Day 26 – Happy Trails

“One of the greatest diseases is to be nobody to anybody.” — Mother Teresa


Miles high today 8.6. Total miles 331.6.
 

Started walking today around 7:45 AM. It was a brisk morning – perfect for hiking.


There are times on the trail where I think I have stepped into Frodo’s world. You are surrounded by an incredibly green world, where moss covers everything.


The goal today was Big Bald Mountain. There was a pretty darn tough climb to get to the top.


It was worth every footstep, grunt, groan, and every breath.


Total perfection!


Even birds follow the white blazes!


It was a day of views. I am so lucky to have seen such beauty.


And today it wasn’t only the magnificent vistas, it was also the quiet beauty of the forest that took my breath away. The forest floor was covered in white flowers. Absolutely sublime. 


I met my first southbounder. He started last July. Has another month before he finishes his trip. To be a through hiker you have to finish it with in a one year span – he is still on track.


Someone left a little Easter trail magic. Hershey kisses and some malted eggs.


Took a small side trip to High Rocks. 


And had another great view – they never ever get old.


I met these three young ladies, all nurses, back in Gatlinburg. We caught up again with each other today. It’s nice to run into hikers that you already know.


Best part of my day came when real trail magic happened. Hugh showed up. 


I am ending my Appalachian Trail journey at mile 331. Hugh did not like being apart from each other and he is more important than the Trail. 

That is not to say that I won’t finish the trail one day – I will just do it in sections so we are not a part for very long.

I’ve had a blast! Hope you enjoyed coming along with me.

Later!

Day 25 – Up, Up, Up

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

Miles hiked today 16. Total hiked 323.

Woke up and started hiking at 8 AM. It was another beautiful morning for hiking. Do you see the mountain in the background? We’re going over that today.

Today was a lot of up! Seemed like I was always climbing. But regardless, there is always beauty in the Appalachian Mountains. 

Not sure if you remember, but a few posts ago I told you if the trail gives you a chair you should take it… Today it literally gave me a chair! It was just out in the middle of nowhere, so funny.

Not sure if any of you have seen pictures of Juergen, here he is by a waterfall where we got water. He has been an excellent hiking partner. He has been married for 40 years, and has four children. He was the managing director at GE Germany for quite a while. A very interesting and nice gentleman. 

The trail is starting to really green up. Flowers are blooming and spring is definitely here.

Mom, here’s a giant bunny for you!

This is one of the many stops today just to take a break and get some sugar or food in us. 

Today was also the first time I came across barbed wire on the Appalachian Trail. 

Again, and may I say it never gets old, we had some amazing, amazing views.

Then down the mountain we came to a gap where we had to cross the road and head up the other side. Always hoping for trail magic, care roads have not had any lately.

As a matter fact it was a lonely day on the trail. Hardly saw any hikers. Remember Captain Caveman, the young man with the wooden leg, he started after my start date of March 22. He’s the only person I know that has started after March 22nd, that is ahead of me. We were not hiking fast today and I was sure that some hikers would pass us – yet not one did. 

In the late afternoon it became all about finding a campsite. I was tired! But you have to have flat ground so we kept on walking.

 The flowers were blooming all over the mountains, so beautiful.

Finally after 16 miles we walked up a ridge and found a flat space only to walk a little bit more and realize there’s a road quite close with houses on the other side. They look like vacation rental houses and no one is living in any of them right now. So we pitched our tents, had dinner and are in our respective tents by 7:15pm. 

Nite!

Day 24 – Breaking 300!

“In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.” –Aristotle

Miles hiked today 17.2. Total hiked 307. 

Started today with a 4 mile climb. What a way to get the heart pumping. When I was at the doctor yesterday they took my blood pressure and my resting heart rate. My resting heart rate is now 51! Pretty good. It was a glorious morning. 


Passed a shelter – paused just long enough to down a pop tart and flavor to my water. Crystal Light rocks!

There are moments that you can clearly see why they call the Appalachian Trail- the green tunnel. I’m sure as the trees start budding out more the tunnel will become more apparent.


