Posts Tagged With: 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

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

Not My Agenda

highway-64-NCMay 3, 2014 was my 8th day on the Appalachian Trail. By the end of the day I had completed 121.6 miles of the AT while logging in 15.6 miles for the day. I remember this day very well because it was the first of many days that did not go according the the plan of Rowdy (my trail name). My agenda called for an early 5-mile hike to US 64; followed by a hitch-hike into Franklin, North Carolina, for a hamburger at Burger King; a ride back to the trail; and another short 4-mile trek to Siler Bald Shelter.

I made it to US 64 by 9:30 fitting perfectly into my schedule, but then all my plans blew up. I tried hitch-hiking for 30 minutes without success. It was then that I realized that I did not present a good visual-risk as a hitchhiker. I was old and gray with a scruffy face carrying trekking poles (potential weapons) in both hands. I looked like I would stink (and I did!). If he could smell me, the driver would not want my odor absorbed in his vehicle. Even small pets were in danger of asphyxiation if I sat next to them in the car.

055I sadly gave up on my quest for Burger King about 10:00. I reviewed my Trail Guidebook and mapped out an alternate path for the day.  I filtered some water from a piped spring close to the road and turned to cross US 64 in order to pick up the trailhead on the other side of highway. As I turned around I saw a man get out of his truck with three folding chairs. I smiled, “Are you having a picnic?” and He said “No, we’re here to feed you!” Three trail angels set up a table filled with fantastic food. I helped them set up and then dug in. I was there until noon. Several other hikers joined me as I ate 2 hot dogs with chilly, cole slaw, quiche, five cherry cookies, cheese-its, 2 cups of coke and took 2 granola bars for the trail – better than any trip the Franklin!

After the great lunch provided by the trail angels, I decided to thank God for His wonderful alternate plan and His incredible provision. I experienced many emotions on the trail over the thru-hike’s 5-month adventure, but this afternoon was such a surprise that I shocked myself. Hiking by yourself for hours gives you lots of time to think and reflect. I purposely did not take any music or audio-books with me so that I might pray and fellowship with God as much as possible. I started to sing songs like the Doxology, Amazing Grace and a contemporary song by Steven Curtis Chapman called Long Way Home. I decided that I would pray for my family and sing a song I used to sing to my kids at bedtime. It’s called Looked All the World Over and at one point in the song you put the name of your child in the lyrics to communicate how special he/she is. I decided to sing the short little song, put the name of my eldest son in the right spot, and then pray for him and his family.

I could not believe what happened. When I sang his name, I began to weep. I wasn’t even sure why. I had just seen him eight days ago in Atlanta. Lots of memories and mental pictures of his childhood poured into my head – sled riding, shooting baskets in the backyard, science fair, high school graduation, dropping him off at Asbury for his first day at college, his wedding day, fatherhood, and his spiritual depth. I cried and wept tears of joy and thanksgiving. The tears scared me at first – I thought I was having a mental breakdown. The exact same thing happened when I began to sing for my second son – more great memories, tears, and thankfulness for the godly man he has become. The third verse was for my only daughter and I knew I did not have a chance to stay in control. And I was right. I had to stop hiking for a bit because my tears blurred the trail. By the time I sang for my youngest son, I welcomed the tears because they were refreshing to my spirit and freeing to my very bones. It was an amazing experience that allowed me to feel so close to my family.

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Close to the end of day May 3, 2014

By the time I made camp, I was so encouraged that God had changed my agenda, provided such a blessing at US 64, and filled my afternoon with the tears of a grateful father and husband. One lesson I learned that day (and one that would be repeated many times during my journey) was that I needed a plan for each day, but I also needed the sensitivity to submit to God’s agenda when He had something different in mind for me. He always had the perfect plan and I just needed to submit to it.

(It you’re interested, check out more of my story in my book – Hike It Forward available on Amazon. Just click on the book for a link)

HIF Cover Published

US 64 Photo found at https://www.romanticasheville.com/highway64.htm
Categories: Appalachian Trail, Franklin, North Carolina, Hike It Forward, Rowdy, Thru-Hike, Trail Angels, Uncategorized | 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

Beaker Thru The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Beaker, Rusty Miller, from Morgantown, WV is a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail. He began his adventure during the last week of February and found himself snowbound in Knoxville for a few days. This post picks up his story as he leaves Knoxville and his lovely visit with his wife and heads up the trail toward the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP).

3/18/17 ends at Russell Field Shelter in the GSMNP after hiking 15.7 miles. After a rainstorm during the night at Knoxville, the morning dawned gray and overcast; Beaker’s son, Chris and his wife, Marguerite accompanied him back to Fontana Village. The chemist from WV had a last goodbye and then headed up into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Beaker planned to push straight through the Smokies in five days. The climb up the mountain proved to be pretty tough, but he arrived at the Russell Field shelter and found it filled with a Boy Scout troop and other thru hikers. So, he happily pitched his tent close by and went to sleep listening to coyotes howling in the distance.

