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Appalachian Trail, 2009 Summary

June 26th, 2009 No comments

Total miles of AT hiked, 2009: 164.9
Total miles of AT to date: 339.8 (roughly 15%)
Total miles of AT remaining: 1836.4
Estimated number of years to finish: 10 (at 175/year)

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 15 (River Rd, Erwin TN)

June 25th, 2009 No comments

River Rd (Erwin, TN)
Miles hiked: 11.2
Altitude: 1700’
Sammy and I got up early, at a little breakfast (again sharing with Sammy) and packed up.  I took a little walk farther up the road.  I guess I should have looked last night as there was a full well used picnic area with privy and all.  I could have put the tent up on the soft grass.  Anyway, I headed down (actually up) the trail.  There were some short up hills but the last few miles to Erwin were all downhill.  I met some nice folks along the way including some young guy who seem to be lost.  I got him going the right direction and we hike all the way down to Erwin together.  I stopped at Uncle Johnny’s hostel  1) because the guy I was hiking with was going to say there and 2) to get directions to the Holiday Inn Express.  Johnny thought it was odd that I would ask him for directions to a different hotel/hostel when I could just stay there.  I had to explain to them that I was at the end of my journey and my car was there before they stopped giving me funny looks.  They ended up giving me a ride to my car a few miles down.  The hotel let me use a shower for $20 which felt real good.  I made a few phone calls and found a shelter that would take Sammy (who was tied up outside at this time).  I found the shelter and dropped off Sammy.  In talking to the person there, I guess it is not uncommon for unwanted dogs to be dropped off anywhere.  They did not expect anyone to claim Sammy.  There would be a review and if Sammy was adoptable (and she was) they would hold her for 90 days.  After which they would see if there was a she could be place in rescue shelter.  If not, they might have to put her down.  I knew the kids would have a fit if that happened so I left my name and number and told them that if she was not adopted, to call me and I might have to arrange to come get her.  I stopped at the local Sonic had a nice greasy burger and was on my way home.  It has been a fun two weeks and I look forward to next year.  Perhaps I’ll drag my kids with me next year.

Nice view as I approach Erwin:

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Looking down at Erwin:

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Last blaze for this year, first for next!

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Sammy at shelter (sad!)

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 14 (Spivey Gap)

June 24th, 2009 No comments

Spivey Gap
Miles hiked: 15.8
Altitude: 3200’
What a great day to hike.  Best so far and it couldn’t get any better.  I had short hike up and then down all the way till I met interstate 29.  I took about 2 hours.  I29 is called Sam’s Gap.  From Sam’s Gap, to Big Bald is a 1700’ climb over 2 miles and not a lot breaks in between.  About 1 mile in, I noticed a dog in the trail.  After carefully making sure it wasn’t going to take a bite out of me, I approached it and gave it a pat on the head.  He was friendly and started to follow me (I soon realized it was a “she”).  I tried to shoo her away but she kept following.  I finally gave up and let her follow thinking she would give up at some point.  But no, she followed me all day.  After a few miles I figured I’d better not leave her in the woods and planned on taking her with me to Erwin where I would find a shelter for her.  Perhaps her owners are looking for her.  I name her Sammy after the gap where I found her.  So Sammy and I continued up to Big Bald.  What a view.  360?!  Warn, sunny, it could not get any better.  I took all my damp clothes out and laid them out to dry.  At a little lunch and put my pack under my head took a short rest.  I spent about 2 hours there.  I talked to a few locals who it seems have access up the dirt road because they live in the Wolf Laurel Ski Community.  I guess the developers gave the land to the AT with the exception that the community can continue to have access.  I was packing this up to leave when a big family showed up in their big SUV.  They were having a picnic there.  They had a dog and it turns out Sammy was in heat.  They complained to me to keep Sammy at bay.  I only had a short string on Sammy and I explained to them that Sammy was not really my dog…  Anyway, I thought it was best to hurry out of there.  They were nice enough to offer me a BIG slice of ice cold watermelon.  It was like the best thing I had to eat in a week.  With a big GRIN, I thanked them and Sammy and I were on our way.  It was so nice on top that I thought about camping there but decided that it might get cold and windy at night and the shelter a few miles down would be better.  The shelter was not quite what I expected.  It was messy and full of trash.  And besides, there was no one else there and being late in the afternoon, I didn’t expect anyone.  I decided to press on 4 more miles to Spivey Gap to make the day tomorrow shorter.  I heard what sounded like a bear on the way down but I did not see him.  Sammy took a good chase however.  I got to Spivey Gap at 6pm and took the .3 mile hike up to a picnic area.  While it is a state park, it does not seem to be used often.  I set my tent up to old cement moss covered picnic table and started a fire.  I prepared one of my larger meals and gave ½ to Sammy.  I have seen a few cars traveling up the road not sure to where.  Sammy is sleeping outside the tent, snoring with her back up against the side wall against me.  I’ll get up early and be in Erwin by noon.  I hope I can find a nice place for Sammy.  I could bring her home to Wisconsin but she seems well trained and I’m guessing belongs to someone.

