3/21/2009 8:00 PM - Curley Maple Gap Shelter - 4.2 mi today - 344.1 mi total
Harley woke me up at sunrise. Everyone else was getting up then as well. Got dressed and sorted out my bounce box and food bag with Dad. Steamboat, Flo, Dad, and I went to the Huddle House for breakfast. Omelette was excellent. Hit the post office on the way back. Packed up my bag and hung out with Dad and Flo for a while. Got a burger at Sonic for lunch. Dad and Flo left for New York. Took it easy in the afternoon. Harley napped for a while in the sun so he probably won't sleep much tonight. Chilled with Wally and Pacman for a while. Cool kids. Finally decided to hit the trail at 4:30 PM. My pack was loaded! Probably close to 40 lbs with all the food and water. Nice 4 mile hike through the woods. Met three section hikers at the shelter. All local high school band teachers. Nice guys to hang out with. Made ramen with canned crab. Cut a whole in the can and attached it to a string from the ceiling (This is supposed to prevent the mice from crawling down the ropes into food bags. Not sure if it actually works, but they are at every shelter). Improves the shelter and makes less trash for me to carry out. About to hit the sack now. Looking forward to a good long hike tomorrow.
3/22/2009 - 9:15 PM - Greasy Creek Gap - 20.1 mi today - 364.2 mi total
Harley was up early and moving around a bit. Having only hiked 4 miles yesterday, he was well rested. Got up and made breakfast. The section hikers were still in their sleepin bags when we left camp. Got a good start and hit the trail at 8:45. Pleasant walk to begin. Took a break after two hours. The climb up Unaka Mountain was pretty steep. At the top, the trees were all evergreen and it looked a lot like Maine. Steamboat and I found a nice spot for lunch at the top. Met a trail maintainer. Headed down the hill and pumped water at Cherry Gap Shelter. We decided to shorten ou day and head to the Greasy Creek Friendly. Tough hike towards the end. I fell over for the first time, but didn't hurt myself luckily. When we got to Greasy Creek Gap, we had to walk half a mile down a forest service road. There were no sign posts, so we hoped we were walking down the right road. Luckily, we were right. Got to the place and met CC. Very nice lady. Aparently, she has a crazy neighbor that runs a lawnmower all night long so the "hiker trash" can't sleep. Haven't heard it yet, so maybe we'll be lucky. Amazingly, Harley was still running around with lots of energy, despite the long hike. I don't know where he gets it. That dog food must be like jet fuel. Mike and I split a pizza for dinner and watched the end of the basketball games. Syracuse is in the sweet sixteen. Woohoo! After dinner, I showered and sat in the house chatting with CC and Sheperd (the work-for-stay guy). Aparently she's writing a book. As she says, there's never a dull moment at Greasy Creek! We watched My Name is Earl and then Steamboat and I realized that we don't have enough cash to cover the bill. Yikes! I hope we can work it out with her in the morning. Maybe she takes credit cards. Not looking forward to that. At least I have a warm bed tonight.
3/23/2009 - 9:00 PM - Overmountain Shelter - 14.8 mi today - 379.0 mi total
Got up really late. Surprisingly, CC's crazy neighbor wasn't very loud last night. At 2AM, he honked the car horn for a couple minutes, but that was all I heard. I saw his lawn mower in the front yard, but he didn't run it for some reason. Went inside at 9:00 for breakfast. Explained our lack of cash situation to CC, and she was nice enough to accept an online check. Once that got sorted out, she made us a nice breakfast. I had cheese grits for the first time. Yum! We also ate scrambled eggs, turkey bacon, and toast. Really good! After breakfast, we packed our bags and took a couple pictures. CC also performed two songs for us with her big cat Nemo. First was "Fat cat, fat cat, wacha gonna do? Whacha gonna do when they come for you?" Second was "Oh I wish I had CC's cat!" It was quite entertaining. Harley didn't know what to make of it. I've had those songs stuck in my head all day (and all week!). We got a hug each. As we were leaving, at 11:30, Wally and Pacman showed up for lunch. They had heard about the crazy neighbor and wanted the full experience. Steamboat, Harley, and I sluggishly made our way back up the hill to the trail and headed North. Took a break after 2 miles at Clyde Smith Shelter. Picked up the trash there and packed it out. It's annoying when people leave their trash in the woods, but I guess we increased our hiker karma. Also found a good luck message from Grumpy in the shelter log. He's 5 days ahead of us, so he is likely in Damascus now. From there, it was a couple miles to Hughes Gap where the accent of Roan Mountain begins. In 2.6 miles, we climbed 2160 feet! Halfway up, the dog showed me his new trick. It's called "play dead." He flopped over on his back and pretended he was dead. I got a video of it:
Very funny! At the top, we had our lunch at the site of an old hotel. This is the last time we will be above 6,000 feet until Mt Washington in New Hampshire. Again, the evergreen trees reminded me of Maine. Descending from there, we reached Carvers Gap, where there was a real road. I thought there might be a trash can, but no such luck. From there, we walked over three balds in a row. I got a video from the middle one:
Pretty views, but there must be a forest fire in NC because there was a lot of smoke that way. From there it was mainly downhill to the shelter. A lot of the path was covered with leaves which really sucks because they hide all the roots and rocks that will trip you up. Quite frustrating. Got to the shelter at dusk. Saw a nice sunset from the last ridge. Pacman and Wally must have passed us at lunch because they were already here with Wiz kid and 3 section hikers also. Shelter is an old barn that has been set aside for hikers. Looks out over a valley. Should be a nice sunrise. Steamboat and I are upstairs. Tons of room. Had mac and cheese for dinner. Yum. Now looking forward to an 18 mile day tomorrow. We will also officially leave North Carolina and cross into Tennessee. Thank goodness. Its annoying when you don't know what state you are in!
