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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 11, Damascus

June 25th, 2010 No comments

Damascus
Miles: 18.3
Well, we are calling it quits today. My knee really started to act up as we hiked down.  On way down we stopped at Abingdon Gap Shelter (8 miles). I knew at that point that I either had to stop for the day to my knee from complete failure or pushing on to Damascus and draw it to an end. I knew Al would be ending in Damascus anyway and I thought that it would be good take the time and swing back in to VA to seem my dad for a few days so I decided Damascus was it. Well, buy the time we got to the VA border I was pushing the Advil. It was nice to cross out of NC into VA, kind of a small victory!  I hobbled and dragged myself down the hills and into town with my need hurting at a level of 9 out of 10. Damascus is a nice little town and home to the “Appalachian Trail Days”, a gathering of hikers every year. Many thru hikers time their hiking so they arrive in Damascus just in time for the event.  We had a nice meal at the local dinner and Al gave us a ride back to our car. So until next year, HAPPY TRAILS!

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 10, Double Springs Shelter

June 24th, 2010 No comments

Double Springs Shelter
Miles: 14.4
Good day today. Took only one Advil last night, one this morning and one in the afternoon. Knee is feeling better. Back of my heels are still sore but I’m sure they will just callous over and my right middle toenail feels like it might fall off but does not hurt.  Otherwise, a great day to hike! Good weather, easy terrain.  We got to Iron Mountain Shelter by 1 pm but since my knee seemed OK we pressed on to here.  We lost Luke today. After only 4 days of hiking, he decided that it was not what he wanted to do for the next month. So we left him along a cross road waiting for a ride. We found some trail magic today. Sodas and cookies in a cooler! Ran into two other hikers at the cooler, Brad and Steve from Tulsa, OK. Brad is doing a flip-flop hike to raise money for local charities. Steve is a friend of his that is doing a short part of the trail with him. (Update: Brad did complete his hike on December 10th, 2010). Just as we got to the shelter, it started to pour. It rained on an off for about an hour.  We still have not had to hike in the rain yet! We may try to hike to 18 miles to Damascus tomorrow. I’m not sure what is next. Have been tossing about the idea of getting off the trial in Damascus as Al has his car is there.  Brad and Steve are here too!

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 9, Vandeventer Shelter

June 23rd, 2010 No comments

Vandeventer Shelter
Miles: 6.8
Got off this morning at 9:15. Slow going.  I’m trying to do with less Advil as it make my stomach feel a bit “off”. Lots of slow uphill climbs with some steep parts. We took our time. My knee started to hurt again after lunch so I finally had to pop some Advil.  We decided not to push it and hold up at this shelter. There is a real nice view of the lake from behind the shelter. The trail and shelter follow a steep ridge/cliff to the south which makes for some nice vistas. The water is way down the hill. A fellow hiker told us to watch for rattlesnakes near it. Al and Lexi were nice enough to go and get water so I could rest my knee.  Having cut the hike a bit short today, we are just chilling and enjoying the views.  Looking at the map and how my knee is acting we might just end the trip in Damascus. Beyond that, there are not many points to get off the trail. All the sweating I did going over Pond Mountain has caused some chaffing along the backs of my heels. I put some gaffers tape over them but it did not stick well.  We hung our food over the cliff as there were not any good trees to hang it from.  Sometime after it got dark Nick (who we met at Mountain Hourbor) strolled in. Nick hikes very slow and takes long breaks. On the other hand he is out early and hikes till dusk. He has lots 47 lbs. since he started at Springer.  I think he dropped his pack and laid back and fell to sleep leaving his feet dangling off the edge of the platform. We last saw Cat and Springer yesterday as she passed up going up Pond Mountain. She seems to have split from the group she had been camping with and making better time. I wish her well.  Lexi is still going strong. She has had a few “feet” issues which have been kept in check with gaffers tape.