3/19/17 Today’s hike totaled another 14.7 miles and ended at Siler’s Bald Shelter, NC. The hike was quite difficult as Beaker encountered snow, ice, mud, rocks, roots, steep ascents, and steep descents. On the northern slopes there was a great deal of ice and snow. Beaker even broke out his microspikes today. His evaluation of the spikes, “They were incredible! It made a huge difference on the icy sections.”

3/20/17 Another day in the GSMNP concluded at Icewater Spring Shelter for a total mileage for the day of 15.1. Two highlights awaiting this day’s journey: arriving at the highest point of the AT, Clingman’s Dome, and crossing the North Carolina/Tennessee border. His reflection of the first highlight, “It was a fairly long and steep climb up Clingman’s Dome; but, the sun was hanging in there. As I was nearing the summit, I saw the clouds moving in. Alas, by the time I reached the weird tower on top with the curving walkway, the clouds had settled in. No views. Bummer.” The ice was bad throughout the day and Beaker hiked all day in his microspikes but he remained optimistic and celebrated the crossing into Tennessee at Newfound Gap.

3/21/17 Today was Beaker’s longest day yet on the AT – 19.8 miles. Because of the locations of the shelters and the requirement to camp at the shelters, Beaker had to decide between a 12-mile day to the first shelter or a19-mile day to the second, Cosby Knob Shelter. He pushed on and proved that he is developing some strong trail legs. The weather continued to send foggy conditions, “I couldn’t see 30 feet ahead of me.”

 

If you get a chance, check out Beaker’s expanded journal online: http://www.trailjournals.com/entry.cfm?trailname=18636.

If you like my blog, check out my ebook, Hike It Forward, at Amazon.com Just click the photo of the book.

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Categories: Appalachian Trail, Clingmans Dome, Fontana Dam, GSMNP, North Carolina, Shelter, Thru-Hike, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Beaker – Part 3

Beaker on the Trail

Let me continue the story of the thru-hike of “Beaker” the chemist from West Virginia. We last left him in a hotel in Hiawassee, Georgia, warming up after a very cold night on the trail without an ample sleeping bag. Let’s follow his adventure for a few more days.

Saturday, March 4. Beaker had a fortuitous late start out of Hiawassee because when the shuttle dropped him off at the trailhead at Unicoi Gap, a church group from the Raleigh area was putting on a hiker feed, complete with grilled hamburgers and all the fixings – trail blessing at its best.. Beaker’s post has the sound of a happy and dry and contented hiker, “The hiking weather was perfect – high 50s, sunny, and only a light breeze. And the views of the North Georgia mountains were incredible. To top it all off, the Tray Mt Shelter is the prettiest shelter I’ve seen so far. It sits on top of Tray Mt and looks out over a sea of mountains. The sunset was gorgeous! There are probably another 30-40 people here – mostly new faces. The Trail is getting pretty busy.”

Sunday, March 5. Beaker made a fairly easy hike to Dick’s Creek Gap and the Top of Georgia hostel. He reached the hostel by 1 pm and was able to pick up his emergency mail drop from home including a warmer sleeping bag. He decided to press on to the next shelter even though he had already paid a non-refundable fee for the bed, so “ I ‘paid it forward’ and let the next guy who arrived have my spot for free. He was so excited – my own little bit of trail magic.” I don’t know Beaker personally, but I am beginning to appreciate his character and perspective on his adventure.

Border GA/NC

Monday (16.6 miles; 90.4 total miles so far). Beaker awoke to rain on his tent at 4:30 am. He slept much better during the night with the warmer sleeping bag. It was another blustery day with rain on and off until about 2:00 pm. The highlight of the day was crossing the NC/GA border. The AT experienced several major forest fires last year and Beaker came upon one such area. He shares in his journal, “I climbed Standing Indian Mt moved into the area that was so devastated by forest fires last Fall. The standing trees appear to be OK, with scorch marks on the lower 12 – 18 inches of their trunks. However, the undergrowth is completely gone. It looks like some kind of strange war zone.”

Fire Tower on Albert Mountain

Tuesday, March 7. “It was the most miserable day on the trail so far. And the most epic!” Beaker started the day with rain, he walked in a tunnel all day with fog so thick he could only see about 20 ft ahead. The day’s hike included the climb up and over Albert Mountain (5250 ft). The last 0.3 miles is the steepest grade up to this point of the AT. Unfortunately, the climb to the summit changed from a gentle rain to a deluge. There is a fire tower at the top, but again the fantastic views were missed because of the weather. However, the fire tower stands at the 100 mile marker and the sense of accomplishment is amazing. Beaker hiked another five miles past the summit and stayed in a dry hotel in Franklin for the night.

Wednesday, March 8.  Beaker was greeted with beautiful blue morning skies and no rain! He got a late start because of the need to resupply to replace his water filter. His 8.3-mile day was filled with a climb up Siler Bald (5001 ft) during the late afternoon. The climb was well worth it. The reward was an incredible 360 degree view of the beautiful mountains.

More of Beaker’s hike coming up soon. Stay connected.

Categories: Albert Mountain, Appalachian Trail, Fire-tower, Georgia, Hiawassee, Thru-Hike, Trail Blessing, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Update on Thru-Hikers 2016

I have been following several thru-hikers that decided to attempt the epic adventure during the 2016 season. Let me share an update on each hike. Unfortunately, each journal is not current with the last of April, but let’s take a look at the last entry and get a picture of these trail heroes.

