Friday, April 17, 2015

Trail Journal 04.17.05

Long day.  12.6 miles across a high ridge.  Beautiful views of Carolina mountains to the eas.  Tennessee piedmont and valley (Tennessee River?) to the west.  Morning was best.  I walked into the cold light of morning under bare trees.  The trail climbed immediately from camp, following a narrow corridor defined by trees and undergrowth.  Cold light is reflected from delicate branches.  Saw a deer and watched a giant earthworm slowly eating into the soil, its long body slowly pulling itself along section by section. 

Walked up to the fire tower on Camp Creek Bald.   The Mountaintop hums with the electromagnetic power of a vast, sinister force and its signal towers which share the bald with the tower.  The fire tower observation deck is ringed with razor wire.  Took five hours to cover the first seven miles.  Had great views in all directions from rocky, exposed trail across Blackstack Cliffs(?).  Afternoon went faster--six miles in three hours.  Walked across the bald on Big Butt, a beautiful meadow on top of the world.  Nice, long downhill into a V-shaped gap.  Short uphill and I'm in at Flint Hill Shelter.  Woods are quiet with background chirping and buzzing of thousands of insects.  A dog barks occasionally in the distance.  Kutsa hiccuped.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Trail Journal 04.16.05

Good walking today.  Sunny and cool in the morning.  Warm in the afternoon.  Hot in places.  The sun really burns through the bare trees.  Had good shade among the rhododendrons and hemlocks, though.  Descended to Adams Gap in the AM.  Climbed to Little Laurel Shelter in the PM.  Made good time despite spending an hour eating homemade stew and ice cream cake at the home of Fal and Hercules, two 1999 thru-hikers who now live just off the trail at Adams Gap.  The food was great!  Covered 12 miles in 8 hours including the lunch stop.  I was as much as I wanted to hike today.  Afternoon was a zombie hike for me.  Mentally I was asleep after the great meal.  Physically I was walking on autopilot.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Trail Journal 04.15.05

Back on the trail north of Hot Springs, NC with Montreal and Kutsa.  They turned up in Hot Springs last night just as Maggie and I had given up hope of connecting with them.  Today we walked out together after saying good-bye to Maggie at the French Broad River.  It's great to be with them and to rejoin the trail community.  I'm the odd man out this year since I've not shared the trail with the many thru-hikers I've met.  But I am friends with Montreal and Kutsa who are part of this year's community. 

Finding my two friends in Hot Springs was as much of a joy as them showing up at White House Landing in Maine after we had parted for what we thought was the last time in 2002 in New Hampshire.  We climbed a lot today, took a long lunch by a small pond and found a campsite just under a ridge where we witnessed  a glorious orange sunset behind purple mountains.  We walked up deep ravines whose slopes descended into darkness.  We walked through sunny, leafless forest and cool rhododendron shaded grottoes.  So much to write about:  Asheville, the Bon Paul and Sharkey Hostel,  magic in Hot Springs but it's too late for today.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Trail Journal: 04.12.05

Fourth day off the trail.  Been off as long as I was on the trail and written nary a word.  A brief recap is in order.

On Friday, April 8 I woke up to overcast skies but no rain.  Not as foggy as yesterday.  Took my time getting out of camp--only one of the 14 people who spent the night was still at the shelter when I left.  Saw no reason to bolt out since I was only four miles shy of Neels Gap and didn't need to be there till noon.  When I finally started walking it felt good.  Climbing Blood Mountain went quickly.  The view from the top was grand--ridges, peaks, valleys and cloud filled sky in all directions.  View south was intimate with lots of ridges under a high ceiling.  I could see the occasional clearing and building but mostly I saw the gray-brown mass of mountain.  The view north was more dramatic.  Clouds dominated, covering the peaks, filling the valleys.  Blood Mountain shelter sits on the peak in the lee of a massive stone outcrop.  The shelter is stone construction and has two rooms.  One room has a filled-in fireplace.  The other room has a couple of windows with no shutters so part of the floor is wet.  The shelter feels drafty.  Don't think anyone was here last night. The mountaintop is solid rock and a bit slippery on this wet morning.  Day seems to be trying to clear up with only mixed success.  At least it's not raining.  I hear traffic long before I reach the gap at noon. 

