Monday, April 20, 2015

VA route 600 - northbound mile 491

This post is from April 20, 2015.    The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Last night was truly awful with High winds and rain and both the interior of my tent in my sleeping bag wet. My hiking boots were completely waterlogged squirting water out with every step. It looked like it was going to be another rainy day so I decided to exit the trail at the first opportunity which was at VA route 600 after about only 3 miles of hiking.

 This morning after my 3 miles when I came out to the road there was UNHINGED's husband waiting for her and Eveready again. He was just trying to make sure they were okay as they slack packed on ahead with his assistance. I then started a two hour period of attempting to hitchhike during which approximately six cars passed and no one stopped. Fortunately UNHINGED's husband after seeing his wife and friend go by generously drove me back to Damascus and I was able to hook up with my ride back to the airport. I'm sure I will meet them again.

This made my last day of this stretch only 3 miles instead of the 20 I had hoped for but considering the conditions of the past 24 hours I need to be satisfied. I am now en route home for a 12 day break from hiking I will resume at friction at VA route 600 on May third or fourth. The goal of my next section of hiking will be to connect from where I just left off at Virginia route 600 to where I began in the Shenandoah national Park on October 20, 2014.

White top Mtn Rd, VA -northbound mile 488

This post is from April 19, 2015.  The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

I left Damascus at 9am in a light rain which turned into a downpour all afternoon and continuing now. I just got a flash flood warning in my tent via an AT&T emergency signal even though my phone says no service. With the roaring wind and the emergency warnings beeping on my phone this is a bit scary! Because I wanted to leave no more than 20 miles for tomorrow for my rendezvous with my shuttle to the airport at 6 I needed to make it 21 miles to this tent site despite the bad weather. Unfortunately here is at 5200 feet and the rain is worse up here and it is colder and windier. Also some of my clothes and sleeping bag got a little wet. I am OK in my tent but we will have to see about tomorrow's weather.

I wanted to make a note of some of the new trail names that I have come across in the past few days one was a man from Pennsylvania called PROUDFOOT. Yesterday I met a pair of women from Ottawa one was called UNHINGED and the other was EVERREADY.   Interestingly, late in my day yesterday I came across them again huddling under a tree in the freezing rain and wind. They were waiting for UNHINGED's husband to pick them up as they had  been slack packing from Damascus. He was over 1 1/2 hours late. As I was helping them he finally arrived so the day was saved and I continued on the 2000 ' ascent in the driving rain.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Damascus, VA - northbound mile 467

This post is from April 18, 2015.    The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Smooth sailing for 16 miles today across the border from Tennessee into Virginia and down into Damascus.

This was the view looking out from my tent at 7am today:

Going to push on for another 40 miles into Virginia over tomorrow and Monday and get off the trail for about 12 days for a break home in Maine

Friday, April 17, 2015

Middle of nowhere, TN - northbound mile 451

This post is from April 17, 2015.   The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

After a hard first few hours of climbing I felt quite strong the rest of the day so I made a full 26 miles by 7pm with a 7:20am start. I am only about 16 miles from Damascus, VA and I am very excited about reaching this major AT milestone tomorrow afternoon.

Here is a shot of my campsite tonight:

And here is my dinner table:

And here is the sunset:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

US 321 Hampton, TN - northbound mile 425

This post is from April 16, 2015.   The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Today was a very pleasant 23 miles of slack packing under mostly sunny and warm skies. The following photo is of looking back southward at the mountains that I crossed during that terribly rainy weather two days ago. You can see that even on a beautiful day those nearly 6000 foot mountains produce weather that can make hiking difficult:

Once again looking westwards into Tennessee farmlands:

Here was a lovely old barn abandoned in the middle of the woods:

I came upon an interesting dilemma along with two other through hikers that were perplexed standing at the intersection you see between the blue and the red trails in the photo that follows. The blue trail was called the high water trail and the main AT trail was called the Laurel Falls Trail. It was not clear which  trail was the main Appalachian Trail as there were no white blazes visible at that intersection. Eventually using my iPhone Guthook application I was able to determine that except under conditions of very high water the main AT goes down on the red trail as you can see in the photo. Well with all the rain we've been having these were high water conditions so it was not clear whether or not the main route would be passable:

The following photos are shots of Laurel Falls themselves, as well as a couple of shots of the very very narrow lip of the trail that is the Appalachian Trail as it passes through this gorge. Indeed has the water been a 1 foot higher this would've been impassable;

After this Laurel Falls Gorge the rest of the hike consisted of a 2000' ascent and a corresponding 2000 foot descent down to Watauga lake which is another one of their Tennessee Valley Authority dammed lakes  made in the 1930s.

