Friday, April 29, 2005

April 29-May 1 wandering between TN/NC

April 29, 2005 | Day 33 | Miles 12.2 | Total Miles: 350.8
End: Deep Gap, unofficial campsite, Tent
Well, we woke up to rain and spent a few hours debating back and forth the pros and cons of staying. In the end, hiking won out, and we packed up and headed down the road. It is really hard to leave town when the weather is crappy. It's so tempting to stay. After all you're warm and dry and are voluntarily heading out into wet misery. But town is expensive and also we can't stay in every time it's bad weather so we figured we would suck it up and go hike. We hadn't gotten more than a minute down the road whena car pulled up. It was a woman named "Phoenix", previously a 2005 thru-hiker who decided she didn't like the hiking part of it. So she thought she'd do some trail magic for a bit, as she didn't want to let go of the experience quite yet. She dropped us off at the trailhead and we headed into the woods. It actually let up raining for most of the hike, until we had 4 miles to the camping spot we had picked from the book. Then it downpoured. And that just really sucked as it meant setting up the tent in the rain which is just no fun. But we didn't get the tent inside too wet, which was good. And for now, it's stopped raining but everything is still pretty wet. Maybe we'll get sun one of these days and we'll be able to hang everything out to dry. That would be nice :-) In the end, though, we made the right decision and despite the weather, it's good to be out here.

cloudy, rain, then lots of rain
it was raining this morning...hard. but, we knew that we had to leave town. so, that's what we did...eventually. we just figured that it was going to suck today, so we wanted to get the sucking over as soon as possible. my pack is heavy. we're out for a 5 1/2 day stretch and we have a lot of food. if we're hungry by the end, i'm not sure what we're going to do. i can't carry any more. the problem is we planned to buy some power bars at the grocery store, but they didn't have any. the grocery store was fairly ghetto. so, we panicked. we started picking up all sorts of stuff. we made so much gorp, we left a fairly good sized ziplock bag outside of our hotel room door for anyone to take. when we were hanging the bear bag (you have to hang your food in a tree to keep the bears from eating it, but more on that ridiculousness another time), it was so heavy, it took both of us to hoist it., we tried to eat as much as possible already. so far, thumbs up to the slim-fast meal bars, caramel peanut flavor. they were an experiment, and make a good snack. but, i wouldn't want one for lunch. the verdict is still out on the quaker breakfast bars. the package claims moist and chewy, but in reality...not so much. thumbs down to cracker barrell cheese. i hate the south. there is no good cheese. that is the #1 reason i couldn't live here. cracker barrell is the best you can do, and it tastes like...well, nothing. cabot all the way, baby. we might start logging more miles just to get real cheese. and none of that wisconsin crap, either.
today's song - the river, bruce springsteen...probably inspired by our crossing of the nolichucky river, but it also described the mood. warm and dry? they vanished right into the air. i just act like i don't remember, danielle acts like she don't care...

April 30, 2005 | Day 34 | Miles: 13.1 | Total Miles: 363.9
End: Clyde Smith Shelter
It was a rough day of hiking for us. Ugh. We just couldn't move along as we felt we should. It was a slow morning. We were surprised that none of the people who had camped at Deep Gap with us--Free Radical, Stats and Mud pumpkin, and the Seattle crew-- passed us, but I guess they all got a late start so we managed to stay ahead. We did eke out the last 6 miles in a respectable time, but the first 7 were pretty slow. Maybe it's from all food in our packs. I think we went a bit nuts on our resupply. Too much food! Way too heavy. But we're eating well :-) I guess that's the payoff.
It's currently rainy and the shelter is in the clouds, but we stayed dry while we were walking, which was nice. It's supposed to clear out tomorrow so we'll keep our fingers crossed :-)
We did see a rose-breasted Grosbeak--very cool-- and a red salamander along the trail, which was neat.

cloudy, cool, rain late
we're tired. for some reason, we were just really slow and sluggish today. could still be from the heavy packs, who knows. the trail was fairly rugged today, too. and where it wasn't rugged, it was muddy. really muddy. yawn.

May 1, 2005 | Day 35 | Miles: 12.9 | Total Miles: 376.8
End: Overmountain Shelter
So, you know how on a cold and dreary winter morning it's hard to get out of bed as you know you have to pad down the hall in your bare feet to shower? OK, imagine it's May 1 in the south and you wake up and it's 38 degrees in the shelter and there's a cloud around you and you have to get out of your warm sleeping bag and go take a wilderness poo in the cold, dank morning and then you have to pack up and start hiking up to Roan Mountain at 6285 feet. That was our morning today and it was pretty sucky.
Still, it's amazing what a little bit of sun can do to lift your spirits. The sun came out as we were climbing up Roan, and it didn't warm up, but it did make us feel better. Roan Mt. was really cool--the trail up reminded us of New England with pine trees and its steepness. At the top the trees were all rimed over with ice. Then after Roan Mt., we went over these very cool balds--Round and Jane Balds--open and wide and beautiful. And now we're at this cool shelter which is a converted barn with a gorgeous view out into the valley below. There are about 30 people here, many of whom have caught us with these past few shorter mileage days. We're on the upper floor of the barn. It's still chilly but blue skies. Hopefully it will at least last through tomorrow. So, all in all, after a not-so-great start, it ended up being a good day :-)

fog early, sunny, windy, colder than cool, but cooler than cold
today, i really needed something good to happen. i hit my lowest point this morning. we started from the shelter slowly this was 38 degrees. i was just tired of being wet and cold. my back didn't feel that great. my legs were tired. the trail was really muddy and much steeper than i expected. i was already dreading the climb up (g)roan mountain. basically, everything sucked. i was ready to go home. just be done. then, the sun came out. it got a little warmer. then we started to climb, and it was great everything just turned around. the final climb up roan mountain reminded me so much of maine or new hampshire...the look, the smell. plus, not a cloud in the sky. then we crossed over a couple balds. they were beautiful. this shelter is a huge converted barn, and really cool. everything's great. one of the best days yet. it really is a roller coaster out here. i also remembered that i don't want to go home. i really enjoy putting the pack on and just going...somewhere.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

April 27-28 wandering between NC/TN

April 27, 2005 | Day 31 | Miles: 20.6 | Total 332.4
End: No Business Knob Shelter, Tent
A bit of everything
So despite the little bit of everything thrown at us by Mother Nature (cold, wind, hail, rain, a few rays of sun), combined with all the mud on the trail, which made for a slip and slide fest, we managed to do our biggest mileage day yet. 20.6m. Wohoo! We started at 8:10am and got here about 5:45pm. Not bad for 20 miles :-) But boy, am I tired! I think we'll sleep well tonight...
We did go over a beautiful bald today, with the wind whipping us around, and sun shining down in the valley (although not on us). Great views.
Ryan had a rough start to the day, but he was tough and we pulled through. We were rewarded at dinner tonight with the wonderful Lindt truffles that our friend Gayle sent us in a little package at Hot Springs. I had saved them and they were a wonderful treat for dessert! Yum. Thanks Gayle :-)
We're looking forward to a short, six-mile day tomorrow into Erwin. And, despite the weather, as always it is good to be here :-)

the everything bagel of weather
a full day of work today. it took us a month, but we finally banged out a 20 mile day. lots of other people have done a lot of longer days, but we've been pretty conservative. but, today's 20 gives us a little over 6 into town tomorrow morning, so we're in great shape. btw, 20 miles is a long way to walk. i failed to mention a significant milestone yesterday - 300 miles. we're impressed. back to today, the weather was stupid. the highlights we're a pinch of sun and a fair amount of hail. rain on either end. so, the trail was mud all day. we've had maybe 3 days that haven't been muddy, but today was very gooshy. all in all, a perfect choice for our first 20. tomorrow, we're headed for erwin, tn. apparently, there is a killer burrito place. but, i doubt they'll match up to the tortilla with peanut butter, gorp and dried apples i had with dinner tonight.

