Saturday, March 1, 2008

AT Thru-Hiker NB - March 2008

2 April, Wednesday, 3 AM Hot Springs, NC: dropped "Trail Magic" (a Styrofoam cooler with diet sodas, water, grapes, peanut butter, etc., ) for hikers near Fire Tower; on to Asheville Regional Airport to wait for return flight. Ron waited for a return shuttle back to Hot Springs with hot coffee provided by a kind clerk at the Holiday Inn.

By 8:30 AM Ron was hiking the AT from Hot Springs, well fed, refreshed and re-energized. By noon, he had hiked five miles to the Fire Tower, enjoyed drinking his favorite diet cherry soda we had packed in the Trail Magic cooler at 3 AM!. He thought this was very funny!

Photo upper left: Ron against view of French Broad River: Hot Springs, NC. Below: Curtis' daughters playing with Barbie Dolls in a very cold creek at Standing Bear Hostel.

1 April, Tuesday: Hot Springs, NC - Why does he always choose hikes that go straight up the mountain?? Despite the Uphills - each day's hike was better than the last; and the five hour hike up Pump Gap Trail, then following the AT, provided some of the most magnificent views of the French Broad River and its rapids. Ron was really not tempted to jump from Lover’s Leap – but came up with a good idea for a tee shirt: “I survived Lover’s Leap” Oops! Now someone else might market that shirt. Weather was warm - in the seventies (R&R!

31 March, Monday: NW of Hot Springs, NC - Incredible hike about five hours on Paint Mountain Trail # 7 crossing to # 154. Breathtaking views - well worth the climb UPHILL. A few drops of rain - overcast skies - nice day.

30 March, Sunday: Hiked to Max Patch (TN)– spectacular views. You guessed it: UPHILL about five hours. Curtis, owner of Standing Bear Hostel, offered the chicken coop quarters for the evening– but considering the prospect of rain, a missing wall – and cleaning out chicken pooh - turned it down. Weather was nice all day! Delicious meals at the Mountain Magnolia Inn; owners Pete and Karen are exceptionally nice.

29 March, Saturday: Columbia, SC - Ron hiked with Dick Richards in the AM - Taxes done: $240.00 – check written – ready to roll back to hike AT again despite gloomy weather forecast for next three days.

27 March, Thursday: Charlotte, NC and on to Columbia, SC to do taxes and pay bills.

26 March, Wednesday: Standing Bear Hostel, TN - We did two miles of trail maintenance - Ron cut tree limbs with a worn out saw blade, painted white AT blazes on guardrail. Enjoyed the campfire camaraderie and owner, Curtis. Great food at Fox and Hounds in nearby Newport, NC - special hostess named Carol - wonderful ambiance.

Matthew with a Sweet Smile

Fire Tower View, Hot Springs, NC

25 March, Tuesday: We enjoyed a hearty early breakfast at Elmer’s with some other thru-hikers. Joined more hikers at the diner for yet a second breakfast (guess what Ron ate). words cannot capture the camaraderie & contagious euphoria that envelopes hikers as they encountered one another – some having shared several weeks hiking, others simply a few hours.

Hiked UPHILL to the Fire Tower near Hot Springs for a 360 degree awesome view - accompanied by Matthew – a fine young fellow with a charming smile.

24 March, midnight: Where is Ron now????????? My cousin - drove right past me, frantic because she had no cell phone service, and there he was - right where he said he would be standing... under a street light on main street.

24 March, Monday, AT 2008: Elmer's Sunnybank Inn at Hot Springs, NC, mile 270.7

The last two days have proved very interesting as I remembered scenes from last year's shakedown cruise. It is amazing that I covered the 33 miles from Standing Bear Farm Hostel to Hot Springs between 2pm Saturday and 7pm Sunday - all because Squire "stood me up" at Max Patch.
This morning I picked up the breakfast tab for the table of hikers at the Smoky Mountain Diner. It is one great place to eat - good food for very reasonable prices. I started with the veggie omelet & coffee, continued with more coffee and two pancakes w/ two scoops of vanilla ice cream & strawberries (The owner declared that the price of that was "on her" !! - THANKS. It was delicious.), and finished by consuming more coffee with the leftovers from Spruce and Halfbrew. I may never need to eat again.