Here is a view of part of that man made lake:

I will conclude this post with a photo of the sign that was stapled to a tree near the trailhead when I finally reached Route 321, my destination. This shows that not everyone is enthused about the existence of the Appalachian Trail:

The land for this last section of trail was apparently taken by eminent domain and it looks like the family is not entirely happy about it.

I am feeling in good health strong and pretty optimistic about reaching Damascus, Virginia by Saturday night and exiting the trail about 40 miles north of Damascus, Virginia Monday night and flying home for a much needed break on Tuesday.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Walnut Mtn Rd, TN- Northbound mile 402

This post is from April 15, 2015.    The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

In order to give myself some rest today and because of the heavy rain forecast for today I decided to do a short day only a little over 10 miles of slack packing. This was a good move as my feet are not feeling too badly tonight and they were very sore last night.I am back in the town of Roan Mountain comfortably ensconced in a bed and breakfast and resting well. One disadvantage of hiking in the rain was the extremely slippery trail conditions the mud made it very difficult to not fall down. One benefit of these conditions is that the waterfalls were particularly spectacular today:

Here is a shot of how I looked when my shuttle picked me up at the end of the day's hike to bring me back to town:

My boots are wet all the time these days.  Even dry socks get wet right away from the soaked boots that don't dry overnight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Town of Roan Mtn, TN - northbound mile 391

This post is from April 14, 2015.     The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Although today was only 23 miles because of the heavy rains and the big ascents and descents it's felt considerably harder than yesterday. When the rain did clear I had some nice views from the top of a big bald area that I passed through:

I also believe that I may have left North Carolina for good on the Appalachian Trail. This means that all my remaining miles before Virginia are exclusively in Tennessee. This belief is supported by the following photo:

This is the elevation profile for today's 23 soggy miles (walking on the trail at many times was walking in a running stream):

Clyde Smith Shelter - northbound mile 368

This post is from April 13, 2015.   The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Arrived here after a nearly 27 mile day where I began hiking at 7:25 and hiked until 7:10pm with two 10 minute pit stops for foot maintenance. I eat while moving. Pack was extra heavy due to re-supply of food I got last night in Erwin. I am camped on the flanks of another 6000+ foot mountain. I will summit it first thing tomorrow. I am not sure there is another 6000-footer on the trail before Mt Washington.

Here is a shot of my camp tonight with the shelter in the background:

Here is today's elevation profile:

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Erwin,TN - northbound mile 341

This post is from April 12, 2015.     The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Helen dropped me off at the Sam's Gap trailhead this morning at 7:15 and I started off on a 24 mile day with a full pack. Everything went well and I made it to Erwin Tennessee by about 6:15.

Here is the view from Big Bald which I crossed this morning;

Here are 2 views descending into Erwin:

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Sam's Gap NC - northbound mile 317

This post is from April 11, 2015.     The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Helen hiked with me today and we had a relaxing and easy 8 1/2 mile hike. It was pleasant to have her company and I hope I am recharged to start putting on bigger miles again this week. My goal is to reach Virginia by next Sunday. Here is a shot of Helen on the trail with me today:

Friday, April 10, 2015

Devils fork gap, NC/TN - northbound mile 309

This post is from April 10, 2015.    The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Made about 19 miles today slack packing with Helen dropping me off and picking me up it was a nice day I will add some pictures to this post tomorrow Helen will be hiking with me from Devils Fork gap to Sam's gap tomorrow

Some Tennessee farms from a high ridge on the AT today:

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Log cabin road - northbound mile 290

This post is from April 9, 2015.  The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Easy 16 mile day of slack packing today.
Met again a young lady I first met on day 2 out of Springer. Her trail name is LUNA and her real name is Heather and she is from Portland, ME. I have met a disproportionately high number of Maine thru-hikers

Some shots hiking north out of Hot Springs  today:

I passed one guy today who said did you see the black bear around the last corner? Sadly, I did not. Not a single bear sighting for me since starting...

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Hot Springs, NC / northbound mile 274

This post is from April 8, 2015.   The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Relatively easy day today. Left camp at 8:20 and arrived here and checked into Iron Horse Inn at 1:45pm

Here is a shot of the view descending into town:

Walking into town;

The inn;

Elevation profile for today;

Walnut Mountain shelter- northbound mile 260

This post is from Tuesday April 7, 2015.    The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Put in over 21 miles today including an embarrassing situation where I got disoriented and hiked about 15 minutes southbound retracing my steps without realizing it until I met an oncoming girl that I had passed going north about 1/2 hour before. She asked if I was turning around already ...😊

There were several hours of heavy rain and some thunder and lightning that was a bit scary. I ended up just hiking through it as I was not near any shelter anyway. Then it cleared up and I am in a great campsite tonight comfortable in my totally LEVEL tent.

