Fontana Dam, NC to Erwin, TN
AT Miles = 13.8 / 177.5
Other Miles = 0 / 13.4
Total Miles = 13.8 / 190.9
When I went to bed last night I had pretty much decided to take a zero at Fontana Dam, but apparently sometime while I was sleepibg I decided not to. I woke up about 3:30 this morning and couldn't get back to sleep because my mind was full of all the things I still had to do before I would be ready to head out. So, I got up and washed out my bandanas (I have three, one for washing my body, one for washing my dishes, and one I keep in my pocket all day for wiping away sweat, dirt, etc.), I moved the socks I had washed last night, but were still wet, so that they were sitting on the heater so they would dry fast. I finished up those ands a bunch iof oither little chores, then at 6:00am I headed up to the main lodge and used the public computer to upload my photos so you all could enjoy them. When the restaurant opened at 7:30, I had a great breakfast, then headed back to my room and finished up my bounce box, grabbed my pack and trekking poles, took one last look around the room to ma
ke sure I hadn't left anything, then headed up to check out and to get a shuttle bacxk to the trail.
It was heavily overcast and very windy, but it wasn't raining and I actually got a few photos of the dam as I walked across. Once across the dam I walked into the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. That was exciting.
The trail climbed steeply and it quickly got colder and wetter and cloudier. It seemd to take forever to get anywhere. Finally I arrived at the shelter and it was one of the old fashioned ones with the chain-link fence across the front and a gate that could be latched at night when everybody is in for the night.
It was wickedly cold with the wind blowing. I had my doubts that the water for dinner would ever boil on my wimpy little alcohol stove, but eventually it did. I managed to stay awake for a decent interval after supper, standing around in the shelter talking with other hikers, then crawled into my nice warm sleeping bag around 8:00 as the sun went down.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JODI!
AT Miles = 14.7 / 192.2
Other Miles = 0 / 13.4
Total Miles = 14.7 / 205.6
It was still windy and cold this morning, but all the clouds had blown out and the sky was crystal clear. I ate a quick breakfast of cold cereal, packed up my gear, took off all my nice warm clothes, and headed up the trail. It was a gorgeous morning. The temp was just a bit below freezing and I could see a big puff of frost with every breath. Last night's fog had frozen to the trees and the branches sparkled in the early morning sunlight.
After all the rain and fog lately, it was absolutely glorious to look out and see the grand views. A bunch if us reached Rocky Top about the same time and hung out for a good hour just enjolying the view.
My "hiker appetite" really hit me today and I have been craving food all the time. I just finished eating dinner and I am hungry enough to do it all over again at least twice. The same thing is happening to other hikers and we spend great amounts of time talking about food.
The terrain here is steeper and the climbs longer than the terrain further south, and it takes me longer to coiver distances. I didn't get into the shelter tonight until almost 5:00, making a 9 hour "work day" today. It warmed up nicely in the afternoon so once into the shelter I was able to wash up and I feel much cleaner. Lots of hikers don't bother until the hit town, but it makes me a lot more comfortable at night.
Tomorrow morning we'll climb to the top of Clingmans Dome, at 6643' the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail. It's all downhill from there!
We have a full house here tonight, with the shelter full and several tents and hammocks outside.
Tomorrow's weather should be good, the the rain comes in tomorrow night and Monday and Tuesday are supposed ti be very cold, with highs in the 30s and lows in the teens. Sir Richard, a British hiker, is hoping to see snow. I'm just hoping to stay reasonably comfortable.
AT Miles = 15.5 / 205.7
Other Miles = 0.3 / 13.7
Total Miles = 15.8 / 221.4
Today was a beautiful day. Soon after leaving in the morning I made it to the summit of Clingmans Dome. There is a road to the summit and an observation tower, and being Sunday there were lots of tourists about. After leaving Clingmans it was a rather long but pleasant hike down to Newfound Gap. All I really remember about the day was having long never-ending food fantasies. When I reached Newfound Gap I hung out at the parking area and watched the tourists as they watched me. An hour or so later a bunch of other hikers arrived and we spent some time lamenting the lack of a cheeseburger stand there, and discussed the possibility of getting a ride into Gatlinburg to gorge on fast food then getting a ride back to the trail. Instead, we eventually just saddled up and hiked the remaining 3 miles into Icewater Springs Shelter.
