Friday, April 30, 2010

Day 17: See Ya, Smokies...

Woke up early from a bizarre dream where I had to give an info-mercial/presentation about a gardening tool in front of a live audience at the halftime of a semi-pro football game... all because my cousin Becky was feeling sick and couldn't do it. I had no idea what I was doing, but I was talking in a southern twang... and then my former co-worker, Felicia, was trying to get me into her apartment building, but the electronic implant in my arm wasn't working.

Dreams are weird.

Right, so, I got up early and left by 7:15. Great few miles in the crisp morning air till I got to the next shelter, and I had juuuust missed the guys leaving at 10ish. Kept walking in the warming day, expecting to see the guys at any point. Didn't. (what I DID see, though, was the poo of at least 50 horses, but never did see an actual horse. Strangely frustrating.) I did pass Yeti and then caught Little Foot and Pee-Wee at the gap. (I had walked 16 miles by 1pm and was officially out of the Smokies!) It was 2.4 more miles to the Standing Bear hostel where the boys were going to stop for lunch. I ended up getting there about 20 mins after they did, and we chilled for an hour in a half in this amazing little hippy village.

Little Foot, Pee-Wee and Yeti rolled in shortly after. The guys had a bunch of snacks and made a pizza, and I had a Coke, an oatmeal cream pie, and a Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich. We soaked our feet in the stream and later had an ice pop. It was so nice out. We didn't want to leave, but the boys had only done 8 miles (24 yesterday, tho!!) and we all kinda wanted to camp for free rather than pay a hostel.

Sooooo as the sugar high was leaving our veins, we took off on an uphill battle, looking for a suitable campsite. The next shelter was another 7 something miles away. The guys blazed uphill and I was starting to fade. Little Foot was in front. Xan and Brian were somewhere in the middle. I was feeling pretty slow (walking since 7:15am!). The knee I fell on was a bit sore, but not from falling. It's just always the knee that's sore, especially going downhill. It's the blisters on my heels that are the most sore tho. Both heels now! Even my trusty, go-to left foot?! Just waiting for my baby skin to die off and my big girl skin to grow in, I guess...

So I kept going. And going. And going... Passing a couple campsites, but nothing too good for four of us, and I didn't see the boys. Still hot out. Kinda buggy. I think I'm getting an idea of what summer may be like... Kept going. More uphill. No idea how far we'd gone or when we left or how far it was to the next anything. Tired. Feet hurt. Then the hill broke out into a grassy bald and I started to sing "thaaaaaa HILLS are aliiiiiive... with the sound of muuuuuusic!" It was a beautiful sight with the Smokies in the background. Kept walking across the bald and back onto the woods, but now it was downhill. Ahhhh. Better. Since it got up to about 80 degrees and was sunny all day, it was oh-so-nice to be going downhill in the shade. (ps: I stank)

Right about 7:45pm, when I was thinking about when I should start thinking about starting to worry, I came to a shelter sign! And the boys had written my name in the dirt with an arrow. I'd made it!!?! 25.3 miles!!! That's almost a marathon!! And it took just about 2.5 times as long as it did to run the one I did... I felt pretty good. Feet hurt, but spirits were high. The shelter (only sleeps 6) was full, but the boys were setting up camp down by the stream, so I joined. A beautiful spot. After setting up camp, we all ate around the fire Xan and Little Foot made and joked around until eyelids got heavy. A few big days for them and for me. Well deserved sleep ahead... and maybe rain tomorrow afternoon... Glad we got in some major miles during the nice weather. Fewer than two days till a zero day in Hot Springs, NC!!!

(25.3 miles...! I'm a bad ass, right? Am I right?? I'm right, right? I'm so right... Am I right?)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Ground Hog Shelter

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 16: Tennessee to my left... Carolina to my right...

Well, our plan to get up and make the 8am shuttle fell through as we talked while falling asleep last night... And soon after we woke up, so did our back-up plan to catch a 9am shuttle for $10... Little Foot was the impressive exception - he managed to leave early and made the 8am shuttle. Xan, Brian and I were just not feeling it.

The hotel had coffee, hot cocoa, donuts and fruit for breakfast (what a deal!!), and I had snagged a bit of fruit from the buffet last night in a plastic bag (shhh), so the morning meal was taken care of. We said goodbye to Still Steve who was gonna spend another night in town, and we headed to the main drag to hitch up to Newfound Gap. (side note: Steve is awesome. And if Zack Galifinakis did a movie about hiking, Steve could be his body double... Also, Steve is very helpful as he started the AT southbound last summer and knows all about the northern half of the trail. He got held up in Pearisburg, VA with all the snow early this year, so he took a small break and began down at Springer the day after we did. (also also... Steve thought I was 22, so he gets extra fun bonus points...))

Not ten minutes into strategizing did a little ole lady in a teal 2-door coup pull up and lure us in with the promise of fried chicken!! Her name was Timex, and she was 70. She thru-hiked in 2004 and had a trunk full of food to take up to hikers as trail magic. Golden!!

