Day 9 – Nero For a Ton of Tired Hikers

Camping: nature’s way of promoting the motel industry.” — Dave Barry

Miles high today 9.2. Total miles 106.5. 

I woke up and left camp before everyone else in order to hike high enough to get signal to post my blog. As I sat there  uploading a blog I got to watch the sun rise higher in the sky – it was a beautiful morning. I tend to hike out first most mornings.  I like to hike alone in the morning.

We had some steep up hills and down hills. The picture below is shot holding my camera directly over the stairs.  This was the precarious footing I had this morning.

And the hills were no joke! At the top of this mountain there was a viewing tower. I held my camera perfectly straight so you could see the uphill that we were climbing at this point. Soon after the shot we put the poles away and had to grab ahold of boulders to get up.

I was never so glad to get to the top of a point in my life. I think it was the hardest climb I’ve done to date. Of course while we were climbing the weather came in, so there was absolutely zero view. The two gentlemen by the sign are Toast and Rabbithole.  The sign shows you what we should be seeing – instead it’s all white mist.  Shortly after the tower we hit the hundred mile mark!

I’ve told you before…when there’s a big log, I take a seat.

We were headed toward Wallace Gap to catch a shuttle to the town of Franklin, North Carolina. When we reached the gap we sat there waiting for our shuttle and a truck pulled up. Inside the truck was Happy Jack Junior! He rolled down his window and said “Are you thru hikers?” We replied, “yes sir.”  He said, “Who wants a beer?” And started pulling beers out of a cooler. Now once before we have been offered beer and I have turned it down because I’m not a beer drinker. My compatriots told me to always take a beer, you can give it to us – so I said sure to Happy Jack Junior.

I think Happy Jack is a lonely man. He was so kind. He sat there and talked for 40 minutes telling us all about his life and what he was doing. He was a total hoot. A highlight of today. We heard about his knee surgery, his helping shingle his neighbors’ trailer roof, and about his daughter marrying someone.  He was not sure of her last name now. He had me in stitches-I just loved him. Here is happy Jack and Juergen picture together.

Our shuttle finally arrived. And let me tell you they cram people in. I was actually sitting backwards with my legs down next to the back doors. Linda was on Mark’s lap. There’s two girls on the floor that you cannot see, one in a chair and Juergen behind the chair, I’m behind Juergen. Backpacks are all around me.

The funny part of through hiking is you stay in places that you would never even dream of staying in real life and think nothing of it. Paint peeling, exposed plumbing, dirt. None of it matters as long is there’s a roof when it’s raining and a hot shower. No matter how bad the shower is.

The thing to do in Franklin – that is in the hikers guide – is to go to the Chinese buffet. All you can eat for $8.99. It was incredibly delicious!

I filled two plates and ate them!

All of the young men in the picture from yesterday at the shelter are taking a zero day tomorrow here in Franklin. Us old folks are hiking out in the morning. I ran into two young ladies doing laundry this afternoon here at the budget hotel. I asked when they started and they said March 17. They asked me and I said March 22. They said wow you guys are hiking fast. Old folks rule!

Below shows you the weather expected tonight. Feeling pretty good about my decision to get a hotel.

I am still ahead of my planned hiking pace. Will be back on the trail tomorrow come rain or shine.

Nite everyone!

Day 8 – Bear Meat

“Of all the paths, you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir
Miles hiked today 16.2. Total miles hiked 97.3. 

Today was Standing Bear Mountain, and let me tell you… I made it bear meat! It had a many switchbacks which helped.  We started walking around 8am.

The rhododendron are greening out, but no blooms yet.  Many many many were affected by the fire.

On our way to Standing Bear Mountain we came across Chunky Gal Trail – had to get a picture!

Once again I want to mention the wonderful volunteer work done by the trail and hiking clubs here in the mountains. Every time a tree falls across the trail it doesn’t take them long to get a chainsaw up here to remove it. And believe me a lot of trees fall across the trail.

I thought this was pretty cool they used to fallen log to make a bridge.

