Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Days out here don't get a whole lot better than this. As a matter of fact, I'd venture to say that this has been my favorite day of the trip so far. Everything just seemed to bounce our way.
We woke up this morning and had breakfast with Ms. Connie of the Greasy Creek Friendly. She was such a nice lady! I can believe she lets complete strangers come into her home like that. I really enjoyed my time at her hostel. Once we started hiking we met a section hiker named Frogger. She and Wendy struck up a nice conversation that began with his Dirty Girl Gaitors and ended up her offering to slack pack us over Roan Mountain, the last 6000 foot mountain on the AT until New Hampshire! Ladies and gentlemen, climbing that massive mountain without a pack was a literal dream come true! We practically ran up the beast, and laughed at the second tallest peak on the trail as we stood on the summit. As good as it felt hike without the pack, it felt just as terrible to pull that heavy thing back on. Nevertheless, we can't thank Frogger and her dad, Energizer Bunny, enough.
The rest of the day went as well as our climb over Roan. We hit back to back grassy balds with some of the best views I have seen all trail. I gave my camera a serious workout today - I don't think I ever put it away! As if the awesome balds weren't enough, tonight Wendy and I got the pleasure of staying in the coolest shelter (as claimed by past thru hikers) on the entire trail! The shelter is a converted barn that could probably hold 50 people without much difficulty. I went upstairs and strung my hammock up between two posts. Now I'm just laying in my hammock listening to the owls. And did I mention the awesome view from the barn? The whole day has just been perfect. Life is good.
P.s I think we got off track with our day numbering system. I believe today is Day 45 but I'm not positive. I think I'm just going to start putting the date.
Monday, April 29, 2013
Wendy here with another update from the trail. Some days the trail just seems to take and take and then take some more. Today is certainly that kind of day.
Where do I begin? Last night I got to fall asleep to the sound of rain on a tin roof.
Today began a little differently- Breeze and I decided to take a late morning and let the rain slow down. Little did we know this would only bring worse showers! Oh well, we said, we will have to learn to walk in the rain at some point so why not now!
As we began packing up I realized that my pack towel had gotten caught in the shelter floor. As I tugged at it to get it out the button broke off of it! At least the pack towel is still safe I thought! About 5 minutes later as I was packing up my sleeping bag my stuff sack clip broke! I hoped this would be the end of my expenses today. This was far from the case, however.
Our plan for the day was to stop at this hostel only long enough to resupply until we met Breeze's folks on Friday. These plans changed, however, while we were approximately 2 miles away from the hostel. I took a spill coming down a muddy hill and before you know it my trekking poles have both bent and sheared clean in half. Typically this isn't the end of the world, however because of the fact that my tent is held up by my poles this was a huge loss.
After we reached the hostel and were discussing whether to move on and risk getting a shelter spot or just stay the night, one of our German hiking friends named Scarecrow walked in. This was particularly odd because he had been hiking in front of us and would have been forced to backtrack to get to the hostel. As it turns out, the next shelter we planned on making it to was full of mice and holes in the roof. Needless to say this solidified our decision to stay the night.
I would like to just step out of the story for a moment to prove a point. This was all written the evening of our stay at Greasy Creek Friendly. I am writing this next segment the day after experiencing one of the most enjoyable nights we have had on the trail. Just goes to show how quickly the tides turn on the trail!
So now that you heard my sob story about the trail yesterday, let me tell you about last night. The hostel, called Greasy Creek Friendly, is home to Connie who lives in the house year round. During thru hiker season she loves to keep hikers in her home. To show how trusting she is, she allowed 5 thru hikers to stay in her house all day until she got done running errands!
While the side trail to the friendly isn't very well marked (her neighbor hates hikers and takes down any signs she makes) and quite sketchy looking, the hostel couldn't have been more opposite. We had a great time enjoying a movie marathon with other hikers and got to eat and drink like kings! All in all it turned my day around and I left her establishment with a smile on my face. It was easily the best hostel we have stayed at and one of the most enjoyable nights so far.
I'll say it once and I'll say it until it isn't relevant anymore; the trail giveth and the trail taketh away.
Saturday, April 27, 2013
It is your friendly neighborhood Wendy here with another update from the trail!
Well, to say today was another roller coaster would be quite the understatement. If you had asked me 15 minutes before 6pm and 15 minutes after how my day was going you would have recieved quite different answers.
Today was suppose to be a 13 mile day to a campsite outside of Erwin. We had high hopes of leaving the hostel early and hiking all day, however the allure of other hikers and talking to loved ones once again kept us back. By noon we had finally hiked out of the hostel, however at this point Breeze was feeling quite ill.
Worried about the current stomach virus spreading throughout the thru hiker ranks, we played it safe and only hiked 4.7 miles today where Breeze promptly took a nap. At this point we were concerned that be had the virus and that soon his night would be filled with vomiting. Little did we know the night had something else in store.
