Thru-Hike

A Day with the Horses

215Grayson Highlands State Park (GHSP), located in Virginia along the Appalachian Trail about 30 miles north of Damascus, Virginia, is the home of the wild ponies. I looked forward to hiking through this park from the first moment I heard about it. Every book I read about the AT made mention of an encounter with the horses as the thru-hiker made the journey through the highlands.

In my mind’s eye, it was a place of gentle meadows with tall grasses and an occasional apple tree. The highlands should have revealed rolling hills boasting of lush green moors and the distant call of bagpipes and Scottish tenor drums played with soft mallets. I imagined a cool breeze blowing across my face as I followed the narrow path through the fields of wild ponies, stopping to stroke the neck of colt or filly, or gazing at mare with her foal close by her side.

216In reality, my thru-hike of 2014 through the GHSP was significantly different. There was no gentle meadow but rather a rocky trail over rugged terrain. There was no cool breeze but rather a blazing sun that made me glad for my long-brimmed hat. The canopy of trees had opened to reveal not lush green foliage but a strenuous path with lots of elevation change to add to the adventure. I experienced some rock scrambles and some trails richly populated with trip roots and loose rocks. It was not what I was expecting but it was still breathtaking and beautiful in its own way.

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The horses were there! I came upon ten beautiful ponies as I hiked down from Tom Knob Shelter. They greeted me warmly and welcomed me to the highlands. One pony, in particular, walked right up me and put his nose against my chest. I quickly realized that he wanted to eat me or at least lick the salt off my sweat-filled hiking shirt. He took a nibble of my shirt in his mouth, and I rubbed the blaze on his nose, talking is calm tones to quiet his advances and my pounding heart. He decided that salt produced by a 64-year-old thru-hiker was not worth his effort. We parted friends with my shirt in one piece including just a little horse slobber as a free souvenir.

222I did not see too many ponies through the highlands themselves, but close to the end, I took a short side trail and found six or seven ponies – one new born sleeping close to mom. When I arrived at Massie Gap, just south of the park’s northern boundary, I heard a bazaar noise to my left. The trail was a narrow path with tall, five-foot high brushes on either side. Suddenly, a horse trotted by right in front of me, followed by a foal, followed by another adult horse. They did not pause, look at me, or slow down. They reminded me or a snooty church going family arriving late for Sunday school.

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As I made my way through the stiles at the north end of the highlands, I thought I could hear the faint sounds of bagpipes and drums. I continued to walk the trail with hopes of returning to visit the ponies on another day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Grayson Highlands, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized, Virginia, Wild Ponies | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sugarcreek Finally Complete

SCrrek 3This past Wednesday, November 8, Rocky came home from work and suggested we take a hike in order to complete the trails at Sugarcreek Metropark. We hiked the park several weeks ago and thought we had covered every trail. When we got home to update our log, we noticed that there are two unmarked trails at Sugarcreek included in the thru-hike challenge sponsored by the Five MetroPark System.

It was a little before 4:00 and we knew that the sun would be setting around 5:30. The “falling back” of daylight savings time adds some sunshine to the morning hours, but it sure makes the evenings short. Forty minutes round trip to Sugarcreek would leave fifty minutes to complete the two trails. We knew that one trail (Planted Prairie) was a paved 0.25 mile meadow walk and the other (Big Woods Trail) was on the far side of Sugar Creek itself and about a two-mile round trip hike from the parking lot. As long as we walked our no-nonsense pace, we felt very confidence we would complete the trails without the use of a headlamp.

SCreek 2Since the Planted Prairie Trail was around a wide open meadow, we left this trail for the end of our journey. We headed down the Red Trail, turned right on the Blue Trail and came quickly to the junction of the Big Woods Trail. A series of step steps took us down the creek where we needed to rock hop across the water. However, the recent rains had risen the water levels over top of the large steps. We could easily see the rocks but some of them were under a few inches of stream water. After a short consideration of conditions, we decided to get our feet wet and accomplish our goals. The water was cold and our shoes squeaked after navigating the creek, but a safe ford added to the adventure and the sense of accomplishment. After completing the loop trail, the creek greeted us again with a refreshing footbath.

SCreek 4We really enjoyed the Big Woods Trail. I might have just become my favorite trail at Sugarcreek Metropark. It was a narrow path beginning along the creek and then looping up and down through the forest. I enjoy a little elevation change and this trail delivered a nice climb and descent as it wound around the wooded area. The other trails at Sugarcreek are well traveled and the park is popular to dog-owners and trail runners. The Big Woods Trail is much less traveled and gave the feel of a more private spot.