3/24/2009 8 PM Mountaineer Shelter --18.0 miles today -- 397.0 miles total
Woke up a little too late to see the sunrise. Apparently it wasn't that good anyways. Wiz Kid had already left. Made cold oatmeal for breakfast. Cinnamon flavor was pretty good. Steamboat and I got on the trail at 9:15 a little behind the Brits. Hike over Hump Mountain was spectacular. Great views, took a bunch of pictures. There was a government SUV at the top and the guy didn't get out to say hi either, it was a little strange. The descent started out nice but soon we were shuffling through leaves again. It is frustrating when you can't see the obstacles you are about to trip over. Took a snack break at Doll Flats and celebrated our official entrance into our third state, Tennessee. Since I started the Smokies the left half of my body has been hiking in TN, now the right side has decided to join. We should hit the fourth state, Virginia, in three days. Had lunch at Apple House shelter. Meet a couple of trail maintainers and an Australian guy that was looking at his elevation profile upside down. He was pretty frustrated that he had a long uphill ahead of him instead of a long descent. Crossed 19E, pretty major road with no crosswalk. Pretty pleasant walk from there. Saw Jones Waterfall, which was really cool. Took a video there:
The dog took a nap. Steamboats legs were hurting him pretty bad. My knee is much better than it was before the Smokeys but still give me pain now and then. Ibuprofen helps a lot. Walked along Elk River for a bit. Daffodils were in bloom. Got some pictures for Mum. Reached the shelter just after 6. Nice and new, built in 2006. Water source is at the top of a small waterfall. Cooked Goulash for dinner, which was excellent. Sharing the bottom level with Pacman and Wiz Kid. Steamboat is upstairs and Wally is in the loft. Feels like it might storm tonight. Hoping the rains come overnight so we don't get wet on the walk to Kincora. Looking forward to meeting Bob Peoples. He is a legend on the trail. Must get there by 6 so we can catch the shuttle for AYCE chinese. We'll have to leave the dog behind. We'll see how that goes. Only 15.6 miles tomorrow. Elevation doesn't look bad either. From there hoping to hit Damascus in a two day run. Still having fun and the dog is behaving himself most of the time. I did wake up at one point last night to find myself pushed off the sleeping pad with him sitting on it. He leans into me pretty hard at night. Hope he wakes me up early tomorrow so we can get to Kincora in the early afternoon.
3/25/2009 10 PM Kincora Hiking Hostel -- 15.6 miles today --412.6 miles total
Didn't sleep well last night. Tossed and turned and listened for the rain to roll in. Of course it didn't start raining until sunrise, convenient! Everyone slept in to try and avoid the rain. Finally got up and made breakfast. Hit the trail at 10. Boring hike. Rain dampened my mood considerably. Wore all my rain gear but still got soaked because I was sweating so much. Had lunch at Moreland Gap Shelter. Some section hiker had a fire going but the smoke and ash were blowing into the shelter. Ate and left. Last 6 miles were pretty boring as well. Got to Kincora at 4:30. Nobody was there because the shuttle had left at 4 0'clock. There was another dog at the hostel that didn't behave himself very well. Section hiker couldn't control it. Felt better after a shower and a phone call home. Ordered 8 large pizzas for 7 people. Yum. We'll have leftovers for breakfast tomorrow. Met Bob Peoples. Really cool guy. Wish I had more time to chat with him but I have to keep moving. Got my mail drop. Thanks Kat for the orange juice. Got all packed up and ready for tomorrow. Need to get moving so we don't run out of sunlight. Weather looks terrible. Yuck. At least I have a warm dry bed tonight and all my stuff is clean and dry. Looking forward to Damascus but the next two days are going to be tough. There are 12 people here tonight and everyone is heading for the same 6 person shelter. Steamboat and I are the slow ones, so we will likely be tenting tomorrow. It is going to be tough to tent with a wet dog. Guess I just have to put my head down and crank out the miles.