When Breeze awoke from his slumber, we found some writing on the shelter wall. What we had failed to realize was that this shelter was in fact home to the legendary Rocky pizza challenge. This challenge consists of a few basic rules: teams of 2 run the 4.7 miles down to town, pick up a minimum of 2 large pizzas and 24 beers and return to the shelter as fast as possible!
To say that Breeze is a trooper would now be the understatement of the year. Despite his ailments he was interested the second he read the challenge. 2 minutes later he was telling me he was lacing up his boots and that I better join suit. It was a ton of fun and we completed the first pizza challenge of 2013 as well as ranked top 5 in challenge times! We ran the 9.4 miles, as well as got the pizza and beverages, in 3 hours and 10 minutes!
It was a really fun challenge and we were treated like royalty at the shelter for our acts. All in all, I couldn't have asked for a better activity to turn my day around! Hopefully Breeze is in better shape tomorrow so we can continue our rampage towards Damascus.
Until next time,
Friday, April 26, 2013
Hello all, it's Breeze.
Alas! Once again the town vortex has sucked us in, as we couldn't resist the temptation of a roof and a bed. But to be honest, it wasn't the bed, or the roof, that tempted us to stay. Small hiker towns such as Erwin, TN just have a way of grouping large amounts of thru hikers together. And when large amounts of thru hikers get together, everyone is bound to have a good time. Neither of us felt like we could pass this opportunity up. For instance, we talked at length to a retired photographer from Germany that lived on the wrong side of the Berlin Wall until his mid 30s. He was telling us that at the time he wasn't even allowed to visit a capitalist nation. We had a great time talking to Red Specs (his glasses have a red frame) even though the language barrier was rather difficult to circumnavigate at times. He was able to teach us a thing or two. Like the fact that Yuengling is German for young man. And we got to teach him a few things also! Like the fact that the English word for "beer making facility" is brewery. And we introduced him to America's greatest beer: Pabst Blue Ribbon! I'm not sure he was too impressed, but he politely drank it anyway. You may be wondering if we just talked about beer all night. Well of course that was all we talked about, what kind of silly question is that? I mean he's German...what else are we suppose to talk about?
Once Wendy and I decided to stay in town, we headed to the nearest grocery story and stocked up on tons of microwavable food! We got chicken tenders and General Tso's chicken and all sorts of good stuff. Once we got done shopping, we sat out in the parking lot trying to get a ride back to the hostel. After a few polite rejections, I approach one lady and say, "Excuse me ma'am, would you mind doing us a favor?" To which she immediately responds, "No, I don't have any cash" and promptly walks away.
Woah woah woah, waaaaaiiiiittttt, WHAT? Hold on just a second there. Did she just imply that we looked homeless? Wendy and I looked at each other in disbelief and slight embarrassment. We've joked many times in town that we must look homeless. Being talked down to like you're homeless is a totally different story. We spent the next few minutes sitting on the parking lot's bench laughing and pulling ourselves together. Right as we were shaking off the remark, another passersby walks up to me and sincerely says, "Hey man, I've got 80 cents if you think that'll help." Advice from a thru hiker: Don't offer a man with a backpack coins. Coins are heavy. We do however accept bills :)
Wendy and I have had a great day in Erwin. We chowed down on awesome microwave food and even got to watch "A Bug's Life". What an awesome movie, right? Life is good.
Happy NFL draft weekend!
Thursday, April 25, 2013
Your friendly neighborhood Wendy here with another update from le trail.
Today we conquered yet another milestone and goal we set for ourselves- we have done our first 20! 20.7 to be exact! I wish I could say that the day was all smiles and rainbows, but that just isn't the case. Allow me to explain.
At 2:30am last night I awoke with the need for a bathroom break so I stepped out of my tent and did my business. Not 5 minutes after returning I heard someone throwing up nearby. Asking if he was ok, he strung together a string of nasty words and didn't respond to my question.
About the same time, I hear our friend Ref say, "that sucks." Yeah, I thought, glad the Ref is ok! Then suddenly it hit me, it was the Ref getting sick! We have been hiking with him for the past 3 days and I miss him already. Here's to you Ref, get better soon and get back on the trail brother!
This went on for quite some time and I got very little sleep as a result (not that I can blame the guy.) Around 4:00am I had enough and went and woke Breeze up to tell him we should just leave then. We had threatened the 20.7 the night before and this would be an adventurous start! Ever willing as he is, the man woke up from a dead sleep at 4 in the morning and we had broken camp by 5am.
The hike in the dark went very well, we still made excellent time even without the sun. Our first hour of sunlight greeted us with a hefty climb up Big Bald but as usual we had a great view to compensate! By the time 9am rolled around we had already completed 10 of our 20 scheduled miles.
After our great start we decided that we could take a more relaxed pace. A long lunch followed by a tough climb put us behind our mark of 4pm by a bit. When we finally made it in just after 5 the rain had just begun to come down. We ate like horses and rested our legs and hopefully won't suffer tomorrow from our big day.
