3/22/12 – Day 14 – Big Spring Shelter – 10.0mi/100.7tot

Good day today. Started out nice. Got up about 9 and was the last out of camp just before 10. Made it to Carter Gap Shelter 3.2mi away by 11:15, pretty quick. Afterwards the trail got progressively tougher. Mooney Gap started with a steep climb onto a ridge with a seemingly 100ft drop off the right side. Of course it was misting, muddy, rocky, and rooty just to add to the danger. The ledges seemed to be h

View from Albert Mountain

eld up only by the roots of the trees I had to climb around.

Albert Mountain Fire Tower

This was nothing compared to the final climb up Albert Mountain (5250ft). 500ft up in .2-.3 miles. Very few stairs, mostly just climbing straight up boulders. Rock climbing with a pack, not hiking.

The sky cleared of fog and heavy clouds for just a bit, making the view from the top totally worth the trouble. I see why there is a detour trail for bad weather. The view went of for miles with rolling hills beneath the large mountains around the side. Upon climbing the steps of the metal fire tower, somehow made more harrowing than the rocky climb due to heavier winds, I could see even further and over the treetops in the opposite direction. The approaching clouds were and awesome sight. Seeing them quickly roll over the other mountain tops in the wind, while imagining the fogginess below to be just like what I had been hiking in all day.

After hanging around for about an hour, I finally moved on down the half-mile or so to make camp near Big Spring Shelter with Dave, now known as Jobs, Jason now known as Maps, and Shiann now Divining Rod.

Once again, I ate dinner twice, thanks to the kindness of Dave offering me another Mountain House. Beef Stroganoff with noodles. He says he is getting sick of eating them everyday. Unfortunately for him, he has a resupply box full of them awaiting his arrival at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) in another 40mi. I chose to forgo the planning and investment of mail drops in favor of buying food in the local stores. It is much easier, takes less planning, and can be cheaper, but I have to be more open to possibly less appealing food choices. What they sell is what I get.

View from Albert Mountain

Jason is Maps because he is one of the few thru-hikers to actually bring a real map and he always seems to have his nose in it. Shiann is Divining Rod because the first time she went to dig a cat hole, with all the trees in the woods, she managed to go right out and dig up somebody else’s.

Finally broke 100mi today, a big milestone. Tomorrows hike will probably be about 9mi to near the road. It doesn’t look bad and should set me up for easy access to the shuttle for Franklin at 9am the next morning.

3/21/12 – Day 13 – Beech Gap – 9.3mi/90.7tot

Beech Gap Camp

Nice hiking day. Good weather, not too hot, but storms will probably be coming in the next couple of days. The trails weren’t bad except for a couple miles of rocks at the start. Those seem to be going by a little easier.

Hiked up Standing Indian Mountain (5498ft), the first mountain over 5000ft so far. It was actually a fairly easy climb up. Nice and gradual. The last sign I saw before it said “more difficult” which is much easier than the extremely strenuous trails in Georgia.

The water here is a little far off, about 1/2 mile, but it is a fairly easy walk. Passed by the Chunky Gal Trail earlier, had a chuckle and took a pic.

At Beech Gap we all set our tents up under a nice little grove of trees and bushes. I was told the green leafy ones are Mountain Laurels. It is pretty neat being in here, the bushes help block wind and the trees should help hold in some heat, because it is a clear night. On clear nights, things cool down faster with no clouds overhead to stop the heat from radiating away. Tree cover reduces this.

I am starting to feel the increased appetite I have heard of. Ate poptarts for breakfastm 2 Clif bars while hiking, and the usual Ramen, tuna, and crackers for dinner, but was still hungry. Dave was nice enough to give me a chicken and noodles Mountain House meal, that I also ate. After a couple hours, I can definitely go for more. I guess I have to start carrying more food per day and also cover more miles so I can resupply more often before I carry too much.

I am looking forward to a buffet in town, probably Shoney’s or Pizza Hut or both. Aiming for Big Spring Shelter tomorrow, should break another milestone – 100 miles.

3/20/12 – Day 12 – Muskrat Creek Shelter – 7.3mi/81.4tot

State Line

Finally made it out of Georgia. Got to the state line about 11:30. Ate a couple Clif bars and talked to the rest of the guys from the shelter as they all caught up. Took some photos and moved on about 12:15.