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 8, Watauga Shelter

June 22nd, 2010 No comments

Watauga Shelter
Miles: 10.7
We slept in a bit late today.  I slept like a baby!  For breakfast we had some strawberries and donuts we bought the night before. I had a can of Diet Coke left over so I had that too!  By the time we started to get ready to hit the trail, my knee was hurting so I once again pop some Advil.  We discussed slack packing the next section. Bob Peoples offered to drive us up to the trail so we could hike back without any backpack. In the end, I decided to keep to my convictions and only hike one way (with a pack).  We hit the trail about 10:30. The trail follows the Laurel Fork for about 3 miles passing the Laurel Falls.   This is a really nice waterfall. It has to be one of the best along the trail. If the water wasn’t cold one could swim below it.  Lots of bolder type rocks on the way down.  It looks like the river follows a natural fault. The gorge is more like a big crack than a worn river.  We took a short detour and walked up to the Laurel Fall Shelter.  It would be a nice place to stay.  Now at three miles in, the trail used to go straight on to Hampton but now it turns right and up Pond Mountain. This is a 1700’ climb over 3 miles. The last mile is really steep. Now I’d have to say this is without a doubt the biggest PUD (pointless up and down) I have ever seen. There is nothing on top. There is supposed to be some pond but we did not see it. Guess it is dried up for the summer. I tried a new downhill walk as suggest by someone back at the hostel.  It is supposed to help with knee stress and I have taken less Advil today so perhaps it works. The only good think about Pond Mountain is that after the 3 miles of downhill, it runs into Watauga Lake with a public beach (Shook Branch Recreation Area).  We took a break and went for a short swim which felt great.  Shelter was a quick 2 miles past the beach.  Shelter is known for bear problems but we have not seen any. There are 4 of us in the shelter and 1 in a tent.

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 7, Kincora Hostel

June 21st, 2010 No comments

Kincora Hostel
Miles: 15.6
Got up an out by 8:00 this morning.  It was going to be “easy” today but long as we were to get about 16 miles in. Knee was still a bit sore and I didn’t get much sleep with it cramping and hurting all night.

When we got to Moreland Gap shelter, my knee felt OK so we pressed on. However, it wasn’t long before it really started hurting again.  At mile 12 I took 4 Advil and was really limping.  We took a brake at about 13 miles in a nice field. I thought about parking it there for the night but after the rest, it did feel better as the Advil kicked in.  The last two miles were downhill which did not help any. We got the Kincora Hostel about 6:30 and that was about all I could do. We met Bob Peoples who runs the Hostel. Bob is a legend along the trail not only for hiking it a few times but also for the support he puts towards it.  After settling in, and finding the care package I had shipped there, he gave us a ride into town.  A nice thunder storm kicked in just as we headed out. We got some supplies and a pizza. I got some Advil PM in the hopes it would help me sleep better. Lexi and I divvied up the supplies form our care package. She offered to carry extra weight to lighten my load and help my knee. What a pack horse she is!  The only other hiker here is Luke who we met at the last shelter. He was behind us and got caught in the thunderstorm. We shared our pizza with him which he was quite happy about.  Lexi and I did some laundry and took showers and now off to bed. I ate too much and I’m tired!

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 6, Mountianeer Shelter

June 20th, 2010 No comments

Mountianeer Shelter
Miles: 8.7
After a great breakfast at the hostel and settling the bill, we got off about 10:30am. Al had gotten me a better knee brace so I added that to my collection.  I took some Advil (my friend) and off we went. Lexi led most of the way today.  I could feel my knee sometimes but I think it will be OK now.  We took a long break at Jones Falls. It is one of the nicer and taller falls I have seen along the trail. It would be really cool to see it after a heavy rainfall. We got the shelter about 5pm and decide not to push on. It might make for a longer day tomorrow but now that we are already behind I really don’t feel in a need to rush. The shelter here is nice. It is almost new. So far we are the only ones here but we think we can here others at a camp site about a mile back.  On to at least Moreland Gap Shelter tomorrow but if knee is OK we will press on to Dennis Cove and stay at the well-known Kincora Hiking Hostel.