For now, sleep calls. It has been a long day and Erwin is only a short 6 mile hike away!
Until next time,
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
What's happening all you muggles out there, it's Breeze.
Have you ever had a day where you felt a half a step behind for some reason? Like you just aren't with it like you usually are? Well I had one of those days today. And it's not like it was really awful weather, or there was nothing today to look at. On the contrary, the weather was near perfect all day long, and the terrain is really starting to transition to the Virginia landscape we've heard so much about how here. All and all, besides the mountain climbing, which we do everyday, it was a great day. But for whatever I just couldn't get with it. I was constantly out of breath, my feet hurt, and whenever I sat down I felt as if I had been permanently planted in place. It wasn't until mid afternoon that I found my familiar hiker groove. Having said all that, I am very proud of the 14.7 we put down today. It's nice to know that even on a bad day, I can still do decent miles.
There were all lot of positives about today, though. For instance, Wendy and I invented a new game! It's called "Spot the Shelter". Here's how you play: first person to see the shelter wins. But wait! We added twists! Once one of us audibly announces that we have seen the shelter, we must both stop moving and point the shelter out. The second person then has the opportunity to challenge the first person. If there is indeed no shelter, the person who called "shelter" loses one point. If there is a shelter, the shelter spotter gets a point and the challenger loses a point. No challenge signifies a forfeit in which the first responder receives the point. Today it got pretty intense as we got later in the day. I had a misfire on my first shelter sighting...everything is brown out here. Fortunately, I was able to spot the shelter first and get back to 0. By the end of the day, we were both kicking rocks and roots because we were scanning the mountainside for the 3-walled structure. I was even jumping to see over some hills...it's not fair Wendy is freaking 6'6"! But anyways...
Before I sign off, I just want to give a big shout out to all the boys and girls that follow the blog at Brookwood! You guys following along is a big reason why Wendy and I have so much fun doing the blog every day! Keeping checking in and maybe we'll summit Katahdin together someday.
Wendy here with yet another update from the trail! We have successfully gotten back into gear today, completing a grueling 15.4 mile day. Normally, this would be a pretty easy task for Breeze and I. Today, however, had different plans for us.
First, if Breeze hasn't already explained, getting to Damascus on time requires a 12.5 mile pace per day. Because yesterday was a short day (10 miles) we decided to get our average back to 12.5 by doing a 15.4. This 15 also included a 5 mile uphill hike similar to the climb out of the NOC.
The climb came and went pretty easily though we got a late start today. After making it to the top we had even begun to feel ok about the day. Then came the best and worst part: we realized in our guide that today would also include a "rocky and strenuous" 1.5 miles over a bald. While the name sounded threatening, we figured how bad could 1.5 be? Boy were we wrong! Though we were rewarded with great views the rocks and climbs took a toll on me late in the day. We got to see some new terrain, however, and are excited for our change of scenery right around the corner.
We finally made it to the shelter around 8:30 and had a quick dinner before hitting the hay. Shout out to Breeze's mom, she made us some dehydrated vegetable packages. I had my first one today and. WOW, talk about some great eats! That plus a butter and herb pasta side, a half a chicken packet, and a honey bun made my night!
We are planning on another ~15 tomorrow so hopefully I'm not too sore!
Until next time,
PS Jessica Cain I already miss you like crazy!
Monday, April 22, 2013
What's up everybody, it's Breeze.
There isn't much that is fun about leaving towns to head back in the woods. Coming out of town almost always means you're going to have to do a big climb that day in order to get back into the mountains. In addition, your pack is super heavy because you just resupplied. Besides, who wants to leave family and friends behind in order to go hike? Nevertheless, it felt really nice to get back in the woods after Asheville. After such a long break, it was nice to pound out some miles and get a few steps closer to Maine. We realize we've been going slow, so we came up with a good goal: get to my granny's home town, Damascus, in times for her 95th birthday party! In order for us to make our goal, we're going to have to go 182 miles in 14 days, so we have to get moving. Like Hot Springs, the AT passes right through Damascus, and my parents are going to be there to pick us up! I can't wait for that!
Like I said, it's nice to be back on the trail. We met back up with a few of our friends today and are camping with Ref tonight. Oh, and did I mention we saw a HUGE snake today? It was sitting right beside the trail, hiding behind a tree. Of course I was walking in front, and about came out of my skin when I saw that its head was 6 inches from my boot! It was only a King snake (we think) so I settled down and we moved on. First snake sighting of the trail! Good stuff.
Well guys, that just about does it for me. Just want to give a big shout out to my Uncle Douglas who came to see me this weekend, as well as Ben Kappel and Jessica Cain. It was great catching up :)
Until next time!
Wendy here with yet another town update! As you can see, we did plenty of time in town recently! That will make our challenge of getting to Damascus before Cinco de Mayo even more fun!
