Gooseman

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’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

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