Day 174 (10/1/15)

Day 174 (10/1/15)

Start:  Mt. Katahdin Campground

Finish: Mt. Katahdin Summit

Miles Hiked: 5.2

To Go: 0

Overall: 2189.2

Jeopardy, RockBoat and I woke up early and were on the road for 6:00am. It was cold and windy but fortunately the rain had stopped. Between the hotel and Katahdin Stream Campground were some instances of street flooding and downed tree limbs but it would take much more than that to keep us from reaching Baxter State Park, the home of Mt. Katahdin. After an hour of carefully negotiating dark and wet roads we arrived at the campground. Hikers are expected to sign in at a check station on the trail just after leaving the campground – it looked like we were the first hikers of the morning. I was in high spirits and couldn’t wait to climb 4,000ft to touch the sign on the summit. I have waited nearly 11 years for today and now that it was here it was oddly business as usual. Hiking with Jeopardy and RockBoat today was just like it was before, we made jokes at each others expense, cursed the trail where it was deserved and appreciated the views when given. Due to yesterday’s heavy rainfall, portions of the trail were flowing like a stream and there where even a few small waterfalls created by the normally dry boulders we needed to climb up. Dry feet would be impossible to maintain so we walked freely ignoring the flowing water and puddles. After nearly 2,000ft of climbing, we finally made it above treeline. We took a short break and relished our view of the surrounding mountain peaks below enveloped in clouds. It was truly spectacular.

Halfway up

Halfway up

Although we had been climbing steadily, the real work was about to begin. Mt. Katahdin is one of the hardest climbs on the A.T. and hikers must use every muscle in their bodies to pull themselves up and over steep rocks and boulders. I likened it to Mahoosucs Notch but vertical. If today wasn’t my last day then the climb up Katahdin would have been excruciating. Instead, I was having a great time. The three of us inched our way up the mountain, oftentimes clinging to rebar secured directly to the rock. It was exhausting but we eventually made it to an area known as The Tablelands. The trail here is rocky but relatively flat. It was here that I sent my comrades ahead. I wanted to walk this last mile alone. This hike has been my dream for a long time and within the next hour it would be over.

First white blaze - Springer Mt. Georgia, 3/2/15

First white blaze – Springer Mt. Georgia, 3/2/15

I thought back to my first few days of hiking exactly 7 months ago. I was 40 pounds heavier and had never spent a night in a tent in the woods. I had no clue what I was in store for and I did not think I would make it more than a week or two. Georgia was cold and icy and it kicked my ass every day, it contained only 70 miles of trail but it took me 11 days to get out of it. Now, it would only take me three. It was in Georgia that I met my first hiking group of Billygoat, Hula, Blazer, Made-It and Carbomb. I would eventually hike over 500 miles with these amazing people and I will never forget the times we spent together on the trail – especially the karaoke night in Gatlinburg and hiker-trash open mic nights with the Bad Ass Bubble in Hot Springs, NC and Damascus, VA.

Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made-It, Carbomb and Billygoat - Silers Bald, Smoky Mountains

Blazer, Hula, Poboy, Made-It, Carbomb and Billygoat – Silers Bald, Smoky Mountains

By Daleville, VA I was the last one left and had just completed a two week hiking session with my dad, Crawdad. Although the trail may have been a little harder than he anticipated, he hiked his ass off and I think he had a great time. The time I was able to spend with my dad on the A.T. is two weeks of my life I will never forget; I will also never forget how terrified Crawdad was of contracting Noro at 4 Pines Hostel in Catawba, VA!

Poboy and Crawdad

Poboy and Crawdad

It wasn’t long after Crawdad left that I hooked up with Team Vortex members Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Mile Marker, Cookie Monster, Skipper and Goosebumps and then a little later Blade and The Cuts members Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesebeard. I would hike on and off with these fabulous people for the next several hundred miles.

Team Vortex - Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker, Murphy's Law, Poboy and Cookie Monster

Team Vortex – Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker, Murphy’s Law, Poboy and Cookie Monster

After my weeklong trip to D.C. with my wife I became woefully homesick and contemplated quitting on an hourly basis. I hiked with tears in my eyes for most of my time through the Shenandoahs. Had it not been for my reunion with Click, Pie, Blade and Cheesebeard and D.G., I honestly don’t think I would have been able to keep going. You guys raised my spirits and kept me in the game – Thank You! After Blade and The Cuts left the trail for a weeklong trip to New York, I hiked on alone but with a new confidence.

Blade and the Cuts - Blade, Pie, Click and Cheesebeard

Blade and the Cuts – Blade, Pie, Click and Cheesebeard

Eventually, I reached Deleware Water Gap and met Miles, Roker, RockBoat and Jeopardy. By this time I had transformed from a novice, pudgy hiker that liked low mile days and being clean into a badass hiking robot capable of knocking out consistent 20 miles days, relishing the funk a week of hiking without a shower creates. I felt unstoppable and able to walk the remaining miles on my own but with such company as these guys along with Lightning and Porkchop who the hell would want to? In the same breath we cursed the trail and laughed at each other; the miles passed faster than ever.