April 28, 2005 | Day 32 | Miles: 6.3 | Total Miles: 338.7
End: Holiday Inn, Erwin, TN
Well, we awoke to sunny skies. A miracle :-) Still cool, but nice for hiking. We only had 6 miles into Erwin, which was good as both of us were feeling a bit stiff from our 20 miles yesterday. Not too bad, but happy for a short day. We reached the road about 10:45am, and as we were walking along toward town, a Caddy stopped next to us and a nice woman asked us where we were headed. We said the PO and she said it was too far to walk, she'd take us there. Cool. She was super nice to do that for us. After we retreived our packages, we headed for Erwin Burrito, owned by a former thru-hiker. We got nachos and huge burritos--yum! Hit the spot and filled us up--amazing! Then as we were asking the nice lady behind the counter where it would be best to hitch back out to the Holiday Inn, a woman who was eating said she was leaving in 5 minutes and would take us there. Wow! Cool. We didn't even have to hitch. People here are so nice! So, we're currently drying our gear out in the room, all clean with clean clothes on, and extra full from the free pint of Ben & Jerry's they give hikers per room for staying here. Ahhhh. What else could we ask for? :-)

sunny am, then all rain
so, you're a stinky hiker, wandering down a random road in tennessee. do you expect to get a ride from an old woman in a cadillac, who's excited about the new wal-mart coming to town? me neither. but, strange things happen. that was our introduction to erwin. i've dubbed it the friendlist place you never want to go. but, if you do find yourself here, go to erwin burrito. very tasty...and big. mmmmmm.... quote of the day: "we have 5 kids and one on the way. but, it's not because we're hicks. i'm not even from here." whatever you say lady, thanks for the ride from erwin burrito to the hotel. yup, two rides without sticking out the thumb once. she was eating burritos with her very armed, very sheriff-like husband. ahhhh...tennessee.

Monday, April 25, 2005

April 25-26 wandering between NC/TN

April 25, 2005 | Day 29 | Miles: 16 | Total Miles: 297.1
End: Jerry Cabin Shelter
Sunny and cool
Two notable things happened today.
One: At 9:45am, we reached a gap where there was a sign to turn right for trail magic. FAL (Free at last) and Hercules, thru-hikers from 1999, had opened their home to thru-hikers and were serving beef stew (I passed), drinks and a yummy ice cream creation for dessert. Perfect snack.
It was so generous of them to do this! What a wonderful treat. All this trail magic really restores our faith in human kindness. We can't wait to do some of our own next year :-)
Two: Bizarre occurrence of the day. This afternoon, we were hiking along near Crazy Legs and Montana Gal, two of a four-person crew, with Catch23 and Scavenger, from the west, who are all very cool. Crazy Legs and catch23 did the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from Mexico up through California. Supposed to be gorgeous. Anyway, we're hiking along and we see a male peacock in the trail. Decorative peacock with blue neck and huge 4-ft. plummage. It looked like a hallucination, and might have been if we weren't all there. It was not scared of us and as we snapped photos, it settled down in the trail, and then wandered off through the woods. Crazy! What is the natural environment of a peacock? It can't be the NC woods! What was it doing there? DOUG, our resident bird expert, can you clue us in please?! Kept us laughing for the rest of the afternoon. Bizarre! :-)

Ryan, April 25:
sunny, cold, breezy
peacocks are not indigenous to north carolina, right? then what was it doing in the middle of the trail? let's just say it was a bit unexpected. great trail magic today from former thruhikers, hercules and fal, who moved 300 yards from the trail. very cool. "oh, i guess i can have some ice cream." so, we walked today and it was beautiful. no complaints. getting ready for rain tomorrow.

April 26, 2005 | Day 30 | Miles 14.7 | Total Miles: 311.8
End: Hogback Ridge Shelter
Cold, windy and overcast
Well, another cold morning. Brrrr... But on we hike. We passed the 300 mile mark today. Wow. That's pretty cool. It really was a nice day of hiking. We went through some old farming meadows and went up along a beautiful stream with a big waterfall. We hiked most of the morning with Free Radical and he was telling silly jokes the whole time. My favorite: What is red, green and flies? Super Pickle! Of course :-) Should have guessed that.
We got into this shelter a bit early, at 2:45pm, after leaving at 8:10am. We had contemplated going on, but I was feeling pretty tired for the last few miles, so we decided to stay here. Also it's supposed to rain today--who knows? It hasn't yet--so we're in the shelter just in case. Three days of shelter living. We're getting soft :-) It's pretty chilly and windy though, so we'll likely be in our bags early. I picked up a book at Jerry Cabin--there were a few left in the register bin. It's about the 1925 dog team relay of diptheria serum up to Nome, Alaska, which is the route the Ididarod currently runs on. Sounds interesting.
If we can, we'll do 20m tomorrow, so we only have 6m into Erwin the next day. Then we should be able to get all our errands done that afternoon and get back out the next morning. But we'll see how it goes... :-)

mostly cloudy, windy
three nights in a row in shelters. rare for us. the first night, it was just cold. last night, we thought it was going to rain overnight. tonight, it definitely looks like it's going to rain. so, we're under cover. we've lucked out with the rain so far in the last couple days. i probably never should have typed that. today was great. we started with a climb over a bald...which was named big butt mountain. long climb later in the day with a nice waterfall. decent views. no complaints. we did see a bunch of bear tracks along the trail, which was cool. danielle was feeling a little tired in the afternoon...we did do 30+ miles in the last two days. we're on good pace to, no worries. stomach is rumbling...dinnertime.
today's song - heavy cloud, no rain - sting

Saturday, April 23, 2005

April 23-24 wandering between TN/NC

April 23, 2005 | Day 27 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 270.7
End: Cody House Hostel, Hot Springs, NC
Rainy and cold
Well, remember how I said we were leaving today? Again, flexibility is the name of the game out here, and as it was rainy, windy and cold, and they're calling for snow tonight, we decided to stay another night. Really we had originally planned to hike out on Sunday, so this just puts us back on that schedule. Two days off is a lot, but hopefully it will mean we're well rested when we take off tomorrow. We haven't done much today. Big breakfast, checked our email and labeled our photos on our webpage, made some phone calls and wandered around town for a bit. There are a lot of hikers and people around for the hiker fest, but we've been trying to just stay out of the way and mellow out, versus doing the partying thing.
We've met a few new people-- Spoonman, this big dude with a red beard, vegetarian and super nice and intelligent. We've had fun chatting with him. Also Sweet Sixteen, a 63-year old grandmother who is super sweet, and who had planned to just do 6 weeks on the trail, but who is now planning to continue on to Damascus, and then hike further with her husband who is coming out to meet her there. Very cool.
Anyway, we will definitely be back on the trail tomorrow! Two full days in town is a lot, and we still have miles to walk... Gotta keep at it :-)

cold, rainy, windy, yuk
we planned to leave. it's nasty out. if you're out on the trail, you deal with it. but if you're in town, you have a chance to keep out of a nasty situation. so, we're relaxing. tomorrow, we'll get back to it. we're still ahead of our original schedule...and thai food is in our future.

April 24, 2005 | Day 28 | Miles: 11 | Total Miles: 281.7
End: Spring Mountain Shelter
Snowy and windy
Well, we woke up to snow, so we left in the snow. Town couldn't suck us in for another day. We were out of there! It actually was quite pretty and the woods were quiet. The snow really had accumulated in some spots and it looked like we were back in winter. And felt like it too. It was cold and windy in spots but it's amazing how much heat you generate while you're walking. The choice for shelters today was either 11m or 20m, and we really didn't have it in us to pull off the 20m, so here we are. It's a tiny shelter, but we managed to get some floor space, so we didn't have to set up the tent in the snow. But we could have--we did buy new tent stakes in Hot Springs to replace the ones I lost :-) It's currently 6:20pm, and most of us are in our sleeping bags already. It's only 34 degrees out, so we're in for a cold night. Maybe it will warm up tomorrow?! :-)

snow, cold, windy
we just had to get out of town. it's probably going to be a cold night, but too much time in town was driving me nuts. too many damn thruhikers. plus, we were cramped in this little hostel with no personal space. then again, as i write this, we're crammed in a little shelter that barely holds 6 of us. it was a beautiful day to hike, actually. even with the cold. but, then again, i don't mind the cold. well, except for my feet right, i'm gonna go take care of that.
today's song - blue sky mining, midnight oil

