Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Into the Smokies and Radio Silence

Just a little note to let everyone know that for the next six or seven days I will be in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park (GSMNP). Only one road crosses the park and I won't have access to electrical power, so I'm going to have to conserve my phone's battery as much as possible and won't be updating my map our blog for a while. When I emerge from the north end, I'll send out many updates, much like I did this morning.


I've never hiked in the Smokies and I'm excited to see such cool things as the Shuckstack Fire Tower, Clingmans Dome, and Charlie's Bunion. You all take care!


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Day 15. My First Zero

My First Zero

Date: March 27, 2012

Day number: 15

Wake info: 0645h @ The Fontana Village Lodge

Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): N/A (taking a zero)

Pain scale AM (1-10): 1

Happiness scale AM (1-10): 8

Hunger scale AM (1-10): 2

Start weather: Clear, warm, sunny


End MM & TOD: N/A (taking a zero)

Approximate miles covered today: 0.5 (laundry) miles

Pain scale PM (1-10): 1 (feel great)

Happiness scale PM (1-10): 7

Hunger scale PM (1-10): 2

End weather: Clear, warm, beautiful.


Resting time: 24 hours

Bedtime: 2350h

Where slept: bed at the Fontana Village Lodge

Money spent: $3.24 (laundry, envelope, stamps)

Resupply: no (the box came yesterday)


Happenings at home: Kids had school. Kathleen started teaching again. I Skyped with everyone then Archer and I watched an episode of "Monk" over Skype. (I had to do this in the lobby because they don't have wifi in the rooms. I even changed rooms to be closer to the lobby but it didn't make a difference.)


Companions (TH for thru-hikers): None really. I did see Wolf who just got in this evening, but I've been keeping to myself much of today, spending my time writing for my blog.


Attractions: Skyping with the family. Watching "Monk" via Skype with Arch tonight. Continuous electrical power so I can blog to my heart's content. (I wish I didn't have so many to catch up on, though!)


State of body: I feel great. Well-rested and ready to go!


State of mind: I'm sad that I won't have much communication with the family while I'm conserving phone charge in the Smokies, but ready to get back out on the Trail and get that much closer to seeing them!


Notes:

  • It feels strange to not be out on the Trail, but a day off feels good to my knees and calves. It gave me a chance to catch up on my blogs and update my Google Map.
  • It's a beautiful day here at Fontana Village but I'm wearing my rain gear. Why, you ask? Because it's laundry day! Because I have only one pair of clothes, it's either wear rain gear or wear nothing at all. So I'm at the laundromat and lots of hikers are here doing their clothes before entering the Smokies. While most folks will get a long hitch into Gatlinburg three or four days into the Smokies, some (like me) will do them non-stop and won't see "civilization" for about a week. So these other thru-hikers who also stayed here and presumably have had showers, are here and from ten feet away I can smell them - stinking to high heaven! Most hikers go with a lightweight poncho rather than rain pants and jacket like I have and they can't very well do laundry in a see-through plastic sheet, so they wear their cleanest trail clothes, which aren't very clean. Also, for reasons unclear to me, most of the hiking community in the USA prefer to wear synthetic materials over natural fiber. Now cotton is a terrible hiking material because it does not insulate when wet - you're better of going without. But there are other options in the natural fiber world. Namely, wool. While my pants are synthetic, all my other garments are made from Merino wool. It's warm when wet, warm when cold, cool when hot, super-soft, not itchy, and - this is a big one - wool doesn't hold odors like synthetics do. Now I'm not saying that I'm not a little ripe after a long, hot hike, but I don't think you can smell me when I'm upwind of you in a stiff breeze like you can with most hikers. I walked into the big general store here, and just using my nose I could tell that another hiker was in the store with me.
  • There's not much going on at the Fontana Village right now, mostly just hiker traffic, but in the summer I think this would be a great place for a family to vacation with lots to occupy everyone's time. It's like you're transported back to the 1950's and 60's.
  • Unfortunately I've met up with a character named Turtle. News of him has been moving rapidly up and down the Trail. He dresses like a Marine (some say he's ex-military), acts and talks real tough, and he carries a pistol with him at all times. I'm sure a lot of people carry weapons out here (why, I don't know) but Turtle is reportedly unsafe with his firearm. Some experienced hikers who ran into him say he's scared of everything out in the woods. Wonderful. From what I've seen of him, however, he doesn't seem unstable; he's just got enough testosterone flowing in him for two men. Folks like him don't stay on the Trail long. Until he drops out, I'll keep my distance and be happy that I wear a red shirt!

