North Carolina

One Encounter All Day Long

161.JPGDay 24 of my Appalachian Trail thru-hike began at 5:45 am and I was on the trail by 7:00. By the end of the day, I had logged in 21 miles. The thing that made the day rather unusual was my hike of solitude. I had a short resupply in Erwin, Tennessee where I interacted with a few hikers at Uncle Johnny’s Hostel, but the rest of the day, on the trail itself, I only encountered one other hiker until I made camp at Curley Maple Gap Shelter. I enjoy being by myself and I found the peaceful solo-hike in the mountains along the border of  North Carolina and Tennessee refreshing and energizing.

My one encounter on the trail occurred in the morning coming down a hill into Spivey Gap as I was about to cross over US 19. I was gaining on the young hiker in front of me and I did not want to scare her by coming up too fast from behind. I clicked my trekking poles together and started to quietly whistle. She heard my noise, quickly turned around, and smiled. I returned her smile and gave my hiker greeting, “Great day for a hike!” She agreed and we began to walk together until we reached the road.

When we arrived at US 19, I decided I was going to take a break and have a protein bar. I invited her to join me thinking she would most likely decline, but to my surprise, she sat down beside me alongside the road. We began to chat and I learned that she was a section hiker and that she taught English at Anderson University in Indiana. She was quiet and soft spoken and very sweet natured. We talked a little about life and family. I shared about my wife and kids and grand kids. I mentioned that I was an administrator of a Christian School and was hiking to help raise money for student financial aid.

In just a few minutes of conversation, I could tell that we were kindred spirits. She said that she had a page of scriptures that she read everyday and wanted to know if I would like to hear the passage for the day. I immediately said I would love to hear the Bible passage. She read some encouraging words from the book of Psalms. I read for her some lyrics of a contemporary Christian song by Matt Redman, “Standing on this mountain top, looking just how far we’ve come, knowing that for every step, You were with us….Never once did we ever walk alone…You are faithful, God, You are faithful.” By the time the snack was done, I felt I had made a true friend. I gave her my blog information, wished her well, and headed down the trail toward Erwin.

163.JPGAt the end of the day, I reflected on God’s sovereign hand and the meeting of a Christian hiker to encourage me. All day long I saw no one. For 21.1 miles of trail and over 10 hours of hiking, it is amazing to only see one hiker. And then, to discover that the one person I encounter was a Christ-follower was just a special event. Thinking about the meeting, I wondered how many of the encounters I have during a normal day in the real world are really appointments made by God for me to be a source of encouragement to others.   

Steph, my friend from Anderson, commented on my blog several times throughout my adventure to Maine sharing more encouraging words that meant a lot . After returning home to Ohio, we have become Facebook friends. She returns to the Appalachian Trail each year to conquer a section at a time. HIF Cover PublishedI find it amazing to consider how impactful a 20-minute talk can be.

 

Never Once, Matt Redman, 2011:  Chrysalis Music Ltd. Sixsteps Music, Thankyou Music, worshiptogether.com songs
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Erwin, North Carolina, Tennessee, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Feelings of a Celebrity

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Diane and Rowdy in Hot Springs

I had a great stay in Hot Springs, North Carolina, during my thru-hike in 2014. I met my sister, Diane, in the quaint, little trail-town. She and her husband, Tom, and little dachshund drove up from Winston-Salem for a special visit. This was my first opportunity to see anyone in the family for three weeks. She brought lots of great food, including cold cuts so I could create my own fantastic sandwiches, and several dozen homemade cookies.  It was a wonderful visit and brought great energy for the miles ahead.

The first day out of Hot Springs, I was plodding along at my normal pace when I heard some chatting coming from the opposite direction. The chit-chat continued to get louder until I made a bend in the trail and was somewhat surprised by five ladies, all with backpacks, all engaged in trail talk as they walked along.

148I could tell that they were not thru-hikers. They looked too clean; they smelled way too good; and their packs were too small and light. They were definitely section hikers but they seemed to be having the time of their lives. As I saw the group, I smiled, raised my trekking pole and gave a trail greeting, “Good morning ladies.  What a great day for a hike!”

The line leader stopped and asked, “Are you a thru-hiker?”