Here is the view from Mack's Patch a huge bald I went over today just after the rain stopped:

I want to write down the trail names of some people I have met before I forget them. I may add more about them in the future.

PA TRAILRUNNER- 62 year old man usually wearing a 2012 Boston marathon shirt. He hails from Pennsylvania and he is going to leave the trail for a bit in June to support his son who is doing the Western States 100.

ROCKOCEAN young man from Tampa whose two loves are hiking and surfing.

CHAMELEON young woman I passed as she tried to catch up with her friend (UKELADY??) who subsequently found me walking in the wrong direction. Apparently this happens to a lot of people- in my defense 😇. They are hiking together sort of with another girl called LEAPFROG.

PACKMAN A guy who did not believe in the Smoky Mountain National Park rules about only tenting near shelters.

DOC (Mark from Macon, GA) a veterinarian that I had a lovely dinner conversation with tonight. He is also  A PADI Divemaster so we talked trail, diving and livestock.

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Smokies are in the books - northbound mile 240

This post is from April 6, 2015.    The GPS data from today's hike was unfortunately lost.

I left the great Smoky Mountain national Park behind me when I passed through Davenport gap today around noon time there was some awesome trail magic waiting for me there as you can see from the photo below

After another two miles I reached interstate 40 and left the trail for today. I am immediately got a ride from a nice truck driver named Mickey Who was driving the Peterbilt you see in the following two photos.

Last night was difficult for the reason I mentioned earlier about pitching the tent on the slope but it was even worse when my close neighbor actually fell on my tent during the night half crushing it on me. I was happy in the morning to see that none of it was broken. I only slept about two hours during a very traumatic night. Tonight I am in a hotel in Newport Tennessee and will resume the trail whrere left off today early tomorrow morning. I should reach Hot Springs North Carolina in two days and Helen will join me there on Thursday I am looking forward to that - huge understatement 😍

Beautiful Easter spent at 6000' - mile 230 northbound

This post is from April 5, 2015.     The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Today was spent moving quickly along a ridge line at about 6000'. Us and downs were not major so I made about 24 miles today. Cosby knob shelter campground was full so I had to pitch my tent on a slope and I am rolling into the side of the tent. Not comfortable! 

Some photos from today:

Me on Charlie's bunion:
One pole in Tennessee the other in North Carolina:
View descending out of the smokies:
Elevation profile from today:

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Newfound gap, NC/TN border -Nobo 206

This post is from April 4, 2015.   The GPS data from today's hike has unfortunately been lost.

Last night high up on the slopes approaching Clingmans Dome was a very cold and violent night weather-wise there were thunderstorms and lightning and tornado warnings in eastern Tennessee. When I awoke my tent was covered in ice from the rain during the night. It was quite cold and was an effort to break camp and to pack up the tent with my hands freezing. I really couldn't wear my gloves  doing all the things I needed to do to break camp so my hands got quite cold. I wore almost all my clothes when I started hiking today - three layers on top two layers on the bottom and I did warm up once I started hiking. I was glad that I had my winter hat and gloves with me as I climbed up to Clingmans Dome - the highest point on the AT.
When I reached the top there was almost no view at all as the visibility was about 20 feet as you can see in the picture above.  The descent
was still cold but it got warmer as I approached Newfound Gap where I got off the trail today and hitchhiked down to Gatlinburg, Tennessee where I am tonight. I got a ride from a lovely family from Ohio vacationing and on their way to Gatlinburg (hope to hear from you on this blog!). There was some awesome trail magic going on in Newfound Gap as you can see from the photos as well.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Close to the highest point on the AT - Nobo 196

This post is from April 3, 2015.    The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Reached the  Double Spring Gap Shelter at about 6pm tonight and a 19.5 mile day. The weather was good though I was always above 5000 feet the whole day so it is always windy. Tonight I sleep with my feet  in North Carolina and my head in Tennessee

First night in the Smokies - Nobo 176

This post is from April 2, 2015.  The GPS data from today's hike can be found at:

Made about 13 miles into the Smokies today despite my 1pm start having traveled all the way from Maine today. It is a rainy  night and I am glad to have my food hung up on the bear cable system and to be tucked into my bag in my tent. I am set up just outside the Molly Ridge shelter in GSMNP.