It was still gorgeous weather when we arrived, and I went down to the spring and washed up, then stuck some of my wet laundry out to dry in the sun. An hour or so later the clouds started to roll in, and the wind started to pick up.
Some time after we went to bed the wind picked up another notch, and the rain started. I've never experienced rain like this before. It came down so hard and the wind was so strong that the shelter asctually shook, even though it was made of stone.
AT Miles = 20.3 / 228
Other Miles = 0 / 13.7
Total Miles = 20.3 / 241.7
In the morning the rain had stopped, but the wind was still whipping and the temperature was falling. I set out from the shelter with a group of six other hikers with the aim of reaching Tricorner Knob Shelter about 12 and a half miles away. About 10:00 it started snowing, and the temp continued to drop making it very cold walking. We all pushed pretty hard and were at Tricorner Knob about 2:00. After contemplating sitting around in the shelter getting colder and colder all afternoon, we all decided to push on and make the miles to Cosby Knob Shelter. The rest of the day was mostly a march through the blowing snow, and by 5:00pm we all had finished the 20 miles to the shelter. There were already 9 or 10 people at the shelter, which has a capacity of 12. Luckily for us everybody was willing to scrunch together and we managed to fit everybody in by setting up the sleeping pads right next to each other. It snowed all day and was still snowing when we all climbed up into our bunks. I thi
nk we entertained all the weekenders by fantasizing about all the different foods we will get when we finally make it to Hot Springs, probably around Friday.
AT Miles = 10.4 / 238.4
Other Miles = 0.1 / 13.7
Total Miles = 10.5 /252.2
It had snowed all night and there was about 5" or 6" of snow on the ground, and it was still snowing. It was gorgeous out, but cold. As you can maybe imagine, 17 people trying to cook breakfast and pack up their gear all inside a trail shelter would be utter chaos. We thought we would just stay on our sleeping bags and wait while the others got their stuff together and left, but it soon became apparent they would be going nowhere very soon, as they all seemed to be fgussing about with coffee and putzing around with their gear. So finally I got up and retrieved all of our food bags from the bear cables, and we all ate a quick breakfast of whatever cold foods we had, packed up our gear, and headed out for a hopefully quick 10 mile hike down to the hostel.
It was a beautiful day to hike through the snow. Yup. Spring-time in the Smokies! We arrived here at the hostel around 1:00pm or so. It is a rather unique place. We are all sitting in the bunkhoused arrayeds around the wood stove. Everything here is on the homor system. You pick up an envelope and write down everything you take or use; $15 for a bunk. $10 if you get a pizza, $0.75 for a sodas, and on and on. When you leave you put your money in the envelope and drop it in a box.
Tomorrow we will head out again. The plan is to hike most of the way to Hot Spring over the next two days, camp about 3 miles outside of town on Thursday night, then make it into town early on Friday morning, in time for breakfast in the morning. The trail actually goesd right through toen. I plan to take a zero day there, so will get a room for Friday and Saturday nights, then head back out on Sunday.
Rigth now it is still snolwing, but the weather is supposed to moderate and it should be reasonably warm and drier the next few days.
So, a couple days ago I passed the 200 mile mark, and the day after
that I passed the 10% mark (2178 * 10% = 217.8). Ten percent. It
doesn't seem like much, does it? It is still much too daunting to
think about the whole 2178.3 miles as a whole. I concentrate on much
more immediate goals. For example, my current goal is the 33 or so
miles from here to Hot Springs. Now that is something I can deal with
on a daily basis.
There is a fair amount of discussion on the trail about how to hike
the trail. Not the mechanics of hiking, but rather the attitude with
which one does his or her hike. The main tension seems to be between
relaxing and enjoying the hike for itself, vs focusing on covering the
entire distance, and thus getting consumed by reaching goals. I've
thought about this quite a bit, both before my hike started and
especially while hiking. I think both are necessary. Certainly, I want
to enjoy the hiking and the views and the people I meet. But there is
also a physical challenge involved in this, and to ignore that would,
for me, bne just as wrong as focusing on it too intensely. A large
part of my goal in doing this is IS simply to see if I can walk 2000
miles in six months or so.
