Monthly Archives: April 2014

Day 55: Riding the Creeper trail, and a zero day is narrowly avoided

Miles Hiked: 9.2
Miles Left: 1708.5
Ending Location: Sanders Shelter

One of the things I really wanted to do in town was ride the Creeper Trail. No this isn’t some joke name for the AT like Young Beard and Sunshine thought, (though I can see how that might be appropriate). It’s actually a semi-well known section of former train tracks converted into a trail, running from White Top mountain through Damascus. The trail is almost all downhill and several shops in town will rent you a bicycle and drop you off at the top of it. After hiking nearly 22 miles the day before, cruising 17 miles downhill on a bike sounded glorious.

Unfortunately due to the weather the earliest drop off we could arrange was at 2pm so Owl and I had some time to kill. We started off at the Post Office mailing home our excess gear. In a bit of nostalgic poor decision making I decided to keep my Kindle. I had rediscovered it the night before when my phone was charging and had an absolute wonderful time reading it. I was reminded of a story my Dad had when he was a child and his parents sold his rocking horse. So looks like I’ll be carting it over a few more mountains.

After that it was on to grocery shopping for supplies. We’re expecting this next stretch to take five days which means a lot of food with the way we’ve been eating. Still when I got back to the hostel I found out once again that I had bought way more than I needed. Oh well, at least I won’t starve. Supposedly as we get further into Virginia we’ll be able to resupply every other day or so which will really help with lightening our load. Both of us need to get better at getting into town, buying food, and then getting out quickly though.

Slightly before two, Owl, Vegemite, and I showed up at the bike rental place to ride the Creeper trail. I have to say, they certainly didn’t waste time with safety instructions as we had to specifically ask for helmets and they seemed shocked we would want such a thing. Then it was a long winding van ride to the top where I tried not to get carsick and Vegemite forgot his phone in the passenger seat. Oh man, the bike ride was so worth it though. The first 10 minutes were terrifying but after that it was pure fun. The best part was that a section of the AT currently runs along the Creeper trail since a bridge was washed out about a year ago. Seeing your fellow through hikers trudging up the mountain with full packs while you blast past them in a bike with a smile on your face is an experience you have to have. More importantly though, riding the Creeper trail helped remind me that I am on vacation and am supposed to be having fun vs just pounding out the miles north every day. When I think back to my town visits, such as going to the aquarium in Gatlinberg, I’m realizing I need to spend more time doing things like this when I get back home after completing the AT. Oh another funny fact about the Creeper trail. On the few uphill, (ok flat…), sections of the trail I discovered the leg muscles you build while hiking have absolutely nothing to do with the muscles you need for biking. It was actually kind of embarrassing how out of shape I was for that activity.

After 17 miles of “off-road mountain biking” we of course needed to grab BBQ and a beer. Then it was back to the Woodchuck hostel to pack all my stuff up. My original plan was to hike a couple of miles and then tent, but with the late start time for biking and then dinner that plan had changed into moving to the cheaper Methodist run hostel down the street instead. I hung around Woodchuck for a bit though reading my Kindle some more, chatting with the owner, and recharging my phone. The sun was setting as I was leaving and the colors in the sky were gorgeous. It was absolutely beautiful weather so when I ran into Young Beard and Sunshine and they asked me if I was heading out I made a spur of the moment decision and said yes! That was a good choice as it turned into one of my favorite hiking experiences so far. As I was leaving town I was treated like a rock star. People think poor planning is hardcore! The trail was well maintained and the blazes were plentiful so I had no problems hiking in the moonlight with my headlamp. More importantly, it felt like I had the entire trail to myself. I turned my music on, both to rock out and serve as a more fun way to warn bears of my presence than bells, and was able to crank out about ten miles while having a blast. Once at the shelter I briefly considered pushing on another six miles to the next shelter where Owl and I had planned on meeting the next day, but opted not to push my luck and set up camp instead. As the weather continues to get warmer I think I’ll do more night hiking in the future.

