Monthly Archives: April 2017

Easter on the Trail

Beaker left the Appalachian Trail on April 13th in order to return to Morgantown, WV, pack up all his belongings, and move to Knoxville, TN. He and his wife sold their West Virginia home while Beaker was on the trail; they met in Knoxville (hometown of their son) and bought a house within three days; now they are packing up and making the move. Beaker will be off the trail for a couple of weeks. When he returns I will continue his story.

Meanwhile, on April 12th, Grateful 2 made it to Newfound Gap, TN. – close to the half-way point through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He quickly hitched a ride from Newfound Gap into Gatlinburg and planned to take it easy on Thursday.

April 13 (Thursday)

Grateful 2 rested in Gatlinburg today. The “zero” day was filled with sleeping, eating, watching TV, eating, planning for the trail ahead, and eating.

April 14 (Friday)

From Gatlinburg (Newfound Gap) to Pecks Corner Shelter (GSMNP) = 11.0 miles

Grateful 2 commented on the beauty of the trail today. The incredible views were mixed with some apprehension because the trail included a narrow ridge walk. Grateful found himself on top of the ridge walking a path about three feet wide with drop offs on each side.  At some points the drop offs were 80 or 85 degrees on both sides. Grateful 2 is afraid of heights which filled the adventure with added anxiety. Grateful’s solution, “I just look at the trail and put one foot in front of the other.” 
April 15 (Saturday) From Pecks Corner Shelter to Cosby Knob Shelter (GSMNP) = 12.9 miles

Grateful 2 reported a pretty uneventful day. His trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) is progressing well as he logged in over a dozen miles. He hiked most of the day with a 61-year-old hiker from St. Louis, trail name: Persistent.  Grateful 2’s feet bothered him a little during today’s hike, but his progress kept him positive. A strong hike tomorrow promises an exit from the GSMNP – a major milestone on any thru-hike.

April 16 (Easter Sunday) Crosby Know Shelter to Standing Bear Hostel = 10.7 miles

Grateful 2 made it out of the Smokies! His Easter hike is best described in his own words,

As I climbed down from 5000 feet to 1500 feet I noticed a distinct change. Life on the trees and ground in the form of leaves! I had not seen leaves on trees on the trail since I began the journey. It was so good to see this sign of life. It almost felt like I walked from winter to spring in a few hours. Gone were the bare tree trunks and solid brown floor covering. In its place were millions of little fluorescent green tree flags and wildflowers everywhere. There was mayapple, dwarf iris, bluets, trillium, and rue anemone ..… From death to life in such a short time. Kind of appropriate for this Easter Day, don’t you think?”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Gatlinburg, Grateful 2, GSMNP, Knoxville, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker: From Damascus to the Wild Ponies

Bo, Beaker and 1st Sgt in Damascus

In the last few blog posts, I have been providing a quick journal tour of Grateful 2 and his son, Gooseman, from Tennessee as they have begun the thru-hike attempt of the Appalachian Trail beginning in Spring Mountain, GA. Yesterday’s post found him in Gatlinburg, TN. Meanwhile the chemist from West Virginia, Beaker, has been on the move. On April 8, Beaker and his two hiking buddies, 1st Sgt, and Bo, arrived in Damascus, VA, the ending spot for BO’s section hike. Let’s pick up the adventure as they move through Damascus and make their way to the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands.

April 9 Broken Fiddle Hostel, Damascus, VA to Lost Mountain Shelter, VA.  = 15.9 miles

Beaker and 1st Sgt. headed to the Country Cafe for breakfast in Damascus before leaving the iconic trail town. The dynamic duo hiked on or next to the Virginia Creeper Rail Trail most of the day. It was a beautiful sunny day, with temperatures reaching almost 80 degrees. They arrived at the Lost Mountain Shelter around 6:00 pm.

As they were setting up their tents, fellow-hiker Courtney came bouncing into camp with a slack pack. Her parents had come to visit and were bringing her regular pack to the shelter, which was located only a mile from the road. When her parents arrived, along with her pack, they brought pizza, sodas, chips, bananas, and brownies. Dinner was served!

