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It's the morning of the first day; the Trail crew volunteers and leaders have congregated and are getting ready for orientation. During this session of S.W.E.A.T. -- one of eight sessions total -- there will be four of us in this session, which is smaller than the average group size, but we will see if we can match a larger group's level of enthusiasm. The S.W.E.A.T. Crew poses by the ATC van before heading off into the Smokies.
After a half-day orientation, completing the Crew Fit test and getting to know fellow crew members, we load up the essential tools and equipment, fill up water jugs, ration food bags and all the general prep to get out into the field the next morning.
These folks that I'm about to head out with on this quest have a variety of backgrounds and experiences. First up is Chuck Behrmann from the Jersey Shore, who is in avocado and macadamia nut farm management. He's in his mid-forties and is a "Triple Crowner," which means he has completed the A.T., Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail in their entirety. Next is Morgan Kelley from Nashville, Tennessee, who is a line chef and author. He is a section hiker in his mid-twenties and will serve as our S.W.E.A.T. crew leader. This is his eighth trail crew session this 2015 season. Last is Tim McElhannon from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, a retired naval pilot and former U.S. diplomat. He is in his fifties and has thru-hiked the A.T. Everyone, including me, is pumped for tomorrow.
It's get-to-it-and-do-it time, and we eat a bacon, egg and cheese grits breakfast prepared by Morgan. The crew seems prepared and our morale is solid, ready for anything. We hop in the ATC van and head out.