Friday - Sunday, September 13 - 15, 2013
A long bus ride got me from Rawlins, Wyoming, and the CDT to John's / Mother Nature Son's place near Birmingham, Alabama.
Monday, September 16, 2013
John and I drove around resupplying, replacing my boots, and washing my sleeping bag, which had acquired quite a stench after so many weeks of rain along the Wyoming CDT.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
John and I cut down dead trees at a church camp.
Dalton, Georgia Weather Forecast
Tuesday, September 17 - 79/59F Partly Cloudy 20% SSE at 7 mph
Wednesday, September 18 - 79/57F Mostly Cloudy 20% SSE at 10 mph
Thursday, September 19 - 81/60F Mostly Sunny 0% W at 5 mph
Friday, September 20 - 85/67F Partly Cloudy 20% S at 6 mph
Saturday, September 21 - 72/56F T-Storms 80% WSW at 7 mph
Sunday, September 22 - 76/53F Mostly Sunny 10% N at 11 mph
Monday, September 23 - 79/55F Partly Cloudy 10% ESE at 6 mph
Tuesday, September 24 - 77/55F Partly Cloudy 0% SSW at 4 mph
Wednesday, September 25 - 75/55F Showers 40% N at 5 mph
Thursday, September 26 - 80/55F Mostly Sunny 0% ESE at 4 mph
Friday, September 27 - 80/55F Mostly Sunny 0% S at 4 mph
Saturday, September 28 - 78/55F Mostly Sunny 0% S at 5 mph
Sunday, September 29 - 76/56F Partly Cloudy 10% W at 4 mph
Monday, September 30 - 73/54F Showers 40% WNW at 4 mph
Tuesday, October 1 - 74/54F Scattered Showers 40% NNW at 4 mph
Wednesday, September 18, 2013
John and I worked around his home, and went to the evening services at his church.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
John and I worked on the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail east of Piedmont or the Dugger Mountain Wilderness and south of Maxwell Gap / Cleburne County Road 70. We then drove to north Georgia to set up our Appalachian Trail walk. I saw a Box Turtle with a cracked shell, a Great Blue Heron, and Bats.
Hostel: Neels Gap / Walasi-Yi Inn
Friday, September 20, 2013
Two section hikers, Chae and Penny, shuttled us to Springer Mountain, and we hiked to Gooch Mountain Shelter. We saw Turkey hens, Mica, and a snake skin.
Miles: 16 19
Camp: Gooch Mountain Shelter
Saturday, September 21, 2013
It rained hard and never stopped. The trail tread was often flooded or flowing up to 3 inches deep. John found a ride from Woody Gap, but I was dumb enough to walk over Blood Mountain cold and wet. I saw a small frog.
Neels Gap has a store and hostel famous for going through novice throughhiker packs, shipping useless stuff home, and selling needed items. One of the employees hung out in the hostel for a while. Among the oddest items regularly shipped home are ninja style weapons, especially big swords and large numbers of throwing stars, as many as 20 per hiker. Many hikers buy sleeping bags here, after using just space blankets for the two or more days to hike here from Springer Mountain (31 miles). Many rain jackets are also sold. The employee said that often the more useless the item is, the harder it is to convince the hiker to send it home.
Miles: 16 35
Hostel: Neel Gap
Sunday, September 22, 2013
The bunkroom in the hostel was in a windowless basement. It was pitch black when John announced it was 9am and we needed to check out immediately. From the common room it was clear that dawn was long gone. So were several hikers. Many thanks for getting up and leaving so quietly that others didn't wake. We then went out to breakfast, so I got on the trail around noon. John headed off to work on the Pinhoti.
Miles: 11 46
Camp: Low Gap Shelter
Monday, September 23, 2013
I saw two Newts, their jaws interlocked, wrestling in a spring pond. There were two kinds of Millipedes. A guy who had finished his hike at Unicoi Gap took my trash and gave me some extra lunch food.
Miles: 20 66
Camp: Sassafras Gap
Tuesday, September 24, 2013
I saw a frog. 3 bushes were flame red but leaf season really hadn't really started. I crossed from Georgia into North Carolina. Some heavy fog and drizzle started in the evening.
