3/5/2009 6:48 PM - Brown Fork Gap Shelter - 16.0 mi today - 151.0 mi total
Yesterday was very relaxing. Mike and I got double chesseburgers for lunch at the River's Edge Restaurant at the NOC. Wow that was good. We watched the world go by as we chowed down. A couple white water rafts floated past. After lunch I went back to the outfitter to fill my fuel bottle and buy a couple postcards. It was so nice and sunny out that I sat by the river and wrote home. It was nice to be able to let my feet air out. They appreciated the time off. When the sun dropped behind the mountains, I went back to the room to organize my purchases and get my bag ready for the trail again. I also called home and gave everyone the update. Everyone seems to be adjusting to the new routine. At 6, Mike and I returned to the restaurant (only one in town) for pizza and beer. We couldn't quite finish a large meat lovers between us so we saved the leftovers for breakfast. Hit the sack around 9 though we could hear the rafting guides partying for a while after. Woke up this morning at 7 and hit the trail at 8:15. The climb out of the NOC is major! Over 8.1 miles we gained 3340 feet in elevation! That's almost an 8% grade. THere was a great view back to the NOC from Jump-Up Lookout. We met a SOBO (southbound thru-hiker) halfway up. Nice guy but pretty overweight considering he had already hiked over 2,000 miles. Granted he took the holidays off. We pumped water at Sassafras Gap Shelter and found that Grumpy stayed there last night. He must have passed through the NOC while we were in the showers. Had a massive lunch on Cheoah Bald. Here is what I have had to eat today:
Granola w/ carnation instant breakfast = 500 cal
slice of leftover meat lover pizza = 300 cal
slim jim = 150 cal
2 oz cheese = 225 cal
bagel w/ honey = 350 cal
1/3 bag of teddy grahams = 325 cal
kashi bar = 150 cal
fruit by the foot = 100 cal
fiber one bar = 150 cal
GORP = 600 cal
Gatorade mix = 200 cal
3 bean chili = 400 cal
3 Muskateers bar = 250 cal
Jolly Ranchers = 50 cal
TOTAL = about 3750 calories
I can't believe how low that is. I pigged out today and still only broke 3500 calories. THey say that thruhikers burn somewhere between 4,000 to 6,000 calories per day, so I am still at a calorie deficit. Not sure if I have lost weight yet. Maybe I'll have Dad bring the scale down when he drops off Flo next week. Beautiful view at lunch. Temp was in the 50'sand the sun was out. The afternoon started with downhill. My left kneecap was especially sore from the downhill. I took 3 ibuprofen to get the pain to a manageable level. We passed a trail maintainer midway through the afternoon. Nice guy, but when you see a guy walking down the trail with a machete in his hand and a chainsaw slung over his shoulder, it can be a little unnerving. Glad I was walking with Mike. Last 2 miles of the day were intense. We had a very steep climb that resulted in a pretty poor view. When you work really hard on the uphills, you tend to expect a view. It pushed us past the 150 mile point, though, so we had a Jolly Rancher each. We reached the shelter at 4:45 to find it empty. Pumped water and cooked dinner. Had a nice sunset and are now getting into bed. We can already hear the mice getting ready to party. I made sure that all of my food is in the bear bag so hopefully I won't be bothered. I also hung my shoes so I won't find droppings in the morning. Tonight shouldn't be too cold. Looking forward to getting an extended forecast at Fontana tomorrow. This time tomorrow I'll be at the "Fontana Hilton." Smokies here I come!