Asheville was incredible as always and the company was amazing as usual also! Jessica and Ben stayed with us in a very nice cabin just outside of town and we got to meet up with Breeze's uncle Douglas Saturday in Asheville! We had a great time bouncing around brewpubs eating great food and of course drinking awesome beer!
The part I was most looking forward to was Wicked Weed brewing. Last time Jessica and I went there they had an amazing tap list downstairs with tons of sours and Belgians. I talked the place up but downstairs was disappointing this time! Hopefully that was just a fluke!
All in all a great time in a great city. Time to get back to the job, however. We must hike on!
PS- a personal thank you to Jessica, Ben and Douglas. We sincerely appreciate you guys traveling to meet us. You were just the pep we needed!
Saturday, April 20, 2013
Hey guys, it's Breeze. I just want to start by apologizing for how spotty the posts have been lately. Neither of us have any service for a few days now. But I can promise you that the wait was worth it. We've had some pretty action packed past few days.
Wendy was feeling much better after Max Patch, so we decided to do a 14 mile day to set us up nicely for our first trail town: Hot Springs. This entire town completely revolves around the Appalachian Trail. The trail actually goes straight down Main Street! The town isn't so much a town as it is a hiker outpost. There is nothing there except what hikers need, including hot, greasy food, a laundromat, an outfitter, and a bar. The place is a perfect hiker haven.
The accommodations and convenience were nothing compared to the biggest surprise of the town visit: other thru hikers! Almost every thru hiker Wendy and I have met over the past month were all there hanging out in the town! Even people we thought would be way ahead of us were hanging out in the tavern and motel. We spent the entire day walking around saying, "No way! I can't believe you're here, man! It's so great to catch up!" There are too many hikers to name, but the highlights include the reemergence of the Hiker Trash (you may remember the Hike Trash from our Plum Orchard post), Wild Willy, Pink Panther (the nine year old), and her family. We also spent a ton of time hanging out with Zeus, the Ref, Snafu, and two New Yorkers, Valkyrie and DT. Within a few hours, many a 6 pack or pitcher had been split, and everyone was really enjoying their time in Hot Springs. The sense of community is indescribable, and the rate at which one obtains friends is equally amazing (and might I add impossible in the real world). The highlight of our time in Hot Springs was definitely going down to the banks of the French Broad River, PBR in tow, and hanging our feet in the water as the night crept in. What a relaxing ending to an epic day.
Hot Springs has definitely been the place to be the past 2 days. In fact, it is an early frontrunner for my best memories on the trail. I took a ton of pictures of all us and the town. Unfortunately, none of these pictures ended up on my phone...
Well guys, I could go on and on telling stories of Hot Springs. For now, I'll just say live is pretty good.
P.s....we went body surfing on the French Broad River. We floated along with the river for a few hundred yards! So awesome, and kinda stupid. Don't tell our moms!
Wendy here with another update from the trail. Today we logged around 7 miles again, much of it spent with me struggling with my "technical difficulties." Thankfully besides that we had a great day today!
Because we knew a short day was ahead, we got to do one of the things I enjoy most on the trail- break camp late! It seems that no matter how hard the day tries to go poorly it simply cannot overcome the wonderful beast that is leaving camp late. We were greeted with some tough climbing but were rewarded with the view I looked forward to most on the trail- Max Patch bald!
Max Patch is a 360 degree bald, allowing for some of the most incredible views on the trip so far! Service is spotty so there won't be any pictures yet but rest assured they will be uploaded as soon as service improves!
Additionally, we finally got to see more trail magic! Not only that but we saw a double header- hot dogs and soda at the bottom of Max Patch and beer, crackers, hummus, and donuts at the top! These were just what I needed to make it through the day today and keep chugging towards Hot Springs!
Hopefully my situation improves after this weekend and we can continue putting down bigger miles, we are beginning to feel antsy now that we are north of the Smokies. Time to make up lost ground!
Until next time,
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Hey everybody, it's Breeze here at the end of a very exhausting day out here on the Appalachian Trail. Wendy and I moved approximately 30 yards from the shelter we stayed at last night and decided to tent camp tonight instead. If only you had heard the snoring that we heard last night....good lord! Wendy was saying earlier that he thought we could hike the trail 5 times from end to end and not hear louder snoring than what we heard last night. It was insane! We maybe got 4 hours of sleep last night. So look out for a hiker named Atlas everyone! But I digress...
