AT Thru-Hike, North Carolina 1997

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(9) Sunday, March 30, 7:00PM

This is my first night in a shelter up here at the Muskrat Creek Shelter, three miles inside the NC state line. I hiked my longest day today, and it was tough. We all got up early this morning to stroll the last mile into Dicks Creek Gap for breakfast. I was very disappointed when I arrived there at 8:00 to see no activity. I waited around with several other hikers until 9:30 when some Thru-Hikers from years past arrived with lunch instead of breakfast. They were set up by 10:00 serving hotdogs, potato chips and cookies. They also passed out little bags of Easter goodies. I ate four Easter eggs and a whole bag full of jellybeans, and then I was hiking again by 10:30. I really humped a tough day today. The other two couples I camped with last night all headed into Hiawassee for a couple nights of clean ... etc.

It looks like I'm in good shape for an early arrival in Franklin on Wednesday. I feel like I use town time as a healthy hiking incentive. The way I'm in and out of town in 24 hours makes it so I'm not going a full day without hiking. I'm on the same pace as Yokel (from Columbus, OH), so we may share a motel room in Franklin.

Tomorrow I climb Standing Indian Mountain. At nearly 5500 ft., it's the tallest thing I'll have climbed on the AT to date.

It's beginning to rain right now, so I'm glad I picked tonight for my first shelter night. I just got a little tired of setting up that tent every night, and then having to break it down in the morning.

Not much else tonight since I'm so tired, except to say that I had my best night sleep out so far, last night. It felt great to finally get a good nights sleep.

12.8 Miles Today, 78.4 MTD

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Dicks Creek Gap, GA on Easter Sunday with The Old Ridge Runner, Trailmouse, Bigfoot (me), Capetown Jenny, Technicolor, Mallory & Mickey. Amazing, but true; Jenny, Trailmouse & Technicolor, and I finished the AT in Maine within a few days of each other.


(10) Monday March 31, 4:00PM

Wow, what a night last night. Yesterday I feared of caving in from heat exhaustion. This morning we were all trying not to freeze. Some kind of really weird front rolled in last night with plummeting temperatures, heavy wind, and rain. By this morning the rain had turned to snow as my thermometer read 28 degrees. I slept so-so in the shelter last night. We were quite exposed to the wind, keeping things rather chilly.

I discovered some mouse damage to my gear this morning, one of the hazards to shelter use. Generations of shelter mice have learned that hikers are a good source of food. The shelters all have lines hanging across the front beam to hang food bags from. Each line has an empty tuna can knotted to it mid way. The line runs through the center of the bottom of the upside down can. Then a twig is tied to the end of the line below the can from which food bags are hung. The logic here is that a mouse needs to descend the line to reach the food bags, but gets stopped by the tuna can. The diameter of the can prevents the mouse from reaching under it back to the line beneath it. This is fairly effective and almost all hikers that use the shelters are vigilant about hanging their food bags out of reach of the mice. I also hung my food bag last night, however I had forgotten about an empty Slim Jim wrapper that was zipped into my conveniant shoulder strap pouch. The smell of the wrapper drove a mouse to nibble through the pocket to get to it. Just a small bit of damage, but a lesson to take the mice seriously.

I was one of the first hikers out of camp this morning at 7:40, not bothering to fix a hot breakfast. I had already planned a cold breakfast from the day before. The snow really came down hard for the first few hours covering everything with a sheet of white. I zipped through the first four miles this morning which put me at the base of Standing Indian Mtn. I was afraid that I would once again be robbed of a great summit view by bad weather. I stopped there at the base and ate my Grapenuts with dried cranberries . . . very yummy even if it was cold out. I then cruised right up Standing Indian as the sun was pushing through the clouds. It clearly stopped snowing, and now it was just a matter of how long it would take to have the clouds lift or blow over. I finally summitted to a spectacular view, albeit a bit grey.

I cruised through the next six miles this afternoon under partly cloudy skies with heavy winds, depending on which side of the mountain I was hiking. All in all, these were the easiest twelve miles I've seen in one day, in spite of the weather. None the less, my feet are very tired.

I expect it to be a very cold night tonight with temps in the teens, and heavy winds. I'll take a few extra precautions tonight to make things as comfortable as possible.

