Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Rain, Rain, Rain

Today was a rainy, windy, foggy day in the Great Smoky Mountains.  We are staying tonight in Derrick Knob Shelter, elevation 4,880 ft.  We are at mile 186.7.  I'm hiking with Nor'easter from Maine, but we've seen lots of other hikers.

Last night we were at Mollies Ridge Shelter, mile 175.  So at least we are making some miles in this rain.

Probably our next stop will be at Newfound Gap, mile 204 if we decide to stop to take a break. Eighteen miles to the east will be Cherokee, NC  home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee and its reservation.  Fifteen miles to the west is Gatlinburg, TN.  It looks like there are plenty of services and laundry facilities there. If you've read Chapter 8 of A Walk in the Woods, this is where Katz and Bill Bryson decided to take a cab to Knoxville and rent a car to Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway!  They skipped a few hundred miles....

"In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours." 
 Mark Twain
(Happy Birthday, Kate!)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Smoky Mountains Here We Come!

Spending the night here at Brown Fork Gap Shelter, mile 151.2.  This shelter has a tin roof and the rain is really loud falling on it.  It's coming down harder now than it was during the day today.  I can see some lightning off in a distance and it's getting foggy.

The shelter sleeps 6, but there are only 4 of us here so we can spread out a little. With me are Currahee, Jerry G. and Nor'easter. My pants got wet from the rain today, but my shoes stayed pretty dry thanks to my gaiters. Now I'm in my sleeping bag with one of those hand warmers on my stomach trying to keep warm.  Pretty soon I will turn off my headlamp and turn on my Ipod and fall asleep  in my sleeping bag listening to some tunes.

We spent a night this past week at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC). There is a hostel there and  you can go whitewater rafting and tubing on the Nantahala River.  Had a barbecue chicken sandwich and a cold beer! MMM! We also met a group of high-schoolers day hiking near there who were from Dublin, Ohio.

Hoping to make it to Fontana Dam Shelter tomorrow, but if it's raining all day we probably won't.  The shelter is nicknamed the "Fontana Hilton" because it sleeps 24 and has a restroom with showers.  Fontana Dam is the highest dam in the eastern United States at 480 feet. The visitors center is the beginning of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This area has the most rainfall and snowfall on the AT in the wish us luck!

"You need special shoes for hiking...and a bit of a special soul as well."
Terry Guillemets

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wayah Shelter

Ended up not making it to Franklin, NC until Monday morning.  The shuttle picked us up and took us in to Franklin.  So I had the whole day  to get cleaned up, get my mail drop and send some things back home, do laundry and get some things I needed.  We stayed at one of Ron Haven's places. The shuttle even took us to the Wal Mart!  That night we went to the steakhouse across the street for dinner.  What a life!  I thought I had lost about 10 pounds, but I may have gained some of that back after being in Franklin.

The shuttle took us to a pancake breakfast at a church yesterday morning and then I got back on the trail around 11:30 and hiked about 11 miles.  Not bad for getting such a late start to my day. I spent last night at the Wayah Shelter, mile 118.7.  Wayah is Cherokee for "wolf."  I was using my headlamp to get set up. I slept in my tent and the wind was really howling.  I thought maybe some trees were going to fall down.  I actually slept pretty well though.

I'm about 40 miles or so away from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are some steep mountains coming up.

Thanks very much for all the well-wishes, emails  and comments on the blog.  It's sometimes difficult to get computer time at these places, but I'll try to keep you updated.

I heard that some of my buddies from earlier that had some medical problems are now back on the trail so I should be seeing them at some point. It's amazing.  You'll be hiking with someone for a few days and then you'll hike with someone else....then you'll meet back up with someone from before.  A lot of nice young people (and old, too) out here.  I even saw a young fellow that we talked with at the ATC in Harpers Ferry, WV last summer.  Yesterday I hiked mostly by myself and enjoyed that too!

"I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful...I feel good, I feel great, I feel wonderful."
Bob Wiley  in What About Bob?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

We're Here! (North Carolina, that is)

Stopped for a lunch break yesterday at Standing Indian Mountain, which is at mile 85.7.  So, yes, I am finally out of GA and in NC!  Elevation on Standing Indian Mountain is 5,498 feet.  Some beautiful views. Then hiked to Carter Gap Shelter which is at mile 92 for the night. 

With any luck we will make it to Winding Stair Gap and Franklin, NC today.  There is a shuttle at the Gap that will take us 10 miles in to Franklin to resupply and pick up a package. We will probably spend one night at one of the hostels/motels in Franklin. Cell phone coverage has not been good these past few days.

The weather has been nice and I think I'm ready for my shorts! 

"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."
John Muir

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Finally some photos!

Here are some pictures from day one at Amicalola Falls.  This is where Dave started his hike up to Springer Mountain, which is the beginning of the Appalachian Trail. 