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • Zero days are good and necessary, but they don't get you closer to Katahdin!

Droid Phone Notes: One final night to make sure my Droid phone, external battery, and nPower Peg are all charged and ready for the Smokies.

Photos:

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Day 14. To Fontana for Real - The Last Day of Slack-Packing

To Fontana for Real - The Last Day of Slack-Packing

Date: March 26, 2012

Day number: 14

Wake info: 0658h @ The Lodge at Fontana Village

Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): 159.7 mile @ 0902h at Stecaoh Gap, NC 143

Pain scale AM (1-10): 2

Happiness scale AM (1-10): 8

Hunger scale AM (1-10): 1

Start weather: Plentiful sunshine and warm. 60's


End MM & TOD: 164.6 mile @ 1755h at Fontana Dam, NC 28

Approximate miles covered today: 14.2 miles (water h

Pain scale PM (1-10): 3

Happiness scale PM (1-10): 7

Hunger scale PM (1-10): 3

End weather: Sunshine, calm, warm, low 70's.


Resting time: 2:25

Bedtime: 2015h

Where slept: bed @ The Fontana Village Lodge

Money spent: $3 shuttle from NC 28 to the Lodge.

Resupply: yes. Finally the missing food resupply box was found. It was at the front desk ask along!


Trail conditions: Mostly smooth and narrow; rocky and muddy in a few places.


Shoe conditions: In good shape.


Liters of water consumed: 9 Liters

Approx fuel burn time: 0 minutes

Approx. pack weight: 13 lbs

Number of river fords: 0

Number of paved road X-ings: 3. NC143, Yellow Creek Mtn Rd, and NC 28.

Number of road miles: 0

Number of named mountain summits: 2

Number of wrong turns: 0

Number of times I stubbed a toe: 10 (one was a little painful)

Number of times I've fallen: 0

Number of bugs swallowed: 0


Songs playing in my head:

  • Why Can't We Be Friends - War
  • Bad, Bad Leroy Brown - Jim Crochie
  • Begin the Begin - REM
  • In the Mood - Glenn Miller
  • Chattanooga Choo-Choo - Glenn Miller

Happenings at home: Archer got his cast (light blue) from the same doctor (Avallone) who last operated on my knee. Apparently he asked a lot of questions about my hike. Called the family tonight. Kathleen is still trying to track down someone to cut the grass of our Iuka, MS home. Josie is all excited that she was about to watch World's Worst Cook and learn who was going to the finals. We will Skype tomorrow.

Companions (TH for thru-hikers): For most of today I hiked alone, then ran into a bunch of folks at the Cable Gap Shelter, just 4 miles from finishing. Among those there was the group I passed yesterday coming up from Simp Gap. I got all their names: Otto (an experienced thru-hiker and unofficial leader of the group). Perch (who I met yesterday, so named because he looked like a hawk perched on the second floor bunk of a shelter. He started out calling himself Hawkeye, but dropped it because there were three others with that name on the Trail.) Vice Grip (he has a firm handshake). And a married couple: Sap and Goat. Goat because he can climb mountains like one. Sap got her name because she carries a travel-sized violin and used tree sap to rosin up her bow. Bomber (with the injured Achilles tendon) caught up yesterday and ended up doing over 22 miles. I like this nice young man, but he's not long for the Trail if he doesn't take better care of himself. In the dining room at Fontana Lodge I ate dinner with Bomber, Joe (the nice one, not the thoughtless one way back at Neels Gap, Bubblefeet (so called because if his bad blisters early on), and his girlfriend Banana (her real name is Anna). Also eating in the dining room was Turtle and his wife, and a nice older couple (Time To Go (?) and Tag Along) who were out on their second Thru (2006).

Trail Magic: Dad and Beanie slacking me and putting me up in a hotel!

