Day 17 (17.2 miles)

Day 17- Last night got a little chilly on my feet so instead of pulling things out, I remembered my gloves were still in my pocket so I put them on my feet. Problem solved. I did eat some oatmeal this morning. I am trying to eat my calories as I can really tell a difference when going uphill. This morning, I actually got to the top of Sassafras Mtn. (Yes, there is one here too). The view was worth each breathless step. Now onto Jacob’s Ladder. It is what it implies, up and then down, up and then down. This went on well after lunch. I was determined to get to the second shelter which was a lot of miles and I did it! I got the tent set up, heated water for my 4 cheese mashed potatoes, which were yummy, by the way, threw my bear bag (not in an ideal location), and refilled my water all before the rain came. I imagine it will be sometime tonight. I am sleeping on a slant so I will be in a ball at the foot of the tent tomorrow. That is one disadvantage of getting to a shelter later…all the good spots are taken.

I won’t have many miles to go in the rain tomorrow before I get to Fontana Dam. Hopefully I can get some more good, big meals, then it’s off to the Smokies! I feel good about the time it took to get this far, so no complaining here. Larry and I camped at the foot of the dam once and all I could think about was wonder how long it would take to cover us with water if the dam broke. It is a site to behold! I talked to Salsy today, we had just passed each other the day before. She is a red head from Biloxi, MS, originally from Kentucky. She took my picture at the top of the mountain. One thing about her is she will take a break when it gets to be so much and relax.

Today was another beautiful day for that. So beautiful in fact that when another girl passed me she suddenly stops and excitedly says, “Did you see that snake”? I winced and uttered, “Is it coming at me”? She said no and then I had to look, yuck, I could have done without that. It was a youngster so it meant there were more. So now I really had to watch out for them since it was so warm. At lunch break with several others from the night before, this guy comes up and says, “that’s the ugliest hat I have ever seen (I had my Clemson cap on). There was a guy at the Pancake breakfast with the same gosh awful hat”. I just said that guy must have been awesome. He must have been an Bama fan still muttering about my hat as he left.

Moon pie showed up too, she is the rugby player from Clemson. Every time I say her name I want a moon pie! Well I know Pine Needle made it almost this far because a guy passed me saying some guy about a mile back didn’t have on shoes. He thought he was crazy. I hope he can stay warm and dry tonight wherever he is. It is starting to rain and the wind has picked up. I am not sure what I will do when I get to Fontana Dam tomorrow. Probably after a night in the shelter I will start on the Great Smoky Mountains. You have to be through there in 8 days or they will fine you. It’s getting pretty late for hiker time so Good night and Sweet Dreams!

A Hosta pushing through the forest floor. Made me think of my brother-in-law Larry Mac.

Day 16 (8 miles)

Day 16 – I thought it would be a full hostel bunk bed kinda night since they said it was full, but little did they know there were only 3 girls in this bunk house. Lying beside the thunderous Nantahala River and no snoring gave the best sleep I think I have had in a while! I grabbed some food in the grocery store there this morning and shared a table with Tiger Lily from Ohio. She has four kids and has always wanted to hike the AT. We wound up hopscotching each other the rest of the day until getting to the shelter. Today has pretty much been an uphill challenge. Challenge because there were obstacles in the path’s way like large trees, crazy rock formations and uphill because it was ALL uphill. The first big tree I came to I figured it would be easier to go over it than climb up a slick bank and back down. So I hiked my leg as high as I could and threw it over and found myself laying face down, straddling, and hugging this huge tree. I am so glad no one came around the bend! I slowly slid down the other side, picked up my poles and went my merry way like it was all planned that way. All in all a beautiful warm day and getting to be a very chilly night.

Not far from the beginning of the hike I had stopped by a creek to fill my water bottle and this voice comes from behind and asks,” Are you Flying Tiger”? I turn around to see who has caught up with me, answer yes, and realize I haven’t met her before. She is friends and went to high school with my niece Shawn from Maine. In this huge world, who would think you could run into a stranger in the woods that knows you and a family member all from a Clemson ball cap hanging from your pack. My name precedes me, uh-oh! A wonderful surprise. They were Willow and Silver Lining living in Dallas but thinking of moving back to Maine when they get to Mt Katahdin. We had a nice chat and I hope to run into them again!