“Well, I am trying to be. I’ve got a long way to go, but Maine is my goal.”

All the ladies started to talk among themselves. Finally one of them shared, “We’ve been reading about thru-hikers and the Appalachian Trail. We thought we would come out for a few days and see what it was like. Could you answer some questions for us?”

“Sure,” I said, feeling like a celebrity. “Where are you from?”

410They were all the way from California and had the tans to prove it. They asked all the normal questions: “How much food to you have to carry? Do you always sleep in your tent? What do you do for a bathroom? Do you carry a cell phone? How often do you get to shower?  Are you hiking by yourself? Do you always hike in sandals?”

We talked for thirty minutes or so. I really enjoyed the sharing but I was getting a little concerned because I hoped to hike about 20 miles before setting up camp and it was looking a bit like rain. One of the ladies must have felt the same way as she asked, “Before we let you go, could we get a picture with you?” I could not believe the fuss they made over meeting a old, stinky hiker along the trail. After posing for several pictures, I was hiking down the path with a spring in my step basking in my celebrity status like I had just come off the red carpet.

AT MapThen it hit me. I had hiked less than 300 miles of the AT and was only in North Carolina. Although it was very sweet for the ladies to treat me like hero, I knew that I had a long way to go before obtaining the title of thru-hiker. From that day on, I tried to avoid using that word to describe  myself. Coming down off Mount Katahdin, I remember saying to myself, “Dave, you are now a real thru-hiker!”

Shortly after leaving my California fan club, it began to rain, but the sun came out in the afternoon and by the time I made camp about 5:00, I was dry. Soon after arriving at the shelter, the temperature turned cold. I was alone at the camp and had the shelter to myself, so I had some dinner, journaled about my day and crawled into my warm sleeping early. Sleep was easy to find after my 19.6-mile day.

HIF Cover PublishedIf you interested in reading more about my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, check out my book, Hike It Forward, sold on Amazon. I have had opportunity to write a few other books so I invite you to check my other offerings as well. I am writing a series of children’s books (two are currently available and a third should be published around Thanksgiving) called The Adventures of Princess Polly and Sir William the Brave and I have just released a book on the spiritual battles of life called, We Are All Warriors. If you are interested, just click on the Hike It Forward cover and it will take you to my author page where you can check out all my books.

 

Map of the AT found at http://www.hikinginthesmokys.com/appalachiantrail.htm
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Book, Chaco Sandals, Hot Springs, Mount Katahdin, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day One

My hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP) was a great adventure. The trek took 5 days and 4 nights (May 8-12, 2014). The path across this grand national park involved 71 miles of rugged terrain. I had beautiful, sunny weather for three days but had to embrace two days of rain. Reflecting on those days on the Appalachian Trail brings back many memories.

087The first day out of Fontana Dam was sunny with blue skies. To arrive at the national park, the hiker actually crosses over the dam and gains a close-up view of the waters of Fontana. Arriving at the park’s trailhead, there is an official box that requires a permit to hike the trails. I purchased the $20 permit in advance at Fontana Lodge.

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Shuckstack Fire Tower

Hikers in the GSMNP are required to stay in shelters and no stealth camping is permitted so my hiking agenda was limited to the shelter sites. The first day, for example, I had several options. There were four possible destinations 12.1 miles; 14.9 miles; 17.8 miles; and 24.1 miles from Fontana. The trail was a twenty-mile uphill climb to Thunderhead Mountain, so my hope was to get to the second shelter at 15 miles and then evaluate the weather, the shelter, and my energy (the latter being the most important). Shelter #2 at Russell Field, was where my body told me I should stay. I was tired and did not want to push on and find myself exhausted for the next day.

Today was my first bear sighting on the Appalachian Trail. Just like Goldilocks, I saw three bears, but, unlike her, I did not stop to eat porridge with them or take a nap on their beds. Instead, I quickly passed by them hoping that they were not hungry for backpack food or the backpacker. It was a thrill to see them. Before leaving for my thru-hike, I hoped that I would be able to safely see some bears on the trail. They are such magnificent animals that seem to embody power and agility. I was not sure what to expect. Would they run, would they run toward me, would they charge and attack? I continued walking the trail (as quietly as possible) with the bears on the hillside to my right. To my relief, they just ignored me and kept lounging among the trees.