Flora: I can just about see spring being sprung! At the tops of the mountains, the trees have little buds on the tops of their branches and as I descend, I see more and more green. It is happening right before my eyes. When I arrived at the hotel after yesterday's hike, the dogwood tree out front had no flowers. When I left this morning, I remarked to Dad that it had three blossoms - the first of the year. When I returned from my hike just nine hours later, the tree had over 100 flowers! So far my allergies have not been an issue - a few sniffles and sneezes, but nothing of note really.

Fauna: The birds are really singing now. Tons of song birds line the Trail and sing to me as I pass. I wish Kyle, Pacho, Stephanie, and Bob could help me identify them!

Vistas: There was a nice view from the top of Jacob's Ladder. On the final descent you can see Fontana Lake and Dam through the trees.

Attractions: "Jacob's Ladder", a nice view from the top of a cliff, a couple of shelters, the Lodge at Fontana Village.

State of body: My left knee hurts and is swollen, but no more than usual. My calves and the muscles along my shins hurt and are tight and sore.

State of mind: I was dad to see Dad and Beanie for the last time for a while, but so glad they took to the time to support me in these difficult mountains! It really meant a great deal to me! My knees still hurt after each day, but I can't imagine how they would be feeling if I were carrying a full pack. I worry a bit that my body is in for a rude awakening on the big 12-mile climb to the ridgeline of the Smokies. Looking forward to my zero tomorrow; a nice rest with time to catch up on my blogs!

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • I think to finish this hike it requires patience, persistence, perseverance, and consistency.
  • I've been counting how many pumps of my water filter it takes to pump a liter of water. When I started in Georgia it took 35. Now I'm up to 37, but it is pumping just fine. As the filter becomes clogged, it requires more pumps per liter. This number is a good indicator of when I need to clean or replace the filter.
  • Slack-packing is a great way to cover some miles. It is still hard on the body (15 miles is 15 miles), but it is a nice break for the knees, and gives the muscles surrounding them a chance to get stronger.

Notes:

  • "Jacob's Ladder," a steep 0.6-mile climb, greeted me just a mile into the hike. It was difficult, but doable. I had to stop every 70 - 100 steps for a second or two to wipe my brow and catch my breath. I made the mistake of thinking that would be the must challenging part if today's hike. For me, the most difficult part was the last climb up from Cable Gap Shelter. While not a terribly long ascent, it was steep with four or five "false peaks" that just tease you and make you think it's time to descend. Thru-hikers call these PUDs, or Pointless Ups and Downs, and we loathe them.
  • The missing food box was found. It was at the front desk since last week. Good grief!
  • I asked Sean (the poor fellow who's nursing a blown Achilles tendon) about the hike up into the Smokies and he says it wasn't so bad; nothing like the climb up from the NOC. This means it will be excruciating for me!
  • I'm looking forward to my zero tomorrow and entering the Smokies the day after next. Again, I worry about my pack weight.

Droid Phone Notes: I've enjoyed being able to really use the phone on these slack-pack days. I've gotten some nice GPS tracks, knowing I will have power at night to fully recharge the phone for the next day. The nPower Peg will get a real workout in the Smokies, for I will be without electric power for one week!

Photos:

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Day 13. One Long (Really Good) Climb Up from the NOC

One Long (Really Good) Climb Up from the NOC
Date: March 25, 2012
Day number: 13
Wake info: 0715h @ The Fontana Village Lodge
Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): 137.3 mile @ 0915h at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)
Pain scale AM (1-10): 2
Happiness scale AM (1-10): 8
Hunger scale AM (1-10): 1
Start weather: Cold, windy, mostly cloudy, 50s.

End MM & TOD: 150.7 mile @ 1715h at the NOC
Approximate miles covered today: 13.6 miles (water)
Pain scale PM (1-10): 2
Happiness scale PM (1-10): 9
Hunger scale PM (1-10): 2
End weather: Cool, cloudy, windy, low 60s.

Resting time: 1:17
Bedtime: 2215h
Where slept: bed @ the Fontana Village Lodge
Money spent: $0 (thanks, Dad!)
Resupply: I did purchase 10oz of white gas from the ofter at the NOC. The box Kathleen mailed ten days ago is not at the lodge. It is likely to be at the post office here at the Village. I will phone them tomorrow from the Trail to check on it.

Trail conditions: Not bad, actually. A little muddy in places. Occasionally rocky in places, with a few patches of small boulders comprising the Trail. Mostly the path was worn and smooth. Roots abound, though.