I finally arrived at the shelter ready to rest my tired legs, eat some good freeze dried spaghetti with an expiration date of 2048 for some calories (it wasn’t that bad either). While eating I got to talking to a UCF grad who wants to continue on to nursing school or a PA degree. His granddad graduated from Clemson and they had found some really nice Clemson relics in his things after he passed away recently. We talked on about a lot of things. I finished, cleaned up and hung my first bear bag. It went without a hitch I must say. It’s probably not high enough but most trees here go straight up without side branches. I ran into Tiger Lily who was about to use the privy for the first time and she kept searching the trees for a big one that she would rather hide behind for her business. I thought it was comical. The people here were new and awesome.

I sat at the amazing fire and a barefoot kid sat down to cook his food on the fire and lo and behold it was Pine Needle. He got his name because he drinks pine needle tea, sometimes with hemlock. He is a vegetarian from California who hitches to Wilmington, NC, to visit his dad every 6 months or so. He is very knowledgeable about the edible plants, mostly in CA though. There is also a mom, two daughters and two sons here. The Mom and 13 year old will be leaving at weeks end (spring break), and the others will continue on. That would be a neat experience! Moon Pie, from FL was also here and she too is a Clemson grad. She played rugby while at school. I got a lot of Clemson recognition today, mostly them yelling out “Go Tigers”. Although the hills, 4710 elevation, were tough at times, it’s been a good day! I hope yours has too! Good night and Sweet dreams!

Willow and Me. What small world?!

Day 14 (17.1 miles)

Day 14 -The day was beautiful! Franklin had a metro bus, big van, that would shuttle you to the trailhead. When I got on there were Clammy and the rest of the Ninjas. I had planned on just hiking to the second shelter at Wayah Bald but it was too crowded with the most unfriendly group of people (we have run into them before). So I chose to move on to the 3rd shelter where probably Clammy and them were. Still not sure because they were in their bags already. It’s either them or the younger group with Shaggy from Clemson. Fortunately I didn’t have to walk too far in the dark. The sun tried to hang in there but finally gave up when I saw a light ahead.. the shelter!! I was so happy and set up the tent in the dark with my headlamp. I did a poor job hanging my bear bag so we will see if I have food tomorrow.

Siler Bald

Earlier at Siler Bald, I popped out onto a clearing that went way up a hill with beautiful views I am sure. I chose to admire the bald while I ate my lunch. Pine Needle showed up and he was wearing shoes, but took them off to climb the hill. He said he got real cold last night. It’s pretty freezing right now but I will finish this first. I am snuggled up in my bag. On the biggest hill which is around 4900 foot elevation, I sang 100 bottles of beer on the wall and still had to sing other stuff to get to the top! Normally when you get to the top you will start descending before you get to a shelter. I believe God stuck this one literally on the trail! Thank you!

I have seen some amazing birch trees. Each time I pass one I tell them how beautiful their roots are. Their silver skin shines like magic in the sun. It’s almost like a fairy tale. Now that I got this far today I should be able to make it to Fontana Dam on schedule. It’s supposed to rain then, so I would really like to get there. There is a really cool rock tower at Wayah Bald. They had a picture labeling the mountains and right there was Greenville, SC! At least now it looks so far away. I am starting to shiver so I will snuggle in this bag and see if it can do it’s job! Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 9 (8.9 miles)

Day 9- The rain stopped sometime during the night last night and got replaced by wind. It’s really weird, the wind, you can hear it blowing through but it’s up high. I woke up to find everything frozen; the water on the rain fly and the rope tying the fly was stiff as could be and very hard to untie with it being so frigid. Another bit of info, people aren’t the only ones that like beer. Some guys awoke to find the hole they buried their beers in dug up and busted into by a bear. Now that was one happy bear! And yes they carried all that weight on the trail! I have seen some beautiful pink quartz along the way but you leave what you see, it’s not your house. Besides, who would add rocks to their pack? Well maybe the beer toters!