Following the white blazes is what I do every day. Walk walk walk. Mom do you see the Wolf?

Mark was having some problems with his knee today, so I let him try out my Pacer poles. He liked them! They make going downhill easier. So glad I bought them.

The fire really affected many many of the rhododendron. It’s like walking through a ghost town sometimes.

This is Juergen passing a stream.  We also stopped and got water here.   Everybody is loving my SteriPEN. They all borrow it. Cost me nothing since it’s rechargeable. That makes me popular.

This next picture will you give you an idea why you do not look up. Roots and rocks are everywhere!

Anytime I pass a large log that’s the right height – I sit. I’m usually out in front, so when the others come, I get up. I think I take more rest than they do since I hike faster, it all works out.

About 2 miles before we hit camp there was the most amazing vista. The picture does not do it justice.

Then it was time to set up the tent and cook some dinner. Tonight was chicken noodles with stuffing. I have to say I am extremely pleased with my appointment. The tent is excellent. Easy to set up and take down. Sleeping bag keeps me warm. Backpack is working perfectly and my stove does the job!

Well, I did not have phone service tonight will send this as soon as can.

Keep those comments coming in I read them all!

Day 7 – An Up Hill Battle… I Won!

Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So… get on your way. -Dr. Seuss

Miles hike today 11.8. Total miles height 81.1.

The day started this morning by crossing the road and getting breakfast at Hardee’s. I know I’m really roughing it. But it’s a great place ask for a hitch because people have to slow down to go through the drive-through so when they’re driving out of the drive-through you say can you give us a ride to the trailhead. This man-Jonathan – gave us A ride to the hostel where I had of maildrop delivered. Then the hostel gave us a ride to the trailhead at no cost.

This is what a trailhead looks like near a town it’s always crowded in the morning with lots of people going up.

We had some beautiful scenery today I took lots of pictures but none of them show you the absolute glory of the appellation Mountains.

Today was all about going uphill. Our next stop at muskrat shelter was all up hill. As you can tell by the sweat stains- it was hard work.

The volunteer groups that keep the trail open and nice are amazing lots of trees all over the trail and volunteers are up here with chainsaws cutting them out of the way. It is an amazing force of volunteers that takes care of the Appalachian Trail.

We hiked through a small portion of the fire that brought so much of the appellation woods last year. Here is a picture of just a small bit of it.

This is the Motley Crue that I’ve been hiking with lately. They’re super people all three of them. We seem to mesh well. I hike first then Yuegen, Then Mark, and Linda brings up the rear.

At mile 78 we crossed into North Carolina! It was just a spot on the trail but to us it was a huge accomplishment.

This tree is the most photographed tree on the Appalachian Trail. I think it’s because it sits right in the middle of the trail. So I had to do the obligatory photo.

On one of the last climbs – and may I say we were all dying by this time-there was an amazing view. It was a wonderful chance to take a breath and take some pictures.

Finally crossing over a A small stream to get to the campground. Set up the tent and then started talking with the different hikers. A Hiker that I run into many times Kevin came strolling in and yelled Janet! I have a birthday present for you. And he handed me A mini bottle of vodka. He said if I slow down I would’ve gotten it sooner. He said he also had M&Ms but he got hungry and ate them.

These young people are all amazed that our little group of old people are keeping in front of them and passing them. They say that we are their biggest motivator.

Pictured left to right Rabithole, Wolfe,  nomadic, cully, Steven in backby me, Mark in front of me and back strider in front and Justin and back. 

Having a blast!

Day 6 – Kickin’ Some Georgia Ascents!

“Do, or do not. There is no try.” ~Yoda

Miles hiked today 16.7. Total miles hiked 69.3

Woke up this morning, had a coffee and then stuck my thumb out!

First time ever that I’ve hitchhiked. It took about 15 minutes, but then a very nice man named Jay gave us a hitch to Unico gap. I have no words for his truck! I’ve never seen so much trash in a vehicle of my life. But we didn’t care we were just happy for the hitch. Below is Jay!

