Monday, April 28, 2008

I am here -

love this postcard - though it is a little daunting - shows the entire trail and all of the 14 states. The pen shows where I am currently - Erwin, Tenn. Layed around all day yesterday watching the rain. Guess what - taking another zero today - yep - a double zero! Forecast was rain again all day today - so the trail will be a soupy mess - and supposed to get down into the 30's tonight. Cold - no problem, rain - no problem, cold and wet together = suck. I'm dry and might as well stay that way - everything is so much harder in the rain. Stopping for snacks, water, meals - all harder in the rain. Setting up tent in the rain, and then tearing it all back down in the rain - really sucks. Really starting to learn how to "flow" - can't keep a schedule out here. Came into town for a huge breakfast and hanging out at the library right now. Need some sort of mental stimulation - so going to play on internet and read some magazines/newspapers. Mind really starts to wander when all you are doing is walking. Was able to see and hang out with some people that I was hiking with (Pixie, Muffin Paste, Happy, Hollar, Longshot, Freefall) and still hanging out with The Breeze - Etienne and Mic moved on. Hope to catch them soon - as they have the yahtzee dice! I think I will use the postcard and the pen to show my travels as I progress. Won't be any pictures for awhile - just wet here. Probably when I hit Damascus - which won't be too long - I mailed 6 lbs of stuff back today!!!! Some cold weather clothes (not everything yet) and stuff that I haven't been using - should make the back feel good - tomorrow of course.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

338 miles down!

338 miles down - not even going to calculate what is still left - best to only look a couple of days out at a time. Set small goals - so far it is flying by, on day 27 and it seems like I just started yesterday. Hope it stays that way. Check out that Patchy McPatcherson beard I've got going on. The one time in life to grow a kick ass beard - and I'm going to have a patchy mess. Maybe I can comb it over . . . . .

Erwin Zero

Best day ever to zero - has been raining cats and dogs all day! Had mexican last night, all you can eat pizza today - tonight going to get some fresh fruit and vegetables - hit the post office tomorrow morning - and back to the trail. Love when you can see towns as you come down out of the timber - all you have to do is drop elevation and you are there! makes the heart warm.

Smokey the bear says . . .

I knew that I couldn't make it 16 miles by noon today (Sat) so I slept in and started what I thought was an easy 10 miler to a shelter. Found out that they are doing controlled burns on the AT - which routed us 4 miles out of the way - and past the shelter - making for a 17 miler instead. This hike is a great example of life - plans don't always work - just have to flow with it. If Amy or my therapist is reading this - they are probably laughing uncontrollably now. I have long stuggled when a plan doesn't play out - this is really good for me. Going to have to make it to Erwin and take a zero - not what I wanted - but no shelter or camping with water available and have a package to pick up on Monday since PO is closed on Sunday. Out of my 4 mail drops - I haven't hit but one correctly - keep rolling into towns after noon on Sat or on Sunday. Zero will do my body good. Stopped at Uncle Johnny's Hostel - right on the trail. Will go in town for real food and relax. Someone asked how I update my blogs - its towns and zeros or neros. Either stay at a hostel once a week - or stop by the local public library when in town. I LOVE that people are reading this and leaving me comments - really helps me mentally - which is going to be the bigger struggle than physically.

The lifestyle -

The cool thing - is living the hiker lifestyle. We really only have a hand full of things that we have to do. 1. Eat/cook. 2. Filter Water. 3. Set up shelter. 4. Bathroom. 5. Hike. That is pretty much it. I have filtered water out of some places that prior - I would not have thought to drink from. I do try to stop then - whenever we have a really pretty water source. Filter and drink a bottle, and take one to go. How tranquil and relaxing. God and Mother Nature have teamed up to create some really great sights (and Mountain clubs have maintained them). I really urge you to go buy a daypack and get out here - if even just for a weekend.

somewhere over the . . . .

