Thursday, May 29, 2014

Blood Mountain

Gooch Gap shelter to Neels Gap & Mountain Crossings Outfitters/hostel made for my first 16 mile day.  The mountain is one of my mini goals.  The view stunning.  The shelter harder then stone.  Due to bear activity I could not stay.  The climb was 1000 up 3 bumps and a final hump.  The decent brutal, all 1000.  Some blazes were painter on the stone itself.  The view 360 mixed with some trees.  To the southeast, I counted 8 visible ridges.  The shelter itself, historical and made of stone, very cold.
The talk of the shelter last night was either to call it a short day or go long.  4 of us went long.
Gooch shelter says it sleeps 14, that must be when it rains.  I could only figure 8 on the two levels.  The benefits of sleeping in a shelter is the fellowship of hikers, the lack of needing a tent, and a solid place.  The negatives include snoring hikers, open to the winds, and dirty.  Sure I smell but dirt is every where.  If there is a broom I try to sweep before others arrive.
At Gooch there were 25 or more renting and or in hammocks.  I left before half were up to push my day.
Here at the hostel are 15 hikers.  Stories abound.  The nights are called early often just after dark.  The nice thing is a warm shower, laundry, and a bed.  The buildings are also historical so very few improvements.  Baltimore Jack, a thru-hiker from.several years back, runs the place.
Today, I started behind a father son team and finished with a few youngin's.  One of whom I've named Butterscotch, as he often offers this candy when we crossed paths.  Gentleman Jim is here too.  Jim is a second timer, the first was in 99.  Jim is slow and steady.  I've now hike 3 days with him.and another fella who hasn't picked up a trail name yet.

The Hang

The running joke on the AT of how do you know if someone sleeps in a hammock goes like this... we will tell you.  Since Damascus, I've been in a hammock, less one night.  Before I arrived I had my Hennessey hammock sent out with a hex-tarp.  At that time I'd used my tent 4 times in over a month.  The tent usage for me did not justify the weight, though the hammock kit is slightly heavier, I use it more often.  The hammock was literally were a life saver then.  Since then I've stayed in one shelter - Partnership outside Marion.  The reason for the swap out is I wasn't using the tent.  Over the last few years backpacking, I've used a hammock. I see hammock sites fast then I do tenting spots. Since going back to the hammock I haven't been constrained to flat spots or shelter areas.  I have flexibility to roam and stealth camp in more places.

This morning, I'm at Wood's Hole Hostel south of Pearisburg VA.  This hostel is an organic farm with each planter box being a complete salad ready to feed over 20 hungry hikers and more.  The gal who runs it inherited from her grandmother who set it up as a place of rest for all who come through.  I can't say the whole story here but, so far this is one of my favorite places on the trail and wothy looking up later.  Wood's Hole Hostel is open to others beyond hikers, so if planning a trip through southern Virginia, make an effort to find this place of retreat.

By the way, I'm in my hammock over in hospitable ground for a tent, a light rain fell overnight, and my pack is just under me.  I do use webbing to protect the bark of the trees for both my tarp and my hammock.  I find setting up in the rain a little easier this way and I can fine tune the hang better.  My hiking poles prop up one edge for a little view.

The night before, I was at Dismal Falls, a small set of water falls a little off the AT.  I fell asleep to the wonderful sound of rushing soothing ripples of water.

My get up and go since leaving the home of the shelters isn't quick by any means but I find the better sleep, the better I hike throughout the day.  The hang can be a bit chilly underneath so I might look for a 40 degree underquilt before I hit Vermont.  Right now my sleeping pad works.

I am also continuing to refine how I pack each day, little tweaks go a long way.  Since the pack is a sack of sacks I find that if I can pack around that which can't be shifted in size and fill in the gaps the more comfortable the carry for the day is.  For example the cook kit is a solid, it'll never chang shape.  The food bag is often solid as well though changing daily.  I carry but one fleece jersey, a jacket, and minor other clothing.  If I pack the clothing into a compression sack I beecomes a solid.  I was doing that previously.  I'm now carrying the clothing in a stuff sack that can be molded around that which does not change shape so easily.  I'm going from a layer by layer system to a system of fitting by weight and malleable.  The heavier items are set so they are closer the the back and held in place.  The malleable system seems to be working better for comfort and weight balance.

