Friday, April 30, 2010

My first shelter night...

There's a good chance of rain tonight so I've decided to spend my first night in a shelter. My nights are typically spent in my tent but I don't want to deal with a wet tent tomorrow morning so I'm going to brave the shelter mice.

Joining me tonight are Moped, MOM, Itchy Balls, Casper, Chef, Down Hill, Wanderer and Teflon.

I'm not sure if this will transmit, since we're in a gully but I'll try.

Happy Trails.

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Last Night's Shelter

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Sunday, April 25, 2010

Rain and Snoring...

Hello everyone,

I've made it to Fontana Dam.  There's no cell service here so my apologies for not calling anyone.  I've got 15 minutes on the hiker hostel's compuer ... so I've decided to post an update.  Tomorrow, after I pick up my resupply box, I'll head into the Smokey Mountains. Things feel good.  Feet are sore, calf is better and my outlook, regardless of the weather, is good. 

The weather has been a bit wet lately.  Yesterday, just as I made it to the last three walled shelter before decending into Fontana Dam, the skies opened up and I experienced thunder and lightening, like I never have before.  Whooo weee!  The rain came down in sheets.  Nature is more than impressive.

Three of us made it to the shelter without getting wet.  There was me, Koop and Itchy Balls.  Others showed up but I don't recall their names.  A man and woman showed up, chatted a while and then set back out in the downpour.  Another guy showed up but is a hammock camper, so he trecked off into the woods and hung his hammock.  Backpacker hammocks aren't like your typical backyard hammock.  They're more like a tent that's suspended between two trees.  They have rain flies (just like a tent) but they're lighter and more compact so that makes them popular with thru hikers.

As the rain continued to pour and the lightening filled the sky I decided that the eight miles I'd hiked that day might just be enough.  Koop, Itchy and I chatted about everything from politics to computer electronics before we all cooked up our own dinners and rolled out our sleeping mats and bags for the night.  The rain continued to pour and I found myself hoping that it was stop by this morning because I didn't want to hike in such a torrent. 

We talked late into the night.  The rain continued to pound on the shingle roof and the cold night air crept in to the three walled shelter.  We drifted off to sleep listening to the rain and thunder. 
I'm not sure what woke me up first, Itchy's snoring or the thunder cell which seemed to be directly over the shelter.  The lightening flashed and I counted one one thousand, two one thousand before the loudest thunder clap I've ever heard.  I swear it shook the ground.  The power of nature is amazing.

The rain continued and I sat up in my sleeping bag to watch it.  Finally getting sleepy again I decided to lay back down to get some rest.  It was then that I realized just how bad Itchy's snoring was.  He was turned on his side, facing me, and sorning at what might equate to a jet engine decible level (but I've been told that my snoring is just as loud).  After enduring several hours of this torture, I came to the decision that anyone subjected to four or more consecutive hours of freight train style snoring should only be charged with a misdemeanor should they be unable to resist the urge to strangle their shelter companion. "Encroachment," which Itchy was also guilty of should further reduce the strangulation penalty to a simple infraction and $50 fine.  Ultimately, there was no harm and no foul ... but I never thought I'd be spooning with a guy named Itchy Balls in the middle of a rain storm, in the middle of a forrest.  Next time I think I'll take my chances in my tent! 

This morning, albeit a bit blurry eyed, I crawled out of my sleeping bag and into a picture perfect day.  A perfect day for hiking.  :-) 

Well ... until next time.  I hope you are well and enjoying every moment of every day.

Happy Trails,

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Zero Days...

Hello from the Nantahala Outdoor Center, otherwise known as the NOC. Originally I was supposed to zip right through this spot but my left calf had different plans for me.

Fist off, my apologies for starting the "day in the life" blog series two days ago and then abruptly stopping without including my afternoon and nighttime activities. My intention was to provide a comprehensive overview of my daily routine but, little did I know, I picked one of the hardest 11 Mile sections from which to profile my activities.