Beaker and the Ponies

April 10 Lost Mountain Shelter to Thomas Knob Shelter, VA.  = 12.3 miles

The hiking buddies began today’s hike by descending 1.5 miles to Rt 58. Then the climb started – 2000 ft climb to the top of White Top Mountain. They continued to climb with steadily rising temperatures, we reached Buzzard Rocks. They experienced a little reprieve by descending to a road crossing at Elk Garden,. Beaker began to realize that the heat and the climbing were beginning to wear on him. He knew that he and 1st Sgt. had to climb back up to Mount Rogers (the highest peak in VA). As they approached Thomas Knob shelter, 1st Sgt agreed that the climb had beaten them up enough that they were ready to stop. When we reached the shelter, we were met by four wild ponies – a stallion and three mares. The ponies were very tame and very much interested in licking the salt off of us and our packs.

April 11 Thomas Knob Shelter to Stealth site 3.0 miles north Hurricane Creek Shelter = 19.1 miles

Beaker awoke this morning to the clip-clop of little hooves as five ponies arrived at the shelter. A couple of the bolder ones even stuck their heads in the shelter to check on the sleeping hikers. 1st Sgt and Beaker headed out into another beautiful morning and saw many more ponies as they hiked across Grayson Highlands. They arrived at Hurricane Creek Shelter around 5:30 pm; but found that it sat on sloping ground and the tenting area was located quite a distance from the shelter. So they ended up hiking another three miles before finding a suitable spot to set up camp.

“We are on a tight timeline because we have to be at mile marker 544.0, where the AT passes under I-81, by 4:00 pm on Thursday. We are getting picked up by Enterprise Rent-a-Car and we are then driving to my mom’s house in Charleston, WV, where Marguerite will meet us. 1st Sgt will then return the rental car on Friday and continue his hike while I go back to Morgantown with Marguerite to pack our house for the move to Knoxville, TN. After much internal debate and weighing of alternatives, I’ve decided that when I return to the trail …. I am going to jump ahead to wherever 1st Sgt is … and complete the hike with him. I will then return and finish the portion in VA that I missed.”

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Damascus, Grayson Highlands, Thru-Hike, Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2 Into Gatlinburg

 

April 8th marks the 22nd day of Grateful 2’s adventure on the Appalachian Trail. He has spent the last six days with his wife and son, Gooseman. Gooseman has made the difficult decision to get off the trail and return home. Grateful 2’s wife has been supporting her husband’s hike: driving him to the trail head, allowing him to slackpack (taking the just the essentials for the day) and then meeting him at the day’s destination. Their time together had come to an end and Grateful 2 must continue on the trek alone in search of his AT thru-hike.

April 8 From Yellow Creek Mountain to the Fontana Hilton Shelter = 7.9 miles

It was a sad goodbye this morning with the family, as Grateful 2’s wife and son dropped him off at the trail head. It will be months before another planned reunion. However, today was an incredible day to hike. The sky was clear and one of the few days on the trail so far without strong winds. Grateful 2 could see the destination, Fontana Lake, almost all day long. “There are no leaves on the trees at altitude yet, so I can see a long way away. The lake was a beautiful deep Mediterranean blue for miles as I drew closer and closer.” Tonight’s stay was at the Fontana Dam Shelter also known as the “Fontana Hilton” There is a separate restroom building with flush toilets and a single shower stall making this shelter more than a cut above the average shelter on the AT. Located close to the entrance to the Smokies, this shelter will allow Grateful 2 to drop off his permit in the am and begin his adventure in GSMNP.

April 9 (SUNDAY) Fontana Hilton to Mollies Ridge Shelter = 11.4 Miles

“Today is the day we celebrate in Christianity when Christ makes his triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The crowds cheered for their new king, even though Jesus knew that less than a week later he would be crucified…Today was a triumphant day for me in my hike. I have been expecting/dreading this day since I finalized plans for the hike. You see, I have hiked the Smokies before. I managed to make it through the last time, but today’s section gave me problems. [Today’s section] mandates you hike 12 miles up almost 3000 feet to the first shelter. The last time I …gave out of gas, about half way up. I had to emergency bivouack in an abandoned campground for the night. I just couldn’t go any more….Today confirmed that last time I was just having a bad day. I made it all the way up the mountain to the shelter this time! Triumphant Reentry! (I just hope the trail doesn’t crucify me in less than a week. Lol)”

April 10 From Mollies Ridge Shelter to  Derrick Knob Shelter = 12.0 miles

Grateful 2 experienced some wonderful ridge walks today including the incredible views of Rocky Top, Tennessee. The summits are indeed fantastic but Grateful 2 reflected on the reality of hiking the Appalachian Trail, “I have noticed that when I hike that I tend to focus my eyes three to six feet in front of where I am walking. This is almost of necessity. There are lots of things that can trip me up. Uneven ground, jumbled rocks, deep mud, and spiderwebs of massive tree roots…. I don’t want to fall. (I’ve only fallen once so far. It was a face plant on the trail when I twisted my ankle.)”

