Hi Everyone! I just reached the lodge at Amicalola Falls State Park last night after a long day of travelling from New York City where I spent the weekend with my family. All told, it took me a plane, shuttle, bus, train, and taxi to get here at around 11pm. Today, I walked outside the beautiful lodge here to find it snowing…
Appalachian Trail 2004
Daily dispatches and photos from the Appalachian Trail, a 2194-mile footpath running from Georgia to Maine through 14 states along the East Coast.
Day #1 of my adventure is finally here!!! I left the lodge at 9:30 this morning after a nice breakfast, and walked under bright blue skies all day on very level and easy trail to Springer Mt. and the southern terminus of the AT. Saw a few local day hikers on my way to Springer who were amazed to see me in shorts and a t-shirt, themselves bundled as if it was still mid-winter on such a nice day.
The weather was so beautiful today that I decided to leave my schedule a bit and push on a bit further. Went past Hawk Mt. Shelter with the trail all to myself and up and over some sun-soaked hills (albeit still dead and leafless since it's still early for spring even in Georgia) where I promptly did a nice job of starting myself on a good sunburn.
Another carbon copy day today of the first few with more blue skies and beating sunshine, although the temps are still around 50 in the mountains and around 30 or so at night. Pushed on ahead a bit more today, opting to get to the Hostel and Mountain Crossings Outfitter Store at Neels Gap (Walasi-Yi).
Date: 3/13/04 Starting Location: Neels GapDestination: Low Gap ShelterMiles: 10.6Total Miles: 49.9
Date: 3/14/04 Starting Location: Low Gap ShelterDestination: Blue Mt. ShelterMiles: 7.2Total Miles: 57.1
Date: 3/15/04 Starting Location: Blue Mt. ShelterDestination: Deep Gap ShelterMiles: 14.8Total Miles: 71.9
Dicks Creek Gap
Date: 3/16/04 Starting Location: Deep Gap ShelterDestination: Dicks Creek Gap, US 76Miles: 3.5Total Miles: 75.4
Date: 3/17/04 Starting Location: Dicks Creek Gap, US 76Destination: Muskrat Creek ShelterMiles: 11.6Total Miles: 87.0
Date: 3/18/04 Starting Location: Muskrat Creek ShelterDestination: Carter Gap ShelterMiles: 12.5Total Miles: 99.5
Date: 3/19/04 Starting Location: Carter Gap ShelterDestination: Rock Gap ShelterMiles: 12.1Total Miles: 111.6
Hi all! Had to skip a few entries there to speed things along a bit. I bet some of you were wondering how I was able to manage 79.8 miles in just one day! Well, for those of you who are keeping track, my record for daily miles is just under half of that, at around 34 miles. But, lucky for me, I don't have any of those kinds of days planned on this hike...
Last night, Semicolon and Professor T and I were treated to an incredible thunderstorm that lasted for over an hour. Rain pelted the aluminum roof of the shelter on Siler Bald like marbles on a snare drum. Good thing we had two electrical engineers to figure out who'd get fried first if the aluminum roof got struck by lightning.
Nantahala Outdoor Center
Brrrr. Very cold night last night at Cold Spring. Temp was down around 10-15 degrees, and no one was toasty; convinced me to call Mountainsmith at the N.O.C. about the down feathers that appear to be shifting in my sleeping bag. Feet a little better today after another night of therapy, and they didn't get worse in the 6 miles of downhill to the N.O.C.
Finally, our drought of not seeing other thru-hikers has come to an end. Another blue sky day, though a bit warmer than the last two thankfully, and Semicolon, Professor T, and I waited til 10am so we could get stove fuel at the Outfitter. Also heard that Fontana Dam grocery store up the trail is closed, so I hope my Mom can come through with an express package of food to the Fontana post office!
You know, I'm really getting tired of these gorgeous weather days. Nice and warm today in the 60s, and all sunshine. Wonderful views from the top of Cheoah Bald, a natural bald summit (some of the southern "balds" are actually mowed to maintain their bald look). Most of the group from last night is here--Professor T, Semicolon, Curious George, Ben, Slick, and Mo, along with a group of Boy Scouts.
An amazing day today rolling on into Fontana Dam, the southern boundary of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, under more beautiful skies and temps in the 70s. Oh yeah, and my Mom is an absolute superstar. Having overnighted a week's worth of food to me here, I'm ready to roll through the park with Professor T to Hot Springs.
The Smokies are here!! First day entering the park after snapping some photos down by Fontana Dam. After waiting so long to visit the park, I had this feeling we might cross into the park, leave behind a trail of dry earth and no foliage, and enter a springtime-y paradise of green and blooming trees and wildflowers.
Double Spring Gap
Another absolutely amazing day. Really started to get into the heart of the Smokies with Professor T today, walking over several grassy balds and open fields. The sun made it very warm and sweaty on some of the tougher uphill climbs, and my feet were definitely complaining more today than yesterday.
Don't know where to begin about this incredible day—start to finish. Professor T and I woke up at 4am and headed up to the summit of Clingman's Dome for a sunrise at the trail's highest point (it's all donwhill from here, right?), and we weren't disappointed.
Started off in fog and mist today expecting rain, but we never got a drop as the clouds mixed with sun in the afternoon. Didn't have any view from Charlie's Bunion in the morning, but had some decent ones in the afternoon of the mountains on both sides of the trail (the trail is also the North Carolina/Tennessee border here).
