Day 29

Day 29

We are out of the Smokies. Sad part about that is that makes me happy. We were looking forward to the Smokies, but in the end it was not very enjoyable. First day was all up and hot. I wrote about that day earlier. After that it was terrible weather, either cold or rain or wind or both or all three. We ended up spending three nights in Gatlinburg and neither of us wanted to spend anytime there initially. Our goal was to hike straight through. Ah well, that is what happens sometimes.

So last night we spent at Crosby Shelter. This was the first night we met a Ridge Runner in the Smokies. They do everything from cleaning the campgrounds to checking permits and educating the hikers. She was OK, maybe a bit strong on the education part, but if I ever write my blog post about hiker responsibility, you’ll see I cannot argue with being overly aggressive on education. Anyway, we (thru-hikers) need to have a permit to get through the Smokies. The Ridge Runner checked my permit when I got in. At that point I had to come clean with her and let her know that when I did laundry in Gatlinburg that I washed Crooner’s permit so he no longer had one. She was easily convinced to give Crooner a hard time about it. Oh boy. Crooner was pissed. Thought he had to pay a $100 fine for not having it. Of course I was cracking up the whole time. Poor Crooner.

Last night at about 2:30 am some guy comes flying through our shelter. We think he was doing the AT Smokies challenge (my made up name for it). The AT goes through about 71 miles of the Smokies and some try to do the complete distance in 24 hours. I am a light sleeper so I heard this clown coming down the trail as he had bear bells on. He comes flying through the shelter, drops his pack and runs down to the stream to fill his water bladder. Then back to the shelter to insert the now full bladder back into his pack. All the time bear bells a ringing. And four of us on the top bunk with our heads up watching this clown. He paid us no never mind, went about his business and finally left. If karma exists, this tool has it coming in spades.

This morning I awoke with a screaming headache. Ibuprofen did not really do a lot so I decided to try and hike it out. Once I made that decision I hit the trail hard hip g to get to Standing Bear Farm as soon so I could so, I could relax. It was a bit over 10 miles and I was done I just under 5 hours. Headache is still present, but hopefully a good night sleep is on tap.

We have three days to Hot Springs, NC and are about 30 miles away, so that is doable. Best part is Leslie will be waiting for me! For me that has been the hardest part of this trip, being away from Leslie. So far every day we have been able to text and communicate, but that has required some uphill hiking from some spots to find a signal.

Tomorrow a new day dawns.

Thanks for reading along….

-Samaritan

Day 22-24

Day 22, 23 and 24

We hiked out of Fontana Dam by walking over the dam itself. There is a picture of this on FB. It was pretty cool. When we got to the start of the Smokies we had to hike up the road a stretch until the trail started. At that point we had to register as thru hikers to hike through the park. The backcountry shelters are reservable, and since thru hikers really don’t know when they will be somewhere, they cannot reserve a spot. This presents issues with potential overcrowding. The answer is that thru hikers must stay in the shelter if it is not full. In practice this means that if we quit at 4 pm and the shelter is not full we need to take a spot in the shelter. Now if people who have reserved the shelter show up later, and if the shelter is full at that time then the thru hikers are told to go set up their tent or hammock. If this is 10 pm, it does not matter. So far the practicality of this has not been an issue for us, the shelters have not been full. I would prefer to setup my tent and have my private personal space, but this has been working. I guess. During peak season this might be more of an issue I suppose. Not saying I like it by any stretch, there is hardly enough room in the shelter for everyone to keep track of their stuff, but it is a minor pain in the butt. And it is doing what they want it to do, limit impact. At the shelter in GA and NC, it is all bare dirt for a huge area around the shelter. Not in the Smokies. The impact is indeed limited.

What doesn’t work are the designated toilet areas. That is the most ridiculous thing I have seen. They should have privies at every shelter and have the concentrated impact of that, rather than a 100 yard by 100 yard field of toilet paper flowers. It is the grossest thing ever and no I won’t be using the designated area.

Also the trail maintenance seems lacking in the park. The volunteer clubs in GA and NC are crushing it compared to the Smokies. Ah well, I am sure budget cuts are to blame…. Or at least that is what someone would say.