The hike was good starting off, but once I hit NC there were two very steep climbs to start up. I just set an easy pace so I don’t out walk my lungs and keep on going with few breaks. Stopping and taking off a pack will really kill time and wear a person out.

Got to Muskrat Creek Shelter about 2:20. Not as nice as the GA ones, but a nice creek nearby for water. All water should be filtered or treated. I use Aqua Mira at about 7 drops of A & B per liter.

Cooked up a package of fish steak I found at the store near the tuna. It was decent and a nice change. It smelled better than it tasted. Then came more tuna and ramen.

Check out Stat’s Henessee Hammock. They are pretty sweet. I want to look into one later. He also let me try some of his Badger Bug Balm, a bug repellent. It seems to work when even DEET won’t.

Tomorrow night will probably be Beech Gap.

“Aint nothing easy when you’re 75” – The Hiking Viking

3/19/12 – Day 11 – Plumorchard Gap Shelter – 4.5mi/74.1tot

Left Hiawassee this morning. Ate left over cookies and pizza and talked to the other hikers around for a bit. Took the shuttle out a little after 11 back to Dick’s Creek Gap for a short day of hiking. The shuttle is an older van from probably the early 80s. It is very beat up and smells of diesel and exhaust for the whole trip, but it gets ya to where you need to be.

The hike was mostly uphill today. It was tough to get started as usual, but after getting warmed up, it went nicely. The trail was less steep, and easier to walk with less rocks and roots. Made good time getting in around 2pm.

Met some other guys who were getting back on after a zero day in town. J-Dub from somewhere up North is photographing people and taking notes for a personal photojournalism project after getting laid-off from a newspaper job back home. Dave, a recent retiree from the Air Force, is here hiking to Hot Springs, NC for a month before moving to Oklahoma City for a new job as the Maintenance Director for a trucking company. Another older guy, Nomad is hiking the trail after doing part of the PCT, the Badlands of South Dakota, playing around Key West for awhile.

Caught back up to the A-Team from Central, FL once again. Nice people.

3/18/12 – Day 10 – Hiawassee, GA – 3.6mi/69.6tot

Woke up at about 4:45am today. Had to get up early to make sure I didn’t miss the 9am shuttle in to town. Had a 3.9 mile hike, if you include the .3 hike from the shelter back to the trail. We used headlamps all the way as the sun was not up yet. It was pretty cool, in the 50s with occasional rain and always mud. From the top of the ridges town lights could be seen off in the distance to the sides. Slim lost his headlamp a couple nights back and so just stumbled along close behind me while I lit the more difficult parts. We made good time, doing the hike in only two hours, and arrived at 7:20, with lots of time to kill in the cold.

Luckily, we hit on some trail magic. Peakseeker and ’08 thruhiker was just getting up and offering a variety of breakfast cereals and some apples. Later on he said he would be cooking burgers. There are some great people out along the trail. Also ran into Stonekicker and took a pic of the AT tattoo he got in Helen, GA. Pretty neat, but a little premature I think.

There is one jerk around known as the “Red Truck Guy,” he offers hikers a ride and then drives about 20mi off and demands $50 or leaves them stranded. Rumor has it that police are looking even harder for the guy now after a girl almost killed him in his truck, thinking that he was about to attack her. Most all hikers at least have some sort of knife and a few even have guns. Deadly Business. No telling what will happen though.

Got into town, dressed up in rain gear to do laundry at the Inn. All my clothes are in the wash so I have nothing else to wear. Got a badly needed shower and headed out to eat too much food at the local buffet, Daniel’s Steakhouse. The guys – Slim, Jason, and Shiann, ate Chinese food.

Resupplied on food at Ingles grocery and then hung out talking in the parking lot all day, until we ordered pizza from Papa’s Pizza. It was good, generic stuff like Pizza Hut. Made calls to people and caught up on things. I tried peanuts in Coke – a “Southern Specialty” – and found it no good. Finally met the fabled Misplaced Moose, a big girl on the hike. She headed out back to Unicoi Gap today after a zero, and later came back back quitting in triumph at Tray Gap. She had accomplished what she wanted and decided to move on, on her own terms. Though leaving is sad, it is nice to see a person so happy and content with a decision.

Head out at 11am back to Dick’s Creek Gap. NC in about 2 days.