Through the trees below you can barely see the mountain behind them – but that is where I’m headed- to the top. 


And my oh my what views. I love to be rewarded after a hard climb with magnificent vistas. 


Today there was quite a lot of bouldering. I did not get a picture of the hard stuff because I was too busy not falling!


But once again it was so worth it!


Walking along the Trail I looked up and noticed that the Trail was edged in green. It was so surprising- it just made me grin. Stopped – pulled up “What a Wonderful World” on my song list – and hiked down my little happy path. 


Had a long meadow hike today as well. Not very often you get one of these. 


Toward the end of this long day we passed the Shelton Graves. A pair of Union soldiers were killed at this spot while visiting family during the Civil War. 


Finally made it to Flint Mountain Shelter where I set up my tent. A father and his two daughters, Kati and AC are section hiking during their spring break. I had a nice visit with them. 


Way past my bedtime,

Day 23 – Stopping Hurts

“Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” -Lance Armstrong

Miles hike today 16.3. Total miles 289.8. 

Had an appointment at the medical clinic at 8:30 this morning. I saw the doctor, he poked around on my foot, determined nothing was broken. Said I had been doing the correct thing with ice and ibuprofen. So it was time to walk again. I left Hot Springs, Tennessee around 10:30 AM. I love how they put white blazes on anything to show you the way.

For a little bit the trail followed the river. It was quite nice to be down low for a little while.

Then of course the trail went up! Here is a picture with Hot Springs in the background.

The young man below is Captain Caveman. He broke his leg the day before, and needed to get to the hardware store in Hot Springs for replacement parts. I had breakfast with him this morning at the diner and he had me in stitches, then met him again on the trail.

While walking along the trail I came upon this wall – very strange. 

Until you got to the top and realized it was a dam.

Again today there was no outstanding vistas, but there were sure some pretty meadows with great scenery behind them.

And for the first time we had a touch of some dirt road walking lasting about a quarter of a mile before once again winding up a mountain. 

Crossed over a highway, notice the white blaze on the bridge.

And then once again came across some fire damage. This time the trail actually stopped the fire. There wasn’t enough debris on the trail for it to burn and the demarcation line was quite evident. 

When I looked at my 80 Hiker app on my phone I realized a hostel was close by and gave the extra push to get there. Here is the bunkhouse where I’m staying tonight. I walked pretty steadily all day long. Because stopping gave time for my foot to stiffen up. Then it would take about 100 steps for it to really loosen up. So not much stopping today.

Ready to get off my foot and hit the hay. 

Day 22 – Foot = Zero Day

“Let’s be careful out there” -Sgt. Esterhaus, “Hill Street Blues”

You never stumble or trip on the more difficult parts of the Trail because you are paying such close attention. It is always on the more smooth parts because you look up. My “gotcha” moment was on what appeared to be a smooth part of the path covered by leaves. Unfortunately under the leaves there were loose rocks.

My foot is still swollen. I have an appointment at the clinic tomorrow at 8:30am. Hoping for some good news. Will let you know.

Bored out of my mind from sitting with foot up all day.

Day 21 – When the Trail Gives You a Chair – Sit Down!

“One step at a time is good walking.” -Chinese proverb

Miles hiked today 18. Total miles 273.5. 

I woke up this morning at 7am and hit the trail by 7:30. Today was all about reaching Hot Springs. The Appalachian Trail runs right through the town.

Today was not the most scenic of days. There were not the awe inspiring vistas, but on the Appalachian Trail there is always beauty if you look. Below is a small waterfall.

With the weather getting hotter things are really starting to green up. The Trail was very narrow in places today, then…

opened up to cross a field.

I passed two shelters on my journey today. The pull of a hot shower and a laundromat kept me walking on. It was incredibly HOT today. Water was all important and I replenished it every chance I got. Once again let me say – I love my Steri Pen!