I've got other things on my mind.  I'll hit those in another post.  The sound of rain and birds are my alarm clock this morning.

Hike on and carry in comfort...

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Town Days

Town days or resupply days call them.what you want, for me they are short of a pain.  Today, I'm sitting in McD's looking at a tray of empty wrappers.  If you're on a diet stop reading here.

This day actually began last night when I did my food inventory.  I needed only to pick up a few items from.the grocery story to get me into Bland VA where I have a bounce box waiting, with a few days of food.  I got in from the Partnership Shelter around 9:30 am.  Headed to Engles for the few items.  My ruck in the cart, I used that little basket thing to control my shopping.  I did pretty well: a box of oatmeal packets, 3 boxes of granola like breakfast bars, a jar of cashew butter, a package of tortillas, some tuna packets (protein), knorr sides, and some fresh stuff.  My fresh includes: 1/2 lbs cheese, summer sausage, bananas, tomatoes, and any other fruit my hand lashes on to.

Outside, I sat down.  There were a few other thru-hikers resuppling too.  We went through what we got stripping it of any excessive package materials.  Then organizing it into the food bag.  I have a daily ration snack bag, a condiment/lunch bag, and the dinner bag.  The dinner bag is often the deepest packed.  Once loaded, the ruck sack item moans as I lift it to the shoulders.  Oh, wait that's me.  The pack will go from 30 up to 50 with the resupply.

I hit Walgreen's for the photo center.  I am burning DVDs since uploading takes for ever.  Last night I noticed my camera is saying that it transmitted everything but when I looked on the phone, I'm missing images.  Time to sync both and send a copy of both devices home.  I'll try syncing again to see if I miss any other images.  I may just need to burn.DVDs directly and be selective on which images I bring over.

Town days drag also for I recharge the power pack often taking 4 or more hours.  If I plug in my phone for power then even longer.  I wish I could plug it in at one place and come back for it.  Solar chargers aren't worth the weight as the hours of Sun needed daily is often mitigated by tree cover, out West great, here no.  The power peg is worth considering.  I left mine at home as I couldn't find my camera's adapter for it on line.  Power peg has since gone to a UDB rat tail.  Arug, why didn't I think of grabbing one.  Without power, I can't take images you're not seeing now, and without power I don't write blogs.

Yet another day in the life...

I said I'm.sitting in McD's looking at a tray of wrappers.  Hiker hunger struck, 2 burgers, fries, a shake, and soda.  Moan, I'd never eat this stuff, in this quality, at home.  I'm also being annoyed by the constant blasting of multiple media, a TV and a radio is on.  The beeps from the prep area are drawing attention.  Outside, bill boards, van ads, and other color splash compete for attention.  As I've been here, I did log into Facebook.  I updated my status, checked for common friends, and looked at the top 10 items.  I so like the woods more and more.  The birds are my alarm click, the wind is my weatherman, the sun tells me when it's a good time to grab a break otherwise my legs do.

Hike on. And looking for the simple life...

Moving On

Catching up with Trail Family and meeting folks I've read shelter log entries  couldn't been better.  The trail calls many and others just make merry.  Getting out of Trail Daze wasn't hard.  I needed to move after 2 whole days off.

My first night out, bitter cold.  I rolled over and pulled on the rain gear to get warm.  I regretted turning my 20 degree quilt to do some upgrades.  That thought lasted only one night.  The others were warmer. Last night I used the 40 degree as a quilt.

