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Help with 40 mile hike.

 My name is Skip Joslin and I am a freshman at the University of the South
in Sewanee, TN. My friend and I are planning on doing a 40 mile section of
the AT along the NC/TN border (from Davenport Gap to Hot Springs) for
around 5 or 6 days in May. We are both novice hikers, but determined and in
great shape, and this is our first time on the AT.
        I just subscribed to the AT mailing list   I guess there are
several things I would appreciate help with:

1) How much and what kinds of food should I bring?

2) Can we in the evening walk off the trail and find a place to camp for
the night?  Is this safe?  We were hoping we would not have to stay in the
shelters the whole time.

3) Does anyone have any information on shuttle drivers that we could find
to take our car from Davenport Gap to Hotsprings?  We are hoping to pick
him/her up in Hot Springs if this an option.

4) Can we hike this section in 4 or 5 days without becoming exhausted?

Well, I guess that is it for now.  I GREATLY appreciate any help anyone can
give me.

Skip Joslin