Thursday, May 31, 2001

day 19, Deer Park Mountain S, NC

Start:  Groundhog Creek Shelter
End:  Deer Park Mountain Shelter
Miles:  22.4 today, 264.6 total

Somewhere along the line my math has gotten a little off. I know I've only got between 3 and 4 miles to get to Hot Springs tomorrow, but up there, the total shows that I've got 6.3 miles left (the thru-hiker Companion book shows Hot Springs as being 270.9 from Springer). Anyway, I'll put 6.3 down for tomorrow, just to make up the difference.

So today marks the dawn of a new style of hiking. It's called "get up really early and hike until 5 or 6pm". I pulled into the Deer Park That's Good Water Shelter around 5:30, which is an amazingly early time for me to stop for the day. But what's even more amazing is that I hiked over 22 miles! I'm completely insane! I think the secret to my successful day lies in the early-up, quick camp-break scenario. I got up at 6:00am (had to set the alarm for that one) and started hiking at exactly 7:30. Normally, I get up between 6:30 and 7:30, and then don't start hiking until 9 or 9:30. By 9:30am today, I had done 5.8 miles. So, from now on (or at least for the next few days), I'm going to try this new routine. I'll be layin' down the 20 milers like nobody's business. (Hot Springs is a day off, though)

Wednesday, May 30, 2001

day 18, Groundhog Creek S, NC

Start:  Cosby Knob Shelter
End:  Groundhog Creek Shelter
Miles:  17.6 today, 242.2 total

Well, I did what I said I was going to do. Made it to Groundhog Creek Shelter around 6:25pm, so I had some time to spare. Didn't see too many people, especially once I got out of the GSMNP. I'm alone tonight, looks like.

I'm in sort of a lull again, between groups. I know somewhere behind me are Bob, Matt, Mike, Matt and Ken, and Laura. And I know that somewhere in front of me is Chris (Devo). And as always, I only know about the people in front of me, from reading their notes in the registers.

I try to sign as many registers as possible. They're a good way to keep track of people, in case you get lost or otherwise. One guy, John I think was his name, came into Icewater Springs a couple days ago. He came in pretty late, like after 7:30pm. Some people had already gone to bed. He said he had done something like 26 miles that day. I think he said he started May 20, a week after I did. But anyway, he asked someone if they knew a Derek. He said he had been trying to catch him. So then I introduced myself, and he got all happy. Like me trying to catch Yoda. Register rivals.

Tuesday, May 29, 2001

day 17, Cosby Knob S, NC

Start:  Ice Water Spring Shelter
End:  Cosby Knob Shelter
Miles:  20.4 today, 224.6 total

Longest day yet, and, yes, I feel tired. It was even harder with the wet boots and socks. Most of the morning was cloudy and misty, but the sun came out around noonish and warmed/dried things up some. My attitude also improved, and I began to hike faster. The weather can have a huge impact on your mood, like I said before.

I think I'm eating more now, too. Or at least I NEED to eat more. Luckily, I think I'm a day over, in terms of food supply, so I've got some extra stuff to divy up. I'm hoping those five billion calorie powder things help with my daily consumption (they're coming in the Hot Springs mail drop in a few days).

Well, if all goes as planned, I'll leave the Smokies tomorrow, and camp 10 miles outside the park. It'll be an 18 mile day, which will be my second longest day next to today. I hope I hold up ok.

No clue where Laura is. If she was in Gatlinburg last night, then she could've made it to Tricorner Knob Shelter (about 7.7 miles back). I know she needed to get a lot of stuff, though. Really crowded tonight. I'm in my tent, and there's quite a few others in theirs'. Shelter's full, too.

Monday, May 28, 2001

day 16, Ice Water Spring S, NC

Start:  Double Spring Gap Shelter
End:  Ice Water Spring Shelter
Miles:  13.4 today, 204.2 total

Rainy day today. Went pretty slow, maybe less than 2 mph. When I got up to Clingmans Dome, there wasn't too much to see, but it was still pretty neat. It's really not depressing hiking in wet weather (at least if it only happens once in awhile), it's a different feeling, almost comfort, inner comfort, or peace. Something like that.

Got to Newfound Gap around 3:30. I got a ride to Gatlinburg pretty quickly from a group of weekend section hikers. Pretty nice people. Dropped me off at a general store type of place, where I quickly blew $42. I called a cab company and hit an ATM before heading back to the gap. Oh, I forgot, I bought bagels and peanut butter, and it works pretty well because I can dip the bagel in the peanut butter (just like chips and dip). The cab ride back was $25. So, to get 5 days worth of food, I spent $67. I'll have to hit the towns less, rely more on maildrops. Laura's not here. I heard she's in Gatlinburg. Goodnight.