We decided to take a 0 today because Wendy here is having aaa... Hm, how should I phrase this? Let's call it "technical difficulties". Yes, that'll work. Wendy is experiencing technical difficulties. Poor guy has had a rough day. But taking a 0 here wasn't so bad. All the time we took this weekend and today allowed everyone we used to hike with before the Smokies to catch up to us. Zeus showed up first. If you know anything about Zeus, you know you're going to have a huge fire that night. The man loves fire. He's had a massive one going for over 4 hours now. He's a pretty cool guy. (I just wanted to mention that Zeus also doesn't where underwear with his kilt. But hey, the good comes with the bad I suppose. And you also learn real quick where not to look.) OB (old and busted) showed up a little while later and promptly gave us hell for letting him catch us again. He laughs at us because we'll shoot way ahead of him and then let him catch up all over again. The best surprise of the night was the appearance of Ref. He got the name because he hikes in his old Foot Locker uniform. I actually just learned tonight that he spent 4 years in the peace corp! The people on this trail never cease to amaze me.
Hopefully Wendy is feeling better tomorrow. I'm getting pretty restless and would like to get some miles down. I'm also looking forward to finally seeing Max Patch Bald. I've heard by all accounts that it has an excellent view.
Good night after a long and lazy day on the AT.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Wendy here again with a trail update. We hiked a pretty short day today, only clocking in 7.5 miles.
Though it was short, I had a very tough physical day! While in Gatlinburg I traded out my boots for running shoes and my light pack with my old heavier one. I traded the shoes out due to the feeling that my feet were not being properly used. The sole was just too stiff. In addition, my boots were extremely heavy and when I got tired I would drag my feet into all sorts of debris on the trail. The bag got changed out because I need more room for more food and my new pack had already begun to tear.
This meant a tough day for me because my pack suddenly weighed more than usual and my feet were using muscles that it had never had to use before! My legs were very sore at the end of our day today. Hopefully my body adjusts quickly to the new digs and doesn't reject anything! Only time will tell!
Additionally we got to see an FAA air traffic control tower. I'm not certain what exactly it did but it looked pretty neat!
Until next time,
Friday, April 12, 2013
Wendy here with a nice easy update: we made it out of the Smokies and into town! We were granted our wish almost as soon as the Golden Arches served lunch- Big Macs!
We had a great weekend and managed to fatten up, get clean, wash clothes, and even spend some time in the hot tub! A huge thank you to the Popham family for allowing us to stay at their cabin- it was wonderful!
Thanks so much to my family for all taking the time to come and visit me again. I had a great weekend as usual! Love you guys!
Until next time,
Hello loyal followers, it's Breeze.
Tonight marks our last night in the Smoky Mountain National Park. While this park and I may have had our differences in the past, we came to an understanding this time around, and I have really grown to love it here. Everything about the past few days can only be described as beautiful. The northern half of the park and the southern half of the park are like two different worlds. Once Wendy and I climbed over 5,500 feet, the vegetation transitioned from rhododendrons and oaks to evergreen pines and furs. The forest floor morphed from dry, dusty leaves to soft moss, pine needles, and ferns. Everything in the woods became a soft and inviting hue of green. The forest just felt so alive. The change in vegetation also brought on some of the most wonderful fragrances I have ever smelled. The northern Smoky Mountains are home to the freshest air I have ever encountered. And did I mention the views! As Wendy stated yesterday, I will allow the pictures to do most of the talking, even though the pictures never do the views justice. For miles, we walked along a knife's edge of a ridge, with views on both sides. Today, Wendy and I pounded out 14.8 miles is less than 6 hours! The threat of thunderstorms was all we needed for motivation.
I loved everything about the northern side of the Smoky Mountain National Park. The views, the sights, and the smells have made it my favorite place so far in my 230 mile journey. As you might can tell, I'm already feeling pretty nostalgic. For anyone that hasn't been, please consider section hiking the AT from Clingman's dome to Davenport Gap. You will not be disappointed. Charlie's bunion alone is worth the hike!!
Now that I've told you about the Smoky Mountains, let me tell you about us! There's only one thing you really need to know: we are hungry! In camp, all the thru hikers talk about food. I dream about food at night. No amount of food ever feels like enough. Once we get into camp, we sit around and make ourselves wait till 5:30 to eat dinner so we can make it through the night. Wendy and I already settled on our first meal once we hit civilization: a large Big Mac with a large fry, a large McFlurry and two apple pies. Can't wait!
See you down the trail!
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Wendy here once again with another update from the trail! Today was a tough but rewarding day as the pictures will show! We had several tough steep climbs but they always seemed to lead to an incredible view. Not a bad trade if you ask me!
We have only 1 more day before we say goodbye to the Smokies and I can put my biggest fear to rest. This park has haunted me ever since it got the best of us last May and it feels great to be doing such big days through here!
We saw yet another milestone today- we passed 10% of the trail! The feeling is bittersweet, on one hand it feels like just yesterday that we left Springer and sometimes I feel like we have been out here for ages!
Today is our last day of good weather before we get rain. We aren't sure what time of day we are going to be getting rained on, hopefully it will hold off until later so that we can get some miles in before it.
We will be meeting up with my mom in Gatlinburg this weekend for some R&R after a tough week in the Smokies and I can't wait! This is the first of two weekends that I will be seeing loved ones which is very exciting.
