Grayson Highlands

Date: April 19th
Day: 39
Miles from Springer: 542.7
Miles to Katahdin: 1646.5
Morale: 5/5

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Grayson Highlands state park was the most beautiful section of trail so far. Not only were there bald summits and views, but there were feral ponies everywhere you looked. We ascended Mount Rodgers (the highest point in Virginia) in the rain and fog. There were no views to be had, and we were worried that we were going to miss one of the most sonic sections of the entire A.T. The next morning, we were treated with amazing views above the clouds. It was the start to a wonderful day of views.

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The stretch from Damascus to Atkins (where I am writing from now) included the famous partnership shelter. It is a two story shelter with showers and pizza hut delivery. There were lots of hikers there, and we had a blast. We made the easy twelve miles into town in time to get lunch at The Barn resturant. The lunch was okay, but the dessert was delicious. It was hot fudge cake, two pieces of warm cake with ice cream in the middle and whipped cream on top.

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QOTP: “A journey is best measured in friends rather than miles.” -Tim Cahill

I hear that train a coming….

Date: April 14th
Day: 34
Miles from Springer: 468.8
Miles to Katahdin: 1717.1
Morale: 5/5

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The has been a wonderful week. Every week is wonderful out on the trail, but this week has probably been the best so far. Shay and I met up with another group of hikers and we have formed a little team. We all hike together because our paces are so similar and fly by other hikers all day. One group of day hikers that we passed remarked that we were like a locomotive charging through the woods. We have since adopted that as our team trail name.

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We have been having a great time together. In addition to meeting some new friends, the terrain has been the most beautiful on the trail so far.

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Not only have we had great days hiking, but also great nights camping. Two nights ago we pitched our tents in a pasture with 360 degree views. It was a great spot and a wonderful night.

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Last night we all stayed in a teepee at Woodchucks hostel. It was a pretty nice teepee, and a cool experience. Woodchuck had it custom made with A.T. logos and white blazes all over it.

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North Carolina and Tennessee were very good to us, however I am looking forward to all that Virginia has to offer.

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I am writing from Damascus where I am taking another zero day. It is a great little trail town that was worth spending some time in. I got some new shoes and socks at the outfitter, and had the best burrito of my life at Hey Joe’s Mexican resturant. It has been getting harder and harder to find good internet, and I hope I can continue doing these posts as often as I like. I actually had to do this post three times because the internet crashed. Until next time, happy trails!

The Great Snowy Mountains

Date: April 1st
Day: 21
Miles from Springer: 274.8
Miles to Katahdin: 1914.4
Morale: 5/5

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It’s been awhile since I posted last, and a lot has happened since then. As you can see by the stats up above, I now have less than two-thousand miles to go until I reach Katahdin. In addition, I have completed more than ten percent of the trail. Both were great milestones, and were also great reminders of how long a walk it really is.

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My last post was from the glorious little town of Franklin North Carolina. This post is from the even more spectacular town, Hot Springs North Carolina. The state line sign up above is misleading, because for the last week or so the trail has been following the NC/TN border, and it will continue to do so outside of Hot Springs. Which state I’m in really depends on which foot is down, however I like the state line signs and will have a picture with each.

Today I took my first “zero” day, a day where zero miles are hiked. It was a great break, but I am already ready to start walking again. I spent the day eating at the various restaurants, and actually spent an hour soaking in the natural mineral springs which Hot Springs is named for. It was well worth the ten dollars.

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So, down to business. There is a lot of catching up to do. The walk from Franklin to the Nantahala Outdoor Center was rather uneventful, however I did enjoy my peanut butter and honey flatbread from Wayah Bald, and took in some great views. I also met up with some new friends at the shelter that night. Blaze (a Mainer), D.G., Pacemaker, and Sonic. Shay and I have been with these guys (minus Sonic) ever since. (I met Shay on the shuttle to Springer and we have pretty much been together since day one) Sonic is planning to finish the trail in ninety days, so he is many miles ahead at this point, however he was super cool and we wish we could have hung out with him longer.

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The day after leaving the N.O.C., we had some spectacular views from above the clouds. Shay and I stopped for a snack to take it all in. Although we are at the same campsite almost every night, it is rare that two people actually walk together all day, given the different paces and break schedules. I generally walk alone all day, maybe see a few people I know, and then we all meet up at the shelter that night.

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From the NOC we walked to Fontana Village (there are a few nights spent in the woods between all of these locations). I was going to do a post from Fontana, however there was no service there, a common theme found throughout the Smokies. The sunset view from the Fontana Hilton shelter is pictured above (it is know as the Hilton because it sleeps twenty, and has showers and a bathroom). From Fontana we entered Great Smoky Mountain National Park, where all of the real excitement happened.

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My first few nights in the smokies were great, there was great company, and the weather was nice. One day the weather was so nice that we all did an unplanned twenty-three mile day (my longest yet by far). It was so beautiful and sunny out, and the trail was so easy that we just kept walking, even past dark. The picture above is from our sunset hike, and if you look closely you can see rain in the distance.

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The night after the twenty-three miler brought snow. It was only a dusting, just enough to make the trail wet and the mountains look spectacular. The following night however, temps dropped to fifteen degrees at 5555 feet where we were camped. Because the shelters in the smokies are at such high elevation, they are all stone and have fireplaces inside.

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Licer made us all a fire (pictured above) (it was a team effort where we all gathered wood) and I slept warm in my fifteen degree sleeping bag. Others got chilly in their colder bags, but it was not that bad for sleeping. Camping in the cold however is a different story. It pretty much sucks. Numb hands and frozen shoes are just two of the many complications. The good news is that we got about five inches of snow that night.

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The snow made for soft walking and beautiful scenery when it cleared up.

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Unfortunately for them, most of the people I was hiking with got off at Newfound Gap to go to Gatlingburg, TN. I was the only one from my crew who was at elevation when it snowed. I met Licer,  Arch, and Gangrene up there, and had plenty of company, but in my opinion the other guys missed out (all though I also missed out on a great time in Gatlingburg). I slowed my pace down so that when we reached the end of the smokies in a few days they had caught back up.

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We all stayed at Standing Bear Hostel, which is just outside of the Smokies. In the shower was this cool bottle wall with the A.T. logo. The place was very rustic, however it was a great hostel and we had a superb time.

Another thing about the were the bears. Although I didn’t see a bear, Shay did and signs like this were posted all around the shelters:

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It was comforting to sleep with this sign hanging just outside the shelter. I thought a bear sanctuary was bad, but this is a whole other level. This brings us to our QOTP: “Always respect Mother Nature. Especially when she weighs four hundred pounds and is protecting her baby”-James Rollins

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Well this has been a terribly long post, and I’m the future I will update more often. It is very difficult in remote areas like the Smokies to get any blogging done. My next stop is Erwin, TN and I plan to post from there with more. I leave you with a picture of peanut butter pie which I enjoyed at the Smoky Mountain Diner today. It is advertised as the best in North Carolina and possibly the world. Hot Springs sure has been nice, but it’s time to put down some miles. AdiĆ³s!