April 11 From Derrick Knob Shelter to Mt Collins shelter = 13.5 miles

At the end of the trail yesterday, Grateful 2 was thinking about calling off his thru-hike. He was concerned about his fatigue and his lack of ability to put longer hikes together back-to-back-to-back.

Today was a much better day. He shares in his online journal, “I walked through spectacular ecosystem after ecosystem.…. In 14 miles I walked through a grassland, an abandoned fruit tree orchard, a mountaintop bald, and into a spruce tree moss covered fairyland. The sky was neon Carolina blue with wisps of cotton clouds. The temperature rose to 75 degrees during midday with a light cool breeze… And I made it – 12, 12, 14 miles on three straight days…. I walked across the top of the sky and I am Grateful 2.”

April 12 Mt Collins Shelter to Newfound Gap, and into Gatlinburg = 4.3 miles

A quick hike in the morning, found Grateful 2 at Newfound Gap. A ten-minute effort of hitch-hiking resulted in a ride down to Gatlinburg. After checking in at the motel and taking a shower, Grateful 2 took a big nap; then clothes had to be washed; then the priority of good food – Five Guys. Tonight Grateful 2 was grateful to sleep clean in a real bed.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, Gatlinburg, Grateful 2, GSMNP, Rocky Top, Tennessee | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2: A Week of Slackpacking

Grateful 2 is a thru-hiker from Tennessee. He began his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail on March 18th with his son, Gooseman. With many tears, his son has had to abandon his hike and Grateful 2 will continue alone. My last post left Grateful 2 at Rock Gap Shelter, 106 miles from the southern terminus of the AT in Springer Mountain, Georgia about 30 miles into the great state of North Carolina. Let’s pick up his journal on April 1st.

April 1 Rock Gap to Winding Stair Gap – 3.9 miles

“We all anticipate when we get close to the roads out here. The roads bring change for us. First we notice the trail is descending. Then we hear the cars in the distance. Then we see the road. Anticipation. Sometimes the road is a ride into town. Sometimes it holds a trail angel who has set up a hamburger feed. For me today it is the anticipation that my wife and Gooseman are waiting at the next road crossing. And there they are!” The family will spend the next several days together, Grateful 2 will be slackpacking the trailheads, carrying less, experiencing easier hikes because of the lessened load, sleeping in a real bed at night and eating in restaurants. Best of all, the family will get to spend some time together.

April 2 Winding Stair Gap to Burningtown Gap 14.6 miles

Grateful 2 is up early for his wife to drive him to the trailhead at Winding Stair Gap. “I’m hiking faster today than I have yet on this trip. I only have a small day pack and it makes a huge difference. Almost 15 miles today, and I still get to eat at a restaurant with my wife for supper.” 

April 3 Burningtown Gap to Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) 12.9 miles

“Big drop in elevation today. From 5100 to 1770 feet. The climb over the jump-off was very difficult for a guy with a fear of heights. The worst yet. So glad it wasn’t raining. When I got to the NOC we ate an amazing meal called a Sherpa.”

April 4 Zero Day at the NOC

Grateful 2 woke up to a severe weather forecast. He quickly decided that the forecast required a zero day. His family enjoyed a meal at the Sunset Restaurant. They met the owners of the establishment and the food was delicious, especially the pies. After a visit to Walmart, the family just hung out at the room and enjoyed the visit.

April 5 From NOC to Stecoach Gap = 13.4 miles

First thing this morning Grateful 2 visited the NOC and registered for a permit to go through the Smokies. Then, it was the ascent out of the NOC. About an hour into the hike, the rain started to fall… along with thunder and lightning. Fortunately the bad weather had passed by the area before Grateful 2 got to the top of Cheoah Bald. After the summit of Cheoah Bald (2,040 feet) there is a steady 5-mile descent down into Stecoah Gap. The last mile is extremely steep and Grateful 2 described the adventure, “The hike down to Stecoah Gap was the worst 1 mile mud slip-and-slide I’ve ever been on. So glad to see my wife and son in the parking lot to take me back to the motel!” 