So a friend of mine told me on FB that the first day in the Smokies from Fontana Dam to Mollie’s Ridge Shelter is the hardest day in the South. If that is true, I got this. It was hard, brutal in fact, but I made it. It is a 12 mile stretch and all but about 3 miles are uphill. If I recall we went from about 1,700 to 5,100 feet or so. For those of you in Burlington, think of walking up the pool’s water tower hill for miles. It wasn’t all that steep but there were sections that were easily that steep. In terms of distance think of uphill from Burlington to Waterford. Now put 35 pounds on your back and go. Ugh. And it was hot. At one point I stopped and it was if I had jumped into a pool with my hiking gear on and just got out. Yeah, I tend to sweat bit. But that was ridiculous.

So if that was the worst day in the South, May 20, 2017 will now be known as the “the day that shall not be mentioned. “ Frankly the 20th to 22nd should be known as “the days that shall not be mentioned.”

May 21st was maybe not as relentless, but it was equally as brutal. It rained all day. I don’t really mind hiking in the rain, but what I mind is the stopping. That is when it gets cold. And if you stop midday for lunch or something typically you remove the wet cold shirt so you can warmup during the break. After the break the wet cold shirt goes back on. That is hideous.

Today the 22nd we hiked to Clingman’s Dome, about 10 miles or so. Again all up. Again rain. And no view at Clingman’s. So we got a ride to Gatlinburg for an attitude readjustment…laundry,showers,food and drink. (I cannot believe how bad we smelled! A tourist described Crooner as “that dude smells well traveled.”) Tomorrow we go back and have rain for the next three days. So far the Smokies are a bust. A lot of very hard hiking for no views. Blah. Hopefully sunnier updates to come.

-Samaritan

Day 20

Today I met Wandering Star. She is at least 70’s I think. She has done the triple crown of hiking and is currently on her third thru hike of the AT. She just loves hiking. The triple crown involves hiking the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail. In addition to that she has done several others such as the Camino and some others overseas. What an inspiration and extremely knowledgeable lady. Her memory or where water is on this trail is amazing. I cannot remember where I stayed two nights ago and she can remember stuff from her last thru hike.

Yesterday while climbing over 3,000 feet I actually considered doing a first person what goes on inside my head account of the climb. Ultimately I think it would be too difficult for me to write so that it would be compelling reading.

However, I can share some really bizarre observations. While slogging up a slope basically heal-toeing it with each step, if there is a rock, or heaven forbid a step installed in the way, the added effort to pick your foot up that extra 2 inches can be overwhelming and you may have to stop for a break. 2 inches. Other times, especially after an extended break it is almost impossible to get momentum moving forward again if an uphill is the first thing (and it usually is). The goal is some sort of stasis where breathing, poling, heart rate and leg movement is not overwhelming any of the other parts. For me that usually means a fight. My body says “For God’s sake man, what are you doing? Go home, lay on the couch and have a glass of wine!” And that is when both breathing and heart rate decide to let me know they are not happy with me. On the flat or the down I can hold my own with anyone. The ups still kill me even though I am developing into a climber.

Apparently there is this thing called hiker hunger. When hiking up and down mountains carrying 30 to 40 pounds it is virtually impossible to eat enough to replace the 4,000 to 6,000 calories burned and hiker hunger sets in. All you think about is food. In trail towns you will eat everything in sight. My hiker hunger has not kicked in. In fact as I am getting into hiking shapes have not been very hungry at all. I do not have a scale but think I am down about 15 pounds at this point. At some point, probably sooner rather than later my hiker hunger will kick in. Perhaps after the Smokies when we start upping the daily mileage.

Tomorrow is Fontana Dam for resupply, then the Smokies. Hopefully I can give another update tomorrow evening.

-Samaritan

Day 18 and prior….

Day 18 and prior.

Today we are at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, NC. We got here yesterday after a dreadful downhill section that will probably only get worse as erosion takes its toll. The section was burned by the wildfires last year and without much vegetation, stands to lose a lot of soil if hard rains come. Parts of the down seemed liked you were standing on a rock with a cliff on either side. No, it wasn’t that bad, but felt like it.

