Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Smokies...well 1/2 of them anyways

Bad weather reports scared off everybody else at the shelter, except for me apparently. Was still trying to decide if that was a good thing or a bad thing when I walked across Fontana Dam and started the Smokies. First day turned out alright though, pretty intense elevation changes while trying to get on top of the ridge but managed to get the job done and logged 16 miles.

2nd day was much wetter. Broke in the gaitors and walked a good portion of the day in the rain. Did 13 miles and stayed with most of the same people as the first night.

The 3rd morning I was introduced again to snow. LOTS of snow. Took a while for us to get moving, since all of our boots were frozen stuff. *Side note: if you were wondering, pop-tarts do not seem to have a freezing temperature. So, because you have to stay in a shelter in the Smokies, I had to choose between a 6.5 mile day or a 14 one. 1/2 through the day I realized there was no way 14 was happening in all the snow. Settled in early at Mt. Collins shelter.

Annnd what I thought was a lot of snow turned out to be a laughable amount compared to what came this morning. The other thru hikers I had been shelter-hoping with, all decided to bail out in Gatlinburg, and after taking half the morning to do 4.5 miles, with an average snow depth to my knees, but in some areas, it actually reached my waist....I decided to follow suit. Got out at Newfound Gap, which I found completely deserted and frozen over. I then had to hike 15 miles down the closed icy road, and finally found a hitch for the last 1.5 miles. Got to a cheap hiker hotel and found out they've actually closed the AT trail and were pulling people off it. The guy that runs the hotel said that its the first time in the 12 years he's been here that they've closed it. And also that it might not re-open until Friday!?

Soooo, looks like I'm hanging in Gatlinburg for now...

Will post an update when I know more.

Friday, March 22, 2013



Got up early out of the NOC to try and log some miles. Felt guilty for taking a hostel, but it turned out to be a great decision. Weather reports were right and there was a good inch of snow on the ground. Absolutely awful terrain, trying to go uphill, feet constantly slipping out from under me. Ended up hiking all day, sun-up to sun-down, somehow knocked out 22 miles.

Camped next to a shelter and came into Fontana Dam (tiny place - not really a town) with everybody for a package re supply. Also snagged my Smokies permit.

Staying at the Fontana Dam "Hilton" tonight which is a huge hiker shelter that sleeps 24 and has showers, and is right next to the dam on the water. It's one thru hikers birthday today so we got beer, delivered pizzas, and a big bonfire.

Enjoying it now because I start the Smokies tomorrow and the weather looks pretty awful.

Not sure when the next update will be. Off the grid for now.

Edit: added a pic of the party at the Fontana 'Hilton' ...which I've been told to try and get changed to 'Hyatt'

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Cooold night spent in a shelter with a handful of others the first day out of Franklin, but a fire made it a little more tolerable.

Hiked up to Wesser Bald Observation Tower in the morning, which was cool because it offered 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains.

I had planned to hike straight through the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) which is huge outdoor-adventure center right on the Nantahala River, which mostly caters to kayakers, but has a lot of services for thru hikers as well, but reports of sub-zero temperatures and snow likely, I decided to take up the place on its cheap hostel. Don't plan to stop in Gatlinburg, so this appears to be the last real civilization before I'm out of the Smokies.

Currently sitting in the sun by the river watching some kayakers.

Franklin NC

I finally got some much needed R&R in Franklin. I did laundry, ate a lot of bad food, drank some beer, and took 3 showers. Very strange leaving to head back to the trail again though. Almost felt like I was starting all over again. Dad, who had picked me up trail side, stayed to hike with me for a few hours which was awesome.

After we departed, I hiked to the top of Wayah Bald, where there was a big observation tower with views over most of the mountains I had hiked across. Would have stayed longer to take it all in, but there was a thru hiker couple arguing at the top. Awwkwaard.

Pretty chilly hike, logged 16 miles. Getting close to the Smokies!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

At last!

Finally, some easy terrain! Woke up early hoping to knock out some miles. Half way through, had a crazy climb up to Albert Mountain, but at the top I found a huge agricultural tower, which I promptly climbed. Greatest views yet! Ended up doing about 23 miles today!

106 miles in this journey so far. Got a short walk in the morning to Franklin NC for a re-supply, laundry, bad food, beer, and probably most importantly, a shower...

Trail hell

Other than the dose of trail magic Friday and Saturday were days of brutal terrain. I felt like all I did was climb. Every time I turned around, another uphill. Somehow I managed to post some decent miles.

But, I did make a mini milestone and reach North Carolina! 1 state down!

Trail Magic

**Disclaimer: if any of you hike the AT, get Verizon, AT&T is nearly worthless.

So. Had my first experience with trail magic. Which for those of you who don't know, is where people, sometimes past thru hikers or just people that live in the area offer food, help, or otherwise to current thru hikers. Was hiking on Friday and came down to a gap where 2 former thru hikers had set up out of their truck with a cooler of Gatorade and PBR. They also had fresh fruit, snickers, cupcakes, and fried chicken. Greatest thing I've seen since I've been out here. Awesome tradition.

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Yesterday turned out pretty rough. The guide book lied to me...or at least there weren't any signs to prove it right. I had planned to stay a few miles past Neels Gap where it said there was camping and a water source. No luck, didn't see either. Ended up hiking 5 miles further than I planned, scrambling for water and trying to pitch a tent in freezing winds. Had to lay on the tent to put the stakes in. Barely got my stove lit because of the wind, but managed to eat, hang my food, and dive into my tent. Slept ok, pretty warm for the most part. This morning was terrible. My tent was covered in frost, all my water frozen solid, all my food frozen. I was slowwww moving. Ended up really nice though, you know around 11 am, when I could feel my fingers again. Logged a solid 15 miles and camped just north of Helen. 51 or so miles in. Hope all is well in the real world!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I did some walkin

Day 3

After some serious hiking yesterday I hit Blood Mountain this morning. Very windy but awesome views! Headed down to Neels Gap where I promptly consumed a hot dog and 2 orange sodas. Mmmm.

32 miles in and going strong!

Day 1!!

**sorry for the lack of updates. Signal has been sub par lately.

So, Day 1. March 11. Emotional. Lots of highs lots of not so highs. Headed to Amicalola in the morning to make it real and register as a thru hiker. I was #294 for the season. Then we headed over to springer to start this thing. After some emotional good byes, I walked into the woods.

Very strange feeling knowing that if all goes well, it'd be 5+ months until I was back...

First few hours were nice. Was trying to make the fist shelter at Hawk Mountain, 8 miles away. But about 1/2 way there the skies just opened up. Walked for 2 hours in the pouring rain, only to find the shelter not only full, but about 30 tents had been pitched nearby. Whoops. Set up in the rain (awful) ate a hot meal and dug in for the night.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Gear check

Doesn't seem like that much stuff as you accumulate gear...that is, until you lay it all out together. Thankfully not to all be used/carried at the same time! I will be sending some items home and replacing them with others as it warms up, and then reversing the process as it gets colder again.