Sunday, May 27, 2001

day 15, Double Spring Gap S, NC

Start: Russell Field Shelter
End:  Double Spring Gap Shelter
Miles:  15.0 today, 190.8 total

I popped my left pinky toe blister this morning. It seems to be OK so far. I'm hoping I've got the foot situation under control. I should be in pretty good shape soon (knock on wood).

I hiked some today with Laura. She really flies on the flat/nearly flat sections. It's because of that 2 pound pack she's got. I'd imagine she could get some 30+ mile days in VA-PA if she really wanted to. She's also a big Stevie Ray Vaughan fan, which is awesome.

Tonight we're here at the Double Spring Gap Shelter. There's Robin and Jason (friends of Laura's, they're a "couple"), Laura, me, and just a few minutes ago some weekenders showed up (2 people). So we've got some room to spare in our prison-like shelter (in the Smokies there's chain link fencing on the open side of every shelter to protect against bears). There's also fireplaces inside the shelters, so we've got something burning in there right now.

I'm heading into Gatlinburg tomorrow for a small resupply until Davenport Gap. Probably won't stay the night there (in Gatlinburg).

Saturday, May 26, 2001

day 14, Russell Field S, TN

Start:  Fontana Dam Shelter
End:  Russell Field Shelter
Miles:  13.0 today, 175.8 total

Entering the Smokies, and boldly at that

I got a really late start getting out of Fontana today. I had to go to the P.O. which was only open between 10am - 12pm. Picked up my other pair of boots, sent the old ones back, along with some other stuff I rarely/never used.

I've been thinking that I haven't had a glass of milk in awhile. I think I'll have milk and OJ the next time I'm in town, rather than just OJ. To get some calcium today, I had an ice cream sandwich and Chaco Taco. I'm not sure how much calcium I get from my vitamins.

Left Fontana with Matt and Ken, two guys... oh, I already introduced them. Took some pictures and then hit the trail. I was surprised, I actually went faster than they did. Up until today, I had been the one who was lagging. I think it changed because they just got a lot of food, while I'm at about average weight.

I met Laura and two other people (don't know their names) at the Fontana Shelter, and then caught up with them here at Russell Field. Talked with Laura for awhile. She's from Houston, TX, and trying to thru-hike. Started on her own, which is pretty impressive. Her pack also weighs 20-something pounds, which is even more impressive.

Friday, May 25, 2001

day 13, Fontana Dam S, NC

Start:  Brown Fork Gap Shelter
End:  Fontana Dam Shelter
Miles:  12.7 today, 162.8 total

Well, I've made it to my first milestone. The next one is Damascus, then Harpers Ferry, then Katahdin (That's not related to the 4 5-week segments I divided the trail into). I saw the dam, and it's big. Biggest, tallest one in the east (TVA). This is also a really nice shelter. Also known as the Fontana Hilton, it sleeps 20.

So far, the only real problem physically has been my feet. Right now, it's both of my pinky toes. The left one has a substantial puffy blister sticking out front, and the right one has a much smaller one on top. So those are my two main concerns/targets for healing. I'm also thinking that my left foot might be a little smaller than my right. I wore two liners on my left foot today, and it seemed to reduce slippage.

When I got to the shelter, it was around 4:30pm, and I couldn't make it to the P.O. in time. I'll have to go tomorrow.

However, I DID take a shower and have a really great AYCE buffet dinner at Peppercorns. I went alone, but Mike (from Wayah Bald) showed up, to my surprise, and ate with me. I didn't think he'd make it to Fontana today. On to the Smokies!

Thursday, May 24, 2001

day 12, Brown Fork Gap S, NC

Start:  Nantahala Outdoor Center
End:  Brown Fork Gap Shelter
Miles:  16.0 today, 150.1 total

Last night the guy who I was rooming with at the NOC, Tim, snored so loud that I knew I wouldn't be able to sleep. So I slept outside. I went down to a small patio area behind my room, layed out my bag, and went to sleep. There really wasn't much else I could do. There was no way I could sleep IN my room. The neighbors had too much stuff on the floor for me to lay out. The room management people were way on the other side of the NOC, and I didn't know if they were open at all (I thought that, if they were open, I could get an emergency room to sleep in). Anyway, eventually I went back inside at 6:45am and slept until about 7:45.

