Sunday, March 31, 2013
Wendy here with another update from the trail! We have finally squirmed out of the grasp of the beautiful Franklin, NC and managed to hole ourselves up back in the woods. Today was a short day (only about 4 miles) and we arrived at the shelter early. We were the first ones here for the day and decided to stay in the shelter for the night. Little did we know our plans would be changed for us...
About 30 minutes after we arrived, hikers began filing in to the shelter. First was Daypack, then Turtle, then a group of 3 hikers we haven't seen since Neels Gap! Sorry to say I can't remember one of their names but the other two are Ref and Jigsaw. The combination of all of us fills the entire shelter floor and we all settle in our bags to enjoy the short day before dinner.
About an hour passes before we are hit with 3 hikers; 2 Boy Scouts and a leader. They are very polite and decide that one scout will take a remaining spot along our feet on the shelter floor and the troop leader and the other scout would pitch their tent. While it wasn't the perfect set of conditions for tenting, they were willing to accept their spot outside in order to preserve the comfort of those of us that arrived early (mind you we are ALL thru hikers.)
This went swimmingly until there arrived an unnamed man in a ridiculous looking hat. He seemed to be under the influence of some substance that made him the most important individual on this earth and immediately began demanding that we squish together further to make room for him.
Let's keep in mind 2 things at this part of the story- we had already crammed the shelter to the max in order to fit the people we had fit AND the rain had ceased. Yet somehow this rain on the ground (we assume acidic) proved too much a challenge for dopey hat man to tent in and he instead went on insulting the thru hikers (including Breeze and I) because we could not find room for his delicate frame to hide from the rain that ended an hour ago.
More awkward insulting and muttering occurred and it was then that the other troop leader and two more scouts entered the ring. Preposterous, one might think, to say that even they could be brain dead enough to think that they could fit in the shelter (IT STILL ISN'T RAINING.) As it turned out, however, that is exactly what this retired marine and two scouts expected to do. At this point Breeze and I had become fed up with the backhanded comments from Acid Rain Hat Man and decided to be the bigger men (because 2 full grown adults chose not to be,) and told everyone we would leave and go tent in the lack of rain.
Think that would be the end of the story?! Not when A.R.H.M is involved. As we packed up so that his precious body could seek refuge from the soggy ground, we were once again berated and insulted because we were being babies and moving when they didn't ask us to move at all. Attempts to explain common courtesy and respect for personal space seemed to be one rung too high on the intelligence scale for ARHM and he continued spouting insults as we left.
All in all an eventful day that landed us with wet gear but a peaceful night sleep. Shame on these folks for giving both the military and Boy Scouts a bad image. I fear the scouts will be told we were in the wrong and they will go on to do the same things to people instead of simply being courteous. Hopefully that doesn't happen.
Until the next acid rain adventure,
Alex AKA Wendy
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Sorry everyone! I know you guys hang on my every word, so it must have been really upsetting to check the blog last night and find that there were no new posts. Good friends, good basketball, and great beer got the best of me this weekend, and I inadvertently shirked one of the only obligations I have left. Now let's see, where did we leave off...
Wendy and I had a nice, short hike into the parking lot near Franklin. No sooner did our boots hit the asphalt than a ride into town appeared. The infamous Baltimore Jack from Mountain Crossing Outfitters pulled up in a minivan, rolled down the window, and said "get in". And away we went.
Our arrival into Franklin could not have been better timed. Once a year, the city throws a "hiker bash" festival, complete with day and night time activities for thru hikers. Some of the downtown roads were sectioned off so that local artists, vendors, and friends of the trail could set up booths and displays. Mom and Dad, you would have loved it. Throngs of thru hikers have taken over the city. It's really awesome being a thru hiker in a hiker town. You really feel like a small part of something bigger than yourself.