Thursday, April 21, 2005

April 21-22 wandering between NC/TN

April 21, 2005 | Day 25 | Miles 18.8 | Total Miles: 270.7
End: Alpine Motel, Hot Springs, NC
Sunny, hot
Well, you know how yesterday I said we were going to take our time and get into town on Friday? Well, being flexible is the name of the game out here and tahdah! here we are in town today. Our biggest day yet. How did it happen? We got out around 8:30am, and hiked steadily all day. We had heard it was supposed to rain, so we both had on our pack covers all day and they worked out great as anti-rain devices. No rain all day! Yeah. We got to the shelter 3m before town at 3:00pm. The shelter was really tiny, so we sat eating a snack and discussing our options. Pitch the tent, stay in the tiny, old shelter, or book down 3 more miles to town and hopefully outhike the rain and stay dry, plus get a bed, shower and a beer with dinner. We looked at the maps, and it didn't seem like a bad 3m so we motivated and off we went. Then right after the shelter, up we went. And up. What is this? We're supposed to be going DOWN! Many bad words were being spoken to the hills and trail designers. Ugh. But finally, the trail turned in the right direction and down we went. Into town by 4:15pm. Over 18m in a little less than 8 hours. Pretty good, right? I think so! And we got a shower, bed and good dinner with a beer. What more can you ask for after a long hike? We're happy :-)
Flora and fauna update from today: Saw a bunny, squirrel, big owl scared out of his tree as we hiked by, two little lizards, plus a HUGE 2 ft. black snake in the trail-scary! Flora-wise, irises, maroon, white and off-white trillium, yellow, white, purple and purple & white violets, wood sorrel, ferns, buttercups, yellow paintbrushes, bluets, dogwood trees, rue anemone, trout lilies and many more we can't name. The woods are blanketed with bright green plants and gorgeous flowers. Wonderful!

sunny, warm
well, we finally did more than 15 miles. more importantly, we each ate a pint of ben & jerry's after dinner. how else can you get 1000 calories so quickly? our plan didn't call for that many miles today, but the rumbles of thunder that started at 1:30 and the draw of town helped us through the last 3 miles. of course, the map and the guidebook said that from the shelter 3 miles out it was all downhill. but as soon as we left the shelter, we started to climb. needless to say, we were pretty grouchy and we spent the next mile or so cursing the trail, the trailmakers, the guidebook, the map, and everything else we could think of. more than a few f-bombs were dropped by our happy little band. we're looking forward to a day off tomorrow, and then back on the trail on saturday...unless the draw of hikerfest is too strong. so far, all we know about hikerfest is that it involves beer...lots of beer...

April 22, 2005 | Day 26 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 270.7
End: Cody House Hostel, Hot Springs, NC
Muggy and rainy
Ahh, a zero day. Sounds relaxing right? Ha! We split a room last night with Patch, and good god! Boy, he was a chainsaw. Ryan was literally poking him with his hiking pole in an attempt to shut him up repeatedly throughout the night. Patch was lucky I was there, or Ryan would have thrown him out at 3am. Ugh. Not much sleep for us. Oh well. Then I was up at 8am to get our stuff into the laundry (it was closed last night), went to the PO to send a box of food stuffs and such forward to Erwin, TN, our next stop (as you can tell, we really do keep switching between NC and TN for a while here), packed up our packs and headed to Elmer's, which is an old inn we had called from Standing Bear Farm for a room on Friday night. But when we got there they didn't seem to have our names down, although they said they could squeeze us into the greenhouse. Hmmmm... Literally an old greenhouse with all sorts of junk and a double bed. We figured it would be OK, but then it started to pour and hail, and the greenhouse leaked and it was super musty. I could barely breathe. My allergies are really kicking in down here. Ryan was kind of pissed that they didn't have a regular room for us when we had called in advance, and then the roof was leaking, so we decided this was not for us. So off we went. We finally ended up at this house, which has been converted into a hostel type place. But when we put down our stuff, then there was a miscommunication, as the owners through others were staying, but we were there first, etc, etc. It finally worked out and here we are. Very clean and cheap. We also went to the outfitter, and got a few odds and ends plus fuel for the stove and food to supplement our mail drop box, plus checked our email. Ah, everything accomplished. 3pm. We can finally relax for the day. We're headed to the ayce spaghetti dinner tonight which is part of the hiker fest this weekend. There are other festivities going on throughout the weekend, but we've decided that one day off is enough, so we'll be taking off tomorrow after a big breakfast at the diner. Back to the woods and "reality" for us :-)

cloudy, heavy rain, hail
well, we picked a good day to take a day off. it was planned, and the weather is pretty bad. plus, we're pretty tired...not a lot of sleep last night. we each ate a pint of ben & jerry's, so i think the chocolate ice cream kept us awake. finally, at about 11:30 we decided to try to sleep, but without a lot of success. because of the trailfest that's going on in town, there are a ton of hikers in town, so rooms are scarce. so, we decided to share a room with patch. patch was out a little later than us, and finally got back to the room at about 12:30, after a couple more beers than we had had. (keep in mind, that we like patch a lot.) he tried not to wake us up, but the room was littered with gear, and he tripped. he hit his mouth on something, and started bleeding. so, he had to spend a few moments in the bathroom to fix that. when he emerged, he apologized for waking us up, babbled a little, we chatted, and he nodded off. the last thing he said was "don't worry, i don't snore." within about 15 minutes it began...not just snoring, but a loud rumbling. danielle was closer, so she was able to kick his bed and get him to stop. but, everytime she kicked, the louder it got. so, we grabbed our earplugs...they couldn't stop it. then after fits and starts of sleep at about 2:15, we heard patch tossing and turning, then a crash. we're pretty sure he fell out of bed. he stumbled around for awhile trying to right himself, then he crashed into the tv and knocked over the direct tv box. after that situation was resolved, he climbed back into bed, and no more than 2 seconds later he was snoring again. more wouldn't stop. although, he did start talking...about zippy. who's zippy? finally, at about 3:15, i grabbed my hiking pole, and beat him with it. i wanted to drag him outside and throw his tent at him, but danielle wouldn't let me. so, i laid on my back with my pole across my chest. everytime he snored, i reached across danielle and whacked him. at some point it stopped, but we're still on trail time so we were up before 8:00. as i groaned and climbed out of bed, patch asked, "what's your problem? you didn't drink that much last night."

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

April 19-20 wandering between TN/NC

April 19, 2005 | Day 23 | Miles 3.3 | Total Miles 237.3
End: Standing Bear Farm, a homestead in the middle of nowhere, Hartford, TN
Sunny and warm
Well, after I wrote my journal last night, the mice came out. And they were friendly. One of them came right up next to me and scared the crap out of me. Nasty buggers. The shelter was down low, at 2600ft, and much warmer, so I think because of that they were out. Oh well. They didn't get into any of our stuff, so that was good.
It was only 5 of us last night. Drumsick and Six-Piece were there when we got back up from Mountain Momma's, and then later Charlie came in. He did a 27-mile day. Whoa! He is on a roll. Trying to meet someone in Hot Springs tomorrow. Drumstick was playing his guitar. He's a great guy, really nice and funny. We really have met some fun and great people out here. That has been one of the best parts of the trail, all the interesting people we've met. And the trail kind of equals us all out, we're all out here doing the same thing, the same miles. Makes for a great community.
So, today we had a nice, mellow 3 miles out of the Smokies. The Smokies have been some of the best hiking so far. Beautiful terrain and we lucked out on weather. We got out of the park with no rain. Yes! We are currently sitting at Standing Bear Farm, a homestead a few hundred yards off the trail, with a few cabins, a bunkhouse, a kitchen area, an internet/laundry/phone area, and a stream, fire pit, shower, etc. Great, lowkey place to hang out.
Patch and Strider have caught up to us here, although Peanut, Thirsty and Ribeye are now ahead. That's how it goes, you are with a group, it disbands, and then you find a new group, then you meet up with old friends. Lots of leapfrogging going on. But I think everyone will be in Hot Springs this weekend. There is a hiker fest going on, so it's going to be a busy place. Should be fun.
So, it's been three weeks, what have I learned? We love our chair converters; we get stinky out here and there is nothing you can do about it, you just smell; 7 days of food is heavy but we could eat it all or more; there are some great people out here and it's a wonderful community of strangers who act like friends and become them quickly; we've used everything in our packs, except some of the first aid stuff, and the big mitts and iPod we sent home at NOC; hiking is hard, but rewarding, and now 12 miles is an "easy" day--how did that happen?; we are tough! With our aches and pains and everything else, we are loving it and we can make it. We're in this together and that makes it all the better. We are so happy to be out here. It is great :-) Can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be, and anyone else I'd rather do this with than Ryan. Loving life and feeling good :-)

sunny, warm
a beautiful day to sit around and do nothing. well, not completely nothing...we did hike 3 miles...and eat a lot. we also crossed under interstate that's the excitement. back to relaxing.
today's song - cat scratch fever, ted nugent...our most gracious and wonderful host, curtis, looks just like the motor city madman.