We got to the NOC which is a perfect blend of backpacking and whitewater river rafting. The AT goes right through the campus and there have been major rafting events here and the campus has produced several Olympians. They have an Outfitter here and the store is amazing with its selection. Good thing I don’t need anything.

Actually I did need one thing, my Smokies permit. There is a special permit for thru-hikers. Costs $20 and we have 8 days to get through the Smokies once we enter. We are required to stay in the shelters to limit our impact on the environment, however, if the shelters are full thru-hikers are “kicked out” and we have to then tent. I was told this is because they believe thru hikers are more up to speed on Leave No Trace practices and will limit the impact on the environment.

Whether or not that is true, I have seen all sorts of ridiculousness so far on this hike. The Boy Scouts have it right in teaching outdoor ethics by a long way. I believe nature belongs to all of us, but also wish there was a way to educate people better about it. With rights, or privileges, comes responsibility. Too often the responsibility part is forgotten. I don’t feel comfortable walking up to people I don’t know and correcting their mistakes. If I know someone for a bit that is different. It is more like teaching, than lecturing.

So, yesterday I was hiking uphill, and if you have followed along you know I hate uphill and only now am beginning to get better at it. It takes some time for me to get a rhythm going where my steps, my arms and poles and my breathing are in sync and I can keep moving. So stopping just kills that for me and I have to go through the process again. So yesterday, I am hiking uphill and I look up and see seven people coming my way. Day hikers. Might have been two days ago….anyway….the gal in front has long blonde hair tied up and a bright pink coat and the whole deal. I keep moving, uphill has the right of way for all of the reasons I have spoken about above. It is hard to regain momentum uphill. We were literally about two feet apart when I finally had to jump off of the trail to avoid a collision. She was not going move. I was fuming. The third guy from the back says to me, “Hey, aren’t we supposed to let you pass?” Yes. Tell that to the dingbat up front please.

Overall that kind of stuff has been few and far between. The amount of garbage seen on the trail and in the fire pits has been surprising, but a lot of my background backpacking has been Philmont and the scouts simply don’t leave trash all over. They are taught better, so I am spoiled in that regard.

Today we did a whitewater rafting trip. The troop does one every couple years at Kosirs. Dick Peiters has property near there and has been kind enough to allow the troop to camp on his property in order to access Kosirs which is down the street. This was very similar and it was fun. The water was ice cold and the sun really hot. So another zero today, this one unplanned, but in terms of timing not a bad time. Tomorrow starts some massive uphill climbs and then the Smokies. The next two weeks has me a bit worried, but if I can somehow get through them, I think the rest is doable.

So for the rest of today, fuel up my body with good food and repack my gear for an extended stretch of backpacking. I will be stopping in Fontana Dam to resupply in a few days and then hit the Smokies.

-Samaritan

Day 11, 12 and 13

So when I am on the trail I come up with all sorts of stuff to discuss in my blog and by the time I get to the computer to write, I have to think really hard about what all that great stuff was I wanted to share. I am going to have to download a voice recording app for my phone or something. Although, that might not be the answer either as I had intended to do a lot of writing on my phone at night in the tent. However, my phone eats power like crazy, so I have not been using it for that. Or watching NBA playoffs.

I am in Franklin, NC tonight. Took a zero today. A zero is a day of no hiking. A chance for the body to recover and repair. This is my second zero. My original plan only had one zero in this stretch, but my body had other ideas. I am really trying to listen to my body as it can send me off the trail very quickly if I don’t. I am getting stronger though. I can see the improvement daily, which is wild. And I am down about 10 pounds so far, which is ridiculous weight loss honestly. I suspect I am not eating enough, but it is really hard to eat after some of the brutal hot hiking days. Ah well, I will keep trying to better about it. For now, the body is rebelling, but adapting.