Shoe conditions: In good shape. Feet are dry.

Liters of water consumed: 9 Liters
Approx fuel burn time: 0 minutes
Approx. pack weight: 14 lbs
Number of river fords: 0. (I did walk over the Nantahala River on a pedestrian bridge.)
Number of paved road X-ings: 1 (US 19 & 74)
Number of road miles: 0.1
Number of named mountain summits: 2, including Cheoah Bald
Number of wrong turns: 0
Number of times I stubbed a toe: 9
Number of times I've fallen: 0
Number of bugs swallowed: 0
Number and location of BMs: 0
Urine Description: Clear, odorless, frequent, high volume

Songs playing in my head:

  • You Are My Sunshine (during the two minute time period that the cloud overhead parted and allowed sunlight to reach me.)

Happenings at home: Kids had a relaxing day and were getting ready for another week of school. Kathleen was busy packing another resupply box for me and trying to track down someone to mow the lawn of our Mississippi home.

Companions (TH for thru-hikers): Peru (biologist and 2011 TH preparing for her Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) thru hike), Mushroom (a nice, friendly, older TH whose wife is following him as he walls and they see each other every the days or so), Bomber (nice, young, talkative TH I met way back at Muskrat Creek Shelter who was doing big miles but injured his Achilles tendon doing so and had taken a few days off), Perch (TH), Otto (TH), and a number of other thru-hikers on the Trail whose names I did not get. In the Fontana Village dining room I meet Sean who had torn his Achilles tendon 18 miles into the Smokies and had to hobble back to Fontana for 5-7 days of rest and recuperation.

Trail Magic: The cookie I left for Peru on a log. (See below.) Dad and Beanie slacking me and putting me up in a hotel!

Flora: Some of the trees' leaves at lower elevations are popping out. While the number of trees covered in moss and lichen is fewer in number on this stretch of trail, you can still see the evidence of it. Peru isn't concerned and says it's not killing the trees. When I pointed out that the trees afflicted with it didn't produce leaves and wasn't that bad for trees, she said, "well, at least it's good for the lichen." I asked some at the NOC about it and they didn't seem to know what I was talking about. I'm concerned no one seems concerned about this.

Fauna: Lots of birds chirping; caught one with my voice recorder but I can't figure out how to link it here.

Vistas: The Jump Up had some nice views of the Nantahala Gorge and I could even see the NOC way below. Cheoah Bald had nice views, too.

Attractions: Some nice vistas, a good shelter, and an 8-mile hike up the mountain (which I actually liked).

State of body: This was one of my better days! I feel really good. My feet hurt (simple soreness) but all my blisters are gone. I try to massage my feet and muscles as often as possible. Left knee is swollen as usual, but assume that by tomorrow it will be back to normal as usual. (Hydration, hydration, hydration!)

State of mind: Hiking the AT is HARD! Enjoyable, interesting, doable, but hard. I've come to recognize the pattern of hiking the AT: knees and muscles are shot after a long day on the Trail, but feel better in the morning (especially after you've walked around for a few minutes). I'm more confident every day that this pattern is repeatable and doable. Mentally I've turned a corner. Of course it doesn't hurt that 20-year-olds are experiencing the same pain (if not more) than I am.

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • Here's a little relationship I've noticed on the Trail. If the Trail is well-marked with blazes, the shelters nearby will be the pits. If the shelters are nice, you may walk for ten minutes before seeing a blaze. Typically Georgia had nice shelters and North Carolina has nice blazes. Since I don't stay in shelters, I prefer the NC blazes.
  • The mountains of North Carolina are much harder than the mountains of Georgia. Georgia's are more rugged and rockier, while North Carolina's are longer and taller.
  • Peru tells me that the deep, low frequency periodic sound that vibrates the ground with a "whomp, whomp, whom, wh, wh, wh, wh!" is a grouse taking off. Not sure I believe her. Sounds like something is banging the ground, like a jackrabbit. The sound is too deep for a woodpecker.
  • Peru told me that the most successful thru-hiker demographic were women over 60and the least successful were men in their 20's. I've been thinking that must be true, but it was nice to have it independently verified. I think this is because young men think they have all the time in the world, they lack proper motivation for such an endeavor, and they lack the life-experiences of older folks (life is arduous and long, just like the AT).
  • Peru also told me it is pretty easy to hike the 20 miles between Icewater Spring Shelter and Cosby Knob Shelter. She says that generally the Smokies should be easier than what we just came through. Of course, that will mean they will be tortuous for me.

