Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trail Journal 04.30.05

Last day at Peyton's and Carol's.  Early morning.  Rain falling steadily.  Glad I'm not out walking in it but come a few days and I will be walking, rain or shine.  I'm ready to go--it's time to be walking again but I have very much enjoyed the break.  Peyton and I canoed a stretch of the Rockfish River, visited Gordon Kerby  Richmond and, with Carol, met Bev Carver for dinner in Staunton last night.  We're supposed to join a canoe race on the Tye River today but rain may cancel that plan.  Peyton will shuttle me to Pennsylvania tomorrow and I start walking north from Boiling Springs the following day.  I'm pretty sure I'll have company.  May is a good mothe to hike in the mid-Atlantic states so I expect to see section hikers and even a few thru-hikers, especially toward the end of my southbound leg.  Some thru-hikers are already to Rockfish Gap.  I met Bommerang and Day Tripper at the  Kroger's supermarket in Waynesboro on Monday and gave a ride to Shorts on Thursday.  Saw about five tents in the city park that day, too.  I am mostly prepared to hike alone--looking forward to it actually--but will welcome any company I find.  Pat Doyle and Bev Carver plan to join me for the last 16 miles of the walk into Duncannon so I will have friends with me for he final miles and the "summit" moment of my Appalachian Trail hike.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Trail Journal 04.28.05

I'm wearing "civilian" clothing again.  My hiking garb is not your standard street wear, although my parka and fleece anorak are pretty standard for me these days.  The nylon windpants, hiking socks and sandals certainly set me apart from my fellow Greyhound travelers the other day.  In trail towns like Erwin and Hot Springs I am set apart from normal people by my shorts and polypro shirt.  But not here.  Today I have real clothing--jeans, underwear and shirt.  Still don't have regular shoes but the other items camouflage that lack.  It's very nice to feel normal (and clean) for a few days.

The bus ride from Johnson City wasn't too bad--just long.  Got to the station two hours early.  Not much to do there.  The station agent offered me coffee.  Had snow showers all morning but nothing serious.  (It was enough to keep Montreal and Kutsa at the motel for another day.  As many hikers as could afford to also stayed, I am sure.  Those who could not walked.) Made stops in Kingsport, Bristol, and Wytheville, which was also a meal stop at a fast food place.  It was cold with a biting wind.  Saw a white blaze where the AT passes under I-81 at Atkins, Virginia and the back of the Village Motel where I stayed a night in 2002.  Changed buses in Roanoke.  The station was dark and noticeably the one in Johnson City and had no food service.  Not much for a city that is a major hub of the Shenandoah Valley. Just north of the Troutville exit I saw a white blaze where the AT crosses I-81 as it heads toward the Blue Ridge.  The bus swung into Buchanan and Buena Vista looking for passengers.  Found none but it was fun seeing the towns.  Peyton and Carol were waiting for me in Staunton when I arrived, saving me from having to wait in that cold wind.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Trail Journal 04.26.05

Transitioning to Pennsylvania at friend Peyton Coyner's place in Nelson County, Virginia.  Very, very pleasant.  Pace here is leisurely but active.  Made a birthday card for Maggie using Peyton's rubber stamps.  Bought supplies and figured my itinerary for Pennsylvania yesterday.  Today, I canoed a nine mile stretch of the Rockfish river with Peyton.  We took a chainsaw and cleared two major obstacles.  One other obstacle was beyond us--two large trees had fallen across the river, one form each side.  We cleared some of the small branches that were sweeping the water.  The trunks were about three feet above water--fast water--but Peyton ran us trough as we ducked.

Now I'm sitting on a bench by the little spring on his property, one of many sources for the Rockfish.  The bench is perfect for sitting and contemplating.  Sky is mostly clear with some clouds.  The sun is warm, the air pleasantly cool.  Steady wind. Contemplating this trip so far, I am glad to be doing it.  Hiking with Montreal and Kusta was fun.  Kutsa has a will of iron; she can hike even when she doesn't want to.  Montreal is generous and enthusiastic, willing to make the effort to do what he wants.  Kutsa told me before we parted that, had I not been hiking with her north of Hot Springs, she would have turned around  She said she was glad I was there to keep her going.  So am I.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Trail Journal 04.24.05