As if the festival weren't enough, Wendy and I are also getting to spend the Easter/Wendy's birthday weekend with Wendy's family and fiancé, Jess! I haven't seen Jess since she graduated from Georgia Southern last May, so it was great to finally get to see her and catch up. Wendy's parents have been very kind and generous,feeding us extremely well, doing our laundry, and giving us rides around town so we can run our hiker errands. They even brought me an Easter basket and really made me feel like a part of the family. I cannot thank them enough for the hospitality :).
I could write at length about this weekend, and about the entire trip in general. It's only been two weeks, but I can already feel subtle changes that the trail is making on my life. Don't worry, I'll go into more detail about this as I make my way down the trail. Hopefully more time and reflection will enable me to take some of my raw emotions and transforms them into words. Right now, the experience as a whole feels indescribable.
Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that I'm actually doing something this cool. I mean really, how awesome is this?!
See ya down the trail!
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Wendy here with another trail update! We are perched at an absolutely gorgeous campsite around 1-1.5 miles south of Rock Gap Shelter. This leaves us with an easy day tomorrow so that we can hitch into Franklin early and get showered before my folks get in.
Today was an easy 10-11 mile day for both of us. Despite a relatively late start, a long lunch, and a huge climb up Mt Albert, we managed to make it into camp plenty early. Nothing beats these unmarked campsites when it comes to firewood; it is everywhere out here but the shelters are all picked over.
Another easy day and beautiful weather on the trail, here's to hoping it keeps up! Can't wait for nero-zero-nero in Franklin! (Zero is a zero mile day, nero is a close to zero mile day.)
Another cold night but Breeze and I will once again be snuggled in and warm. Until next time, folks!
Wendy AKA Alex
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
This too shall pass.
Breeze here. It's amazing how quickly things can change out here, considering how slow everything seems to move. Folks drop out, the trail heads up hill, or then skies open up on you. Well this time, the tides shifted in our favor. Wendy just commented that I always seem to get the good days to blog. Maybe I'll just blog everyday.
We woke up this morning how we went to sleep last night: bitterly cold. Thankfully, the dark skies that loomed above us all day yesterday were gone, all remained was the bright sun and blue skies. It was our first sign of real sun in 4 days. The sun can change everything about by your day. Yesterday's lunch was a miserable, freezing cold rush. It was too snowy to even find a place to sit. We stopped just long enough to feed ourselves before the cold sank back in. Today, Wendy and I lounged on the sunny hillside, breaking for over an hour. It was so relaxing. It was so nice to be warm, even for a little while. Right now, I'm sitting around a nice fire with sycamore, red fox, and willy. It's been a great day.
The weather isn't the only thing that has changed quickly out here. Just a few days ago, today might have been a bad day for me and Wendy. The trail was super sloshy and snow was dripping on our heads all day. This morning, we tried to get our food bag down from the tree just to discover that the rope was stuck. We spent 30 minutes attempting to get it down (that was terrifying!). I spilt an entire quart of water that I had just got done filtering. At this point we are really embracing the trail life, and appreciating the small stuff so much more. Because as you all know, this too shall pass.
P.s. I gave someone a trail name for the first time! I named him Gator bc she was wearing Florida gator colors. The funny thing is, he's from New Hampshire. (I thought of you, Darbs ;))
Wendy here with yet another trail update! Today finds us at Standing Indian shelter (sound familiar Holden Hatfield?) for a cold night. Temps down to 18 with up to 28mph gusts!
There were no shelter spots available and I was pretty nervous about whether or not my tent could handle the weather. Luckily, Breeze and I are both sleeping comfortably! That is pretty surprising to say considering some of our day consisted of trudging through 2 foot snow drifts. The winter weather system sweeping the country is alive and well in the NC mountains!
The biggest piece of news, however, was our huge milestone today- we knocked out our first state! Georgia is successfully behind us and now we have to dance with one of the toughest states on the trail. NC is known for brutal climbs so we have our work cut out for us!
I'll leave you special late night people with a few pics (too many to choose from today !)
Until next time,
Your faithful servant Patsy... Err
Alex AKA Wendy
Monday, March 25, 2013
Hey everyone it's breeze!