23 March: 23 miles today - surprised me !
After deciding at 2:30 am that I should sleep more, I awoke at 6:30, packed, and started hiking in the darkness towards Max Patch. The overcast precluded a pretty sunrise, but I enjoyed meditating about the surprise of my fellow hikers if I could show up in their camp shortly before sunrise. However, the surprise was mine when I "summited" Max Patch to discover that I knew none of the campers there. In the forest just beyond the summit, Memphis Tim informed me that everyone had pushed ahead to the Roaring Forks Shelter because the winds and cold on Max Patch were too severe. THEY MISSED AN AMAZINGLY SCENIC VIEW of frosted trees on every neighboring mountain and up to 1/4" of frost on all the vegetation on Max Patch. At Roaring Forks, Toad informed me that "everyone else" had just left 2 minutes earlier, so I left a brief note in the shelter log and moved on, hoping to catch Squire during his lunch break although he hikes much faster downhill than I do. The terrain was relatively easy, so I made good progress without rushing myself until becoming hungry towards 10am. Last year I learned that I need to eat lots and often while hiking in order to keep my energy up since it doesn't recover well if I wait to eat after tiring. "Start" caught up to me there and we hiked together with enjoyable conversation most of the afternoon. The next shelter is close to a newly stripped "bald" and I remembered spending the night there and being disappointed with the midnight view of a cloudy sky from that bald last year. The spring was a puddle last year and Start reported it to be an unacceptable puddle this year too. After hiking without much respite most of the day, the last climb before the next shelter became drudgery, so I stopped to enjoy a "nap" - Napping Ron might be a good trailname for me. I ate two peanut butter sandwiches while mulling over the impossibility of arriving in town with almost three days of food leftover. After a bit of sunshine, clouds blocked much of the heat and the wind was chill, so I covered up a bit after Riley and Joshua and Memphis Tim passed by. By then I had dozed a minute and rested adequately, so packed and started hiking with renewed vigor. I caught up to Memphis as he prepared to leave the the final shelter deserted and decided to continue with him to join the group in town - 33 miles and a good night's sleep in 28 hours. The "run" into town was perplexing in that we went up and up and up in order to drop 1000 feet of elevation from the shelter to town. As usual, I started making cell phone calls while approaching a town where the phone could be recharged. Elmer's Sunnybank Inn was full and dinner smelled too incredibly delicious to stand, but after a good pizza at the Main Street Cafe, Spruce and Halfbrew decided to join Memphis Tim at the resort cabin, so I was enabled to share a room at the Inn with Squire. The biggest surprise is that Matthew is here !! That awesomely fast hiker is apparently love struck by Elmer, the town, or the lovely staff that Elmer employs. Matthew has been here "working for room" since Friday. What a treat to see so many familiar and happy hiker faces. What a delightfully supportive town full of nice, pleasant people. After a couple of beers with Josh, Riley, and Start, I slept well, especially as my room is unheated.

22 March. Everyone stopped at Standing Bear, and I couldn't bring myself to leave until all other outgoing hikers had gone about 3 pm. The day of socializing was just so much fun and Curtis is an enjoyable eccentric. It was quality time, well spent. The day started early with inadequate cell phone signal (the call to my sister was dropped five times before we finally gave up). Then Curtis refused to consider a breakfast run into "town" and even refused a 6-pack bribe attempt. Fortunately Curtis sells eggs and Catfish is a willing and talented cook. My omelet was wonderful - Thanks Catfish. Squire and Spruce were off early around 10am (really late for them). Drew & Wendy also left sorta early. Eventually Joshua and Riley and halfbrew came in after a night on Mt. Cammeron. They reported that it was a gorgeous night there with wonderful stars - among the best sights so far. Even they left before