Side note: If you look at the group shot from yesterday you’ll notice that Youngbeard didn’t bother to put down the burger he was eating with his *broken* hand. That’s hiker hunger!20140415-005407.jpg



Safety first!20140415-005515.jpg




Day 54: Playing catchup with a 20+ mile day, or why slack packing is amazing!

Miles Hiked: 21.7
Miles Left: 1717.7
Ending Location: Damascus, VA at the Woodchuck hostel

Owl and I started the morning good and early catching a ride along with Pooh Bear back to the road junction where we originally got off two days ago. What’s been shocking to me has been the amount of people skipping this section. Once you get into town it is real hard to build up the motivation to go back and finish these “easy” miles with 17k “newer” miles still ahead of you. From talking to people this is the first section where yellow blazing, (skipping sections by riding in a car), becomes popular.

I was actually curious what this part of the trail was like since the high milage hikers had been reporting it was so easy. Also both Owl and I were slack packing with us leaving a majority of our gear back at the hostel. Getting a chance to hike with a five pound pack vs. a forty pound pack was something I couldn’t pass up! The downside was that meant we had to finish 21 miles that day as camping was no longer an option and we only had enough food for lunch. All that gear does serve a purpose…

I knew hiking with a lighter pack would make a difference but I wasn’t ready for how much of a difference that would be. It felt like we were flying along the trail. Now admittedly today was mostly ridge line walking without any sustained ups or downs, but this was the first time I really started reevaluating my fundamental gear setup. Did I really need a tent or could I get away with a simple tarp like a lot of the ultra light hikers… I’m at the point where I need to start making these decisions since food, water, tent, and a sleeping bag make up a majority of my pack weight. If studying computer science taught me anything useful for the trail, Amdal’s law on optimizing code says that those should be the areas I look into for lightening my load.

The actual hike itself was fairly anticlimactic. It was long but with us averaging close to a whopping three miles an hour we arrived back in town before six even with a lunch break. For the second half of the hike we met up with Sunshine and Young Beard so we crossed the TN/VA border with them. We’re now officially in Virginia and will stay there for a while as the VA section is over 500 miles long. Yup, all our hiking to day has only been 470ish miles so expect the next state crossing to be over a month and a half away. On the plus side, with wild ponies and getting to visit our old college town of Blacksburg right on the horizon I couldn’t be more excited to be in Virginia!




These brambles cover the trail. My favorite term I’ve heard to describe them is “Wait a minutes” as they will snag your clothing and you’ll have to pause to untangle yourself20140415-004758.jpg

Day 53: Zero in Damascus

Miles Hiked: 0
Miles Left: 1739.4
Ending Location: TN 91 road crossing, Woodchuck hostel in Damascus

With us just completing an 18 mile day, bad weather, and finding ourselves in the most famous trail town on the AT, of course Owl and I decided to take a zero today!

The Woodchuck hostel had free breakfast but we had been hearing about the coffee at Mojoe’s Coffeehouse so that was our first destination in the morning. The rest of the day consisted of us making trips to the three outfitters in town to upgrade our gear for summer. Hiking the AT is a lot like golf since everyone talks about the weather and is obsessed about their equipment. It’s tricky since we still have some cold weather ahead of us but it’s time to start lightening our packs. My main purchases were a new pack cover that’s easier to put on for the rain and a new long sleeved shirt that is appropriate for summer wear. I know long sleeves seem like a weird choice, but the shirt is vented and is the type that specifically provides UV protection which is important since I’ve already gotten sunburns and summer hasn’t even started yet. I’ll admit both Owl and I have been admiring Wiki’s setup and are basically copying it. I managed to avoid the temptation to buy a new water filter or sleeping bag liner since while those would be nice my current stuff still works. The biggest disappointment was neither one of us could find Crocs to use as camp shoes.

As for the gear I’m sending back home, it’s mostly clothes, microspikes and most disappointingly my kindle. I haven’t had the time to do much reading on the trail so carrying it up and down mountains seems a bit crazy. While that all doesn’t sound like much, my pack should now be a couple of pounds lighter which is awesome.

