(25) Tuesday, April 15, 8:00 PM
It feels great to be back in my tent. I haven't pitched my tent since April 4. I don't mind sleeping in the shelters now, but why the hell have I been carrying this tent? Actually, I have greatly missed the privacy and intimacy of my tent. I only wish I hadn't lugged it through the Smokies, where I wasn't permitted to use it any way.
Today was a nice hike out of Davenport Gap after a good stay at Mountain Moma's. Ooooh, I wish I hadn't drunk that whole quart of chocolate milk last night. My tolerance for dairy products has really suffered since I haven't been eating any. My body gave me some fits last night, and then my stomach ached most of today. Having the ice cream for dessert probably aggravated my condition. Oh well, I'm sure it all will pass.
Even though the hike today was mostly up, I performed rather well. Starting out with a real breakfast always fires me up. I had bacon, eggs, french fries and pancakes before starting this morning.
I'm camping near Geo, Old Ridge Runner, Country Bumpkin and City Slicker. I'm feeling pretty good (except for my stomach-ache) about everything, and am congratulating myself on my here to date success. It's all just one day at a time. I've been thinking about Christine's upcoming visit to Hot Springs. I hope it goes really well. I've hiked all but one of the past 25 days, and I'm really looking forward to some R&R.
12.5 Miles Today, 246.5 MTD
(26) Wednesday, April 16, 8:00PM
I'm in my tent right now. I am all alone at this campsite. This may be the first night of camping out here entirely alone. The hikers are starting to noticeably thin out. Five different hikers all stopped at my campsite, each having hiked at least as far as I did, but all chose to push farther . . . to get closer to Hot Springs. I have left myself with an easy 7.5-mile day tomorrow. I have no incentive to get in there any earlier since I'm taking the next two days off anyway.
I'm looking forward to this break with Christine. It should be a nice breather from the trail. We may even get out of Hot Springs and go stay in Asheville.
I can tell that my body is getting a little better at this, but I still ache an awful lot. Today was a beautiful day, and even though I wasn't feeling peppy, I did a 15-miler. The view from atop Max Patch Bald was splendid this morning. I knew it would be, so I brought my breakfast with me to eat it up there after a mild 3.5-mile start to the day. I should easily make it into Hot Springs by late morning.
15.4 Miles Today, 261.9 MTD
(27) Thursday, April 17, 1:30PM
Well I'm in my motel room in Hot Springs right now: fed, showered, and rested. I got in here at 10:00 this morning after hiking 7.5 miles. I loved all the birthday mail I received -- cookies from home: I'm in heaven. Christine gets in this evening, and then it's two zero-mile days, Oh Boy! I also got my modem back from Compaq, and it works!
The rain kicked in about 3:30 this morning and didn't let up until just before 7:00, which worked out perfectly. That is just when I was about to get out of my tent. I was hiking by 7:20 this morning, being drawn like a magnet toward Hot Springs. It was a beautiful wet morning with natural life dripping from everything. A very peaceful walk, it was.
I hate packing up a wet tent unless I know I'll use it again that night, which I'm not, so it's hanging over all the furniture in my motel room drying out. I won't need it again until Sunday.
I just figured it out, that I have averaged almost exactly 10 miles a day thus far. I have hiked 26 out of my first 27 days, and have traveled almost 270 miles to date. I am pleased with that average for the start. It'll definitely pick up as I head into Virginia, but for right now that is good enough. Well, I've got lots more to do before Christine gets here, so I gotta go.
7.5 Miles Today, 269.4 MTD
(28) Friday, April 18
In Hot Springs and Asheville with Christine. Went to the Biltmore Estate and stayed at the Mt. Pisgah Inn up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Zero-mile day.
(29) Saturday, April 19
Still with Christine in Asheville. We did some shopping and saw a movie (Liar Liar). Another Zero-mile day.
(30) Sunday, April 20, 10:30PM
I just got into my tent after a long day. Christine and I arose early to drive back up to Hot Springs. We ate a late breakfast there before she left at around 11:00 AM. I then spent the next couple hours completing my first public letter, and responding to some other e-mails I had received. My modem seems to be working fine.
I didn't leave Hot Springs until 2:30 this afternoon. I then hiked all the way until 8:00 to cover the 11 miles to the first shelter. A lot of people chose to leave town today; there are about 15 people staying in and around the shelter. I needed to cover some miles today in order to put me in Erwin on Thursday as planned. My only concern right now is the weather. Today was a beautiful day, but the forecast calls for rain over the next four days. I hope it isn't as bad as it sounds.