Maggie is not here yet but plenty of hikers are.  I grab a quick shower at Mountain Crossing and Maggie arrives about the time I finish.  We load up to head for Asheville.  A hiker named Forever North is trying to get back to Amicalola Falls with his Springer Spaniel.  It's out of the way but we give him a ride anyway.  He seems to be in a permanent hiking mode, now heading to Davenport Gap to work the season at Mountain Momma's.  After dropping him off we head for Asheville in intermittent rain.  We pick up a couple of thru-hikers at Winding Stair Gap and drop them  off at a motel in Franklin, NC.  We reach Asheville around 9:00 pm.  Friends Shelly and Shannon are out but Maggie has a key to their place.  We feed the dogs, soak in the hot tub and go to sleep.

On Saturday we go out for  breakfast with Shelly in West Asheville, run errands and do laundry.  That evening we eat pizza and drink been at a local movie house.  A few days later I am browsing in an outdoor store and mention to the clerk that I am making up missed miles from my 2002 thru hike and learn that one of his co-workers is Kali-Frodo, one of the group that was with Red, Gary and me on Katahdin at the end of our 2002 hike.  She and her trail partner, Polish Ninja, join Maggie and me for dinner.

The next stage of my hike starts in Hot Springs, NC.  I'm planning to meet Kutsa and Montreal, my partners for much of the 2002 hike, there and walk with them to Erwin, TN.  I haven't located them since I've been in Asheville not entirely sure if I will.  Maggie and I head for Hot Springs. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Trail Journal: 04.07.05

Twelve mile day to Woods Hole shelter in the rain and fog.  Rain started last night.  Morning was wet and foggy.  Woods were very ethereal.  Trail very muddy.  Mostly mist starting out until Woody Gap when rain started falling in earnest, whipped by a strong wind that sounded at times like a locomotive.  Between the rain and sweat I was pretty wet but I just kept moving.  Stopped only to water up and load food into my pockets to eat on the move.  Covered the 12 miles in six hours of steady walking.  No views at all today.  Only a little gunfire.  Just glad to be in the shelter now, dry and warm.  Raining like hell now with thunder and lightning.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Trail Journal: 04.06.05

Pulled into Gooch Gap shelter around 12:30--so much easier walking than 2002.  Just took my time and got here without much effort.  Starting to cloud up so I guess the rain is coming in.  Good to be under a roof to sleep and cook if it does rain.  Trail today was lots of up and down, just as I remembered, but this time I didn't have to contend with Maggie's increasingly painful knees.

Woods are open and sunny.  Some green is pushing up from the forest floor.  The hemlocks and pines add a bit more greenery but he overall color is gray and brown.  Heard some gunfire and saw a chopper today but not like yesterday when I saw several Blackhawks and heard automatic weapons fire well into the night.  Shelter is filling up--everybody wants to get in ahead of the rain.

Later:  Everything's done now, dinner and sketching.   A little light left and time to kill.  Lots of people on the trail in this prime hiking season.  I've met Wilderness Bob, Gypsy Eagle, Fig, Just Visiting, KG, Josh, Loose Goose, Elf and Cait so far.  Lots of company for this solo hike.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Trail Journal: 04.05.05

Easy, easy day.  Walked five miles and am in by 12:30 at Hawk Mountain shelter.  My memory of this section from 2002 are not nearly as gentle.  Maybe because we walked a longer day that year and Maggie's knees began hurting.  Today started off cool with some clouds by mid-morning the sky cleared and it's been sunny and breezy ever since.  Lots of company at Hawk Mountain today: the two women I met last night at Stover Creek are here along with two retired Green Berets and a couple of young section hikers from Atlanta.  Another eight or ten hikers stopped in before continuing on.  I'm sure others will pull in before nightfall.  I'm camped much closer to the shelter tonight than last night so I expect the evening to be highly social.  That's been pretty much  I've been doing for the past three hours.

Being back on the AT is exciting.  So many memories come back to me here:  meeting Kutsa, Sylvain and Medicine Man playing chess on a homemade board, sleeping with Maggie on the upper deck.  The trail looks vaguely familiar and some places I recognize--Long Creek Falls in particular and some of the road crossings.  Walking today was easy, covered five miles in just over three hours.  I was in no hurry.  Saw a few Blackhawk helicopters flying around and heard artillery from the Army base at Dahlonega.

The early morning woods were suffused with light reflecting off rhododendron leaves.  Buds are forming and some greenery is starting to push through the forest duff.  It's spring.  I'm on the trail and all things seem possible.