Within 35 minutes, Rocky and I were back to the shelter at the junction of all the blazed trails and ready to conquer the Painted Prairie. The quick loop around the wheelchair accessible path was enjoyable as we enjoyed the last rays of sunshine before heading back to the parking lot. The sunset on the drive home was golden and reminded us of how fortunate we are to have so many miles of parks in the Dayton area and the lovely opportunities the give us to see the wonders of nature and the beauty of God’s creation.

Categories: Every Trail MetroPark Challenge, Local Hikes, Rocky, Sugar Creek, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Hills & Dales

Hills and Dales 1Sunday afternoon started with a warm breeze and clear skies. By two o’clock, Rocky and I were off to a Metropark for a continuation of our thru-hike of the Five Rivers MetroParks. The parks have developed a program called the Every Trail MetroPark Challenge encouraging hikers to complete all of the trails contained in the metropark system.

Rocky and I have hiked several of the smaller trails, including Sugar Creek and Cox Arboretum, and Sunday’s trails brought us to two short and easy paths at Hills & Dales Metropark off South Patterson Drive in Kettering. There are several parking areas at the park but Rocky and I found a lovely little spot for our Toyota in a lot off Park Road. This parking area rests close to the mid-way point along the Adirondack Trail.  

As we got out of the car, our phones notified us of severe weather coming our in about two hours. Having complete confidence in judging our hiking speed and the accuracy of the trail map, we knew we had ample time to complete our trek of both the Inspiration Point Trail and the Adirondack Trail. Realizing the ambiguity of weather forecasting and the abstract timing of storm fronts, we decided to maintain a faster pace than usual.

Hills and Dales Princess

The Castle with my Lovely Queen

With a map in hand, he headed southeast on the Adirondack Trail. We quickly found out that none of the trails were blazed, so a map became more important than usual for navigation. The trail that led out of the parking area was paved but soon it took us into the woods and a nice leaf-covered footpath guided our way. The trees were beautiful and stretched with branches of yellow and the ground reflected the fallen leaves of autumn. We arrived at the stone tower and my Children’s Book Series, “The Adventures of Princess Polly and Sir William the Brave,”  came to mind with castles and Kings and Queens.

The loop of the Inspiration Point Trail trail begins at the end of the northwest corner of the Adirondack Trail, so Rocky and I traveled toward Inspiration Point when we came to the junction of the two paths. We followed the Inspiration Point Trail until it ended at Oak Knoll Road. As we turned around to retrace our steps we kept a close eye open for the other branch of the trail to complete the loop. It appeared to be blocked off  so we ended up retracing our initial steps all the way back to the Adirondack Trail.

Hills and Dales 2As we hiked back toward the car, the wind began to pick up but the storm could be seen in the far distance. We decided to continue past our parked car and headed toward the northwestern point of the trail. We walked along a gentle trail bordering the community golf course on our left and were surprised to see several golfers trying to complete their rounds before the rains poured on their green fees. We safely arrived at White Oak Camp and the end of Adirondack Trail. Rocky and I were impressed with the well maintain camp and the new playground equipment that seemed to call the names of our four grandchildren that live in Miamisburg. We decided to return some sunny afternoon with the kids for additional fun.

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We also realized that we needed to move on to avoid the coming rains. The return hike to the car was dry, but the precipitation began on the way home and the thunderstorms arrived later that evening with loud claps of thunder and sheets of pounding rain. As I sat in my comfortable living room, reading a book, and listening to the deluge bouncing off my roof, I was very thankful that Rocky and I were not still walking the trail.

Check out my children’s books about a beautiful young princess, Polly would joins her friend, Billy, in a land above the trees filled with adventure and treasure.

Categories: Hills & Dales, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Lee Barry at 81

20140522-131602.jpgThe Appalachian Trail was completed and became a continuous footpath in 1937. One year later, a 15-year-old Boy Scout from New Jersey, Lee Barry, took his first steps on the trail. He, along with other scouts, embarked on a 100-mile hike on the AT.   Lee fashioned his own backpack from ash, hickory and old army web belts. He also made the troop’s waterproof tent from white muslin dipped alum and paraffin.