As opposed to the usual trail talk, I will let the pictures do the talking and instead talk about something a little different- trail mentality. I'm not really sure if there is anyone who reads this blog that plans on thru hiking but if there is, take heed.
The trail is a vicious place that loves to beat you when you're down. There are days when everything that's bad only seems to get worse. Then there are days when the sun shines on everything that you do. You only have one goal out here when it comes to combatting these tough times- embrace the suck! It is a saying that we often have to repeat to ourselves as we find ourself in bad weather or poor conditions.
Just remember that your hiking WILL improve and your physical shape WILL improve. Keep pushing yourself and one day you will find that the difficult part is mental and not physical. And when that day comes, friends, you must embrace the suck!
Wendy AKA Alex
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Breeze here at the end of a very monumental day! Wendy and I put in a solid 13.8 mile day, summited the tallest mountain on the entire AT, and eclipsed the 200 mile mark! Clingman's Dome, the highest mountain, was exactly what we expected: Smoky. Just like the last time we were here, there was just too much fog to get a good view. Nevertheless, the skies later cleared, and we were granted great views the rest of the way. The climb down from Clingmans's was the toughest part of the day. There was so much ice on the trail that just about every thru hiker we met today had at least one spill. The rest of the day went really smoothly. This shelter is definitely the best shelter we have stayed at so far. It has a fabulous view from the shelter facing the East, and we heard from a Park Ranger that you can catch an awesome sunrise from here. I can't wait for that!
We got our first real time with day hikers today. They are very interesting to interact with. Some are really curious about what we are doing and why we are doing it. These day hikers are always very friendly and chatty, even if they are confused. Some day hikers grab their kids hands when the see us, and avert their eyes from us. Other still cut you dirty looks and don't say a word, as if we are interrupting their quiet time in the woods. Just some advice from a thru hiker: say hello to us. Everyone out here has grown accustomed to a friendly greeting, so it's weird of you don't speak. I swear we're friendly (albeit smelly).
The toughest part about today has been watching these weekend hikers cook pork chops and baked potatoes. My hiker hunger is really kicking in and it has been torturous!
Until next time,
PS day 23 will be posted Friday.
Monday, April 8, 2013
Wendy here with another update from the trail. Sorry that we are still missing yesterday's post, Breeze can't seem to find service to post his blog! I will just cover today and let him fill yesterday in when he gets service.
Today saw us hiking another big day through the Smokies. We will now be able to get through the park by Thursday night, hopefully before the bad weather gets too far set in! Today was a beautiful day but boy was it tough!! We did nothing but climb up steep hills, plummet down them, and then climb yet another hill.
Tomorrow is Clingmans. We will be getting a late start tomorrow in hopes of catching a view atop the AT's highest mountain! We are feeling worn but ready to get out of this park already.
Wish us luck!
Wendy AKA Alex
Greetings all! As you probably could have guessed, it's Breeze and I'm here at the end of a very long but triumphant day in the Smoky Mountain National Park. Family and close friends can probably remember the last time Wendy and I were brave enough to venture into this park. For those of you who do not know the story, the long and short of it is basically we came up here and got our asses kicked, hard. Shuckstack Mountain, getting lost, and rain cut our 2 week scheduled trip down to just 4 days, and Wendy's parents had to come get us. That trip was a huge reality check, and we realized that there was a lot more to thru hiking than just walking in the woods.
We've been out here for over three weeks at this point and climbed all sorts of mountains, but we could both feel Shuckstack and the Smokies lingering in the distance. We've been telling people all day that this place is our Mordor. We don't have fond memories here. Once we hit the Fontana Dam, we didn't simply want to beat the mountain. We wanted to embarrass it. We put the pedal to the metal and churned out our biggest day yet: 18 miles! I'd say this particular monkey is definitely off our backs. In celebration we climbed the rickety fire tower on top of Shuckstack and quickly got down. Good lord, that tower should be condemned! What's interesting is that this time the Smokies don't seem all that bad. The trails are beautifully maintained and the shelters are in great condition. The best part about today was getting an up close and personal look at 2 deer that were grazing in the forest. They were seriously no more than 10 feet from us and didn't pay us any attention at all. I guess everything is more fun when you're prepared.
We're keeping the pedal down tomorrow too, doing 14 miles to the base of Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the AT. The Smokies are growing on me, but we don't want to linger here too long. The weather here flips like a light switch!
Talk to you soon!
Sunday, April 7, 2013
Sorry the blog post is late, we were having way too much fun last night for me to post a blog update! Last night, which was suppose to be spent in the Fontana Lake shelter, got turned around by an awesome fellow thru hiker and we ended up in a hotel room for the night!
Yesterday was a very strong day for Breeze and I, we are excited to tackle the Smokies starting today! Yesterday we reached a major milestone- we completed our first 10 by 12! For those that don't know, that means we hiked 10 miles by noon. Our first hour saw us completing 3 miles!