Well, enough musings for this morning. It's a beautiful, clear
morning, though a bit cold. I've got to get my gear packed and get
back out there on the trail. I expect I'll upload photos when I get to
Hot Springs, so you can expect them Friday or Saturday.
Allen F. Freeman
AT Miles = 15.4 / 253.8
Other Miles = 0.4 / 14.2
Total Miles = 15.8 / 268.0
Glory! What a fantastic day!
After spending the last few days in close company with the group I've been hiking with -- close quarters because of all the snow and wind and cold, while we watched out for each other -- and them the close quarters in the hostel last night, I've been feelinbg a bit overwhelmed with human company and in need of some personal space. When I woke up this morning I settled for a cold breakfast and packed quickly and headed back out onto the trail.
It was a glorious day; sharply cold, deep blue sky, sunshine, snow on the ground. The kind of day to make you feel good to be alive.
I ended up spending the whole day hiking alone, and it was just what the doctor ordered. The high point of the day, literally, was Max Patch. It was so windy up on the bald top of Max Patch that I literally had trouble walking in a straight line.
Once I reached the shelter for the night, the other hikers I've been with all showed up and we had our usual pleasant evening of food porn and other conversations.
I thionk this was the best day I've had on the trail so far!
AT Miles = 14.8 / 268.6
Other Miles = 0.5 / 14.7
Total Miles = 15.3 / 283.3
Another great day! It was cold as I left camp this morning but it warmed up quickly and by mid-morning I was down to shorts and a T-Shirt. Up high there is still plenty of snow on the ground and being slushy it made the footing difficult, but just before lunch time I lost a lot of altitude and suddenly was back into spring. The trail was dry and the forest had that dry, dusty feel in the nose that comes in late spring. I stopped for lunch where the trail crossed an old road that was grassy and warm and dry. After lunch it was a gorgeous, comfortable walk for a few more miles until arriving here atg the shelter. It is situated on a little knoll covered with mostly evergreens. The two couples in our little hiking group have pushed on into town, and there are five of us here for the night. It is a pleasant, warm night and we are sitting around the campfire while the conversation roams far and wide.
We are only 3.2 miles from Hot Springs, where the trail goes right down the main street through town. I intend to stay there for two nights, and head out of town on Sunday morning. It's been almost two weeks since my last day off and I really need a rest. The people I am hiking with are almost all half my age, and I don't recover quite as quickly as they do!
Sweet dreams to all...
Friday, 4/10 and Saturday, 4/11
AT Miles = 3.2 / 271.8
Other Miles = 0 / 14.7
Total Miles = 3.2 / 286.5
Thursday evening was wonderful; warm, calm, and relaxing. There were 5 or 6 of us sleeping in or camped around the shelter, and we passed a relaxing evening cooking, eating, and chatting around a small campfire.
The forecast called for thunder and lightning storms on Friday morning and when I went to bed I expected to wake up to rain, but when I woke up on Friday morning the sky was clear and the temps had remained mild all night.
I wasted no time in packing my gear and heating water for a quick breakfast of instant oatmeal. The walk down into Hot Springs was lovely and passed quickly, and I and Sir Richard arrived at Elmer's Sunnybank Inn a few minutes before 9:00. Elmer put our names on the waiting list and told us to come back at 11:00 to see if we would get a room or not, then we went across the street to the diner and had a huge breakfast. A few minutes after we entered the diner the sjky exploded in a huge lightning storm.
I barely managed to finish my breakfast, then we killed some time until it was time to head back to Elmer's. For a bit it looked like there wouldn't be enough vacancies for us to get in, but a couple of other hikers who were on the list ahead of us decided on other plans so that opened up enough slots for everyone on the list to get in.
Elmer's is an amazing place. It is one of the oldest houses in Hot Springs, and in most places it would be an expensive B&B, but Elnmer likes hikers and for long-distance hikers he charges only $20 per night. He also offers a 4 or 5 course home-made gourmet vegetarian dinner for $10. I opted for the dinner last night and it was right up there with many of the best meals I've had. Dinner lasted well over two hours accompanied by much conversation, and when I finally pushed back from the table I'm afraid I had overstuffed myself.