She gave us a few pointers about the trail and told us some stories (including the one where she fell down a mountain and broke two ribs!?! At 64?!!??!? ...she kept going, too...), and then we were back at the gap, eating chicken and chocolate and soon saying goodbye. What a morning! And what a beautiful day!!! (oh, and we saw a bear near the road on the way back up... two tourists were out of their car snapping photos... seemed very zoo-like, so I'm not sure I can count it...)

It was just lovely out - 65 and sunny maybe...? Probably got up to 70. We set up the hill, which according to the map was supposed to be a very steep climb, but it ended up being a very handle-able grade. The hiking was great today! And (as Xan said) it was vista-licious!

We were basically walking on narrow ridgelines with Tennessee on our left and North Carolina on our right. It was beautiful, and there wasn't too much mud until the end. There was still a bunch of snow in the shady parts if the mountain. The three of us stayed together the whole day and had an awesome 90's sing-along during the last 2 hours. Barenaked Ladies, Cake, 311, Puddle of Mudd, Spice Girls, Billy Joel, Cher, Kid Rock, The Offpring, Alanis Morissette, and much much more... Good times.

We pulled into a fairly full shelter around 6:15pm. Little Foot, Pee-Wee, and Yeti were thinking about pressing onto the next shelter, 7 something miles away, and doing a little night hiking while there's a full moon out. Xan and Brian were in, but I was done for the day. I can go night hiking when it's warmer... and we had already done 16miles. So they left and I set up camp on the bottom shelf of the shelter. Joyce was here and a few familiar faces. I made my noodle soup and packed up for bed. I gotta catch those guys tomorrow! (they're planning a late start and they'll be stopping in Davenport gap for a package, so it could happen...)

Should be nice again tomorrow, but rain through the weekend.

Happy ASM10 to the ABI'ers! Hope all is going well over at National Harbor!!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Ski Mountain Rd,Gatlinburg,United States

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Day 15: Clingmans's Dome!

Woke up freezing. Below freezing, actually. The themometer read 25 degrees... Few wanted to leave their warm sleeping bags. I was one, but somehow mustered the strength to get up, go get water from the stream and make some tea. Ugh, it was so cold!!

During the evening before, lots of kids were talking about hitching into Gatlinburg from Newfound Gap for a night at the cheap Grand Prix hotel after surviving the snow. Xan, Brian and I had planned to go straight through the Smokies, but the idea of going into town was sounding more and more overwhelmingly awesome. AND Brian's sister, Meg, goes to U Tennesee and was willing to swing by, pick us up, and go have lunch in Gatlinburg. Excellent. But we had to get to the gap by 2pm.

So, we began hiking shortly after 9 and it was pretty cool. A winter wonderland of sorts... Luckily, a few people left before us, so there were tracks to follow. Couldn't see much of any white blazes...

Now, there are good times to be 6 feet tall, like when you have to hang your pack on a high nail... and there are bad times to be 6 feet tall, like when all the trees are heavy with snow and hanging all over the trail. Though, unless you were 4 foot nothing, you'd have to duck and dodge all those branches... And if you hit one (which happened very often) all the snow goes right down your back. Hello!

The 5 mile climb to the top of Clingman's Dome (the highest elevation of the whole AT) was very beautiful in the (thank god!) morning sun, and it was nice and gradual. We got to the top and took a few frosty photos from the observation deck before the strong winds chased us back down. (most of those photos are on my camera, not my iPhone, but I'll try to get a few uploaded...)

Then we started DOWN. By this time, the sun was strong, and all the snow was melting. It was basically raining on us, and the mud/snow/ice mixture on the ground was gross, slippery, and quite unpleasant. Brian and Xan took off (they're very fast downhill), and I was walking with Little Foot for a while. He stopped to pee and I didn't end up seeing him again till the end. I was trying to focus hard on my steps, and a bad-news-bears email I got (with brief phone service at the top) had me all flustered and thinking, but I wanted to go fast to be in time for our ride... I was soaking wet from the snow/ice drips and frustrated, and then stumble #10 of the day was my first fall. Slippery log. Right foot went left, and I came down on my right knee and hand. Argh! But no injury. I did a bit of a laugh/cry and then took off again, a bit slower now... The boys and I had a bet where the first person to fall would buy a round of beers. Beer's on me.

I was so ready to be done with this mountain!! And I was going to make it in time. Just before I got to the gap, someone had left trail magic on the trail!! A box of Nutter Butters, Ho-Ho's, oranges and bananas!! Instant good mood. And then I met the boys in the parking lot. Lots of action and tourists a this gap. One guy asked me to pose for a picture, so he could capture a "real through hiker." Ha!

Meg showed up a few minutes after we all got there, and soon we packed 6 stinky hikers and all our stuff into her friend's jeep cheroke... It was impressive. 20 minutes later, Meg, Brian, Xan, Little Foot, Joyce, Still Steve, and I were packing in the food at Wendy's in Gatlinburg, TN. Delish.