Then it was time to start climbing. We had two hard climbs early this morning. Rocky Mountain and Trey mountain. The 16 miles we put in today we learned are the toughest 16 miles in Georgia. Below is Linda and Mark.

We started around 8 AM and ended up around 6 PM. That’s 10 solid hours of hiking. With just little rest breaks during the day. I understand that 1.65 mph does not sound like a lot, but when you’re going up a mountain let me tell you you’re moving!

It was a beautiful day. We had sun pretty much all day with some cloud cover that was needed. Had a tiny bit of mist around 11, but that was it.

I don’t know what these plants are but they were laying all over the mountain. Below is me standing at a viewing spot on Rocky Mountain.

Here are the people that I am hiking with. The young man to my right – his name is Chris. Chris hiked with us most of the day and then shot off at the end. Said we did pretty good for old people. Then there’s me, Linda, Mark, Juergen.

When we came up Rocky Mountain there was a man called Lionheart handing out fruit and beverages-I just love trail magic. I grabbed a banana and kept on going.

One of the beautiful things on the mountains is the moss. The way it covers things is like a carpet. It’s a deep emerald green and I love seeing it.

That’s all of the pictures I took today. Today was all about miles. And by the end of the day I think I hurt everywhere. Feet are holding up great, but they are sore tonight. We made it to Dicks Creek Gap and we’re headed for the Top of Georgia hostel only to find out it was full. So we caught a shuttle into town and are now in a fleabag hotel. The cost is the same as the hostel!

Tonight I am tired with a capital T. A little sore, but still happy. This is not a walk in the woods. This is a climb in the woods.

Eyelids drooping,

Day 5 – No Rain, No Pain, No Maine!

“It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.” – Dave Barry

Miles hike today 8.6. Total trip miles 52.6. 

It started raining at about 2 AM. I know that because it woke me up. And when I woke up I needed to use the restroom – or should I say, I needed to dig a hole. But it was raining quite hard, so I laid there in misery waiting for it to slow down. I dozed off and on until around 5 AM. It stopped, I got out of the tent and did what needed to be done. The rain continued to spit off and on but around 7AM it stopped altogether. We all got out of tents, started gathering gear and getting ready to hike. Below is Linda and Mark packing up.

It rained on and off all morning long. The mountains are beautiful even in the rain. The mistiness of these mountains shroud you in quiet and there is something peaceful and wonderful about walking in the mornings here in Appalachia.

Everything was wet…the ground, the trees, the air. Sometimes the trail narrows, so you’re brushing against the foliage. But I was not cold. The temperature was around 58 – good hiking temperature.

When it started raining steadily I put up my handy-dandy lightweight umbrella. I hook it to my backpack so it is hands-free. I’m going to have to get some kind of padding because it did tend to hurt my left shoulder. But, it worked like a charm keeping me dry.

Well, not exactly dry, but keeping the rain off my head.  The night before while sitting around the campfire I also used it as a wind block. Loving the umbrella.

Here is an example of what the trail is usually like, even on flat walks. It is strewn with rocks everywhere, you have to watch every step you take. There is no checking your phone or even looking around unless you stop. Believe me I’ve tried and every time I have tried, I have tripped.

Today’s uphill was not bad. It just went on forever. But the slope was doable without too many rests.

But then we had to come down! And in the rain with very slick rocks, and very, very slick roots-it was a challenge.

The rock below is the one I went down on. Although you cannot tell from the picture that’s a drop off. I went down and into those leaves that you see that are disturbed. My pole flew! I landed on my butt, no harm done, but a great reminder to slow down.

It was a messy and very wet trail today.

Finally made it down to Unicoi Gap. There were other hikers there and more came because we were all going into Helen. It is a German town. Very touristy. But more rain is expected all day and through the night. So we are calling it a day.

The picture below is a young man that was down at the gap. I told him I loved the feather in his hat. He said my trail name is Macaroni. I just thought that was a hoot.