Shortly after my last update on Monday I tweaked my left calf. With five miles and 2,300 feet of steep decent ahead of me I decided to focus only on reaching my destination. I promise to complete the rest of the series soon.

So yesterday I spent the day resting, icing and assessing my calf. Not sure if it was a sprain or something more serious I nabbed a bunk in the NOC's hiker hostel and relaxed.

The good news is that my calf is doing better today(it's just a sprain) so I plan to hike out tomorrow. Hopefully two full days of rest will be enough to get me back on track.

I've made two new friends, Goldylocks and Peru so we may hike together tomorrow. It's sure to be slow going since what goes down must go back up. The next 6.9 miles of trail goes straight up, gaining over 2,000 feet in elevation. I'll admit, I'm not looking forward to it ... but that's the trail and, just like in everyday life, you've gotta take the good with the bad and the ups with the downs.

So the Nantahala Outdoor Center is an interesting place. This is where Team USA's Olympic kayakers come to train. Since the AT crosses the road right at the NOC, it caters to both boaters and hikers. There's also a scenic tourist train that stops nearby. Hordes of people pile off to watch the boaters or eat lunch at the cafe. This afternoon I served as the unofficial AT tour guide to four visitors from Nebraska. They peppered me with questions about the trail and I was happy to answer all of them. They wanted to see a trail marker so I walked them to a spot where the could look at a white blaze.

It's strange to be part of the tourist attraction. I have a new symphony for zoo animals. When I arrived here on Monday evening someone pulled over, rolled down their window and took my picture. I can only imagine what I looked like, with days of trail dirt and a pained expression on my face. I think I tried to smile but I'm not sure that I was able to pull it off. All I can say is that they captured an authentic photo of a thru hiker at the end of a long day.

The gorge that the Nantahala River flows through is beautiful. This was originally Cherokee land so many of the names have tribal meanings. Nantahala, for example, means "Land of the noonday sun," which is very fitting since the light of the noonday sun seems to make everything even more stunning. This is a beautiful place.

Happy Trails Everyone.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A day in the life ...

The trail will kick you in the teeth but it will also reward you with little gifts like this...

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Not sure if this photo will provide a good depth of field. I'm headed over the rock. Note the white blaze trail marker ... Just confirming I'm going the right way. I'm typing this ... So I made it.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

For point of reference...

Here's the other side of the rock. My poles are set long, About four feet, since most of this section is downhill. Good times on the Appalachian Trail. :-)

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A day ... (cont.)

Where's the trail? Oh... That's it. Okay, bonsai!

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A Day in the Life (Roots And Rocks)...

As if on cue ... Here's an example of the roots and rocks that will tire out your feet really fast...

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A Day In The Life (Part II)

When I'm walking there are four things that I hope I don't encounter ... craggy rocks, excessive roots, steep ups and steep downs. And you thought I was going to say snakes, bears, poison ivy and hillbillies. Nope, I dread my first picks most because the rocks and roots are very hard to walk on (resulting in sore feet and tripping). The steep ups are tiring and the steep downs are rough on the knees.

I hike with Leki trekking poles, which help, but not always. In fact this morning I took my first head first fall. If it weren't for the poles I most likely would have eaten it a dozen times by know. Roots suck. They'll jump right out of the ground and down you go. No worries though ... I'm fine.

So this is a photo of my lunch. It's certainly not the most tasty ... but it gets the job done. Energy food.

Well... I eat while walking so it's time to get back to it.

I'll write more later.


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A day in the life (Part I)

I thought folks might be interested in my daily routine ... so I've decided to do several posts today.

This morning I awoke in my tent at the Wayah Shelter. It wasn't as cold as yesterday morning but it was still cold, so I got dressed before leaving the warmth of my sleeping bag (something I'm getting pretty good at).

