Monday, April 29, 2013

At Least My Socks are Clean 4/29/2013

NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) 4/29/2013

Our group decided to stay at the hostel at the NOC last night after 2 days of rain and cold temps. We stayed at the Wesser Bald shelter the night before, where we spent 20 hours waiting for the rain to move through. Too bad we missed the kayak competition here at the NOC this weekend (we hiked in during the awards ceremony).

We've got a 7-mile uphill climb out of here today with damp gear, but it looks like its going to be a beautiful day!

Miles & Miles to Go... 4/25/2013

At the Outdoor76 outfitter in Franklin, NC. That's right - 2 inches covered on a 4-foot map of the AT!

Friday, April 26, 2013

New State of Mind

So I finally have a chance to update the blog! I haven't had a signal since I was in Hiawassee, GA last Friday. Gronk and I are about to head back out on the trail this morning, but we took a 'zero' day (0 miles hiked) yesterday to relax, recover, and resupply in Franklin, NC. Yep, that's right - we're now in NC! We crossed the border at about the 87 mile mark on Wednesday. And just yesterday, just below the summit of Albert Mountain, we hit the 100 mile mark. It's a great feeling to reach these first important milestones.

But I'll back up a bit since it's been over a week since the last post...

Last Wednesday, Gronk and I hiked Blood Mountain, which had spectacular views at the top. We looked down and watched hawks circling below us. Blood Mountain was apparently named for an indian massacre, but the name would have been appropriate to describe the difficulty of the climb up, and down. Once we started descending, it began to rain. The temperature started dropping and we were getting cold, although we each had on rain gear and warm weather clothing. The 1.5 mile climb down the mountain was actually quite dangerous as we hastily made our way through steep areas with slippery rocks and narrow, muddy paths. Once we made it to the bottom, we entered Neel Gap, where there was an outfitter with a hostel called Mountain Crossings. The trail actually runs right through the building, and is the only place where the trail runs through a man-made structure. We dropped our packs at the door and entered the warm building to find ourselves grabbing some junk food before even taking a second to dry off. We decided to spend the night in the hostel, which was only $15 and included a shower and laundry. The hostel turned out to be quite a bit of fun. A guy named Pirate greeted us as we entered the hostel and showed us around. Pirate was a former thru-hiker, who has racked up 10 thrus on the AT, among other trails. I guess you could call him a legend (and quite a character). Pirate showed us his collection of over 3,000 VHS tapes that he had purchased from a movie store that had gone out of business last year, so we had plenty of entertainment at the hostel (mostly 80's flicks).

But the best part about the hostel was the people that we met that stayed in the 18-bunk room that night. Here are the trail names, most of who we still see from day-to-day:  Blue, Simba, Steemer, Ketchup, Lighthouse, Nuclear, Rooster, Tank-Tank, Bones, and a few others who don't yet have trail names. Which reminds me, I now have an official trail name - MacGyver. Gronk came up with the name after I offered a few crafty fixes and improvements. I have to say that I'm really happy with the name since I was quite the MacGyver fan in the 80's and 90's.

Well, I have so much more to write, but just not enough time. Even though we took a zero yesterday, the time flew by with chores to prepare for the upcoming hike out of Franklin. We plan to reach the Nantahala Outdoor Center in 3 days, then Fontana Dam in another 3, which will be the official beginning of the Smoky Mountains. The weather forecast is calling for cool temps with rain next week, so it may be a tough haul coming up. But we'll take it as it comes...

I'll try my best to update when possible, but it's just too unpredictable when I will have access to a signal to create a post. I'll also try to get some more pictures up this week, if possible, but I've now got to go jump on the shuttle to take us out of Franklin back to Rock Gap to begin our hike.


Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 3

Well I'm now in to day 3 and I've been hiking with my Canadian buddy 'Gronk' each day. We've started at a modest pace, about 8 miles per day. Although there have been a few challenging climbs, such as Sassafras Mountain and Justus Mountain, we've been taking frequent breaks to rest and take in the amazing views (when the fog isn't obstructing them).

Hikers frequently use mail drops to send food and supplies along to lighten the load. Today we hiked in to Woody Gap around 1 to find a guy we knew being driven away in a police car. We had met him at Gooch Mountain Shelter the night before and we found out that he had sent himself a box of pot, which was conveniently delivered to his drop area at Woody Gap by an undercover cop! I guess his hopes of reaching Kathadin ended early.

Well, other than constantly feeling dirty, hanging food every night to keep from the bears, and having to sanitize water about 3 times a day, I have to say that I'm really enjoying myself. Tomorrow we plan to hike to Neel Gap where we'll be able to resupply, catch a shower, and possibly stay at a hostel. First we have to hike a few miles to Jerrard Gap where there is a 5-mile stretch of trail where a bear canister is required if camping overnight. Bear canisters are heavy, bulky, and somewhat expensive, so it seems every hiker is moving through this section without stopping. To avoid having to hike 15 miles today because of this, Gronk and I decided to tent at Lance Creek for the night, then get an 8am start tomorrow to make it to Neel Gap before the outfitter closes at 6.

Well, check back soon as I hope to post again tomorrow if I am able to get a signal...

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Anticipation & anxiety

So my thru-hike journey along the Appalachian Trail has begun. Actually, the journey began months ago when I decided to commit to the 2,180 mile hike through 14 states. The months of preparation and tying up of loose ends have been intense, demanding, and at times overwhelming.

As I sit on the MARTA train on the way to North Springs station, I'm ready to get on the trail to experience what I have only been able to imagine a radical 6-month lifestyle change would be. But first, I'll bunk-up tonight at the Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega, about an hour North of Atlanta by car. After breakfast at the hostel, they'll drive me (as well as other hikers) to the path which is a short hike up to the Southern terminus where I guess I'll snap a few photos before taking my first steps on to the trail.

If you're reading this you are probably family or a close friend, so I hope I'm able to update frequently so you can follow along with my adventure. I look forward to sharing my experiences!