The “shuttle” came to pick us up. I just laughed, threw my pack in the back and climbed in. It was a wild ride down the mountain, but at least I was riding with Jesus! (Do you see the sticker in the window?)–yM this is YouTube video of part of the ride.

The Appalachian Trail makes you work. It will throw at you ascents that are so steep that with the umbrella on you can only see 5 feet ahead. You have to stop and arch your back to see what is ahead. It will splash you with mud, branches will try to grab you, and the downhills are like stairs made for giants. I am loving it! It is such a great challenge.

I am now all clean and dry – sitting on a hotel bed writing this blog. Our group is headed out for dinner at 6.

Warm, safe and happy.

Day 4 – I’m Just a Girl & I’m on Fire

“She got both feet on the ground – And she’s burning it down – She got her head in the clouds – And she’s not backing down!” – Alicia Keys

Miles hike today 13 -Total trip miles 44

We got up this morning from our cabin where Linda had cooked us dehydrated hashbrowns and eggs – quite delicious. Then headed to Mountain Crossing shown above. I retrieved my mail drop from them and bought a pillow that was way overpriced. But I decided I wanted a pillow.

Outside Mountain Crossings Outfitters is the famous tree where hikers throw their shoes that are quitting. The tree is full of shoes.

On the side of the building is a walkway. It is the only covered area of the Appalachian Trail. Look below and you’ll see the white blaze that shows you the way painted on the side of the walkway. This is where we left off yesterday and got the cabin so back on the trail with a very heavy pack loaded with food.

Again we had a misty morning and a few raindrops, but not enough to get out the raincoat. I looked at the photo below and had to laugh. It shows a smooth trail! There is hardly any of the trail that is smooth and it seems like I take pictures when it is because it’s when I can actually look up to take one. Most of the day is spent looking at the ground – you have to stop to look up.

This is more what the trail is like, many ups and many downs. Very few lot areas as you see by the graph at the top.

It was a hard hike up and then down and when we came down it was weird to see a roadside.

But roads mean trail magic! Set up on the wayside were a group of Christians handing out some of the best food I have tasted in a long time. They had pulled pork, pulled chicken, deviled eggs, and bananas! We filled up.

Then it was straight up the mountain and I do mean straight up – kicked my butt. But, when we came down guess what? There was more trail magic. This time with hamburgers and hotdogs.

Since only an hour before we had just eaten, they let me take a hamburger to go. This was a group, Single Christians, doing ministries.

As you can see I’m really roughing it. The next picture is for my mother! When you walk in the woods, Mother, you see faces and things in every tree and every rock. It has always been one of our favorite things to do together. I see a dog in this one. What do you see?

The rest of the day was hiking and hiking and hiking. Many ups and downs and some really nice flat areas which was a relief.

About a half a mile before camp is where we gathered water. It was barely a trickle, but it was enough to fill up on. After we gather it has to be sanitized. I’m using UV light to get rid of the bad stuff.

Here is our small little group. I am leading -then comes Juergon, then Mark and Linda.

Tonight we are camped at Popular Stamp Gap. It’s a sweet spot.

Camping with us is a police officer from Jacksonville, Florida and his brother Andy. Two really nice guys.

Rain is expected tonight so we’ll see how that goes. Please know that I read all of your comments each day. I love and appreciate them. One day I will start responding. That’s all for now.

Snug as a bug in a tent,

Day 3 – Bloody Mountain Birthday

“Well, we knocked the bastard off!”  –EDMUND HILLARY, on climbing Everest

Miles hiked today 11. Total trip miles 31.

Got up this morning left by eight. Had a pretty good night.  I’m still waking up quite a bit checking the clock and going back to sleep.  Most of the day was over cast with some mist, but it was good hiking weather! Today was the day we climbed Blood Mountain. It is the highest point of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia.

Today although we did not walk together,  we stopped together. I have loosely formed a group with Linda, Mark, and Juergen. There was a 5 mile section of today’s hike that did not allow camping unless you had a bear canister. We knew we were walking through and not camping, so my canister was not needed. But, I did see a lot of bear scat.