Sixty-six years later (2004), Barry, now living in Shelby, NC, returned for his last long hike on the Appalachian Trail. With shuttles provided by his wife, Lois, he started his thru-hike on Jan. 2 at the trail’s southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Georgia. He would hike for three weeks and then return home for monthly church council meetings. He completed his hike on November 20 at the age of 81, then the oldest thru-hiker, based on the records kept by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

Earl-Shaffer-at-Katahdin-5

Earl Shaffer

Lee Barry’s trail name was “Easy One.” The late Earl Shaffer, the first person (1948) to make a thru-hike, completed his third and final thru-hike in 1998, finishing just before his 80th birthday. Easy One said he was unaware of the age record until partway through the trek.

Easy One (I could not find a photo of him anywhere) finished his first thru-hike in 1996 and completed the distance a second time – section by section from the late 1980s to 2000. Easy One spent much of his first four and half years of retirement climbing mountains and fording rivers on the AT.

Lee served in the Navy during World War II, then worked as an engineer in New York. He continued to hike and climb. He conquered  the 46 highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. In 1974, he moved to North Carolina to become the general manager of a local industrial plant. The Blue Ridge Mountains were nearby so he joined the Carolina Mountain Club in Asheville. He climbed the forty mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee that are 6,000 feet and higher,

In 2004, Easy One averaged 10 miles a day during his 220140925-100106.jpg20 day thru-hike on the Appalachian Trail. He reached the summit of Mount Katahdin, Maine, the northern terminus, on Aug. 10th, while ending his flip-flop hike in Sugar Grove, Va, on November 20th.

Easy One only carried the essentials. He took no books, no radio, not even a cell phone. He ate typical trail food prepared with boiling water but he ate no snacks, no cookies, no Snickers (what a boring diet). He didn’t get sick and only suffered a sprain to his right wrist during his entire time on the trail.

What an amazing journey for a man his age. But there is always someone out there ready to break any record. Thirteen years after Easy One’s amazing hike, came Dale, Grey Beard, Sanders from Tennessee. His story is the subject of my next blog.

Details for this blog were found online. For more information regarding Lee Barry’s hike see my source:  http://www.spokesman.com/stories/2005/apr/03/nc-man-81-now-oldest-thru-hiker-to-traverse/
Photo of Earl Shaffer found at http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/tales-from-the-appalachian-trail-34902244/
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Earl Shaffer, Harpers Ferry, Lee Barry, Mount Katahdin, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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

A Trip to Cox Arboretum

Cox 5Rocky and I have decided to take on a thru-hike. There is a program sponsored by Five Rivers MetroPark called the Every Trail MetroPark Challenge Series. The goal of the series is to thru-hike every trail (color and non-color-coded trails), except for mountain and bridle trails – in every Five Rivers MetroPark in one season (nine month limit). The Metropark system is organizing group hikes throughout the fall and winter months to complete the challenge. Unfortunately, the hikes are scheduled for Sunday afternoons and make it impossible for Rocky and I to participate, but hikers can also complete the trails on their own and submit a log of their treks, so we decided to go all in and hike this winter.

Cox 3Rocky and I started last week with a hike at the Sugarcreek MetroPark. This week we hiked at Cox Arboretum. Cox is another easy hike filled with woods, an open meadow, and a series of paved garden paths. The trailhead for the hiking trails begins close to the Butterfly House approximately 0.25-mile from the parking lot. Three, blazed, loop-trails direct the hikers around the arboretum grounds. The shortest trail is the Red Trail (0.6 miles) leading through a lovely meadow. A short side trail leads to a small pond equipped with a covered bird blind – a quiet spot including some benches for those ornithologists with or without binoculars.

The Blue Trail (1.1 miles) is a beautiful forest path that shares some of its distance with the longer, 1.8- mile, Yellow Trail. The Yellow Trail has a small loop to the east and a larger section to the south that extend beyond the Blue Trail adding some different terrain to the hiker’s experience. Both the Yellow and the Blue Trails loop back to the trailhead by the Butterfly House via a paved/bricked path moving the hiker beside a lovely pond and close to the interesting Boxwood-hedge maze.

Cox 1The various paved paths in the garden areas highlight several ponds, a gazebo, the picturesque Monet Bridge and gorgeous cultivated flowers, plants and trees. Even in October the flowers were beautiful although the coming frost might end their colorful season. The park also houses the Zorniger Educational and Visitor Center, as well as, the Kettering Learning Lab and the Fred and Alice Wallace Botanical Library.

The arboretum is only a 15-minute drive from my doorstep, so this is a MetroPark that Rocky and I visit quite often. It is a favorite spot for our grand kids who love to see the turtles in the ponds and to play in a little stream leading up to an allee of dogwood trees. If you have not had opportunity to walk at Cox, please plan a visit. If you like flowers, you will not be disappointed during a spring or summer stroll on a beautiful day.