To night I'm in Partnership Shelter around trail mile 528. When I got up this morning I thought I could hit the Van Clan's Trail Magic at Dickies Gap or move on. Since it was 9 am when I hit the gap I pushed on for the pizza delivery shelter. Pizza Hut does deliver into the woods. Several others also made orders. The catch is one needs to puck it up from the visitor center for the park. 528

What's been cycling in my head lately as I've hiked is how much I miss being a part of YWAM/Mercy Ships. I miss helping out people, praying for them, and working for a greater good. Being around the Van Clan I'm reminded about the power of prayer. I remember how I knew specifics about some situations I honestly knew nothing about and later finding out my prayers were spot on by the people I prayed for. I let some of the Van Clan know this. It's good to be around them and in part being adopted by them. Though I've moved a head I hope to reconnect with them later.

Another thing cycling is my trail name. Few thru-hikers know me by anything other then Train. I spend 3 1/2 days on the train and with this story am called by such. I've looked at this. T means teachable. R means respecting of. A is adaptable. I is for intuitive. N is noble, one of the Van Claim gave me this.

Why breaking this down? Easy, every day I learn something new. Every day I must adapt to many changing conditions. Everyday I need to respect the trail, the people, and my gear to disrespect any part could be costly. Intuitive for somethings aren't what they seem and I need to look beyond the immediate to see what is happening. Noble, with these previous combined and take care of how can it not be noble. One thing my Eastern religion classes taught me is the Sage is wothy as one sees to better oneself. In Christianity these things are worth pursuing.

I'm now over 500 miles into my Appalachian Trail Journey. It's an adventure no one could replicate with any book or movie. I don't miss the media bombardment. The trees are my media, the streams tell me the stories of the day, the birds are my alarm clock. If anyone has an inclination to follow, do it. Stop thinking about it. Carve out the time and get on trail.

Hike on. Keep learning.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Trail Days

The sleepy town of Damascus VA comes alive in Mid-May for AT thru-hikers to rolling into town.  Thousands have poured in over this weekend.

My arrival was cold but my spirit totally up lifted when friends started coming by.  I was one of the first to arrive.  By Friday morning the little league's outfield began to fill up from 10% to 75% by evening.

The hiker town is split between the hiker area and the festival area downtown.  Friday, I spent sometime looking at deals.  Hennessey Hammocks were 50% or more off.  Dutch Ware, a hammock accessory company, offering simple deals too.  Several major gear manufacturers are out in both areas repairing, swapping out, and discounting packs, tents, and basic cook ware.

I've really enjoyed meeting several AT legends like Bob Peoples, David 'AWOL' Miller, and Zach Davis.  I'm in between bubbles so seeing them both is grand.  These are Woo Tang and Wiskey's Crew.  Riff Raff isn't hiking but a regular feature on the trail for trail magic and parties.  The Van Clan is what hikers are calling YWAM VA's DTS.  I caught them on the cold day.  They're doing some volunteering and are just cool to chill with.  They've encouraged me by letting me know there's more believers on the trail then I see.  Following up with my trail family is beyond amazing.

By night many fires blaze in the woods.  Hikers swap stories, cheer, and set the time to stand still.

This morning I signed up for a shower thanks to Baptists Relief Ministries.  They also did my clothes.  Clean clothing I won't take it for advantage again.

Today, Saturday, was also the Hiker's Parade.  No floats, no sponsors, just a bunch of hikers walking down Main St. Wiskey Crew made lively for the Class of 2014.  At the park Solitude, a hiker, held up a pinyata on a pole.  Someone took a swing or three at it.  Chicken Nuggets, sauces, and yes mini wiskey bottles pours forth.  Hikers dove in...

The energy of Trail Days is amazing despite the chilly weather.

Tomorrow, Sunday, I'm.hitting the trail after church and dropping stuff off at the outfitters to be mailed out.  I can't wait, my feet are itching for the trail again.  These days off are good for the spirit.  My friends behind me let me know how they like seeing the signature in.the books, others saying the samething I am.with others - I've been reading your entries and wonder who you were - and also good to catch up with friends who are a head.

For many this is our adventure.  For many this is our life.  For those just starting, this is surreal and real.

Enjoy the hike...

The Race is On

The last few weeks, hikers are talking of Trail Days.  Everyone is asking or writing of see you at Trail Days.