Miles: 18 84
Camp: Muskrat Creek Shelter
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
A cold, drenching rain fell all night and all day. It was depressing. Mooney Gap, just a few miles away, has an annual rainfall estimated at 93½". I saw that tomorrow's weather was predicted to be drier, and quit after less than 3 hours of hiking. At least there were dry shelters on the AT in which I could wait out the rain.
Miles: 5 89
Camp: Standing Indian Shelter
Thursday, September 26, 2013
The Rescue of Molly the Hunting Dog
I stopped at Carter Gap Shelter, hoping to use the toilet. A dog was laying right where one's feet would hang. Molly refused all requests to move a little so I could get on with the business at hand.
Along the southern end of the Appalacian Trail many places are posted as bear refuges. Maybe during most of the year the bears are left alone, but during this hike they were being hunted with dogs. And I ran into many dogs and hunters on the trail. Most trailheads had a half dozen trucks with built in kennels parked. The hunters release several dogs, and the dogs then run through the woods, eventually picking up a scent, and following it until they tree a bear. Meanwhile, the hunter stays up on the ridge and monitors the dogs via GPS and directional signals transmitted from collars on the dogs. When the dogs stop moving, the hunter assumes the dogs have treed a bear and hike out to them. Molly had gotten far enough away that the radios didn't work and her owner didn't know where she was.
I noticed Molly was skinny enough to count ribs, but seemed healthy looking enough that someone had recently cared for her. Her fur was wet and she was shivering. Her footpads were worn pink and raw. She was neither defensive nor aggressive, and let me examine her feet and other bad looking areas. She had a regular collar, a directional beacon collar and a gps transceiver collar. I was able to call her owner, Andrew, from collar tags.
I wondered what in my pack an ill dog might want to eat, and remembered an envelope of tuna. I opened three sides so it was like a plate, let her smell it and tried to draw her away from the toilet. She was just too tired to move and would only eat it when I put it down right under her nose.
I walked her very slowly back to the Timber Ridge Trail and down that, meeting the owner most of the way down. She was a tough dog, and walked along willingly, though each step must have been quite painful. Once when I met some other hunters and another time when we walked through a warm, sunny clearing, it was tough to convince her to keep walking with me. The tuna and the slow walking warmed her: her fur dried and she cheered up some on the way out.
She had been lost for a week, through both of the heavy, cold rains. A few hikers had reported her to her owner, but she had disappeared before the owner caught up with her. Molly was in bad enough shape when I found her that I stayed with her until the reunion.
Miles: 16 105
Camp: Rock Gap Shelter
Friday, September 27, 2013
I met a group of a dozen women who had fed Molly at Muskrat Creek Shelter and hiked with her to Carter Gap Shelter. They had only been able to get Andrew's voice mail, and were quite relieved to know Molly had gotten home all right. The view from Wayah Bald was clear and nice.
Miles: 20 125
Camp: Cold Spring Shelter
Saturday, September 28, 2013
I reached the Nantahala River. I supplemented my supplies at NOC and a little store a mile east. NOC helped me obtain a Smoky Mountains NP permit, which was ridiculously complex, so the help was greatly appreciated.
Since I was about halfway through my allotted trip time, and hiked about a half a day, I undertook a double half challenge. I had a half pound burger and salad for lunch, and later a half gallon of peppermint stick ice cream.
There was a big festival at NOC, with bands, vendor booths, etcetera. Every employee I met had a slice of pizza in hand.
Miles: 12 137
Hostel: Nantahala Outdoor Center Hostel
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Weather Forecast
Saturday, September 28 - 71/48F Partly Cloudy 10% N at 2 mph
Sunday, September 29 - 71/49F Partly Cloudy 10% WSW at 3 mph
Monday, September 30 - 73/49F Partly Cloudy 10% SW at 3 mph
Tuesday, October 1 - 76/48F Sunny 0% WSW at 3 mph
Wednesday, October 2 - 77/50F Mostly Sunny 10% WSW at 3 mph
Thursday, October 3 - 75/51F Partly Cloudy 20% NNW at 3 mph
Friday, October 4 - 73/50F Partly Cloudy 20% WSW at 3 mph
Saturday, October 5 - 71/47F Mostly Sunny 10% W at 5 mph
Sunday, October 6 - 66/46F Partly Cloudy 20% WNW at 5 mph
Monday, October 7 - 64/42F Few Showers 30% WNW at 4 mph
Sunday, September 29, 2013
There was enough fog that views were partially obscured. I met a southbounder, now doing some flip-flopping sections at the south end to accommodate family weddings.
