DAY 51 (0 miles)

Day 51- Another lazy, sit-around day. I can walk somewhat and visited an outfitter to look at different packs ands tents. There wasn’t much difference in the packs so I kept mine but knocked 2 pounds off the weight of my tent by getting a different one. Just a note, REI and Backcountry will take back your items even though you used them for up to a year if they don’t work out. So I decided to go ahead and change out the tent, worrying about returning the original one later. By the time I was finished both feet were all swollen as well as my right leg. More ice, rest and compression. So, more of nothing to tell, sorry about that, and hope you don’t forget about me! Hopefully two more days and off I will go, slowly at first. Hang in there with me and Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

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Day 40 (9 miles)

Day 40 – I am not sure why I had a fitful sleep last night, except that I noticed that the wind was still blowing strong which meant it would be another cold day tomorrow. It seemed I couldn’t really get warm yet I wasn’t really cold. It was strange but awesome too that we were staying in this old barn used by others years ago (although very drafty). I climbed down the ladder to visit the privy and when I looked out behind the barn, it was beautiful. The sky was still a dark blue with the moon hanging high in the sky with the sun trying to peek over from the left. Beast and Puck Carrier left at 5:15 to get into town and warm up. It’s a bit early for me but I was up and out around 7:30. I did get the barn shelter picture for you before I left, very quaint.

Early morning views
Overmountain shelter

Yes it was cold, clear skies, and very gusty. As I made my way up the first hill enroute to Little Hump Mountain I was thinking how glad I was that I left my jacket on and my fleece leggings. I didn’t have to worry about slipping in the mud because the ground was frozen. When I arrived at Little Hump Mountain I really wasn’t sure if I would make it. The wind was gusting about 40 knots and doing a good job of keeping my feet unsteady. At times I would have to dig my poles in just to keep from getting blown over. Lastly Steve passed me, I hadn’t seen him for a day so I am glad he showed up. Finally I was at the top of Little Hump headed for Hump Mountain.

It is all there in front of you and the trail is clearly visible and seems so long but I kept fighting the wind and made it. What a view! I sent a picture to my cousin Tommy and he knew exactly where I was. He even pointed out Chimney Rock as one of the mountains. Only God could have made a world that continues to amaze and take you a-back when you see the beauty of everything you see, from the petite flowers on the side of the trail to the majestic mountains before you. While I descended I crossed paths with many day hikers as the weather was pretty nice now. You know they are day hikers because they smell so good! I wonder what they smell when they pass thru-hikers? One girl passed me and said I had a nice hat, Go Tigers!

I had trail magic waiting on me in the form of my cousin Tommy and his wife Mary. They took me to their house for my first zero day, which means the following day you do nothing or at least no hiking. My shower was the best and clean clothes are icing on the cake. I had two packages waiting on me from Leslie and Ben. They were things I will need as it warms up, plus some special treats. Yummy! Thanks Jane for sewing my warm weather bag! (And Happy Birthday month!) We went into town and drove around Appalachian State University. It is a very pretty place. The lunch was pretty great too! Thanks, Tom!

I can tell my pack will weigh a ton when I start out again with the food supply but it will be eaten soon enough. In the mail was another package. Remember my fleece hat I lost back at Newfound Gap? Well, the lady from the First Baptist Church found it on the van and mailed it to me. How kind was that? Now to think how to repay them for all that they do for Thru-hikers. I enjoyed an evening of good conversation and getting caught up on family with Mary helping me with some sewing issues. Thanks, Mary! What would we do without family? Take just a moment and tell someone how much you appreciate them, give someone a hug, or call someone you haven’t talked to in awhile. Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 39 (8.4 miles)

Day 39- The Roan High Knob Shelter is four sided with a door and an upstairs and must have mystical powers as no one got up until almost 8AM. In the wee hours we had a blast of strong wind and some heavy rain but it didn’t linger. The morning was cool with a little mist from the overcast clouds which at over 6000 feet you are in the middle of them. I had some oatmeal and started out strong. After about 1.5 miles, light to moderate rain fell and the wind picked up big time. At Carver Gap, which is between Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests, it was becoming very cold! As Winnie the Pooh said “it is a very blustery day today”.