One thing that struck me about GA and now NC is that the trail goes up and down so much that we are literally walking in and out of seasons. At altitude we are hiking through very early spring. The trees are just beginning to bud and everything looks like it is ready to wake up. When we lose that altitude in sections we are hiking through very late spring, or maybe even early summer. The contrast in a day can be very striking. However, when I mentioned this to Crooner, my 21 year old hiking partner from Milwaukee, well, he had not noticed that. 🙂 I also had to point out an entire hillside painted in pink and white flowers. He would have walked right on by…

OK, so I am going to jump around a bit. One evening we were talking about stupid things that we have done. Of course, I had very little to offer to the conversation, but I can listen anyway. It reminded me of Cole’s Law, “Be smart about your stupid stuff.” Which of course means if you are going to do something stupid, that is fine, but be smart about the how, where, when etc… Well, out of the mouth of babes and Crooner says the one thing you should never do is break more than one law at a time. In other words if you are driving around with illegal substances in your automobile, do not speed. Ever. Or have a broken tail light or any number of other possible violations. The more laws you break at once the more likely you are to be busted….for several at once. Ugh. That can put a real damper on plans. Good thing I learn from others mistakes…Anyway, these are the deep conversations that happen sometimes on the trail.

The last couple of days saw a couple of milestones fall. The first is we finished our first state. Georgia is in the rear view mirror and North Carolina and Tennessee in front of us for the next 400 or so miles. We will be crossing in and out of the the two states numerous times before we finally leave them behind and hit Virginia. About a fourth of the trail is one state. Virginia. Over 500 miles. Then Harper’s Ferry. That is the first big big goal of the trail. However, I cannot think about that. These milestones will come, but only if I take care of what is in front of me right now. The two toughest climbs of the trail so far happened right here in North Carolina. The first was at the end of a tough day and had there been cab service I would have been on a plane to Milwaukee. The second was earlier in the day and I handled it just fine. (slow, but fine) But that is what it is all about. Literally one step at a time. On the ups I will frequently look up and pick a tree in front of me and make that tree my goal. When I get there I can stop for a short break. Then another short term target. And so on. If you start thinking in terms of Harper’s Ferry or Mount Katahdin, forget it. You won’t make it. It is all about short term goals and daily improvement. That is the only way to eat an elephant…one bite at time. If that was not the case I could work myself into a real funk at this point realizing I have almost 10% of my time goal spent, but only about 5% of the distance covered. In fact, if you look at an AT map the amount of distance covered so far is similar to the width of a hair. Ugh. One step at a time…..

The people everywhere so far have been amazing. I have joined several facebook groups related to hiking the trail this year and it is amazing the amount of judgment that goes on on those groups. People seem to believe that if it works for them, it must work that way for everyone on those groups. Out here, that is not the case. I have a feeling the people on those groups doing the judging have never hiked a step on the AT in their lives. Out here for the most part acceptance seems to be the case. And being helpful. If you need something, everyone is willing to pitch in and help out. What is it about the outdoors that brings out the best in people? How can we bottle this and bring it home to all?

Speaking of people, have not met any real characters the last few days, but will update my “people” page anyway. In terms of soundtrack, been listening to a lot of Mother Nature the last few days, but did spend an afternoon listening to Kurt Vile. If you like music you should check him out. Very fun stuff, and great guitar work.

Still figuring out my gear as well. I have sent several things home and I think I have most of it dialed in. I received my new tent today and it looks amazing. This is interesting. Last fall I did a post on the Big Three: Backpack, Tent and Sleep system. I thought I had that dialed in. I now have replaced two of the big three and saved over four pounds of weight by doing so. And the sleeping system I posted was brand new, never used at that point in time. And I love it. I did not want to replace the tent, but it leaked…straight through the silnylon. That is not an easy fix of seam sealer or anything so if I need a home for five months, I guess it was worth replacing. I got a Zpacks Duplex tent. It weighs less than two pounds and has a ton of space. I cannot wait to get back out there and really test it out. So in terms of the big three, I have all new stuff since my last significant backpacking trip. Usually testing new equipment on a thru hike is not advised. One really should do field testing prior. Oh well, my first 30 days are a test on several levels, so why not toss equipment into the mix.