Late at night a young hiker named Luke showed up. I think he said he was in 11th grade and had been planning this trip for a while. He was hiking by himself and was going to see how far he could hike for a month. I thought it was quite ambitious for someone his age. While he was quite tall (perhaps 6’) it looked like his pack weighed 60 lbs. A few other hikers came in late. Some of the same crew we had seen before.

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 5, Mountian Houbor Hostel

June 19th, 2010 No comments

Mountian Houbor Hostel
Miles: 8.7
Last night the shelter got quite busy. I would say we had at least 20 there either in the shelter or in a tent. Lexi wanted to stay in a tent so we found a nice grassy spot. It was a bit softer for the night! We woke up to a sun rising above the foggy valley. It was a nice view!

We got off about 8:30. My knee hurt all last night so I was sure I was going to have to quit or at least take another zero day but by morning it seemed OK. So I wrapped it up with and Ace bandage, duct tape and a Cho-pet brace (everything I had) and then took the Aleve.  My backup plan was that if I could not get to the top of Hump Mountain I would come back and call Single Malt. Once I got to Hump Mountian, I figured it was 5 miles down hill and there was no going back.

The hike up Little Hump was OK on the knee and coming down gave us a great view of Hump Mountain in front of us. Hump Mountain is a full bald mountain and is maintained that way by some grazing long horned cattle (though we did not see any). From the gap it was only a 500’ climb but the openness of it made it look much higher.  In comparison, the climb up Roan was 2500’. The hike up Hump was not steep but it just seemed to go on forever. We got to the top about noon. Knee seemed OK so now I only had 5 miles downhill (which can kill a knee). After lunch and some rest we headed down.  Seems to be popular hiking destination from the north as we ran into a number of groups, some as big as 30 or so. Lexi was in “cruise” mode. I think she had a shower and real food on the brain. I was being very careful with my knee and hobbled behind. I tried hard to protect the impact and strain on my knee. The large number of rocks and roots made it hard to use my poles to offload the weight.  We stopped at Doll Flats. This is about ½ the way down and it would be a great place to stay.  You can see parts of the local community from there. If gives you a feeling that we should be “almost there” but we still had 3 miles to go. We managed to get down without incident and arrived at the Apple House shelter about 3:30. I tried call Al but could not maintain a connection so I was not sure if he could hear me.  The shelter is just off the road so after a quick snack we took off to the Hostel.

We met Al just before the Hostel on the road. Apparently he got my message as was heading our way to meet us. The hostel is very nice. One of the best I’ve seen. It is over a barn. In the main house is a B&B which a few of the hikers stayed at.  At the hostel we saw a few of the hikers we had seen along the way.  After dropping our bags, we got a ride into town (if you can call it that). I was in the mood for BBQ but it was closed as they were up at the Rhododendron Festival on Roan Mtn. We thought this was funny as most of the rhododendron we had seen had already bloomed. We ended up at Dairy Land. Reminded me of “Don and Bob” from Rochester,NY.  Lexi and I got burgers. It took forever to get served. Food was good though! It was nice to have real food again.  We stopped at the local Dollar store for some snacks to top off any food we needed for the next few days (Lexi got a big back of Gummi Worms).  Feeling full, we went back to the hostel. We stayed up till 11pm watching old movies with about 15 other hikers including Cat and her dog.

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 4, Overmountain Shelter

June 18th, 2010 No comments

Overmountain Shelter
Miles: 1.7
Hiked out at 9:30 and realized quickly that my knee was not going beyond the short hike to next shelter. So, we stopped the Overmountain Shelter and took a (near) zero day. This is a nice shelter! Shelter is a big old barn with great views looking over a valley.  I called Al to see if he could find a knee brace somewhere on the way down. We should be able to meet up with him tomorrow.

I slept better last night except my knee hurt and I would wake up to stretch it a bit. I think next year I’ll look into better drugs to help me sleep J  Except for my knee, I feel much better today.