Single bunch of prairie grass?

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Trail Worker:

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Sammy and Me on Big Bald:

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 13 (Hogback Ridge Shelter)

June 23rd, 2009 No comments

6-23-2009
Hogback Ridge Shelter
Miles hiked: 14.7
Altitude: 4255’
Got up to the sun for the first time in a while.  I hoped it would last all day (it did).  Started with a good hike through some very wet fields so my boots got soaked again.  We got off before the Boy Scouts got up.  Oh yea, the Boy Scotts.  They showed up late last night.  They are heading off to meet another group in the middle of their hike to do some AT trail work and get a Merit Badge.  While they camped a bit down the trail, they ate at the shelter.  We had a great time watching them try and start a fire.  Arguing back and forth, trying anything they thought would burn (OK some stuff was wet), it was a gas!  After an hour or so they had only managing to get a little smoke gave up (leaders cooked dinner using gas).  I would have offered them some fire starter but that wouldn’t have been as much fun.  We came across some trail workers.  They were waiting for the Boy Scout to give them their assignments.  We worked our way down to Flint Shelter following what was mostly an old road.  Here we met up with Rob and Max eating lunch.  They only had 3 miles to go before reaching the cross road where they were being picked up.  Al decided that he would also get off the trail there.  Al had some business issues at home that he needed to attend to and thought that getting off a few days early would help things.  Al and I headed down the last 3 miles to the road where he called to get a ride back to his car.  I tended to my now sore feet and dried some damp things out in the nice warm sun.  Max and Rob followed behind us as I was getting ready to take off on my own.  I hadn’t hiked alone since last year but my mind was more on the 1500’ climb I had in front of me over the next two miles.  It took longer than I expected to reach the shelter.  I was wondering if I had missed the turn somewhere and if I should just find a spot and camp.  At the shelter were a two hikers heading south and shortly after I arrived another group of 4 (also heading south) showed up.  This means I’ll be hiking alone again in the AM.  I’m only planning on 10 mile tomorrow and then a final push onto Erwin on Thursday.  I flushed out a flock of turkeys today.  I think it scared me as much as them.  Feet not feeling much better today but then again, not any worse.

I did not take a photo of cabin (see other)

2001 a Space Odyssey:

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Devil’s Fork Gap (Al departs):

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Rob and Max:

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 12 (Jerry Cabin Shelter)

June 22nd, 2009 No comments

Jerry Cabin Shelter
Miles hiked: 15.4
Altitude: 4150’
Got up this morning (duh!)  It was raining slightly so we took our time.  We got on the trail by 8 as the rain let off.  I put my rain paints on in hopes to keep my legs/boots dry as we walked though more tall grass.  It was downhill all morning only to make up for it on as we got close to Little Laurel Shelter.  While we were sitting for lunch, we met a bunch of Boy Scouts who were going to be doing some trail work.  We headed up Camp Creek Bald.  This covered 1000’ vertical over a distance of 1 mile.  We took a short detour to the fire tower on top.  Lots of RF and cell phone stuff on top.  Nice views but tower was closed off.  Off to White Cliffs (not be confused with Black Cliffs) where it was a nice view but started to rain.  Took the short trail to Black Cliffs as it really started to rain.  Rain didn’t make the view very good.  We tried to wait the rain out under some thick shrubs but it just kept pouring so we headed on.  We came to a fork in the trail.  Sign said “In bad weather, take Blue Trail”.  Well, we thought it was only raining, that’s not “bad” so we took the scenic ridge trail.  Route was really exposed and slippery.  Would have been great view but all we could see was TN fog on one side and NC fog on the other.  Rain kept coming and we started to hear a little thunder so we hiked a bit faster.  It rained for the next 3 miles till we got to camp (of course stopping as soon as we got here).  Two elderly ladies hiking 4-5 days are here.  Max and Rob (two hikers we have met along the way) came in.  They took the “bad weather” trail.  This was their last night as one of their relatives was sick.  Planning on hiking 10 miles tomorrow.  I got some new blisters on my toes.  Must have been the rain.  Heels still cut but no worse.  I’ve found no insoles that help the balls of my feet.  So much for the expensive ($40) thermally molded ones.  The nail on my index to is dead and looks like it will fall off.  It hurt a little coming down from Clingmans but has not bothered me since.  Does not hurt but looks bad.