I'm only 14.9 miles from Winding Stair Gap where I get off to hitch into Franklin, NC. I should make it there pretty easily by Wednesday morning. I'm looking forward to another town visit, if just to clean my clothes and take a shower. Tomorrow promises to be a more difficult day. I hope my feet recover. I've hiked 90.9 miles so far. Without any surprises, I should be able to break 100 tomorrow.


I'm already in my tent. Now that the sun is going down, out of the wind is the only warm place to be. It feels good to get off of my feet. I sure hope they feel fresh tomorrow. The rest of my body is starting to trail-harden, but these higher mileage days are taking their toll on my feet. Still no blisters, but some chafing on my legs below my crotch, and in my armpits, due to strenuous use of my walking stick.

Also . . . I STINK. I smell so bad right now, and all my clothes smell so bad. Sometimes while I'm walking I get a good whiff of myself, and it just encourages me to walk faster to outpace the smell. My body odor takes on a very pungent chemical smell after a few days. I have yet to desensitize my nose to these repulsive smells I create. I can't imagine hiking long distances with a partner, and sharing a tent. I would be self-conscious of my body odor, or I would be too disgusted by my partner's.

I am already planning what to wear to the laundromat in Franklin in order to wash the most clothes possible. Picture this; I can wear some very light weight running shorts, sans underwear, my raincoat and my boots without any socks. I suppose I ought to get a picture of this to show the lengths we hikers go for clean clothes. Needless to say, I won't have bathed yet, because it's pointless to take a shower if I can't put clean clothes on afterward.

12.5 AT Miles Today, 90.9 MTD

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Muskrat Creek, NC--very cold and the first snow of my thru-hike.
Standing Indian Mtn.--The first significant summit at 5498'.


(11) Tuesday, April 1, 6:00PM

I'm sitting in a bunkhouse at the Rainbow Springs Campground. It's about 1.5 miles off of the AT near Wallace Gap. I hadn't planned to come down here today, but I arrived at my planned spot at Rock Gap by 2:30 after hiking 12 miles and didn't feel like stopping. So I followed on with my hiking friends (Telephone Man, Full Crew, Old Ridge Runner, Footprints, and Geo). I know that I'm going into Franklin tomorrow, but I couldn't pass up an opportunity to clean my body and my clothes. At least I'll be presentable when I hitch into Franklin.

Today marks two milestones. I passed the 100-mile mark today, and started the month of April. I've been covering some good miles these past three days. My body is really taking it well, except for my tired sore feet. Thank God, still no blisters.

Speaking of thanking God, I don't think I've made note yet of how intimate this experience has been for me. I pause daily to thank God for my good fortune. Some days more than once, because I feel so compelled.

I received a nice complement today from two veteran hikers that I've been walking with. Telephone Man (62 year old who section hiked the AT between '74 and '88, who is now thru-hiking it) and Old Ridge Runner (57 year old who thru-hiked it in 86, now hiking just half again) commented on how they feel they see in me what it takes to finish. So they were betting on me being one of the finishers. Their observation was focused mostly on my positive attitude and warm-hearted spirit. I really got a good feeling hearing that from them.

Today's hike was beautiful, and fairly easy if you remove the 0.3-mile rock-scramble up Albert Mountain. It reminded me of the scramble near the top of Longs Peak in Colorado, except I had my 60-lb. pack on my back today.

After last night’s temps in the low 20's, it warmed up to be a lovely day of hiking in shorts and T-shirt. The wind finally abated as well. The forecast calls for several more days of nice weather with steadily warming temps.

12.8 Miles Today, 103.7 MTD

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Albert Mtn.--This was a short and steep, hand-over-hand climb commonly referred to as a rock-scramble. I enjoyed the summit with Telephone Man, Geo, and The Old Ridge Runner.


(12) Wednesday, April 2, 1:00PM

I'm in my room at the Franklin Motel waiting on hold with Compaq to debug some trouble I'm having with my modem. There are four of us sharing this room (Yokel, Chopsticks, and Brian) with two women next door (Geo and Jody). I've already picked up my mail drop and visited the local cobbler to look at one of my boots.


Since everyone but me pigged out at the AYCE (All You Can Eat) pizza lunch, I ended up eating dinner by myself. It wasn't very good either. I should know better than to order BBQ ribs outside of Cincy. I'm going to bed with a severe headache.

I ended up overnighting my modem to Compaq. They fear that something is wrong with my computer, but it's easier to check the modem first. I have to figure out a way to get a back-up before I can send this computer back.