April 20, 2005 | Day 24 | Miles 14.6 | Total Miles: 251.9
End: unofficial campsite near new Roaring Fork Shelter, Tent
Sunny, hot
After a fire in the firepit and a game of poker (Strider took us all out--me first, then Ryan and Patch on the same hand, then Hazy Sonic, all while drinking the Manhattans that his girlfriend sent along in his maildrop), we awoke to another beautiful day. Standing Bear Farm was a great place to stay, but we still set out at 8:25 and managed to do 9.6m before lunch at 12:30--we're getting in hiking shape :-) We saw a beautiful patch of wild irises along the way, only about 4 inches tall with 2-inch tall light purple flowers. There are some gorgeous flowers out here! Of course there is also lots of poison ivy down low too, so I guess you take the good with the bad...
We went over Max Patch today, a beautiful, mile-long bald up at 4600ft. Amazing to come up out of the woods and see this huge grassy hill before you. And it just stretched on forever. Great views. We ended up hanging out on the top with a bunch of hikers. A 2003 thru-hiker had brought up beer and goodies earlier in the day. The beer was gone by the time we got there, but we had a soda, took off our shoes, sat down and took in the views for an hour or so. Very nice. We weren't in any rush to get anywhere, but finally left around 5pm, when we started to get hungry. We're currently the only ones in this little campsite by the river. Wow the first time we've been alone camping. The new shelter isn't yet completed, and most people headed on through. There is even a crew of 6 --Beantown, Drumstick, Six-Piece, Wiggy, Horizon, Jersey Fresh-- who are thinking of hiking through the night and getting into Hot Springs early tomrrow morning. Crazy boys. It's 18m from here, and they'd all hiked at least 12m earlier today. Yikes! Not for us, thanks. We'll have a good day tomorrow and then a short hike in on Friday, perfect.
Great day. Happy as always to be out here :-)

sunny, warm
it was tough to break free of the vortex of standing bear farm, but we managed to get back on the trail. standing bear farm was great. curtis and his wife, maria, have turned their homestead into the perfect hiker hostel. bunkhouse, cabin, showers, outdoor kitchen, laundry, internet, firepit...all on this great piece of land right in front of their house. plus, there's a creek running down the middle of it all. oh yeah, for those keeping score danielle and i are +8 bucks in our one dollar poker games. i'm sure danielle wrote that max patch mountain was the highlight of the day, but i can trump that. i got danielle to sit and do nothing for two hours today...two whole hours...nothing. when we arrived at the summit of max patch a past thruhiker, spiff, had set up a little trail magic...most of the goodies were gone when we arrived, but a soda under the sun on this perfect day was sweet. so, we sat and chatted with the group of ten or so that was also doing nothing. can you believe it? she did nothing.
today's song - like humans do, david byrne

Monday, April 18, 2005

April 18 in the Smokies

April 18, 2005 | Day 22 | Miles: 14.8 | Total Miles: 234
End: Davenport Gap Shelter
Sunny and a bit hazy
Another beautiful day in the Smokies! This was the first day we saw a bit of the haze the park is known for, but still we can't complain. We booked through the miles today. The first 7.7m out of the shelter were great, nice and mellow. Plus we had both had a great massage/chiropractic care at the shelter. There was a section hiker who came in, Potholer, and he was a masseuse/chiropractor, and he literally worked on everyone's back,and there were 14 of us! Wow. It was great, and he was super psyched to be helping us all out. He said my back was really tight-oh well, guess that's why it feels that way at the end of the day. I don't know what you can really do about it, there's 30 extra pounds putting pressure on your back. Oh well. He worked on Ryan for a bit too, and taught us all some stretches which seem like they'll be a great help.
In any event, after lunch, which was quite meager (We were almost out of food. It's just amazing that we're so hungry out here. We just can't carry enough to keep up with what we're burning. Someone tell me, how much does a 120lb. woman carrying a 30 lb. pack, hiking 12 to 15 miles a day, burn? I'm curious.), as we were close to out of food, we thought, hmmm, if we make it to the shelter on time, we can drop our stuff, hike down to the road, and get in to Mountain Momma's and eat at the grill before it closes at 5pm. Yup, let's do it! So 7m and 2:20 later, we got to the road and hoofed it the 1.3m to the store. It's a total hole in the wall, in the middle of nowhere, and inside it's full of cigarettes, snuff (who does snuff these days?), Dolly Parton memorabelia, model cars, a meager grocery section, and the grill. We both had sandwiches and fries, grabbed a few goodies for tomorrow before we get to Standing Bear, and chatted with the 7 other thru-hikers who had booked it in to get one of the grill's "huge" cheeseburgers. We were all psyched with the extra mileage to get food. Was it decadent, gluttonous or stupid to hike an extra 3 miles today for food? To the "normal" mind, maybe, but not to us. We're full and happy :-) A good day.

Ryan, April 18
sunny, warm
first off, a great story from yesterday. at about 12:30, we had just finished our lunch, and drumstick comes bounding up the trail with his shirt off all excited. "hey guys, how far have we gone?" "about 8 miles." "what time is it?" "about 12:30." "sweet! i started at 10:30. ok, i gotta catch 6-piece...he started an hour and a half before me." and he takes off, basically running. we put on our packs and head off. about half an hour later, we come across drumstick laid out spread eagle on his stomach at the side of the trail. "drumstick, what happened?" "i had to crotch is on fire. since i was running, i got too sweaty and i'm totally chafed." he eventually hiked carefully to the shelter. thankfully, he already has a trailname. last night at the shelter was awesome. the shelter itself was sweet...clean, new, benches, fireplace, and a tarp to lower over the opening. the people were great. drumstick was working the guitar. we had the fire going. then, potholer arrives. he's just section hiking, but it turns out he's a massage therapist/licensed chiropractor/back god. he worked on everyone's back. i feel like a new man. he showed me stretches, and my back/shoulder thing feels much better. he also helped daniele out, too. so, we're feeling pretty good. the hiking today was sweet...a little rolly, but pretty mellow. we had mountain moma's on our mind, so we rocked out the last 7 miles of the day in about 2:20. we dropped our stuff at the shelter, and headed for the road. mountain moma's is a little store in the middle of nowhere, but it's only one mile down the trail, and then 1 mile down a road. to a thruhiker, that walk is a small price to pay for something fresh off a grill. mountain moma's is an interesting place, complete with a shrine to dolly parton. really, it's have to experience it to understand. needless to say, we got fed, got a shuttle back up to the trail and we're full. oh yeah, even though we feasted on chicken sandwiches, french fries and various candy items at around 4:00, we still had a "regular" dinner at the shelter at around 6:30...there's nothing better than second dinner. all in all, it's been a fantastic 24 hours. we've truly enjoyed our time in the smokies...despite the horse poop. tomorrow, we're taking a short day to a hostel, standing bear farm...tonight, we're battling the mice at this shelter. so far...the mice are winning.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

April 16-17 in the Smokies

April 16, 2005 | Day 20 | Miles: 15.5 | Total Miles: 206.6
End: Icewater Spring Shelter, Tent
Sunny and cool
There was frost on the grass this morning. But we couldn't ask for anything more. A bright clear day. Beautiful. We are lucking out with the weather, and we won't complain. We got to Clingman's Dome (6643 feet) for morning snack and got some unexpected trail magic. Free Radical's friend is joining him for a section of the trail and his mom brought up chocolate chunk cookies. And she wouldn't let us take just one, so after three huge cookies we were geared up for the next few miles. Yum!
The 15.5m today seemed much nicer than yesterday's 14m, and we had great terrain and views as we wandered through the Smokies. Very nice. The shelter is up at 5900 feet, so it's pretty chilly again, but we're sitting around the fire, chatting and eating.
We also lucked out tonight, as Wiggy brought up some pizza from Gatlinburg. He hitched in and hitched back out and strapped the pizza box to his pack. Awesome!
The only bummer of the day was that as we were setting up our tent (when the shelter is full, thru-hikers can tent, and it was Saturday night, so we decided to tent), we realized I had forgotten the tent stakes somewhere. How, I do not know, but at either Fontana Dam or the first shelter, there they are. Oh well. We were able to borrow stakes from Hopeful and Redwing, and we should be able to buy new ones at Standing Bear or Hot Springs. But still, ACK! I hate that I left them behind. Not the biggest deal, but still a bummer.
Anyway, other than that, a great day.

sunny, cool
let's was beautiful today, the views are amazing, we're in with a great group of, what more can i say. oh yeah, we climbed clingmans dome today, the highest point on the at. it was underwhelming, but there was this strange ramped observation tower.
today's song - yellow ledbetter, pearl jam - thanks to free radical who was busting out the pearl jam tunes on drumstick's guitar last night. drumstick carries a guitar, not a drum. he's kinda skinny and hikes with 6-piece, who's more bucket shaped. they're from kentucky. i'll let you figure out the rest...