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Jerry’s Cabin Shelter:

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 11 (Springs Mtn. Shelter)

June 21st, 2009 No comments

Springs Mtn. Shelter
Miles hiked: 11.0
Altitude:  3300’
We had a family style breakfast at Elmer’s.  A number of odd concoctions were served.  I ate some greenish looking scrambled eggs and some fairly good granola.  I headed down to the outfitters and was glad to find them open.  I got my new liners and had Elmer bake them in his oven so I could fit them to my feet.  A bit tight in my shoes but I thought I would try them.  It started to rain during breakfast but by the time we headed out (11am) it had mostly cleared.  Just before we left, we ran into Greg who was coming in off the trail.  It was nice to see him but since he was taking 2 days off at Hot Springs we knew that this time we would not see him again.  He had scheduled a massage for the afternoon.  Staying for a little R&R sounded tempting!  After a short stop at the outfitters again so Al could replace some socks he seemed to have lost we headed off.  We crossed the French Broad River and basically headed up a cliff.  Back and forth up the switch backs, up 2000’ up to “Lover Leap”.  The next few miles were quite level but by 3pm it started to rain.  I put my rain gear on hoping it might keep me dry (never has before so I’m not sure what I was thinking).  We hiked up to Rich Mtn. to where a fire tower is as the rain let off.  Nice view from the tower but there was a storm rolling in.  So, we high tailed it out of there.  Hiking in rain gear is not really fun.  One basically sweats enough so you get just as wet as if you did not have any on.  The last two miles to the shelter was grueling.  Not real steep but lots of wet, tall weeds.  We got to the shelter at 5:15.  Tomorrow we have a 15 mile day so it should be “fun”.  Things of note: Saw a hiker hiking bare foot.  Actually we had seen this kid before and he had lots of blisters so I assume this was just better than putting his boots on.

Looking down at Hot Springs:

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Springs Mtn. Shelter:

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 10 (Hot Springs)

June 20th, 2009 No comments

Hot Springs, NC
Miles hiked: 13.1
Altitude: 1326’
I woke up early and figured out how to pack tent.  We got out of camp at 7:08am.  It was cloudy but I could get a cell connection and there did not seem to be any rain on the RADAR.  We had a 500’ quick drop as we left camp followed by a 750’ quick ascend.  A good way to get things going.  We made quick of that and began grinding downhill towards Hot Springs.  I had some “good” food on my mind!  We got to Dear Park Shelter in 4 hours (10 miles), about 1 hour faster than we thought.  2.5MPH, not bad.  So after quick rest we continued to boogie down the trail.  By this time, my feet were hurting.  I needed to get something to help the balls of my feet when I got to Hot Springs.  We blazed on down and got to town about 12:15.  After asking around we found ourselves at a hostel known locally as Elmer’s.  Elmer is a quiet guy living in a 150 year old Victorian house.  I don’t think much has changed inside in the last 150 years.  Not a square corner to be had.  He gave us a quick tour of the house and showed us to our room.  I took a quick shower and headed off to do laundry.  The Laundromat was also one of the local grocery stores so you get the idea that this is a small town.  After staring our wash, we headed across the street to the Rock Bottom Sports Bar.  Nice local pub.  I had a glass of cold beer and a buffalo burger.  Really enjoyed that!  A quick hop back across the street to put the clothes in the dryer and off to the local outfitters (yes, it’s a small town) and we resupplied food for the next 5 days.  I got some new insoles for my shoes.  They have more cushion but less arch support.  If the store is open in the morning, I may get a different pair that is thermally formed to ones feet.  We got our now dry clothes and headed back to our room for a short nap.  We met up with a few other hikers we had met along the way and had a nice dinner at a local diner.  I had pizza but couldn’t finish it so I gave it one of the two younger guys who were living on a shoe string.  I think he inhaled it.  These guys were working for Elmer to pay for their stay.  It poured while we were eating and I was glad I was not walking in it.  After a bit of a walk, we headed back to the diner one more time for a little desert!  This time apple pie!  Now I’m stuffed.  Off to bed on my queen size bed J Elmer’s offers a breakfast with the room and it was served at 8:30Am but I may skip it.  It will Sunday tomorrow so the outfitter may not be open so I may not be able to get those liners.  We have at least 10 miles to go tomorrow.  Al and I spent some time recalculating the days ahead to see if we can finish sooner.  If we can do one 20 mile day, we’d be off the trail Wednesday night.  That would assume early starts and no rain.