With the confidence from our ability to do this we hope to crush through the Smokies. Because we have been here before and know how quickly the elements can shift on us, our plan is to hike straight through the park. We have been told by several sources that the weather will be great until Thursday which will nearly put us at the end of the park.
You will have to be patient with us these next week- the park is tough, the miles are long, and the cell service on all major carriers is spotty at best. If you don't see us blog for a day or two, have no fear! We will keep an account of the days and update you all whenever we can.
Thanks again to Miami for putting us up for the night!
Wendy AKA Alex
Saturday, April 6, 2013
Hey everyone it's Breeze.
Well, after talking to the few thru hikers that stayed out on the mountain last night, I think it's safe to say that we made a good decision to go into Robbinsville. Apparently the entire forest froze over, and they could hear limbs and trees falling all around the shelter. Yikes! One thru hiker, Saint Nick, said that he hung his wet clothes up to dry last night. Once in a while he would go and give his clothes a nice shake and knock the ice off them. That's one way to dry your clothes, but doesn't sound like any fun at all.
We had a nice stay in Robbinsville. It didn't offer much, but we had a warm, dry place to stay and that was all that mattered. And I got to see the Braves play for the first time this season! Even though we got dominated by Cliff Lee, it was still great to watch. This morning, the owner of the Phillips Motel drove us back to the trail. She said she moved to Robbinsville in 1944 when she was 11 and that her mother had built the motel herself. She stills gets around great for an 80 year old and drives like a bat out of hell! I guess she's gotten really accustomed to driving those mountain roads after all these years. Besides, double yellow lines are more guidelines than actual rules....
While stopping for a lunch break, Wendy and I saw something we didn't think we would see for a few months: south bound thru hikers!
Ok, sidebar. It's about 9 at night at the moment and there is some small to medium sized animal right underneath my hammock! I'm afraid to turn my flashlight on bc it might be a skunk and I don't want to get sprayed. I can just hear whatever it is circling my pack...go away!
Anyway, we met our first south bounders today. Man, they have a wild story. The crazy thing about their thru hike is that they started last August!! I could not even imagine the weather they must have seen, starting that late in the season that far north. What is also amazing is that one of the guys, Biggie Smalls, summited Katahdin (the beginning of the trail for south bounders) weighing over 300 lbs. Good lord. What the two of them were able to overcome and accomplish over the last 9 months is simply incredible. They definitely didn't make it easy on themselves and still came out on top. Their achievements truly are awe inspiring.
Well, Wendy and I had another great day out here on the AT. The weather picked back up and is expected to remain sunny for the next few days - woohoo! Tonight was particularly enjoyable since Wendy and I packed out hotdogs and cooked them over the campfire. Any day with a campfire is a good day. And I think the animal is gone haha.
See you down the trail!
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Wendy here to recount the proceedings of the day. My oh my how quickly the trail can turn on you. While our plan was to hike a 15 mile day to Cable Gap shelter, the trail instead had us get off at Steccoah Gap and hitch into Robbinsville, NC for the night. Let me tell you the story of just how we wound up in this lovely town...
Please keep in mind that yesterday stayed in the mid to high 60s all day. This morning, however, we were greeted by cold rain. Thinking that we would want to spend the whole day warm via hiking, we planned on a 15 mile day to Cable Gap shelter.
Funny how quickly mother nature can change your plans! We crushed the first big climb only to walk a ridge where we suffered around 1 mile with temps at 34-36 degrees along with 20+ mph wind gusts. Needless to say, we got quite cold!
After hiking 7 miles to Steccoah Gap and meeting up with 6 other hikers that were planning on coming into town, we decided at the gap to move inside to wait out the storm for the day.
I feel like this was a great decision for us in several ways. First, the resupply here is much better than Fontana. Additionally we get a day of rest and fresh showers before our scramble through the Smokies. Finally, this helped to better line us up for Hot Springs on a weekend. Kent has family coming to visit in all likelihood and Jessica will once again be coming to see us! I am super pumped!
Well that about wraps it up for today, tomorrow plans to be a day with better weather!
Until next time,
Wendy AKA Alex
Sorry this is delayed again guys. Service is just so spotty out here, and most campsites are in gaps between mountain. Today absolutely Sucked (yes with a capital S). I don't want to steal Wendy's thunder, but freezing, driving rain in 35° weather is just about as miserable as you can get. But anyway, back to your regular scheduled programming. And be mindful how just how quickly things change out here.
Greetings all! Breeze here at the end of a very perfect and exhausting day out here on the AT. Wow what a day. So much has happened that I almost don't know where to start.