I selected six hikes to follow.

  1. MarkHolmgren_19877Mark Homgren, a retired man from the Hershey Company in Pennsylvania, started the AT on February 21. Mark hiked into Fontana Dam, just south of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, on day 15 of his attempt. He left the trail due to a family health matter. Total miles: 164.7

 

  1. Possumhead and CarrotThe Coopers from Jacksonville, Florida stepped onto the trail on March 13. The father (Carrot Stick) and daughter (Possumhead) team made it to Fontana Dam on March 30 seventeen days into their journey, averaging a little over 9 miles per day. They continued into the Great Smoky Mountains and took a rest in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. They took three additional days in Gatlinburg but the rest was not sufficient to restore aching joints and Carrot Stick’s left knee. They left the trail on April 2nd – total miles: 206.8.

 

  1. Two Peas. Blood MtTwo Peas (Kristen and Robert), a married couple from Florida introduce themselves as Moonbeam and Big Cypress. They began their journey on February 13 and the most recent online post is dated April 23 (day 71 of their hike). They have traveled 791 miles and camped on April 23 at Punchbowl Shelter about ten miles south of Buena Vista, VA. Moonbeam has been sick for a few days – a little dehydrated but also struggling with UTI. They have averaged almost 17 miles each day for the past four days, but the journal entries reflect fatigue and frustration with the sickness. Moonbeam simply writes on their April 23 post, “Tough day for the Two Peas.” As they made camp that night they were greeted with the deep chirping sounds of the frogs in the pond near their shelter (I hope they can get some sleep). I am praying that the Two Peas can make it into Buena Vista and get some rest and relief.

 

  1. Dulci on Blood MtDulcigal, Founder of Crosspoint Counseling Center in Jackson, Georgia, left Springer Mountain on March 13. She arrived at Fontana Dam on April 1 (day 20), hiked through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and arrived at Hot Springs, North Carolina (the first trail town) on day 35 of her hike. Her last online post, April 20 and day 39, finds her in Erwin, Tennessee having trekked 341.5 miles. She recently fell, going uphill, and injured her knee. She reports that she feels stronger each day and the climbs seem easier as she adjusts to the trail and the weight of the pack. She is content mentally and is enjoying a daily spiritual walk along the path.

 

  1. Fat Hen and Rooster Talon 5Fat Hen (Dan) and Rooster Talon (Becky) began the approach trail on March 19 and their last online post was dated 4/26/16, day 39 of the trip. They arrived in Ervin, Tennessee after running into some very cold and uncomfortable rain. They were chilled to the bone a few days before arriving at Erwin. Becky has problems with a recurring ingrown toenail and it decided to flare up out in the middle of nowhere. The couple decided to attempt some “backwoods” surgery to address the infected toe. They removed the nail, cleaned and bandaged the toe. They made it to Erwin and Becky’s toe, according to their post was doing quite well. In Erwin, they camped along the Nolichucky River and were able to observe a bald eagle fly-by and a successful grab of a fish right from the river.

 

  1. Mustard Seed 3Mustard Seed (Michelle Mayne), a middle school teacher at Central Christian School in Sharpsburg, Georgia, began her journey with her dad (Negotiator – Michael Williams) on April 1. Her last post was April 27 from Erwin, Tennessee. She and her dad hiked the first 27 days with only one zero day in Hot Springs. They had to take a 15-mile ride from Hot Springs (mile 273.9) to Allen Gap (mile 288.7) because of the forest fires blazing along the trail right now. Mustard Seed was averaging over 13 miles a day. However, she posted on April 26th that the physical demands of the trail were taking their toll. Up at 5:30, hiking all day, and setting up camp at 7:00 every day was sapping her energy and robbing her of her anticipated spiritual/peaceful experience. She and her dad decided to walk off the trail on April 27 have a last hike from Spivey Gap down into Erwin – a 10.7 mile hike. I was cheering for her and was saddened to see her have to walk away.

 

Just to give you an idea of the similarities and differences in these thru-hikes, let’s look at a comparison.

Two Peas       Dulcigal           Fat Hen           Mustard Seed              Rowdy

Start               Feb 13        March 13       March 19             April 1                    April 26

Fontana         Day 22       Day 20           Day 19                 Day 13                     Day 12

Hot Springs  Day 31        Day 35           Day 32                 Day 22                     Day 19

Erwin             Day 37        Day 39           Day 39                 Day 27                     Day 24

I share this information to show the variance in the pace and speed of the hikers. I also think it interesting to look at the impact of spring weather (those leaving later) has on the hiker experience and ability to log greater distances on drier paths and in warmer temperatures (just my theory).

 

Photos of hikers taken from their online journals – trailjournals.com

Categories: Appalachian Trail, Dulcigal, Fat Hen, Fontana Dam, Georgia, GSMNP, Hot Springs, Mark Holmgren, Mustard Seed, Springer Mountain, Tennessee, The Coopers, Thru-Hike, Tn, Trail Name, Two Peas, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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