 

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 9 (Walnut Mtn. Shelter)

June 19th, 2009 No comments

Walnut Mtn. Shelter
Miles hiked: 13.1
Altitude: 4260’
Left Groundhog at about 8 a.m.  The rain had stopped and the forecast was to be clear and hot.  We got to Max Patch at about 11am.  The clouds were still low and at times we could only see about 500’.  Max Patch is a huge grassy bald with views in all directions (you can drive to a parking lot about ¼ mile down the trail).  As we go to the top the clouds were just starting to lift.  Greg was there, just about to head off.  We sat and ate lunch in the constant 20 mph wind.  The sun poked out every once and a while and it continued to clear.  But, after an hour, we couldn’t wait for the “perfect view” any longer and headed on down the mountain.  We stopped at Roaring Fork Shelter where we caught up with Greg again.  He was staying there for the night.  We had not expected to see him again (as we were now going ahead of him) so we said some goodbyes and headed to Walnut Mountain.  The climb to the top was much more than we had expected yet when we got to the shelter, we consider going on to the next one but there were others at the shelter (like the “Family of 3”) so we decided the company would be good.  I’m sleeping in my tent tonight.  We are not expecting any rain, shelter is kind of full and I won’t have any bugs!  (Although they aren’t too bad)  I wanted to try out the tent anyway.  I hope I can remember how to get it back into the bag J a guy down the way was looking for wood for a fire and found a rattlesnake.  You should have seen him run and scream!  Snake was about 4’ long and 3” thick.  I took some photos.  They told the kids that they killed it but they really just let it go.  Getting up early to do a quick 13 mile hike to Hot Springs.  We hope to get there by 2 or so, get re-supplied, find somewhere to stay and get a REAL meal.  Unfortunately, we are not staying long as we have to head out the next morning.  No rain today!  Things got dried out a bit.  Feet are OK, blister on left pinky is now callous.  Now getting some sores on back of heels from moisture but they are low pain and manageable.  I will look for new insoles in Hot Springs as the balls of my feet are hurting.  I tried the Super Feet insoles I brought with me but they did not offer any relief.

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 8 (Groundhog Creek Shelter)

June 18th, 2009 No comments

Groundhog Creek Shelter
Miles hiked: 10.5
Altitude: 2900’
Hiked down from Davenport Gap Shelter and stopped at Standing Bear Farm Hostel.  Now Standing Bear Farm is not a farm at all but just a hostel.  Nice place (at least for a hiker) that is very laid back.  Food, bunks, showers, laundry…  Took a shower and washed some clothes.  After about an hour rest, we headed up Snowbird Mtn. 3000’ climb over about 4 miles.  Smoky Mtn. State Park ends here.  We are now in the Pisgah National Forest.  Good path but long, non-stop up hill.  No breaks.  All followed by 3 miles down.  About 20 minutes before the shelter it stated to pour.  We got soaked.  Guess we shouldn’t have stayed at Standing Bear so long.  We got to shelter about 3:30 and the thunder had passed by 5pm. Shelter will be full.  It sleeps 6 but we have 8 so far… On the way to Walnut Mtn. Shelter tomorrow (13 miles).  I’m hoping for some nice views on top of Max Patch.

Sorry, not photo of shelter (see.  by others )

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Appalachian Trail, 2009 – DAY 7 (Davenport Gap Shelter)

June 17th, 2009 No comments

Davenport Gap Shelter
Miles hiked: 12.8
Altitude: 2600’
No bears last night.  It started raining hard this morning so we delayed a bit to see if the rain would clear.  While we were waiting, Greg came wondering in.  He had gotten an early start from Pecks but was soaked as he hiked thru the rain.  It was going to be a long day for him (20 miles!).  Rains stopped and we took off.  It cleared up after we started.  We had one big “UP” then it was downhill all day long with a final up/down at the end.  We hiked with Greg all day which was kind of fun.  He was full of jokes and kept us amused the entire way.  We got there about 5pm and by the sound of the thunder, it is going to rains some more.  I hope it clears by morning.  Looks like “Family of 3” continued on to hostel.  That would have made it 18 miles making it a long day for those kids.  Shelter is busy but not packed.  There was a snake in the shelter eating a mouse.  While we decide it was a harmless snake but moved him outside anyway (as well as the half eat mouse).  Hike will be to Groundhog Shelter tomorrow, 10.5 miles, but we will make a pit stop at Standing Bear Farm (hostel) for a lunch and shower.  Note: Today I crossed the 210 mile mark on the AT so I’ve not got 10% done!

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