As far as other gear goes, I am waiting until after the Smokies to send another box of warm weather gear home because it snowed in the Smokies just a few days ago. If that happens while I am going through I will survive, but I won’t like it.

And I think I finally have a way to attach the camera strap to my backpack so that the camera sits comfortably on my chest. It bounces, just a little, but enough that I have developed a hard spot on my stomach where it hits. I’ll have to figure that out, because I don’t think that can be good. On the rainy days I have kept it in my pack, unfortunately. But honestly when exhausted hiking up a mountain, the last thing I want to do is crouch down and try to get the perfect camera angle for a shot. I still have been shooting a bit. Sometimes we hit a stream crossing and depending on depth of field I could probably take 50 shots in that exact same area and they would all be amazing and different enough that you would not think they were taken in the same area. For pics I cannot wait until we get into the balds. They are coming up with the first being Siler Bald. They got their name from the fact that they are bald, no trees or significant bushes on top, so from the summit you can see forever. I pray that the haze that has been present the last few times I have been up high dissipates so I can get some good pics.

I have done a couple of Facebook Live videos. They are kind of fun to do, so I’ll keep looking for opportunities to do those. Going to be entering the Smokies soon so I will not have as much time to update the blog. This is kinda how it is going to go though. Early on, will spend less time hiking as I get into shape and have more time for blogging. Also, early on, there are more trail towns etc, because there are more hikers. As people drop out because it is more difficult the hiker places to stop are less and things more spread out. I am about to start to enter the second phase of this adventure and time will be spent on hiking more than anything else. In another 30 days or so I will likely be walking from seven am to seven or eight pm as the days get longer. That is how you do long mileage days. Not about the speed, but about the time spent doing the walking. I am going to kill Virginia. I would like to get through there in 30 days, but probably closer to 35ish.

God Bless

Samaritan

Day 9 and 10

Day 9 and 10?

To be honest, keeping track of days is difficult. Not sure what day I am on, but tonight I am sitting at the Top of Georgia hostel. We were going to push on, but it was really nice and the people here were very helpful, so we decided to stay. Tomorrow we should be at the GA/NC border, and claim one state as done.

One of the workers here said GA is about a 4 on the scale of 1 to 10. The Smokies, at least the first half are about a 6. I have another 100 miles to get in shape for that. Bob, the proprietor also told us that ½ of the people who say they are thru hikers quit by Hot Springs, NC, a mere 275 miles into the journey. I am hoping that is the first place I can spend a couple of days relaxing with Leslie.

Yesterday was hard for me. Not entirely sure why, but I think it had to do with losing Croc. Nothing against Crooner or some of the others I have met, but Croc and I were closer in age and could relate on a different level than me and the younger generation. I will miss him and Debra as the days go on.

Despite my post on FB today looking for performance enhancing drugs, today was better and I am looking forward to tomorrow. It will be good to claim that first state.

Wanted to do a facebook live yesterday for my nephew’s birthday, but was in an area of sketchy connectivity. I’ll do another one soon. Thinking of doing one around campsite setup so you all can see what “home” looks like on a given night. That might be kinda cool I guess. Not sure what you all want to see.

Not going to update the pages until I have a computer, but for those following along yesterday’s soundtrack wss Lucinda Williams and today’s was Mother Nature.
Hope all is well and with God’s Grace, tomorrow we knock out our first state.

-Samaritan

Shelters

The shelters on the trail are pretty cool.  They are generally three sided structures with a wooden floor well off of the ground.  I know I have taken a picture with my good camera, but unfortunately do not have one on my phone to share.  Each shelter is rated to a certain number of hikers and they are first come, first served.  Generally I would prefer to be in my tent, but occasionally the shelters can be a good thing.  To be honest, I thought being on the trail at the tail end of the season, that they would be less than full on most nights, but so far almost every night, wherever I have ended up, there has been at least 20 people.  It is a very busy trail.

