Saturday, October 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
BIg Daddy and Ipod are insurance salesmen from North Carolina. I think it was last year when they decided to do the whole trail together but alas, old men's knees don't work as well as they used to. Big Daddy's knees were going out of style around Hot Springs and they decided to section hike the trail instead. This time out they were doing the Damascus > Pearisburg section which is a cool 160 miles. I met them after a few days at the Partnership shelter. It is on the edge of the Mt Rogers National Recreation Area and I believe it is the only shower with a shower. Anyways, right off the bat, they start unloading their food bags on me. That night it was just some drink mix. I liked the Peach Tea Sarah, but they had FRUIT PUNCH!!!!
By late June, just starting Virginia is late and the other hikers trickle on through so finding good hiking buddies is not as easy and hiking all day and not seeing 5 people is pretty lonely. Although solitude is good, it's nice to share the day's experiences and talk with someone at the end of the day. Over the next week or so, we all hang together and I soon find out that Big Daddy sure can build a fire. The Knot Maul Shelter which I think is marked somewhere on the google map almost burned down because of him. All the wood was wet but sure enough he had some tricks up his sleeve and the fire was raging. You had to sit near about ten feet away so you wouldn't burn your leg hairs off. The rain that had hit us was of no consequence at this point because the inferno dried everything out.
Ipod on the other hand didn't have to say or do anything and he was instantly cool. I didn't know why but after talking a bit, I found out why he emitted cool. He is an NCSU alumni. Ipod got the name because he could sing just about any tune that you asked him to. His selection though was limited almost to the 60's through 80's. On a bus into town filled with senior citizens, I told all the little old ladies that story that he could sing anything and sure enough, they wanted to hear a song since he had such a beautiful voice. He and Big Daddy proceeded to sing Amazing Grace and I have a video to prove it!
AND NOW, THE REST OF THE STORY...
I cross the last road and am heading along this flat and I see two people stopped in the middle of the AT. They're looking at the ground and inspecting it. I thought that they dropped something and were trying to find it so I keep walking towards them and watching them. It appears that one person is just a very large, perhaps menatlly challenged, juvenile and the other person is the guardian and so I keep walking forward and watching, still wondering what the heck is going on and then I notice that the larger one has their pants down right in the middle of the trail. They have not realized that I just walked up on them and so I just turn around and stand in the path. I hear their mutterings. "Yall alright?" I yell back to them. "You're ok. Come on through" I walk past them, and see that it's two older ladies in their sixties and that they're clearly embaressed.
About an hour later, I catch Big Daddy and Ipod at the shelter and tell them the story. They remember the ladies in my story and their big reply, boils down to how all the older ladies like a man with a Flag or something like that. Horsefly catches us later on and I tell him the story too.
The next day, we all get up for a potential 30 miler around 6:00am and keep walk out around 7:00am. About a mile from the shelter, Fly and I are walking about 20 yds apart and then he stops and turns around. Jokingly I ask if someone was taking a piss in the path and he doesn't reply but all he says is "I remember what you said yesterday". Turns out, we have met the path pissers again. The same two older ladies, out for a walk and not taking a single step off the trail to do their biz. Just to forewarn all of you, don't piss in the middle of a trail or you will be caught by an unsuspecting hiker and you will end up in their trail journal or blog. What a story.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
As for me, I'm officially reinstated and registered for the fall semester. 2008 was not my year to hike. But I have great crafty plans for reducing my pack weight and increasing my endurance before I retry next year. Too bad, because I thought the Georgia "Two" Maine was really clever, and it doesn't apply any more.
Isn't Daniel great, though? Yay Daniel!
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I parted with Slim and Fly and proceeded to walk on down the trail to Wanda's house. I was tired of walking but you gotta do what you gotta do. It was only around 6:30 at this point and the sky was no longer threatening and that always makes it easier.
In my time here, I have been getting over a stomach ailment and having a good time getting to know the family and see what they're all about. As much as I asked her if I could help out with anything, she just wouldn't let me help out around the house. I did get to pick green beans out of the garden, drag a fallen limb out of the front yard, pick apples, carry some heavy stuff for her, and learn a little bit about canning. I watched Wanda make applesauce with a ricer and put it away in jars. Yesterday we sliced cucumbers and made bread and butter pickles out of them.
Spence showed me around and showed me what fun was around here. We went out with the flashlight and looked for deer or rabbits, walked through the garden to check up on the vegetables or just sat around and talked for a while at night watching the bugs get zapped in the bug zapper. All this wasn't what I sought out for fun at home, but it was a relaxing sort of fun that I haven't had in a long while.
Sunday, Spence and I drove down to Greensboro and went to the REI there to swap out a backpack. The aluminum stay broke away from the hipbelt and wasn't transferring any of the weight to my hips anymore, so it was painful to carry something had to be done. I also picked up some new trekking poles because the ones that I had were cheap and the tips had become dull plus one was bent in a polevault over a rattlesnake. They were thirty bucks and came 700 miles so I guess they went as far as they were designed to. While in Greensboro, I got to see Brittany again and the three of us walked downtown and ate lunch at Natty Greene's, a little microbrewery right down the street. Brittany told me to go hike some because she was seeing me too much and she didn't miss me anymore. I didn't see where not missing me was a bad thing. We did some 'urban foraging' on blackberries on the way back... true story... they happen every day.
So I guess I leave here today and I may make it 3 or I may make it 11 miles but I hope the terrain eases up. Weaving inbetween knee high rocks isn't my idea of fun. Thanks Wanda and Spence for everything that you have done for me. Look for post cards!