I'm now in the last week to get there.  I'm sitting in the Over Mountain Shelter, a converted barn dating back to the Revolutionary War.  The view is amazing.  The views to get here all day are amazing.

My push is not without frought.  My pack weighs in around 45 pounds with food, fuel, water, and gear.  My knees are achy and my ankles feeling rough too.  As I finish lunch daily, I think what can I do to lighten up.  My big overage is food.  I budget 3 pounds of food per day.  I'm also over weight in gear.  I've used my tent 4 times and slept in it 3.  It's got a condensation issue, out West no big deal, out here huge.  I do carry a full rain suit, gortex top and bottom, a pound each.  I may send home the bottoms.  I like the top as a jacket over all so that will stay.  I'm also looking and re-evaluating other pieces of gear.

I've seen guys hiking with as little at 10 pound base to over 40 pound base.  I'm in the middle.  Listening to my body is huge.  I like big mile days where I cover 20 plus.  A lighter pack means more comfort on the trail.

The race to Damascus' Trail Days is easy, one foot in front of the other.  The terrain gets easier the closer to Damascus one gets. 

Over Crowded

Sitting in Double Spring Shelter I was alone ay 6:30 pm.  My dinner done & cleaned up.  I thought I'd be alone.  Sure enough as darkness rolled in on the final day before Trail Days, the lights came down the AT.  Riff Raff's party over in a meadow a few miles south and the push enroute to beat miles and weather. The group I stayed with last night came rolling in and another group hike through as grabbing water.  The group here is most comfortable with 7 in a 6 person shelter.  Last night's was more of a 5 person.  We were pad to pad and bumping each other.

Tomorrow rain is called for all day.  I don't mind hiking in the rain, I just don't like camping in it.

Today is 20 plus miles and tomorrow will be another 20.  This will be my second back to back 20's.  The miles are coming easier.  The pack still heavy.  If you asked ne to pull this a month ago, I'd call you crazy.  Now I am crazy.

Long Day of Rain

The shelter didn't fill until after dark.  Several groups passed afterwards on the push to Trail Days.  The wind struck up around two hours later filled with rain.  Rain it came and came, by the sprinkle, by the bucket.  In the morning for the shuffle it still rained.  Teasing us it was over, light and not at all, a tease.

I decided to get up and go.  The bear bags hung in near by trees.  When I got mine down I grabbed everyone else's.  This shelter did not have bear cables or pole.  I used the PCT method, the others were just a line tide to a tree.  At the previous shelter someone lost their food bag, though hung, to a bearusing the traditional method.

I got moving with a pack cover on, my goods were in a contractor bag inside the ruck.  The rain was cool not cold and let up a little periodically in the morning at times breaking the weather into fool's clearing.

I got to the half way point, another shelter, and came into the company of YWAM VA.  I'd met one them early in my journey.  YWAMers are like Thru-hikers we know of other people within the community.  YWAM Ships came up in the conversation.   I also recognized a few faces from the night before and weeks prior.  Trail Days is a conglomeration of hikers, faces and names will be matched finally.

After an hour or longer I got to moving.  The rain hadn't let up. I had 8 more miles for the day.  This is the second half of the back to back 20's, though not technically 20 miles for today. These last 8 are said to be the easiest of the Trail.  I picked up a rain jacket to carry into town that was left.  I wore it.  It wore well for the weight, light.  If I can't find the owner or she doesn't find me, I'm keeping it.  If she does find me, I'm getting one for myself.  I like it that much.  Two hours into the projected four hours of the hike into town the jacket's effectiveness wained.  Still it kept it's purpose, keep me dry, I also sweated.

After another hour later the rain still poured.  I recognized stage one hypothermia, loss of finger dexterity, and focus narrowing from mind wandering to survival.  Shivering hadn't come yet, just the cold, the cold.  I had two miles yet to cover.  I went from hiking to just moving down hill focusing on each step.