April 17, 2005 | Day 21 | Miles 12.6 | Total Miles: 219.2
End: Tri-Corner Knob Shelter
Sunny and cool again! Yeah
I woke up at 6:30am to pee, and was rewarded with a beautiful sunrise. Gorgeous. They did a great job of situating the shelter. Wonderful views. What a way to start another great day. Chilly again, though.
The first 7 miles were nice and mellow, wandering along this partially-treed ridge, with great views on each side out in both directions. And the thing that has amazed us through the park is that we're up at 5000 and 6000 feet and there are big trees, so different from the Whites where above 4000 feet it's typically rocks and an alpine environment. We've really been enjoying the Smokies. They're very beautiful, at least the section we've gone through so far.
There are a few people who are trying to do 20 miles today, as the next shelter is 8m from here, and as I said before we have to stay at a shelter. We talked about it, and I'm sure we could do it, but decided that we really didn't need to push through today. We're on a good schedule, and we've been doing some good miles through the park already, so no need to rush. It's a beautiful day and we're currently sitting in the sun by the shelter, chatting with Drumstick and Six-Piece, two friends from Kentucky. Drumstick is carrying a guitar, so I'm sure we'll be hearing some music tonight.

sunny, cool, breezy
i forgot about two things from yesterday...i'm not sure how. first, the good - wiggy brought pizza to the shelter after he hitched from gatlinburg. now, the bad - danielle realized she was no longer carrying the tent stakes. luckily, we were about to borrow stakes from hopeful and redwing because they were staying in the shelter. plus, i think we'll be in shelters until we have a chance to pick up more. today we had the choice to do either 12 or 20...12 was the obvious choice. we made a great decision, and had a great walk today. it's amazing that 12 miles can be an easy day. feels like we're really getting into shape. more good news, as we're now 10% finished. only 90% to go. well, it's a good milestone. danielle was tired today, and her back is sore. she's hanging tough, though. we're really having a good time, even though it's not exactly easy.

Friday, April 15, 2005

April 14-15 in the Smokies

April 14, 2005 | Day 18 | Miles: 13.5 | Total Miles: 176.4
End: Russell Field Shelter
Sunny and cool
A beautiful sunny day to start our trip through the Smokies. Blue skies. Yeah! From here on out we meander along the NC/TN border for many miles, so we'll be stepping in and out as we wander along.
Our first 0.4m was over Fontana Dam, which was really pretty crazy. It is a big dam. The way across was a two-way road, and really quiet on a Thursday morning. Then up and along, wandering through the woods. The hiking was up and down but much more mellow than previous terrain, which was great. After lunch, we came across this great high hill where the whole forest floor was blanketed with wood sorrel, a delicate small white flower with pink stripes. A beautiful covering of green with tinted white on top. Almost like snow. And it went on for about a half mile all through the woods on both sides of the trail. Never seen anything like it. Very cool.
So, the Smokies are different than a lot of the places we've been so far in that you must stay in a shelter, due to their regulations. And some of the shelters have been renovated, but others, like we're at tonight, were built in the 60s and have a chainlink fence blocking off the open side of the three-sided shelter. Keeping the people in, and bears out is the theory behind the fence, I believe. The renovated shelters have done away with the fences however, which is nice, and have more space as well as a covered cooking area. This shelter is a bit dank, but they require you to stay in the shelter unless the shelter is full. We're shooting for a renovated shelter tomorrow :-)
Despite the beautiful day, the emotions were running a bit in the other direction this morning. It's really hard to watch the person you love be hurting. Ryan's shoulder is still hurting him, and it kills me to see him wincing as we hike along. I mean, we knew there would be aches and pains but the thing is to be happy out here. When do you cross the line between following your desires and hurting your body to continue? Ryan really wants to keep going, and of course I do too, and we're having a blast, but the thing is to be happy and be together, and not be hurt. So there has been some discussions as well as some tears, and for now we're continuing on with this crazy adventure, but really I'd rather be without the crazy adventure and with a happy, healthy Ryan, than without Ryan on this crazy adventure. The whole point is to be out here together enjoying it. Ryan is trying to manage the pain, and seems to be OK for now, so we'll take it one day at a time, and just be happy to be out here together for now, enjoying the moments as they come...

sunny, cool
the at is a roller coaster. not just because of all the ups and downs around the mountains, but the emotions. my shoulder/back/neck is still hurting. not nearly as bad as the other day, but i spent most of the day moving my pack around my back to make it more comfortable. i think i can manage it...or at least i hope i can. it's tough because i don't want to stop. not just because i want to get to katahdin, but because i really don't want to stop. every day is great...even when it sucks. i can't think of anything i'd rather be doing. so, we've been running the emotional roller coaster from tears to laughter. the best part is being with danielle. she has been awesome. i have no doubt that she could make it the whole way. she's a rock...maybe tougher. we signed on for this as a team, and we're going to go as far as we can go. if i can't make it, i'd love to see her rock it out, cause i know she could. but, she says she only wants to do this with me. so, here we are...planning to move on tomorrow. we'll see what tomorrow brings. on the flip side, we have less than 2000 miles to go, and so far the smokies are beautiful...another great day on the trail.

April 15, 2005 | Day 19 | Miles: 14.7 | Total Miles: 191.1
End: Silers Bald Shelter
Sunny and nice
What a day! We couldn't ask for anything more. Well, maybe our food and water to weigh nothing at all, and endless ice cream along the trail, but otherwise nice, clear weather is the best! :-) Ryan was feeling good today, and learned some new stretches from Ribeye last night, so that was good.
We're with a good crew right now --Peanut, Ribeye and Thirsty, a petite woman, constantly meat-eating man, and a thirsty man; Beantown, from Boston; Free Radical, a recent grad who plans to teach chemistry; South Shore and Jersey Fresh, two young guys; Hopeful and Redwing, a young married couple from Michigan; Strider, another New Hampshirite. Great crowd. Lots of fun. We are currently all hanging outside the nicely renovated shelter, eating, chatting, enjoying the last of the sun.It was a nice day today, and beautiful scenery. We went up and through a ton of wide open fields mixed in and out of the woods. Amazing. Beautiful views out into the mountains and down onto the valley where Gatlinburg is. We felt strong and had a good day of hiking, which was great.
We also had a random sighting of someone we knew today. We came across a ridgerunner (an Appalachian Trail Conference employee who monitor sections of the trail in its busier spots doing trail maintenance, talking to hikers, etc) who we knew from NH. He had been a caretaker the past two summers at NH campsites we've stayed at, and also hiked the trail a few years back. And here he was, on the trail as we passed through. Funny coincidence. It was fun to see him.
We've chitchatted with a few weekenders who said the weather was supposed to be good, and if it happens, we'll take it :-) That would be nice!

sunny, cool, breezy
a perfect day today. sunny. amazing views. beantown did a fantastic job with the fire in the shelter last night. yup, the shelters in the smokies have fireplaces...very cool. some of them also have chain link keep the bears out. so, cage the humans. i never slept in a cage before...interesting. the smokies are beautiful, but the park regs are odd. horses are allowed in the park, and some of the horse trails coincide with the at. you can also stay at the shelters with your horse. we haven't seen any horses yet, but we have seen lots of poop. all over the trail...and other places. dirty and stinking. it's fairly common and gross, but no dogs allowed in the park. dirty, big, stinky horses...but no dogs. no dogs. very strange. even danielle thinks it's weird, and she doesn't like dogs. the shoulder/back/thing is feeling a bit better...actually a lot. if it doesn't get any worse than it was today, i should be able to manage it. probably not for 2000 more miles, but i'm hoping to get some treatment when i hit hot springs in a few days. we'll see. but, either way, the mood and spirit were much improved. the forecast we've heard is for good weather through monday...i guess it never stays this nice in the smokies. we're not complaining.
today's song - waiting for the sun, the jayhawks