Here is the Randall Smith shooting story
All 160 miles to Pearisburg, that crazyfool was on my mind. Really there isn't a lot of danger due to people because they are crazy, but once in a while some nut case finds out that the trail is out there and the people on it would be relatively easy targets. Don't worry about me thought because I avoid the crazies at all cost and I haven't met any so far.
The place where he commited the murders in the 80's and the attempted murders two months ago is a shelter about 18 miles from town. All day I was alone for the most part. I hadn't seen anybody and then a couple of miles from the shelter, I passed three guys. One had a big knife strapped to the shoulder strap and another had a machete strung onto the side of his pack. As I was passing them I was wondering what in the heck people are going out into the woods strapped with machetes? It really does give your average hiker at least a little bit of a scare. When I got to the shelter a little while later, I found out from the hikers that were already there, that one of the three guys that I had passed earlier on the trail was one of the fisherman from above story. That explained the machete and it eased my mind about the whole matter.
At least you know I'm ok, I'm making posts!
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
July 3 my parents and I met Daniel in Pearisburg, VA. I was able to sprint across the parking lot, give Daniel a hug, and take in the scent. A hiker named Horsefly ("you eat like a horse and fly down the trail") or Doug was with him. In the Food Lion parking lot we showed Daniel the dinners and goodies we brought him, and he approved. The five of us got a room at the Holiday Motor Lodge across the street, and some of us splashed in the pool. Two nights we stayed there, went out to eat several times, drove around to see fireworks, and checked out an "interesting" local 4th celebration in Narrows, VA. No high excitement, in my view, but a whole lot of fun just hanging out. For me, there was a little high being around hikers. Glancing them on the road, I had the urge to jump out and offer food! Doug was an incredibly cool guy, and it was good to meet him. I was happy to see Daniel, too. His hiking kilt becomes him, but he said he's not going to ever wear it on the street. He's visibly thinner, too. Very interesting.
July 5 afternoon, a rainy one, we took Daniel and Doug back to the trail. Then my dad picked up two section hikers, Gooch and Crutch, and took them to their car. They stood and chatted a while, wished my ankles well, and told me to be at some Hog place or other the first week in June next year, if I can make it. Hmmm...
Sorry for those of you who want to hear about his hike. I suppose he doesn't have many opportunities to get on the internet, and he's not sending Allison or me posts to transcribe.
The photo collections are available for public viewing here:
Friday, July 4, 2008
About the trail though. I left wednesday morning with Dixie Dawg and we took a short cut. Instead of taking the long hilly way from Damascus to where it crosses the Virginia Creeper Trail, we just took the VCT and saved a lot of time. It slowly ascends 900 ft over 10 miles and ends up in the same place that the AT does after it goes 14 miles up, down, around and under hills. It could have possible been one of the better decisions that I have made so far. The next day we walked through the Grayson Highlands, and Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The thing that is popular about Grayson Highlands and Mount Rogers are the wild ponys that live there. They run around the fields and are there in plain view while the tourists walk around and point and snap pictures or climb rocks in their nice clean cotton clothing. Mount Rogers and surrounding area was set aside for the publoic to use because it is the highest peak in Virginia, but believe me, I didn't feel guilty one bit skipping the side trail to the 'viewless peak'. Just down the trail is where the beauty begins. The most scenic stretch of the AT in the Damascus > Pearisburg stretch is here in Mount Rogers NRA. Unfortunately I didn't get any pictures of the savannah-esque-ness of the open bald areas, but it certainly is the most foreign feeling place. Either side of the trail is thick with brush and up on the hillside is a pony. Feral pony tracks lead off to the hilltops and so on and so forth. Instead of following the blazes on the trees, there are posts stuck in the ground with blazes on them and once in a while one will be painted on a rock.
I was excited to be hiking with someone and not off on my own meaining I was glad to be hiking with Dixie Dawg, but that night he busted his ankle. We were no more than a mile from the shelter around 10:00pm and thats when it happened. We had gotten to the top of Hurricane Mountain and two steps on the other side down he goes. He limps to the shelter and we wern't the quietest, after all Dixie was in a good deal of pain. I could see one person inside and I knew it was Bellows so I called out to him.
That night I met Tony the ridgerunner. What a polite, kind individual. *sarcasm*
<---Dixie Dawg, chill fellow
Monday, June 23, 2008
Just to give you an idea of the relative ease of the trail, I introduce you to Cimmaron. He was a Boy Scout Leader for 36 years and hiked went to Philmont 15 times as a leader. He had a Philmont belt and a Philmont Hat to go along with it. He will be working his way up to 12 - 15 miles per day and flip-flopping around the end of July. Just as a side note, Cimmaron is 86 years old.
This is Jack and Billie Hilton of Elizabethton, TN with their granddaughter Ashton. I ran into these people this past Wednesday morning. I just started chatting them up about the Appalachian Trail and Jack decided to buy my breakfast. The Mom'n Pops places along the trail are some of the nicest places to stop and get good cheap food. Sometimes getting into town is as easy as an early morning walk off of the trail.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
He's currently in Damascus and taking a zero to take care of business. He's staying at a hostel called "The Place," owned by a Methodist church but run on a sort of work-plus-donation honor system. When I caught him, he was hanging out in a coffee shop with a guy named "Never the Same" who, interestingly, is from Carrboro and does contra dance (woot).