I talked to Dave tonight and he was already cozy in his tent.  He hiked about eleven miles today with some of the buddies he's met along the way and some college students on spring break.  While on the phone with Amy, he mentioned that he saw a snake...and we all know how much Dave loves snakes.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Helen (Not the Girl)

Spent yesterday and last night in Helen, GA.  Just can't get out of Georgia!  Two of our trail mates are suffering with very bad blisters and tendonitis.  So we decided to hitch a ride to Helen and they are trying to get some medical help.  I can feel for the one with blisters because I had them after my short hike last summer. The guy with blisters started the same day as me and Jan remembers talking to him briefly at Amicalola Falls just before he was off.  Apparently his boots were fitted properly, but his feet are swelling as he walks causing the blisters.  He is getting fitted for bigger hiking boots. He probably needs to stay off them for a few days and then the skin will heal and callous and he should be okay.  I'm lucky that I haven't had any issues like that yet.

The shelters are filled with mice as we had heard.  In one of the shelters Chris had one chewing on his boot laces!  I heard someone batting at one during the night as well.  We do hoist our food bags up in the bear cables at night. I don't think anyone's come upon a bear yet though.

With any luck, we will see NC very soon around mile 78.  I've already decided that I need to start making some time and miles if I want to be in VA when my new grandbaby is born in May.  Then I can take a couple days off to go home and see him for the first time.

My brother-in-law Jim asked me about the trail names. Here are some of them:
Free Fall from OR
Currahee from GA
Jim Dog from UT
Moonshine from VA

Most of them I've come to know by their real names as well.  A lot of people just go by their regular names.  Although I saw someone that I hadn't seen in a couple days and he said, "Hi Torch, how ya doing?"

The place where we stayed in Helen is like a little Alpine Village.  They say a lot of students come here on Spring Break.  Not sure about that...

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome and dangerous, leading to the most amazing views."
Edgar Abbey

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Better end to the 1st Week

Just heard from Dave tonight and he sounds great.  He was in his new tent and said it is much lighter, but MUCH tighter.  He could hardly move in it!

They had a great hike today and made it to Low Gap Shelter which is at mile 40.7.  Only 2,139.5 miles to Katahdin!  So they actually hiked about 11 miles. He said it was a beautiful day to hike and they met some local  people just out hiking in the area.  One gentleman was celebrating his 81st birthday hiking on the trail.  What a guy!

He got some beautiful pictures today and I will post them as soon as I get them from him. He said he can't believe all the really nice people he has met on the AT.

40.1 miles isn't bad for the first week, especially considering the bad weather on Tuesday and Wednesday.  He said he was hiking in only a short-sleeved shirt today and was sweating in that.  Won't be long and he'll be hiking in shorts and a t-shirt every day.(Posted by Jan)

“We live in a fast-paced society.  Walking slows us down.”  
Robert Sweetgall


Friday, March 11, 2011

Blood Mountain

Hiked up and down Blood Mountain today, which is the highest peak on the AT in Georgia (4,461 feet). The story is that the Creek and Cherokee Indians battled on this mountain and so many died and were wounded that the ground ran red with blood. 

We hiked a little more than 10 miles. It was actually harder going down than up. Tonight we are at Neels Gap (3,125 feet) in a hostel.  Not as nice as the one last night but they did give us chili for dinner and I think we get breakfast tomorrow.

I was able to get a lighter tent and some fuel for my stove.  Also picked up the package that I mailed before I left so now I am resupplied for a while.  Tomorrow I will send home my other tent and some things that are giving me extra pack weight.  It was a pretty day here today but much cooler at the top of the mountain.

Hoping to do at least 7 miles tomorrow to get to the Whitley Gap Shelter.  If we can do 11 we could be at the Low Gap Shelter.  We'll see what the day holds.  Hopefully it will be a nice weekend!

"Do what you can, with what you have, where you are."
Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Slow and Steady Day 5

Arrived at Woody's Gap (Mile 20.1) today and decided to spend the night in a hostel.  So we called the Hiker  Hostel and made a reservation for tonight.  This place is really nice. Chris(38 and from FL), Murray(50ish and from AL) and I are staying at the hostel with 14 others from all over the place. A bunk room, shower, laundry and a big breakfast tomorrow morning as well as a ride back to the trail will cost us about $18 each.  What a deal!  Check it out at . Breakfast is at 7:30 A.M. and the ride back to the trail leaves at 8:30 A.M.

A nice lady from MN gave us a ride from Woody Gap to the Hostel. So here we are! Clean, warm and we are going to have Chinese delivered later. We may even have some wine with it.

This place is really nice and the owners, Josh & Leigh Saint, are 2000 Thru-Hikers. We actually passed it on our way to Dahlonega. I was able to charge my phone too!! So we got some miles in and a nice place to spend the night.