I passed Round Bald and Jane Bald which I am sure has spectacular views if you could see more than 200 feet in front of you and continued to climb in this openness trying to keep two feet on the ground. All of a sudden the sun tried its best to peek through and the clouds parted for just a moment and a another large bald appeared in front of me as well as those spectacular views. As quickly as it appeared it just as quickly disappeared. For the moment, the wet feet, cold nose and hands were worth it all. It could be a place I would visit again on a nice, warm clear day. I passed a few Southbound Through hikers, most of them finishing up a section they missed the first time. The trail maneuvered so that the wind was above us, the rain had let up and now I was walking in mud.

I am not sure what kind of dirt is on this mountain but when it’s wet it is slicker than snot. On level ground my right leg went straight out in front of me and down I went as if sliding into home plate, nice and gentle. To get up was not as graceful. I felt like an odd turtle trying to right herself with this shell on my back wriggling in the mud to turn over. Perseverance prevailed! I stopped soon thereafter for a snack at the next shelter and caught up with No Rush. He showed me the ramps growing all around and I pulled a few to put in my tuna so it wouldn’t be so bland. The small ones are milder so that was my choice, they were good. Ramps are like onions, the bigger the stronger.

I had planned on staying at the Overmountain Shelter, which I did. It’s a large barn used by AT hikers now, very drafty, and a pretty cool, old place. The Overmountain Men came through here enroute to Kings Mountain to help fight and defeat the British during the Revolutionary War. I imagine they had it worse than me so no complaints. The weather seemed to be calming down though still windy as I talked with a guy who is finishing up his Southbound Thru-hike after 6 years of section hiking. I left to get water and while filling up my vessel the rain came and then the sleet.

I will get a picture tomorrow when hopefully the sun is shining and the wind dies down. The shelter filled up pretty quickly as time passed by, some familiar faces and some not. Gumby is one who has apparently heard of me and wanted to meet me. I am trying to figure out why my name precedes me. I must look like a hobo or something! It’s getting time to fix my dinner, climb back in my bag and pray for a warmer day tomorrow! Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 29 (16.5 miles)

Day 29 – What a busy day! I did sleep so much better in my tent and although I got up early I didn’t get out of there until 8 AM. I made sure to eat a good breakfast since it was going to be such a long hike today. What a beautiful day! Totally opposite from the day before. It was another Carolina Blue sky with temperatures in the 70’s. I stopped at a creek to have my lunch of cheese and Snickers Bar topped with peanut butter. A family came by, grandpa, 2 sons , and a young grandson. That was really cool.

I was making pretty good time despite the straight up mountain. I went through a thick dark forest of pines, rhododendrons, and azaleas. It was a different sort of hike through there. I had to keep my eyes peeled up trail today to be sure there were no creepy crawleys sunning on the path. There have been a couple guys coming up on Rattlers on the trail, so I would like to avoid that. My pack seems to be bothering me mid-afternoon. I think if I do long days, I need to be sure and find a nice peaceful spot and sit for a while with my pack off. I will see how that goes. The trail goes through the town of Hot Springs tomorrow and I need to resupply my food. I will be careful to get only what I need this time. I haven’t decided if I will definitely stay there for the night or not. After today the thought of it sounds pretty good.

I ran across Freight Train lounging on the side of the trail. He caught up with me after about an hour so I was sure he would have beat me to the shelter. He stopped for water so that put him behind me. The shelter here only holds 6 and I was lucky enough to get the last spot. There are plenty of tent sites so we have a large group of mostly people I know, and all of a sudden this girl walked up. To my surprise it was Aubrey, aka Bumblebee, from Iowa. She was one of the first girls I started walking with or wind up camping or getting a hostel with. I lost her somewhere before Nantahala. I was glad to see her! There was also a guy and his wife and he had on a UNC shirt, Don, so I said “Go Heels” when he passed by to hang his food bag. He liked that. Everyone has retreated to their tents or bags so I bid you a Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 23 (5.5 miles)

Day 23- I forgot to tell you but the climb down from Clingman’s Dome yesterday was through a river bed and the trail is very poorly marked so at times I question as to whether or not I missed a slight turn. Backtracking is not something I would like to do, but there were times when I figured I would just end up at a river and then have to get un-lost. Ultimately a white blaze will appear like a beacon in the night and restore my faith of being on the right path!