Daniel told me about some night hiking he did around Watauga Dam, I believe. It was a full moon, so a good time to night hike altogether. He was sitting by the dam and saw what looked like bright headlights coming over the mountain, and that was actually the moon. He characterized the seven miles, three hours he hiked in the dark by himself as "intense," with his body in "high awareness mode." He was tuned to the smallest noises and sights, and they made his heart thump. Some glowing spots he took for insects at first were the eyes of some wild or free dog, who ran off barking loudly. Daniel said it "freaked me the f* out." At 12:30 when he stopped by a spring, he heard footsteps. In such times of uncertainty or fear, he collapses one trekking pole to use as a weapon. This time, he heard some animal make a call like a cross between that of a dove...and a Wookie. Three times it called, with a pause in between each. Daniel was unsettled enough to move on then. For one hour Daniel walking in the dark because his lamp went out, but there was enough light to see by. He made it to the shelter by 2, listened to some bears, and went to sleep. The next day was exhausting, until he took an afternoon nap.
Daniel took longer than he expected to reach Damascus because of two unforseeable events. The first was the opportunity to volunteer on the trail, which he said does not happen every day and which he could not pass up. The second event was an unexpected meeting on the trail. Daniel got to talking with another hiker about where he was from, and it turned out this guy "Matt" is our cousin's husband! Daniel ran into a relative neither of us had met before. It was so bizarre and awesome that Daniel hiked with Matt and his group for a few days. Wow.
Daniel has also had a few more gifts of free food and conversation.
He's next accepting mail at Pearisburg (VA 24134). I'll talk to him tonight to be sure that's at the post office. (NO, see below) It's about 160 miles away, and I think he plans on getting there in less than ten days. He or I will post soon to verify that.
Edit: He told me he'll be in Pearisburg June 30 or July 1...or maybe July 4. So let that guide you. He does not want to depend on the post office; instead, send packages to c/o Plaza Motel, 415 North Main St., city/zip above. Don't forget to note "hold for thru-hiker" on the package.
Daniel added that he met an 86-year-old hiker named Cimarron, and he also plans on buying a hiking kilt tomorrow to have more room for movement. Wear it with pride, Daniel.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
As for me, my ankles do not feel right yet. I started standing and walking a little yesterday and this morning. I would not call the results painful, but they aren't right. I'm getting swelling when I walk, and my stride isn't normal, isn't smooth. In fact I can't not limp. So now I wonder if I'll be right in a month and able to rejoin for a time (Slam! Pennsylvania boulders!), and yes, spend some more time with my dear brother, or if I ought to start looking for a cheap apartment now. My spirits are low.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
At least I am eating vegan mac n' cheese, watching Terminator 2 (reminded me of bear jokes), and reading The Two Towers. On Monday Ulysses and I talked about Tolkien and the fact that my brother sort of resembles a young Gandalf, and how I need to finish the trilogy, so I shall. But the more humorous resemblance is that of my brother to Rasputin. Daniel's beard is bushy, and his hair is wild when he wakes, so Haha bestowed the name "Rasputin" on him. I hope he takes it for his trail name!
If it's your style, please send me healing thoughts. I'm impatient to be back on the trail.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
When we stumbled into Uncle Johnny's hostel in Erwin, TN at dark on Sunday, I was overwhelmed by the hiker concern. A bag of ibuprofen materialized. People offered food--chips and fresh cherries. Cubit brought the kitty cat for me to play with. Ulysses biked to the store and brought back a bag of ice for my ankle. I got several piggyback rides over the next two days, including one from L'il Cubit--she may be l'il, but she's a beast! Once again, it was nice to see people we knew. Dan, Chuck, Haha, Will, Brotherproof crew, Caleb, Ian. Our dad arrived late Monday (Erwin is not so far from Raleigh) and spent the night in the camp yard with us, and then drove me home today (Tuesday). So yes, I am typing in Wake Forest right now. We will have my ankles checked out. With any luck, I should be able to rejoin my brother after a week or two of rest. I hope very much that that is the case.
Interesting moments over the week: At the top of Big Bald (360 degree view), I met a family from Greensboro, NC. Sunday we passed a campsite to which someone had brought a plastic lawn chair! There was also a register at the site, and we read and added our own exclamations about this chair in the middle of the woods! Tuesday many hikers at the first shelter stoned, skinned, and ate a rattlesnake. Of course I found it appalling ("But it was hanging around the privy sign and rattling at us!") but there you have it. Turns out the woods are actually stocked with these snakes, and there's a fifty dollar fine for killing one. The last three miles into Erwin a local named Dave ran into us, hiked down the mountain, came back to see if we were OK, offered to carry our packs (declined), and followed and conversed with us for the two hours it took me to make it to town. When we reached the road he even told us where he lived and said we could come by if we needed anything at all. People are so nice.
We spent several nights tarped out instead of in shelters last week. It has quite a different social feel. At shelters, the conversation happens loudly out front, and when people crawl into bed it becomes silent. But we shared tarp space a couple of nights, and quiet, hilarious conversations continued after getting into the sleeping bags (e.g. one conversation about hiking naked on the Summer Solstice). It's definitely more intimate, sharing your personal shelter by choice, than is happening to sleep in the built shelter with someone.
If I haven't miscounted, I hiked 200 miles so far, 60 of them in pain. Not bad for a first trip. I have to say that whatever happens with my ankles, I've found a new hobby. Backpacking. I love it. There will definitely be more of this, one way or another.