Meg had to get back to campus for a softball game, but dropped us all off at the Grand Prix hotel at the edge of town. 4 in a room for $14 each. Nice! Two queen beds and a balcony for all our stinky crap! Joyce and Steve gir singles. We dumped everything and "e-pack-ulated" everywhere, and started laundry. A quick trip to the outfitter and the mini mart, and we hung out with a few other hikers in our room. We were waiting for laundry and drinking a few beers before hitting up the all-you-can-eat buffet at Shoney's. Aw yeah. We ate like kings. And now it's so very late for us. Almost 11?!?! Tired. Too full. Big uphill tomorrow. So tired. Bloated. But happy with a pillow...

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Ski Mountain Rd,Gatlinburg,United States

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Day 14: Smokies = Coldies

So, remember Griz? The guy who did my shakedown at Neel Gap? Well he guarenteed me snow in the Smokies as long as I made it thru before mid May. And I knew I would make it through before mid May. BUT! He told me that on a day that was 85 degrees out, so it was hard to believe him...

Today started wet and chilly. Putting back on my wet gear from the day before was NOT fun. I put my shirt and shorts in the sleeping bag with me, so they were kinda dry (and my bag was a bit damp), but most everything else is just dammmmmp. Luckily my boots have remained pretty dry - as long as I keep my rain pants latched tight around them.

So, wet. Raining. Cold, but ok when you keep moving. Then came the freezing rain/sleet, which does NOT feel good on naked hands! (yes, I walk without gloves... I'd rather keep them dry for camping. they just get wet when you're walking... and, remarkably, my hands stay pretty warm unless it's sleeting) Oh, and the wind. It was by far the most miserable day so far, but my spirits are still high. The sun even kinda came out for 48 seconds! We had planned to go farther, but we got to empty Siler's Shelter and that was it. It had started to snow and we did not want to run into another full shelter.

It's cold. Will only get colder when the sun goes down. Hunkering down. There's a fire, but it doesn't help too much unless you're right up next to it. Lots of the kids are drying their socks and boots over there. Xan burnt a hole I'm his socks!

Really fun group here. About 12 of us. Makes it a little easier!

I heart my sleeping bag. (temperature is hovering around 30 and there's about a half inch of snow on the ground - ah!!)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Siler's Bald Shelter

Monday, April 26, 2010

Day 13: Dreary

If ever there was a day to describe that word, today was the day. No rain in the morning getting packed up, but about an hour into the climb into the Smokies, the temperature dropped and the rain came down. It wasn't too bad when I was moving, but dare to stop longer than 4 minutes, and the chill would shoot right through my bones. Lots of people leaving Fontana Dam, so we weren't sure about numbers at the shelters. We picked up Little Foot (Dave) at the Dam, and were led by one of the fun Connecticut kids (Closeline). Got to the first shelter and it was stocked with people eating and trying to warm up. We headed on to the next one, 3 miles away, and there were a few people doing the same. We forged on and finally got to the third, another 3 miles away, and it was almost full! No one had passed us from the group that left the Dam, so we couldn't believe that some people had only hiked 3-6 miles that day!?! Yeah, it was raining, but that's barely 3 hours when there's nothing much else to do out here... and if you're already wet...

Anyways, the boys are tenting, and I got one of the few last spots in the shelter. We dried off as best we could. We cooked. We ate. It's cold out, but tomorrow is supposed to be even more rain and colder. Boo.

I'm ready for bed. Must get through tomorrow and then it should clear up. Warm, dry thoughts!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Spence Field Shelter

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Day 12: Random Thoughts

Deodorant... Those scientists who have worked out the chemical formula for this brilliant toiletry item are amazing. During my "shake down" at Neel Gap, I sent home my travel size deoderant. And I miss it. And I am facsinated by the smell that is coming from my arm pit area these days. Of all my years of wearing deordorant, or even missing a day, I have never smelled such a scent from my own pits. It's crazy! And it just blows my mind how much the stuff helps defend against odor. (I may have to get another travel sized Lady Speed Stick at the next town)

PB... So, if I eat peanut butter by the spoonful without anything else, what does it look like in my stomach? Does it glob back up into one big clump? Or does it stay in individual clumps?

Ears popping... I've never experienced this walking down a mountain before. I guess we're descending at a rapid enough pace to cause an ear pop... Weird.

Eye dirt... This one's for the ladies. You know how your eye makeup settles in your "fine lines" under your lower lashes? And you have to make that funny, long, stretched-out mouth face to clear out that area...? Well I get that too, but since I haven't worn makeup since my pre-Spinger days I get it with "fine dirt." It's gross.

Flying Bugs... How is it possible that a bug can attach itself to my leg and hold on when my legs are moving along at the lightning rate of just about 2 miles per hour (including breaks). Bugs are pretty sticky, but luckily not stinging yet.

No trail name yet.

Well, with the short day yesterday, we kicked arse today in great weather and pulled 22.2 miles. Lots of uphill and lots of down. Left at 8:15 and got to the Fontana Dam at 6:30. Looooong day... And a cool shelter - with showers!! And a bunch of people. Good vibe. Exhausted.

Great Smoky Mountains tomorrow. 4-5 days without phone and everything else...