Since I couldn't send or receive e-mail, I spent a lot of time on the phone. I sure hope I can work this out as painlessly as possible.

3.1 Miles, 106.8 MTD


(13) Thursday, April 3, 8:00PM

I'm in my tent right now after a lovely day of weather up here on Siler Bald. I ended up having a horrible headache last night that put me in bed early. I had a wonderful night's sleep, waking up and getting out early to get my hair cut. The barber laughed when I asked for a shave. He said he stopped doing that 20 years ago. He did end up giving me a very close trim of my beard, which effectively cut it off.

I had some more shopping to do this morning so I kept busy running around. Franklin has a wonderful Outfitter store from which I was able to buy a pair of Lycra long briefs to help with some chafing between my legs. I bought another fleece hat and some other incidentals as well.

It was 11:30 before I returned to my hotel room. Everyone else had left or was ready to go. I saw them off as I frantically tried to get my stuff together, since checkout had already passed at 11:00. I made one more trip to the post office and was on my way out of town. It took me a little while to get a lift, but he took me all the way to Winding Stair Gap.

Again I was met by some previous AT Thru-Hikers from '94 and '95 who were passing out iced tea and Little Debbie snacks. It was 1:45 before I began hiking again, but it felt good to be on the trail. I stopped at Siler bald, because several people I knew were here, and the site is wonderful. I am just below the actual summit of the bald. It was a very calm clear evening with a spectacular sunset. I took several pictures of the panoramic views from the summit, as well as some sunset shots.

Tomorrow should be a nice 12-mile day. I'll get to the Nantahala River crossing on Saturday afternoon. I may spend the night in the bunkhouse there. Everything seems to be on schedule.

3.7 Miles Today, 110.5 MTD

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Views from Siler Bald. One of several natural treeless summits along the southern AT.


(14) Friday, April 4, 6:30PM

I'm in my tent hiding from the gnats and mosquitoes. The gnats have been out in force all day today. The only relief was to keep on hiking. This accounted for my longest day so far, over 14 miles. It was a fairly nice day, but would have been better with a little breeze. The day began with a beautiful sunrise from Siler Bald. I got my earliest start yet at 7:20. It's the only way I could cover that many miles. The bottoms of my feet are so sore.

Today I noticed that the heel of one of my boots has already blown out. The stitching has separated from the sole. I intend to have my Vasque SunDowners overnighted to me at Fontana Dam. I'm going to check into getting these boots repaired. I hadn't anticipated having them fail so soon.

Tomorrow I arrive in Wesser after just over 9 miles of hiking. I hope to be able to get a bed in the bunkhouse at NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center). This way I get another shower, meal, and laundry. I broke down and bought some deodorant in Franklin . . . for my own well being. It really makes a difference.

Today I ran across a hiker that seemed a bit mentally disturbed. He was carrying on as perhaps a paranoid schizophrenic might; claiming that we were all spies with the gov't, and we couldn't be trusted because we didn't use our real names (i.e. vs. our trail names). He said he was sick of having the conspirators zap him with ray guns while he slept at night. I was prepared to continue hiking if he chose to camp here. Fortunately he passed on through.

I'm concerned about how sore the bottoms of my feet are. Maybe they'll do better in my newer boots. I can't complain too much about my present boots, after all I still haven't had a blister. Thank you, God.

I keep forgetting to mention how many rhododendrons I hike through on the trail. I can't wait for them to bloom ... they're everywhere.

14.3 Miles Today, 124.8 MTD

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Wayah Gap--a typical section of trail.
Wayah Bald--looking south the mowed summit of Siler Bald is clearly visible 6.4 trail miles away. A nice morning walk.


(15) Saturday, April 5, 1:30PM

I am sitting outside the Nantahala Outdoor Center all fresh and clean, waiting on my laundry to be finished and my bunkroom to be ready. I really covered some ground this morning, wanting to get here and get off of my feet. I was hiking at 7:05 and covered 9.3 miles by 11:30. I really felt that I was destination hiking today. I don't want to catch myself doing that too often, because I want to constantly enjoy the journey. I know that it will occasionally be hard to avoid. I'm glad I recognized the destination-hiking mode I was in this morning, but I truly wanted to get here and get off of my feet.

I've got a tough day ahead of me tomorrow, so I'm really going to try and relax today.