Monday, June 9, 2008
So here is an outfitter address:
Mt. Rogers Outfitters
110 Laurel Ave.
Damascus, VA 24236
Use the instructions on the right-hand side of the webpage for further instructions on how and what to send.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
Awesome place. an 1875 Italianate Victorian house incorporating earlier 1840 buildings. It has been a boarding house for travelers for over a century, and for Appalachian Trail thru-hikers for 50 years. For you history people, it's on the National Historic Register! This history and more, plus bed and towels, meal option, eclectic antique furniture a music room, parlor, puppy, hundreds of books, second floor porch, and dinner discussion, for a ridiculously reasonable rate! And get this: "The Sunnybank Retreat Association is a not-for-profit private educational and recreational membership organization that exists to provide experiences that promote physical, mental, and spiritual health, and further a natural and simple way of life. The Association supports groups and politics that promote ecological wisdom, human and animal rights, global responsibility and sustainable economics." Sweet.
Before dinner imagine Brittany, Daniel, a Canadian, and three English guys watching Sicko in the parlor. Amazing. Dinner was vegan for my sake: amazing lentil stew (Daniel and I had two bowels each), salad (with cheese for the others because cheese is like crack), stir fry, and sweet potato pie by courses. Wow. After dinner more hikers showed up, and we walked the block or two down to the pub. I really enjoyed the evening.
So now I'm composing on that second-floor porch, feet up, freshly showered, 7 a.m., waiting for breakfast to roll around and for everyone else to wake. We made no mileage yesterday, so in hiker language it was a "zero day." But I think we made the right choice. Elmer's place has been totally worth it.
Monday, June 2, 2008
We were going to stay in a top notch hostel last night (15 bucks per night) but we ended up SLEEPING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!!! Of course when I say van, I mean that I was sleeping under the tarp. It was really down by the river. One of the more pleasant nights so far. Dinner came in the form of a home style diner version of the six dollar burger and fries. It came only two hours after lunch which meant it was tons of filling fun. I was hungry 3 hours later though.
Hiker's hunger is the worst. After packing 10 - 15 miles per day for several weeks, you end up with the hiker's hunger. You can eat at a buffet for two hours and still be just as hungry as when you started two hours later.
That's all I can think of right now but before too long I think that we are going to try to put up profiles of the people that we have met on the trail and then get their pictures up here too. Not everyone is a tree hugger or outdoor oriented. You would be pleasantly surprised.
[above is Daniel's portion, below is Brittany's]
As far as hiker hunger goes, I'm not there yet. I had a veggie plate of cucumber salad, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, and pinto beans at the diner last night, and was stuffed. (One of the patrons last night whispered "More hippies!" as she walked by us.) A huge homestyle hash brown plate with toast and fruit this morning, stuffed. Snacked on a peach, a tart, a pint of chocolate vegan ice cream, and some fudge cookies...I may be sick soon.
The hike is still cool for me. I mean, I'm still slow, but there are great moments. Max Patch was an enormous bald, I mean enormous bald, with millions of buttercups (and many vacationers) on top. That same evening there were many stream crossings with log bridges (squared off), very beautiful. We had a potential bear encounter as well, arriving at a shelter laden with official and unofficial notices and anecdotes about the tenacity of the bear in the area. Not wanting our food stolen or gear destroyed, we hiked away from that (1938-built) shelter and camped under the tarp at a place called Catpen Gap. I don't like setting up in the dark, and because we didn't know if the bear might be where we were anyway, I sang Jesus Christ Superstar and Fountains of Wayne songs to warn potential bear of our presence while Daniel hung the food bag.
^^^Max Patch ascent and Daniel atop the bald enjoying the wind!
It's great to run into people we know. Just yesterday, we ran into the following hikers we knew, all in Hot Springs at the same time: Kit, Levi, Jukebox, Rolex, Cyclone, Skatch, Kansas, Dixie Dawg, Ben, Float, and Will. It's like a family reunion of dirty, smelly people: Hey guys! Great to see you here! How's it going!?
We are doing laundry as this entry is typed. So I'm sitting here in the outfitter in my rain jacket and my cleaner shorts, feeling somewhat exposed. This is typical, I am told. It's just a different way of life. Other hikers have said in real life, they shower and wear a clean outfit every day, but on the trail it doesn't bother them to go on for days without a cleaning. It doesn't bother me either, but I'm kind of glad to get 12-day funk out of my hiking pants!
We meet so many people, nearly every day, I wish I could write about them all. It's wonderful, being a hiker. People just want to talk to you.
Friday, May 30, 2008
I started at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Wesser, instead of in Franklin. This is my seventh day, and we've averaged 10 miles so far, through Nantahala National Forest and half of Great Smokey Mountains National Park. The views from Cheoah Bald and Clingman's Dome (highest peak on the trail) are spectacular. Fontana Dam -- gigantic and impressive. The Smokies are beautiful, except for the dying Spruce-Fir forests. There are some really magical places
Argh! The P.O. is closing!
Also, we saw a bear around our shelter last night and this morning. Daniel accidentally threw dishwater on him before he saw it was there. Many of the shelters in the Smokies still have chain link fences across the front to keep bears out, so we observed our friend in safety this morning. Other shelters have three sides, a roof, and platforms on which to sleep. They are comfortable enough, and we meet people there. My regret with traveling slow so far is that we fall behind people we meet and don't get to know them. Still, there have been a few guys we've bunked with multiple nights.
- Solar Charger doesn't work on our phone or camera. We will have to mooch electricity. So no pictures of bears, peaks, or funny signs.
Writing here from Gatlinburg. Two Norwegian ladies in the states for a conference gave us a ride out of the park. We also got free apples and sodas by sitting around the parking lot at Newfound Gap. That's really cool.