Another thing that I have been meaning to tell you is that I have not seen one piece of trash on the entire Appalachian Trail! This pleases me. Thousands of people walk this trail. I have met many day trippers, people out for a week’s vacation, and of course thru- hikers and everyone seems to be living by the “Leave no trace” mantra.

I’ve been hoping since I started this walk to see a bear. No such luck so far. But I did find a lovely cave.

Most of today was simply walking and keeping hydrated.

Because it was so hot I have a new saying – “When the trail gives you a chair, sit down.” That means if there is a log or a rock that is high enough – you sit down!

I finally reached a point where through the trees you could see Hot Springs, North Carolina.

I passed a lot of daytrippers that were walking up the mountain for some exercise. When I reached the bottom they had a stone for the Appalachian Trail.

As I said before the trail runs directly through the town – just follow the AT sign.

3 miles before we stopped I tweaked my foot. And the last 3 miles were not fun. Just so you can see how dirty it is out here here’s a picture of my feet before my shower.

Here is one after the shower. I scrubbed and scrubbed with a washcloth trying to get my toenails clean, but I need a brush! Alas can you tell that the left foot is swollen? Right now I have it on ice and have to take a zero day here in Hot Springs because I cannot walk on my foot left now.

We will see what tomorrow brings. For now…

Stuck in rinky-dink Hot Springs.

Day 20 – To the Max

“It’s supposed to be hard. If it were easy, everyone would do it.” —Jimmy Dugan, A League of Their Own

Miles hike today 15.2. Total miles 255.5. 
We left Standing Bear hostile around 8:30 AM. It was a crisp morning- really nice weather to hike.


We spent the morning climbing. We had an elevation gain of 2400 feet. The sun came out and it got HOT!


When we neared the top of Snowbird Peak there were no trees. The sun was really beating down on us. Near the top there was this building. I have no idea what it is…. There were warnings to stay away – no trespassing. I think it’s where they keep aliens. (Wink)


Just past the alien building there was a small hill that we climbed- and the views were magnificent. They were so perfect they did not look real.



When we came off Snowbird Peak and it was time to find water. I went through a lot of water today because it was so hot. The picture below is me using my Steripen to sterilize the water.


I wanted to give you an idea of how big some of these trees were. Can you see me standing by the broken one? When the wind or lightning take one out and they come down, they bring others down with them.


This is the top of that tree. It fell into another tree and uprooted it.


Sometimes the trees grow in such weird ways. Here is me being silly.


The next summit was called Max Patch. And every time you thought you were reaching the summit you would find another hill to climb. I took a picture every time I thought I was close.





Finally reached the true summit. Breathtaking!



Then it was down down down. We walked through a tunnel rhododendron.


And finally made it to the shelter! I never stay in the shelters because they have a mice problem. I always pitch my tent.


A look at the privy.


I was asleep by 8 PM… Had 11 hours of sleep. Of course it was interrupted as always. I have a tendency to wake up to here three or four times a night.

Signing off,

Day 19 – What a Difference Elevation Makes

My Legs are hungover! -Janet


Miles hike today 18.4. Total height 240.3. 

Woke up this morning with a dire need to use the facilities. It was freezing outside-heck it was freezing in my tent too. Reached for my shoes they were frozen solid. Could not get my feet in so stuck my toes in so I could make a run to the privy. With much effort I finally got out of the tent, walk three steps only to sink into the snow to find myself standing in a stream. What a way to start the day.


When you’re cold and out on the Appalachian trail the only thing to do is to start hiking. We left camp around 7:15. The sun was up, but just barely.


All the slush had refrozen into an ankle twisting, conglomerate of footprints. For the first two hours of hike it was a dangerous, slow going, slippery mess. 


We had some beautiful views!


And as we dropped an elevation the trail got better and the walking became more enjoyable.



The sun was out and in the afternoon and actually got hot. Here is where we replenished our water.


Mid afternoon we came to a large folder that was climbable with a great view behind it. Needless to say I climbed the Boulder.


Then it was more down, down, down. I love the downs but this one was it awful long way down and it starts to get to your knees. We crossed over interstate 40 and headed toward Standing Bear Hostile. 