April 6 Zero Day at the Stecoah Gap

Snow is predicted for tomorrow morning with winds expected to be forty plus miles an hour. A winter weather advisory is in effect for tomorrow until noon. Tomorrow Grateful 2 has decided to get up early and go to the Nantahala Forestry Ranger station located in Franklin to find out about the weather before he goes up the mountain. This last zero day together as a family included a visit to Walmart again, the Chinese AYCE buffet again, and the outfitter again. They are living the dream.

April 7  From Stecoah Gap to Yellow Creek Mountain = 7.7 miles.

Grateful 2 got up early and we went to First Baptist Church Franklin for a free hiker breakfast of pancakes, orange juice and bacon. Grateful 2 estimated there were seventy hikers in attendance. After breakfast Grateful 2 went over to the forest service to check on the weather and road closures. Everything was open and there was only a dusting of snow in Franklin, so it was time to hike. He hiked a quick 8 miles and then it was back to the car. Grateful 2 has really enjoyed the slack packing approach, “Man, am l going to miss slackpacking. It is the heavy pack that makes hiking the mountains so difficult.” The most notable feature on today’s adventure was Jacob’s Ladder…six hundred feet of elevation change in 0.6 mile, straight up the side of the mountain with no switchbacks. It only took Grateful 2 about twenty minutes to make the ascent, but he described it as “a lung-burner.”

Tomorrow Grateful 2’s family will be headed home and the separation will be about 8 weeks – tough goodbyes in the morning.

Info and photo from Grateful 2’s journal located at http://www.trailjournals.com/photos.cfm?id=1093480
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Nantahala Outdoor Center, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2 without Gooseman

March 26  From Unicoi Gap to Trey Mountain Shelter

Grateful 2, his wife, and his son woke up this morning at Mulls Inn in Hiawassee. They attended an inspiring church service at McConnell Baptist Church. Then it was onto the AYCE buffet at Daniels Restaurant. His wife and Gooseman transported Grateful 2 to the trailhead by 12:30, and it was time to say goodbye again.

Grateful 2 traded out his hammock setup for one of the tents that his wife brought from home. The hammock was comfortable, but it just took too much time to set up and take down every day. He is concerned about his bad shoulders and their ability to take sleeping on the uneven ground. Time will tell. Hiking miles today = 5.7.

March 27 From Trey Mountain Shelter to Deep Gap = 7.4 miles

Another easy day today on the AT in terms of miles. They will get bigger very soon. Grateful 2 has been walking mostly by himself the last two days. The solitude can be refreshing sometimes. He shared, “Walking alone and seeing the next ridge in front of you can be inspiring. The mountains are majestic when seen from a distance. They are tough when you are climbing them alone. It gives me a lot of time to think.”

NC/GA iconic sign

March 28  From Deep Gap to Bly Gap = 12.5 miles

Grateful 2 logged his biggest day so far today on the Appalachian Trail – 12 ½ miles. He crossed over into North Carolina and is looking forward to the Great Smoky Mountains. He reflected in his journal about the multiple changes in the weather during today’s hike. Last night there was at least an inch of rain -heavy rain. Then the wind began to blow – a cold north wind probably 30 miles an hour. The wind stopped as a fog settled in with visibility of about 20 feet. By mid-morning the fog had lifted and it was sunburn hot. By early afternoon the clouds had thickened and it was cool again. Late this afternoon the sun came back out and the temperatures heated back up. Finally comfortable in his tent at his campsite, the wind kicks up again to whip the sides of his tent with significant force. If you don’t like the weather on the AT, just wait a few minutes.

March 29 The hike today led Grateful 2 from Bly Gap to Standing Indian Shelter for a distance of 7.7 miles. One of the hikers on the trail was having shin and leg issues. It was causing him to go slower than he expected, and it was taking him longer to get to a food resupply than he expected. He was running quite low on food, so all the hikers pitched in a little food so he will make it. Grateful 2 noted in his journal “It’s hard to carry something on your back for miles and then give it up, but I see it all the time in the hiking community. The AT community looks out for one another. I’m grateful to be a part of this giving group.”

March 30 Today’s hike: Standing Indian Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter for a total of 7.6 miles

Grateful 2 atop Albert Mountain

“As I walk down the trail today I misstepped and I twisted my ankle. This was the ankle that I broke in high school and used to have a lot of problems with. For a moment I was very afraid. I thought, “this could be the end of the hike.” I tested it for a moment, and it appeared to be OK. I kept walking and it’s fine now. Out of 5 million steps that it takes to get to Mount Katahdin a thing as simple as one misstep could end it all.”