We have to catch the trolley back downtown, buy some food, hitch into the park, and hike three more miles tonight, so that'll be all. When I'm in shape and we have a pace, we'll let you know where and when to write to us.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
Unfortunately, or fortunately, we heard before we left the outfitter that bad weather was coming our way. A mix of hail and rain promising to be pretty intense. So this was a motivating reason to truck it as well. So Dan and I turned on our iPods and started a fairly fast-paced hike. Around five we had just finished going down the next to last big mountain and the wind was starting to blow real hard. We took a quick break and prepared to climb our last large mountain for the day. It was as steep as they come, but it was eventually conquered leaving us with four miles of little hills before we were to arrive at the shelter for the night. In my mind I decided that four miles could most definitely be done in one hour, but we just had to walk really fast. The wind had not let down by this point and rain drops were starting to fall here and there. We walked the fastest we would hike for the two weeks that I was out there, but by the end of two hours, we had only covered two miles, and it was officially raining. Dan kept up spirits while I felt defeated and decided that I was not pushing it anymore. My feet were killing me and I was already wet, so there was no need to continue sweating like I already was.
Dan made it to the shelter first. He put down his pack and came to find me, who wasn't too far behind him. We were officially done with our 14 miles.
We cooked three huge dinners that night, most of which Dan ate, but they were delicious. By the time we settled in for the night, the rain came down.
We woke up the next morning to a very foggy day. The clouds were so thick that it was difficult to see very far. But the up side was that we only had seven miles to hike today before we tried to get a ride into Helen. We covered this in no time soon made it to the road that would take us into town. Luckily for us, Dennis, a man who had spent the night at the shelter with us the night before, was having is wife pick him up and said that we could hop a ride with him. We got dropped off at the Super 8 in Helen, and they gave Dan their contact information for when he started hiking up around their way
Helen is an odd little town. Like any other town in Georgia, it has its big cars, camouflage, and teenage boys with crustaches. But Helen is unique in that it is a replica of a small German town. Definitely a tourist destination.
We visited a local grocery store, which had more expensive than normal groceries, but thinking there was no other option, we bought them and moved on to try and find some alcohol for the stove. Typical of normal small town, Ace Hardware was closed at five and would be closed on Sunday (it was Saturday), so we went to all other possible places that might sell this, like the drug store, the dollar general (where we learned that this is where we should have been buying food), and eventually the liquor store, where we bought grain alcohol (basically everclear).
On Sunday, also Mother's Day, we woke up and got ready to leave. We were surprised to find that our ride was not ready by the time we were. When we first arrived at the hotel, we had been told that they would give us a free ride back to the trail, but Sunday morning we were dismayed to find out that we would have to call "Woody's" who charged a hefty price to drive us 10 minutes up the rode. But we got back to a very foggy trail and got ready to begin the hike again.
We started out moving pretty slow the next day. Our goal was to make it to the shelter at the bottom of Blood Mountain. From previous conversations with my brother, I had come to see Blood Mountain as a terrible, never ending up hill hike. I was dreading the hike. We spent the night in another shelter, which was .4 miles off the trail, which isn't very far, unless you have been hiking all day. There we met Scott again, who was taking it very slow compared to the 19 miles he hiked on the first day. But all that hiking had given him some pretty torn up ankles, which, according to him, didn't hurt but he thought it best to take it slow anyway.
There was also a couple at the shelter who came in after us. The guy portion of the couple was named Captain. SWEEEEEET name! Anyway, Dan was super fascinated with his stove set up and the fact that he ate pudding.
We sleep, we wake, we pack up, we get water, we hike. Scott decided to hike with us, because with the pace I was going, I was making it a nice sllloooooooww hike for everyone. We began to ascend Blood Mountain. Let me tell you, I got to the top of that thing and wanted to kill Jonathan. I was scared for nothing. It was a breeze to climb up. There was a large stone shelter up at the top that had a fire place. It looked like a two room house. It was also very windy up there, so I'm glad we decided not to make it up there for the night. There wasn't much to see because it was so cloudy, but we decided to take pictures anyway. We didn't stay long up there, Dan and I were planning on hiking 14 miles, which meant that we needed to get on the rode. So we hiked down the mountain. I decided that this must have been the side that Jonathan climbed up, because it was a bear to climb down. Lots of boulders and steep climbing. But all our efforts were rewarded in the end when we finally got to Neel's Gap, where there was an outfitters. But I'll tell you all about that later.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
So here is a quick wrap up on the first two weeks out on the trail with Dirty Daddy Long Legs himself (aka Daniel). We get down to Amocolola Falls around 3:30 where we putter around and look at the water fall that they have over there along with the super cool snake exhibit (here's a question for you - why would you put a snake exhibit at the beginning of the trail? So you can strike fear into the hearts of all the people who are about to start hiking that way? I thought it was horrible to look at, but I was the only one I guess because there were tons of people around there). Then we started the hike, which required us walking under this stone arch, it looked very official. We didn't hike very far the first day due to gnats, my hate for the gnats, and because we started hiking around four. So we set up a tent, had to eat dinner while protecting our food from a mouse, and set up bear bags and went to sleep. We woke up the next morning where we met two older gentlemen who were up for a couple of days hiking around, and another man with a dog that wanted to eat us.
So the hiking began!
We made it all the way to Springer (which is the offical beginning of the trail) by lunch time, which is where we ate, and then we hiked roughly three miles after that and ended up spending the night in a shelter (which is a three-sided building with wooden floor, so all you have to do is roll out a mat and sleeping bag). We spent the night with the two elderly gentlemen, Mike and Dave, who were hysterical, and a guy named Austin, from Austin, Texas. Austin would be a go getter of a hiker, but would eventually end up leaving the trail to go hike the Pacific Crest with his brother. That night we built a fire and sat around it till the sun went down. Then we all went to bed.