The picture below pretty much sums up the day for me and Wendy. Beginning last night at around 7 pm, I have been out of my sleeping bag for maybe 30 minutes. Because of the weather and the fact that we have a few days to get to Franklin, we decided to take our first zero day of the trip. We don't feel bad about the decision though. Wendy's knee could use the rest, and several hikers who have thru hiked before also decided to spend the day here in the shelter.
The Appalachian trail is a fascinating place. One hiker drew up a metaphor that related the trail to a DMV. Only on the Appalachian trail and the DMV can you meet people from all walks of life. People that would never talk to each other in real life chat all day, and really enjoy each other's company. Retired teachers and doctors hang out all day with young college students, high school drops outs, stoners, and everything in between. But no group of people is more fascinating to me then the mountain men.
I met my first group of true mountain men today. They call themselves hiker trash, and are as hard core as hikers come. They are the modern day Huck Finn, except with massive beards and a smoking habit. All of them have completed a thru hike before, and most of them have completed multiple thru hikes on different trails (and they're only in their mid 20s). Most of their gear could be found in thrift stores or hiker boxes (people leave gear at hostels and outfitters that they don't want. Other hikers can come along and trade with the box if they see something they like). It's very tattered and worn bc of all the miles the gear has seen. They cook over an open fire every night and don't carry tents. They either stay in the shelters or cowboy camp. Oh, and did I mention that they do 20-30 mile days? One guys record is 56 miles in one session! As you get to know them, you begin to realize that they aren't like most thru hikers you meet on the trail or on the internet (they calls guys like me that talk about thru hiking at home "internet blazers"). This isn't some once in a lifetime adventure for them; this is their life. They aren't in between careers like I am. This is their career. There is a saying among thru hikers: if you make it all the way, you only come half way back. I'm beginning to see the validity of that statement.
Hanging out with them all day has been awesome. They are super cool, easy to talk to guys. They have a wealth of knowledge and act as mentors out here for us new thru hikers. They may roll their eyes at our new, shiny gear straight from REI, but you can tell that they truly want everyone they meet to finish.
Trying to keep warm!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Wendy here with yet another trail update, this one hailing from Plumorchard shelter. We are only about 2 miles from the North Carolina line! Even though we will have only hiked 79 miles by then, it will still feel like quite an accomplishment to cross into a new state.
Today was an easy 4 mile day for us, however my knee does not seem to want to improve any. We will be taking a 0 mile day tomorrow in order to line up with Franklin (and also enjoy this sweet 14 person shelter!) I am hoping that this will help my knee out, I am really struggling on the downhill sections.
The shelter has been great so far, we are packed in like sardines! Breeze chose to hang his hammock despite the nasty weather but still got to hang around and enjoy the shelter atmosphere with me.
The star of the shelter tonight had to be Pink Panther. She is a 9 year old thru hiker along with her parents who are home schooling her 4th grade year largely on the trail. What an amazing family! She is quite the character herself. I haven't seen her stop eating for about 4 hours now, she has used her cute little girl powers to swindle samples of just about everyone's food!
I live to die another day,
Alex AKA Wendy
PS Can't wait to see my family and my wonderful fiancée in just a few days! Love you guys, thanks for all the support you have given me already.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
Good heavens! What a whirlwind of a day. Y'all sit back and let ole Breeze tell you all about it. Let's start from the beginning.
The day didn't get off to the greatest of starts. Wendy and I woke up around 7:00 a.m. to a pretty steady rain. Thankfully, it wasn't too cold, so we quickly got packed up and headed down the trail. Rain can cause many problems out on here on the trail. It's pretty miserable to hike in, can dangerously lower your body temperature, and can render your clothes and down insulation layers virtually useless. Plus it's a major hassle to try and keep everything in your pack dry and usable. One problem that isn't so obvious (at least to me) is that the AT turns into a straight mud hole when wet! I'm talking a good old fashioned Georgia mudslide.