Sunrise on Day 9

I did start out wearing gloves and my down jacket as it was very cold. Around 12 pm I had to stop, eat some lunch and take off my jacket. When you go uphill you get very hot, no matter what the temperature. I did leave my hat on as the breeze was still quite chilly. It was a lot of uphill battles today. There are times when it looks like you are nearing the top but, NO, at the bend in the trail it turns and goes up more. Sometimes I wonder if God is continuously adding onto the top of the mountain just to see what you’re made of. Despite it all, I felt I could still get to Dicks Creek Gap and get a ride into town for food. But I stopped short since Janis Joplin was going to give me a ride. Well I don’t know what happened to her. She didn’t show up at camp, so guess she went into Dicks Creek Gap without me. It was nice getting my stuff dried out though, as it was a gorgeous day.

Drying out

There was a lovely sunrise followed by a Carolina Blue sky all day. I cooked up a mess of food thinking about what I need to buy tomorrow for calories. There is one dude here, he is the Forrest Gump of walking. He just walks trails each year, and has done the AT several times. So I got some good pointers from him. My pack will be heavy again but I will enjoy eating the food! Another guy asked me what my deal was as we stood around the fire so I told him and he asks “So why are you doing this?” Some people just don’t get it. “Oh” would have been the better answer. I have resupplyed my water and gotten everything dried and put up, so I will snuggle down in my warm bag and try to sleep although it’s still a little early. Good night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 8 (11 miles)

Day 8- Well, it was very foggy and damp this morning and I had to pack away the tent wet. It was supposed to rain again today so I donned my rain gear leaving my fleece leggings on (thank goodness) and put the cover on my pack. I had planned to go to the second shelter but again my trek took me to the first shelter. Tray Mountain goes straight up by the way, as in all day, so my energy would only let me go this far. It did start raining on me around 3pm and I had to set up the tent in the rain. My rain fly is freestanding so I was anxious to see how much it would help in keeping the tent and tarp dry. Excellent job it turns out. If our mom hadn’t taken us camping all the time, the rain might bother me a bit, but we had our share growing up so you just make the best of it. There were a couple awesome views of about 7 different mountain ranges and I wish I had something that told me what they were. Today I felt like I had walked in all of them!

I met up with an older Janis Joplin, Old hippy lady who looked like her. Finally, I found someone slower than me on the climbs. She is stopping at Dicks Creek Gap where she left her car and offered me a ride to Helen, Ga, so I can resupply my food. If it’s cold and rainy again I will be tempted to stay the night and dry things out, but no one said life was easy. Besides she said she would wait and bring me back. So sweet. So another reason to stop short. Nothing like the perv at the road crossing trying to pretend we’ve seen each other, I said nope and just kept walking. There were others around so I was not too worried. Then he asked if I was sure I didn’t need a ride, as I was checking my map and snacking, again nope. He got in his car and it turned over and over and finally cranked and left. I realized I had heard that as I was almost at the road as well as three other girls. He must have seen us and waited. Yep, perv… God will watch over me.

Hey, I am already in my bag so I can safely say I was mishap free today! I watched my footing carefully since it was slippery. When I get to Dicks Creek there won’t be any cell service so it may be a day before I can catch up. No offense but I will be so glad when I leave Georgia and get into NC and see what it has to offer. I have another mountain coming up in a few days that’s 5435 foot elevation in NC so I will let you know how that goes! Well it’s cold and I am going to snuggle up into my sleeping bag and say Good night and sweet dreams!

My water sources while on the trail
Thanks Frank and Donna

Day 7 (14.5 miles)

Day 7- Well, last night was an adventure. We all hadn’t got laid down good and something came a-scratching and making noise outside the shelter. I am going to call it a raccoon. Tried to get to sleep but apparently wooden floors are harder than dirt even with a mat. Then a mouse woke me, hate those things! I pulled my head out from my bag to listen to where he might be and saw the moon shining big through the tree silhouettes. Very pretty. Then when the kid next to me went to the privy, I heard the loudest screech or growl noise. I was glad to see him come back.