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Fontana Lake from the Fire Tower

I also experienced one of my favorite activities on the AT – climbing a fire tower. The Shuckstack Fire Tower is a 60 ft. tall structure with 78 steps. The top of the tower gave me a fantastic view on this clear day of the surrounding North Carolina mountains. I stood in amazement at the beauty and the waves of mountains that filled my 360 degree perspective. From the tower, there is a special view of Fontana Lake that very few people are able to see.  

Seeing the forest from the fire tower gave me a chance to see the big picture and the incredible expanse of the GSMNP. But under the canopy of the woods, I was fascinated to see the variety and beauty of individual trees. Two very unusual trees caught my eye during this first day in the park. One trunk opened up like a teepee inviting me to sit inside to eat my lunch. The other tree stood about four feet off the ground before it bent completely over headed toward the trail and finally completed an “s” shape as it appeared to readjust itself back toward the sky.

Book Cover 2

Day one in the GSMNP was a glorious day on the Appalachian Trail. If you would like to read more of my adventures please check out my book, Hike It Forward, on Amazon.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fire-tower, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Hot Water – What a Luxury!

Hot ShowerI take a hot shower almost every day and sometimes I sneak a little added time under the warm water to enjoy the relaxing spray on my back. I take it for granted. But, there was one shower along the Appalachian Trail in 2014 that will stay in my memory for a long time. The warm water hit my face after hiking twelve days in a row on the trail without a break. I had managed a quick shower seven days before, but I was as ripe as a brown banana and smelled like the skunk nest by the city dump.

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Fontana Lodge

I arrived at Fontana Dam Lodge, North Carolina, on May 7, 2014,  just before lunch but could not check into a room until 4:00. Two good hiking buddies, Beast of Burden and Soul Asylum, and I invaded the hotel restaurant for lunch. The food was excellent but the service was not the best. In hindsight, I could not blame the waitress for staying away from the smelly mountain men right off the trail. The three of us had a great visit sharing trail stories and some details about real life back home.

After lunch, I walked to a local grocery with my backpack over my shoulders and purchased all the food I thought I could fit in my pack to last me five more days on the trail. I made it back to the lodge about 2:30 and decided just to sit in the beautiful, air-conditioned lobby until my room became available. I got out my Trail Guide and mapped out a strategy through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There would be no shower available until I made it through this granddaddy of a national park. I was planning a five day-four night adventure. I grabbed a short nap and before I began to snore too loudly, it was four o’clock and my room was available.

Fontana Lobby

Lobby of the Fontana Lodge

Just taking my sandals off and collapsing on the bed made me feel like a king. At the store, I bought a big bag of potato chips, two bananas and a two-liter of Coke with plans to watch Survivor on TV. In danger of immediately falling asleep, I jumped out of bed and turned on the shower. As the water turned from cold to warm, I realized that I did not remember seeing a laundromat in town. The sounds of the shower offered the best solution. I just walked into the water with my clothes on, including my socks. The water turned the color of chocolate milk before I even started using soap. Doing laundry standing up was pretty fun. After using almost an entire bar of soap on my clothes, I spent another 20 minutes getting my body clean. I never got to sweet smelling but my hair was squeaky and my hands looked like giant prunes.  

Survivor28logoI hung up my wet trail clothes, put on my town clothes (a Dayton Christian t-shirt and shorts), opened my chips, and tuned on the idiot box. I enjoyed the soft pillows until Survivor came on, then I got serious about watching one of my favorite shows. It was a good episode and I had great fun just relaxing. It was time for bed because I needed to hike out of Fontana Dam and into the GSMNP as early as possible. The initial climb out of Fontana was 2,755 feet in 9.3 miles. As I was about to roll over for some good sleep, I knew I had one more thing to do. I threw off the sheets, got ready, and jumped in the shower for one more delightful feeling of being clean, knowing that in 24 hours I would smell as bad as I did when I arrived at the lodge. Ah, the life of the thru-hiker.

If you are interested in reading more about my thru-hike, check out my book, Hike It Forward, on Amazon. Just click the book cover below and it will take you to my page.