March 31 Carter Gap Shelter to Rock Gap Shelter = 12.1 miles.

Grateful 2 hiked over Albert Mountain today. The trail is easy leading up to the base of the mountain. The trail is easy on the other side of the mountain. But the trail over Albert Mountain is another story. The rugged, rocky climb provides the first real taste to the thru-hiker that they are mountain climbers as well as trail hikers. There is such a sense of victory once you stand on the summit. However, the word on the trail was that bad storms were on their way. Grateful 2 decided to spend the night inside the shelter. It indeed rained …..buckets, but his stay in the shelter remained dry.

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Georgia, Grateful 2, Hiawassee, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Weather | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Grateful 2’s Climb Over Blood Mountain

Grateful 2, a thru-hiker from Chattanooga, and his son, Gooseman, Have begun their attempt at hiking 2,186 miles through 14 states on the Appalachian Trail. They began their journey on March 18 and have trekked 15.8 miles. Their second night on the AT was spent at the Gooch Mountain Shelter. This post finds the father/son team on day three of the trek.

March 20 was a beautiful day for a hike on the AT and Graetful 2 and Gooseman covered 8.4 miles. The hike is not an easy one and the challenge is real. Grateful 2 writes in his journal on day three, “Up-and-down the mountains seeing the splendor of God’s creation. It is awe-inspiring to imagine the one who created all that we see and enjoy…. Walking in the outdoors is enjoyable. Walking in the outdoors up and down 1000 foot elevation gains and losses can be hard. Walking in the outdoors up and down 1000 foot elevation gains and losses with a 35 pound pack can be downright difficult sometimes…. My legs ache, my knees hurt, my back kept cramping, my feet burned, but still we kept walking. I was so glad to finally get to the campsite for the evening.”

March 21 Today was a day for big adventure (7.2.miles). An anticipated climb over Blood Mountain with the reward of real food at the end of the descent. The descent down to Neel Gap was a brutal rock scramble. Grateful 2 and Gooseman rented a cabin at Blood Mountain Cabins. A few hours after their arrival a horrific storm enveloped the area – heavy rains, marble sized hail, fierce winds, lightning and thunder.

March 22 Today hike was a tough 6.9 miles for the men from Chattanooga. ”As we started down the trail this morning, Gooseman said to me, ‘My knees are hurting bad.’ Not good. He never complains about his body hurting so i knew it must be bad. I asked him when they started hurting. ‘After we finished the rock scramble down Blood Mountain yesterday.’ We had planned to hike 11 miles today. The first mile took us over an hour. Usually Gooseman is bounding down the trail; his six foot three, two hundred thirty pound frame leaving me in his dust at 2-3 miles an hour. Not today…. I hope he can walk on them tomorrow. He’s really loving the hike so far, and then this. Tomorrow will be a better day, and I’m Grateful 2.”

March 23 Father and son hiked 8.2 miles today in an attempt to get back to civilization. They should be at Unicoi Gap tomorrow. Gooseman’s knees are still not doing well so they are planning to meet Grateful 2’s wife and take a couple of days off for them to recuperate.

March 24  The hike up and over Blue Mountain today was quite difficult. The 6.1 miles trek involved 40 degree temperatures with 30-40 mph winds with rain and fog. Gooseman’s knees were still bothering him significantly, so the men eventually decided to hitch a ride into Hiawassee, Georgia. They ended the day warm and dry.

March 25  “Zero Day- I cried. And I’m not a crier. I got up from the bed and went to the bathroom of this two-bit motel room where my wife, son, and I are staying and I cried some more so they wouldn’t hear me. I cried hard. Gooseman has decided he’s going home. His knees are hurting, he has a sinus infection, and he’s decided to go home.
I’ll miss him so much but that’s not why I’m crying. We’ve had a great week and shared a lot of laughs. It will be hard without him but that’s not why I’m crying.
I’m crying because I hurt for Gooseman. What many of you don’t know about Gooseman is that he has autism. I’ve watched him his whole life not be accepted. I’ve watched him try so hard to be successful in life, and he struggles. He’s doesn’t have a job and he still lives at home. He’s a good man with a great sense of humor, but he struggles. He’s generous and loves giving to others. He always stands up for the underdog.
On the trail, if he can walk, he’s normal. I’ve watched him being accepted this week. I so wanted him to finish- to be accepted as a hiker. Not for me but for him.”