3/6/2009 7:40 PM - "Fontana Hilton" - 13.0 mi today - 164.0 mi total
Woke up and the wind was blowing on an overcast day. I went to use the privy and was amazed at how basic it was. Most privys have walls on three sides and a roof. The nice ones have a door. This one offered 360 degree views. It was just a throne with a holey roof. I took a picture. Had a bagel and a granola bar for breakfast. Wanted to get moving to get to the Post Office so we left camp at 8 AM. Started out slow but got going towards lunch. Mike snapped one of his hiking poles and faceplanted in the morning. The opinionated Leki salesman at Neels Gap did say that "them are girlfriend poles!" Guess he was right. I also had a stumble as I stupidly grabbed the root of a blowdown (tree that has fallen accross the trail) while trying to maneuver around it. It snapped off and I almost went tumbling down the hill. Luckily there was a small tree that caught me and I only came away with a fresh coat of dirt in my hair. Pigged out at lunch again. Tried to eat everything before my mail drop. Really started to kick it after lunch. Did 2.9 miles in the first hour and then shifted into low gear the rest of the way into town. Mike fell behind as he had to tend to a blistered toe. On the downhill, my knee was throbbing again and in the last half mile my left foot hurt too. I don't know what is going wrong with my left leg, but hopefully it won't slow me down in the Smokies. We have an ambitious schedule to keep to. Got to the road at 1:15 and Mike soon caught up. We decided to try our luck hitchhiking the two miles to the village. No luck with the first car. 2nd car was a Range Rover and we sarcastically stuck out our thumbs. To our utter amazement, the lady pulled over! We threw our stuff in the trunk and off we went. Turned out the lady pick up hikers quite often. She drove us straight to the Post Office. It was amazing! I don't know why I was so worried about hitching. Got my food drop from the post office. It weighed a lot! I went through and replenished all of the stuff that was running low (namely ibuprofen and toothpaste). Rachel also sent me a letter with a small roll of toilet paper. How sweet! I charged my camera and tried to call home, but everyone was unreacheable. When I sent along my "bounce box" (a box full of extra gear that you send from town to town as you hike along) we headed back to the trail. We walked about a quarter mile before two veterans in an SUV pulled over and gave us a ride the rest of the way. They had metal detectors in the trunk and had evidently spent the day "hunting." They were quite impressed when Mike said that he had found Civil War shells in his backyard. They also complained about how the such-and-such Archealogical Act of 1979 had really hurt metal hunting. It was quite hilarious, though I really had nothing to contribute to the conversation. They took us right back to the trail and from there it was about one mile to the "Fontana Hilton" (the nicest shelter on the AT). Mike and I had the place to ourselves, besides the mice. We cooked dinner and admired the view of Fontana Lake, which is currently low. After dinner, I tried to call home from the visitor center, only to find that the payphone was broken. Tomorrow we start the Smokies.
3/7/2009 - Russell Field Shelter - 13.5 mi today - 177.5 mi total
Woke up in a thick layer of fog. It looked like it had rained last night. Two other people must have arrived after we fell asleep because they were heading out as we were waking up. Got up slowly and sluggishly put the stuff in my pack. My knee was already weary and complaining about another day of hiking. I popped 3 ibuprofen to get it to shut up. Started out with rain pants, shirt, and rain jacket on. That didn't last long. Once we crossed Fontana Dam and entered the Smokies, it started to heat up quickly. Mike found a good replacement stick as we started to climb Shuckstack Mountain. Within the first ten minutes, I lost the jacket and changed into shorts. Shuckstack was a serious climb! We went up 2100 feet in 4.4 miles. Thats even steeper than the climb out of the NOC. The sun was quite hot and I was huffing and puffing all the way up. There was a nice observation tower at the top that had a beautiful view of Fontana Lake. Climbed to the top and enjoyed the last of the Thin Mint cookies that Mike's sister sent me (Thanks Kat!) A mile down the trail I was out of water and had to pump from a spring. It was muddy, so it clogged my prefilter. I ended up getting half the water I needed and dropping my cup in the mud. Frustrating! Got back to the trail and took it slowly. We share this section of the trail with horses, so you have to be careful where you step. Had lunch on Doe Knob. Not really much of a view. Stuffed my face with pepperoni, cheese, crackers, granola bars, fruit rollup, and Crystal Light. After lunch we took it easy as well. My feet definitely appreciated the change of pase from yesterday. At one point, I think I saw two bear cubs. They were down the hill running between the trees, so i didn't get a great look. Pretty exciting at the time. Met a ridgerunner (guy who counts thruhikers for the ATC) at Mollies Ridge Shelter. From there it was just over an hour to Russel Field Shelter. Two locals named Possum and Kitchen Sink were already making a fire so they could grill their steaks. I got by with soup. One of them let me borrow his cell phone which was very much appreciated. as I hadn't been able to get through to the people at home yesterday. Now I'm just trying to ignore the mice running around the shelter. Aparently Possum and Kitchen Sink are notorious for snoring. They were bragging about it before bed time.