So this morning was a fairly easy hike which made things go faster for me. I make it to the TN/NC border there at Newfound Gap and Ed was waiting there with Trail Magic. Those doughnuts tasted so delicious! Saucy and I had decided to share a room and she and others from the night before were waiting. He was going to take us to town but we got a ride from a lady who runs a hostel from her home. When I came out of the woods there were 4 or 5 buses there loaded with seniors and they were mingling everywhere. One guy who really didn’t look much older than me stared at me and finally asked about what I was doing. After telling him I went off to look for the others. I spied them at Ed’s truck and made my way over but in the meantime I ran into the same guy again. He brought others, spoke, and took pictures of me like he had seen a wild bear or something. I think these seniors need to get out more often and not on a tour bus!

Ed and some Trail Magic! Thanks Ed!!

So we get into Gatlinburg, a small touristy town. I would choose a different place to stay for a vacation if it were me but that’s just me. Our first stop was the NOC, Nantahala Outdoor Center. They offer free showers to thru hikers and it felt great! There was a can of Lysol there so I gave the insides of my boots a good once over since they had been wet for a couple days and didn’t want them to start getting funky. The people at NOC were fantastic and so helpful. Then we left to devour some food. It’s amazing how hungry hiking makes you.

We made our way to the Motel 6 and the more we walked off the Main Street the more it began looking like a carney village. It obviously is where the seasonal workers stay and a bit sketchy, I must say. People cautiously watching you, most missing many of their teeth. Anyway we got our nasty clothes together and the motel guy said there were coin washers next door, so off we went. Well apparently yesterday some guy thought it was a good idea to strip naked in front of kids and do his laundry there so the motel manager said no one could use the machines unless they were staying there. Our motel guy was nice enough to give us our money back and we continued uphill to where everything was and got another room near a trolley that took us to the outskirts of town to the one and only laundromat.

We saw Slip and Slide there, she has decided to leave the trail. We finally resupplied our food and yes it is true, do not go shopping when you are hungry. If I can pick my pack up now I should be good on food for awhile. I wasn’t sure it would all fit! We stopped for a sweet potato and salad for supper, packed up our packs and went to bed. It is way later than we normally go to bed but it is clean, temperature controlled and not on the ground! So for tonight, Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 22 (7.9 miles)

Day 22- This is the day I got to the top of Clingman’s Dome. I have officially gone over 200 miles! I thought it was going to be a very hard straight up walk but it was actually one of my nicer uphill climbs. When I left Double Spring Gap Shelter, it was lightly raining and I had to put on my damp pants over my leggings, which I pulled back out last night to sleep in (also wrapped in my Pike Trail tarp for added warmth, thanks Ben). On top was my rain gear and I thought I would be too hot going uphill but it was just right. I entered another enchanted forest of another kind this time for the entire trek up the mountain. It was dark, misty, and low growing coverage that seemed to swallow you up. Again, I was in no hurry to get through. Anything laying on the forest floor was covered in a thick green moss, contrasting against the the brown, muddy trail and the green of the sweet smelling balsam trees. The memories of Christmas followed me throughout the day. When I got to the top the sun peeked through for a moment and beams of sunshine poured through the thick foliage. A sight to behold! The balsam trees are here due to the elevation and I will see them again in Vermont.

Saucy caught up with me before the next shelter and we decided to go into Gatlinburg tomorrow, shower, wash clothes, resupply, and eat a lot. That will be a good day. I met three new guys today at the shelter, Roy, Brian, and Troy. They are buddies from Augusta, GA. A very interesting group out for a section hike. I really enjoyed our conversations. Brian is originally from Walhalla and when I called it Hogwaller he knew I was legit. Troy had stents put in a couple weeks ago and is doing great to be out here! He showed me his 38 ultralight, now I want one, very light. Two old geezers showed up, one out of breath, one with a busted knee. I don’t know how he walks on it. The shelter is starting to fill so I am going to eat the last of my supper, hang my bear bag and climb into my sleeping bag to stay warm watching the interesting people. Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 21 (8.6 miles)

Day 21- There were several hikers up and at ‘em before daylight to get to Clingman’s Dome and the the shelter beyond it. That is way more ambitious than my plans, thank you very much. As I said yesterday that is the highest point on the AT at 6658 foot elevation. So although I stopped short at this shelter earlier in the day, I feel I will need the rest for tomorrow. It was a little harder hike today with the constant rain and very mucky trail. When you get to the top of the ridges the wind was blowing so hard it about knocked me off my feet. I was glad to stop at this shelter for the night.