Couldn't resist the rainbow shot. Hard to understand scope - but this was going over the top of Big Bald - at 5,516 feet. Absolutly amazing 360 degree views - would have loved to camp up here. Rain was still setting in so headed to the next shelter just over that "hill". That "hill" was over 600 feet of elevation change in less than 0.4 of a mile - what a great way to end the day - straight up! You can see the trail running up the bald - wish I had people or something in it for scale - it is far larger than it appears (and straight up).

April showers bring . . . .

Here is one of the pros of hiking in as much rain as we do - this day - almost the entire mountain side was covered in these little white and yellow wild flowers. Rally makes for a pleasent hike - no matter the elevation or mileage.

Big Bald

How pretty is this! Coming across a bald is a great mental break from the timber. The AT on Balds is marked with 4x4 posts in the ground. My book says that people really don't know how or why the balds exist. Some beliefs (based on my book) are that 1. Harsh conditions above tree line helped them form. 2. Indians cleared the land for religious ceremonies. 3. Extensive grazing and cropping. 4. Spacemen. Seriously - it says Spacemen. I vote for #3. This is taken just a little above 5,000 feet.

public support

I never really imagined how much support there is for the the AT Thru Hiker. Check out this message left for us on a rock. It is little things like this - that make those big 18-20 mile days feel worth it. People really do care about us. The other day - a girl - believe her trail name was Ranger - was just sitting on an overpass with a couple boxes of Little Debbies and Cheese and Crackers. She had hiked it 3 years ago - and was just hanging out. That may sound strange - till you have experienced this community of hikers. I am already planning on coming back out next year to be a trail angel as well. A handfull of drinks, snacks, and a smiling face goes along way with a tired hiker.


I know that I keep using the term "switchback". Never can get a good picture of one - as they typically run all the way across the side of the mountain - oh and there are very few of them! Here is a short one - if you zoom in on the photo you can see how the trail comes up - then zig zags - much easier on the legs to pick up your elevation this way - vs straight up (which is the typical on the AT).

Mountain goat

Wow what a day - did almost 19 miles and the majority of it looked like this! While it was a nice change of pace - it was a complete ass kicking experience - really really works the legs. Played yatzee with the guys and went to bed early. Had a bit of a mental low today - really got tired of climbing after a while - Ipod saved me. Up and down all day - over this type of terrain - grates on you mentally - something I can't really articulate - but it does. Check out that white blaze going between the gap in those rocks - yep - that's the trail.

Mic fishin'

Left town by myself - met up with The Breeze, Mic and Etienne. Found a hook on the ground - so I pulled out some floss, and with a treking pole - viola - fishing. Breeze found and killed a grass hopper - and Mic tried for bluegill. No luck. Leaving town I weighed my pack -50 lbs!!! Way too much food - just can't get it dialed in. Ran out in the Smokey's - believe snow and elevation had an impact on me. Felt tired - so trying to eat more this time. Carrying a 16 oz Nalgene bottle of Shiraz doesn't help - but goes great with dinner! Going to mail some stuff home at the next town - got to get this pack weight under control - started at 38 lbs - so going up is not the right direction. 15 miler today - but weight caused hips and legs to hurt.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


First zero day - kinda boring - but understand that my body needs the rest. Pixie cooked diner for us last night - and going to do the same tonight - last night was pasta, think tonight we are going to grill out. 70 degrees, blue skys, puffy white clouds - so beautiful today - feel like I should be hiking. Didn't sleep that good last night in bed - think I prefer the ground all ready - what's going to happen after 6 months of this! Plan to just lay around today and do nothing - just rest, eat, and drink water that doesn't have to be filtered. Pixie is going to make us a big breakfast tomorrow - then its back to the trail.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Hot Springs