After getting dressed I grab my "personal items" bag. Using a wet wipe on my hands (to avoid infection) I then drop ice cold contact lenses into my eyes. Yes, warming them in my sleeping bag is an option ... but I usually forget to do that and then don't want to spend the time waiting for them to warm up. After that I tie back my hair, put away my base layers (which I sleep in) and unzip my tent in order to put my boots on. That's not usually too fun ... but my feet comply after a while. Luckily, I've been able to nix the foot care routine from my morning schedule. While I still have one blister that is a bit of a problem it's in a spot that doesn't do well with moleskin or Band-Aids ... so I simply clean it at night now and am hoping it will heal (or turn into a callous) soon.

After using the little girl's tree I typically return to my tent and bag up my sleeping bag. Then I retrieve my food bag (which in North Carolina hangs from a tree because they haven't maintained their shelter bagging system) and decide what to have for breakfast. Today it was a high fiber breakfast cookie with a side of peanut butter. Not my favorite ... but I was in a hurry to hit the trail.

After breakfast I brush my teeth, take down my tent, pack my backpack (everything has a place to maintain balance) and sweep my area for any scraps of paper or wrappers. If I pack it in, I pack it out ... Who wants to hike all day just to see someone else's trash?

After that I check my water supply (which I fill the night before) and then I hit the trail.

That's where I am right now and if I'm to accomplish my 11 mile goal today ... Then I'd better get back to it.

I'll write more later. Happy Monday everyone.


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Zenon & Hemi

This is Zenon (left) and Hemi (right). I was hiking wuth these guys, up until yesterday, when Zack (Hemi) had to be medically evacuated (by Zenon and myself) for an ongoing issue. He's having minor surgery today and with some good luck will be back on the trail soon.

Zack, if you're reading this ... glazed, sprinkled or chocolate dipped ... You can't go wrong with a donut! Take care my friend!!!


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Mt. Albert Observation Tower

This was me on top of the Mt. Albert observation tower the other day. Those green "hills" in the background are mountains and the green bushes covering those hills are full sizes trees. Just a little perspective as for how high

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Sunday, April 18, 2010


This is our fire from this morning. We really needed it. This morning temp is 28 degrees. Very, very cold. So cold our fuel wouldn't light for our stoves.

I've been hiking the past few days with Boston Dan, Hemi and Zenon. They're good guys, two are from Boston and one is from Texas. I'll send more info later ... but right now I've got to go warm up.

Happy Trails.


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Friday, April 16, 2010

Another photo ...

Another pic from Albert Mountain....

Slack packing rocked today. That was the easiest 8.2 miles ever ... Whoo hooo! Unfortunately I'm back on trail tomorrow morning, with my fully loaded pack. It's all good though ... that's what I'm here for.

Happy Trails & Happy Weekend Everyone!

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On top of Albert Mountain ...

I slack packed out of Franklin, NC today and reached the summit of Albert Mountain in no time at all. Things are much easier with a six pound day pack on! The decision to slack pack this 8.2 miles will cost me time but I thought it was the safest way to accomplish this section since it actully involved some rock scrambling (climbing with your hands and feet).

I'm posting this from the summit since my phone can connect down to a tower.

I hope everyone is having a great Friday!

Happy trails.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yesterday's lunch spot ...

I'm not sure if this photo can convey the peace and beauty of this spot ... but I snapped it anyway. This is where I stopped for lunch yesterday. Lunch consists of trail mix and a peanut butter packet (energy food).

Anyway, the sound of the water cascading down the rocks, coolness from the shade and clean mountain air made it a great place to soak in the beauty that I'm surrounded by daily. It's strange ... some days I'm so focused on meeting my mileage goal or my sore feet or one of a million other distractions that it's easy to fall out of the moment and miss some of the gifts that this experience offers.

Upon reflection, I guess that could be said of my life before the trail too. We're surrounded by gifts daily ... we just need to take the time to actually see and enjoy them.

Happy Trails ...

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bye bye Georgia...

This morning I crossed into North Carolina. I took several photos myself but as I was getting ready to leave Yum Yum walked up and took this shot for me.

North Carolina is pretty rough so far very STEEP "ups" (or mountains) right off the bat.