Standing Bear Farm
Last day in the Smokies with about 8 miles to the northern boundary, and we awoke to another drizzle of rain that again split into sunnier skies. Lots of great wildflowers to see as we got closer to the park's edge at Davenport Gap. The good news is that I finally figured out how to take a good close-up with my camera! Saw lots of violets, bloodroot, false and true Solomon's Seal…
Well, it was bound to happen eventually. Celebrated my third-week trail anniversary today as our good weather came to a screeching halt as 70-degree sunshine was now a steady day-long snowstorm. And, yes, for those of you back home up north, this is still North Carolina.
Knowing a warm town was only 15 miles away made it pretty easy for everyone to get in gear early this morning and boogie on down the trail to Hot Springs. A wintry stretch of trail this morning up and over Bluff Mt. through 3-6" of fresh snow in some places, but it was all downhill for the most part after that down into town.
Hot Springs Zero Day 1
Taking my first "zero" day today, after rolling into Hot Springs a day ahead of schedule with Professor T on our last day of hiking together. We've had a great time hiking together with gorgeous weather and scenery for 2 weeks across the Smokies and then some.
Hot Springs Zero Day 2
Another zero day today as I wait for my friend Emily to come into town this afternoon for an overnight with me on the trail when I head back out tomorrow. Ate most of the day and ended up back at the Paddler's Pub for some beers with Emily and my thru-hiker pals. I'm still mourning the loss by my Duke Blue Devils to UConn in the Final Four.
Great day to get back on the trail with Emily B. along for the day. It's been great to see her, though actually seeing a familiar face seems to be the only thing that makes me homesick for some reason.
Rector Laurel Road
After saying goodbye to Emily this morning and getting a late 9am start, I hiked all day today until just a few minutes after sunset. Tenting out next to the trail for just the second time so far, this time without a shelter in sight. Blue sky all day with lots of sun and snow covering the trail above 4000'.
Started out the day with not much going right. Slept very little in my tent as coyotes pranced around it and animals from nearby farms made noise all through the night. Add to that some swollen glands in my neck from some bug I must've caught, and tired legs for some reason, and it was tough to get going.
Only a few hours of sleep last night before Leki-less and I woke up to night hike under a nearly full moon down the trail to Erwin, hoping to beat the rush of thru-hikers who'd be looking for a spot at the much acclaimed Miss Janet's Hostel.
Erwin Zero Day 1
Thought I'd move on today, but after doing so many miles and getting so little sleep in the last 2 days, I'm here to stay and relax a bit before hitting the trail tomorrow. Slept on the couch at Miss Janet's Hostel last night, but not before being sucked into watching movies til 2am.
Erwin Zero Day 2
Well, so much for that plan. Loaded my pack in Miss Janet's shuttle to head back to the trail this morning, but the shuttle left without me. So, I'm stuck here for another day off in sunshine while pack rides around in the "Banana Boat" van for the day. Disappointed about missing the shuttle but it was very serendipitous in the end.
Late start today, but was not going to miss the shuttle back to the trail 2 days in a row. Easy walking today, but it's the first time I've felt kinda down after leaving a town stop. I miss the friends I've made, and I hope they catch up after slackpacking from Miss Janet's today and spending Easter there tomorrow.
Not much excitement today other than a big climb up and over Roan High Knob, the last big mountain between Erwin, TN and Damascus, VA. Feels good to have it out of the way, especially since it was the toughest climb I've seen on the trail so far, and it's the last time I'll be above 6000' all the way until New Hampshire on Mt. Washington.
Good. Scottish. Weather. Should be self-explanatory, but I woke up in the middle of the night to see that a cloud had been blowing into the windward-facing shelter all night, scattering my clothes from the clothes lines and soaking my down sleeping bag in the process (not a good thing). Left this morning and climbed onto the grassy ridge for some rise-and-shine miles through driving rain and 40-50 mph wind.
Dennis Cove Road
This day began about as well as the last one did, as Rumbler, Footloose, and I set off from the road in a driving rainstorm towards the nearest shelter almost 18 miles north. The stretch of trail was easy, and mostly rolling, with the exception of the spectacular Jones Falls which had an abnormally high volume of water due to the recent rains.
My first thought was: snowday. I think Mickey-One-Sock said it best when he walked out the door this morning before quickly returning to proclaim: "Did you look outside yet?" Sure enough, our second week of April snowstorm was here with snow already on the ground, and Lead Dog and I were lacing up to hit the snowy slopes for a 10-mile day that simply continued to morph by the hour.
A night of shivering in the cold, added to 26+ miles today....no need to be a rocket scientist to guess that I'm sleepy and that my dogs hurt reeaaalll bad. All is redeemed though by Lead Dog's kindness in having me stay at his nearby house only 30 minutes away in Bristol, TN. It's amazing how a beer and a good long soak in the hot tub can erase the effects of three 25-mile days.
Damascus Zero Day 1
Aaaahhh. My feet are loving this, and after the recent beating they took, they deserve it. Hanging around the town today and killing time at Dave's Hostel with Mo, Camel, Nails, Dances with Scarf, and Condor. The sky is clear, and the sun is shining--we're back to shorts and t-shirt weather.
Damascus Zero Day 2
Beautiful day for town R&R with the other thru-hikers, eating my face off, and catching up in my journal. Spent most of the day running errands around town and going back and forth to the outfitter across the street from Dave's Place Hostel where I'm staying.