All information and photos come from Grateful 2’s online journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=559189

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Hiawassee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Introducing Grateful 2

Before and After –
prepping for the AT

I enjoy following a few thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail closely each season through their online journals (trailjournals.com). I have already posted several articles on Beaker, the retired chemist from Morgantown, West Virginia. My niece’s husband was a co-worker with Beaker in WV. so I felt I already had some connection to the mountaineer.

I like to follow at least one hiker per month. Some of the brave explorers do not make it to the end, so I track several with the hopes that many will trek the necessary 5 million steps through all 14 states. I love to read some of the back stories of the hikers and discover some individuals with whom I can identify and find interesting.

Beaker left the end of February so I began to explore those who stepped out in March. It wasn’t long before I found Grateful 2 and his son Gooseman, natives of Chattanooga, Tennessee who plan to thru-hike together from Georgia to Maine. Grateful 2, real name David Hunter, has had this incredible journey on his bucket list for more than 30 years and an added bonus is the reality that his 24-year-old son is joining the trek.

David will face some challenges. He shares in one of his pre-hike posts, “I’ve had lingering foot issues. My right foot has undergone 5 major surgeries with plates, screws, and fusions. My left foot has developed plantar faciitis in the last year that required a cortisone shot and extensive rehab. Both of my shoulders have been replaced. Besides that, I’m getting older and can’t do what I used to do.” I began to identify with Grateful 2 when he wrote, “I’m sitting on the back porch of our home in Chattanooga overlooking the Cumberland Valley. It’s a beautiful view. God has created an incredible world. I can’t wait to explore it on foot.” The spiritual part of the thru hike was so important to me and one of the major factors of my successful journey. Another journal entry written before he started his hike resonated with my spirit, “Why am I going? I’m not sure I can answer that myself either. It’s almost like the mountains are calling to me. It’s something I must do. I love being outside. I love the endorphin release I get when I hike long distances. It’s something I’ve known I must do … Now this is my chance. I don’t want to waste it.” This is the same drive that dominated my thinking for 14 months before I stepped out on my thru-hike in 2014.

Over the next few posts, I would like to catch you up on Grateful 2’s adventure. Right now, let’s look at their first two days.

March 18 Grateful 2 and Gooseman started from Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern terminus of the AT. Day one resulted in 7.4 miles and concluded at the Hawk Mountain campsite.

March 19 Dad and son hiked from Hawk Mountain to Gooch Mountain Shelter – 8.4 miles.

Grateful 2 recorded, “When we got up this am it was colder than I expected. My thermometer said 25 degrees. It warmed up during the day to maybe 65, which made for a beautiful day of hiking. So warm, in fact, that both Gooseman and I got sunburned. From 25 freezing degrees to sunburn, and we were outside for all of it!”

 

All information and photos come from Grateful 2’s online journal at http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?id=559189

 

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Georgia, Gooseman, Grateful 2, Hawk Mountain, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker, 1st Sgt., and now Bo

My last post about thru-hiker, Beaker, and his hiking buddy, 1st Sgt., placed them at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN after a 16.3 mile hike including two big climbs over Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains. They had missed the serving of dinner at the hostel, but purchased some pizza, sodas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at the General Store. The weather forecast was for thunderstorms and 1-2 inches of rain tomorrow, so they were looking forward to a zero day at the hostel on Monday. Let’s continue Beaker’s adventure ….

Mountain Harbour Hostel

4/3/17 Zero Day at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN.

The rain came as predicted and the dry stay at hostel was enjoyed and appreciated.

4/4/17 From Mountain Harbour Hostel to Moreland Gap Shelter, TN – distance: 18.4 miles.

Beaker and 1st Sgt. left the Mountain Harbour Hostel after another huge breakfast, walked the 0.3 miles along US Rt. 19 to the trailhead, and started hiking north on the Appalachian Trail. The hike was quite productive (18.4 miles) filled with beautiful waterfalls and manageable terrain leading to the Moreland Gap Shelter. The two hikers were joined by a third, Bo. Bo is a professor of anthropology at Duke University. His actual trail name is Bard Owl because he enthusiastically explained the virtues of the Bard Owl one night around the camp fire. As happens with many trail names, Bard Owl got shortened to B.O. He didn’t particularly care for the connotations of that name, considering the bad smell of all thru-hikers. So, it eventually became Bo.