Ok, sidebar. My mind wanders EVERYWHERE while I'm hiking. And I mean everywhere. That's actually one of the main reasons I like hiking so much. While sliding up and down mountains all day, I came up with an idea. The Appalachian Trail mudslide. It would be a delicious concoction consisting of all my favorite trail food: snicker bars, oatmeal, granola, cliff bars, and honey buns. Blend it all up, mix it with frozen yogurt, and serve. I know, I know. Pure genius.
The rain and fog did create one memorable view. As we climbed into higher elevations, we also climbed out of the suffocating mist. The result was an incredible/eerie view of the fog filled valley below. I wish I had a picture of it, but it was still raining slightly and I couldn't get my camera out. But believe me, it was an awesome sight. As we neared Dicks Creek Gap, we noticed a sign tied to a tree alerting me and Wendy to trail magic ahead! After a split second of sideways looks and smirks, Wendy and I literally took off running down the trail. After a long, hard day of trudging through the mud, trail magic was just what the doctor ordered! And son let me tell ya, this was some serious trail magic!! As we approached their tent, I instantly noticed two giants pots of hot chili, and an endless supply of cookies, brownies, chips, crackers, and fruit. The works! The wonderful folks in the picture below are Hal, Cheryl, George, and Nancy, and they were my trail angels. Guys, if you are reading this, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. Before today, I always thought trail "magic" was a funny term. But what y'all did for me and all the other thru hikers today was nothing short of true magic. Thank you thank you 10 times over :).
After the awesome trail magic, some day hikers from Georgia Tech gave us a ride into Hiawassee where we checked in to a super cheap motel with dozens of other thru hikers close by. We ran into some of friends from the trial, including Appa, spider Steve, and Miami.
It was a rollercoaster of a day and yet another awesome adventure on the AT! How many of y'all hitch hiked today?
Friday, March 22, 2013
Wendy here with the latest update from the trail. Today's post title just about sums up the day for me! I was up and down all day. My cardio would be bad but my knee would be good. Then it would reverse. This coupled with a tough (albeit short) day from Blue Mountain shelter to Tray Mountain shelter made for a very unstable Wendy.
When we walked up to Tray Mountain around 2:30 today, the shelter was already full. Seeking to make an easy day of tomorrow so that we can hit Hiawassee early, we decided to press on. Around 2 miles further up the trail we found a nice campsite and got setup. After getting ready for bed around 6:30, we decided to try and make the night last a little longer so that we didn't have to sleep for so long.
The result was this awesome fire! Thanks to everyone for sticking with our blog and supporting us. We trudge ever onward!
Until next time,
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Hey everyone! It's Breeze's turn to run the blog.
Last night and today have been very interesting. The temperature dropped into the low 20s during the night and we were greeted this morning with a nice thin layer of snow. It was tough to get out of the sleeping bag. The rest of the day really depended on what side of the mountain we were on. One side of the mountain was facing the sun and shielded from the wind. You can guess what the other side was like. Still, we had a short day planned, so we got in to camp early and got a fire going. We're hanging out with a few thru hikers from last night, but most of the guys headed into town to escape the cold. I guess we're just better campers then then ;)
I did want to share a little anecdote from last night. Yesterday Wendy and I met our second female thru hiker. As soon as she walked into camp, all the alpha males immediately perked up. Well, except Alex - but he's not so much an alpha male as he is more of a whipped poodle at this point :). Anyway, everyone began cracking jokes and telling stories until there were only 2 guys left competing from the initial 7. I'll admit, I was playing the game right along with everyone else. But like the other guys, I soon realized I was quite outmatched, and refocused my energy to more productive endeavours. Only until I became a spectator did i realize just how entertaining this little match actually was. By this time, both guys were strutting around like roosters at a cock fight. They were outdoing each other at every turn, including story telling, gear comparisons, and trail knowledge. I'll admit, they both knew their stuff. One had work experience with the ATC (Appalachian trail conservancy) with a pack weight of 25 lbs, while the other worked as a summer camp counselor in Maine, taking kids hiking in his free time. His pack weight was a little over 30. In the end, the lower pack weight won, and the silver medalist went off to sulk in the corner, still muttering random facts about the AT.