3/8/2009 8:00 PM - Silers Bald Shelter - 14.7 mi today - 192.2 mi total
Didn't sleep well last night. Possum and Kitchen sink snored like crazy. That didn't really bother me though. I just had a hard time getting comfortable. Daylight Savings made us turn the clocks an hour forward this morning. Funny how when you live from sunrise to sunset, you really don't lose an hour of sleep. Had granola and Carnation for breakfast. Pumped water as we were anticipating another hot day. Began day 2 of our 8 day push to Hot Springs at 9:30 AM. Mike and I both want to get there by next weekend to meet family, so we are trying to cover the 100+ miles in 8 days. It's doable, but we'll see what the feet say every morning. It was pretty windy early. Funny how yesterday we started in the fog and climbed out of it while today we started below the clouds and climbed into them. After .8 of a mile, we drew the number 2000.0 in the snow and took a picture of it. Only 2,000 miles to go! Did some pretty serious climbing in the morning and summitted Rocky Top, the mountain the University of Tennessee fight song is written about. Didn't have any views because we were in the cloud. Ate some GORP on Thunderhead Mountain. Second half of the morning dragged by. Mike fell back because of knee pain. Ate lunch at Derrick Knob Shelter. Met a couple spring breakers that wanted to know more about thruhiking. Treated me like I was an expert even though I'm less than 10% though. Popped some more ibuprofen at lunch and continued down the trail. Mike fell back again, so I took the time to do some thinking. Guess I'm not good at multitasking because Mike caught up to me. Focused on hiking after that. Arrived at Silers Bald Shelter to find it empty. Decided to stay because the shelter log made it seem like the next one would be pretty full. Dinner was excellent (chicken and mustard sauce). Tomorrow is Clingmans Dome. As of today, our daily mileage average is over 12. We are moving!
3/9/2009 9:15 PM - Icewater Spring Shelter - 15.5 mi today - 207.7 mi total
Tossed and turned a bit last night as well. It rained at one point, but passed by morning. When I went out to get the food bags, there was a deer about 15 feet from the shelter. He wasn't easily spooked and hung around as we ate breakfast. Ate my granola and packed the bag. Got a hole in one in the woods. Hit the trail at 9. Took it nice and easy to start. Took a break at Double Spring Gap Shelter after an hour. The terrain changed pretty dramatically from deciduous trees to evergreen between there and Clingmans Dome. It was nice to have a change in scenery. Got up to Clingmans Done around 11:30. Took pictures and video to celebrate the accomplishment (highest point on the AT). It was worthy of a Jolly Rancher. As we decended from Clingmans, the path was really icy. It was like trying to walk down a frozen stream. It was at least 4 inches thick. In the sunny spots, the ice had melted and made for some really muddy hiking. There were miles where you would literally be trudging through mud the whole way. We had lunch nea the side trail to Mt. Collins Shelter. The shelter itself was half a mile off the AT, so there was no way we were going to walk there for lunch. The weather was beautiful all day long. Sunny and warm. As we kept hiking we noticed a lot of downed trees. More than usual along the AT. The guidebook told us that this is due to a combination of pollution and balsam wooly adelgid. I felt like I was walking through a graveyard at one point. Quite saddening. There were a lot of trees that had uprooted themselves as they fell over. Some of the root balls we passed were 12 to 14 feet across. I've never seen a treet from that perspective before. I think the death of the trees contributed to the muddy conditions on the trail. Eventually, we reached Newfound Gap which is where you can hitch into Gatlinburg. Mike and I had decided to skip that as we are pushing through the Smokies quickly. We did take an extended break there and talked with a couple people at the parking lot. It was wierd exited the woods into a parking lot. It felt so foreign and unnatural. There was a busload of high school kids. There were Americans of every description enjoying the view. Most didn't stray more than 100 yards from their car. There was a sign that had AT mileage (1972 miles to