Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 62, 16 May - Day 76, 30 May

Mom and I have made it to Erwin, TN.  We are doing good, I am still having some achey ankles, but definitely better than before.  We are concerned that we are behind schedule and will not be able to make it to Mt. Katahdin, ME, the endpoint, before it closes 15 Oct so we have picked up Mom's car from Doc, my CVMA brother, in GA and along with another thru-hiker will slack pack for a week or so to get caught up on miles.  Another CVMA brother, Gary, and his wife Sharon live here near Erwin and drove mom and I to her car in GA.  We are truly indebted to their generosity.  Getting mom's car and using it to slackpack will cost us much less, than if we paid for shuttles, and money is getting very tight.  We have been watching our expenses from the get go but the extra days of recuperation needed and better dry bags and Hendo's new backpack have made a significant dent. But we will continue to trudge onwards.

Regarding Hendo's pack, I never should have bought the one that I did, but didn't know it at the time.  It is a 70 liter pack, far bigger and way more heavier than I need.  Because it is designed to carry 70 liters of stuff it has a very robust back support and waist band which have been rubbing sores on my back and waist.  I ended up just having to purchase a new smaller and lighterweight pack, it is a GoLite Jam 50, and weighs 1lb 17oz compared to my old one of 5lb 14oz.  It was not an expense we really wanted to expend, but I just couldn't continue on with my original pack.

I have been slacking on my daily journal so going to do a quick rundown of the last section from Hot Springs, NC to Erwin, TN.  This is by far my favorite section we have hiked yet.

Day 62, Fri 16 May, 275.9 miles
The bad part about going down into town is that you have to hike back up out of town.  We didn't leave Hot Springs until 1600 hrs, as it was raining on and off all day, so we waited until the skies cleared and just hiked out of town 2 miles and set up camp. The all day rain pushed the French Broad River to its max.
French Broad River lapping at the AT.

Looking down on Hot Springs, goodbye.

Day 63, Sat 17 May, 282.2 miles
Cute pond and amazing block dam

Amazing block dam.

Day 64, Sun 18 May, 286.7 miles
Just another day of trudging

Day 65, Mon 19 May, 295.6 miles
And of trudging north

Day 66, Tues 20 May, 300.3 miles
Today was a very cool day.  We climbed over Big Firescald Knob and passed the 300 mile mark, whoohoo!!
The beginning of the climb up Big Firescald Knob. Of course we followed the white blazes and didn't take the easy route.

A taste of Firescald, even with the amazing trail work, Firescald was quite a fun challenge.

Enjoying lunch on top Firescald.

Hendo's Mom and Hendo enjoyimg the view ontop Firescald

One of the few flat sections of the trail, on our way to 300 mile mark

300 miles walked!!!!!!

Day 67, Wed 21 May, 309 miles

Pretty meadow of flowers going over Big Butt Mtn

The big split rock resembling a butt that Big Butt Mountain is named after.

Hendo trudging north

Hendo hiking through a rhododendron grove

Day 68, Thur 22 May, 316.6 miles

Taking the stairs over the fence on the trail at Devil's Fork Gap

Gorgeous creek cascade in lush may apples and ferns

Day 69, Fri 23 May, 322.3 miles
Today we got awesome trail magic at Sam's Gap.  A former thru-hiker, Long Trail, showed up with beer, donuts and oranges, what else could you want at 1030hrs...thank you!!!!!  

On the south side of Sam's Gap, we had showers this morning at 0800hrs, we just waited in our tent until they passed.  On the north side of Sam's Gap, however, they had extreme storms and at least a dozen trees had been blown down across the trail.

Day 70, Sat 24 May, 330.8 miles
We spent last night just below the summit of Big Bald, so this morning we hiked up and had breakfast ontop of Big Bald.  We met a group of 6 who were visiting for the weekend up from Atlanta.  We also met a family who was day hiking for the day.  The family gave us some bottled water which was greatly appreciated.  Their 6 yr old daughter said she woulld push me to Maine in their all-terrain baby stroller if I provided her with unlimited blue Jolly Ranchers and sweet tea...DEAL!!!!!  

Hiking down Big Bald we came across these 2 folding chairs in the middle of nowhere, we made good use of them.

When we got to Spivey Gap we got some more trailmagic, two bananas left of the trunk of a white Toyota Corolla...just what we needed after a long day of hiking!!!

Day 71, Sun 25 May, 341.5 miles
Hendo crossing a footbridge on our way into Erwin.