I heard sounds of town.  Eventually I saw a roof below in the woods and then a Welcome to Damascus sign.  At the awning on an info table, I spoke with another YWAMer and tried to open a ziploc of treats.  I couldn't.  She gave me directions to the library, a block away.  I needed to get warm and fast.  I moved my numb body that direction.

At the library, I got warm.  My mind focused on two things: get warm, get dry.  I got warm.  Dry would come later.  I saw more familiar faces including two.guys from last night, they arrived before the torrential down pour that caught me for over three hours.  Did I say at times, visibity, poor to almost okay.  I was in the car wash from hell with no exit.

From the library I got to the outfitters.  At the outfitters I got my drop box from home.  My condo arrived.  I am ditching the tent for the hammock.  Hammocking is my choice of back country luxury.   Why I swapped at the last moment before the journey is a weight decision.  A winter hammock kit is heavy.  Tenting in winter is lighter.  Or so I thought until today's rain.  I'd given the weight penalty to have my Clarke NX-150 from late September's late fall hike into the Uinta's, today.

While there, at the outfitter, I fumbled my phone.  I'm so cold at this point, my touch screen didn't work, the store clerk typed in my unlock code to find a friend's number.  I called and no answer.  I hung out for a moment to get warm before heading back to the library.

Back to the library, I got a ride to tent city.  Back to being cold, I fumbled for the registration.  Someone tried to carry a conversation with me.  I ditched it, cold and wet, I needed to shed my wet layers and fast.  Conversation can wait, any longer and trouble is here for me.  Dry, get dry, is my focus.  I didn't want to delay any longer, warm and dry are a box, two trees, and focus away at that moment.

I found two trees for the tarp on the far side of tent city.  As I set it, bumbling with the knots when someone else came by.  Shortly after the tarp was set I got the dry clothes out of my backpack.  A fellow thru-hiker, Stitch, hung his tarp near by.  Bear Claw came by to say Hey.  It's good to them both.  With the tarp finally set, dry and warm were in progress.  Rain it still came, not heavy just well rain. Relief is a word not lightly used,  I am relieved to be on the fast track to warm and dry as I finished setting my hammock.  Hypothermia stage one is now in my past.  I could feel the rush of warmth to my skin as the fleece jersey replaced the soaking wet t-shirt and rain jacket.  My rain pants replaced the hiker shorts.  Socks wet stayed, town called, food, buildings with heat, etc.

I finally got warm and dry.  I've hung out at the hiker mission across the street.  My socks are wet. My hiking clothes are hanging on the hammock ridge line to dry, if dry should come  My camp is a mess but, so what.  I'll sort it out tomorrow.

What did I learn from today?  What could I have done differently?  Good questions.  Honestly, I wouldn't do anything differently.  I saw only two places to pitch a tent once the hypothermia signs showed.  Wood was all wet so making a fire was out of the question. Fire up my stove?  Alcohol stoves require attentive attention, which I did not want to spare plus boiling water is 10 minutes away for a mug, nor much warmth or dry there.  Just getting and staying dry would be enough.  Now with my tarp and hammock I can stop in more places to do just that, make dry happen.    I could have stopped and grabbed dry clothes but I only carry only one set (the clothing I wear) and sweats, beyond my rain gear, for sleeping.  Changing clothes when one does not have them is out.  Done on rain gear?  By this point of soaking, the rain jacket failed, my own might prolong the ability to stay wet and retain heat.  Rain gear is for regulating body heat, not so much as keeping dry.   Getting to a place where I could get and stay dry today was my greatest priority.

Hiking the AT is definitely a learning experience about who I am and what I can endure.  I am learning there are many ways to the goals.  Today finishing meant more then just getting to Damascus.  It nearly meant my survival.  How close did I come not to making it?  I care not ask.  I've been wet endlessly before.  I've been cold, bitter cold before.  This is my first experience with both.  I could have stayed at the last shelter, the company was good.  I had plenty of supply and it is dry there.  I wanted to make it and before dark.  Sure go slower, put my rain gear on.  There are choices to be made.  I made the choice to go on.  Only two miles once I saw hypothermia signs, 45 minutes down hill to travel.  I could manage that and did.  Honestly, I could go further, next time I won't.  I'll get dry and fore go the final.