3/26/2009 10:15 pm Double Springs Shelter -- 31.9 miles today -- 444.5 miles total
Wow what a long day. My longest by far. Steamboat and I woke up at 6:30. We set our alarms for 6:30 so we could get a jump start on the group. He promptly went into the kitchen and knocked over some pots and pans. Our plan was foiled and everyone was up in 15 minutes. Still managed to be the first two out the door, which drew surprised looks from everyone as we were usually the last. Hit the trial at 7:30 am in dim light. Overcast and a bit humid to start. First couple miles were quite fun as we walked past Laurel Fork Falls. Got some good pictures. From there it was up and over an 1800 foot mountain that we easily could have walked around. The people who planned that part of the trail must have been laughing about that little trick. Churt and Grizzly Adams passed us at the top while we took a snack break. From there we went back down 1800 feet to Watuaga Lake. Steamboat and I stopped at the shelter for lunch. Wiz Kid and Zack stopped as well. While we were eating Wally and Pacman and Spirit Fingers also passed us, but Steamboat and I figured we would still have a spot in the shelter as long as Churt and Grizzly Adams tented, which they usually do. Crossed the dam and headed up the ridgeline lading to Damascus. The trail literally follows the ridgeline 35 miles to Damascus. So there aren't any big climbs or descents to spice up the journey. With landmarks few and far between the hike was pretty dull. Caught up to everyone at the Vandeventer Shelter but Steamboat fell behind with a shin problem. We also discovered that Wooden Spoon and Wooden Duck were also ahead of us heading for the same shelter. Having not seen them since Hot Springs, there is only one way they could have passed us...YELLOW BLAZING! This pissed me and Steamboat off because it meant they would be taking our two spots in the shelter. The last 6 miles to Iron Mountain I debated my options. The weather was crappy and I didn't want to set up my tent in the rain. The closer I got to camp the better my legs felt. By the time I got there I made up my mind that I was going to push on and turn my 24 mile day into a 32 mile day. The Shelter was overful with Wally, Pacman, Spirit Fingers, Wiz Kid, Zack and the Wooden Duo. I gave Harley his dinner and announced my plan to move on. That drew quite a few shocked looks. With about 45 minutes of light left Harley and i hit the trail again. I tried to push myself to make use of the limited daylight. The dog lead the whole way. Once it got dark I used my headlamp, but Harley knew where to go. Before I knew it we were crossing a road at the half way point. Soon the fog rolled in and I really couldn't see anything. I got worried that I might get lost in the fog, but then I would pass a white blaze, Harley really is amazing on the trail. We hit the handicap accessible half mile and walked across the field. Harley stopped and started to growl at one point. I banged my poles together and whatever threat he sensed subsided. We continued without issue. Crossing the field was probably the scariest part because I had no clue if I was on the trail or not. Once again the wonder dog came through. I really must change his trail name because Kneecaps doesn't do him justice after this performance. We rolled into the shelter just before 10 oclock having hiked the 7.6 miles in 2 hours and 20 minutes. We found 4 section hiker sleeping and Harley woke them up. They graciously made a spot for me and gave Harley a well deserved belly rub. I unpacked and jumped in before having dinner. Harley promptly began to snore. I didn't care at all because he had earned his keep. Still can't believe I broke the 30 mile barrier, we'll see how the legs feel tomorrow.
3/27/2009 11:30 pm Damascus, VA -- 18.5 miles today -- 463.0 miles total
Woke up around 7:30 and chatted with my shelter mates. Nice group of people. Answered a bunch of AT questions as I packed my stuff and ate breakfast. Hit the trail at 9 oclock for an "easy 18". Found some trail magic at Low Gap, sodas and Snickers. I loooove trail magic. It really makes your day. Got to Abingdon Shelter around noon for lunch. Weird to eat alone. From there it was 10 miles to down. Pretty boring walk and it started to rain. Harley is a weenie when it starts to rain. He tried to hide in Rhotodendrum bush. Didn't bother to put my rain jacket on so I got soaked. Crossed into VA at 3 pm. Took a video and pictures of Harley:
Got to town and arranged a two night stay at Dave's Place Hostel. Pretty basic, but adequate. Too late to get to the post office. I showered and toweled off the dog. He has to sleep outside tonight :( Bought some post cards and wrote them on the porch. By 6 oclock everyone was in town including steamboat who was pretty hopped up on pain killers. He said he is going to the medical center tomorrow to get his shin checked out. Grizzly Adams, Churt, Wiz Kid, Pacman, Wally, Spirit Fingers, Steamboat, and I went to the pizza place for dinner. MMMM mushroom pizza. They had live music going. A violin and a guitar. Afterwards I hit the Dollar General and got some supplies. Came back to the hostel and relaxed on the porch for a while. Everyone was telling trail stories. We have so many to tell now that we have come so far. Really good group of guys. Late now so I have to hit the sack. Harley is pissed that he can't sleep next to me tonight. I think I'll sneak him inside the hostel tomorrow.
Welcome to my trail blog for my 2009 Appalachian Trail Hike! Here you can find all of my journal entries of my 2178.3 mile journey from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. You can see my picture slideshow to the right, as well as a recap of my hike mile by mile and gear list. Download the ebook about my hike on iTunes. I hope you find my quest inspiring. Thanks for visiting and Happy Trails!