According to the Data Book, I had bagged my first mountain of the trail, Frosty Mountain. I was somewhat amazed and disheartened at the terrain and my response to it. There was no way I should be breathing this hard only 5 miles into the hike.
There were a lot of resources I elected not to carry. One of which were the topo maps from the USGS or the ATC. The USGS (U.S. Geological Survey) and the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conference, keepers of the Trail) both sell topographical maps that depict in minute detail the elevations, land formations, roads and railroads, towns, waterways, springs and even the trail shelters along the spine of mountains that constitute the A.T. Concentric rings of lines, and their closeness to each other, illustrate on a map the slope of the terrain.
Sherbear and Jettbutt would share their map with me (while they still carried them) and we'd swear they had things inaccurate. I was in decent shape -- having run in the Blacksburg Classic road race just weeks before (and running or playing volleyball just about every day prior to the hike). Another sip of water, slide the pack back on, grab the hiking stick and head on up the trail, Paul.