9.3 Miles Today, 134.1 MTD


(16) Sunday, April 6, 4:30PM

I'm dry and cozy at the Sassafras Gap Shelter after climbing 3000 feet in six miles through a nasty rainstorm. I debated hanging around at the NOC longer and perhaps slack-packing, but the trail beckoned; and besides I'm taking a long break at Fontana Dam when I get there.

Slack-packing is when you arrange for a non-hiker to take your pack ahead so that you can hike without a pack. You can really cover some miles this way, blasting through the ups and downs. This is often a frowned-upon practice by purists, but as I've said before: "Walk your own walk." I'm pretty certain that I would have slack-packed some or all of this 30 miles between NOC and Fontana Dam if the opportunity existed, but I was both a day late and a day early for the two chances I heard about. So I was out here today trudging up a mountain in a thunderstorm fully laden. I must say that the first 2000 feet of elevation gain came fairly easily. I wasn't sure whether to credit that to the fine dinner and breakfast I had at The River's End Restaurant or to the oxygen-rich air at lower elevation. All I know is that whatever it was, it ran out on me during the third thousand feet of elevation gain.


I've been joined by Henry (the newfie) Brian (now Orion) and Chopstick. Orion lit a fire out of wet wood. The fire helped keep the mosquitoes away. I'm spending my second night in a shelter, and hoping that no mice eat through my pack this time. Tomorrow I intend to try for a 15.2-mile day. We'll see if my body is up for it.

6.9 Miles Today, 141.0 MTD


(17) Monday, April 7, 7:30PM

Another night in a shelter, today was my longest day yet at 15.2 miles. I got up and started hiking at 8:30 and didn't stop until 5:00, with three 15-minute breaks. It was almost like a workday, but out here in God's country. I'm sharing the shelter with Orion and Chopstick again, as well as Full Crew. Full Crew just said goodbye to his wife and four of his kids who had all come up to visit him for the weekend. He said he almost went back with her.

I'll be in Fontana Dam by late morning tomorrow, then for some serious R&R.

15.2 Miles Today, 156.2 MTD


(18) Tuesday, April 8, 2:30PM

I'm sitting here at the Fontana Motel on hold with Compaq, trying to get my computer problems resolved. I received all my mail from home and spent the last hour reading my letters from Christine, the girlfiend I left behind. The apple and potato chips were consumed immediately. My sandals feel great.

I intend to spend two nights here, having tomorrow be my first day without hiking. It'll feel great to get a load off of my feet for almost two days before entering the Smokies. I'm at a couple milestones. I now have less than 2000 miles to go. Two-thirds of the hikers never get past Fontana Dam. The last three days were some very difficult hiking, so I can see why some people decide that it just isn't worth it.

I was taking an inventory of aches and pains over the past couple days, and their respective chronology:

HIPS: Always hurt from the hipbelt. I still can't settle on a single position for my belt. Up high on my waist provides the most freedom of movement, but it causes sharp pain on my hip points. Down low on my hips requires a very tight belt to keep from slipping lower, and it makes my hip muscles work harder.

NECK: Only ached the first couple of days.

SHOULDERS: Come and go, but never severe.

KNEES: The descents are very hard on the knees. I've tried hard to protect them by going down slowly and utilizing my trekking pole. My knees are stronger now and don't mind the downs as much.

FEET: The bottoms of my feet are killing me. They really started getting sore when I started putting in some longer days (12+ miles). I'm hoping that my new boots will provide some relief as well as this day off. I also think that having my sandals to put on after a day of hiking will be beneficial.

TENDONS: I had heard several people complaining of tendonitis, and didn't know what they were talking about. Now I do. My ankle tendons are aching from the past three days of steep ascents, caused by climbing with a heel plant at every step. The steep inclines over-extend that very tight tendon. I think this time off will help heal this condition.

POISON IVY: It's very abundant, and I know not exactly when I caught it, but I have some on both calves and one foot.

Well, so much for my aches and pains. I really haven't been taking any pain killers for the pains. I've just tried to honor the messages my body is communicating to me.

I am really enjoying my stay at the Fontana Motel. The proprietors, Jeff and Nancy Hoch go out of their way to accommodate hikers. The place is nothing fancy, with only six rooms and no employees, but it overflows with warmhearted ambience .

6.9 Miles Today, 163.1 MTD

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