Sunday morning,  Johnson City, Tennessee Greyhound bus station.  Snow has been falling on and off all morning.  I'm now apart from the thru-hikers.  I miss their company but it's not quite the same as cutting loose in '02.  These hikers are not my trail family; I lack the intimate connection that comes only with shared experience.  I know their experience because it's similar to my own three years ago but it's also different.  Even without that connection, the 2005 thru-hikers are a lively, fun group.  The energy and activity level this morning at the Holiday Inn and at Miss Janet's make the quiet at this bus station seem like a tomb.  This year's thru-hikers remind me very much of 2002.  I see the same characters and styles but displayed differently.  I shared Bald Mountain Shelter with four long mileage types who walked 19 miles that day.  I've met ad hoc groups that have become semi-permanent.  There are hard partiers and hikers who seem to stay in one place working to finance their next leg.  They were on the trail in 2002.  They are back again this year.

Names:  Colorado & Marshmallow, Red Hat, Blaze & Dreadi Bear, New Hampshire, Rambler, Thirsty Boots (also in 2002), Butterfly Moon, Sunshine, Souleman & Brownie, KTR, Mr. Clean Senior, Mr. Clean Junior.  Green Man (also in 2002), Jakebrake & Low Gear (also in 2002), Phoenix, 3V, Rhino.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Trail Journal 04.23.05

Back in Erwin on a cold, wet day.  Came into town in the rain.  Not hard but steady.  Much colder.  Had a thunderstorm last night.  Felt good to be dry and warm with thunder and rain all around me.  Managed to pack up and get into the shelter before this morning's storm.  Even so, my gear was damp.  Walked well  and comfortably in the cold rain.  Pretty sure I could set up and be dry again tonight if I had to. Instead, I'm in town.  Showered.  Fed.  Dry.  Almost laundered.

Evening.  Walk in this am was in the clouds.  Fog and rain over and down from No Business Knob.  No view of the Nolichucky Valley until we are well down.  Cold, biting wind.  Rain steady, off and on, not hard.  Good day to move.  Still I cannot but stop and wonder at the magnificent forest that I am, for a moment, a part of.  It is here, in this place that I find my soul, the eternity of which I am a fleeting part.   Trail today was good, even though wet.  Easy walking.  Lots of hikers came off the trail today.  From Sam's Gap.  From Devils Fork Gap.  From Iron Mountain Gap.  Weather is turning cold with snow in the forecast.  Hikers walked into the Holiday Inn Express all afternoon.  The place is probably three-quarters hikers tonight. Sort of like a Miss Janet's where everybody gets their own room.

Tonight is my last night with Montreal and Kutsa.  It's been grand fun walking with them.  Despite what they call their "slowness" they walk a good pace.  We averaged over 10 miles per day from Hot Springs.  The pace is good for me--I don't feel like I must race anyone on this trip.  Traveling with "the horde" of thru-hikers sometimes leaves me thinking I need to beat them for tent space or a bunk or whatever but I can't so I don't try.  I just live with the flow as best I can.  But mostly, this hike has been a chance to renew a fond acquaintance and meet new thru-hikers.  And it's certainly fulfilled its promise.  I've enjoyed my time here in Georgia, Carolina, and Tennessee.  I am looking forward to Pennsylvania.  I know I will miss all these hikers.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Trail Journal 04.22.05

Morning trail climbs and follows a ridge.  The land tilts steeply down to the left.  The trail is a narrow embankment on this steep slope.  Surface is good, mostly.  Lots of roots in places.  I can see thick muscled tentacles reaching through the soil.  Last night's thunderstorm cleansed the aire and land.  The forest smells clean and moist.  A river of fog fills the valley below and the ridges beyond.  Gray-white banks still hang on the higher ridges and spill into the narrow valleys.  Sunny and warm now.

After dinner.  Tenting an No Business Knob Shelter, the first site were I pitched my now well-used tent.  I am in the same spot as in 2002, this time with Montreal and Kutsa camped nearby.  Had an afternoon thunderstorm--a little hail, even--that lasted most of the way from Spivey Gap where we ate lunch to the sound of thunder.  We made most of the climb out of Spivey before the rain hit.  Walked the rest of the way in raingear.  No stops.  Made the shelter by 3:00.  Set up tent in the rain.  It got a wet a bit in the process but I dried it out and got into warm, dry clothes. 