At the Blue Blaze cafe later that night one of the locals bought all of the hikers a round of beer which was nice. The staff was very stressed out though handling all if the related craziness. I may have heard the owner mutter under their breath “And hiking season hasn’t even started yet”. Hikers are tough customers since a good chunk of them are in their early 20’s and are still in the party hard mindset. Combined with a huge dose of competitive spirit that can make for some interesting evenings. The hardest drinkers were a couple of people celebrating hiking 40 or 50 miles the day before to make it into Damascus. The previous section was the first part where hikers were really able to hit huge miles so there were a few of them. That’s good news for us though since tomorrow Owl and I will be slack packing a good chunk of it to pull off our first 20 mile day as well.

No copyright issues at all…20140415-004118.jpg

Day 52: Winter is coming and an early trip to Damascus is arranged

Miles Hiked: 18.6
Miles Left: 1739.4
Ending Location: TN 91 road crossing, Woodchuck hostel in Damascus

We awoke this morning to severe weather advisories warning of heavy rains, 60 mph winds, and temperatures in the mid 40s starting at 11pm that night. Basically it was the type of conditions where you can go from fine to seriously hypothermic in about twenty seconds. Neither Owl or I wanted any part of that and since tenting wasn’t an attractive option because we were worried about falling branches we resolved to make it to Iron a Mountain shelter and ride out the storm there.

Today was our second dam crossing but this one was much less exciting than Fontana. It was basically a ginourmous pile of rubble the Tennessee Valley Authority threw up to dam up Watauga lake. After that it was a big climb followed by ridge line hiking the rest of the day. We briefly stopped by Vandeventer shelter to admire the Bob Peoples graffiti and the view. With it being right on the ridge, (and luckily pointed away from the wind), it was one of the better placed shelters we’ve seen so far.

We met up with Ramon a Shaman and Cheezits soon afterwards. They had arranged for a ride from the TN 91 road crossing to Damascus and with it being only four miles past the shelter that was a very enticing idea. Owl and I had resolved not to do another 18+ mile day again for a while, but when the alternative was being miserable in a shelter all night… So we tentatively agreed to go with them depending on how we were feeling when we hit Iron Mountain.

The four of us ended up hiking together to the road crossing of course. Like Owl and I ever let a few blusters get in the way of having burgers! It was funny because throughout the entire hike Sheila showed her sheep dog heritage by herding any of us who got too far away from the rest of the pack. Once at the road crossing we were picked up by Gypsy Dave. He used to be a food chemist, hiked the AT, and then realized he hated his job so he moved out here and now shuttles hikers and raises sheep. We met his wife the next day and she only half joked that this hike ruined him. That’s not the first story like that we’ve heard as it seems like many other through hikers have that problem. I guess that feeling must kick in after two months since I have no desire to move out to the country and start a farm.

We all arrived into town around 8:30 and our priorities were in order since we went to grab dinner before checking into our hostel. We ate at the Blue Blaze Cafe and I will say their portions were certainly hiker friendly. I don’t think anyone leaves there hungry. As the night went on more and more hikers arrived. The mountains were emptying as everyone tried to take shelter from the storm. Two of the hikers had pulled 38 mile days to get there and were treated like rock stars. One of them was Batman who we sheltered with the night before. For the record he arrived about three hours after we did so he was doing about twice our pace.

After that we checked in at Woodchuck hostel. It was another new hostel that just opened up this year but the owner Chuck was a former through hiker so he knew what to expect. The place is really nice and had memory foam beds, (!!!), so if you are looking for a place to stay I would highly recommend it.









Day 51: God creates mountains, Bob Peoples moves them

Miles Hiked: 10.3
Miles Left: 1758.0
Ending Location: Watauga Lake Shelter

Today Owl and I were some of the first hikers on the trail for once. That may have something to do with the fact that we did not fully participate in the festivities the night before. So yay for being lame I guess?!