Each shelter has a shelter log book which hikers can sign, or write a paragraph or share a story.  Some of them can be very entertaining, but I am speaking only from my experience of reading pictures of them posted online as, absent the log at the top of Springer Mountain, I have not touched a shelter log book.  The main reason I have not is that I do not wish to get Norovirus, which goes around the trail community every year.  About two weeks ago it was rampant down here where I am at right now, so I am attempting to be very careful so as not to contract the dreaded virus.  Since I have been on the trail I have not been keeping up with it so much, so not sure if it is still going on, or if it has passed.  In any event, later on in my hike I will sign the log books and share some of the funny items from the books.  But for now, safety first.

So a couple of days ago, Croc, Rock Steady and I are trying to get to Low Gap Shelter for the night.  The weather report was ugly and the temperature was only going to go lower.  At one point sleet was in the forecast.  So here we are, old guys hiking along and keeping what we think is a pretty good pace.  It was a good pace.  But throughout the day we were being passed by the younger hikers.  The ones that just power up the uphills as if there was little to no resistance.  I was even passed by a guy in his mid to upper 20’s wearing sandals and a full pack.  I don’ think he had broken a sweat yet.  Sandals.  Are you kidding me?

So the young, vibrant kids, sleep in, take their time in the morning, get there (wherever there is) quicker than we do and when they get there have more energy and stamina than us.  It hardly seems fair to be honest, but it is what it is.

Until we roll into camp. Low Gap Shelter in this case.  In the rain.  And the shelter is full.  Of the young kids who slept in.  Powered past us as if we were standing still.  Got to the shelter before the rain started (and could have setup a tent in the dry weather) and claimed their spot.  Leaving us old, tired folks to setup our tents.  In the rain.  And mud.  While exhausted.

It is not fair.  If they had to deal with what we had to deal with, they would not make it.  I am certain of that.

-Samaritan

Day 6, 7 and 8

I have access to a computer at the hotel we are at and at the moment no one is waiting.  So I will try to type fast and see if I can bring everyone up to date. Pretty sure I am covering 5/4 through 5/6, but I lost a day in here somewhere and was surprised yesterday was Friday.

We stayed at Neel Gap a couple nights ago at a place called Mountain Crossings.  It is full outfitter and it has a hiker hostel.  It was pretty decent all in all.  Mighty Mouse made it to the hostel that night, but he was beat.  He had a hard time trying to keep up with us.  In his week on the trail he learned a lot about hiking and camping, and perhaps about how painfully unprepared he was physically, mentally and with gear choices.  His sleeping bag was rated at 50 degrees.  No wonder he was freezing.  He made a great judgment call the morning of the fourth and decided to end his thru hike attempt for now and he went home.  I really think that if he spends sometime researching, acquiring the right equipment and getting into shape he might actually be able to complete the trail at a future date.  So Mighty Mouse if you ever see this, congrats!  You did more than a lot of people ever would even try and I think you learned a ton of good stuff for future use!  Hope to see  you down the trail.

This morning (the fourth) I had a decision to make.  Do I stay here (Mountain Crossings …. with nothing to do) another night and take a zero or push on (and try to take a zero at a town where there are some services).  The weather report was for rain and then cold.  I did not feel I had enough cold weather gear to successfully get through that, so I bought another lower base layer to hike in and a pack cover to ensure my gear stays dry and hiked on.  The day was beautiful until the end when it rained the last hour, hour and a half or so.  That was not terrible, but we had to setup in the rain (sucks) and I found out my tent is on its final legs as it leaked.  I have had this tent for about six years and it has served me well, but time for a new one.  Today (the sixth) I ordered a Zpacks Duplex which will be mailed to me to a place I will be one week from today.  Looking forward to my new super super light weight tent.  (swapping these out will save me about two pounds).

We spent the night at Low Gap Shelter, in the rain.  At one point Croc, Rock Steady (Debra) and I were each in our own separate tents texting each other about what to do the next day as it was going to continue to be cold and rainy.  The rain on the tents was too loud to talk amongst ourselves in the tents.   We decided the best thing to do would be to hike 10 miles to Unicoi Gap and get a ride into town to dry out, do laundry and maybe take a zero (a day of no hiking, giving the body a chance to heal and rest).  Seriously hiking in the cool and rain is no big deal.  It is only a problem when you stop to rest or have to setup in the rain with wet gear.