Hike on.  Hike dry...

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Big Mile Days

Limping into the No Business Shelter on May 7th my thoughts weren't about how to tame my blisters but how to crash for the night.  AWOL's Guide said sleeps 6 without amenities.  I turn the headlamp to red before poking my head around the corner.  Someone noticed it and pulled her gear to the side.  I threw in my pad and took the rest outside to shuffle.  Though only 9:15 it's an hour past hiker midnight.

I grabbed the sleeping bag, hung my water on a nail, and left the rest outside.  I peeled away my socks outside.  Relived only to see hotspots not huge blisters.  Next big Mile day I'll change my sock, I thought.  I doused my feet, boots, and socks with foot powder till I ran out.  I'd get more on my next Nero - tomorrow.

I'd come over from Flint Shelter.  I passed friends I hadn't seen for weeks.  I crossed amazing territory, climbed three big inclines, and wandered in the dark (with a headlamp) my last mile.  I hit 30 miles.  The day before I'd been at Rich Mountain Watchtower and made 24 mile.  50 plus miles in two days, crazy.

Why such big miles?  To see if I could.  To enjoy more terrain in a day.  To make up for lost time.  Many other reasons too.  All valid, all meaningless.  I just had a blast day tripping, enjoying the light as a photographer, and just enjoying scenery.

How then to hike a big Mile day?  Easy be ready for it.

Prep yourself the day before.
  Eat well, don't skimp the nutrition.
  Drink lots of water.
  Look at the territory.  You want big elevation gains early, and losses late.
  Set goals.  Set some easy some hard with times to achieve like 10 by noon or 15 by 3.
  Lay down so that the sun wakes you up.
  Lay out the gear so that packing is fast and what is needed will be on top.

Day of...
  Get up.  Enough said.
  Pack quickly.  Cutting time is good.
  Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  Eat and go.  Go and eat throughout the day.
  Keep moving.
  Hit the easy goals to gain momentum.
  Take time to enjoy the views and people.

I am looking to keep going.  I love the momentum.  I will take time to rest as well.

Hike on.  Hike smart.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Shelter in the Sky

When I woke gently to the sound of the river I didn't think to night I'd be sharring a shelter in the sky with Sketter, Raven, and Justin.  I got into town to do chores, uploads (which didn't happen as I wanted), and to recharge my batteries.  I hung out at the local hike ministry.  They had wipe boards for everyone to draw their trail names on and they where shown on the big screen.  It's great to see those who are a head like Pilot, Sasquatch, and Neon among many others.

I got what I needed done and decided to head up to the Rich Mountain Lookout for sunset.  I pushes the 9 miles in 4 hours.  Sketter had taken shelter from the bugs.  Raven followed me up.  At first I was going to head down but, with others talking of staying why not.  It's clear, weather is great, and the wind is calm.  Looks like we are in for a cold beautiful night.

It was great to hang with everyone in town yesterday and today.  Now it's time to hike on and get to Uncle Johnny's in Erwin.

Hot Springs

A wrestless kid kept the fire stoked all night long.  I'd come in from Standing Bear Hostel over a windy Max Patch.  The boy and his father were more then generous when I arrived at the shelter offering to fetch water and offering me snacks. Though the glow of the fire kept me awake it was the red headlamp that caught my attention.  The last time it was a hiker called Half Moon who momentarily sat down late at 'Frozen Indian' (not the shelter's real name just what those of us who where there on a sub-freezing night remember it as) ready to eat peanut butter when a mouse swan dived into it.  Half Moon's responded, 'oh great' then he left.  We didn't know who said or why until days later.  I pondered who did this lamp belong to?