In the morning, we all had breakfast: Chris, Matt (a different Matt), Ken, Jeff, and Mike (from Wayah Bald, he actually made it to NOC!). Good food, but I was really full. Around 10:30 all but Mike left for the trail. The first 8 miles or so were all uphill. Jeff fell behind really fast, haven't seen him since. Matt and Ken are hiking together until just before Damascus. Tonight the shelter's overfull. Joe and Brooke (2 dogs people) are here camping, too.

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

day 11, NOC, NC

Start:  Wayah Bald (tower)
End:  Nantahala Outdoor Center
Miles:  17.2 today, 134.1 total

I originally thought I had done over 18 miles today, not that 17.2 is much less, but anyway.

Toe/Foot Update: My previously bruised feet are now pretty much healed. Granted, there's the usual blisters and moleskin residue in the regular spots. I'm thinking the "going-to-the-bathroom-on-an-incline" scenario is what did it. I'll have to watch out for that the next time I can't find the privy.

Well, I've left Bob and Matt behind, and for the past couple of days I was in a state of limbo. I was between groups, similar to taking a trip in a car. On a highway, you often see groups of cars rather than all individual, spaced-out cars. It's the social nature of humans. We desire company. Maybe the car thing is a stretch, but I think you get the idea. Anyway, I was by myself for a few days. Then I ran into Mike yesterday. Today I met Devo (Chris), another guy who had been traveling with the infamous Yoda. I'm starting to edge my way into this next pack of cars. Devo wants to hike together tomorrow up to the Brown Fork Gap shelter. I might tell him to go on alone since I might stay an hour or so later here to eat a restaurant breakfast and/or do other business, etc. Picked up first mail drop. Went OK.

Tuesday, May 22, 2001

day 10, Wayah Bald (tower), NC

Start:  Wallace Gap (Rainbow Springs Campground)
End:  Wayah Bald (tower)
Miles:  13.1 today, 116.9 total

Well, I got out of Rainbow Springs alive. That's about all I can say about that place.

I was planning on hiking to a campsite just beyond the Wayah Bald summit when I started out today. However, my plans suddenly changed when the rain started to fall... and keep falling... for a long time. Used my poncho for the first time this trip. I probably need better rain gear, but the weather's going to have to motivate me to buy it. Anyway, I pulled off the trail at the Siler Bald Shelter. A retired guy named Mike was already there huddled in his sleeping bag. Turns out he had been hiking with my secret rival, Yoda, but stayed too long in Franklin and got left behind. More people began arriving. There was Turtle Old Man (that's one name), Matt, Sean, and some other guy who had too much gear. Anyway, after a few hours the rain had stopped and the sun had come back out. Turtle Old Man was talking about how one could probably sleep in the Wayah Bald tower, as in, use it like a shelter. Mike liked the idea, so we both headed for the tower. We got there right after sunset. Really cold, but 6 miles further up the trail.

Monday, May 21, 2001

day 9, Wallace Gap, NC (RSC)

Start:  Carter Gap Shelter
End:  Wallace Gap (Rainbow Springs Campground)
Miles:  13.2 today, 103.8 total

Bloody feet at Rainbow Springs Campground

Had trouble sleeping last night in between worrying about bears and finding the least painful position to sleep in on the shelter floor. So then I got up early at 5:45am. I didn't actually start hiking until 8ish, though. I need to work on my setup/takedown times. The less time I waste, the more I can hike, and, thus, the more mileage I can get per day.

Had a great climb up Albert Mtn. First time I've had to actually "climb". Grabbing roots, stair-stepping up boulders, etc. There was a neat observation tower on top of the mountain, but it was locked. Couldn't have seen anything anyway because of the thick cloud cover all around.

Hiked a mile west on Old 64 at Wallace Gap. There I found Rainbow Springs Campground. I chose this over Franklin because I wanted to save money I guess. I regret it now, though. This place is really cheap and dumpy. Reminds me of a Nazi concentration camp without the barbed wire or armed guards. I'm also the only customer staying the night. So now, instead of worrying about bears, I'll worry about the fine people here.

Sunday, May 20, 2001

day 8, Carter Gap S, NC

Start:  Muskrat Creek Shelter
End:  Carter Gap Shelter
Miles:  12.3 today, 90.6 total

I left Matt at the Muskrat Creek Shelter and headed north. He said he was just going to hang around the Muskrat Shelter all day to let his legs heal up. Sounds pretty boring.