We got to Unicoi Gap to the best thing ever, trail magic times ten!  (Trail Magic is where people, sometimes past thru hikers, or simply just people who like hikers, setup shop and offer hikers coming by food and drink).  They had hot dogs, sausage, bacon, chips, soda and beer and coffee!  It was the most amazing thing.  I had three hot dogs, a couple of beers and a coffee.  And they were offering more!  It was cold and windy, so this was a very nice treat and is the first of potentially many trail magic moments.

After that a ride to Helen, GA and we spent the night at the Baymont Inn.  Unfortunately, while here we lost Rock Steady.  Her knee was giving her trouble on the fifth and by this morning was very swollen.  She will not be able to continue.  I fully expected to lose Croc here too then, and he was even thinking about possibly going to Ireland to hike, but I think he it going to continue on with me and a guy I call Milwaukee, since that is where he is from.  His trail name however, is Crooner.  He was singing Danke Schoen yesterday and Rock Steady was amazed he knew the song as he is in his early to mid 20’s I think.  He admitted to knowing the song only because he heard it on Ferris Buehler’s Day Off.  We all got a kick out of that.

If anyone is ever in Helen, GA I would fully recommend the Baymont.  They have been great.  We were even able to use their hose to hose down our tents which were full of mud and set them up in the back to let them dry out.  I also would recommend Big Daddy’s restaurant and tavern.  Watched the Cleveland game last night and had an excellent dinner of salmon, baked potato (loaded, of course) and cilantro slaw.  Going to go back there tonight and have one of their pizzas, I think, as I was salivating over that last night as well, or maybe their tacos.  Everything looked amazing.

It was good to take a day off today and let my legs rest, repair and recover.  The next zero is planned one week from today in Franklin, NC.  Tomorrow we have a 5.7 mile day planned, which does not sound like much, but it is basically straight uphill, then down some, then up more than the first up.  Up up up.  Welcome to Georgia.

Hope all is well with everyone.

-Samaritan

PS – I apologize for not including a ton of pictures on the blog.  It is a rather clunky process to get them in these posts.  Much easier to post them on Facebook.  Feel free to send me a facebook friend request, if you are not already, and you will get to see more pics.

Day 4 and 5

Mountain Crossings

Day 4 and 5.

In scouts when doing an extended outing with a group day 3, 4 or 5 were always the challenge for the group. If there were going to be issues, that is when they would crop up.

Going individually is not much different. By day 3 the body starts to rebel. You are sore and physically tired. This was part of the reason day 3 was so short for me. When you are physically tired and sore it begins to work on your emotions as well. When you have the physical and emotional going negative it is real hard to keep a positive mental framework. Bigfoot, in his video on youtube about the five most surprising things he found out about the AT, mentioned people quitting at Neel Gap. After applying the 3-5 day analysis it is not that surprising that that many quit here. (I am at Neel Gap tonight).

And yes, I have had my own challenges the last three days, but knowing it was coming certainly helped the mindset and I have been through this before. The best feeling is being in hiking shape. The worst is getting in hiking shape. Ah well, it is what I signed up for.

Not a ton to note about the last couple of days. I did see an awesome owl as I was going to get water two days ago. I did not have my camera with, unfortunately. He (or she, I really have no clue) and I had a mutual staring contest until I decided to move and he decided to fly away.

Let me tell you a bit about the people I have been hiking with. Croc, who I wrote about the other day and his hiking partner, Debra. They are married. To different people. Debra likes hiking and her husband suggested that she hike with Croc because he knew he was not going to go hiking. Croc is a preacher and they have known each other since high school. I lied the other day, he did not thru hike, but did section hike the AT. They are great hiking partners. They are out here for 30 days, so I could be with them through the worst of getting into hiking shape. He is a fountain of knowledge and I am trying to soak up what I can.

My trail name is settled, Samaritan. If you have not read Day 2 and 3, you missed the story. Croc named me, and after consideration, I accepted it. Not Good Samaritan…seems too long, nor GS, but just Samaritan.