I think of you all daily. In fact your words and encouragements push me up these mountains. Thank you all so much.

I'm pushing my daily mileage to get back on track for hiding out from the rain the other day. If I can rock out about 12 miles today I'll be right where I want to be.

Hope everyone is well. Take care and happy trails.


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Trey Mountain Shelter

This is where I stayed on Saturday night. It was a bit cold so some of the guys made a fire. To be honest I think their motivation was to build a better one than the boy scouts camped near by ... but I didn't care it was just nice to have a place to warm up. I'm currently cozy in my sleeping bag so goodnight!

Happy trails.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010

Whitley Gap Shelter & Scaredy Bear...

Today is Thursday, April 8th and I'm enjoying an unscheduled town stop. The weather was blowing in a severe thunder storm and I was close enough to Helen, Georgia to make the executive decision to avoid the rain, mud and discomfort that was on its way.  That won't always be the case and I'm sure I'll get my fair share of nasty trail weather ... but I'm pretty darned thrilled to have a roof, bed and private bathroom tonight!  Whoo hooo... hot showers rule!
So, before leaving the trail I encountered "Scaredy Bear," a self trail named guy who, based on his accent, was most likely from the New York area.  I had made my way to the Whitley Gap Shelter, which is 1.2 miles off of the trail.  I chose to go there because I was too tired to make it to the next shelter (another four and a half miles away) and I didn't want to tent camp away from a shelter because I'd have to hang my food bag in a tree.  You see, trail shelters have elaborately constructed food hanging systems that dissuade even the most determined bear, squirrel, raccoon, mouse or whatever else has a hankering for human eats.  I'd been warned that there were active bears in the area and made the decision to only camp at established shelters with food hanging systems. 
Walking 1.2 miles, just to get to a shelter, is almost unheard of which is why, once I got there, I wasn't surprised to find that I had the whole place to myself.  The afore mentioned access trail wasn't easy and I found some tent sites and fire rings about half way to the shelter.  Since I needed water and, according to the map, it was located at the shelter I kept going.  The previous day's water source had been silty and somewhat bug infested so I envisioned a well with a pipe and cool, clean water pouring out of it. I hadn't encountered anything like that yet but heck ... if I was going to walk that far on such a difficult access trail then I could daydream about resupplying from a quality water source! 
By the time I arrived it was about dinnertime so I quickly went through my nightly routine before zipping into my sleeping bag and drifting off to sleep around 8:30pm.  Sad but true ... I think my bedtime now rivals that of my nieces and nephews!
About 11:00pm I was awoken by the sound of tent poles clicking together followed by a tent billowing open in the breeze.  I wondered who the heck would traverse that access trail at that time of night.  The sound of their routine was that of someone just trying to get their tent up and get to sleep ... and that's what they did ... so I returned to sleep as well.  The next morning I awoke early, as usual, and tried to pack up my gear as quietly as possible so as not to disturb my new neighbor. 
I carried my pack over to the shelter platform, retrieved my food bag from the hanging system and pulled out my new MSR Pocket Rocket (recently purchased to save pack weight over my MSR Whisper Light Stove - which is now on a slow truck back to California).  Steaming coffee in hand I watched as a tired man crawled out of his tent and made his way over to my location.  About half way to me he called out an apology, "I'm really sorry if I woke you up last night.  I didn't mean to come in so late."  "That must have been some access trail to make your way on using a headlamp," I said in return.  He agreed and informed me that he'd been run out of his last camp by a 500 pound bear who was after his food bag, which he'd hung from a tree.
Apparently, he'd set camp about three miles south of my location, fixed dinner and then hung his food bag 12 feet off the ground using proper bear bag hanging technique.  He said the bear didn't even wait for it to get fully dark before walking right into camp, standing on his hind legs and swiping at the food bag with his front paws.  Out of reach, the bear climbed the tree and clawed at the rope.  Not wanting to lose his food the hiker threw a stick at the bear and yelled at it too.  The bear climbed down from the tree, totally unafraid of his two legged competition, and huffed loudly in the direction of the now completely scared backpacker.  Luckily it walked off into the woods and left my now completely animated friend to quickly gather his gear and hike at light speed up the trail to the next shelter with a bear bagging system! 
He pronounced that his new trail name was Scaredy Bear and I introduced myself as "Yahtzee."  We exchanged some additional trail info, mostly about bear stories and trail conditions, before I shouldered my pack and headed back up the 1.2 mile access trail to reconnect with the AT.
I was about half way back to the AT before I remembered that I'd forgotten to take a picture.  When I'd arrived the evening before and trekked down to the water source ... it was an old stone well with a large pipe sticking out of it.  The pipe poured cold, clean wonderful water.  It was just as I'd envisioned. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Miss Janet ...

