidding!"

(Writing about the previous evening on the next morning of March 28...) "Last night was an unbelieveable experience in the woods. By all means I surely should have pulled off the trail when I had passed the trail leading up to Gooch Gap shelter. Less than a half hour later the storm came and then the hail storm which managed to leave bruises on both arms while I tried to figure out what to do, which eventually I pulled out my visqueeen and spread it over me and my backpack.

"At one point I put my arm out in curiosity to touch the falling ice and let out a painful scream when one of the ice cubes hit my finger. The worst was yet to come after dark when I was already in my sleeping bag. The storm was on and off with the constant flash of lightning when suddenly the loudest crack of lightning I've ever heard flashed in an instant overhead. Unbelieveable! I really thought I was dead, then felt that I was about to die. I screamed, then put myself in a fetal position preparing for the crash of a huge tree on my little nylon tent.

"Just as the lightning hit I thought I felt the voltage go thru my hand which I was lying on, but later agreed that it was probably caused from the instant jerk of my whole body from the scare of the crash. Anyhow the tree didn't fall on me and I did live, but how close must I have come to death? The remainder of the night was quite scarry after this shakey experience, but I finally did get some sleep when the storm eased up a bit.

"This morning I awoke to find a tall poplar tree strip-shredded of it's bark on one side all the way to the ground... and only about 20 yards from my tent!! Just way too close!! A radio report informed me that 16 people had died in this single storm in northern Georgia alone. I can only say that I was one very lucky person last night, and learned what the true meaning of prayer is all about."

The next night I spent with a lively group within the safe stone walls of Blood Mountain shelter where my only concern was a few late hour visits from the resident skunk and a few mice playing chase over our sleeping bags all night, but that's another story. On Day-4 of my hike I stayed over at the hostel at Neel's Gap. While everyone was cooking and eating supper it was discovered that I had no trail name after telling everyone the above experience. This was unacceptable and after a lot of suggestions, ramblings, and voting I was from that point on known not by my given name, but as my earned name "LIGHTNING BOLT".

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