It is about noon on Saturday as I write this. I slept great last night and am spending a very lazy day today. I repacked my bounce box and sent it off to Erwin, TN (my next town stop) at the post office this morning, then made a list of the few food items I still needed for the next 5-dasy leg, and went shopping at the Dollar Generasl, the Hillbilly Grocery, and Bluff Mountain Outfitters. I also bought a new line and stuff/throw sack to replace the bear-bagging line I lost tangled in the trees way back at Brown Fork Gap.
My big disappointment here is the the library is closed for the holiday weekend and the only public internet access is one computer at the outfitters. There is a constant line of hikers waiting to use that computer so I couldn't take the time to upload my photos. That process usually takes an hour to an hour and a half. It goes something like this:
- I log onto the Windoiws Home Server (WHS) computer at home via Internet Explorer, then create a new subdirectory in the Photos shared folder to whicvh I upload the photos on the camera's SD card using an SD to USB adapter.
- Once the photos are uploaded, which can take a while over a slow internet connection, I connect to my web server box via Remote Desktop Connection through the WHS box.
- I have Picasa photo editing software installed on the web server and configured to reference the Photo folder on the WHS box, and I use this to crop, rotate, and otherwise prepare the photos for publishing.
- Once I've finished with Picasa I copy the edited photos from the folkder on the WHS box to a temporary folder on the web server.
- Finally, I start a browser session on the local computer I am working from, log into the photo gallery software on my web server, create a new gallery for the new photos, and upload them from the server directory I previously copied the edited photos into.
- All that's left now is to clean up. I delete the photos from the temporary directory on the web server. I also delete the photos from the SD card before putting it back into the camera. Then I create a blog entry to let you all know the new photos are available for viewing.
So, that's what I wanted to do thoday, but I am not going to be able to. Hopefully I will get ample internet access when I get to Erwin, probably on Thursday.
I did manage to log on to the network at home long enough to get the web server running again, since it had died. That happens sometimes, for no explicable reason. I also logged intoJodi's computer and tried to troubleshoot some problems she's been having with Firefox crashing on her, with only minimal success.
Jodi is actually flying to Memphis today for work. We'll actually be in the same state for much of this week, though still pretty far apart and we won't be able to see each other. :-(
In addition to folod I picked up a copy of Abbey's "Down The River" while I was at the outfitter's this morning, and I'll enjoy reading that in the evenings while hanging in my hammock. Oh, I sent my Thermarest forward in my bolunce box, so I am back to being dedicated to the hammock every night.
Here's hoping everybody has a pleasant weekend, and Happy Easter to those that celebrate it.
I bought a copy of Abbey's "Down The River" at the outfitter's this morning, and have spent a good part of the day sprawled out on my bed reading it. It's been a long time since I've read any Abbey -- the bastard went and died, and therefore isn't writing any new books -- and it is good to hear his voice again.
I really wanted to re-read "The Monkeywrench Gang", but the edition they had was too big and heavy to justify carrying in my pack.
I will now actually be carrying two books, in sharp violation of all principles of ultralight hiking, as I am also reading a copy of Steinbeck's "Cannery Row." Somehow I managed to get through high school without ever reading it.
AT Miles = 11.0 / 282.8
Other Miles = 0.2 / 14.9
Total Miles = 11.2 / 297.7
Most of the crew of hikers I have been with lately, left Hot Springs this morning. We had a nice breakfast at Elmer's, then headed through town, aqcross the French Broad River on the road bridge, hopped over the guard rail and headsed out along the river. It was a perfect Easter Sunday; warm and sunny and calm. The trail climbed steeply up the hill and gave us some great views back to Hot Springs nestled in its valley. A few miles into the hike the trail crossed a forest service road and there were three women wearing rabbit ears on their heads giving apples and Easter candy to all the hikers.
I had only 11 milkes to cover today so took it easy and enjoyed the fine weather. I took the side trail to the Rich Mountain Fire tower and a few minutes later Sir Richard showed up and we spent at least an hour up on the tower enjoying the views, eating lunch, and chatting about this and that.