The day ended up being quite chilly. I wish the weather would make up its mind so we can send our cold weather gear back home. I shouldn’t complain though as it was the perfect temperature for hiking. That was good as we had a decent amount of climbing to do. The first part of the trail was fun as we got to see a big waterfall and most of it was along the river. It reminded me of a lot of the hikes I used to do up in Northern Virginia. After that we found ourselves going up two thousand feet over a mountain with no views. There’s an AT challenge called the Damascusthon where hikers will start at Kincora hostel and try to make it to Damascus in 24 hours. Lore has it too many people were completing it so Bob Peoples rerouted the trail over that mountain so hikers would be forced to enjoy that part of Tennessee. There may be some truth to that as it certainly seems like every bump had a white blaze going up it. The term hikers have for these climbs is “Pointless ups and downs”, or Puds. That has a negative connotation so there’s now a movement to call them “Temporary ups and return downs”. I strongly support that ;p

I stopped several times throughout the day to make calls and answer emails as I had cell phone signal which was a rare luxury. I didn’t expect the lack of connectivity to be such a big problem but it does present a host of difficulties. I’m hoping as we get further north I’ll find more AT&T cell towers.

We ended the day at Watauga Lake shelter. It’s notorious for its bear problems as day hikers will camp there and leave all sorts of trash lying around. Because of that while the weather was supposed to be nice both Owl and I stayed in the shelter. As the night went on we were joined by Batman, Ramon Shaman, Cheezeits, and more importantly Sheila, Cheezeit’s dog. We figured no bear would mess with her so we were able to sleep soundly.






Day 50: Chilling at the Black Bear Resort

Miles Hiked: 0
Miles Left: 1768.3
Ending Location: Dennis Cove Road, Black Bear Resort

This was another zero day where bad weather was predicted but the real reason we stayed was we just needed the rest. Both Owl and I were pretty beat up from the last section. I had two blisters on my left heal I wanted to heal. Owl had a couple as well along with some poison ivy on one foot that’s hard to explain how it ended up there. Then there were all the other associated aches and pains. Doing 18 mile days is an accomplishment but it’s just not sustainable for us yet.

Rather than zero in Kincora, we instead decided to try out the Black Bear resort which was also right by the trailhead. That was a good decision since it had a very nice setup. We chose a private room, (having your own shower is an amazing luxury), but they also have affordable cabins and bunk rooms you can rent. The resupply was also good with the exception that they currently don’t carry fuel right now, (their supplier lost” their shipment). This is their third year open and I was very impressed by them. Which is more than I can say about Hampton in general…

Upon checking in I took my customary nap but I still managed to wake up in time to catch the shuttle into town. Hampton is not what I would call one of the up and coming towns of America. Dining options consisted of a McDonalds, (attached to the gas station), and a Subway that takes so long to make sandwiches that you have to call in your order ahead of time. We picked McDonalds. One good thing I have to say though is they do have cell signal there so I was graced with about an hour of service for the first time in over a week. I may have forgotten it was a weekday when giving my girlfriend a call, (darn real jobs)…

After that I spent some time hanging out with the other hikers. Radioman was treating everyone’s feet issues so I let him tape up my blisters. He was a former Green Beret and his brother was an athletic trainer so he really seemed to know what he was doing. Much to the amazement of everyone he cured Windscreen’s shin splints so he was able to back up his claims at the very least. I retired to our room before the real partying started though. It’s not that I didn’t want to join in but I was still dragging. At this point I probably could use about a week’s worth of sleep. It’s weird since I devote much more time to sleeping now than before I started hiking. For example I usually get about 10-11 hours of “sleep” a night. Of course I’m working out a lot more and that sleep requires quotes since I am constantly being woken up throughout the night.