HIF Cover Published

 

Shower Photo found at  https://sites.psu.edu/siowfa16/2016/09/16/hot-or-cold-which-showers-are-better/
Lodge Lobby photo found at http://www.fontanavillage.com/the-lodge/
Survivor Logo found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survivor:_Cagayan
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, North Carolina, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Snake Encounter on the Trail

black-rat-snake_624I really dislike snakes. I take that back. I am fascinated by snakes. I enjoy watching them when I know where they are and I am confident that I am a safe distance away. But when they surprise me along the trail and begin their quick, sidewinding movements, my heart does flatline for a bit and I gasp the air of  panic. I had the great opportunity to thru-hike the Appalachian trail in 2014 and I remember being quite concerned about encountering snakes. In my mind, I knew that I really only needed to be concerned about two bad boys, the rattlesnake and the copperhead. But I lacked a little confidence that I would be able to make a quick and proper identification in discerning between friend and foe. Instead, my goal was to avoid all snakes and to keep my cool when avoidance was not possible.

I had researched just a little on proper trail etiquette when meeting a snake along the path. One great tidbit of information that I stored in the backpack of my mind was that snakes have very poor hearing, but rather sense the presence of others through the ground vibrations around them. The advice, based on this information, was to be heavy footed and to bang the ground with one’s walking sticks or trekking poles. I immediately went out and bought trekking poles.

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Photo of the Appalachian Trail on Day 9 (May 4, 2014)

The first week of walking on the AT was snakeless. They probably saw me, but I was wonderfully oblivious to them. Then day 9 (May 4th) arrived. I was hiking ion North Carolina. And I was introduced to my first rather large snake. It was a black snake and so I felt pretty confident that this slytherin was not going to inject a lethal dose of venom through my Chaco sandals. On the other hand, it had a mouth and I felt sure that it would defend itself if it felt threatened.

I saw the snake several yards away from me right in the middle of the path. It decided not to escape into the underbrush like I anticipated. Instead, it moved directly toward me, right up the center of the narrow walkway. I removed the advice from my mental backpack and began to stomp my feet and pound the path with my trusty hiking poles. The snake stopped, raised its head as if to look at me, then continued to slither on  its collision course with me. I jumped up and down and struck a nearby rock with my poles….no change, just moving forward.

A couple of things went through my head as I observed this strange reaction. One, maybe this was a mutated black-rattlesnake or a some sort of tarnished-copperhead. Two, maybe I have encountered a snake without the ability to “hear” vibrations. Three, maybe this was a depressed, suicidal snake willing to take on an old man in a life and death struggle.

We kept moving toward one another. I scooted to the right side of the path as it stopped dead center. I bravely (well, with great trepidation) and as quietly as possible stepped alongside the legless creature. It did not coil or flee. But we simply passed in quietness. The snake did not greet me and I did not stop to attempt to engage him in conversation.

Safely passed my first encounter with a large black snake, I removed the vibration advice from my mental backpack and left it behind (leaving no trace, or course). I saw many snakes during my five-month adventure, but I never encountered a rattlesnake or a copperhead – Praise the Lord; God is faithful.

Interested in reading more about my fabulous hike through 14 states on the Appalachian Trail? Check out my book, Hike It Forward on Amazon.com (just click the book).

HIF Cover Published

 

Snake photo from http://www.snaketype.com/black-rat-snake/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, North Carolina, Rowdy, Snakes, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Congratulations Beaker!

Today’s post is a tribute to Rusty Miller, a chemist from West Virginia, and his thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. He began his journey on February 26, 2017 and crossed his finish line on September 12, 2017 for a total of 189 days.  Many of you have followed my blog and his adventures over the past seven months. This post will be a photo diary of this man’s trip across 14 states and his 5 million steps to the finish line. All of these pictures come from Beaker’s online journal found at: http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/photos/18636

He began at Springer Mountain, Georgia with red shirt and kilt.

North Carolina brought the Smoky Mountains and cold weather.

Tennessee included a bike ride in Erwin to do some laundry and a lovely waterfall with hiking buddy, 1st Sgt.

There’s always a possibility of snow in April in Virginia, but the wild ponies of Grayson Highlands are always a highlight of a thru-hike.