The last two nights were terrible. There were 12 hikers staying in Gooch Shelter and it was too crowded. I was so glad to get going this morning.  I am getting low on food but will soon be at Neels Gap where I sent my first mail drop. So I guess I planned pretty well.

Enjoy reading the comments.  Thanks everyone for your messages and emails.  I will check them at my next stop.

"Slow and steady wins the race."
The Tortoise and the Hare by Aesop

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

2nd Day on the Trail

Talked with the hiker around 6 P.M.  They are at the Gooch Mtn. Shelter tonight which is 15.1 miles from Springer.  It is another full house there and the shelter sleeps 14.  There are about 8 other tents set up. He had just had chili to eat for dinner....compliments of Chef Boyardee or one of those guys. He said his traveling companions were jealous and said it smelled good.

He has been hiking with two fellows:  one a retired lawyer from Alabama and the second a younger fellow from Florida.  They all seem to be doing well, but not making the distances they had hoped.  From what we've read, you always start out slow.  They spent last night at Hawk Mtn. Shelter which is at mile 7.8.

They are predicting rain and high winds tomorrow so he's trying to decide whether to stay at the shelter for a "zero" day and be dry, or try to make it to Suches, GA at the 20 mile mark where there is a hostel.  Either way his next stop is Suches where there is a shower, laundry facility and some resupply and free Internet.  So with any luck, we will hear from him within the next couple days.

Sounds like he's lovin' it.  Last night he was nice and toasty!  Said he realized that he had an extra zipper on the bottom of his sleeping bag that was unzipped and that made all the difference in the world.

He really wants to get the weight of his pack down and is getting some helpful hints from other hikers.  He may get a lighter tent at the resupply store and mail his other one home.  No problems with blisters which was a BIG problem when he did his short hike last summer.  Lots of lessons learned!

"Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."
Steven Wright

Monday, March 7, 2011

I Think I Can, Part II

Just after I posted this morning, I got a call from Dave.  So this is PART II:

About a mile after we talked with him yesterday at 3 o'clock, Dave said that heavy fog rolled in and it started to rain...a freezing rain. He had stopped to put on his ski cap and gloves which was a big help.

He made it to Black Gap Shelter, which is about 1.5 miles from Springer Mountain.  There he joined others who all decided to set up there and stay for the night.  If they had gone on to Springer they would have been setting up in the dark fog. The shelter holds 8 people and it was a full house!
The sleeping bag kept him warm enough except for his feet.  Tonight he will use his hand/feet warmers. 

He said he has met some very nice people. I think he said one was from New Orleans and someone from Massachusetts. It's cold, but he is warm as he is walking.
He is keeping his cell phone off to conserve the battery until he gets to a place to charge it.

As I talked with him, he had already passed Springer Mountain so....he is officially on the AT!

"Life is like a box of never know what you're gonna get."
Tom Hanks in Forrest Gump

I think I can, I think I can....

I'm writing this for Dave as he is hiking Springer Mountain today and hoping to make it to the Hawk Mt. Shelter tonight....

We arrived at Amicalola Falls State Park on Sunday around noon.  Dave signed in and was asked where he was going.  He said he was going to Springer and the Ranger said, "Where?"  He was waiting for Dave to say "Katahdin!", which he finally did.  He told us that they were expecting 28 degrees on Springer last night and wanted to make sure Dave had equipment for cold weather.  He told him that his sleeping bag is good to 20 degrees.  He asked how much his pack weighed and Dave estimated about 35 pounds.  He showed us where the scale was and they weighed it....43 pounds!  I'm wondering if Dave was thinking of Katz, Bill Bryson's hiking buddy in A Walk in the Woods who was throwing stuff out of his pack as he was climbing up the Approach Trail to Springer Mountain.  Katz was throwing stuff out of his pack...even Little Debbies!  Dave didn't have Little Debbies, but he did have a Zagnut in his pack!

We drove up to the Falls and they are absolutely beautiful.  We took some pictures which I'll try to post later.  Just up from the Falls is a blue-blaze marked trail which Dave decided to take to approach Springer.
So we helped him get his pack on and away he went!  Brian and I left him taking pictures of his back as he hiked up the road to the approach. 

As we were driving up I-85 (about 3 o'clock) we got a call from him and he was taking a break at the Hike Inn, which is a resort about halfway up to Springer.  (The Ranger had recommended that Dave stop there for a little break, to warm his hands at the fireplace and replenish his water supply.)  He said he had taken a break and sat down on a fallen tree about halfway up and was doing fine.  He is so excited and not the least bit nervous.  He just wanted to get it started!

Don't know what the night on Springer was like, but will try to update when I hear from him. (Posted by Jan)

"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can....."
The Little Engine that Could by Watty Piper