I wish I had some type of Dictaphone device. I come up with all sorts of really witty or profound things while hiking but then they are gone when I sit here to type to the blog. And sorry about jumping around on topics. Editing on this thing is ridiculous, so you get it in the order it happens in my mind.

Final thoughts tonight. I spend most of the time looking at the trail and my feet. It would be so easy to trip and fall as there are rocks and roots everywhere. Hiking over this terrain makes a cracked sidewalk look like a freeway. The ground and granite looks the same here as it does in Isle Royale, New Mexico or the Rockies. This afternoon it was hot and the dirt even smelled like New Mexico. The trails are similar but the people, flora and fauna, and wildlife are different. So far great people on this trail. And great views.

Last thought. Update on Mighty Mouse. Ran into him last night and he did not know who I was. I think that is an indication of how much trouble he was in the other morning. He decided to do the trail and did no (or very little) research and does not have an outdoor background. We (Croc and I) are worried for him. We hope he decides to go home. We really do not want to read about him in a few weeks…

Day 2 and 3

Day 2 began being enveloped in the clouds. It rained slightly overnight, but more of the moisture was from the 100% humidity than anything else. Perfect hiking weather. The trek down from Springer to the parking lot was straightforward. However, due to the humidity and my ability to sweat, I could not see much as my glasses fogged up, so at the parking lot I switched to contacts. I also used my umbrella for the first time, and absent getting it to ride just right, I like it. I am sure those adjustments will happen in time and I’ll know just how to strap it on.

The goal today was Hawk Mountain Campsite, 7.2 miles. I left at 9(ish) and was there by 12:30. That seemed ridiculously early to stop for the day, but my legs were beat. Uphills kill me. I can do flat and down just fine. So I decided to rest for an hour and a half and then made dinner. After cleanup I thought I was good for a few more miles and headed onward.

I was going to stay at Horse Gap, but the next day’s early morning weather report was ugly, so instead I decided to push on to Cooper Gap where I had water. I had no intention of getting up and hiking in a thunderstorm, although plenty did. There was about a dozen folks at Cooper Gap and the early night was uneventful.

Day 3 began with waking up about 6:30 with a huge roar through the trees. Then the rain began. I knew we were in for it so I rolled over, put in the ear plugs and went back to sleep. Woke up a couple times and finally at 10:30 decided it was time to see what was going on. Sounded like maybe it was over. I got up, went across the road to gather my bear bag and was amazed that everyone else was gone save for a couple of us. When I got back, I went to talk to another guy who was up and I immediately noticed he was slurring his words and shivering. He is something like 72, never has been hiking and is doing a thru. That information was gathered later. From what I was able to get out of him at the time, he stayed on the mountain overnight wrapped in his poncho. When he got to Cooper Gap at 9 am he huddled down under his poncho trying to stay dry. He was attempting to set up his tent when I got to him but did not know how. He was soaking and shivering uncontrollably which actually is good. It is when you stop shivering that things get serious.

In the next hour we got his tent set up, got him into some dry clothing and I made him a cup of warm coffee. At that point another hiker, trail name Croc, showed up. He is a thru hiker from a few years ago and knew Mighty Mouse, the hypothermic hiker. He said they would stick around and make sure he was okay. Before I started packing up for my day we made sure he was in his sleeping bag. Unfortunately, he did not have a hat with him so I gave him my Rab beanie, which I have never used and only weighs like something under an ounce. Why couldn’t he have needed something heavier? I’ll pick up a replacement at Neels Gap. Croc suggested the trail name Good Samaritan. Certainly could be a lot worse.

From that point I hiked to Gooch Gap Shelter and decided that was enough for the day. From a physical standpoint day 3 or 4 is the worst of it. Perhaps for me this time it will be day 3. If so it only gets better from here. Tomorrow about 8 miles. Hopefully.

Now on day 4. I have parts written in my head already, but running out of power so it won’t be up for a couple of days. Forgive the editing as well please. Leslie feel free to edit these. I am sure there are misspellings, formatting issues, and other stuff. Once I have a keyboard it will be easier.

Scott