 

Categories: Cox Arboretum, Every Trail MetroPark Challenge, Local Hikes, MetroPark, Ohio, Rocky, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP Day Five

120Beast of Burden and I hiked at different paces and enjoyed being alone on the trail, so we did not hike side by side, but we planned to stop at Davenport Gap Shelter for the night. Beast of Burden was a section hiker from Iowa and his wife was going to pick him up after completing the GSMNP so this would be our last day together on the trail.  

I got a nice early start and found the trail to be mostly downhill. Although the knees take a beating, the miles tend to go by much faster. It was another beautiful day on the Appalachian Trail and I arrived at the Davenport Gap Shelter at 3:00. I was rather disappointed at what I saw. The shelter was a dark structure with a chain front wall. The chain was to deter bears from bothering the campers at night.

 

Davenport Shelter

Davenport Shelter

I understand that most of the shelters in the GSMNP had been equipped the same chain protection in the past. It reminded me of a jail (although I have never spent time behind bars) and I was thankful that the chain had been removed from the other shelters along the way. It was only 3:00, so I decided to continue on a few miles to a hostel. I felt badly about not being able to say good-bye to my friend from Iowa, so I wrote him a note and left it at the shelter.

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Standing Bear Farm

I hiked on to the Standing Bear Farm. There was plenty of room in the bunkhouse for $15, and the price included a hot a shower (which a desperately needed) and electric outlets to charge my phone. The hostel was actually outside of the GSMNP, but it was a great ending to my adventures in this famous section of the AT. I was alone in the bunkhouse for a while when I quiet young man, Isaac (no trail name),  showed up. We exchanged the normal thru-hiker greetings and then he went off to get some food at the hostel’s store.

I was relaxing on my bunk when I heard someone else approach the hostel. It was a young lady that I had met at the shelter last evening, Glow Worm, and right behind her walked in Beast of Burden. I was happy and surprised to see him. He got my note and said his wife was picking him up tomorrow at the I-40 interchange (just 0.8-mile from the hostel), so he decided to hike on. He treated me to a microwave pizza from the hostel and we had a great talk about our final day in the Smokies. As we said our goodbyes the next morning, Beast of Burden gave me his bear spray for my protection on the adventure ahead. I carried it with me all the way to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

121My hike through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was filled with beauty, friendship and a little adversity that translated into a great adventure. Bears, rain, a spectacular sunrise, a few falls, a kindred spirit, and a view from a fire tower dotted the trail with lots of great memories.

Check out my book, Hike It Forward, if you are interested in reading about more of my time on the Appalachian Trail.

Book Cover 2

Davenport Shelter Photo found at http://www.trailjournals.com/journal/entry/117472
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beast of Burden, Davenport Shelter, GSMNP, Rowdy, Standing Bear Farm, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Four

114I had a difficult night sleep in the shelter. I am sure that others were not happy with me. I tossed and turned which means I most likely disturbed others in the process. From the activities last evening,  it seemed like most of the people in the shelter were part of a larger group of section hikers. Most were calling each other by real first names (not trail names typically used by thru-hikers) and Beast of Burden and I were not brought into any conversations or asked any introductory questions. There was lots of cigarettes and alcohol shared among the cliques. I was very content to hide in my sleeping bag and look forward to the miles ahead.

Day four in the GSMNP broke forth with an incredible sunrise. The brilliant colors painted the end of rain and the glory of the morning skies. I managed to hit the trail by 8:00 with a shorter hike (13 miles) on the agenda. I had 28 miles left in the GSMNP and I did not think I could hike that far in one day, so I decided to stop at Tri-Corner Knob Shelter tonight, leaving a reasonable hike of 15 miles the next day to the last shelter in the park located less than one mile from the boundary.  

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Charlies Bunion

It was a perfect day for hiking. Clear skies but not too hot. There were lots of ups and downs (what hikers call Muds and Puds – Mindless-ups-&-downs and Pointless-ups-&-downs) along the trail. I realized that the Appalachian Trail is steep. It is steep going up and it is steep going down. There is very little flat. Going up is exhausting causing many huffs and puffs in my lungs. Going down is tough in the knees and rather dangerous. Each step must be carefully made watching for stumble rocks and trip roots desiring to take you down to their level.