Starting off my day

Today’s mountains were more forgiving than the last ones. Along the way, I saw a misshaped tree and stopped to look at it. It reminded me of a rabbit, so I thought of Mom and smiled because she loved rabbits. I think she would have liked my taking this trip as she was the adventurous one. Dad would be sure I had everything I needed to be safe but he would have been okay too. They both taught me that I could do anything I wanted to if I set my mind to it. I tried to teach my kids the same. It’s an important trait to have. So it was a nice fast hike.

I was determined to get to Blue Mtn shelter come hell or high water. We did get the water (rain) and the last 2 miles felt like hell. It was as if there were a lot of rock slides and you just had to climb up and over, hope you were still on the trail, and the rest was wet dirt that was as wide as your feet and poles. The strongest part of my body are my arms and back, with my armpits running a close second, so I use my poles to help take the weight off my knees. Yes I slid twice, once in mud, fortunately I fell towards the wall side. The other was on the rocks but my balance and poles caught me. I am really not a klutz, not counting the 2 times the dogs knee capped me and threw me to the ground and time I was running across the yard and became airborne and rolled (Monty saw it all)!

I finally arrived, longest hike yet. It stopped raining so I could put up the tent, since there were no spaces in the shelter, cook oatmeal, hot chocolate, and eat some tuna. I had stuff hanging on the trees to dry and talking to a girl, school teacher, from Durham and the sky opened up, so dry stuff got a little wet and rain came in the open flap and got my bag a little wet. I am in it now and it’s not too bad. This is probably the coldest night, I can see my breath. I had to put my fleece leggings back on that I took off at a shelter on the way here and put my rain gear on. That was Low Gap and it was a really nice shelter, but it was only noon and I was determined to get here. I need to hang my bear bag but it’s thunder storming and hailing. I will snuggle down in my bag and see if I get warm, my puffy jacket got wet, arggg. It will dry in my bag though. Here’s hoping to dry out a little before the morning! So the rain quit and there are a thousand stars in the sky, so beautiful, the fire the guy made did not get put out by the rain and it was so warm. So after chatting around the campfire it’s time for bed. Good night and sweet dreams!

P.S.- cell service will be very limited for the next few days so my updates will have to wait

Day 5 (7.8 miles)

Day 5- Since I hiked many miles further than planned yesterday, it wasn’t as far to hike to Neels Gap. Boy was I glad. Blood Mtn is 4457 foot elevation made entirely, I believe, of one huge granite bolder and bolder babies with a smidgen of dirt tossed over it at the bottom. Coming down was quite tricky trying to gracefully climb, and I use that term loosely, solid faces of 4’ rock with a full pack and not tumble or get wedged in the cracks! It was very busy with day hikers and they were very gracious asking if they could help. I think they just wanted me to move out of the way. One guy was running up past me and I thought I was in a Road Runner cartoon. You could actually see Atlanta from the top. Didn’t see any airplanes though, must have been a slow day. It was a Gorgeous day in the 60’s. We got to Neels Gap at the bottom of the trail and saw the infamous oak where hikers give and toss their shoes in it. It was a pretty cool sight.

Sunrise on Blood Mountain

My shoes stayed on my feet! I was starving, for once, as I descended, so the four of us from the previous day hitched to a fantastic BBQ place down the hill. I thought earlier towards the bottom of the mountain that I had made a day without incident .. but NO..the guy that stopped for us started driving off as I was mid step into the bed of the pickup. So I said “Well then” and gracefully, well it felt that way, rolled into the bed and into Carly’s lap. We laughed so hard. He never did stop, just went faster. We tried to hitch back but there were no takers so we got a shuttle from the nicest lady back to the cabin. In the morning I hope to lighten my pack and get rid of stuff I don’t need right now and send forward or home. Then I will be off to the next spot and see what the day brings. I believe rain is coming so I will be thinking about how to handle that. I’ve had my shower and ready to rest my poor knees, rocks are tough on them, so I bid you a Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Neels Gap – The Oak Tree full of shoes that have quit the trail!

