Friday, May 30, 2008

Brittany's first post from the Trail

First, let it be known that all my life I have hated exercise. Poor choice of recreation, you might say. Indeed. Well, I do hate going uphill, but I can already see a change in my legs. It is amazing. I have a blister, dozens of bug bites, sore hip flexors (new word!), sunburn, and swollen feet. And I reek. But I love it so far!
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.

Gear Problems:
  • 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.

Brittany, 5-27-08

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Getting to Helen, GA

Neel's Gap had a neat little outfitters, which is basically a store that sells lots of outdoor gear so that hikers can replace what needs to be replaced and send home what they are sick of carrying. I bought a hamburger and a twix to replace the normal dry oatmeal that we had been eating for breakfast. They were delicious. We met Austin again here. He had decided to fly from Atlanta out to the Pacific Crest to hike with his brother. Scott also decided that he would fore go hiking for a couple of days and stay at the hostel that the outfitter provided while his heels healed. But Daniel and I, begin the hardcore hikers that we are, pressed on. We had only done three miles and had another 11 to go before the end of the day, so we had to truck it, which we did.
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.

The next day...

The next day was our first big hiking day! We had planned to hike a full 12 miles, which, being the stunners that we are, we did. There was nothing that made it stand out except that at the very end my feet were killing me, and everything at the end was green and beautiful. OH and we hiked up this insanely steep mountain...I think it was Sassafras. We ended up spending the night at another shelter with Austin, and new kid named Scott, we also met a lady named Wonder Woman, who was complaining about her thyroids and how she was sick for two days after eating some wild ferns, and a very silent fellow named Don. Don was from somewhere in NC and was moving very slow, due to heavy backpacks and such.
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 two weeks of hiking and I end up with a bum knee. Currently having to do some physical therapy in hopes that it will work itself out. But that was the unfun part of the trip, that and the blisters.
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!)

Brittany's goodbye!

Leaving in 4.5 hours. Finished constructing contact list, took last shower, packed.

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

Daniel's phone update

I got a phone call from Daniel this morning, from Helen GA, after five days. Moved faster than expected, so only about fifty miles left for the next five days. Lots of "ups and downs." Of course, these are my words and not his, but I'll summarize.

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

Epic journey=commenced

At 7:00 this morning I got a phone call to wake me up, and I stumbled outside to pass over the new camera to the folks on the way to Springer. It has begun.

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


If you want a post card or other snail mail, you should comment on this post leaving your name and address. If you don't want to leave it here for the fear of Anthrax, just e-mail it to me at

The Happens and Happenings

(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,
Daniel Lewis