117What I missed at Clingman’s Dome was soon forgotten as I encountered numerous (at least ten) vistas with panoramic views that took my breath away. I would be walking through the green tunnel of the forest canopy when suddenly the trail would open up to reveal this amazing view of the valley below. Charlies Bunion began the day. It was a side trail but well worth the small diversion. It was a huge rock with a huge view. There was also a huge dropoff that made me hugely nervous to take a closer look…but I did. It was a long way down, but getting a glimpse of the intimidating cliff was worth the danger.  I stopped many times throughout the day to attempt to capture the sights on my iPhone’s camera.

My fall happened so fast that I am still not sure how it happened. I had fallen several times over the past 200 miles, but this time I hit my head on the ground and had a difficult time bouncing up. I ended up heading downhill and my backpack had shifted up in such a way that it’s weight pinned my shoulders to the ground. Instead of trying to stand straight up, I just needed to roll on my side, shift the weight a bit and then I was free to stand and hike again. After a quick examination to find no blood, no dislocated joints, no blurred vision, and no need for the first aid kit, I was thanking God for His faithfulness and singing down the trail.

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Beast of Burden and I met at the shelter and enjoyed meeting a more friendly crowd at Tri-corner Knob. A ridgerunner (park ranger) showed up for a while, shared some interesting insights about the trail, and checked our permits. There were 17-20 people at the site designed to sleep 12. The ridgerunner gave permission to several volunteers to tent. I did not make the shortlist so I remained in the shelter. It was a good day.

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Beast of Burden, Charlies Bunion, GSMNP, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

The GSMNP – Day Three

098Day three of my 71-mile trek through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the Appalachian Trail began at daybreak as I exited out of the shelter trying my best not to disturb my new found shelter-friends from South Carolina or my hiking buddy, Beast of Burden. As quietly as possible, I packed up my sleeping bag and loaded my food sack into my backpack. I walked toward the trail and was greeted with such a beautiful sight. I left the shelter at 7:15 and only ten yards from the three-sided structure I saw two deer standing at the edge of the path half hidden by the foggy mist that accompanied the dawn.

The DomeI had anticipated this day for months. It was my day to summit Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the Appalachian Trail (6,643ft). The man-made observation tower provides an incredible view that boasts a reach of 100 miles. The tower is just off the AT and the hiker must walk up a paved, half-mile, circular, walkway to the top.

The Dome was about five miles from the shelter. I did not know exactly what to expect, although I had seen many pictures of the observation platform and the panoramic views offered on top of the structure. It continued to be a misty morning until about 9:00 when the rain began to come with sheets of heaviness. As I approached the summit of Mount Buckley, I was getting pelted with cold rain. It poured until 1:00 in the afternoon.

Even though I knew visibility would be terrible, I climbed the observation tower anyway. It was pretty amazing to be the only person standing on the platform. (This might say something about my intelligence, but I wanted to stand at the highest point no matter the weather). My view from Clingmans Dome might have reached 100 feet. It was my youngest son’s birthday and with no one else around, I sang happy birthday to him twice, while standing at the highest point during my 2,186 mile journey. Happy Birthday, Dan!

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Clingmans Dome 2014

I had a great laugh at Clingsman Dome, took a picture of the white non-view, and within a mile from the dome completed 200 miles of the AT. Unfortunately, the rain was not only relentless but it was very cold. Coming down off the mountain I could not get warm. I began to shiver and my hands became very uncomfortable, almost numb. I decided to take a side trail to a shelter with hopes of getting out of the rain and drying off. The Mt Collins Shelter was 0.5 miles off the trail but I knew I needed stop. This turned out to be a good thing. The shelter was indeed dry. I took off my shirt and put on my dry, down jacket. I got some food and drank lots of water. Once the chill was gone and I felt rested and refueled, I continued back to the AT and toward Newfound Gap

The rain tapered down and had finally stopped by the time I reached US 441 and Newfound Gap. Many hikers were sticking out their thumbs and heading toward Gatlinburg, about 15 miles from the trail. But the sun was out, I was feeling so much better, and warmth had returned to my body so I chose to continue on another 3 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter. It was packed, but Beast of Burden had arrived much earlier and had saved a spot for me. My heart was so blessed and I thanked my hiking buddy several times for looking after me.

HIF Cover PublishedI fell once during the wet descent off of Clingmans Dome, but my trekking poles saved my body several times. The day was filled with adversity and my motto was tested and remained true: No Adversity, No Adventure! Day three was not a disappointment at all but a day filled with God’s faithfulness and protection.

If you are interested in learning more about my 2014 thru-hike, check out my book, Hike It Forward on Amazon.

 

 

Photo of observation Tower found at https://rootsrated.com/stories/6-ways-to-hike-to-clingmans-dome-tennessee-s-highest-mountain
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, GSMNP, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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