Miles: 22 159
Camp: Cable Gap Shelter
Monday, September 30, 2013
I crossed over the Little Tennessee River at Fontana Dam and entered Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I saw some small frogs.
I remembered a trip years ago when I drove through Bryson City, then up the Road to Nowhere and parked. I then hiked west along the Lakeshore Trail and the Lost Cove Trail (The Benton MacKaye Trail), then north on the Appalachian Trail, all in torrential cold rain. Somewhere on the AT, I twisted an ankle, and limped two days back to my truck on a diagonal return trail.
Miles: 17 176
Camp: Mollies Ridge Shelter
Tuesday, October 1, 2013
The leaf season is progressing, with many species of trees and bushes having red, orange, or yellow leaves, and with a few leaves falling.
Miles: 19 195
Camp: Double Spring Gap Shelter
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Clingman's Dome was in the clouds, but there were many views after Newfound Gap / US441. Since entering the Smokies, I've been meeting SOBOs of 1000 miles or so, and today my first SOBO thruhikers.
Miles: 22 217
Camp: Peck's Corner Shelter
Thursday, October 3, 2013
I bribed myself: If I walked the 24 miles, I would get a hot shower and do laundry at the Standing Bear Farm Hostel in Davenport Gap. It was a powerful incentive, as I hadn't showered since Fontana Dam and hadn't laundered since Alabama. With so much humidity and hill climbing, I was sweaty and accumulating stink and grime all the time And it worked: I arrived over an hour before dark.
Miles: 24 241
Hostel: Standing Bear Farm
Friday, October 4, 2013
While walking out of the hostel, I recognized Chuck Norris from my 2011 Florida Trail hike driving up in his van. He's now running the Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs, so I promised to stop and say hi tomorrow.
Miles: 21 262
Camp: Kale Gap, just after Walnut Mountain
Saturday, October 5, 2013
I stopped in at the Laughing Heart Hostel, but Chuck was busy organizing a wedding. He loaned me the Israeli Trail book (Hike the land of Israel: A Complete Guide to the Israeli National Trail, Jacob Saar) and let me take a shower: many thanks! I resupplied and lunched in Hot Springs.
Miles: 19 281
Camp: beyond Tanyard Gap / US70 and US25
Erwin, Tennessee Weather Forecast
Saturday, October 5 - 83/57F Clear 0% SSE at 3 mph
Sunday, October 6 - 81/62F Mostly Sunny 10% SSE at 12 mph
Monday, October 7 - 67/44F Rain / Thunder 90% SW at 10 mph
Tuesday, October 8 - 69/44F Sunny 0% NW at 6 mph
Wednesday, October 9 - 70/43F Sunny 0% NNW at 5 mph
Thursday, October 10 - 72/43F Sunny 0% N at 4 mph
Friday, October 11 - 73/44F Partly Cloudy 0% ENE at 4 mph
Saturday, October 12 - 72/47F Mostly Sunny 0% SSE at 4 mph
Sunday, October 13 - 72/47F Mostly Cloudy 0% SSE at 4 mph
Monday, October 14 - 72/46F Partly Cloudy 0% SSE at 2 mph
Sunday, October 6, 2013
A soda and ice cream were a great surprise at a little store at Allen Gap. I saw some toads, one 3½" long.
Miles: 20 301
Camp: Jerry's Cabin Shelter
Monday, October 7, 2013
Rain was heavy overnight but let up by 10am. The red and yellow changing leaves were nice.
Miles: 16 317
Camp: Beyond Hogback Ridge Shelter
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Miles: 20 337
Camp: No Business Knob Shelter
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
I checked into a cabin at Uncle Johnny's Hostel at the Nolichucky River, Chestoa Bridge. I then hitched to Indian Grave Gap and did a flip slackpack back to the hostel. My little room had many VHS tapes, so I watched a few movies.