21 March, AT 2008: Standing Bear Hostel at Interstate 40, Tennessee and North Carolina borders. $1 per 15 minutes, so this will be brief.
Lotsa fun so far and very nice people for hiking companions. I've made better time than expected and have just cleared the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Interstate 40. My knee is getting better and better. My pants are loose. My legs still get far too tired - I require a mid-day nap. Longest day so far was 18 miles. Worst weather is a tie between driving winds and 25 degree temperatures with light snow AND driving winds with light rain on the Smoky Mountain ridgetops. Best view a few days ago was from Rocky Top - magnificent 360 degree with mountains on all sides. Close second was the trees enshrouded with snow & ice a couple of days ago after a nice warm night in Peck's Shelter. My gloves have proved inadequate twice, so I just bought a new pair - with the hope that the coldest weather is behind me.
Now I have to see about establishing a blog at

6 March, AT 2008: Neelys Gap & Walasi Yi Center Outfitters
Whew, it has been a pleasurable 30 miles so far. Thanks to Greg for the ride to Amicholola State Park. Apologies for not being ready early Sunday morning - until 1:30 pm. By coincidence, there was a Trail Days exposition there that weekend; I missed an opportunity to pick up good gear cheap.
Since we arrived late before dark, I hiked only 2.4 miles, mostly in the dark - a fittingly easy first day.

On March 3rd, I hiked about 14 miles up the Approach Trail to Springer mountain (6.4 miles) and on to the shelter 7.8 miles further on. At the shelter midway I met Cannibal and Bananas, both solo hikers. There were fun and Cannibal is another hammock swinger who seems very knowledgeable about gear. I hope to see them both later on. The next shelter was crowded but everyone was tired, so there was little conversation. I pitched my hammock and the rain started just before dawn.

March 4th
, I hung tight until after noon, figuring that hiking in the rain is no fun. When I was eating breakfast at noon, Cannibal & Bananas came in soaked and mildly miserable from the weather, while also pleased to have accomplished another day of hiking. I left then and covered the same 7.8 miles to the next shelter as had the miriad of other hikers who had endured hiking in pouring rain and whipping wind. I felt well justified in my "slack" day.

March 5th
I set out reasonably early after eating my final supply of brewers yeast supplements with breakfast and just kept on truckin' until I reached Neelys Gap and the Walasi Yi Center, great people and good advice and good gear smack on the trail. ( Oh, I cannot forget to mention the wonderful vistas off Blood Mountain. WOW !! This enternet machine is situated at the window overlooking a great view down the valley. Wonderful. Now I need to go buy "lots" of new gear: Superfeet, Bridgedale endurance trekker socks, Etowah rain kilt, sleeping bag liner, ULA over mitts, and two pints of Ben & Jerrys (Chunky Monkey & Chubby Hubby). Very nice people. I want to remember Adam & Pirate is quite a character.

1 Mar 2008: Greg Gowdy generously offered to drive me from Columbia, SC to the trailhead at Springer Mountain in Apachola State Park north of Atlanta. Weather has been mild this winter, but there has been enough rain that all the usual water sources are providing that vital fluid. There is no snow on the Great Smoky Mountains at this moment. I was surprised with a Hennesy Hammock for a Christmas gift. My new down sleeping bag from GoLite weighs only 1 lb 3 oz and is supposed to keep me "warm" down to 20 degrees. Goodnight. I have a ton of things to do before dawn, so I'm going to "sleep" for a few hours now. I've learned how to take pictures with my cell phone, so there should be some of those on my Picasa site before too long. Last years experiences provided convincing education about the merits of traveling light. Maybe the new digital recorder will survive with a "running" commentary.

1 comment:

Yamhsoj said...

Continued luck on the trail Shake Down! This is Josh (Peakaxe) who hiked the last leg of the Springer approach trail with you. I hope the Superfeet are working out well. I was at REI in Atlanta today, and bought pretty much everything for my trip. I don't know if my pack is going to be as light as yours, but I think that my efficiency in choosing gear is going to make it hard to justify carrying a pack that's 20% of my overall weight. We will see when I put it all on the scale tomorrow! Again, continued luck and happy trails!