This is me and "Miss Janet," the hostel chef at Mountain Crossing. She fixed an amazing dinner & breakfast that lifted my spirits and fed some hungry muscles.

We're standing in the breezeway at Mountain Crossing. One of the few places the AT runs right through a town or hostel.

The whole staff at this location were top notch!!

Okay, back to the trail.

Happy Trails.

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This was a water source I passed two days ago in Gooch Gap. Water is like bathrooms ... Don't pass it up without using it.

Happy Trails

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My "old" tent ...

This is my camp spot, from night two at Hawk Mountain Shelter. I've since purchased a new tent that saves me three pounds of pack weight!!! Whooo hooo!!! Photo of new tent to post soon.

Happy Trails.

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Trail Magic ...

My first experience with trail magic happened before this photo was taken. A kind section hiker refilled my water bottles with water from his car as I crossed the road where his car was parked. Later, following a long uphill climb I rounded a corner to find cold sodas and home made cookies. It really hit the spot and gave me the extra energy needed to get to the top of the mountain. Today has been a great day. I'm off to cook my dinner now.

Happy Trails.

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My First Mail Stop ...

Hi All -

I rolled into Mountain Crossings in Blairsville, Georgia yesterday morning.  It was a great sight to see after a long hard start. 

Within my first two days three people I met, quit.  It's not an easy trail ... but as someone told me before I left, "It were easy then everyone would do it."  So true. 

The people I've met have been great. We're all very much individuals but with a common thread ... so it makes for interesting conversation at the shelters and hostels.  Last night I stayed at the Mountain Crossing Hostel but I didn't get much rest.  As a light sleeper, surrounded by heavy snorers ... well there wasn't much rest to be had.  That said, the food was great!!!  Hot meals ... that I didn't have to cook myself.

My pack has been reduced by 15 pounds (Debbie expect to receive a package via UPS).  My pack is still overweight ... but I imagine that I'll end up ditching more by the time I get to my next trail town.  Shoot by the time I finish, I might have a pair of shorts, tee shirt, tarp and hair tie!  LOL!!!  So I cut pack weight by ditching my stove and tent.  My new equipment cost a pretty penny but the weight savings was worth the cost.  Basically $100/pound.  No worries though... it's just all part of the journey.  Live and learn.

So, someone asked me what I've been "hearing."  To be honest, not much ... other than my screaming legs and heavy breathing!  The mountains have mercy though ... just about the time that you can't take another step uphill ... the trail turns downhill and impacts a whole different set of muscles.  Pain is just part of the process.  Even the fittest hikers are hurting.  A few more weeks ... it'll all be good.

Well, I've got someone lurking behind me.  My five minutes of hiker internet are up... so I've gotta get going. 

I hope all is well.  I'm doing GREAT ... take care and know that your good thoughts, wishes, prayers and kind words push me up those mountains.  I'll try to post more pics soon.

Happy Trails!!!


Friday, April 2, 2010

On the trail ...

This is the southern starting point on the AT. I hiked southbound .9 miles, uphill, to get there ... Then turned around, back tracked, and started my northbound journey. It's beautiful here and I'm loving it!

Sorry for not posting yesterday but i was in a valley w/o cell service. Will try to post more later..

Happy Trails.

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