Just thought I'd share a small snapshot of the day to give you guys a little more than just a weather report. In the picture, Wendy is standing just in front of our shelter for the night. We have an awesome view!
Until next time,
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Wendy here for another trail update. Today we have a pretty controversial subject to discuss- the weather! While we stayed in Neels, there were several talks about the horrible weather coming tonight. We heard claims as bad as -8F with wind chill and gusts of 40mph.
This scare caused us to decide on taking a proposed 0 day in a cabin right down the road from Mountain Crossings. We were told by one of the workers there that it was where we should go instead of their hostel. He claimed that for 4 hikers it was the same price as the hostel there, even though they were not affiliated with the cabin company.
This scare and offer caused the cabins to fill before the Mountain Crossings store even opened (where we were told to go get a cabin set aside for us.) This fact meant that we were forced to hike into this scare of a storm. We were greeted by a beautiful day and sunshine galore. In addition, it was alleged that the laundry of the cabin stayers was done last night by the owners of Mountain Crossings.
While we cannot say that this laundry fact is 100% proven to be true, that was enough to put a bad taste in my mouth about Mountain Crossings. I can say, however that they helped me in the store a great deal and returns were super easy. Mixed bag but Pirate runs a great hostel!
As far as us, we are all packed into the Low Gap shelter until we couldn't fit anymore and used all of our ground cloths and tarps to cover the front of the shelter. It is warm as an oven in here already and we don't even have everyone in yet! I foresee a warm comfortable night ahead!
Alex AKA Wendy
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Hey everyone! Breeze here.
As of right now, I am sitting comfortably in a dry, warm, four walled structure. I have a full stomach, laundered, dry clothes, and a comfy bed at my disposal. I am surrounded by 16 awesome thru hikers that carry on very entertaining conversation. To say that I am on cloud 9 would be the understatement of the century. It has truly been an awesome day. 24 hours ago, all of this was not the case. Quite the opposite in fact.
24 hours ago, Windy and I were hiding in our tents, trying to keep dry and warm from the thunderstorm that was all around us. Despite the miserable weather, I was able to sleep pretty soundly. This was mostly due to my awesome equipment, and the fact that hiking 12 miles up mountains in the freezing rain can take a lot out of you. Soon however, mother natured once again smiled down upon us and greeted with a cloudless, sunny day. That mother nature is a fickle mistress. Since windy and I had already planned on taking a short 7.5 mile day into neels gap, we decided to enjoy the beautiful morning in camp. As we cooked and cleaned up, we set all our rain gear in the sun so that it could dry before we packed it away. We ended up breaking camp around 11:30. Once we broke camp we had a really nice climb over blood mountain. I've been up to Blood a few times before, but the sights up there never fail to take my breath away. I took a ton of pictures and had a nice lunch up on the rocks while I soaked in the incredible view.
From the top of Blood, it was a quick, easy 3 mile downhill hike into Neels Gap. Neels Gap is home to Mountain Crossing Outfitter. Mountain Crossing has just about everything a thru hiker would want, such as hiker food, replacement gear, and even a hostel. With the weather turning for the worse, and the call of the showers, windy and I decided it was a good place to stop. A local church came by and dropped off several large pans of lasagna, a huge bowl of salad, and more brownies then even we could it. It was delicious and the best part was they did it all at no charge to us. They are wonderful people.
The hostel has a very unique vibe to it. Everyone is a thru hiker. Being in the bunk house reminds me of going to summer camp as a kid. Everyone is laughing, talking, and having a great time. Mostly everyone is excited just to be inside. Its funny how quickly everyone is bonding. I guess the AT just naturally brings people together. We are starting to run into the same thru hikers more and more, so it seems we may have a group on our hands before too long. I will keep you posted :)
Until next time!!
Monday, March 18, 2013
Wendy here with a third update from the trail. We have stopped for the day at Lance Creek which is settled roughly 2 miles south of the beginning of bear canister section. The combination of the inconvenience of the canister purchase (which you need for only 5.5 miles of trail) and the horrible shelter placement led to a busy campsite. We got in around 4:30 after hiking the entire day in heavy rain.