We hiked the rest of the afternoon together and arrived at Spring Mountain Shelter in mid-[afternoon. The shelter is an old one and was not at all inviting, but there was a nice spot up on the ridge where Sir Richard set up his tent and I hung my hammock.
After dinner we spent some time chatting with some locals that were there camping for the weekend, and we shared their campfire.
A really nice, relaxing day.
AT Miles = 15.4 / 298.2
Other Miles = 0.3 / 15.2
Total Miles = 15.7 / 313.4
Wow! The wind increased all night and about 5:30 this morning I woke up to the hammock bouncing up and down. It had been dead calm when I set up the hammock in the afternoon, but now I was on top of the ridge with the hammock set up broadside to a gale. The windward side of the tarp was actinbg like a sail and catching lots of wind, deflecting it downward toward the ground. Since the tarp is above the hammock, it was actually pushing the hammock down, and when strong gusts hit I could feel my butt hitting the ground. Meanwhile, the leeward side of the tarp was luffing loudly. I was afraid that either the tarp would fail and tear under the strain, or the peg anchoring the tarp would let go and then the tarp woiulkkd get torn to shreds in the wind. When it was just light enopugh to see about 6:30, I got up and packed up my gear, made breakfast, and was walking by 7:30.
When I got to the road crossinbg of NC 208, in Allen Gap, there was a sign for trail magic at a nearby house. I hesitated for a moment, then decided to go for it. When I got to the house the two couples I have been hiking with were there, and I was invited in by Hercules and Fal, who thru-hiked in '99. They served first a huge breakfast plate of Belgian waffles, bacon and eggs and tea, then immediately followed it with a lunch plate of corn chowder and a burrito. I topped it all off with a dessert of cherry pound cake with ice cream. In between courses I snacked on a half dozen slices of coffee cake and drank two pots of tea.
At the end of the meal their ulterior motive was revealed when they discussed the religious faith and offered a selection of books, b ut they weren't pushy about it and I didn't find it offensive.
After that wonderful meal it was back on the trail and the wind was still picking up! I wish I had a tape recorder so I could have taped the roar of the wind coming up and over the ridge the trail is on. At one point I came to a trail sign labelled "Exposed Ridge Trail", and below it, pointing another way, "Bad Weather Trail." I chose the exposed ridge, and it was quite an experience. Occasionally a bit frightening, but mostly wildly exhiliarating. What a day! So much power loose in the atmosphere here today. Some may need a god to find power, but the wind is enough for me.
The wind is still roaring and the fog has rolled in. I found a spot that is more or less sheltered behind some rhododendron to hang my hammock, and I hope tonight is a bit more restful than last night.
AT Miles = 14.7 / 312.9
Other Miles = 0 / 15.2
Total Miles = 14.7 / 328.1
The wind died down last night, but the fog rolled in heavy and the saturated air blowing through my hammock made everything damp. I even forgot to change my socks before going to bed and I told myself the damp socks would dry from my body heat in the sleeping bag but it never happened.
It rained for a while this morning, then while I was stopped for lunch the sun almost showed itself. Later in the afternoon there was some more heavy rain, and by the time I arrived here at the shelter the fog had rolled in. I guess it's another damp night!
A couple of miles into today's hike I reached the 300 mile mark, at the summit of Big Butt Mountain. There is a spring near the summit, but I didn't think drinking the water that came out of Big Butt was very appetizing.
Not a whole lot to write tonight. It seemed like a super long 14 miles and I thought maybe I hadn't eaten right and was overly tired, but other hikers have said the same thing so I guess it was just the tough climbs this afternoon.
I am thinking of knocking off 20 miles tomorrow, which would leave me with about 6 miles into Erwin on Thursday. That should get me into town early enough to do all my town chore without having to stay two nights. We'll have to wait and see how that works out.
AT Miles = 20.7 / 333.6
Other Miles = 0 / 15.2
Total Miles = 20.7 / 348.8
I had a terrible night last night. It was cold and damp and windy, and
I spent most of the night lying in my sleeping bag just on the wrong
side of the cold/warm line. I changed into dry socks before going to
bed, and by morning the dry socks were actually damp from all the
dampness in my sleeping bag.