Kincora Hostel20140415-001133.jpg




Black Bear Resort20140415-001309.jpg

Day 49: At least I wasn’t chased by feral dogs

Miles Hiked: 15.9
Miles Left: 1768.3
Ending Location: Dennis Cove Road, Kincora Hiking Hostel

Well my plans for an early start were dashed when we were hit by a thunderstorm in the morning. Yes I want to get into town but staying dry in my sleeping bag has its own pluses. Sheltering in place was much less appealing to Owl. His tent fly had drained onto his ground cloth leaving him sitting in a bathtub. So while I slept in he was packing his stuff and getting ready to hit the trail. The rain finally stopped around 9:30 and since splitting up to hike our own pace worked so well the previous day Owl left camp and went on to have a much more exciting day than me, (more on that later), while I slowly got my act together.

Yesterday things had been warming up and that trend continued with it hitting the 80’s today. Normally that’d be great news but unfortunately most of my gear is still set up for cold weather. I plan on changing over some of it in Damascus and then getting rid of the last of my cold weather gear in Blacksburg, but for now I’m sweating. The hiking today alternated between two extremes. I’d hit an overgrown part that was hot and humid and seriously start questioning why I was out here. About 30 minutes later I’d find myself in a pine forest with wind and be loving life. The heat really complicated things as I was soaked the entire day which I knew in an abstract way was going to happen but I wasn’t quite prepared for the reality of it. I’ve also had to completely abandon the idea of carrying all my water for the day as before I was drinking around three liters and now I’m up to around six. Luckily water was abundant along the trail but in a piece of bad timing my water filter picked now to give up the ghost. It was a Sweetwater pump filter and it had been having serious issues since I tried to filter muddy water in freezing temperatures a couple of days ago, (wait, was that only a couple days ago!?). The core carbon part of it appeared intact but it acted as if it was clogged all the time. That morning I had left it by the waterfall to grab my brush to clean it out, (again), and ended up knocking my platypus bottle cap into the river, (it was gone instantly), so I wasn’t happy with it to start out. As the day wore on and I kept struggling with it I realized this wasn’t sustainable situation and sat down to troubleshoot the problem. It turns out the filter itself was ok but the pre-filter that you dip into the river was broken. I tried scrubbing it and blowing in it but the pre-filter still remained clogged. At that point I got the brilliant idea of putting it on the output tube to back flush it but I got lazy and dipped the now non-filtered draw tube into the river. I reasoned if it clogged up the main filter I could just brush it out. My mistake was I had forgotten about the gasket that it used to suck the water up into the main filter. Basically some grit got in there rendering unable to create pressure. Since the whole gasket part is enclosed in unserviceable plastic tube my nice water filter instantly became a piece of junk. Luckily I still have water purification tabs so I wasn’t in a bad spot, (once again yay for being prepared), but I’ll chalk this up as a learning experience. Truth be told, the whole troubleshooting process was a lot of fun as it was a bit of intellectual stimulation I’ve been missing on the trail.

Side Note: The next day when I had access to a sink I totally fixed my filter. It was a neat little project. That being said I’m still going to get a new one in Damascus since the main pump part is about three years old and I no longer fully trust it at this point.

So that was my day until I hit Moreland gap shelter around 4pm. It was directly on the trail so I checked the log book looking for an entry from Owl telling me where he wanted to meet up in town. Only there was no entry written by Owl. That made me worry. He wouldn’t have skipped this shelter and I couldn’t imagine him not writing down some joke to encourage me on. I haven’t had cell signal for the last couple of days but one of the other hikers let me borrow their phone, (they had Verizon like Owl), and I tried to call him but it went to voicemail.

I waited around a bit but one guy came up behind me who was slack packing and said he hadn’t seen Owl either, so I then decided to get to town and hopefully find him at one of the hostels. As the day went on I finally obtained one bar of signal and started getting random text messages from Owl warning me about mud, dogs and to meet him at the Kincora shelter. Relieved he wasn’t dead in a ditch I headed the rest of the way into town.

On arriving at Kincora, Owl greeted me at the front, I sat my pack down on the porch, and one of guys named Lumpy presented me with a bowl of warm peach cobbler slathered in ice cream. I about cried. After polishing off the pie plus the follow on bonus scoop of ice cream I was then handed a bowl of home cooked pasta and sausage. As I was scarfing that down Owl told me his story.