NyQuil time!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Fontana Dam Shelter, NC

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Day 11: I Love Poles

...and Polish people, but mainly my hiking poles. I don't think I could've made it this far without them. They're amazingly helpful on uphills, downhills and flats (and pitching my tent, of course). They take pressure off my legs and (best reason) they keep me from falling over. See, I've been keeping track of all my trips and stumbles each day (hoping to have a sweet chart at the end), and though I'm only counting the ones where my heart stops for a second, I've been averaging about 15 stumbles per day. There have been only three that were pretty scary. One was an ankle roll. One was almost falling over in a steam. And the last one was today: a sweet bowling move where my back foot slipped out behind me on a big flat slanty rock and made me gasp. Without my poles on any of those, I definitely would've hit the ground.

Hence: I love poles.

Sooooo... I woke up in a Nyquil daze at 8, and it was eerily calm outside. Overcast and no wind. Storm a-brewing...?

I didn't see the boys, so I ate as much breakfast as I could (I had plenty of food and a six day supply to get me through the Smokies), and I packed everything up. The sun poked through a bit and by the time the boys were done with their breakfast and I set off, it was full sun! Mc (Mitch/Mick) was going to stay another zero day and the boys weren't packed yet, so I left first.

Now think about what you were doing from 9:20am to 12:20pm on your Saturday morning. I was walking uphill the whole time! With a full pack that couldn't have weighed less than 40 pounds. Ugh. It was rough. An hour into it, I stopped to put more tape on my heel (which is feeling a lot better, but I want to make sure it stays that way), and there was a ten minute shower. I put my poncho on, but then it stopped. The clouds started looming after halfway, and it began to be a race against storm. Uphill, uphill, uphill, wind, wind, threatening clouds, hitting the summit, then downhill a mile to the shelter, and it started spinkling right as I made it in. First one here!! I put my pack down and layered up and snacked as the rain came down. Two guys (Hot Wing and 151) came in soon after with Wilbur and his dog (Tender Toes), then it really started coming down. The next shelter, 9 miles away, only sleeps 6 people, so we were all worried about numbers and NOT wanting to tent in the rain. So we pretty much hunkered down. This shelter is a double decker and sleeps 14.

Two more guys showed up, then another guy, then Brian and Xan, then another guy, and then a couple. Everyone late was soaked. I'm glad I beat it. So, now there are 12 here and it's 3:30. Snacking and eating and chatting till bedtime! Seems a bit like a waste, only hiking 7 something miles, but it WAS uphill and it IS supposed to get worse later. I guess I'm fine with a "nearo" day right after my zero day... May try to pull a long one tomorrow if it's nice...

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Sassafrass Gap Shelter

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 10: Nonhikerness

I feel like a real person again! What a grand day off... It's amazing what a few modern day treats will do for your soul after 9 days of hiking...

Tried to sleep in, but was up around 7:30. Had a fitfull night of sleep since I decided to turn the heat on and chug water before bed. Had to pee TWICE and air out the hot room. (tmi?) Buuuut got up in my empty bunk room and busied myself with organizing before going to eat breakfast. The boys came round, and since Marissa drove here, she had a car and would take us supermarket shopping! Xan, Brian, Marissa and I cruised through the curvy mountain roads to Ingles in Bryson City and shopped a bit. The boys were set on bbq-ing steaks. I re-supplied for the next few days (my mom's package made it here to the NOC, too - yay/thanks!) and got some cold meds. Then it was a lazy afternoon of snacking, figuring out the next stops, and then sitting by the river. Beautiful day (and a shame not to be hiking in it) and this place is quite nice. Worth a check out for anyone close by for sure. Another one or Xan's friends, Jessica, came up from Atlanta, and we all chatted while we watched the kayakers float by and the ducks beg for food. Nice and lazy...

Later, the steaks were cooked and we all ate heartily. Chats and giggles and then on to bed. Got food, got it organized, and ate today... And that's about it!!

TOMORROW, tho, shall be another story. First of all, it's uphill for a long while... I go from 1723 feet to the first shelter 7 miles away at 4330 feet. But then the summit is up higher at 5062 feet! And here's the kicker: it's supposed to thunderstorm at more than one point in the day. SO! If it's not raining when I wake up, I guess it's run and gun (with a fuuuulllll pack) to try to make it to the shelter before a storm. OR it's wait out the storm (if it's on early) and hike in the rain and hope it doesn't storm again... We will just have to wait and see... No one's really sure what's gonna happen.

I've just taken NyQuil and am hoping for a peaceful slumber in just a few. (I secretly wouldn't mind taking a second zero day, but I know I should get back to making progress...)

OH! And so my Spot tracker is NOT working properly. Aparently, it hasn't been sending a signal since the 18th. Boo. I called their service dept today, and it seems as tho I got myself a lemon. Looks like I will probably have to ship it back and get another sent to me up the line. Sorry about that! I was looking forward to tracking me too!

(this photo is upside down)

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Noc Way,Bryson City,United States

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day 9: Heading for a Zero

I pulled it a little too close on food this time. I guess I'm still figuring it all out with what exactly my body needs. It's tough starting out, too, when I didn't really start getting REALLY hungry till a few days ago. I rolled into Bryson City pretty hungry, with only 3 bullion cubes and salt/pepper... having spooned down the last 1/4 jar of peanut butter an hour and a half earlier... I suppose I should think about having an emergency bar or two in the bottom of my bag? Or did I just plan it out perfectly...? I'll figure it out... more snacks is probably the answer!