For those keeping up at home, Wendy and I started the day just one mile short of the Nantahala Outdoor Center. It set us up perfectly to get in, resupply, and get out. Throngs and throngs of thru hikers had the same plan as us, and we completely took over the NOC. You should have seen all the packs sitting outside the poor NOC's little diner; the wait staff was pretty overwhelmed but they seemed to enjoy our company (and put up with the smell). It was really fun hanging out at the NOC with everyone. After we each grabbed an egg sandwich, we stood in line at the computer to print off our back country passes for the Smoky Mountain National Park. Our egregious procrastination cost us an hour and a half our our day. It seems procrastination is a trait among thru hikers.
The climb out of the NOC is no freaking joke my friends. We may have complained about climbs before...please ignore those comments. We went from 1,800 feet of elevation to right at 5,200 over 6 mile climb. Good lord! A few weeks ago, today would have left us in terrible, wretched moods. But we are getting a hang of this whole mountain climbing thing, and we tackled the bear of a day the only way we know how: with beer. A little liquid encouragement will go a long way guys. We decided that rather than attacking the mountain, we would have fun with her. We took several long breaks to crush a PBR and grab a snickers. We sat for a long while enjoying the view from the very tip top. Those views are called the "jump up" views. It was aptly named. This view gave us a great look at the Nantahala River in the gorge below. Definitely worth the work.
The resupply at the NOC lead us to meet up with a great group at Sassafras Gap. We sat around the fire for hours, swapping stories and jokes. The highlight of the campfire was listening to an old, wise hiker who has done with AT going on 3 times. Man he's got some stories. The most inspiring story was a about a group called the Bear Bag Boys. Every campsite, they would pick the highest limb in the area to string up their food. Sometimes they would spend hours trying to get it up there. Wendy and I need to step our game up.
We'll that's it for me! 8:30 is late for me these days...definitely past my bed time!
Here's to more great weather!
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
It's your friendly neighborhood Wendy here with another update from the trail. We are camped out at Rufus Morgan shelter lining ourselves up for a 1 mile descent into the NOC, a resupply, and a 6.6 mile climb up to the next shelter.
Funny thing about the hills out here; just when you think they have you beat, they give you a breath of fresh air and keep you coming back for more. Breeze and I have enjoyed 2 days of great weather and climbed to beautiful view after beautiful view.
Even the biggest climb in the South doesn't have us terribly worried- this is just another day up another hill. We have finally gotten a grasp on trail mentality and we are hiking our days in a much more enjoyable fashion. In addition, my legs and cardio are finally showing improvement. I even got to drag Breeze behind me for an hour or so today when I really got my long legs pumping! I say this only because he will be kicking my butt tomorrow uphill ;)
Well tonight is a short post for me, we have to be up early to make sure to give ourselves plenty of time for the climb tomorrow.
Someone in love with the trail right now
Wendy AKA Alex
PS the quote in the title comes from the infamous SoWay. While we aren't fast yet it was fun to take our time knowing 10.6 is easy mileage!
Sorry everyone, no service from the shelter last night. Looks like my luck with AT&T has finally run out.
Views views views!
Hello all, it's Breeze. Today was a great day! The rain stopped early in the morning and we were able to get out of camp quickly with dry gear. We hiked with a really awesome 2012 thru hiker named Day Pack for most of the morning. He got his name because the base weight (weight without food and water) is 8 lbs so he looks like a day hiker. He was stuffed full with awesome information and advice about the trail. I wish we could have hiked longer with him, but he was so fast he quickly left us in a pile of dust. Apparently he completed his thru hike in 4 months! Just insane.
About a half a mile from our campsite this morning was a .2 mile side trail up to the summit of Siler Bald. The side trail was extremely steep, and under normal situations, Wendy and I wouldn't have checked it out. However, we were told in Franklin by Baltimore Jack that the view from Siler was one of the best in the South, so we had to give it a look. The 5,216 foot bald did not disappoint! The mountain gave us a near 360° view! The pictures below were all taken from Siler Bald, and was definitely worth the extra time.
From Siler Bald we headed directly to Wayah Bald. That mountain had another awesome view waiting for us, and even had a stone fire tower where we could get a better look at our surroundings. My camera stayed out nearly all day. Wendy and I ate our lunch up there, gazing out at our first real view of the monstrous Smoky Mountains. It was quite a sight.
Today was also awesome because we met so many thru hikers that we hadn't previously met. Let's see if I can remember everyone: Grey Loon, Stretch, Siren, Saint Nick, Snafu, Long Island, and his dog Game. We hiked the afternoon with Long Island. While in Hiawassee, Long Island stumbled on an obviously stray dog. After some deliberation, he decided to bring the dog thru hiking with him! He bought the dog a pack and took him to the Vet. The dog's name stands for GA to ME. Pretty awesome. And hey look! As I'm typing this, the nine year old girl, Pink Panther, and her group showed up! We haven't seen then since before Franklin at Plum Orchard Shelter. Looks like it'll be a great night, too.
It looks like everyone at our shelter has the same schedule as us, so maybe we'll stick with them for a while.
Until next time!