I had a very nice visit with Christine. I felt very melancholy during my walk today after her departure. We didn't really talk about a lot of things this weekend; we mainly just focused on having a good time. I hope she feels good about the trip too.
I purchased some new gear on Saturday to lighten my load. I got a lighter Therm-a-rest sleeping pad that shaved a pound, and am sending home for my lighter chair kit that should shave another pound. I got some new insoles for my boots. I think they'll work out, but today it felt like I was breaking in a new pair of boots. The insoles are larger and raise my foot higher in the boot making my heel rub a different part of the boot. I almost received a blister on my right heel today because of it. I applied moleskin twice today to address the problem.
11.0 Miles Today, 280.4 MTD
(31) Monday, April 21, 5:30PM
I'm sitting in my tent right now because it is the only dry place I could find today. It has been raining all day today. Yes, sometimes just a drizzle, but often times a thunder-and lightning downpour.
The day didn't start so bad. Knowing that the forecast called for a lot of rain today, I was out of my tent this morning just in time before it began. I slept very well last night and was able to pack up a dry tent. From there the day just got worse. My sore right heel was not satisfied with a night’s sleep, so I had to tape it up early. It remained a nagging pain all day, though I checked the moleskin frequently to make sure it wasn't slipping.
My boots failed this time to keep me dry as we slopped through ankle deep puddle after puddle. All of this was accompanied by extended stretches of low-lying rhododendron that kept menacing my tall pack. I was concentrating so much on the tricky footing with the rocks, roots and mud; that I usually didn't notice these branches until they were pushing me around. It felt like arms reaching out and grabbing me.
Then the final straw occurred when my left foot slipped off of the trail bringing me tumbling down a hill out of control. I was one unhappy person for a while. I earned a couple cuts and abrasions, but nothing broken, so I moved on. This has truly been a difficult day.
But things aren't always horrible. Around lunch time I reached a shelter to take a break. There was a zip-loc baggie by the shelter with my name on it (BIGFOOT). The baggie contained two Double-Decker Moon Pies and a note with the following poem:
There is a character on the Trail everyone should meet!
You'll understand his name with a glance at his feet!
Oh no; he's no ordinary John, or Jack!
This fool is walking to Maine with a 70-pound pack!
But he shares a dream like you and me,
And he's livin' it out on the AT!
Here's a treat and a note just to say;
We wish you the best and a Happy Birthday!
from One Life and Julie.
I thought that was so clever. One day early for my birthday, but otherwise perfect. I hope tomorrow goes better, but the facts aren't too promising. The forecast calls for more of the same weather until Thursday, and tomorrow I'll be packing up a wet tent and putting on wet boots. Well, there's a creed up here that seems to apply to me today. "No Pain, No Rain, No Gain, No Maine!" It basically means that you'll never gain the miles you need to reach Maine if you don't hike through some pain and some rain. I fit the bill today. I'm so miserable that I even skipped making dinner tonight. I just didn't have it in me to make any additional effort. I'm turning in.
Erwin, TN here I come. I'll be wet and tired by Thursday when I pull in there.
15.3 Miles Today, 295.7 MTD
(32) Tuesday, April 22, 8:30PM
Happy Birthday to me! Today was truly a gift from God, especially after yesterday's fiasco. It rained and even hailed all through the night, and I slept like a baby. Yesterday's hike wiped me out so much, I didn't even cook dinner. I slept off and on from 6:00PM on until morning. Come morning the rain finally broke to a thick fog. I packed up my very wet tent and headed off at 8:45AM. I got to the next shelter at about 11:00 having gone nearly 6 miles in just over two hours. The trail today was excellent. It was wet and soft, but otherwise a lovely treadway that was terribly easy travel after yesterday.
By the time I reached that shelter at 11:00, the sun was already threatening to break through. It stayed mostly cloudy this afternoon with intermittent sunshine. It was lovely hiking weather. I arrived at the following shelter before 4:00, and in time to claim a spot. I was famished and dehydrated. After making a water run, I immediately consumed two quarts of fluids. There was enough sun to even dry some things out a little. But as promised, the second low-pressure system moved in, and it's been raining for the past hour. It may rain all through the day tomorrow, which is okay, since I had a great day today.