We did a "nero" today (near zero) - only had to hike 3 miles into town. The AT actually goes right down main street -good business model. Planning on spending the night with Muffin Paste, Bert, Happy Tracker, Holler, and Pixie. Going to do my first zero tomorrow. I have hiked 271.2 miles in 21 days and need a break - body, legs, feet all hurt - and mentally draining. Back home - you atleast get your weekends off. Not here. Same thing every day - only the weather changes. Have a new term - PUD - Pointless Up and Downs. These are the days when you have several 100-300 elevation changes - just up and down, up and down all day - with no view. Hot Springs is a one horse town - but caters to the hikers - very cool that tons of people are all here to zero. I am seeing people that I haven't seen in a couple of days - and we are all going to the pub tonight. Get to sleep in a bit tomorrow - and don't have to hike! Can't wait. Still no phone service - hopefully in Erwin. Will try to add a picture or two tomorrow.

De Bear

No picture to show - had breakfast at Standing Bear then hiked in rain all day. Sucks mentally. Hiked over Max Patch - a bald - supposed to have great views - I had 40 mph winds and sideways rain. No view. Got to the shelter - the hostel owner told us that a lot of bear reports coming out of the next couple of shelters - read the shelter log and it agreed - everyone losing their food. Stayed with Muffin Paste, Bert, Mosey, Guns, Holler, Forest Gimp, Barefoot Sage, Rest Stop, Venture, and Pixie. 3 of them hung their bear bags as normal, the rest of us put a line over the roof of the shelter. At 12:30 we all woke up to the sound of branches and trees snapping. Two guys got up with their headlamps - yep - it was the bear - and he had taken two of the bags. Went back asleep and in about an hour - heard something again - and heard the rope snap - there went the third bag. Talking to other hikers - the bear has been staying at those two shelter and getting all the food every night. Some shelters have bear hanging cables - which are easier and better than throwing your own line - these didn't. Mosey lost his bag - and went and found all 3 of them - 300 yards away - got everyone's stove back, just no food. His name is now Happy Tracker. He was so positive and tracked everything down. Ready to get out of here and on to town.

bunk beds

Just a shot of my pack and my bunk at Standing Bear - slept above Muffin Paste - he and I have become good friends.

Old School

Got to do laundry - old school! I might end up wanting to open a hostel . . . . . .
Honestly - this was a fair amount of work - I appreciate Grandma more now, we just have to dump it in and push a button - not so easy when it takes 45 mins and you do it by hand.
cool experience though.

Standing Bear Hostel

did an easy 10 miler into Standing Bear Hostel. This place is great! everything is honor system - just right down on an envelope what you eat (huge stocked pantry - including frozen pizza!). Notice the lid - they even had clippers and got to cut my hair. Went out with 10 other people into town for mexican food - real food is SO good. They didn't sell beer - but you can buy it at the gas station and bring it in a brown paper bag - that rocks! Blue grass band - yeah at a mexican joint - but it was nice to hear other than the ipod. Body feels good, but feet and mind are tired.

20 miler

Did my first 20 miler today - not really supposed to yet - but was feeling good and weather was good. Make hay when the sunshines has always been good advice. Works with hiking as well. Better to get it done while you have sun vs rain or snow. Elevation changes everything - much lower here - if you blow the picture up you can see wildflowers everywhere. Crossed a stream about 5-6 times today. Really beautiful. Getting close to my first zero mileage day and can't wait!

another state

well not really - the Smokey mountains are the border between Tennessee and North Carolina - but I did pass into Tennessee. Will bounce back into NC for a day or two, then all Tennessee for awhile. Still helps mentally to cross the state lines though.

pretty up here

The Smoky's have better views - as the elevation is higher - and on a clear day - fantastic. Most of the time they are "hazy" or "smokey" due to the amount of rainfall and amount of decomposing vegetation that they have and get - causes some kind of off-gasing.

deeper and deeper

somewhere betweek 7 and 9 inches. Good thing I've been carrying the weight of my cold weather gear - finally coming in handy - especially at night when it gets down into the teens. Smokey's seem a little easier on the elevation changes - but the snow has made the hike much much harder - especially when it melts from the hikers walking - turns into 2" of watery slop.