I'm happy to be warm and dry in my tent here tonight.  The sky has cleared considerably since I arrived.  Drops still fall on my tent but I'm pretty sure that's dripping from trees, not sky.  If the clouds clear, I bet it will turn cold.  Lots of people on the trail, all making for Miss Janet's.  Thru-hikers are now seasoned and wary.  They know that being town costs money.  They are aware of deadlines and time constraints.  But in many respects, a thru-hike at this stage is still a party.  Up to Damascus.  After Trail Days in Damascus comes Bland (County) days.  The party ends in southwest Virginia.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Trail Journal 04.21.05

Late evening on Bald Mountain.  Last rays of the setting sun highlight the bare trees.  Had a clear day across Big Bald.  Thunderstorms were in the distance but none nearby.  The rumbling thunder and stiff wind kept me moving.  I did not linger.  The sky was dark to the sourth, giving the land a stark silhouetted look.  The bald itself is open and grassy.  The trail leading to and from is thickly carpeted with a small white flower, its petals spread wide.  Now in the evening they are closed for the night.  I am sitting on the trail just south of the shelter.  The forest is open.  Great logs in various states of decay lie scattered across the forest floor.  Some are mere mounds, almost completely absorbed into the earth.  Others are moss-covered skeletons.  Moss is everywhere, on the decaying logs, on the ground, on tree bark.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Trail Journal 04.20.05

We resupply in Erwin.  Sam's Gap is old Route 23 passing under a freeway.  The convenience store is closed.  We tried hitching at the truck pull-out on the freeway to no avail.  From the freeway I spotted a car on the old road dropping off backpackers and beat feet down there.  The driver was dropping her dad off and gave us a ride to Miss Janet's House where we've been holed up ever since.  Lots of hikers here.  Lots of chaos.  Hikers in.  Hikers out.  Many kilts, which are more colorful this year than 2002, various plaids rather than the earth tones I saw before.  Miss Janet herself is a dynamo, somehow managing all this hubbub without totally freaking out.  She fixes a great breakfast so I know we'll not be making an early start tomorrow.  Talked to Maggie a couple of times since I arrived.  Tomorrow we walk out into scattered thudershowers and rain.  And still, I am happy to be on the trail.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Trail Journal 04.18.05

Finished the Carolina-Tennessee missing miles at Devils Fork Gap this morning, an easy walk from last night's camp.  8.9 miles today.  Generally easy but the hike out of the gap was steep.  Made it to Hogback Ridge Shelter ahead of the horde that left Hot Springs on Saturday.  Scrubbed off four days' dirt with warm water and a bandana.  Luxury.  Followed a stream out of Boon Cove Road and passed a beautiful waterfall.  The woods were much greener on the stretch of trail.  Passed the graves of Joe Riddle (1877-1967) and Dorothy Hensley (1865-1965, two days shy of 100) and the ruins of an abandoned homestead justabove the graves.  The homestead is along the creek in a wonderfully cool setting.  Lots of wildflowers since Hot Springs.  Tiny wild iris.  The four petaled bluet which is the palest violet, almost white.  A small, five-petal white flwer was visible in carpets yesterday.  Looked like snow.  Around me now at the end of the day are any leaflesss trees.  If I  look carefully, I can see man buds.  Looking into the woods, green is evident everywhere.  Spring is slowly edging up the mountain.  Yesterday's flowers and today's waterfall were moments of serene joy.  Their beauty overwhelms all the pain and suffering of a hike. 

Tomorrow?  Resupply at Sam's Gap or Erwin?

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.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Trail Journal: 04 April 2005

Camped at Stover Creek shelter on the first night of my AT "make up" hike.  Walked a blistering 2.5 miles today--only 1.5 miles with a pack.  My brother Neil drove me up from Atlanta to Forest Road 42, about a mile north of Springer Mountain summit.  Getting there took a bit of route finding--Neil's DeLorme Atlas software plotted out a rather strange route--but after asking for directions at a store, we found the road.  Walked south with Neil and dog, Greta, to the the summit, touched the AT plaque, came back to the vehicle, and started walking solo with pack.  It was easy walking--much more so than 2002.  Feels strange to be here on my own--no Red and Gary, no Maggie like last time, just me and other hopeful hikers.