Made it to Bryson City! And the Natahala Outdoor Center!! I'm sooooo looking forward to my first zero day (no hiking) tomorrow. It wasn't freezing when we all woke up, so it was easier to get going. The boys left without breakfast at 7:30. I made tea and a breakfast shake and was out 15 mins later. Earliest start yet! And a beautiful morning. Lots of downhill and warm sun. I passed a few sleeping tents, but only saw a few people all day. Saw a beaver (or something like a beaver?) climb up a tree in absolute terror of me. And passed a school group that stared at me like I was either a monster or a celebrity... or a combo of the two. The last few hours had a really nice atmosphere that was almost like a rainforest. Birds chirping and lots of bright green everywhere. Including a HUGE tree that had fallen across the trail. Took a second to figure out how to get around it, but did.

Unless the boys stopped, I knew I wouldn't catch them. They didn't. So I didn't. Until we all reached the NOC in Bryson City. (I hiked the whole 16+ miles in my Crocs!) I checked in at the office, got some snacks, and then it was chow time at the restaurant! Tho we didn't eat more than one meal each (and 2 appetizers to share), it definitely felt like I ate a ton. Mc (Mitch/Mick) finally showed up and joined, then we all had a beer to celebrate the day. Then SHOWER and LAUNDRY! Feels good to be clean again. I hung out with the boys a bit, and one of Xan's friends from Atlanta drove up (took her 3 hours to cover MORE than we've done in 9 days?!) and then I've landed in my room to try to recover from this cold tonight. Should help that I'm inside and I'm a bed... and that I won't be hiking tomorrow. Heel should heal, too!

Wow, I'm up LATE!!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Noc Way,Bryson City,United States

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day 8: One week down, 21 to go?

Cold cold damp cold morning. But no rain. Took all my energy to get out of my sleeping bag. But one must. We were going to try to get 20 miles in, to make it to Bryson City by Thursday at 5pm. Joyce left first, then Mitch, then me (9:30), then Fields, then the boys (Xan and Brian) by 10. It really would be a LOT easier to start earlier if it wasn't sodamncold!

Good easy stuff in the morning, tho the blister on my right heel was starting to scream... Saw my first wildlife (other than squirrels, birds and bugs...) - a deer! I never saw Mitch or Joyce for the rest of the day, but Xan and Brian caught me by noon and passed on. My heel has slowed me down on the uphills, and I think I have a bit of a chest cold coming on. Fields caught me pumping water in the afternoon and we walked to the road that leads into Franklin. He would be spending the night there. Xan and Brian had lunched by the road, so we all said bye to Fields, not sure when/if we'd see him again.

Then we started up. It's amazing that the campsite we aimed for was a hundred feet higher than where we spent last night, but we have to go up-down-up-down-up-down to get there. The boys took off with their iPods on. Since the rain, my lungs felt only at half capacity, and so I was slower than usual on the uphills. My blister was getting worse as well... Before the last big hour and a half (2hrs?) of uphill, I decided to hike in my Crocs. Best idea ever! So much less pressure on my heel and not too bad to walk UP in. I stubbed my toes a few times, but it all turned out ok. Was wondering if I was ever going to catch up with the boys and told myself that if I didn't catch them by 7, I'd camp. After making it up to gorgeous Wiyah Bald (amazing views!!!) I caught them at the campsite! We did 20 miles!!! And we were all exhausted and in need of food. Cooked. Made a fire. Chatted. And now bed. We still have 16miles to go tomorrow to get to the hostel before 5pm. I think we can do it, no problem. I just hope there are still beds available..

Looking forward to another dose of shower and laundry! And my first zero day on Friday. Will relax aaaallllll day....

"Chuck Norris gives the AT blisters..."

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Noc Way,Bryson City,United States

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day 6-7: Farewell Georgia... Hello NC (mile 98.6)

Breakfast was a-freaking-mazing. Fresh pancakes with blueberry syrup, homemade cheese biscuits and gravy, eggs, sausage and orange juice. Also amazing was waking up in a warm bed with a pillow. All round, the Blueberry Patch was just what we all needed. Gary drove us into town to the post office and I finally got my solar charger!! Aw yeah - so technological now... Quick stop at a supermarket. (Mitch had caught up with us now and needed to re-supply) and then we were back on the trail... at 11:15. Late start, but we were fully fueled and ready to march.

Walking in the nice cool weather. And soon enough, we were at the Georgia/NC state line. Done with Georgia!! (which turned up the incline and didn't want to let us go.) 1 state down - 13 to go... Felt like good progress. We stopped for a snack (the boys both peed from one state to the other), and then we trucked on...

...for a whiiiiile. It ended up being a long day. 18 miles with a late start. We knew there was a chance of rain, so we made it to Standing Indian shelter and cooked up a warm meal. The temperature was dropping fast! Mitch showed up as we were cleaning up again, and we all goofed off until we fell asleep at 9:30 or so... Cold cold night! (maybe high 30s?) But my sleeping bag is doing the trick. Had to strip off a layer after a few hours. Sleeping in the poofy coat was just a bit much...