Well there is the first two days.
I'll be back on here later when I can to finish up the rest, but for now I have to do some homework (blasted summer school!)
Why am I still up? Because I just realized the May 13 Vegan Freak Radio podcast is up, and I am not about to climb into the sky for several months without a last dose of foul-mouthed, vegan PhDs. Go listen to show 90 (if you are OK with the language)! It's one of the better shows for a while...oh yes, it's an awesome show...
So awesome show 90 is over, go listen to it, stay tuned, write me, and goodbye!
Saturday, May 10, 2008
No real exciting news from him. Gear stuff: Allison's poles broke, so I probably don't want to borrow them. Mice have eaten through both bear bags to get to trail mix, despite said bags being suspended. Only one night in the tarp so far (hence the mice, I say!), so he is not an expert. Hasn't figured out best clothing system yet, and is too hot in typical rain gear (I thought he was about to say he wanted to hike in a wind shirt, but no). Go through a lot of fuel, and eating dry oatmeal for breakfast. Daniel is eating a lot in general. Lots of pictures, camera works well (my contribution). Solar charger working well. Sleeping outside of sleeping bag.
Hitched a ride into town with a fellow hiker. Saw some hippie couple, tie-dye and yoga, with their dog Juniper. Met a trail runner who didn't break his shoes in enough for the push he did, and got giant bleeding blisters, and bough trekking poles at Neel's Gap. Met a guy who decided he was going to switch over to do the Pacific Crest with his brother, goodbye AT. Lots of dogs in general.
"Hope you're ready," he says to me.
edit: I forgot to mention his pack is, with food and water, 50 lbs. O_O
Sunday, May 4, 2008
edit: photos from my mom's camera, of that day:
The falls at Amicalola Falls State Park
Allison talks to her mom at the top of the falls.
At the threshold
Into the woods...
I don't know about the rest of you, but these photos make my intestines do gymnastics...
Saturday, May 3, 2008
(Night before actual departure, or the same time Daniel wrote the following post)
In the week following up to my departure, I only had to work three days (M-W) which left me with two days to pack and get everything organized to leave on time. Being a social individual, this also gave me some time to say goodbye to people that I more than likely wouldn't be seeing for five months. I now know that two days were not enough time to do everything that I needed to do.
May 1 (H) - Today I spent time at whole foods buying bulk grains and looking for specialty foods that may make a nice treat for the trail to keep things interesting. After Whole Foods, I went home and added gromits to the tarp to make it more versatile in the variety of tarps that I could make. This will add more weight (for all the weight crunchers out there) but once again, I gain versatility from this modification. I met my friend Matt for lunch at Triangle Town Center in Raleigh, got a hair cut, browsed Dick's sporting goods for anything that I may have missed, then went home and conked out on the couch. I made sure my alcohol stove would boil water after the sun went down. It was successful. I am pleased.
May 2 (F) - This morning I woke up early to buy the rest of my food from Food Lion. Food bought consisted of Minute Rice, Lipton Sides, Spice Packets, Instant Oatmeal, Powdered Milk(for cooking), Crackers, Peanut Butter, Honey, Tortillas, Granola Bars etc, so on and so forth. I took a trip into Raleigh to neaten the end of some rope with a hot knife at work, pick up my MTB, and say bye to those peeps. I ventured over to the old apartment to take care of some moving business related to my borrowed furniture, went through Allison's pack with her, ate dinner one last time with my homies from the Bowen and Tucker crew. Around 8:20, left the venue of dining to buy some last minute things from REI including a pot, extra stakes, a solar charger(which will charge everything from camera to phone to ipod) and some boots (for use as a second pair of shoes). I hung out at one last party at Krystal's place afterwards, then went home and passed out so I could wake up early to finish packing and leave.
May 3 (Sa) - I woke up around 7:00, got clean one last time, repackaged food, filled fuel bottles, packed my pack, cleaned my room, cleaned out the car, packed the other car, and did this all in time for lunch. It's safe to say that I didn't make it out at 9:00a like I planned, not to mention this Saturday... as I planned. Around 3:00pm we had finally made it to Allison's house, separated food and packed everything in our bags and the car. By this time, it was too late to leave and make it to Amicalola Falls State Park at any reasonable hour. We decided to take the rest of the day to calm ourselves, rest and get up at 4:30am for the early drive. It was needed on all accounts. I was tired, Allison was tired, the folks were tired and not liking the plan post drop off which put them searching for a place to stay for the night, half way through the night. We went to the Family Buffet in Wake Forest which is practically the most amazing buffet eveeerrrrr. Not only do they sell Chinese Food on the Buffet, they also have Sushi, a Hibachi grill, and my favorite, Mexican food. An excellent choice.
May 4 (Su) through May 20 (T) - The plan will be to leave the house at 4:30 and make our way down to Georgia. So sometime after lunch, maybe around 2pm or 3pm we will be on our way down the trail. After 50 miles or so of trail travel which I give us a max of 7 days to walk, we will make our way into Helen Ga. After we stop in Helen, we will make it back to the trail and head North and our second scheduled stop will be in Franklin NC. We only have to make it to Franklin by the 16th which gives us 12 days or so to make it the 100 miles into town. Brittany should be delivered around the May 20 to the mountains for a meeting in Franklin or further down the way if Franklin is boring and I don't want to stay around that long. In that case, who knows. Nobody knows now, but no worries, I am a communication master and you will know then. Anyways, good luck on your last exams, I'll be writing personally as soon as I find internet access again although Allison will be our post monkey and put our snail mail blogs up for us.