All day it was foggy, humid, and wet. Not really much rain, just constant fog and mist. It was a pretty easy 12 miles to Carter Gap. I arrived around 4pm-ish after getting a late 10:23am start from Muskrat Creek. I considered going further, but when I took my boots off, my toes were purple and bruised. My sock liners had some blood stains on them, too. Now I'm not sure if hiking is to blame for that, since I just went to the bathroom (Number 2) on an incline, causing my toes to get really scrunched in the front of my boots. I'll have to keep an eye on my feet tomorrow. I'll take off my shoes periodically to make sure all is well.

This looks like it's going to be my first night alone on the trail. I've got my bear bag up, good to go.

Saturday, May 19, 2001

day 7, Muskrat Creek S, NC

Start:  Deep Gap Shelter
End:  Muskrat Creek Shelter
Miles:  15.1 today, 78.3 total

Longest mileage day yet. I seem to be doing OK after the hike. Though I'm really not in a position to take advantage of the extra miles today, I'm glad I hit my target average a week into the trip.

Today's also the first day of rain, though not too much has fallen yet. I know that weather is going to play a big part in my mood each day. There are also secondary effects, like wearing wet clothes, etc. Too many "unlucky" events could turn a good day into a bad one pretty quickly. I've gotta keep all that in mind, remain focused, when those days/times come.

On an up note, I'm now in North Carolina. Crossed the state line, took a picture, and camped at the Muskrat Creek Shelter, a few miles past the line. It's also time for a new map.

I'm debating whether to resupply in Franklin or at the Rainbow Springs Campground (Joe, one of the two with the dogs, told me about the campground). I'll think it over some more tomorrow.

Friday, May 18, 2001

day 6, Deep Gap S, GA

Start:  Unicoi Gap (Helen, GA)
End:  Deep Gap Shelter
Miles:  12.5 today, 63.2 total

Got a late start out of Helen today. I checked my email at the library. Megan (one of Josh's friends) wanted to know if she could hike with me for about a week in late June or early July. I replied telling her that she was more than welcome to. I also thanked all the people at the PATC website for their backpacking advice. Checked out of the motel at 11:00am, got a ride up to Unicoi. So far, my hitch-hiking record has been pretty successful. It took maybe two minutes before someone stopped.

At Unicoi, I was getting ready to go when Matt, a hiker (thru-hiker) I met in Helen, showed up. He hadn't been so successful hitching a ride. Took him a couple of hours.

So then we hiked together for the rest of the day. We were going to camp at Addis Gap, but when we got there, it was about 6:15pm, so we decided to hike over Kelly Knob to get to the Deep Gap Shelter.

Two others were already there. They had two dogs who had shoo-ed off 4 other hikers right before we arrived.

Thursday, May 17, 2001

day 5, Unicoi Gap, GA (Helen)

Start:  Hogpen Gap campsite
End:  Unicoi Gap (Helen, GA)
Miles:  13.6 today, 50.7 total

Made some great mileage today. A lot of sections of relatively flat terrain. I'm looking forward to the Shenandoahs and Pennsylvania, where it will be more like it was today. And, we could've done more, since it was only 4:00pm when we got to Unicoi Gap.

At Unicoi Gap, Bob and I hitched a ride in the back of some guy's pickup truck. It really didn't take long at all. The second car (truck) that passed us stopped. We got out in Helen, GA. It's kind of touristy. German, Oktoberfest, village type of place. Really kind of annoying and "quaint". Anyway, we each got our own room ($43). I took a shower, bandaged-up some of my new blisters (from the long miles today), got some lo-mein at China Chef, got some food to get me to Franklin, NC (the next town I'm planning to stop at). It's been a good break from the trail.

Bob's going to stay another day here to fully recover, so this might be the last time I see him (for awhile, anyway). GA/NC state line in two nights!

Wednesday, May 16, 2001

day 4, Hogpen Gap c, GA

Start:  Woods Hole Shelter
End:  Hogpen Gap campsite
Miles:  10.6 today, 37.1 total

Had a run-in with some deer last night. Kurt and I were in the shelter talking, about to go to sleep when we heard something walking around out in the woods. I assumed it was a bear (or bears) and got out my Swiss Army knife as some means of defense. And, what further "convinced" me were two separate reports of bear activity the night before (that was written in the shelter register). After at least 10 minutes of listening to the noises, we got up the nerve to go see what it was. Turned out to be 3 deer, so no big deal. I took some pictures, but they might not come out.

Stopped in at the Walasi-Yi Center today. That's one fine place. Took a shower, did some laundry, bought some sardines. I also called home. Spent about 4 hours there.

Bob and I hiked together part of the way to Hogpen Gap, and we're both here tonight. Two other new thru-hikers are here, as well: Dennis and Tanya. They started last Thursday. Must be on a honeymoon or something to be going so slow.