Day 4 (13 miles)

Day 4 – this was the toughest climbs up an down yet but I set a pace and didn’t care about catching up with anybody. I have three people now I hike with: Iowa, her name is Aubrey, Tiger, found out his name is Mike, Carley from PA, she shaved her head for the trip. There are others we see now and again, but we are a good fit. The wind blew so hard last night that it sounded like a crashing ocean that never ended. It kept waking me up because it would blow in one direction, quiet down, and suddenly come back from the other direction. It’s like it went a little ways and did a 180. Reminds me of the time a CESSNA got into some weather and said he’d wanted to do a 360 and get out of there… Bless his heart!

More Trail Magic

Anyway more trail magic for breakfast and again at lunch! At lunch Harley mentioned she was getting Blistex at our stop tomorrow. The man asked his wife if she had anything and after a weird look to him came out of the trailer with a container of Vaseline (used by the way). As Harley reached in to get some for her badly chapped lips, the woman says, “my husband puts it on his feet every night”. Coke about came out of my nose! She took it with her anyway.

Our destination at Lance Creek was full so we decided to trek on and find a level spot but before we knew it we had hiked 11 or so miles to Jarrads Gap. They require bear canisters so we walked 2 more miles out to the road and hitched a ride from a nice lady named Suzanne. We stayed in a hostel which the manager calls hotel now and got pizza and best yet a nice bed and a shower! We will call a shuttle tomorrow after breakfast and go on to Neals gap and have a nero day, which means we do nothing after walking our five miles not counting the 1.5 up the gravel road. Forgot to tell you my adventure, so up Gooch Mtn there is a very thin trail, rocky with some water, as I stepped on a rock it twisted and I jammed my pole in the dirt to catch myself and slid off hard dirt down the embankment, which in turn twisted me around right into a small tree. I found myself hugging it then after a “whew” I gave it a real hug! Talk about a run on sentence! Everyone’s sleeping now so Good Night and Sweet Dreams!

Day 2 (7 miles)

I had a pretty good sleep except for me waking myself up physically fighting someone who was not there. I thought someone was coming into my tent, fortunately I just said “Good Grief” and went back to sleep. It was about 30 degrees outside but my Nemo bag kept me toasty. There are a lot of good people on the trail. I ate 2 packs of oatmeal and cup of hot chocolate. I lit out hoping for another quick day. Soon I was off feeling good. I didn’t get very far and had to dig my first cat hole. For those of you that don’t know, a cat hole is a hole you dig to use the bathroom in and then cover up- like a cat(except I used my trusty cat hole trowel. I was hoping for another good day but around 2:30 my pack felt like it was 50 pounds so I chose to stop short of my destination at Hawk Mtn shelter. Most of the others from the first night were there too so I didn’t feel so bad. There was a lot of climbing up hill today. So I have been doing yoga stretches to hopefully help the soreness. I have also been eating my heaviest foods to help lighten the load. We put our food and trash in a metal bear box or hang it on a cable at night to keep the critters from entering our tents for real. I washed my shirt in the stream, it was getting a bit stinky. I met a fellow Clemson fan on the trail, we had the same hat, we exchanged our “Go Tigers” and then met up again at the tent site. To that note I will put my trash in the bear box, visit the privy and say Goodnite, Sweet dreams..

Day 1 (5.3 miles)

My daughter, her husband, and Granddaughter hiked with me to start the trail head at springer mountain. That was a good start to my hike. Leaving them behind wasn’t an easy thing to do. I hadn’t gone very far when emotions swept over me. I stopped at a random tree, the smallest one around at the top of a hill like it would stop me and my heavy pack, and said a prayer. I realized that this journey was not about a teenage dream but one of soul searching. I passed full streams and was the only one on the trail until I reached Stover Creek shelter which wasn’t a very hard hike. There weren’t as many people starting as I thought. Most were thru hikers like me so I am sure I will see them again. I ate a big meal, drank lots of water, and was thankful they had a privy, although gross. The moon was almost full and to quote my almost 21 month old granddaughter “Moon, Love, Hug”. Good nite and I will post again when I get cell service. Good nite, Sweet dreams!