Katahdin). As I was taking a picture of the sign, a man asked his young daughter how far they should go (1.7 miles or 1972.0 miles). I said "I'll take the far one if you take the short one." He was amazed by the whole thru-hiking concept. Also talked to a couple guys from Cincinatti that were impressed as well. After a short while, Mike and I noticed a couple other groups of people pointing at us. Talking to people in the parking lot helped me to realize what a monumental task this is and how cool it is. I've already hiked over 200 miles in 17 days and three states. That's not even 10% of the AT (we'll reach that accomplishment tomorrow) but it is still an awesome accomplishment. Leaving the parking lot and heading to the shelter three miles away, I felt rejuvenated. It's so easy to get caught up in mileages and pace and elevation. Talking to non-hikers helped me to put it all in perspective. The last three miles also included a 900 foot climb, but I hardly noticed the hill. I was caught up with AT fever. When I got to the shelter around 7, I met Rail and three guys from New Hampshire on spring break. All were really nice and fun to hang out with. Mountain Hopper came a little later after hitching to Gatlinburg and back. He brought Skittles and Starburst to share. They were great! Made curried vegetables for dinner. Yum! I'm really glad Mom and I did food prep for the hike so I don't have to eat ramen noodle every night. Shelter is nice, though I saw a mouse scurry out of my backpack after dinner. Luckily he didn't get into my food bag. Hung out chatting by the fire until around 9. Really enjoying myself out here and my knee felt good today. It's still a little swollen, but the Ibuprofen really helps. I have officially thru-hiked farther than Bill Bryson. He started yellow blazing from Gatlinburg (Thru hiker lingo for cheating. White blazes are found on trees and you have to walk to see them. Yellow blazes are found on roads and you can see them from a car). Weather is supposed to be good tomorrow. May strive for 20 miles. We'll see how the legs feel in the morning.
3/10/2009 10:00 PM - Cosby Knob Shelter - 20.3 mi today - 228.0 mi total
First 20 mile day! Legs don't feel too bad either. Woke up around 8 and had chocolate granola for breakfast (my favorite). Hit the trail at 9:15. The first little bit was another frozen stream. It was pretty slippery going down. Was rocking a pretty steady pace early. Got some great views from Charlie's Bunion. Made it to the first shelter in just over 3 hours. Met a family of section hikers. They asked me if I had a trailname yet. I told them not yet, but that I was open to suggestions. As I was walking away, they said that I should be Mountain Banshee, but didn't really have a reason why. I don't even really know what a banshee is, but it does sound pretty burly. I tried it on for size today and might stick with it when I get a solid definition. I asked around for what it meant and I got answers ranging from female hyenna to ghost to hairy mountain beast. We'll see tomorrow when I can ask wikipedia. Caught up with Mountain Hopper for lunch with an awesome view. He's a really cool guy. Sucks that his section hike ends tomorrow. I hope he gets to do his thru-hike someday. He's just one of the many awesome people I hope to meet along the way. After lunch, we headed out and made it to the second shelter around 3:30. We picked up another cool guy named Nick who will be starting his thruhike as soon as his semester ends in May. The four of us made the push for 20 miles. Tough going and I had to take 2 breaks to get through, but I churned out the final 7.7 miles in under 3 hours. I was really happy with my performance today. Today rewarded us with the best views of the Smokies. Anyone looking to do a nice section hike should really consider Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap. Pulled into camp at 6:30 with plenty of time to cook dinner. The shelter was full tonight (12 people) with a bunch of spring breakers. Met some cool kids that just graduated from Ithaca High School, Wooden Spoon and Wooden Duck. Mountain Hopper shared his banana and I shared my freeze-dried ice cream. Yum! Overall a great day. First 20 miler, made some great friends, and might have gotten my trail name. I'm living the dream. Looking forward to a shower tomorrow.