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

April 13 in North Carolina

April 13, 2005 | Day 17 | Miles: 6.9 | Total Miles 162.9
End: Fontana Dam, NC, Fontana Inn, motel room
Well, we were nice and dry in the shelter last night, after falling asleep to guitar playing and singing going on around the campfire. There were about 2 dozen people at the shelter, but only 3 guys and us 2 were able to fit in the small shelter. Everyone else was out in the night's storm.
It was an overcast day as we started out, but the clouds rose a bit as we descended to Fontana Dam, a huge dam that we could see through the trees as we got closer. As we descended into the valley, there was also more and more green around us. The forest is coming alive. Leaves are unfurling, trilliums and violets and wood sorrels are blooming along the trail, flowering trees are blooming. Very nice.
We were feeling a bit better today, which was good, as spirits were definitely a bit low yesterday. I guess it happens, but it was nice to be more cheerful today. We clicked off our 6.9m by 11:15am, checked into the motel, got our mail drop at the PO, showered, ate, did laundry, set all our gear out to dry, and chatted with all the other hikers around. This place must be packed in the summer with the dam, lake and marina, but at this time of year, it's only the thru-hikers wandering around the place. And we must have seen at least 30 to 40 others today, so it's going to be busy in the Smokies, that's for sure! We've heard the weather is supposed to be nice for a few days, and we'll take it :-)
Just happy to be here...

cloudy, few sprinkles
i feel i should elaborate on yesterday's journal. on top of the pouring down rain, i had a pain in my shoulder. take a meat cleaver, heat it to just about white hot. then, drive it into your back between your shouler blade and your spine. then just for kicks, throw in some lemon juice just for kicks. it kinda felt like that. not even remotely pleasant. i had a problem with the same spot a few months ago, and think it was caused by bad posture sitting at a desk. desks are bad. it feels better today. hopefully, another shower and another back rub from danielle and i'll be good to go. ibuprofen helps, too. the good news is that it only hurts when i carry a pack... the ironic thing is that my legs feel great...ankles, knees, everything else. my legs. it's crazy. so, if i can work out this shoulder knot, we'll keep rolling. in other news, we're hanging out at fontana dam in a motel...looking forward to dinner, and watching the sox tonight. tomorrow, the smokies...mmmmm...
today's song - opposites attract, paula abdul...all danielle's fault

Monday, April 11, 2005

April 11-12 in North Carolina

April 11, 2005 | Day 15 | Miles: 10.6 | Total Miles: 144.4
End: Locust Cove Gap, unofficial campsite, Tent
Sunny and warm
After a big breakfast at NOC with Mom and Dad, we were all fueled up for the day. And what a day. Nothing but up and down. 8m up and 2.5m down. Literally. Plus it was warm too. Ah, the joys of hiking. But it is good to be back on the trail. After all, that's why we're here.
We're camped with three other guys. One of them, Dutchman, started off with 90 lbs, no joke, of food, mostly canned. How's that for a rocky start? Now he's down to 55 lbs, which is pretty good considering. Oh, and he has a camoflauge tent. He's a nice guy but it's pretty funny to be set up next to a camoflauge tent :-)
Not much else for excitement unless you count the stupid human tricks Ryan was pulling as he tried to hang our food to protect it from critter and bears. At shelters there are often cables hung with pulleys so that makes it easy, but if not, it's up to the hikers to figure something out themselves. There weren't many good limbs off the trees around here, so we were using one Dutchman was using too. The rope either went under the limb, over it but didn't drop down enough to grab, or got stuck on Dutchman's rope. 8 tries later he finally got it right. Not the easiest food hanging experience ever, but at least it keeps our food safe. We have to eat after all :-)

sunny, warm, afternoon clouds
last night i watched espn and drank pbr. ahhhh... after a hearty breakfast and sending danielle's parents on their way, we went up...and up...and then up some more. we climbed from 1740' at noc to 5062' at the top of cheoah bald. we're tired. it was fairly tough. plus, i think our rhythm was all thrown off by taking a day off. neither of us felt great. hopefully, we can get back in the saddle tomorrow. looks like rain on tap for tomorrow. at least that's what the weather channel said last night. the weather channel!!!! wahooooooooo....

April 12, 2005 | Day 16 | Miles: 11.6 | Total Miles: 156.0
End: Cable Gap Shelter
Rain, with some sun at the end of the day
Well, it didn't rain overnight so at least we packed up a dry tent, but about 45 min. into the hike, it started up, and pretty much kept going, with small spots of sun all day. Now least you think this is all fun and games out here, here's how today went...
Rain, and then a big hill about 4m in, which means you're wearing rainpants and raincoat to keep the rain out, but the fabric makes you sweat, so you're wet inside and out. Fun, fun. And your hiking partner is grouchy due to aches and pains/rain/hot/sweaty/uphill, and well, you're feeling it all too, but someone has to be positive so that would be you... But what can you do but keep on going? So here we are. A bit less mileage than we had been thinking but it was pouring when we got here, Ryan's shoulder was hurting and I had just taken my first fall yet. It was a good one too. On a downhill, I slipped on a wet root, and peeled right out onto my back. So it was time to stop for the night. Ah, a day on the trail :-) But... "after all my complaining, I love this life, I love this life..." --Crowded House

rain, sun late
today sucked.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

April 9-10 in North Carolina

April 9, 2005 | Day 13 | Miles: 5.6 | Total Miles: 133.8
End: Nantahala Outdoor Center, NC
Sunny and warm!
After the snorefest last night in the shelter, we got off to an early start to get down to NOC this morning. We're thinking, great, we're almost there, oh except for the 4m straight downhill section. UGH! It was a bit tough as there really wasn't too much relief. It was just all downhill. But it really was pretty-at the start the trail opened out onto a great view of the mountaintops around us looking like islands in a sea of clouds. And as we dropped into the valley, more and more flowers and green buds appeared which was great.
And then, we heard music and voices and bright colors down in the valley below... Ahhhhh... Civilization. And on a weekend too. Lots of people. The NOC is a really neat conglomerate of buildings by the river. Lots of river rafters and bikers and smelly hikers. We fit right in :-) We spent the afternoon showering and doing laundry, eating and relaxing and hanging out with other hikers coming and going. Perfect. Then out to a great dinner with Bravo, who we caught up to again after a few days of him being ahead of us, and his brother and wife. How to better end the day? We're content. :-)

sunny, warm
crashing at the noc. ahhhhh...shower. 7 days on the trail, and we're ready for a little r and r. last night at wesser bald shelter was great until everyone in the shelter started snoring. the good news was that i knew just where my earplugs were. the bad news is that they were in the food bag which was suspended 30 feet in the air from the bear cables. so, off i went in the dark to fetch them. one step out of the shelter and i heard a couple coyotes in the distance. i got to the bear cables, and i heard the coyotes again, this time a little closer. i lowered the food bag, and fished out my earplugs. again, i heard the coyotes, but this time a little closer. i fished my earplugs out of my bag, and since i'm a nice guy i decided to search for her earplugs. i couldn't find them, but i heard the coyotes again...a little closer. i kept searching, but still couldn't find her earplugs. i basically had the food bag emptied, and was shining my headlamp everywhere. still no earplugs, but i heard the coyotes again, even closer...but this time i also heard leaves rustling. oh well, no earplugs for danielle. i had the food bag repacked and up the cables in about 10 seconds, and i scurried back to the shelter. i heard the coyotes one last time as i crawled into my sleeping bag. this morning, i found out that danielle already had her earplugs.