There is no shelter placed well for me tomorrow, so it is possible that I'll be making camp in the rain tomorrow night. If I'm lucky, the rain will break late in the day. Then my walk into Erwin should be nice.
I ended up having a blister on my right heel this morning, but I put moleskin on it and was not bothered by it hardly at all today. I also made another adjustment to my pack and was able to wear it higher on my hips all day with the least amount of pain to date.
I fear I blew my new modem out last night. It has something to do with using the computer in cold weather. If I can get Compaq to give me a new modem, then I won't have the modem in the computer except when I'm in town. Hopefully this will resolve the problems I've had.
I'm sharing the shelter tonight with Chopstick, Julie, One Life, Orion, and Bearcat (Ed Asmuth from Golf Manor). I even played some cribbage with Julie. It's been a pretty good day, except for having my energy fade late in the day due to skipping dinner the night before.
I almost forgot to mention that I saw my second snake on the trail today, and a close encounter it was. Again, I was on top of it before I knew it as I watched it slither between my legs. This one was more menacing in appearance though only two feet long, but I could tell that it was not poisonous. Two snakes in 300 miles, not too bad.
14.6 Miles Today, 310.3 MTD
(33) Wednesday, April 23, 9:30PM
It's been a long wonderful day. I got a late start this morning leaving the shelter at 9:15. It was cold and damp so no one was moving quickly. Orion and I walked the two miles to Sam's Gap that crosses a major road. My handbook said there was a good breakfast/lunch diner about three miles down the NC side, but that it was difficult to get a hitch. A hot breakfast sure sounded good before having to tackle the seven-mile ascent facing me.
I told Orion that I would try to get a hitch for five minutes, if no ride by then, then I was back on the trail. Well it wasn't four minutes before a businesswoman in a Lexus stopped for us. She had no room in her trunk so we put our wet packs on top of each other in her back seat. I squeezed in beside the packs and let Orion sit up front. Our muddy boots made such a mess in her terribly clean car that I felt awful. The first thing I did when she dropped us off was to grab the only accessible cloth I had, my toilet paper. I tried to wipe up some of the mud, but she said it would be okay, and that I ought to save my toilet paper for when I really need it.
Orion and I arrived at the Little Creek Cafe right as another hiker pulled up from a separate ride that he had hitch. His name was 180, from Atlanta. The three of us spent the next hour or so feasting. I ate eggs, bacon, hash browns, toast, belgian waffles, four cups of coffee, a quart of orange juice; and then finished it all off with a hot slice of strawberry rhubarb pie. Wow, was I stuffed.
It took Orion and me over a half-hour to get a ride back up the mountain as we stood in front of the cafe in the cold rain. It was 12:15 before we finally got back on the trail, and I had only done two miles that morning. Not a very good start for the fifteen-mile day I had planned. Anyway, I had no regrets. Between last night’s big dinner and this morning’s hearty breakfast, I just cruised right up the ascending seven miles.
I reached the next shelter at 3:45 just after summitting Big Bald. The weather had been so nasty all day with a constant fog and drizzle being blown at me by a steady wind that I would have been justified stopping at that shelter after just ten miles on the day. Everyone else on the trail today seemed to follow that thought, because there was only one space left in this rather nice, double-decker shelter. My goal however, was to do what I needed to do to make Erwin tomorrow by early afternoon. So I left that cold wet shelter on top of the mountain and moved on, stunning all at hand. Right as I was leaving, though, I got to witness the good fortune I was passing along. A very wet and tired Yokel pulled in after completing 19 miles, and he took the spot in the shelter that I left behind.
I moved on down a very treacherous trail trying hard to keep my feet from sliding out from under me. The wet mud made for very slippery hiking. I was very cautious, and found myself enjoying the hike immensely, while still burning off my available calories from this morning. I lost myself in some intimate thoughts those last few miles, even bringing myself to tears on one occasion. It was just a very special walk as I tried to keep myself warm.
Right now I'm camped just shy of Spivey Gap after meeting my goal for the day. I found a beautiful rare meadow for a campsite tonight. It's always great to pitch the tent on grass as opposed to the muddy forest floor on a day like today. I set up my tent just as the rain decided to fall in earnest. I got all set inside and even cooked in my vestibule as the rain really let loose. I'm left with less than eleven miles to get into Erwin tomorrow. And the rain has a chance of passing through tonight which means I might even have a fairly dry tent to pack up in the morning. We'll just have to see. Anyway, I'm pooped.
15.6 Miles Today, 325.9 MTD