Notes:

  • I climbed 3,500 vertical feet in 8 miles today. Thought it went well. Difficult, but not overly so if you go slow. Of course I wasn't carrying a fully loaded pack! The descent wasn't nearly as bad as yesterday's!
  • I left my own little Trail Magic for Peru. She needed a rest half way up the big hill, so I moved on. A little a while later I took a break, ate a cookie, and left one in a paper bag for Peru stuck in a crack on a log. Later at the Sassafras Gap Shelter, I ran into four young fellas out for their first overnight camping trip and told them that if they see a woman in a blue dress who answers to "Peru", ask her if she found my cookie and if not, the boys could split it. Just before I left the shelter Peru showed up and I asked her if she found the cookie. She said she had. I then inquired if the boys had asked her if she had found it. She replied, "every single one of them!"
  • Today was cold and windy. Not so, cold that your fingers hurt, but cold enough to notice. Anyway, all day long the surrounding mountains were bathed in sunlight, while the ONE cloud in the sky hung out over whichever mountain I was on. I experienced two minutes of sun on my skin. Still it's better than the rain I've been getting!
  • I still can't believe how many thru-hikers smoke. I'm not on my soap box here, I just can't believe they can do this with lungs impregnated with tar!
  • No one passed me today, but I passed 9 people. Perhaps I'm getting stronger.
  • My brother, Kyle, gave me a little compass that I always wear on my Road ID band (which Kyle also gave me) on my wrist. I live the compass and use it all the time, but today it was a source of frustration. For a large part of today the Trail led us in the south-west direction, directly away from Katahdin to the north-east! I realize the Trail twists and turns, but it was discouraging to walk in the opposite direction of my destination fir so many miles!
  • I saw One Step tonight in the Village dining hall and he told me Jacob's Ladder on tomorrow's hike was a killer. Oh, goodie!

Droid Phone Notes: Nothing of note here; recharging every night in the hotel room.

Photos:

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Day 12 video

Forgot to put this in...

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Day 12. One Long (Really Bad) Climb Down to the NOC

One Long (Really Bad) Climb Down to the NOC

Date: March 24, 2012

Day number: 12

Wake info: 0701h @ Microtel Inn in Franklin, NC

Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): 124.4 mile @ 0830h at Burningtown Gap

Pain scale AM (1-10): 2

Happiness scale AM (1-10): 8

Hunger scale AM (1-10): 1

Start weather: Cold, breezy, wet, mostly cloudy at the start but sunny most of the morning, 50s.


End MM & TOD: 137.3 mile @ 1702h at Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC)

Approximate miles covered today: 13.5 miles (extra miles to water, shelter, views)

Pain scale PM (1-10): 3

Happiness scale PM (1-10): 9

Hunger scale PM (1-10): 2

End weather: mostly sunny but the last hour was in a soaking rain.


Resting time: 2:20

Bedtime: 2230h

Where slept: Bed @ the Fontana Village Lodge

Money spent: $0 (thanks, Dad!)

Resupply: no


Trail conditions: In the morning, the Trail was muddy in places, but mostly dry. Lots of roots and a good amount of rocks all day. Very muddy, of course, during the rain. Around the Jumpoff the Trail became very rugged with massive boulders requiring careful, slow navigation, often employing hand-holds.


Shoe conditions: In good shape. Stayed dry even after an hour of steady rain!


Liters of water consumed: 10 Liters

Approx fuel burn time: 0 minutes

Approx. pack weight: 14 lbs

Number of river fords: 0

Number of paved road X-ings: 1 (NC 1365 @ Tellico Gap)

Number of road miles: 0

Number of named mountain summits: 3

Number of wrong turns: 1. This one cost me less than 10 minutes time and 0.2 miles.

Number of times I stubbed a toe: 6

Number of times I've fallen: 0. But I almost busted it twice today! Very slippery.