Then it was time to start climbing Blood Mountain. I will tell you at this point I did get passed by three younger men all in their 20s. But so far I’m the lead walker in our group – they tell me I keep them honest.

And let me tell you it was a climb. Up and up and up we went. We got misted on pretty good for just about 10 minutes. Just enough for us all to pull out rain coats.

Then we finally got to the summit. At the top is one of the oldest shelters on the Appalachian Trail. Blood Mountain shelter. We stopped for a few minutes and took some photos. It was nice to cross Blood Mountain off the list.

Janet, Linda, Mark and Juergen.

Once you go up the mountain you must come down. And coming down Blood Mountain was something. Remember, it had been misting, so the rocks were all wet. Do you see the white blaze on the rock? The white blazes show us the way!

Want to know how to get a hiker to hike faster? Tell them there’s a bed at the end of the day. It is what I wanted for my birthday – a bed. We passed up the outfitters- I will show you that tomorrow – and headed straight for Blackmountain cabins and the bed and shower.  All four of us shared the cabin at a cost of $18 each! Score.

Bonus of the cabin is they even did your laundry for free. Does it get any better than this?

Oh yes it does get better! They also had pizza and for $5 I had the best pizza in the world. Plus they had diet soda!!!!

Getting to know Linda a little better. I have found out a couple of things that are amazing. She has three sisters. She has an addiction to Diet Pepsi. She is 55 years old. She is the third child too. Sometimes it’s a very small world.

I have to tell you that it feels awfully nice sitting in a chair, using indoor plumbing, and showering with hot water.  It has been a great birthday.

Blowing out the imaginary candles,

Day Two – Up and At ’em!

“Just tell yourself, Duckie, you’re really quite lucky!”-Dr. Seuss

Miles walked today – 12. Total trip miles 20.

The camp was completely full.  It looked like a KOA campground. There were children running around and playing. They were on spring break – one mother had her two-year-old there. I know that because they tented beside me and the two-year-old woke up screaming at 3 AM. I went to bed early and slept 11 hours. Woke up at seven and was on the trail by eight.

I won’t lie – this is hard. The Appalachian Trail does not believe in smooth services or a flat terrain. You are either going up or you’re going down.

For most of the morning I did not pass anyone there was no one on the trail. No one left as early as I did.  Around 10am I passed a couple that was incredibly nice from Michigan. They are Linda and Mark.

But one thing that stood out this morning…as I was walking down the trail to a gap there was this man sitting there and I said, “hi what are you doing?” He said, “waiting for you” and then he held up my e-cigarette that I had left at camp that morning. The ATC ridge runner brought it to him and he waited for me! People are so nice.

Had lunch at Gooch shelter. Gooch shelter is 8 miles from where I spent the night last night, so did pretty good mileage this morning, but the main thing that Gooch shelter had that I wanted was a privy!

Let me tell you, it’s hard to find a place to dig a hole when there are no leaves on any trees! Made it to the shelter in the nick of time…and I do mean the nick of time.

Linda and Mark are keeping up with me. They arrived at the shelter and we all had lunch. Decided we would camp together tonight. They wanted to get to around mile 20 and so did I. I hike faster than them, but I sit down to do this blog and stuff and they catch up. It’s working out nicely.

At Gooch Gap there was trail magic! People set up tables and hand out food. While I was there they were giving out apples and cheese. So nice! They were cooking food later, but I did not want to wait around so headed out.

The next 3 miles I will tell you where hard. Straight up and really straight down. I stopped to get water. I have a mile before Woody gap.

When I finally hit Woody Gap I was so happy! What made me even more happy was trail magic was set up in the parking lot. Organic farmers were giving out beef and lentil soup. Best soup I’ve ever had!

I set up my tent and waited for Linda and Mark to get in. While I waited I visited with some section hikers. They were so funny. While I waited a hiker that I had seen before named Justin came through when he walked off the trail into the camping area. He was so mad at the trail, we were all laughing at him. He was cussing up a streak.