When I got up this morning I was tired, cold, and wet, and tired of
being tired, cold, and wet. The temperature was hovering just around
freezing, and by the time I had packed all of my gear my hands were
numb with cold. I struggled through heating water and making oatmeal
for breakfast, then took off all of my supposedly warm clothes, put on
my already wet rain/wind jacket, and hit the trail. I hiked furiously
to try to generate some heat, and in about half an hour I could feel
my hands finally starting to warm up. Another half hour and the
thermostat finally opened; I felt the warmth flooding my fingers and
It was another day of hiking in the cloud, with visibility just a
couple of dozen feet. The day's goal was No Business Knob Shelter, 20
miles away, but I had this plan hatching in my warmth seeking brain
that if I could pull off a 27 mile day I could gorge myself on bacon
cheeseburgers at the Sonic in Erwin, and sleep in a warm, dry, motel
room. I kind of pushed that idea to the back of my mind and
concentrated on goal number one, the ten miles to Bald Mountain
Shelter. I climbed a lot this morning, eventually making it to the
summit of Bald Mountain. I'll have to take it on faith that Bald
Mountain is bald. I couldn't see anything when I was up there. The
wind blew, the fog engulfed me, and it was cold enough that the fog
actually condensed and froze on my glasses so that my visibility was
even further reduced. All I could see was the rut worn by previous
hikers in the grass of the bald, and every minute or so I would pass a
post with a white blaze on it, confirming that I hadn't wandered off
I finally reached Bald Mountain Shelter at 12:30; four hours after I
started hiking. I sat there for about half an hour eating my lunch and
drinking water. My Nutella was frozen so that I couldn't even get it
out of the jar with my spoon, so I ate a couple of English Muffins
with nothing on them and some handfuls of GORP. By the end of the 30
minutes I sat there I was bitterly cold again, so I set off hiking
fast once again to generate some heat.
The terrain after lunch was a bit more downhill than up, but much of
the downhill was slick with mud so I couldn't make very good time on
it. I thought a lot about it and decided that if I could make it to No
Business Knob Shelter by 4:30, then I would have enough time left to
make it the further 7 miles to the road into Erwin. Now I just put my
head down and hiked as hard as I could. Around 3:00pm I was thinking
that I was doing great and should have had about 3 miles left, when I
came out on a road, crossed the road back into the woods, and was
confronted with a sign declaring that No Business Knob Shelter was 4.6
miles away. Sigh.
Still, I pushed as hard as I could in the hope that I could somehow
get there by 4:30. 4:30 came and went and no shelter, and around 4:50
I finally made it up the last little rise and arrived at the shelter.
Not only was I out of time to go any further, but I had to admit that
I was out of gas, and there was no way I could hike another 7 miles
The shelter was already full with hikers that had come from the last
shelter 10 miles back. At 5:00pm they were all already snuggled down
in their sleeping bags. I set up my hammock out in back of the
shelter, and as more hikers came in everyone found the best site they
could and pitched their tents.
A bit of a disappointing day, but all things in balance I think I
should be reasonably comfortable tonight. We are down lower then last
night and while it is still overcast it is not foggy here so I should
stay drier overnight. From here it is only 6.9 miles to Erwin. I could
stay at the hostel right next to the AT, but I think I ma going to try
to get into town and get a room at the Super 8. Then I'll go downtown
and get that bacon cheeseburger at Sonic, go to the library to upload
my photos, walk down to the supermarket, then to the post office to
pick up my bounce box.
This is the third day of wet weather, but the sun is supposed to show
itself tomorrow. Hopefully it will stay sunny for a couple of days and
I can get out of town on Friday with the sun in my face. That would be
Allen F. Freeman
AT Miles = 6.3 / 339.9
Other Miles = 0 / 15.2
Total Miles = 6.3 / 355.1
Shoot! Technology is not being my friend today. I had typed up an entry for today and when sending it my phone reset and I lost the whole thing. I am not patient enough to do it all over again.
I got into town today, and spent most of the day walking all over town doing my town chores. Because of issues with computers both at the library and here at the motel, I have not been able to upload my photos.
The weather turned nice and sunny today, and promises to hold that pattern for a few days, so I am looking forward to getting back on the trail tomorrow.