interesting change

good thing they don't paint the blazes white . . . . . at this point the trail was still ok to see - that would change later . . . . and I would end up falling down twice - tough to hike when you can't see the rocks or tree roots across the trail

Smoke em if you got em

Tough hiking out of the Dam - it was closed so had to go 2 miles out of our way - neat. Entering the Smokey's which mentally will feet good - as we will be "under 2,000 miles" to go after the first or second shelter - as we will have finished up over 176 miles. Going up to Clingman's Dome - the highest point on the AT at 6,643 feet.


not a typical shelter - but some pictures to give you and idea. I usually prefer to camp in my one man tent for privacy, no mice, and no snoring.

Staying at the Hilton

At Fontana Dam - there is a giant (holds 24 people) shelter that is so nice it was named the "Fontana Hilton". Setting right on the lake - great views, showers just a .5 mile away, and fresh water that we didn't have to pump and purify. Well worth the stop - we easily had 20 people in there. Will add a coupld of pictures so you can see the outside and inside. Cold front coming in.

Trail magic to the rescue!

16 mile day - and check out what was at the bottom of the gap - tents - with people set up to hand out trail magic to the hikers - I swear I am going to get fat! Had hot dogs, cookies, soda, apples, beans, potato salad and water. People in the South really know how to take care of thru hikers - I plan to fly out here next year to return the favor.

Bald on Bald

Check this out - this is a "bald" and there are several of them - basically a football field on the side of the mountain - my understanding is that they put these in a long time ago to be able to graze their animals. Nice break mentally from all the timber. After this - we lost 3,000 feet of elevation in 12 miles - though most of it came at the end - which murders the knees. Mentally it hurts - giving up elevation that quickly when it took so long to gain it. Stopped at the N.O.C. as we heard a big storm was moving in - split a room, and some beers with The Breeze. The next day we went from 1,700 feet to 4,700 feet in 6 miles - that's tough - and again picking up the elevation that we just gave up the night before. Hurts mentally. Up and down, Up and down. Caught up with 8-10 people that started before me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Franklin and the big hill

Did a 16.5 mile day yestrday - some pretty steep trail to get to highway 64 - check out the sign - atleast they warn you before they kick your ass. Alberts mountain was good - tough rocks to climb but a good change of pace. Had to hitch hike for a good 20 mins but a propane truck driver picked me up. Took me the 11 miles into town - got me in his personal car - and to the post office 10 mins before they close. Offered to take me to the store - which I didn't need since I just picked up a PO drop - but did take me to a hostel. The 1st Baptist church picked me up and took me for all you can eat pancakes, bacon and orange juice. I swear you guys are going to think this is easy!!!! I can't believe how much the communities help the thru hikers. I've heard that it isn't this good as you get farther north. Cold front coming in - this is day 10 - getting close to the Smokies and going to be in for some snow from what we've heard. Will make this cold weather gear that I am carrying - worth it - I guess. Hard to believe that this is already the 10th day - going by quickly.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Standing Indian

Climbed Standing Indian mountain at 5,498 feet - with the sunshine a great view. North Carolina welcomed us with two huge climbs coming into the state - no switchbacks - just straight up and back down the mountains. Atleast they had sunshine. I would love to actually see Georgia some time.

nuff said

boy - here in the Caroliiiiina's - we call em as we see em.

look - I'm a Tarheel

on day 7 I made it into North Carolina - I must say that mentally it was a huge lift to have one state down. Caught up with people at a shelter that I have been reading about in the shelter logs - Neon, Bone Lady, Oatmeal, Bear Bait and Trout. Still hiking with TR, Roughrider, and The Breeze. Oh and got more to my trail name - Trout thought that The Breeze said Debris - and so around the campfire that night we were all giving each other new names. I was throwing small scaps of firewood into the fire - as I didn't want to get up. Long story short - they started calling me Tiny Sticks because of it. (was Small Wood at one point - so I can't complain). They even started changing it in the shelter log after I left - so for right now - I'm signing in as Blaze 08 aka Tiny Sticks. neat.

mail drop

Here is my first mail drop - supplies were needed!