Lexi is bored here at the shelter. She even went down to wash clothes, her body,  her hair and even shaved her legs. And then, went back and washed a few of my clothes!

It was a nice sunny day today. While I’d prefer to be hiking, if I have to sit, it was a great day for it.  It was a busy day with hikers stopping in for breaks all day. One hiker who was there when we go there was “Forager”. It turns out that we heard of him last year as he was hiking north. The rumor last year was that he hiked with very little but had a machete.  We had actually seen a rattlesnake skin from what he had cooked. Turns out the rumor were true!  He ditched the machete (and pellet gun) during his hike this year (south) as he got too many questions about it.

We met “Single Malt” here. He was full of stories as he had hiked the entire trail in ’99. Now he just does weekend hikes. He gave me some naproxen (Aleve) as an alternative to the Advil I have been popping. It should last 12 hours rather than 4. He also offered to drive back and get me if needed. He was hiking south and would be at his car tomorrow and there is a road to within a ½ mile of this shelter.

Cat and a group of hikers she has been hiking with came in late. On girl who was behind them missed the turn in the dark and hike an extra mile before realizing her mistake. Not fun in the dark.

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 3, Stan Murray Shelter

June 17th, 2010 No comments

Stan Murray Shelter
Miles: 11.2
Knee gone!  We only hiked 10 miles today but this included Roan Mountain.  This reminded me of the hills in Georgia. Trial went straight up. Nice views on top. It was sunny as we hiked passed the location where the Cloudland Hotel once stood. It must have been really grandeur in its time. We stopped at the Roan High Knob Shelter. This is an old ranger cabin. The foundation for a watch tower was nearby but there was no view. We thought for a while about parking it there for the night. My knee was really hurting and Lexis feet were hurting. However, that would have made 16 miles tomorrow so we pressed on.  BIG mistake!  By the time we got to Carver’s Gap I (1.5 miles all downhill) I was looking for a place to camp but none presented itself. Carver’s Gap was quite busy. It seems to be a hot spot for photographers. A short walk up the gravel trail to the top of Round Bald gives wonderful views.  We pushed on up over Jane Bald (going up does not hurt as much) and then down to the Stan Murray Shelter. The next shelter 2 miles up is supposed to be much nicer but it’s getting late and the last 2 miles really took out what was left of my knee.  There are mice here!  No bears to report so far this year. We have seen a few deer and lots (about 15) of orange newts. 

I’m not feeling 100% today. Perhaps not enough sleep. Every time an acorn fell on the roof of the shelter it woke me up. Planning on making at least to the next shelter (2 miles) tomorrow and perhaps taking a mostly zero day to rest my knee.

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Appalachian Trail, 2010 – Day 2, Clyde Smith Shelter

June 16th, 2010 No comments

Clyde Smith Shelter
Miles: 17-19
We got an early start today (7:40). It seems to take us about an hour to get up and on the trail.  We decided to go ahead and push to the Clyde Smith Shelter.  It was supposed to be 17 miles but do to some recent trail relocations it turns out to be about 19 miles.  Along the way we hike over Beauty Spot. It was all fogged in. It looked like it might clear but after waiting as long as I thought we could spare we pressed on. Of course 10 minutes after we left, I could look back and see it had cleared.  We ran it to two elderly ladies hiking south. Turns out that these were the same two ladies we met last year at Jerry Cabin Shelter. Small world!  On the top of Unaka Mtn. was nice pine forest. It would have been a great place to say on a summer night. While foggy in the morning, it cleared up and was a good day for long hike!

I’m dog tired! I could feel my knee feeling “not quite normal” towards the end of our hike. I hope it does not become a problem.  Perhaps pushing it to 17 (or 19) miles was not a good idea. We decided to eat into an extra dinner tonight and hope we can replenish along the way.  This is Lexis first shelter stay. I hope we don’t see any mice at least for her first night.

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