I'm going to try for Blue Mtn. Shelter tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 15, 2001

day 3, Woods Hole S, GA

Start:  Justice Creek campsite
End:  Woods Hole Shelter
Miles:  13.0 today, 26.5 total

May in Georgia

Though the distance was pretty much the same as yesterday, I had a little easier time. Terrain was a little easier. I think my walking stick is helping some. It takes the weight off my knees and puts it on my arms. In fact, I might be getting a little tennis elbow from it. Looking forward to Neels Gap tomorrow. Get to do some laundry and hopefully take a shower.

So far I've met two thru-hikers (there's a third that I camped near, never met him): Brian, a junior at Washington University, and Bob, a guy who looks to be in his 40s and took a bus down here from his home in Maine. Brian's trying to average 24 miles a day, haven't seen him since we stayed at the Springer Shelter. Bob seems to be more my speed. We camped together at Justice Creek last night, and he's here at Woods Hole tonight.

Another interesting character staying here tonight is Kurt (don't know how to spell his name). He previously section-hiked the whole AT in '96 and '97, so he's a good source for information. Kind of a hippie. He's got a huge Grateful Dead collection of mp3s. I think he's smoking pot down the hill a ways. Talkative guy.

Monday, May 14, 2001

day 2, Justice Creek c, GA

Start:  Springer Shelter
End:  Justice Creek campsite
Miles:  13.4 today, 13.5 total

Springer Shelter privy

I hiked from Springer Shelter to Hawk Mtn. Shelter by 1pm. I had originally planned to stay the night at Hawk Mountain, but it was so early in the day by the time I got there. I decided to push ahead, and try to get to the Gooch Gap shelter. It was another 8 miles, so not much harder than the 7.6 from Springer to Hawk Mtn. But see, that WOULD have been the case if the terrain remained the same. It didn't.

Now I might be getting a taste of what the real Georgia / North Carolina mountains are like. They're steeper than the ones in the Shenandoahs. Really, that's the only difference. You have to walk slower the steeper the mountain gets.

Anyway, I didn't make it to Gooch Gap. After coming down a particularly hard mountain, I came upon a pretty nice campsite with a creek through the middle (first water source for 6 miles). There were maybe 8 other people already there. So I set up my tent for the first time. I'm going to need some help with that (hopefully before it rains). It looked pretty saggy.

Pretty sore after the day's hike.

Sunday, May 13, 2001

day 1, Springer S, GA

Start: Approach Trail, Amicalola State Park
End: Springer Shelter
Miles:  8.5 today (8.4 approach trail, 0.1 AT)

The arch marks not the start of the AT, but the start of the hike!

My first real day of hiking! Booyaa! Got off the train at Gainesville, then took a taxi to Amicalola State Park. I've seen it spelled "Amicola" and "Amicalola", so... I don't know. I signed in at the front desk (I was the first of the day). Saw that 4 thru-hikers started yesterday. After filling up the canteens my pack weighed 48-49 pounds, way over my goal of 40 (let alone the eventual 35). I snapped a picture of the "front gate" and headed out.

At Springer's summit.

After about an hour or so, I caught up with Mark (I think that was his name). He looked to be at least 40, very overweight, going really slow. Somehow he couldn't keep his pack on his shoulders. I helped him get going. Turned out he had a 60 lb pack and had spent the previous night on the approach trail. He was out of water so I gave him some. When I started walking, I couldn't see him after 2 minutes. I hope he does OK, he's going to have a tough time.

I have no idea what I'm doing.  Hikers use big sticks, right?

First white blaze!

Got to the Springer summit, took some pictures, nothing too special there. I'm staying at the Springer shelter tonight with at least 6 other people. Oh, and really great weather today. 70 degrees and no clouds.

Saturday, May 12, 2001


Man, I forgot my toothbrush.  Just kidding, I brought 3.  Just kidding.

I must be nuts.  I'm on the train down to Gainesville, GA, and have no clue as to what the hell I'm doing.  I think I've got the right equipment, at least enough to get by satisfactorily until the first mail drop or outfitter.

Really, the two main worries for me are finding good people to hike with and keeping my right knee in good shape.  I plan on staying in or near shelters the first four nights (at least), which will keep my mileage around 8 miles/day.  Being at the shelters should keep my in close contact with people.

Bye, Mom!

Bye, Dad!

My pack was around 43ish pounds (without water) right before we left the house.  I'd like to get it under 35 eventually.

Anyway, my whole outlook will change when I get to Amacalola (?) Falls. I'm wearing my lucky orange pants, so hopefully everything will be ok.

Midnight train to Georgia