The kid greeted me good morning, I responded in a muffled cuss.  I'm only a morning person after my coffee.  Out here make that after my hiking pants are on, generally 15 minutes after I cuss out the sun for not warming the shelter up. Tennessee's lessons on the AT is patience, more on this in a few paragraphs.  On the shelter's table a bag of goodies.  A note read, "Trail Magic, Semper Fy, Adam and son." Thanks Adam, I enjoyed the ham sandwich for breakfast,  I shot the coffee packet later for a burst of energy.  Someone else scooped the TP.

I stuffed every belonging of mine into the new ruck, making careful inventory as not to misplace another item.  So far I've lost a pair of half gloves, one pair of socks, and anti-chafing rub.  I didn't want to loss anything else.

I thanked the boy and his Dad for their hospitality and their offer to take out the trash for the few thru-hikers whip stayed.  Then I was off at the speed of bacon.  I heard there'd be trail magic of a breakfast 11 miles down the trail. At 2 miles an hour that's 5 hours give or take a break, a view, or water stop.

Yes, there was bacon in the form of sausage.  The meal did not disapoint.  A few former thru-hikers encouraged me to head on Into Hot Springs.  I did.  I made a courtesy call at a shelter enroute.  Raven had stopped and left a poem, '5 Million Steps' - I took a photo and encourage you to read it on flicker.  It describes the hike thus far to a T.

My feet happily danced down the trail.  Not long over a ridge I heard the tell tell signs of civilization - traffic.  In particular I heard Harley's.  Still miles away, I kept the pace lively.

I crossed into town.  Hit the Dollar General.  Not long after I heard my trail name called - Train (very few know my real name).  Coming from across the street I see a retired USAF hiker, Roan.  He was taking a zero.  I had seen him for over a week ago.  We talked a few moments.  Down by the motel, I heard my name again.  This time Bear Claw, Rodeo, Wiskey, and few others.  I thought I'd never catch 'em but, then again after reading what Wiskey's written in a few shelter logs, I'm not surprised they got stuck in this town.  Small all of 5 minutes to cross, hiker and biker friendly, a true trail town on a busy train line.

I'm camping by the river tonight enjoying both the river and freight trains rumble by.  The motel's full, a shower would be nice.  I'm learning I don't need to have 2 showers a day.  I will not keep the 2 showers a month going on upon completion of the AT.  I did shower the day before at Standing Bear.

Tomorrow, I'm doing up loads and postings.  I want to say if you are following the Spot beacon the forest canopy is filling in and the beacon will not be giving my start/finish locations each day, rather where ever I can get a good sky fix in the morning and afternoon.

Each day I do take time to write my personal journal.  I am backing this up by photo and making it available on Flickr.  Of note I am finding my comfort level changing into an I can attitude that I haven't experienced before.  I am also learning to trust myself more.  I haven't lost the expected weight but am feeling stronger each day.

I do miss the fellowship of a good church around me even if it's just for a weekend service.  When the writer of Hebrews says 'don't give up the habit of meeting together.' I understand more fully what he ment as we derive strength from each other.  As hikers we draw upon this daily as we all cross the same ridges, rocks, steep mountains in the same weather.  As believers we draw on something similar through the Spiritual relms.  Okay, preaching segway over. 

My growth is becoming more open to me.  In Georgia I was getting in trail shape.  In North Carolina I was getting gear equipped.  In Tennessee I am going through lessons of patience both with myself and others.  For example as I came off Max Patch into tent city, I wandered off the AT.  I asked a couple of boys chillin by their tents where the AT was.  They didn't quite get my question.  As I got frustrated, I remembered, their kids out here to learn about camping why should I ruin their experience.  I thanking 'em and retraced my steps.  The couple I'd chatted with redirected my steps.  It's little things that make the biggest differences.  The boy last night,  good kid, full of energy, and out making memories with his Dad.  It's times line these where the lessons I'm learning kick in the most, little things, when the big things are taken care of the little things fall into place like making memories.

Hike on.  Hike wise.

Friday, May 02, 2014

The Smokies

Can I really say quiet?  May be not.  Can I say, the Smokies are awesome? May be not?  What I can say is, I'm getting there.  I crossed over the 200 mile mark some time before Clingman's Dome.  The view I can say is spectacular, with imagination.  What I can say is, embrace the suck.  I am now only 1972 miles away from Katahdin.