This place is a hoot! A ramshackled bunch of buildings. But they sell beer so it’s a favorite of the young crowd. 


They have a wash tub and a scouring board if you want to do laundry. They do have an electric dryer! I used both. The instructions were told to us don’t turn on the Cold water in the shower are everybody gets cold. I followed the instructions the person in the next cubicle evidently did not-I hate cold showers. I kept telling them to turn off the cold but they did not understand English.


The next picture is of the store. This place is on the honor system which I find fascinating. They give you an envelope to write down what you buy and in the morning you settle up. 

Day 18 – Walking on Thin Ice

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” ~Frederick Douglass



Miles hiked today 15.1. Total miles 221.9.
 

They opened Highway 441 so we were able to get out. Walked across the street from our hotel to a gas station and put our thumbs out. JB stopped almost immediately to give us a hitch. He was from France! 

He is over here doing some work and wanted to hike this morning, so he gave us a ride to Newfound Gap.
As you can see by the sign the Appalachian Trail stays close to the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. It switches back-and-forth constantly.


Only 1972 miles to go! 


Although 15.1 miles does not seem that far, this was a hard hike today. The trail had ice all over it. Each step was precarious. It made the hiking slow going and twice as hard.


But oh my goodness! The views today were outstanding. And they just kept coming. 



Great view after great view – it seemed they never stopped today.


The higher we hiked up the more snow we encountered. All I could think was thank goodness we started a little later than normal so someone else had to find the trail for us. But at times it was difficult to see which way the trail went. I’ve said it before, the Smoky Mountain National Park does a lousy job of marking the trail. Once we went about 50 feet the wrong way.


The trees look like something off of a Christmas card. They were all perfectly trimmed with snow. 


And the views just kept coming. There was one side trip we took to Charlie’s Bunion (love the name). This was the sign. 


The rest of the day was just some hard walking to make it to the shelter. In Smoky Mountain National Park you must camp at shelters. Which means you must make it to the shelter, no matter how long you have to walk. 


Toward the end of the day the trail was getting slushy which meant very wet feet.



I arrived at Tri-corner Knob shelter around 6 PM – very cold and tired. I then had to set up a tent on a foot of snow. Just so you know – snow is not soft! Again since the park does not allow you to camp anywhere other than the shelter, it was a small city! And getting there so late, made finding a campsite very hard. I camped on a side of the hill and wedged the snow down so I did not slip and slide.

I put it on pretty much everything I had -gloves, hat, coat, two pairs of pants, then climbed in my sleeping bag and was asleep by 7 PM.

Day 17 – Forced Zero Day

“Rest and be thankful.” ― William Wordsworth

Miles hiked today – zero. 

Today was a forced zero day of no hiking because the road was closed that took us back to the trail due to ice and snow.

It is nice to have time to reflect. Here are some random thoughts.

  • I used to go to extreme measures to stay away from mud and water-now I walk right through it.
  • I love my tent. Easy to set up and tear down.
  • Linda’s trail name is Sunshine because she’s always so happy.
  • Mark’s trail name is Eagle because he soars up the mountains.
  • Juergen’s trail name is Camino because he has walked 3 Caminos in Spain.
  • I like morning hiking best, but hike faster in the afternoon.
  • I struggle everyday posting pictures of myself with no makeup or touch ups-I listen to this song – it helps.
  • My earphones, that my wonderful brother-in-law gave me as an AT gift, ROCK! I can use them with my phone so can talk and walk with both hands free.
  • The Appalachian Trail is much harder than I thought it would be – I am loving it.
  • Grouse make the most interesting noise. It’s like a drum that reverberates the ground.
  • My camp stove boils water FAST!
  • I have only taken Advil twice so far.
  • Oldest hiker I have met is 73 years old.

Linda has hurt her rib/back and wants to take another day to get better. So Juergen and I will hike out tomorrow without my trail sister and her hubby.  Hopefully they will catch up one day. But I can’t take another zero when I feel this good.

Hiking on tomorrow,