Made it into Erwin, TN...yay!!!  We are staying at Uncle Johny's Hostel.  Showers, laundry and hot food!!!  Two day hikers we met on the trail gave us a ride to dinner, awesome trailmagic!!!

Day 72, mon 26 May, Zero Day
On the trail this year, two hikers have taken on somewhat celebrity status.  One is Engineer who is a civil engineer and leaves amazing drawingsas part of his entries in the log books; another is Color Bandit, who is packing along colored pencils and writes his journal entries in a multicolored fashion and also colors in Engineer's drawings; lastly is Lint who is working on completinhg his triple triple crown.  The triple crown is completing the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, Lint is working on completing all three three times....AMAZING!!!!!  Can't wait to meet Engineer one day!!
Hendo and Color Bandit

Lint and Hendo

Day 73, Tues 27 May
Slackpacked from Iron Mtn Gap to Indian Grave Gap

Day 74 -75
Wednesday we rested, Thursday my CVMA brother Gary and his wife Sharon drove mom and I to Mom's car in Clarksville, GA.  What amazing trail magic and a true trail angel.

Day 76, Fri 30 May, 361.7 miles
Today we slackpacked and completed the 20.2 mile section north of Erwin to Iron Mountain Gap.  Tonight we meet up with our trail buddy Blue Ribbon and will begin our 2-3 weeks of slackpacking to make up miles.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Days 55-61

Day 55, fri 9 may, 240.8 miles
Start Davenport Gap
End Standing Bear Rd

We got out of Newport a litle later than planned because the walk to Walgreens o get Mom's prescription was much farther than what we had been told. But it was all good, we got the prescription and had Newport Taxi drop us back off at Davenport Gap.  We hiked 4 miles and stopped along a nice creek for the night.  We got our tent set up and dinner finished just in time for it to start raining.
Usually the trail is marked by whiteblazes, but at this juncture there was nowhere to paint a blaze, so to help we hikers a trail angel was nice enough to put up a sign.


The AT passes under I40, notice the whiteblazes painted on the poles under the I40 signs.

The trail passing under I40

Day 56, Sat 10 May, 247.7 miles
Start Standing Bear Rd
End Groundhog Creek Shelter

Today was a rather challenging hike, the trail went on and on to get to the top of Snowbird Mtn.  It rained on and off during the day and we were ready to get out of our wet clothes when we got to the shelter.  We met Leaf Tree, a former thru-hiker, who was out hiking for 30 days at Groundhog shelter.  He was very encouraging to us and our slower hike pace and had some great advice, most importantly to remember to have fun and enjoy the hike.  It canbe easy to forget to have fun and turn your daily hiking into a job.  We hung out our wet clothes to dry, set up camp, ate dinner and called it a night.
When trees aren't available to paint with blazes, fence posts are used instead.  Mom summitting Snowbird Mountain.

Day 57, Sun 11 May, 254.1 miles
Start Groundhog Creek
End Max Patch Summit
Solid day of hiking.  Looks can be deceiving, a couple of the climbs looked like little up and overs, but turned out to be much more drawn out and taxing.  However, we made it and were rewarded with a beautiful evening of camping on top of Max Patch.
Hendo summitting Max Patch

Mother's Day on top Max Patch

Camping on top of Max Patch, sunset

Sunset on top of Max Patch

Sunrise on top of Max Patch

Day 58, Mon 12 May, 260.8
Start Max Patch Summit
End Walnut Mtn Shelter
Woke up to a beautiful sunrise, grabbed a quick bite and hit the trail. We stopped at a shelter 2 miles up the trail for a full breakfast of oatmeal and coffee.  tomorrow we head into Hot Springs, and are looking forward to the rest.  Met Poppy, a fellow paratrooper;  an Air Force vetran a cool husband and wife who were section hiking; and Blue Ribbon, the guy who brought us our food bag.  They are headed into Hot Springs, so should get to hang out again.

Day 59, Tues 13 May, 273.9
Start Walnut Mtn Shelter
End Hot Springs, NC

Whoo doggy, our longest day, 13 miles.  Even though the guide book showed the trail was downhill into Hot Springs, there were some killer uphills hidden in the trek.  The first killer uphill was Bluff Mtn, it went on forever, repeatedly bluffing you that you were at the summit.  The next killer climb was coming out of Garenflo Gap.  We stopped at the last shelter, 3 miles outside Hot Springs for a brief rest.  Approximately 10 minutes after gettinhg back on the trail the skiez opened up and it began to storm.  Thunder and lightning are so much louder when you are up in the mountains.  We got into town and looked like drowned rats.  We were able to get beds at the Laughing Heart Hostel and enjoyed hot showers and dry beds.