There are many hikers that I have run across before here at the shelter. They are so muddy and wet from their walk. There is Turnip, who like me needs to resupply quickly, she is from Atlanta. I am getting more ideas on what foods to buy for calories. There are also two red headed brothers here, Wrong Way and Mark. And yes he did go the wrong way once, thus his name. They have been hopscotching me for a couple of days. The better water source here according to the guide is in NC so I chose that one. The one down the other embankment in Tennessee was not very free flowing. Like I said we have been flip flopping the Tenn/NC border. We actually have a privy too! It sure beats digging a cat hole in the rain! The rain had pushed out several earthworms along the way and they are so long! You could fish for hours using these earthworms.

Earthworm!!

Right now we have a break in the rain and the sun is shining…for now. It is supposed to rain again tomorrow, maybe it will be on and off. Well a lady came by that is leaving the trail and asked if we wanted any leftover food. Boy was I excited! More Trail Magic! I have a tortilla soup now for supper, can’t wait! Oh the little things in life! We have a fire place in the shelter and I am hoping someone will light it off later. It would feel good to cut the chill. Well, the sound of the pitter-patter of the rain drops hitting on the tin roof tells me it’s time to slumber. Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 20 (10.9 miles)

Day 20- I was up and at ‘em again this morning and was sure to eat my oatmeal (for some energy hopefully) before I left. I made good time my first three miles and actually saw 2 deer. The last 6 plus miles were grueling, with lots of boulder climbing and tree jumping, and lots of mud which made walking slower and more precise (so I don’t slip). It continued to rain through the mid morning and when I got to Round Bald, what a sight!

When I got to the shelter I was starving so I made a quick peanut butter tortilla roll up and later made supper. I was glad to see the same people from the night before. Tadpole, from Nashville, was here and Roy from Savannah. No Eyes made it here too, he is a nice kid. The sun started shining and felt good.  Around 5:00 pm or so we had thunderstorms, sun, rain, and now more rain. The air is pretty cool so I am in my bag to keep warm and try to stay dry and not muddy. People keep showing up and the shelter is full, a couple of them are from Fontana and like to party but there is a ridge runner here and he’ll take care of that. A ridge runner works with the Forestry service for a certain length of trail to make sure things are okay and you are doing what you should be doing.

I should make it to Newfound Gap in a couple of days. It will be the hardest day with a climb up to Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the AT. I hope to get to Gatlinburg to resupply, wash clothes, and eat. Tomorrow should be the last day for rain. Not much happened today except for awesome views. I will try to get enough service to send the pictures, if not then I will later. I am going to snuggle into my bag and try to get some shut eye. Good night and sweet dreams!

Shelter life in the Smokies

Day 19 (16.8 miles)

Day 19- I got up and out of Fontana early which is new for me. I think most people stayed around for another day (zero day). The AT goes right over the Fontana Dam then up the hill to enter the Smokies. You have to register to thru hike and you have 8 days to be through. I will be crisscrossing the Tennessee and North Carolina borders through it all.

I wound up at the Russell Field Shelter which is further than I expected to go but I just got a bad vibe from the people at the previous shelter. It’s not that they were dangerous, just not friendly. The AT guy was there doing repairs and he was super nice, he said this shelter was an “easy” 3 miles. Now we are still talking mountain miles here and I would really like to ask what is their definition of easy. When my shadow starts getting long and my belly starts to rumble I know it’s time to put down for the night. I did get here in good time, I think my adrenaline kicks in because for once I was actually Flying Tiger.

The people here are great. Another lady I had met once we entered the Smokies was here, her name is Tadpole. She’s a little older too but quick. Another kid, Brandon, works for Gulfstream and is going home tomorrow. I met a few here from around Detroit who were very nice, they are through hiking.

So earlier today I was coming around a switchback and stopped dead in my tracks. The forest floor as far as your eyes could see were covered in small white flowers. It was like being in a fairy tale. The sun was beaming down through the leaveless trees and made everything so bright. I found my gait slowed down and once in awhile a sweet aroma would fill the air. I felt as though I was in a Disney movie as I have never seen anything this beautiful. I came upon a tree with a hole through it and imagined this is where the seven dwarfs would be coming home to soon. It’s as if God was saying, slow down, take a look around, appreciate what you have. It was really quite emotional, I must say. This went on for about a mile and I was mesmerized.

Just around a corner just as it began, it abruptly ended. That is something I will never forget. It was definitely God’s handiwork! It is supposed to rain the next two days, let’s hope it goes good! I hear a screech owl now, which is cool, and a hoot owl. Everyone is in their bags so Good Night Sweet Prince and Princess and Sweet Dreams!