Eating good - Cloud 9 and Crutch rock

Day 6 was sunshine - had to hitch hike for the first time into town to get to the PO for my first mail drop. Stayed at Cloud 9 Hostel. Caught a trout and Crutch cooked it up for me. bunkhouse, internet, shower, laundry and they even had a hot tub! Excellent place to stay. Went to the store and bought plates for the hostel - pretty cool - take from the hostel - give to the hostel. Bought eggs, sausage and bread - Crutch cooked it up for us.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

slow going

This is out of order - but I forgot to add them. Here are a couple of typical rainy pictures. When a tree falls in the forest - well the Georgia ATC cuts a notch in it. Check out these rocks - yes that is the trail in a lot of places - slow going. I know this will upset true mountain climbers - but to me - it seems more like we climb the AT vs hike it.


First day of Sunshine!!! Here you can see what we have been hiking in for the last 5 days. Rain down in the gaps - 5 days of hiking, 5 days of rain. Mother Nature 1, Thru hikers 0. Made up good ground today - but have a Post Office to hit for my supplies. Today is Sunday so that wasn't a good plan. Hitch hiked for the first time - just 2 miles down the road to the Cloud 9 hostel - the locals help out the thru hikers whenever they can. This place rocks! Crutch (past thru hiker) runs it, for the owners - and showed me around the place: hot tub, kitchen, TV, bunkhouse, and a pond where I could pay to catch a fresh trout - which I did. He cooked it up for me, with some peas from the freezer, and some stove top stuffing we found in the hiker box. (hiker boxes exist at hostels for food and gear that people no longer want to carry). Pretty safe to say after these last 2 days - I'm not going to lose any weight on this journey. Sunshine, a hot shower, and full belly - better make up some big miles tomorrow.


Vegetarians and Heart Surgons - skip to the next blog. We saw signs posted that the Boy Scouts were feeding the thru hikers. Gave us something to think about all day. Hiked with Keychain, The Breeze, TR and Roughrider to find the Scouts. Ended up eating 2.5 cheeseburgers, 1 hot dog, a handfull of chips, a bowl of soup, a handful of mini candy bars, 2 packs of peanut butter crackers, a handful of cookies, and a 4 cups of Gatoraid. Know what - didn't feel stuffed or sick. Troop 605 even agreed to spend the night one more night to feed us breakfast if we stayed. That didn't take long - and 15 of us spent the night. Still raining - Keychain let me stay in his tent to stay dry. Had 4 pancakes, 4 pieces of sausage, a banana, and a glass of Gatoraid. Can't thank them enough. They have been doing this for the last 7 years - troop 605 of Georgia ROCKS!!!! Thanks guys.

More Rain - neat

Day 5 and more F'n rain. It hasn't stopped for 3 days straight - not even for 30 mins. Starting to take a toll mentally on me. Wake up wet, set up camp wet, get up wet, tear down camp wet, hike in mud all day, everything soaked or damp. Just want a window of no rain. Don't get me wrong - still better than being at work.

More rain - and a tornado warning

Rain all day - that's 4 days of hiking with 4 days of rain. Stopped at Low Gap shelter - found out there is a tornado warning. Everyone squeezed over to let me in - got 9 people in a 7 person shelter - and someone slept under it. The Breeze even saw a wild boar today. TR and Roughrider built a fire and kept it going in the rain. Fire warms the soul.