Woke up and it was still quite chilly and drizzling. Xan, Brian and I didn't want to move from our warm sleeping bags, so we stayed in them till almost 9. Tristan & Philip (son and father team) had tented and they were off early. William ("Fields") left next. Then Mitch. And finally us... Around 9:30. Walking helped the chill, but it continued to drizzle for most of the day. Finally tested out the Ike rain gear! Seems to work fine, tho I'm not sure I like the poncho vs a rain jacket...

I let the boys go on ahead since I think their pace is juuuust a bit too fast for me. But caught them for lunch at a shelter 7 miles down the road. Then we took off again for 6.5 miles to Big Springs shelter (mile 98.6!!) where we're all holed up now. HELL of a last .7 miles up Albert Mountain. Pretty much straight up. It started pouring soon after we arrived at the shelter, which was nice timing. Joyce, a 61 year old lady from Boulder, CO kept a good pace and is here, too. Mitch showed up 30 later. We all made dinner and tried to make cookies in Xan's jet boil pan with the roll or cookie dough Mitch brought up. Good, but not exactly cookies... Then Fields showed up drenched! Poor kid.

Bear bags are up and the temperature is down, and it's 7:30. Time for bed...? Looking forward to less rain tomorrow. Should be 60s and sunny.

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Cartoogechaye,United States

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Day 5: Shower!

So fresh and so clean clean... Writing in my bunk at the Blueberry Patch hostel outside Hiawasee, GA. It's amazing how much you can appreciate little things when you don't have them everyday!

Howly wind again atop another mountain. Guess it's gonna be like that... The group of 4 left about the same time, but Xan, Brian and I passed Mitch (he's still hobbly) and took off at a fast pace. We walk/talk/laugh well together and we did that for about 15 miles to Dick Creek Gap where we had to hitch out to the hostel 3.5 miles away. It was the first time attempting this for all three of us. We walked with a few cars zipping by for almost 2 miles (feet hurt) before an old pickup let us jump in the back. Best. Feeling. Ever.

Then we met Gary and Lenny (the wife) who run the hostel. Gorgeously nice and generous people, and a beautiful property. They have everything a hiker could need here, and whatever hikers don't need, they leave behind! So there is a huge medicine cabinet, toiletry basket, extra food box, extra gear box (found a bit of rope to replace mine) and they do our laundry! So I ran around in my rain gear for a bit. Old timer, Winston, and his buddy Koo showed up to stay the night as well. Gary said we could drive his Jeep into town if we wanted to, so Xan, Brian and I stopped at Rite Aid and then went for pizza! Delicious. The clothes were soon clean, and the boys went through their mail drop box. They had waaay too much food, so I got a few things, Winston/Koo got a few things, and a few things went into the extra food box. Everything is so clean and nice it'll be hard to go muck it all up again... And rain on tuesday maybe??

Should be a wonderful and huge blueberry pancake breakfast ready at 8:30 for us tomorrow... Then a quick stop into town again to pick up my things at the post office (solar charger!!!), and then we'll be back on the road again. Tomorrow night, North Carolina!!?!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Shooting Creek,United States

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Day 4: Trail Magic

The wind was howly in the night, and I was worried it was going to start pouring a few times. It didn't. But I slept badly. The earplugs went back in.

Up. Sunrise. Breakfast. Pack up. Walk. Lots of people out on the Saturday. Then I didn't see anyone for a while until inning into Brian and Xan again! I caught them!! Apparently I mustve been camping less than a mile away. Walked with them for a while. And then stopped to have a snack while they pushed on. Caught up to them again (they were taking breaks both times) and we ended up at the blue mountain shelter where Michael and Tender Toes were lunching. Chatted and then Mad Hatter joined (with a 51 lb pack?!!?!? He had a huge solar charger for his LAPTOP and other video accessories for video blogging etc. ) THEN former thru hiker Gangsta showed up on a weekend trip. She brought us trail magic!! (trail magic is what it's called when non-hikers bring food for thru-hikers. From grilling burgers to pass out or cold drinks and snacks...) She brought up over 6 cans of coke, a huge bag of cookies, apples, bananas, and offered to take all our trash down!! AND we got to ask questions and receive thru hiker knowledge. AND SHE HAD AN ADORABLE PUPPY WITH HER!!! So cute. It's was truely magical. And delicious! (not the puppy). We all were amped to press on...

After filling water and thanking Gansta many many times, all but Mad Hatter and Gansta and a new guy left to conquer Rocky Mountain. Which was rough. Xan led the charge at a fierce pace and we made it up in less than an hour. So proud of ourselves. The boys were originally not going to do it till the morning, but I wanted to get it over with before dinner. It all ended up well and it was a beautiful camp site. We set up and made dinner and Mitch/Mic showed up! He had a massive day (almost 23 miles?!) on his still-sore ankle, but it was good to see him again. He was still making dinner as the sun went down, but I have to bow out to sleep. This mountain took it out of me!