Write to you soon,
Monday, April 28, 2008
Mount Ktaadn, from W. Butterfield's, Oct 8th 1836, Near the Grand Schoodic Lake. Lithographic plate by Moore's of Boston, for the Maine geological survey, from Charles T. Jackson, Atlas of Plates Illustrating the Geology of the State of Maine (1837-1839), reprinted in Anne Shelby Blum, Picturing Nature: American Nineteenth-Century Zoological Illustration (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993), 120.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
(But I won't walk out tomorrow because I have two classes to finish...I will, I will write that paper...)
Returning to the topic at hand, there are some preliminaries to get through. I've scheduled a physical, and I need a tooth filled. And my insurance will run out July 31, so it would be best to line up some coverage ahead of time. But that's it. Daniel says he has nearly everything he needs as well. I have to say I'm somewhat giddy.
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
This past Sunday(4/13/08), Brittany and I got together at her place in Greensboro to sort through all our stuff and see what we could come to conclusions and agreements on.
First we checked out our packs and I showed her a couple of cool features on there that she didn't even know about. For one, the top of her pack, which is a 07 Gregory Deva, comes off completely and is usable as a day pack. The other thing that she didnt know about was the fact that there were a couple of pockets on the side that she overlooked. She found that a Nalgene fits well into the round pocket on the side as well. We packed her pack down, fit a rain cover it, and were off for the next task.
The task of which I speak is figuring out the tarp. The a-frame set up is ideal for nice weather is pretty elementary and not a big deal to set up at all, but setting up for rain is a different thing. So we tried a bunch of other setups to get as much coverage on as many sides and the best set up was staking the sides out long and then putting a trekking pole under the middle. It's a tight squeeze in and out of it so hopefully we will discover better set ups and not have to prepare for heavy rain all that often.
Last thing on the day was to explore different food options because Brittany is vegan. Since Brittany is vegan, I anticipate that 80% of the time I will be eating vegan as well. We stopped off at Earth Fare first, which is a health food store much like Whole Foods. After perusing the selection, I picked up the vegan chili mix and she picked up a dehydrated black bean mix. The results of the chili = mucho farts and fair taste. The beans = mucho farts and marginal taste. The chili won't be available much so if anyone wants to send me some of that at some point I wouldn't mind, just don't everyone send me chili at the same time because it will end up doing me more harm than good... if you know what I mean. If you have any suggestions for food, just comment here. Let us know who you are and what your favorite trail meals and foods are. We're always open to suggestions!
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Mt. Sterling loop
This past weekend I took a trip to the Smokies upon a suggestion from Allison that went something like this.
Allison: What are you doing next weekend
Daniel: I don't know.
Allison: Let's go camping in the mountains
Daniel: Okay dokay.
And so the trip was set out for us. This is one time that a short notice 'lets do this' type thing worked out for us. Other times, for whatever reasons, the big plans just eventually fall through. I also got in touch with Jason Toutloff aka Toot to go with us. I also called some other people to go with us and make a party out of it but those other people would have none of it.
I haven't been packing in a long time and no more than two miles in one direction. Toot has never been backpacking before and Allison is Ms. Hudspa when it comes to packing. She went to Philmont Boy Scout Reservation back in her Boy Scoutin days. Toot and I were able to get off of work early so that we could leave early on Friday and do some amount of hiking that evening or night. Allison didn't have any school and fed jobs observe Good Friday so it was easy to schedule around her busy day. Toot rolled in to the house in Wake Forest around 3:30p and then we got to packing up his bags. We left the house around 4:30p or 5:00p, bought groceries @ Food Lion and finally left Wake Forest around 6:00.
Excepting a small detour down Interstate 85, smelly feet, and a stop at a gas station, we made relatively scary good time. We got to the campground around midnight:30 and set up shop. The next day we proceeded to hike our planned route which was 6.1 miles to the first campsite then an additional 5 or 6 to the site for the night. The going was steady and we stopped ever 45 minutes or so to rest and let everyone catch back up with each other.
Seven hours and several stream crossings later, we managed to put the first 6.1 miles behind us and make it all the way up to the top of Mt. Sterling. Did I mention that it was all uphill? For three relative city slickers, I say we did all right. The temperature fluctuated from the upper sixties down into the 40's or below depending on elevation, the direction the hill faced and the vegetation that sheltered us from the sun's rays. A mile or two before the top of Sterling was the coldest, even cold enough to allow fallen snow not to melt in the shady patches. Almost all the layers came out for this section.
Toot and Allison weren't gung-ho about going any further but we conferred with our good friend Martin from Knoxville and he agreed that the rest of the trail was going to be downhill. We made down the first 1.4 in about 45 minutes but the dark, tiredness, hunger, resulting in stumbling falls and a mandatory get-wet stream crossing resulted in slow goings. Toot zoomed down the trail ahead of Allison and I and was in fairly good spirits but slipping and falling into the stream changed his demeanor. Allison had troubles with the stream crossing too but all is fair in love and war. An hour later we reached the campsite, ate, set our stuff up and passed out which could have never have been so welcome.
We did our camp in reverse order and were out of there by 1:00 (yeah I know that's late) for the easiest hike ever, a 5 mile doubletrack next to a creek, downhill.