The three have made plans to stay at the Boots Off Hostel tomorrow. Due to aggressive bear activity, the next shelter on the AT has been closed to hikers. The hostel is located a comfortable 15-mile distance from Moreland Gap and the weather forecast is predicting yet more thunderstorms tomorrow evening, so a hostel seemed like a good part of their discerning plan.

4/5/17 From Moreland Gap Shelter to Boots Off Hostel in Hampton, TN, today’s hike logged 14.9 miles.

Bo continues to hike with Beaker and 1st Sgt. making a friendly trio of thru-hikers. The three seem to get along well. Their trail conversations today ranged from Native cultures, to AT culture, to Doolittle’s raid on Japan, to hiking the Camino trail in Spain. In addition to these good talks, the best visual part of the hike today was the Laurel Fork Gorge. The Laurel Fork roared through the gorge and the trail ran right next to the creek. Then came the climb up Pond Mountain. Not a particularly difficult climb, it is a long climb. The three amigos gained 2000 ft over 2.5 miles, then descended off the ridge for two and a half miles leading them to the fairly new Boots Off Hostel located near the base of the descent.

“After showering, 10 of us piled into the hostel’s Suburban and got a shuttle to town for food. Most of us ended up at McDonald’s where I learned about a brilliant culinary masterpiece from Hummingbird – you pull apart a McDouble and put a McChicken Sandwich between the two patties and smash it all together.” Now that is hiker hunger at its best!


4/6/17
From the Boots Off Hostel to Iron Mountain Shelter, TN for 15.9 miles.

Winter is back! The three adventurers headed out from the hostel in a light rain. The rain settled into a cold drizzle that went on all morning. The first couple hours of the day’s hike led along the shores of Watauga Lake. After crossing over the dam, the rest of the day was spent climbing. As the men climbed, the wind started intensifying and continued to blow fiercely with gusts up to 30-40 mph. And then the temperatures started to drop.

The rain turned to ice pellets and sleet. The high winds made the ice pellets feel like miniature darts as they stung the faces of the men. Finally, the sleet turned to snow. The afternoon found the ground slowly turning white. Somewhere along the trail, the fellowship of three decided they didn’t want to have to set up tents in the snow. So, they planned to sleep in the Iron Mountain Shelter. They arrived around 4:00 pm finding only three other hikers at the shelter that sleeps six – room for all.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hostel, Laurel Fork, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Trail Name | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Beaker From Erwin to Roan Mountain

3/30/17  Beaker got up early in order to make his 6.2- mile trek to the well-known hiker spot of Uncle Johnny’s Hostel in Erwin, TN. The day was filled with clear skies and moderate temperatures. First Sergeant had reserved a “cabin” at Uncle Johnny’s and offered to share the room if Beaker wanted. The weather forecast, thunderstorms and a high wind advisory overnight, made the decision fairly easy. Beaker and 1st Sgt joined many of the hikers at the hostel on a lunch trip to an AYCE pizza buffet (All You Can Eat). Beaker gathered a resupply at a local IGA.

After lunch Beaker decided to rent a bike ($2) and peddle the 4 ½ mile trip to the laundromat to wash his clothes. After his bike ride, twenty four hikers piled into two vans for a trip to a Mexican restaurant. Satisfied and warm, back at the cabin, Beaker listened to the thunder and wind outside – it was not a good night to be in a tent on top of a mountain.

3/31/17 Destination: Cherry Gap Shelter, TN. Today’s hike = 17.1 miles. It rained most of the night, with a line of thunderstorms moving through around midnight. 1st Sgt and Beaker were up around 7:00, checked out of the hostel in Ewin, TN, and hit the trail before 8:00. The planned destination today was a campsite about 12 miles away. They climbed out of the river valley. They found that their paces and their personalities were quite compatible making walking and talking, even in the pouring rain, to be quite enjoyable. Beaker and 1st Sgt arrived at their planned stopping point at 2:30 pm, so, they pressed on another 5 miles, up and over Unaka Mountain, to the Cherry Gap Shelter. The summit of the mountain was covered with a thick spruce forest. (Photo) The weather had turned quite blustery and chilly, so Beaker didn’t waste time setting up his tent, changing into warmer clothes, and fixing dinner.