The day hikers I was talking to offered him a beer and I thought he would cry with joy! His new treasure trail name is the Brewmaster. He kept asking me how I got here before him. The day hikers were laughing at him saying I was kicking his butt.

It’s a quarter till seven and I’m in my tent ready to read some before I go to sleep.

I need a pillow!


Day 1 – And She’s Off!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. -Lao-tzu

Miles walked today – 2 miles on road to Springer Mountain, a mile up to the top of Springer Mountain once I got to the parking lot. Appalachian Trail miles 8.1. 

Woke up and headed to Springer Mountian the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.  There was a pretty big storm last night and as we drove up to Springer Mountain parking there were trees covering the road. We were fortunate that we were behind three trucks. All three were headed to a campsite 7 miles from Springer Mountain. Brock, Chuck and Patrick-three of the best good ol’ boys you could hope to meet all had chainsaws and cleared the road for us almost the entire way. 

Chuck is a retired sheriff and chief of police.  Hubster and Chuck talked about being retired. Chuck says his favorite time of month is the first. He sits and watches his mailbox where his five checks are delivered. He was a hoot! 

Chuck and the boys turned off to their campground and we continued on. A half mile down the road a tree was over the road. It was still 6 1/2 miles to Springer but there was nothing to do but get out and walk. Said goodbye to the Hubster and started the long walk up. I walked 2 miles….

Then some trail magic happened! Chad and his three girls (Morgan Amaya and Jaelyn) were coming down the road from Springer Mountain parking lot he couldn’t get through so he turned around and picked me up on his way back and gave me a ride to Springer. Thank you so so much Chad!

When I got to Springer parking lot I hiked the 1 mile up to Springer Mountain where the southern terminus is I was finally ready to begin my hike.

I cruised! I think I passed 18 people on the trail – no one passed me. Everyone was nice and pretty much everyone is headed for the shelter. 

Got to the shelter and set up my tent and had some lunch. I did not realize how hungry I was.  We got up this morning and just started up the mountain. Neither of us felt like breakfast. So I enjoy three packets of peanut butter crackers and some Oreos. 

Then it was time to visit the privy! There are no words… Literally there are no words. 

I would’ve taken a picture of the inside but it was truly too gross to put up on the Blog. Do you see the open screened in area down below? That is poop! It falls directly from the hole to the ground. Digging a hole in the woods is looking pretty good right now. 

It is now 3 o’clock. I know I stopped early today but everyone says not to go too far your first week so I’m trying to heed what the experts have told me. This was my plan destination so even though I got here early I stopped. Got this blog done so now I guess I should go socialize a little bit. Or I could just curl up in my tent and read. 

Enjoying life on the trail. 

Tomorrow it Begins!

“The Way to Get Started is to Quit Talking and Begin Doing.” -Walt Disney

The Hubster and I spent last night just outside of Nashville. We then had a lazy morning, had coffee and laid around until about 8 o’clock.  Then we hit the road headed for Georgia. Along the way we pulled over and found a couple of geocaches.

We are taking our time and just enjoying being together. We stopped at Amicalola Falls State park and hiked up to the top of the falls. Beautiful day…beautiful site. Amicalola means tumbling water. It’s a perfect name for the falls.

At the top of the falls I met another through hiker that is starting tomorrow, her name was Vicky. That makes three women that I know of starting tomorrow at the top of Springer.  It will be nice to have some company.

At the lodge I registered for my thru-hike. I was number 1096! A record number of hikers are hiking this year, so I have a feeling that the trail will be crowded. There is also a tradition of weighing your pack mine came in at 25 pounds. That is with food, fuel and water! Pretty pleased with that number.

We are now at the hotel just taking it easy. Plan to get an early start, hoping to leave the hotel by 7 AM.  It takes about an hour and 15 minutes to drive to the Springer Mountain parking area. From there it’s a mile hike to the top. And then the journey begins.

Happy Trails