Owl had been hiking alone when two dogs appeared on the trail. They looked like tan German Shepherds so these weren’t small dogs either. At first they appeared friendly and approached Owl but when they got within a couple of feet they turned aggressive, growling and barking. Owl tried to back away but they kept following him. After a couple of minutes one of them lunged at him and Owl smacked it with his hiking pole. That was a good move since they then stayed a pole’s length away but they continued to harass him. Owl found himself backing down a side trail for about a quarter mile in this state until the dogs decided to find easier prey and left him alone. Owl wisely decided not to try to make it back to the AT since the dogs had headed that way, and instead continued to follow the forest road until it met up with a paved road. It was at this point he met up with two other hikers, Steady and Trident, who were making a town run to buy food. Steady was a triple crowner who lived in the area and was driving people around in her pickup truck so Owl jumped in the bed and away they went.

Yet another side note: For everyone reading this journal who warned me about bears, right now they are one of the least scary things on the trail, ranked behind feral dogs, wild pigs, and drunk locals. Owl was very lucky to get out of that unscathed.

The rest of the night at Kincora was an experience. The hostel is run by Bob Peoples who is one of the most well known trail maintainers. The hostel itself is donation based, (suggested donation is five dollars), because that is just something Bob Peoples does. To give you an idea of the type of respect he gets, hikers make Bob Peoples jokes instead of Chuck Norris jokes. We stayed up fairly late sitting on that porch just listening to some of the more experienced hikers swap stories. Part of the incentive to stay on the porch might also have been that the main bunk room was full so we got the overflow shed instead. It was pretty damp and sketchy but what do you expect for five bucks? In short, it was a very good experience and I recommend for anyone hiking the AT to stay there one night. If you plan on zeroing though you should then move on to the Black Bear resort instead.






Day 48: Goodbye North Carolina

Miles Hiked: 18
Miles Left: 1784.2
Ending Location: Mountaineer Shelter

One advantage to sleeping in a shelter vs camping is it’s almost impossible to sleep in when people start waking up. Or to put it another way, Owl and I got an early start. We spent the first half of today finishing up the Roan Highlands which consisted of us crossing from one bald to another one. The weather was perfect for it with it being sunny and warm. The way the wind was blowing I’m glad we didn’t show up a couple days earlier with the ice and snow!

At mile 389 we said goodby to North Carolina. Over the last 200 miles we’ve been weaving between it and Tennessee, but with Virginia less than 90 miles away we can finally put another state behind us. Shortly afterwards Owl and I had to make a decision. Should we go into town to resupply and eat BBQ or continue on? When put that way it sounds like an easy question, but a town stop would mean we’d have two low milage days and we’re trying to make our way to Virginia. We ended up deciding to continue on and then stopping in Hampton instead. That way we could get away with only having one town stop before Damascus.

Owl wanted to make the run to Hampton in two days since his food was running low so we pushed on to the shelter which made today an 18 mile trek. By the time we got there we were both pretty beat. Luckily it was a nice shelter with a great water source at the top of a waterfall, (don’t drop your water bottle!), but we elected to camp instead. Tomorrow we need to pull another high millage day, (17 miles ), to make it to Hampton. Once there the plan is to stay at the Kincora hostel for at least one night as both of us desperately need a shower and laundry done. My socks are so coated in sweat and mud I could use them to drive in nails.






Day 47: Roan Mountain

Miles Hiked: 12.1
Miles Left: 1802.2
Ending Location: OverMountain Shelter

I don’t know what it was but I woke up this morning raring to go. I had my gear packed even before Owl had started breaking down his tent so I headed out alone. The plan was we’d meet up for lunch or barring that at the over-mountain shelter that night.