Day 60, Wed 14 May
Zero day in Hot Springs.

Today we checked out of Laughing Heart and went to Elmer's Sunnybank Inn for tonight and tomorrow night.  Sunnybank is where Earl Shaffer, WWII veteran and first AT thru-hiker, stayed when he hiked the trail in 1948 and 1998. We were even lucky enough to stay in the same room Earl stayed in.  We had dinner at Sunnybank this evening and it was glorious, Elmer is a professional chef and he doesn't disappoint.
The room Earl Shaffer stayed in at Sunnybank Inn, Hot Springs, NC, Room 4

Room 4

Day 61, Thurs 15 May
Zero day Hot Springs.

We were going to head back onto the trail today, but it is raining today, so we decided to stay another day/night.  Hot Springs and Sunnybank are so soothing for your mind, body and soul, that it is easy to get sucked into the Hot Springs vortex.  We have been hiking hard though and are enjoying the rest.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Days 49-54 Smoked the Smokys

We just finished hiking through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and have come into Newport, TN for the night to re-supply.  I didn't have the time to do a detailed post, but wanted to get the rest of our Smoky pics up and a few bullets.  I will fillin the details when we get to HotSprings, NC.

Day 49, Sat 3 May, 202.3 miles
Start Clingmans Dome
End Mt Collins Shelter

- met four ladies who we hiking a section of the Smokys, amateurs so we helped them out and taught them a few tricks/skills,
- mice weren't an issue at this shelter, a psycho red squirrel was
-shelter was 0.5 miles off trail, never would have stayed here is we didn't have to camp at shelter sites only
We made it to Clingmans Dome, highest point on bgthe AT,
 6655 ft.

We made it to the 200 mile mark, spelling out 200 in roman numerals "CC"

Mom standing next to a giant hemlock rootball, the hemlocks are being killed by a bug from Asia and eventually get blown over by storms.

Mom in the hemlock forest, notice all the dead trees, very spooky

Psycho red squirrel at Mt Collins shelter

Day 50, Sun 4 May, 209.8 miles
Start Mt Collins
End Icewater Spring Shelter
-Annoying chick i will refer to as Giggles keptus awake all night giggling, most of our fellow hikers are awesome, but there is always that one
- Amazing view at this shelter
-Met a woman named Tanya and her husband dayhiking on the trail.  They started conversing with us and we explained what we were doing and they donated cash on the spot to our cause!!!
The view from our "kitchen"/shelter Sunday morning

Day 51, Mon 5 May, 217.2 miles
Start Icewater Spring Shelter
End Pecks Corner Shelter
-Climbed Charlie's Bunion
-met Bob from Illinois who donated cash on the spotto our cause!!!!
-another shleter .5 miles off trail
-Met research scientists from Canada, study lemurs in madagascar.

Charlie's Bunion

Closer view of Charlie's Bunion

Hendo's Mom on top of Charlie's Bunion

Hendo on top of Charlie's Bunion

Day 52, Tues 6 May, 222.4 miles
Start Pecks
End Tri-Corner
Lemur Scientists hiked to Tri-corner as well, had a good time visiting, getting trail legs and feet

Day 53 , Wed 7 May, 230.1 miles
Start Tri-Corner Shelter
End Cosby knob Shelter
Most people on the trail nice and couteous, however a few are not. I don't know what her real ot trail name is but I will refer to her as sqawkbox.  Annoyed everyone this morning with her look at me loud melodramatic talking/sqwaking.  Good hike today, I think I finally have my trail legs and feet, no pain at the end of the day, just tired.  Passed plane crash, need to research.  Moms shoulder better, but still irritating her at times, trying to figure out what meds work best and when.  Losts of bear poo but no bears.  Tomorrow is last day in smokies, glad to get out so we can go back to stopping when we want for the end of the day rather than at a shelter.
Cool vista of a plateau off in the distance during our hike

Hendo's Mom hiking through hemlocks, felt like the enchanted forest

Saw lots of bear poo, but no bears

Wreckage from 1984 F4 Phantom crash

Wreckage from 1984 F4 Phantom crash
Day 54, Thurs 8 May
Start Cosby Knob Shelter
End Davenport Gap, North end of Smokys
We did it...we smoked the Smokys!!! Headed into Newport, TN to resupply on food.

Goodbye Smokys, headed on north