3/12/2009 2:21 AM - Standing Bear Farm - 10.4 mi today - 238.4 mi total
It's really late at night, so I should be in bed. Haven't written my journal entry yet tonight, but here's a quick summary. Took an easy day. Mainly downhill. Piled 6 people and 6 packs into Nicks car. Drove 15 miles down a really windy road to get lunch at a gas station. Amazing food! Good times. Walked the last two miles to the hostel through a smoldering wildfire (happened last night, but was safe to walk through. Got some cool pictures). Mike found a pair of Leki poles on the trail (TRAIL MAGIC!) Met the Jerky Girls at the hostel (really cool). Found out that banshee is a female ghost. Dropped that name really fast. Sat around the campfire for a long time. Mike officially named me Jolly Rancher (woohoo! I finally have a trailname). Been typing since midnight and am ready to hit the sack. Unfortuntaly this computer sucks so I can't upload any pictures. Hopefully I'll add some when I get to Hot Springs on Saturday. Hope everyone is having fun reading this. Please leave comments. I love to read them :)
UPDATE! HERE IS THE FULL ENTRY FOR MARCH 11:
Was the first one out of bed at sunrise. Had granola and enjoyed a bit of a sunrise (a little cloudy). Within a half hour, everyone was out of bed. Chatted with Mountain Hopper and Steamboat about the descent to Davenport Gap. Nick offered us a ride to a local restaurant, so we set a meeting place and everyone left camp to hike at their own pace. Steamboat and I were the caboose. The Wooden Boys (Duck and Spoon), Mountain Hopper, and Nick were much faster at the descent. We met up with everyone about halfway down at a nice vista and took a load of pictures including some group shots. Used my gorillapod for the second time. Hope to use it more. Steamboat and I chatted about our dogs on the descent. We are both looking forward to seeing our four-legged friends this weekend (Harley, Brinkley, and Molly). At the bottom of the hill, we all met up again and piled 6 stinky hikers and 6 dirty packs into Nick's SUV. It was pretty cramped. Wooden Duck was in the back under two packs. We then drove 15 miles down the windiest road imaginable. By the end of it we were all pretty sore or car sick or a combination of both. We found a restaurant called Mama's Kitchen that was part of a gas station. It looked like a hole in the wall place. What a great find! Our waitress was excellent. I apologized for out stench and she said "Don't worry. It's all a part of livin'!" There were old pictures of men making moonshine and some "redneck windchimes." I ordered a double cheeseburger, grilled cheese, onion rings, and cornbread. It was amazing. The waitress said "Y'all haven't seen real food in a while, huh?" No ma'am! All that food only cost $12. It was great! After we were all full, we piled back into the car and took the interstate back to Davenport Gap (much less windy). When we got back to the trailhead, Steamboat, the Wooden Boys, and I hopped out and got ready to hike again. We said our goodbyes to Nick and Mountain Hopper as they both had to go back to school. Hope they had safe travels and many more happy hikes. From there it was a short hike to Standing Bear Farm as we passed under I-40. As we were climbing the hill away from the interstate, we met a Forest Service worker who had thru-hiked in 2000. It's great to talk to trail alumni. I could see how envious he was that we were just beginning our journey. He also told us about how there had been a wildfire around the trail the day before, but it was contained and safe to walk through. He had gone through and cleared the trail for us, which was very nice. Great guy. As we approached the burned area, Steamboat stumbled upon some awesome trail magic... a set of Leki poles! One appeared to be broken, but after some tinkering, we managed to fix it and he now has two perfect poles. It was a bittersweet moment, though, because it meant that he had to leave his wooden stick behind. We left it in the middle of the trail for another hiker to use. It lasted throughout the entire Smokies, so it was a great stick. As we walked through the burn area, there were still smoldering logs and a good amount of smoke. There was one tree that was burning but still standing. Got some cool pictures. From there it was a short walk to Standing Bear Farm. The hostel was really nice. Met Rock Hound who is the handyman around the place. They have a cabin and a bunkhouse for hikers to stay in. Steamboat and I decided to stay in the loft of the cabin. Met the "Jerky Girls" (Sweet n Tangy and Hot n Spicy), Stallion (SOBO), and Graham (SOBO). Did all my chores, including washing my clothes by hand (they didn't have a washing machine). Luckily they had a drier so we didn't have wet clothes. Rockhound got a nice fire going. Steamboat and I split a pizza and we sat around the fire chatting with everyone. Eventually it got down to just the Jerky Girls, Steamboat, and myself. We sata around the fire until close to midnight. The Jerky Girls are both Marines and are really fun to hang out with. They had some crazy stories to tell. Wish them the best. They also let me try some of the moonshine they had bought from Rock Hound. It was pretty good. We also decided that my trailname should be Jolly Rancher for obvious reasons (had to scrap banshee because it means "female ghost"). I like it. Glad to finally have cool trailname. After everyone went to bed, I hit the computer and updated my blog. Really enjoy reading all the comments. Thanks everyone for the support!
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!