We camped at the base of Roan mountain so that was the climb that greatest me. Roan mountain is the last peak we’ll cross until New England that’s over 6k in elevation. Starting off it wasn’t that bad, but even though the guidebook warned of several false peaks it was still disappointing every time I hit one to see even more “up” hiding behind it. The weather had warmed up significantly so the lower sections were dry and ice free but near the actual top it became a skating rink. After a bit of sliding around in denial I finally stopped to put my micro spikes on and boy did they make a difference. This was the first time in the over 300 miles I’ve been lugging those things where it would have been a problem if I had shipped them back home.

I ended going up the side trail to the Roan Mountain shelter for lunch. It has the distinction of being the highest shelter on the AT. Let me tell you, if a shelter is distinctive you probably don’t want to stay there. Unlike most of the other shelters this one was essentially a house with an attic hikers can sleep in. While four actual walls would keep the wind out, the whole thing was dank, dusty, and dirty. I decided to eat my lunch on some rocks outside instead.

After waiting a while for Owl I finally decided to start heading down. This side of the mountain received more sun which meant the ice was rapidly melting so I found myself either walking in a river or on a thin sheet of ice that would randomly break into the water below it. Basically it was another wet socks day.

At the bottom of the mountain I ran into Owl who had just returned from filtering water. Apparently he had skipped the shelter altogether. After filling up our bottles we then started together up the Roan Highlands which are a series of balds. Our Southlander friends had described them as like the White Mountains without any of the work. I won’t say they were easy, but you certainly get some views without having to climb 2k.

On one ridge line we were able to take part in an army training exercise as attack choppers would hide behind the mountain and then pop up to perform simulated attack runs on us. It would have been a bad day to be Taliban. It was fun and I guess this is pretty realistic for them as well.

While Owl stopped for lunch on Round Bald I split off again to take a 0.6 mile side trail up Grassy Ridge Bald. It was the highest of all the balds but not on the actual AT. While it was a “wasted” 1.2 miles round trip since it didn’t count I wanted to see it because back in Georgia a nice older couple made us promise to take the time to check out the view. Considering they gave us their phone number and offered to help us if we hit any trouble it seemed like the right thing to do. I’m glad I listened to them as not only was it spectacular, but I had the whole mountain to myself which was a fun feeling. One thing I’m still getting adjusted to is how crowded the AT is.

We ended the day at the OverMountain shelter. At one point it was a barn before it had been converted into sleeping accommodations so there was tons of space for us to lay out our stuff in the loft. At night some kids drove up a nearby road, blasted their music and went mudding which added to the ambiance.







Day 46: Finally, more rock scrambles!

Miles Hiked: 12.0
Miles Left: 1814.3
Ending Location: Camping at mile 371, right before Hughes Gap

This was the first time on the AT where I slept through the whole night. Apparently being completely exhausted has its benefits! Paired with the fact that the privy at the shelter consisted of a shovel, we once again got a slow start to the day.

The weather had warmed up considerably so the hike today consisted of wading through mud and slush. Even with waterproof boots and gaiters we both found ourselves having to take frequent breaks to air out our soaked feet and socks. Today was more of a “We need to make miles”, vs a joy of hiking sort of day. At one of the gaps though we found someone offering soda and moon pies so we stopped to chat for a bit and as predicted had a soda each. It’s not that we don’t learn so much as it’s physically impossible to not drink a soda that’s offered to you when hiking.

We also ran into two hikers, one of which was having “issues” at both ends. His friend thought it was food poisoning, but whatever it was they were not having a good time. I gave them all my Camelback Elixir drink supplements since that essentially turns water into Gateraid which he needed. Luckily I have my backup shaker of light salt so I can still replace the electrolytes I’m sweating out. Let’s hear it for forty pound bags!

The highlight today though was near the end. We decided to pass up the shelter and camp at an “unofficial” camp site that was three miles past it instead. Part of those three miles were up a mountain that looked unassuming in the guide but turned into a real fun rock climb. At the top I carefully made my way out onto an overhanging rock cliff to watch the sun slowly set over the countryside. It was exactly what I needed after all the monotonous sliding through the mud.

Hey, if there is free candy…20140414-233953.jpg