Tomorrow night, we sleep under a roof and shower!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Shooting Creek,United States

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 3: Neel Gap

It rained a bit in the night, but everything was dry in the morning. Beautiful sunrise over the distant mountains! Oatmeal for breakfast and then a slow clean/pack up before leaving at 8:25. Last one to leave again!!

So how do I feel?
Physically: good all round except for my ankle bones. No blisters amywhere (knock on tree), but I've got a bit of a rubbing problem on the outsides of both ankles. I taped O shaped cusions on them, but it didn't help. The morning was quite sore as they got warmed up, but by lunch I knew I had to modify my boots. I cut half dollar sized holes in the corresponding foam area in each boot. They are now designer. And they feel much better!! Not perfect, but tons better... We'll see how the ole ankle bones feel in the morning. Oh and my pack fits very well, except a little friction around the side belly area. So, I "butter down my muffin top" from time to time to help that.
Mentally: strong and alive. I feel very calm and in charge of this whole thing, and I think my luck with such excellent starting weather has helped a bunch. Great people to chat to when I want, and a lot of 'me' time to think about all sorts of things. It's good and I like it.

So, I have to stop in Hiawasee to pick up my solar charger (which didn't arrive in DC till the day I left! Thanks for sending, Leah!!). I realized yesterday that I wasn't going to make it there by Saturday at noon (when the P.O. closes), so now I can lollygag a bit to hit it up first thing Monday morning. I may even stay in town Sunday night! This will be good to slow me down a bit. I really shouldn't be pushing it now, but it's so hard not to sometimes.

Today I passed thru Neel Gap which houses a nice hostel with an outfitter famous for its "shake-downs." This is where a guy/gal who works there empties your ENTIRE pack and tells you what you don't need... Daunting, but they make it all about you knees and joints. Every extra pound in every step is extra pressure on your body multiplied by millions of steps... I wasn't sure I would do it, but a cool guy named Griz led me through it (and said that nothing is final - it's all just suggestions...) and he also showed me how to pack more efficiently. So, long story short, I took almost 5 lbs off my back and sent it home! (I hope I don't miss those things too much... ho hom...) Knees are happy tho!

Camping again tonight. First time alone. But it's a gorgeous spot with poofy grass. I've somehow managed to lose my bear bag rope (whoops!) but I was able to jimmy up a tree and tie it high enough. I'm sure it will be fine :)

(Oh and don't get too used to this daily entry business... Not sure how long it will last (especially since I don't have my charger yet!)). Down to 14%!!

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Wolf Laurel Top

Day 2: Hot and Sweaty

Slept with the earplugs. The Italian guy was all sorts of snoring, and then I could hear the mice scrambling around. I thought it better to remain oblivious (tho I did wake up to "something" moving around near my hair - blech). There were 4 of us in the shelter. Jack from Rockville (a little bit if home), very friendly John (retired from NM and had a slight volume problem when people were trying to sleep) and the Italian guy (who spoke very little English and wore BRIGHT purple pants). Four men over 50 and me! The others (Krystal & Jorge, Xan, Brian, Nick and Clay) all had tented in the surrounding camping area.

Most everyone was up by 6:30. I stayed down, thinking horizontally for another 30 mins before getting to it. I was one of the last ones to leave at 8:45 but ended up passing everyone on the trail except Brian and Xan who are camping here tonight too.

Another gorgeous day, but hotter. Lots of up and down but really pretty with the sun thru the trees. I realize that I talk outloud to myself a lot. And get songs stuck in my head. Yesterday was 'Love Hurts' and today was 'The Weight' by The Band and 'The Sweet Escape' by Gwen Stefani. Anyways... I was going to push thru and try for a 20 mile day, but then ran into Mason at Woody Gap and with the hills ahead, he and I both thought it may be best to just stop at the next campsite. Which was beautiful at the top of the hill!! Great views, and Brian and Xan were already set up. Mitch (the "sprained ankle guy" who twisted it on THE FIRST DAY!!!?!?) showed up (amazingly) about 1.5 hrs after. He's driven.

So we all had dinner and hung out, picking out shapes in the clouds and watching the sun go down. Really really nice. First night in the tent!! Should be nice and comfy/cozy. Oh? Do I hear small raindrops??

-- Posted from the trail...

Location:Big Cedar Mountain

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Day 1: Magical

Dad and I got up and had breakfast around 8:30, but didn't make it out of there till 9:30 or so. Bit of an adventure getting to Amicalola Falls State Park since my phone map didn't agree with the GPS which in turn didn't like what dad had printed out... BUT we made it and got checked in (I just wrote my name down in the notebook next to the date and my pack weight (it grew to 38lbs btw)) and then we followed the directions to springer mountain via car. I decided long ago that I wasn't going to do the 8.8mile uphill, non-AT approach trail... So the cruise was fine until we got to the forest service road that looked like it had been bombed. We drove anywhere from 4-16 mph for 6.5 miles. Glad it wasn't longer!

After a few photos, I got a last encouraging hug and was ON MY WAY!!! South... Yeah, I had to walk .9 miles south, uphill to the summit to reach the official southern terminus. But it was fine. Talked to Roger, the ATC guy who "lives" up there and he said I was the second DC person this year. Took a few more photos, then at about 3:20, I ACTUALLY BEGAN the 2175 mile trek! It was invigorating and surreal and there were TONS of things running thru my head.