April 10, 2005 | Day 14 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 133.8
End: NOC
Sunny and hot!
A zero day! Nowhere to go and nothing pressing to do. We got up, had breakfast, checked and wrote email, hung out by the outfitter talking to hikers coming and going and waited for Mom and Dad to arrive. Then lunch, a bit of time in the outfitter (convinced Dad to get the cool camp shoes we have, in bright orange too. Perfect!), grocery shopping, a bit of reorganizing food, more relaxing, and then a yummy dinner with wine. Ahhh....It was great to see Mom and Dad (Thanks for coming guys! It was great. A personal mail drop with food we needed and cookies too! yum!). Now we're all packed up, relaxed and full of food, and ready to hit the trail again tomorrow. It's 7m straight uphill out of the valley. Should be fun :-)

sunny, warm
everybody needs a day off. this was our first zero day, and it was great. we relaxed. danielle's parents came to visit, and the took us out to dinner. they were happy to see that we haven't been lying in our journals and that we actually are doing great. back at it tomorrow. only a couple days until we hit the smokies, and we're really looking forward to them. now, off to drink beer with other hiking bums...i mean hydrate.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

April 7-8 in North Carolina

April 7, 2005 | Day 11 | Miles: 12 | Total Miles: 114.8
End: Wine Spring, unofficial campsite, Tent
Overcast, in the clouds, rain on and off
Well, we got rained on last night but by the time we got up it had let up, so we packed up and headed out. Down at Winding Stair Gap (everywhere down here is a gap. There is even a Swinging Lick Gap--I mean, where did they come up with that?) there was a group offering rides to town, which we declined but we did share a soda and chat for a bit. We've met so many nice people down here, it's been really great. Just the fact that people are out, giving out food and goodwill to all of us smelly hikers is really amazing. We can't wait to do some trail magic ourselves up in NH next year and give back a bit! Then more trail magic after lunch at another road crossing. This group was out for a few days feeding and meeting hikers. We thoroughly enjoyed the junk food and water we didn't have to filter ourselves! Wow, did we luck out today :-) Then on another 2.5m to our tentsite in the woods. We've basically been in the tent since 4pm, as it's been raining on and off. We're up at 5290ft. so we're in the clouds right now. Hopefully it will clear out for tommorow! We went over our first bald this afternoon, but of course it was all fogged in. We hit another one tomorrow so maybe we'll get to enjoy it in the sun. We've been looking forward to seeing the balds, they sound so interesting and different from the terrain at home.
Topic to ponder: Smoking and the trail. Now you would figure us hikers, we're pretty healthy, active folks, right? So why is it that so many people out here smoke? Yes, I want to suck wind even more than I already do out here! Ha! It's very odd. Spry, Navigator, The Good Doctor, three of the guys we met in the shelter last night-Coyote, Walrus, Elf, even our friend Ghost. Strange phenomenon, at least from my point of view. We'll stick to huffing and puffing from our own exersion :-) But hey, as they say out here, HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike) :-)

overcast, rainy
our stretch of good weather ended last night. it poured. off and on rain today, but not a total wash out. before we knew it we had gone about 10 miles, and were enjoying a little trail magic. mmmm...junk food. i hope that we have trail magic everyday, but i'm not counting on it. i think we're starting to get into hiking shape, so hopefuly the miles will start coming easier. the other night navigator, he's from orono, named our poop shovel "little john," complete with artwork. now, you don't actually shovel poop with the poop shovel, but it's essential for a good "wilderness poo." basically, when you have to poop you have 2 options: the privy or wilderness poo. the privy is a luxury, but they're only available at certain shelters. a privy is basically an outhouse, but can vary greatly in design. for instance, the privy at rock gap shelter has no door. they call that "open air." the wilderness poo is why we have little john. basically, you dig a hole and poop in it. but, it's really more of an art then that. first, you have to find a good spot, somewhere you won't be disturbed. i prefer to poo with a view, if i can. then you dig your hole. 6 inches deep recommended, but go deeper if you've had trail magic me. next find a sturdy stick, i call it a stirring stick. next, i stick little john in the ground within arms reach and use him to hold the tp. then, you do your your aim. use tp, and set to the side. now, grab your stirring stick and cover your poo with about half the dirt from the hole. and, stir. next, place use tp on top of hole and burn. (some leave no trace purists carry out their used tp, but who wants 6 days' worth of dirty tp in their pack? yuk.) be careful not to burn down the forest, and use the stirring stick to mush the tp remains into the hole. cover the hole with the rest of the dirt, and you're on your way. it takes practice, but wilderness poo can be quite enjoyable. oh yeah, don't forget the hand sanitizer...who knows who else used that stirring stick?

April 8, 2005 | Day 12 | Miles: 13.4 | Total Miles: 128.2
End: Wesser Bald Shelter
A little bit of everything-sun, rain, clouds. Mostly just overcast
I was feeling tired out today, but despite that, we managed to do our 13.4m in 6 hours. Not too bad. Still, I am looking forward to our short day tomorrow into NOC, and then a zero day! Yeah!
We managed to hike all day without seeing anyone except three guys out for a section hike, as we were the first ones out of "camp" this mornng. There were 7 other people camped near us last night.
Not much else to report, although we did have a great view from atop the firetower on Wesser Bald. Very cool.
Wildlife notes: We have yet to see anything big in the woods, although a few nights ago we did hear coyotes howling. Pretty amazing. Today we saw a bunny, as well as some fox, coyote and deer tracks in the mud. We have seen and heard lots of birds out here. We've seen robins, lots of junkos, nuthatches, woodpeckers, vireos (tiny little ones calling "here I am, where are you?"), even an oriole (very cool! Calling "tweet" long and singular and rooting around in the leaves for its meal) and we've heard lots of bared owls, a phoebe, grouse and likely many others we can't identify but which are fun to hear as they flit among the trees.

mostly cloudy, few showers, few sunny breaks
i think it's wise to camp at 5290ft. on the side of a bald in a thunderstorm. actually, it wasn't that bad, and we survived another soggy night. our tent has held up really well, and we're getting pretty good about being anal to keep our stuff dry. it makes a big difference. danielle finally showed signs of being human today. she's tired. but, she really toughed out the last couple miles. needless to say we're both looking forward to a short day tomorrow, a shower, a bed and real food. people told us that we would be hungry out here, and it's true. you just can't carry enough food. i'm pretty sure i'm going to be hungry the rest of the way. basically, i eat breakfast, and i'm ready for a snack by 9:30. we usually don't get to it until after 10:30. then i'm ready for lunch by just after 11. ready for another snack by the time we finish lunch, then i convince danielle that we should eat dinner at 4. tonight was sweet, we're going into town tomorrow, and we had an extra, we ate them both.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

April 5-6 in North Carolina

April 5, 2005 | Day 9 | Miles: 12.2 | Total Miles: 87.5
End: Beech Gap, unofficial campsite, Tent
Sunny and the temperature was just right-not too hot, not too cold
Well, NC started off with a bang. Two big, mean uphills. Ugh! Guess that's what we signed up for though, so nothing to do but push on through. After that nice wake-up, the day mellowed out a bit. The highlight was Standing Indian Mountain. The way up was graded for logging so it was nice and gradual. The actual summit was a bit off the trail so we shed our packs and decided to take a look. Worth it! Beautiful vistas back into GA, a nice grassy spot and a patch of blooming daffodils. Very nice.
On the downside, Ryan's leg was hurting a bit for the last few miles, which is a total bummer and which has him feeling very frustrated. We're going to take a mellow, shorter day tomorrow and hope it feels better. I know when he's feeling low, he thinks he's going to be the one to keep us from Katahdin, but that's just so far away, it doesn't make sense to think that way yet. We've only been out for a little over a week. Who knows what will happen? I think we both have the strength to go the whole way, but really we have to take it a day at a time. It's too overwhelming otherwise. We just have to be happy with what we've done so far, and we should be-we're into a whole new group of people who started days before us! Anyway, hopefully he'll feel better tomorrow.
As for me, I'm just happy to be here :-) A bit sore and tired, but overall feeling good and strong.

perfect hiking weather
ouch. my left ankle/lower leg hurts. i think it's from the weakness in that ankle. hopefully, as it gets stronger, the pain will end...then something else will start hurting. really, every step hurts. that was not in the brochure. but, i was only hurting the last 3 miles. the rest of today was perfect. bright sun, and the views from the top of standing indian mountain, 5498 ft., were the best yet. overall, nc seems like it's going to be a bit more rugged than ga, but no less beautiful. looking forward to a relatively mellow 10 miles tomorrow.
today's song - hurt so good, john cougar mellencamp