Miles: 16 353
Hostel: Erwin, Tennessee
Shippensburg, Pennsylvania Weather Forecast
Thursday, October 10 - 55/53F Rain 70% N at 11 mph
Friday, October 11 60/56F Rain 70% N at 9 mph
Saturday, October 12 - 66/56F Few Showers 30% NE at 9 mph
Sunday, October 13 - 64/51F Few Showers 30% ENE at 7 mph
Leeds, Alabama Weather Forecast
Monday, October 14 - 80/60F Partly Cloudy 0% ENE at 7 mph
Tuesday, October 15 - 78/62F Cloudy 10% SE at 6 mph
Wednesday, October 16 - 71/60F Isolated T-Storms 30% WNW at 10 mph
Thursday, October 17 - 64/45F Showers 40% NNW at 8 mph
Friday, October 18 - 71/48F Partly Cloudy 10% NNW at 6 mph
Saturday, October 19 - 72/51F Isolated T-Storms 30% NNW at 6 mph
Thursday, October 10, 2013
I did some reading in the Erwin library. By evening, I met with John / Mother Nature's Son and Sale and headed north.
Miles: 1 354
Hotel: Abingdon, Virginia
Friday - Sunday, October 11 - 13, 2013
We drove to Shippensburg, Pennsylvania, and joined the ALDHA Gathering at Shippensburg University. I met Billy Goat, Garlic Man (PCT 2003), Yogi, Amanda/Rainbow (Florida Trail 2011), Weathercarrot, Chuck Norris, Carrington (Suwannee River Canoe), Yogi, Squatch, and others. The best presentations were Bart and Jo on their through hike of the Great Eastern Trail and Freebird's talk on his New Zealand Te Araroa walk.
Hotel: Shippensburg, Pennsylvania & Winchester, Virginia
Te Araroa, New Zealand
Gear can be very expensive in New Zealand, so bring a full set. Black Flies (Biting Flies), locally called Sand Flies, are common. Most DEET sold in New Zealand is perhaps 20-30%, so bring some 100% DEET from the US. Food can be bought in towns along the way, typically every few days. US debit cards work in ATMs, but watch the fees. Topo maps and notes are available on line free. A book is available which is useful for planning or for someone following your hike, but is not detailed enough for hiking. Most through hikes are southbound. Denatured Alcohol is called Methylated Spirits, is sold in liter bottles, and is dyed purple.
The 33rd ALDHA Gathering will be October 10-12, 2014 in Williamstown, Massachusetts.
Monday, October 14, 2013
We drove back to Leeds, Alabama.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
John and I hiked to various confusing trail junctions and places where hikers are known to mistakenly turn off the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail. We discussed improved signage.
Wednesday and Thursday, October 16 and 17, 2013
John and I carved and painted signs and maps to place at the confusing trail junctions. There was heavy rain Wednesday night through Thursday morning.
Friday, October 18, 2013
John and I placed the new signs along the Pinhoti National Recreation Trail. The leaf season was starting, with a few red trees and some falling leaves. We saw seven female Turkeys, and later a male Turkey. Near John's place were two White Tail Deer Does, each with two fawns.
Bear Bagging and Squirrels
There was a great deal of bear scat, overturned logs, and etcetera, indicating plenty of Black Bears near the trail. So it was necessary to hang food in trees every night.
But Squirrels had figured out that a rope hanging over a tree branch was attached to a bag with food in it, and would climb down the rope, chew through the bag, and eat my food. Several nights I hung intact bags, and in the morning found multiple chewed holes. It was disgusting to know that random rodents were in my food, and leaving their saliva and dirt on my food and food bags. And it was frustrating that food that I had meticulously calculated for proper quantity and bagged was being eaten and spilt all over. With so much humidity and rain, even peanuts, granola, etcetera, which had escaped its bag but was still in the lunch bag was damp, stale, and dirty. I found spilt food and threw it away almost daily. And when I was able to completely empty my pack at Davenport Gap, I threw away a half pound of peanuts, a whole days ration, in that one cleanup. No wonder I get hungry out here.