Becker actually sold his home in WV and bought a new one in Knoxville while on the trail. He took three weeks off trail to move his home from West Virginia to Tennessee. This gave him an opportunity to change his trail persona.

Harpers Ferry, WV is the home of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and the emotional half-way point of the trail. The true, linear, half way point is in Pine Grove Furnace State Park in Pennsylvania.

The month of June brought the rocky trails of PA, NJ, and NY.

July led Beaker above tree-line in New Hampshire.

August 12 was the day for Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus of the AT.

20. Mount K

Beaker on lower left

After Katahdin, Beaker went home to Tennessee for two weeks before completing a section of Virginia that he skipped on his NOBO journey to Maine. He returned to the trail on August 27 to complete his 2,200 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. Moving SOBO, he was dropped off in Waynesboro, VA. by his son, Zack, hiked 315 miles in 19 days, and finished his adventure in Adkins, Virginia at The Barn Restaurant.

What a great journey! I give Beaker a standing ovation and two thumbs up.

Categories: Adkins, Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Beaker, Dover Oak, Erwin, Georgia, Grayson Highlands, Harpers Ferry, Maine, McAfee Knob, Mount Katahdin, Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Palmerton, Pine Grove Furnace, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 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

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

Beaker to Hot Springs, NC

On March 22nd, Beaker, the Mountaineer chemist from Morgantown WV, was camped at Groundhog Creek Shelter just north of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). His spirits were high as he hoped for a two-day journey into the first trail on the AT headed north, Hot Springs, NC.

Beaker’s Day on Max Patch

3/23/17 Destination: Walnut Mountain Shelter, NC. Hiking miles today – 13.1 miles.

March 23 was a beautiful day on the AT – clear skies and full sunshine. Beaker’s hike today was to include another AT highlight – Max Patch. Max Patch, large grassy bald, was originally cleared several years ago for cattle grazing. The bald has become a special spot for hikers because of its incredible 360 degree views of the mountains. Finally, Beaker got to enjoy the view with clouds and rain robbing the panoramic.

Beaker arrived at Walnut Mountain Shelter and was greeted by about 20 other hikers. From his tent he writes, “The wind is roaring up the mountain, my tent is shaking and the guy lines are buzzing in the wind. It will be a brisk night. That’s alright because tomorrow we reach Hot Springs, NC and a much-needed zero day,,,It’s been a week since I’ve showered. I stink!

Beaker and others enjoy the Hot Springs

3/24/17 Beaker stays at the Sunnybank Inn, in the trail town of Hot Springs, NC. 13.1 miles today.

“We all come out here for our own reasons; but, a part of it for all of us is to get away, on some level, from current society. However, we are all drawn in by the towns. After seven days in the woods, a town visit was long overdue. In town, you don’t have to filter water, sleep on the ground, or poop in a hole. Life in town is a brief respite from the rigors of the trail.”

Beaker wasted no time taking advantage of the town of Hot Springs, NC. The first order of business was a long, hot shower; then a trip to the laundromat; and finally food – lunch at the Smoky Mountain Diner. Beaker and several hikers visited the hot springs of Hot Springs, NC

3/25/17 Hot Springs, NC. Zero day in Hot Springs.

Beaker took advantage of the day of rest to refuel, resupply, and rejuvenate those tired legs. After breakfast he did some planning and estimated how many days it would take to make it to Erwin, TN and how much food he’d need for the journey. He sorted through his pack and sent home a few items, such as micro spikes.  He also made some longer term plans including some off-the-trail days at Adkins, VA around Easter to make his move to Knoxville, with a strategy to return to the trail in early May.

Tenting along service road

3/26/17 Back on the trail. 14.8 mile hike today ending at a stealth camp near Allen Gap, NC.

Beaker experienced a restless night at Elmer’s awaking with aches all over. He did not want to get out of bed but eventually he got his hiking stuff organized and packed. He started his day in the rain, but it didn’t last long and the sun broke out turning gray to blue.

By the time Beaker reached Allen Gap, he was feverish and dizzy. Being one of the last to arrive most of the flat spots were occupied, but he found a site on an old forest service road that ran close to the campsite. Soon, two other hikers joined him (see photo).

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beaker, Hot Springs, Max Patch, North Carolina, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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