April 6, 2005 | Day 10 | Miles: 15.3 | Total Miles: 102.8
End: Rock Gap shelter, Tent
Sunny and nice
Well, so much for a short day. But Ryan was feeling good and the terrain was forgiving so we went for it. As for milestones today, we did our biggest day yet, and we have now officially hiked over 100m. Yeah!
So you know how a few entries ago, I was saying how much food we were carrying? Well, last night we set out all our food and saw that we were running low. So, time to start rationing. Not so fun. So this morning was a clif bar smeared with peanut butter. Does that sound desperate? If so, then this afternooon was half a bagel each. Not so satisfying. But the best thing was that about 200 yards after we stopped and ate lunch, we came across a big sign that said "trail magic" with a big awning and camper, and a fire going under a big Maine sawmill blade serving as a warming iron. Terry and Barrie were serving up great burritos and sodas and cinnamon buns. Yum! It was great trail magic and filled us up for the climb up Albert Mountain, a short steep trudge like we're used to up in NH. Then it was a mellow downhill and we got to the intended shelter at 2pm with the sun still shining and Ryan feeling good, so we decided to head to the next shelter. My feet were complaining a bit, but not too bad otherwise.
We're currently trying to figure out our plan for tomorrow as it's supposed to rain. Oh well, we can't complain-three great days of sun in a row. Very nice! :-)

perfect hiking weather
what a difference a day makes. we did our longest day yet, and i feel great. no ankle pain. my theory is that i changed my gait because of the blister on my heel. blister is good, and so i'm very happy. trail magic helps, too. burritos at bearpen gap, and a cinnamon roll, and dr. pepper...oh yeah, we rolled in there 5 minutes after lunch. it was so good. i could have sat there all day, but someone didn't let me. we had preview of the trail in the whites today with the climb up mount albert. it was steep and rocky. short, though. overall, today was probably the best day yet. it supposed to rain tomorrow, so it looks like we're in for a couple soggy days.
today's song - wanted dead or alive, bon jovi

Monday, April 4, 2005

April 4 in Georgia

April 4, 2005 | Day 8 | Miles: 12.2 | Total Miles: 75.3
End: Bly Gap, NC, Tent
Sun, sun, sun!
One state down and 13 to go! Yeah :-)
What a good day, although I was tired for the last few miles. But we made it past the GA/NC border so that was a rush. We are now camped right over the border in a nice spot, with 9 other people. Ghost left us today. He headed into Hiawasee and then was going to head up her tomorrow and then back down toward Amicolola. Back to work for him. So now we really have to make it to Gorham, NH as that's where he lives and works :-) We definitely have to stop in and see him. We will miss him out here. It's been fun. Looking back on GA, one of the things I enjoyed the most was the big rhodedendrum and mountain laurel thickets. With the rest of the woods being so brown, these huge bushes and trees looked even more vibrant and green. Great to hike through and beautiful! Also the GATC really kept the trail well maintained and they were quite forgiving with trail placement. Lots of sidecuts that avoided a few more ups and downs than could have been, which was nice. We have enjoyed our first 75.3m plus the 8.8m approach trail. 84.1m in 8 days. Not too bad! :-) I'm really proud of us for moving along so far at this pace. And we've been having fun too which makes it even better :-)

sunny, warm
welcome to north carolina. 1 state down 13 to go. leaving georgia was bittersweet, but we're psyched to be moving along. as usual, ghost was up and out before us, and we wished him well. he is heaed in hiawasee to resupply, and then back out on the trail for a couple days beore heading home to beautiful gorham, nh. we're looking forward to seeing him again when we get to gorham. he's been likee a second father to us since the first day, even if he is a blue blazing piece of hiker trash. from the sounds of it we missed quite a party at addis gap. i don't think the tales of roasted turkey, hot dogs or three kegs were exaggerated, and the tales of the hangovers were quite funny. today was tough. we're both tired. neither us is admitting to the other how tired we are, but, i guess we're supposed to be tired...afterall we've gone over 80 miles in 8 days. my heels really hurt. blisters that just won't die. hopefully they'll callus up this week...hopefully.

Saturday, April 2, 2005

April 2-3 in Georgia

April 2, 2005 | Day 6 | Miles: 9.4 | Total Miles: 50.5
End: Hiawasee Inn, Hiawasee, GA, via Unicoi Gap
Windy, cold and snowy!
Well, rain came in last night and got everything wet and dirty, but by the time we got up, it had stopped and was just cold, windy and overcast. Got out about 8:30 and after we had been hiking for about an hour, the snow started, which Ryan was psyched about. Until it kept on snowing and we went up and along a big ridge with the wind whipping and the snow flying into our faces. But what else to do but keep on going. So that's what we did. Had lunch at Blue Mt. shelter in the wind and snow and decided to keep on going down to Unicoi Gap and decide what to do then. At the gap, we had warmed up, but a couple told us the snow and windwas supposed to keep on through the night, so instead of being "tough" we decided to try our hand at hitching. We managed to get a ride with two guys in a pickup. I got to ride in the cab, while Ryan, Patch and Clearwater were in the back. I think I got the better end of the deal :-)

We are currently warm, dry and cleann and sharing a room with Bravo. There are at least 12 of us here. Good place to ride out the storm and pray for sunshine tomorrow :-) I was a bit unhappy in the snow earlier when I got really cold, but it's all part of the adventure, and I'm still happy to be here :-) Mexican dinner and grocery shopping plus TV in store for tonight then back to "reality" tomorrow!

snow, windy, brrrrrr
there's a saying - no rain, no pain, no maine. but, that never mentions snow. so, after it poured all night, we woke to what looked like clearing skies. they didn't clear. instead, it snowed. hard. it was great at first. i was psyched to see a little white stuff. but it just kept coming, and then it started coming sideways. the winds were fierce. so with 3 inches of snow in the mountains, and frigid winds, we made an unexpected hitch into hiawasee. two days earlier than planned. we're at the hotel we about 15 other hikers. we sharing a room with bravo. it's all about saving cash. we were smart to stay here. i'm sure we'll hear stories of misery in the days to come. the hitch was interesting, though. two guys up from atlanta to hike for the weekend stopped in unicoi gap to check out the weather. seeing it was miserable, and we needed a ride, they offered to take danielle, clearwater, patch and i into hiawasee in their pickup. 6 packs and three guys in the back of a pickup on a cold, snowy that was fun. danielle got to ride in the cab. the good news is that my zeal for the inital snowfall helped to spawn my trail name - snowman. plus, my pasty whiteness helped. so, i'll be snowman for the next couple months. until i melt in the summer heat.met git er done in the laundry room today. last night at deep gap shelter, he heard the mice scurrying around, and one got into his pack...and gave birth. when he pulled his clothes to do laundry here he found 4 dead baby mice in one of his shirts. um, yuk. then he showed them to me. more yuk. another reason we're probably going to spend most nights in the tent.

April 3, 2005 | Day 7 | Miles: 12.6 | Total Miles: 63.1
End: Deep Gap shelter, Tent
Sunny, cool and windy
A night in a real bed was a treat! How comfy after an evening of good Mexican food (and everyone else at the motel except us, Bravo and Get 'er Done chose the Shoneys AYCE Seafood Buffet-Yuck! We definitely won out there!). Ron dropped us off at the trailhead at 9am, and it was so windy and cold we hauled up Rocky Mt. almost without noticing. There was a lot of snow on the ground. We were definitely glad with our choice to go into town. Ryan made a snowman at the top, reconfirming his name as Snowman, chosen yesterday in the snow. I think it's fitting, as he thinks winter is the best thing yet-crazy boy, fall is best! The top of Rocky Mt. gave us our best GA views yet-very nice! It was nice to be out on a sunny day, even though it was windy. We skipped some trail magic a half mile off the trail in Addis Gap-we already had enough food on our backs. 7 days worth is HEAVY! But a few others did veer off at the mention of free beer and food. We ended the day with a stiff climb before we descended into the gap to the shelter. It was a tough one but we're here and still doing well, if tired. Ghost is here tonight-he stayed out last night through the storm. Wow! He was one tough guy to stay out. Glad he was OK, we were thinking about him yesterday in our warm motel room. On to the GA/NC border tomorrow! Yeah! :-)

sunny, not a single cloud, windy, cool
after enjoying the hospitality of ron and sam at the hiawassee inn, we jumped in their free shuttle back to the trail and were on the trail by 9. resupplying sucks. we're carrying 7 days worth of food, and it's heavy. we're not planning for a town stop until danielle's parents meet us at nantahala outdoor center on the 10th, so we gotta carry it all. we were supposed to resupply in hiawasee tomorrow, but the weather changed that. we enjoyed the snow that fell yesterday while we hiked today. some of the drifts were well over a foot. by the way, we're in georgia. i made a couple snowmen today, one on top of rocky mountain and one on top of tray mountain. i am snowman, afterall. today was hard with three big climbs and a heavy pack. ready for some good zzzs and the blue skies forecasted. ghost reappeared at the shelter tonight, and it's real good to see him. tough sob stayed out in the snow.