Things I Learned
- The penny stove worked out pretty well, but cooking for three people isn't what it was designed for, at least thats what I think. I will revisit the stove trying to make a better one and I will test it before I take it out this time to figure out the best height to cook at as well as settings for the holes of the burner.
- Tarping it may take two people, but it works and the stuff that I have for us to use will do fine for just two of us.
- I went a pace this past weekend that was probably too fast when it comes to realistically completing such a long trail. One of the most common reasons for hikers leaving the AT early is going too hard too soon and not letting their bodies adapt to such a different physical demand.
THINGS THAT I MAY NEED NEXT TIME 'ROUND
- Duct Tape
- notebook & pen
- first-aid 'kit'
- camera (if I finally buy one)
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
- Instructions on how to address mail to us
- Information on what we do--and do not--want to receive while on the trail.
This post is a work in progress, and the two of us will collaboratively add to it as is appropriate for each.
Town and Date Estimates
(Note that we may be behind or ahead of schedule. Because post offices will only hold general delivery for a certain number of days, perhaps a month, it is probably best to aim on your mail to arrive at the post office a week before we are scheduled to arrive. This gives us the best chance that we will receive what you send, while still allowing us to get off-schedule)
We will post scheduled stops here when we have an idea of our pace. Until then, our parents may be able to forward letters sent to our Wake Forest address. As always, check back for updates. Thanks!
How to Address MailDaniel or Brittany Lewis
c/o the business sending to (General Delivery if sent to a PO)
Please Hold For Thru-hiker
(estimated date of arrival)
If you want to find out where we are exactly or where we have been, Daniel will be soon setting up a Google Map that will be updated along with the blog by one of our internet minions, to show where we have been along with dates and where we will be going along with updated estimated dates of arrival.
What to Send
For now, visit this page for info and etiquette: Packing and Sending the Perfect Maildrop
If you send a care package, you will be our favorite person for the week! In general, remember space, weight, and quantity. Three dozen cookies we can put away before leaving town, but three dozen Clif bars might spend too much time on our backs.
Daniel's List of Things That Would Be Fun to Get in the Mail
- Guy stuff
- let you know later
Brittany's List of Things That Would Be Fun to Get in the Mail
*Don't forget that I'm vegan, and I'm looking for no animal ingredients and no animal testing.
- vegan jerky (Primal Strips) or textured vegetable protein/TVP
- dairy-free chocolate, cookies, fudge
- dried fruits
- powdered soy milk
- coconut oil
- a tiny dab of vegan conditioner?
- letters and stuff
- interesting newspaper/magazine/internet/journal articles
- blank stamped postcards
Remember, check back for updates.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
person: where do you go to school?
me: North Carolina State
person: when do you graduate
me: next December (2007)
person: what do you want to do when you get out?
me: I don't know?
I didn't really know what I wanted to do. For some time I had been stressing over the importance and validity of being a Parks and Recreation Major and wondered what the hell do I do when I get out? Talking with other students in PRTM I found that a lot of them felt the same way. For some reason or another we all stumbled into PRTM and loved it (except the jocks, no offense jocks).
Anyways, like I said, I thought that doing the entire trail would be an awesome thing to do and what really inspired me was three dollar book that I got back during sophomore year about hiking the triple crown. The triple consists of the three north to south hiking trails in the United States. The Appalachian Trail is the shortest(but not short by any means other than teleportation which the scientists have not invented yet) and best well known, the Pacific Crest Trail is also somewhat well known and also a defined trail, and the Continental Divide Trail running through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana is the longest and best described as an idea in the process at this point in the game. So the book roughly outlined the
all the trails noting certain landmarks, weather and notes of the surroundings as well as trail culture. I read on thinking about what it would be like to be on my own in the woods with no real obligations for four to six months. All in all, after completing 44 million years of school, I figured that I deserved it or at least a shot at it.
WHERE I AM NOW
I am not completely ready for the trail gear wise as well as monetarily. I have worked for the Raleigh Adventure Program for a while now (since summer 2006) and they have been a steady source for trail funds but 18 hours per week in an introductory office job doesn't earn much. I started at the YMCA as a lifeguard in the middle or in the later of January pulling in 13 hours per week and three weeks ago I started at Pullen Aquatics Center in Raleigh also as a lifeguard amassing a tremendous additional 9 hours per week. Since everyone at the YMCA always wants a substitute and getting the extra time working Pullen, the money situation has been looking better and better so at least thats one thing that won't be holding me back. At keast I'm half way there now
Gear wise I scored pretty big with some sales at REI and Great Outdoor Provision Company. I got some hiking shoes, a water filter, a tarp, and a ground cloth. The only additional pieces of gear that I want/need are:
a new pack
a bowl (preferably a collapsible one)
a pack cover
a couple water bottles
and some p-cord for my tarp
I planned to leave on April 19 but I think that I will leave a week or two later than that, every extra bit of work that I can squeeze in will help. Right off on week two or three, Allison (my baby's momma, but not literally) will be meeting up with me to hike for a week or two. On May 16 [ha! no longer true!] Brittany will be graduating with her Masters in Museum Studies and join up with me shortly after that. We will be finishing it out together as long as all goes as planned. So far these two are the only people that have decided to come join the fun. If you want to join up with me and Brittany and hike, plan to go sometime early in the summer so that we'll be closer by. After June, it'll be a good little ways before you are able to join up with us since we'll be closer to the midpoint by then which is in Harpers Ferry W.Va. We will be sending mail home so that the blog can be updated and you know what is happening with us out in the woods.
That's it for now. I can't wait, only five or six weeks and counting, see you on the trail.