Number of bugs swallowed: 0


Songs playing in my head:

  • Good Day Sunshine - The Beatles
  • Rockin' Down the Highway ? - Three Doobie Brothers
  • One ? - Three Dog Night
  • Yellow Submarine - The Beatles
  • Jet - Paul McCartney and Wings
  • Singing In the Rain - gotta stay positive even in inclement weather!

Happenings at home: Archer's broken arm is healing; Josie is waiting on him hand and foot. (We're such lucky parents to have such sweet kids!)

Companions (TH for thru-hikers): Wolf, Super Wolf, and three other thru-hikers whose names I didn't catch.

Trail Magic: Dad and Beanie slacking me and putting me up in a hotel!

Flora: Spring is about to pop! Green leaves are beginning to show on trees at the lower elevations. However, something is also killing a large number of deciduous trees of all varieties in this section of the Trail. Moss and lichen seem to be strangling entire mountains worth of trees. Pretty depressing.

Fauna: Throughout journey I keep hearing a deep, barely audible, low frequency sound that vibrates the ground with a "whomp, whomp, whom, wh, wh, wh, wh," and I'd sure like for someone out there to tell me what it is. It sounds like something is banging the ground, like a jackrabbit. The sound is too deep to be a woodpecker.

Vistas: Great views today from Copper Ridge Bald, Rocky Bald, and especially from the observation tower at Wesser Bald. I'm a little embarrassed to say this, but I actually Skyped with Archer from atop the Wesser Bald observation tower; I just wanted someone else to experience it with me! (I hope the video below plays!)

Attractions: All the vistas above and finishing at the NOC.

State of body: Despite the long descents today I'm feeling pretty good. Of course, having a light pack helps!

State of mind: I'm feeling really positive. Happy to be able to spend time with Dad and Beanie.

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • Every day brings pain and sore muscles. But every morning I'm feeling better and ready to go again. This pattern is not abnormal.
  • Massaging the feet and sore, stiff muscles really aids the healing process.

Notes:

  • Today's descents were excruciating. I thought the one from Rocky Bald to Telico Gap was bad enough, but the last 5 miles (from the Jump Off to the NOC) was wicked! Imagine walking down one continuous flight of stairs for 2.5 hours. Then imagine that every so often 6 or 7 steps are removed and you have to clamber down. Then imagine that every so often there are no steps but rather a slick, smooth incline of rocks and dirt and leaves. Oh, add to that an hour of a good, soaking rain. That is what the end of my day was like.
  • The signature dessert of ice cream, granola, cranberries, caramel, and chocolate at the Riverside Restaurant is a must have treat!

Droid Phone Notes: Nothing of note here; recharging every night in the hotel room.

Photos:

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Day 11. Slack-Packin' (in the rain) and Lip-Smackin' (in town)

Slack-Packin' (in the rain) and Lip-Smackin' (in town)

Date: March 23, 2012

Day number: 11

Wake info: 0550h @ The Microtel Inn in Franklin, NC

Start Mile Marker (MM) & Time of Day (TOD): 109.8 mile @ 0815h at Winding Stair Gap (US 64)

Pain scale AM (1-10): 2

Happiness scale AM (1-10): 9

Hunger scale AM (1-10): 2

Start weather: Cloudy, wet, cool.


End MM & TOD: 124.4 mile @ 1648h at Burningtown Gap (NC 1397)

Approximate miles covered today: 14.6 miles

Pain scale PM (1-10): 3

Happiness scale PM (1-10): 7

Hunger scale PM (1-10): 4

End weather: Cool and wet.


Resting time: 1:45

Bedtime: 2200h

Where slept: in a bed @ the Microtel Inn in Franklin, NC

Money spent: $0

Resupply: no


Trail conditions: Wet and muddy, but not very rocky.


Shoe conditions: In good shape but without rain pants they got wet in the rain.


Liters of water consumed: 6 Liters

Approx fuel burn time: 0 minutes

Approx. pack weight: 13 lbs

Number of river fords: 0

Number of paved road X-ings: 1 (Wayah Road)

Number of road miles: 0

Number of named mountain summits: 2 (Siler and Wayah Balds)

Number of wrong turns: 0

Number of times I stubbed a toe: 7

Number of times I've fallen: 0, but almost did once!