The day was gorgeous. Couldn't have been better. I walked past babbling brooks and a waterfall and all the plants were beginning to bud. At times, it was like I was in Avatar.

I made it the 7.8 miles (8.7 if you include the doubleback) to Hawk Mountain shelter, where there were about 9 other people eating and setting up sleeping gear. Dinner was rice and jerky, and bedtime is now. Not too tired, but looking forward to sleeping in! It's been a while since I've gotten a full 8 hours... I think I may have to throw in the ole earplugs, tho, with the noise one of the older guys is snoring out already.

-- Posted from the trail...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The night before hiking...

The night before hiking
All through the hotel
A lady was typing.
A dream she did smell....

It's happening!!!

Jeanne, Me, Dad, Wendy outside O'Charley'sMy dad and I made it down to Cherokee, NC for an evening of comfy beds, a/c, and a hot shower in the morning. (Thanks dad, for driving the whole way!!) We stopped for lunch with Jeanne and Wendy (thanks again, ladies!) in Christiansburg, VA, and ran a few last-minute errands before heading back down I-40.

Funny story about I-40. About 13 years ago, my dad and I took off for a college-visiting trip around NC/Tenn during the summer. There was a huge rock slide on the highway with road closures and a way-out-of-the-way detour, so I took the map and plotted a path through the hills. Well, we ended up taking a tour of the hills for about 2+ hours, running low on fuel and the sun getting low. We had asked a few locals the way to go, and, well, after about an hour, we began to wonder if they had a different plan in mind for us city folk that didn't prioritize getting back to paved road. Luckily, they were right. The mountain road did end up taking us the right way, it just took a long long while.

So, today, we're cruising on I-40, and guess what happened last October... A rock slide! And the road was still not open. First one since 1997... Who would've thought!?! We avoided the mountain road this time and opted to ask for the best directions at the nearby welcome center. We ended up adding [only] an hour to the trip, but we got to see lovely Gatlinsburg, TN and ride through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park at sunset. Very pretty and a beautiful night.

We rolled into Cherokee around 8:40pm, checked in, then walked over to the big Harrah's casino across the street from the hotel for a fulfilling and satisfying all-you-can-eat buffet. (probably ate-too-much, but oh well... I'll walk it off.)

So, now... The final organization, re-pack, and bed/shower combo for a while. Still a couple hours to drive tomorrow, but I hope to be hiking ON THE REAL BIG BAD AT by 1pm. Can't believe all this planning and researching and dreaming and stress and talk and energy is finally reaching day one. And mile one.

Tomorrow will be a day I won't ever forget.

Done packing!

And ever so freakishly tired....

Maybe someday I'll learn that everything doesn't actually have to happen at the last minute.

Till then, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Monday, April 12, 2010

The final countdown!

Wow. So, I leave tomorrow... TOMORROW?! I'm physically ready, and my head is ready, but there's still a lot of STUFF to get through and organize. Why is it always the last minute?!?!!

Oh, well. I'm sure I'll get it done. It's not like I'm going to get much sleep tonight anyway, right? Big hugs and love to all my wonderful friends I got to see over the weekend. I'm going to miss you all madly and will think of you often.

Ok, off to do errands, packing, and trying to fully enjoy refrigerated food and drinks...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I'm Unemployed

And it's so much better than working! (minus the no-paycheck thing, of course...)

And the weather's so great! Well, crazy... Very hot... Way too hot for early April! Wait, it's only April!? It was 90 today! This is crazy...

This afternoon, I had what might be my last trip to REI today (I love it there), and it was bittersweet. Luckily, the store was empty (at 2:30 on a Tuesday - weird), and one of the staff members who had completed the AT a few years ago was there. Chris. VERY HELPFUL! I basically adopted him as my personal REI guy and together we walked each aisle going over every possible subject and questions about gaiters, socks, stuff sacks and solar chargers... (tho I did come up with a few more after I left.) He made sure I did not get the things I didn't need (love when "sales people" tell you NOT to get something), and ensured me that I was making the best decision EVER to attempt this thru hike. He had a fantastic experience and met amazing people and (despite 10 straight days of rain in New England) would do it again in a heartbeat if he could. Well, that sure made me smile.

Last bike ride out to Mt Vernon tomorrow morning! (and further procrastination from the hundreds of things I still need to do..........ugh)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

This beautiful weather NOT helping me stay inside and organize myself! All I want to do is get out in it and go crazy...

Tons of packing up to do, but once I get started, it will fly by, right?

Oh, by the way, I've added a link on the right that, when I'm on tracking mode, shows my GPS locations of the past 30 days on a map (it should be doing this anyways - let me know if it's not please!). My beloved office mates got me a SPOT locator for my farewell gift, and it has set quite a few minds at ease (mostly mom's - love you!). Pretty cool little device. Should work a bunch of places that my phone won't, and it's got an emergency services call button, too.

(I guess it makes me feel a little safer as well...)