4/1/17  Beaker and 1st Sgt ended their day at Roan High Knob Shelter having hiked 17.6 miles today. The two hikers awoke to another misty morning. Today’s hike was one of climbing as they trekked toward Roan High Knob Shelter. They climbed up smooth, well graded trail. Then climbed on rocky trail. Then climbed on rocky, wet, muddy, steep, rooty trail. The sun finally broke out about 4 pm and it turned into a beautiful afternoon. When they arrived at the shelter they discovered that it was a fully enclosed cabin with a loft. They set up in the loft -snug, dry, and warm, safely out of the bitter wind.

Mountain Harbour Hostel

4/2/17 Today’s hike incorporated 16.3 miles ending at Mountain Harbour Hostel, TN.  Beaker has logged just shy of 400 miles on the AT (393.7). Beaker and 1st Sgt got a slow start this morning (9:00) but it was a gorgeous day, full of sun and highs in the 70s. They encountered numerous weekend hikers, including a physical education class from Appalachian State University. One student and Beaker had a friendly disagreement over whether Appy State or WVU are the “true” Mountaineers. Beaker concludes,  “I think we all know the answer to that one!”

The two hikers had two big climbs over Little Hump and Big Hump Mountains, then a five-mile descent to US Rt 19. From US Rt 19 there was a short 0.3 mile walk down the road to the Mountain Harbour B&B and Hiker Hostel. The hostel had already stopped serving dinner, but Beaker and 1st Sgt were able to buy frozen pizza, sodas, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in the General Store, so they were set for the evening. The weather forecast: thunderstorms and 1-2 inches of rain tomorrow, so they planned a zero day for Monday.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Erwin, Hiking, Roan Mountain, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Beaker Plans Toward Erwin

My last post regarding the thru-hiker from West Virginia who calls himself “Beaker” on the trail, found the chemist from Morgantown feeling sick and camping on an old service road near Alan Gap. Fortunately his sickness was short-lived and his hike continued at a great pace.

3/27/17. The 18.8-mile hike today ended at Flint Mountain Shelter, NC. Beaker has totaled 307 miles with just 1,882.8 left to go.

Beaker’s plan was to hike an 18.8 mile day today, leaving him a 14-mile day, a 13-mile day, and then a short 6-mile Nero day into Erwin, TN. Beaker woke up feeling much better – his fever broke during the night and he was even hungry in the morning. He drank lots of water during the day and took the pace a little slower.

Today’s hike turned out to be more difficult than expected. The climbs were beautiful but long and there were a couple parts than ran along an exposed ridge that involved a lot of rock scrambling. Just as he finished the exposed section, the rain began to fall. He had to trudge through the rain and was pretty worn out when he arrived at the Jerry’s Cabin Shelter. He was tired and had decided to stay, but as he sat there resting, the rain stopped and the sun came back out. He pulled out his map and contemplated the 6.7 miles to the next shelter. He took a look at his watch – 4 pm. He felt he could be there before dark if he pushed on. There was a climb up a mountain but there was a longer descent on the other side of the summit. So Beaker left Jerry’s Cabin Shelter, stretched out his tired legs and made it to Flint Mountain Shelter a little after 7 pm – just enough time to set up his tent, get water, cook dinner, and hang his food before dark.

3/28/17 Destination: Low Gap Campsite, NC for a distance of 14.9 miles.

More of a leisurely day on the trail. Fortunately, the hiker crud Beaker had experienced two days ago was a distant memory. Beaker’s attitude seems positive. He reflected on some of the little things that make a thru-hike very special:

“Waking up to sunshine. The smell of a pine forest. The way the leaves get skewered on the end of your hiking poles. The satisfaction of stepping just right on the edge of the poles to dislodge the leaves without breaking stride. The sound of voices and laughter at the end of the day that tells you you have finally reached the shelter. The constant sound of jets in the distance that reminds you the rest of the world is still out there. The sea of mountain peak after mountain peak as far as the eye can see.”

3/29/17 No Business Knob Shelter, TN 14.6 today.

Beaker awoke to full sunshine and warm temperatures. He hiked all day with First Sergeant, a thirty year US Air Force veteran who is about Beaker’s age. “We talked all day about our kids, grandkids, wives, careers, etc. Although I really like all the young adults I’ve been hiking with, it was nice to talk with a contemporary. As an added bonus, we hike the same pace.”

The men experienced a special reward at the summit of one of the climbs – the found themselves on an open bald. They had somehow missed the bald in the guidebook and it was beautiful, with 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains. Beaker and First Sergeant reached their shelter about 4 pm and found several nice, flat spots for their tents. Tomorrow, there is just a 6.2 mile hike to Erwin, TN.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Erwin, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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