Number of bugs swallowed: 0


Songs playing in my head:

  • Put One Foot in Front if the Other - a song from the children's Christmas special, "A Year Without a Santa Claus". (I know I'm losing lots of cool-points here, but I gotta report the facts!

Happenings at home: I learned that Archer's hurt arm us, in fact, broken.

Companions (TH for thru-hikers): My brother, Gy, was my constant companion on today's hike; the miles just rolled by! I did see Applesauce, April Showers, and a number if others at the Wayah Bald Shelter taking shelter from the rain.

Trail Magic: Dad and Beanie slacking me and putting me up in a hotel!

Flora: Something is killing a large number of trees of all varieties along the Trail here. Moss and lichen growing on the trunks and branches seem to stooping the growth of the trees' leaves, which I assume is killing the trees. Very unsightly and depressing.

Fauna: More birds are visible and making more noise.

Vistas: The first part of the hike had some nice views of flowing streams and the mountains surrounding Franklin, NC. But the only thing I saw between Wayah Gap and Burningtown Gap (actually between Burningtown Gap and Wayah Gap since we were heading southbound then) were the heels of Gy's shoes because the heavy rain was preventing me from looking around. Actually the view and tower at Wayah Bald were neat.

Attractions: Wayah and Siler Balds

State of body: Feeling pretty good for my first day of slack-packing. Knees feel about the same as usual, however. Shoes got wet.

State of mind: Happy to have a hiking companion in Gy.

Lessons learned/confirmed today:

  • I was starving last night when I got to the hotel and gorged on a steak dinner. This morning I took advantage of the hotel's breakfast buffet and ate a lot then, too. Now my stomach hurts and I'm bloated. The lesson: when your appetite kicks in sometime in Week 2, don't go food-crazy when you get to town, and it's best to avoid big slabs of meat!
  • No rain, no Maine!
  • When slack-packing, be sure to carry your pack cover!

Notes:

  • Slack-packing is when someone transports the bulk of your pack's contents ahead up the Trail. You hike with a much lighter pack, which is easier on the body and allows you to do more miles if you wish.
  • Within the first few steps of today's hike, I had completed 5% of my thru-hike!
  • I had a really good hike with my brother, Gy, today. He didn't slow me down (in fact, he wad moving to fast for me for a whiled) and never complained even though I know he was freezing in his rain-soaked jacket, tennis shoes, and cotton T-shirts.
  • After my big meal of meat and potatoes I wasn't feeling great at the start of today's hike. I've never had indigestion or gas pain like this before (that wasn't due to hernia surgery). Gy forced me to lay down, after which I felt much better.
  • Just as we got to Wayah Gap it started to rain pretty heavily. Moments later, Dad and Beanie pulled up with with a car full of Subway sandwiches and ionized water! Talk about Trail Magic! We put our packs in the back of the car, but I left my dirty hiking sticks propped on the side of the vehicle. As we were eating I suggested that we all drive to Burningtown Gap together to insure Dad's car could make it up the dirt road. So we promptly drove off without my hiking sticks. Thirty minutes later we arrive at Burningtown Gap (the road was fine) and I get another idea: why don't we hike southbound from Burningtown Gap to Wayah Gap . So we get out of the car and I realize the hiking poles are on the roadside pull-off where we ate lunch. Dad raced back and found the poles just where they had been before e'er drove away, no worse for the wear. (I do love the South!) And I actually had an okay hike without them. The downhills would have been easier with them, but I was fine without them.
  • I gave Gy my rain pants and wide-brim rain hat to help ward of some of the rain. Consequently, my socks soon became saturated and the inside of my boots became damp. Thanks to Hydropel, my feet didn't become waterlogged and develop and blisters. My toes didn't even shrivel! That is some great stuff!
  • Gy and I chatted the entire time about his job, comedians, movies, TV shows, and played Trivial Pursuit (Gy's made-up questions) for miles. I had a great time and it really made the long, wet miles fly by.
  • Hiking southbound was interesting. Going against the grain we saw a ton of thru-hikers, some of my acquaintances looked perplexed as if they had been the ones going in the wrong direction. I liked how Gy quipped, "Well, Chris, now you can say you hiked the AT, uphill, both ways!"

Droid Phone Notes: Nothing of note here; recharging every night in the hotel room.

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