This is a muli-day entry.

Day one was out run the storm and get to Mollies Ridge shelter.  Once I get there, it filled up with many others who were doing the same.  That day I did see 4 bears scamper into the woods, a few boar, and numerous birds.  I climbed out of Fontana, one of the hardest climbs on the AT.  The forest, mystical in glory at every step.

Day two, began with listening to bad weather pour into the region.  The rain beating its drum on the tin roof made for getting good sleep mixed with the pondering of how far to go that day.  Well I got off to a good start and made better time.  I came in at 19 miles as I finished at Double Springs.  Every section I could not help but see the vibrant greens of the forest.  This region technically is a rain forest, vibrant, lively, dense.  I crossed over two areas a few weekenders described as dangerous, bald, and rocky.  I must be on a different trail, I didn't see any of that, only mist swept views.

One thing I like about the Smokies is one must stay at designated places.  This keeps the ridges, flats, and every other tentable space clean and good looking.  The shelters however are fairly trashed.  I will say thru-hikers are some of the cleanest people I know.  They pick up after other, clean areas, and make good.  A ridge runner commented that this year he hadn't seen the shelters taken well care of by campers, thru-hikers are a different breed keeping things good.

Day three is about moving.  The day began much like the day before, suck.  I missed good views of the Dome.  The wind kept moving clouds around and then the trail did not provide any clearings.  I stopped by Ice Springs just for a moment.  I paused just long enough for the weather to change.  I sheltered there as the weather moved back to suck.  I had the strength to move on but, wet feet made the call to stay.

I bucket washed the socks.  Yes, I carry a bucket, 2 gallons, 1 ounce, and worth it weight every time from scooping water to cleaning.  The socks may not be dry by morn, at least my feet are now.

Others hiked in and finding a full shelter.  There is a growing tent city.

Day 4 of the Smokies began with the wind quieting down.  I dragged my feet in getting out, not wanting to stuff them into cold wet socks again.  I really just want to call the Smokies the Suckies as the weather's been less then ideal.  Today, however, it broke.  I made my way through Charlie's Bunion, a rocky out crop.  It's a rare thing for me to get views and indeed worth while.  I wish the other days were as nice.  I pressed on past several shelters and made it a 20 mile day.  As I rolled in my feet were feeling good less the wet socks.

Quiet?  Only in the route that I haven't been online for a week.  This week is definitely not quiet.  I've learned to embrace the suck.  I've learned I can keep going when the weather would keep me indoors. I have enjoyed the media break, no e-mail, no news, no social media.  This is the first blog I've written all week.

A fire crackles a little warmth as the temp drops outside.  The Smokies' shelters all are double layer with a fire place.  This is also the first shelter I haven't been over crowded in for a week.  My shoes are drying out finally.

Day 5 will be an exit day.  I plan to nero at Standing Bear Hostel.  Laundry, a hot shower, and rethinking my food supply are all on the list to do.

Day 5, actual.  Burr last night was cold, clear sky, and a little wind.  Only 5 of us were at the shelter.  I didn't want to stuff my feet into adobe hard shoes.  I chose to detour to Mnt Cammerer Fire Tower, an old stone buttress on a mountain top, 1/2 mile off the AT.  This is my moment of Smokies glory, 360 views, light clouds, and chilly.  When I descended, I came upon trail magic of lunch at the Pigeon River bridge.  My luck changed my last day.

I am officially out of the Suckies err Smokies.  The Smokies are beauty under the misty rain that it is known for.  Literally one needs to look a little under the forest canopy at all the life.  The Smokies were ducky for me as my feet were wet most the time.  Wet feet equals an unhappy hiker.  My feet are my life right now.

Before I headed out I joked this hike would put me in places my comfort zone wouldn't allow.  The Smokies defined new moments of suck and I can say my comfort zone is expanded.

Hike on.  Hike smartly.