A new hat - and an old friend returns

Hiked to the Walasiyi Inn - the trail actually goes through this historic building. What a great business model. Was able to use internet and stayed at the hostel. Bought a new hat! and had all the spaghetti I could eat for $9. A hot shower wasn't really needed yet - but sure felt good. Later that night - John and Gypsy rolled in - they had carried my hat for 3 days! Considering how every ounce matters - the fact that he carried it was amazing - on top of carrying her food and water. He was buying her a pack so she could carry her own stuff. Finally got cell phone coverage and called home.

Blood Mtn

Hiked in the rain all day today. Up Blood Mountain ( 4,461 feet - and over 1,000 of that is in just over a mile) An ass kick to say the least. Highest point on the AT in Georgia. Site of an Indian battle - where there were so many killed - that the rocks were red with blood. Beautiful old stone shelter. On the way down - Smoke on the Water - a new friend of mine, stopped at the rock where Meredith talked to the man that would later kill her on the trail. Paused and said a short prayer. Good day - not quiting.

Trail Magic to the rescue.

Here is my second Trail Magic. Indiana Jones and Lavone met on the trail 15 years ago. They section hiked, and Indiana finished in the year 2000. They are now Trail Angels - and met us with soda, apples, carrots, cheese, cookies, trail mix, and chips. So much for losing weight. 9 of us called it quits for the day after that and camped here at Woody Gap. Doug snored again all night - tomorrow I will name him Rolling Thunder.

Rain down in the Gap - but pretty up top. See the hills - that is where the trail goes. This section of the AT ranges from 3,000 - 4,000 feet. Up and down all day.

Hey Culligan man!

I know this sounds kind of silly - but I felt incredibly empowered today. I pumped and filtered my own water. (I'm carrying a tiny tripod if you are wondering). It just really set in - I have my own food, my own shelter, and now can provide water - I am off the grid and it feels amazing! This was a pretty creek/stream. All the rain has made finding water easy. Above is also a picture of what the majority of water sources look like - not as pretty - but they work.

KD is dead

well it happened on Day 2 - received my trail name from Doug. As I mentioned - I kept turning my headlamp on last night - and it kept lighting Doug's tent up like it was on fire. He kept calling me The Human Torch - which I thought was a bit much - so I dropped to Blaze. My cooking cuzy also has flames on it - and I am blazing a new life or lifestyle. I think it fits. I stopped at Gooch Mtn shelter and had lunch. Met a girl named Alaska - and she wrote my name on me with a pen. KD is dead.

Home sweet -

Day 1 - Here is my new home - notice I didn't take the tent itself - just the rain fly and the footprint. Note - it saved a pound, but rain splashes up under the fly. Beautiful today - but rained all night - got fairly wet. Kept waking up and turning on my headlamp - made a dam out of toilet paper to keep my down bag dry. Also switched to a thiner and shorter pad to save half a pound. Not as cushy as my other one. Did 10 miles today but lost my hat. A guy - Doug - carried it for most of the day after picking it up - but set it down - assuming he wouldn't find me. He camped right next to me - neat. Met a couple - James and Holly (Sunny and Shere) and camped with them. Here is something I didn't expect - automatic gun fire. Yep - kept hearing semi automatic gun fire. Well it is the South - and maybe you need an AR-15 for squirels. Then I heard bombs - well maybe dynamite for bunnies??? Kill and clean in one step. Nope - the Army Rangers do their mountain training here - right here in Horse Gap where we are staying. Machine gun fire and concussion grenades. Mom don't worry about me - we had a full perimeter around us! This morning was sureal - but it is setting in now.

function or art?

I love how they work with nature - vs against it. Here they built a simple bridge with two large downed trees.

A tale of 2 stones

I picked up two small stones (as if I needed more weight in my pack). My plan is to carry them all the way to Mount Katahdin (Indian for "greatest mountain") in Maine. One I will keep - and one I will place on the mountain. Would be cool if a SOBO (southbound) thru hiker will pick it up some day and return it to Springer. What if the ones I picked up have already made the trip? Very cool.