Today was a physical victory for me despite the poor conditions. I was able to focus more and use my hiking poles in order to help my frequent need for stops during ascents. This also let me knee have a nice relaxing day which was a nice change.
We will be taking a nice slow day of 7+ miles tomorrow. We will be summiting Blood Mountain and crossing into Neels Gap. We will be spending the night at the hostel to avoid the need for a bear canister along with resupplying, showering, and doing laundry! Hopefully tomorrow will be a nice change from the two hard days in a row!
With sore legs and much love,
Alex AKA Wendy
PS- sorry for no pictures, we couldn't risk getting any electronics wet!
Sunday, March 17, 2013
Hey everyone, breeze (Kent) here. Wow! What an awesome day! Today was much better than yesterday and it was nice to spend the entire day on the AT. Because of our short first day, Alex and I decided to make up the distance and churn out a solid 12+ mile hike. Along those 12 miles of trail Alex and I were treated with a beautiful waterfall, rushing streams, and a beautiful mountain top view from Sassafras Mountain! The waterfall was just amazing and is definitely one of the early highlights of the trip. For those following along at home (mom and Mrs. Dent), we are currently at Cooper Gap. There are 7 thru-hikers hanging in camp with us, and tons more at campsites north and south of us. It truly is a social trail.
And now for the real highlight of the day! Trail magic! Once we made it to Cooper Gap, several recent college grads were here to great us with hotdogs, cookies, and ice cold, home brewed beer! It was fantastic! Since they were about to leave, the said we could help ourselves so Alex and I had 3 and a half hotdogs a piece plus many cookies. On top of that, a trail legend named survivor Dave came up and dropped of 4 gallons of water for us bc Cooper gap is a dry camp.
All in all it was a fantastic day. With all the rushing around yesterday, I finally settled in to a groove and felt like a real thru hiker. I still can't believe I'm really out here!
Until next time,
Saturday, March 16, 2013
End: 0.0 mi- Springer Mountain
Alex/Wendy here for our first daily trail update. Whew am I in pain from today's hike! We made it atop Springer mountain and will be camping here for the night.
This is already 2.8 miles behind our schedule but I got completely wiped out today. I had some pretty bad cramps in my legs and got to see my muscle spasming! Kind of scary but rubbing and rest fixed it! The stairs were intense today and I'm pretty spent. Additionally, I brought too little water. Probably the cause of the cramps! Will solve this tomorrow. As a cap to this pain- I got sunburned today. Go figure! Fate's gonna make me work for it!
Because of our lost mileage, we will try and make it up tomorrow on an easier section. Cross your fingers!
Alex AKA Wendy
PS- A special shout out and thank you to mom, dad, Gmama, Jessica, and David for your gifts to me on the trail. I will love and cherish all of them and I will try my best to return them in 1 piece! Love you guys!
Friday, March 15, 2013
Monday, March 11, 2013
|WarBonnet Blackbird Hammock Tent||28|
|Edge Tarp (for hammock)||10|
|Wilderness Logic Top Quilt||21|
|DIY down underquilt||16|
|Small Therma Pad||3|
|Solo Alcohol Stove||3|
|12cm Imusa Cook Pot||3.5|
|Sawyer Squeeze water filter||4|
|Foil vapor barrier|
|Olive Oil Container|
Columbia Rain/Wind jacket
Extra Smartwool socks/liners
Under Armor top/bottom
Columbia fleece top
|Tooth paste (Travel Tube)|
|Toe Nail Clippers|
|Floss (mostly for emergency thread)|
|Crocs (camp shoes)
|Paracord (bear bag and clothesline)|
|Extra Batteries (Phone)|
|Extra Batteries (headlamp)|
|Single blade pocket knife|
|ULA Circuit backpack||35|
|3 liter platypus bladder|
|Leki trekking pole|
|A.T Guide Book||10|
|First Aid and Repair|
|2 Butterfly band-aids|