Roker, RockBoat, Jeopardy, Poboy and Miles

Roker, RockBoat, Jeopardy, Poboy and Miles

By the time I finished the dreaded White Mountains of NH I felt like I might actually finish this hike. Fate would throw a curveball however and I had to leave my friends and the trail behind. I had come so far and tried, unsuccessfully, to reason with myself that the miles hiked was good enough. While I was home, I thought about the trail several times an hour and my absence made me sick. Luckily, I was able to get back after several weeks. I was now alone for good, everyone I knew had either dropped off or summited. I didn’t care though, I had only Maine left to hike and come hell or high water, I would touch that damned sign on the top of Mt. Katahdin.

Maine was not easy but I hiked hard for 19 days and now found myself just a few feet away from reaching my goal. I stood next to the sign and stared at it for several seconds before extending a shaking hand. The moment my palm made contact with the worn sign my thru-hike was over. RockBoat and Jeopardy congratulated me as we took some summit photos. Eventually we would have to hike back down but for now, we were more than content to sit on the summit, our thru-hikes complete, and laugh.

I write this last post from the safe and warm confines of my home in Louisiana. I feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to follow my dream. Now that it’s over, I can’t wait to get back to the normal day to day of work, cutting my lawn and having a two-day weekend. My feet are a full size larger than when I started, my body is sore from head to toe and I can’t walk without pain in my knees. Over the last seven months I have not slept uninterrupted for more than 4 hours. I wake up several times a night, even since I’ve been home, for no reason. During a thru-hike, hikers commonly experience periods of near starvation only to be followed by absolute indulgence. A thru-hike cannot be healthy to the body but, to the soul, it is a healthy and beautiful thing.

Finally!

Finally!

Finally!

Finally!

Finally

Finally

A happy Poboy

A happy Poboy

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

Jeopardy, Poboy and RockBoat on the summit.

I would like to send everyone reading this a small token of my appreciation for following this journal. If you would be kind enough to email me your mailing address at nfishr5@yahoo.com I would like to send you something in the mail. I promise not to sell your information to Apple or some crazy guy in Russia!

Although the hiking is over, my updates on this blog are not. Over the next few weeks I plan on uploading some video and more pictures. Feel free to remove yourself from the automatic email updates A very special thanks to everyone one of you for reading along and following this crazy adventure. Your comments were an inspiration and knowing I had such a big support team  kept me moving. I also want to thank all of the amazing people I met on the trail with an extra big shout out to RockBoat and Jeopardy – thanks guys, you are awesome. To my family and friends that sent me care packages – when I knew I had a care package waiting for me in a town, I hiked with a smile just knowing you cared enough to actually send me something. Just because I’m back home doesn’t mean you have to stop sending me food though! To my wife, Leigh – we did it. You were with me every step of the way and I know this wasn’t easy on you but you supported me every step of the way and believed in my dream. I love you so much it hurts sometimes but if you get sick of me being home please don’t make me hike again! I love you all, thanks again!

Days 76 – 79 (5/15/15 – 5/18/15)

Day 76, 5/15/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

Everyone was excited in the morning but me. I still didn’t have a ride and now I really wanted to go to Trail Days. I made a crude sign out of a beer box that simply stated, “A.T. Hiker, Damascus” and headed for the I-81 on-ramp 3.5 miles away. In the hour it took me to walk there, I had convinced myself that this was a waste of time. No way would I be able to get a ride from Buena Vista, VA (where I was currently) to Damascus, VA…3 hours away. I had a frown on my face, but put my thumb out towards the first car coming down the ramp to the interstate anyway. Nine cars and 13 minutes later, something amazing happened. A car pulled over. I did a double take and started walking towards the car, suddenly the passenger door burst open and all I heard was “PoBoy!” It was Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and their friend, Not Ophelia! I hadn’t seen these guys in the last 400 miles and now we were all in a car together headed for Damascus. The trail provides! We laughed about my crazy hitch and how things just seem to usually work out on the trail.

Before we knew it, we were in Damascus. It was early Friday afternoon on Day 1 of the event and there were already hikers everywhere. I bid my heroes farewell until Sunday and started looking for Click, Pie, Blade and Cheese Beard who were tented at Crazy Larry’s Hostel, which is where we all stayed when we hit Damascus a month ago. I walked over to the hostel and was told by one of Larry’s employees that there was no more room inside or out back with the tents. I found Larry and luckily he remembered me, and liked me, so he told me I was free to set up anywhere I liked! I found the other guys and setup my tent.

Tents set up at Trail Days

Tents set up at Trail Days

There were 2 main areas where hikers gathered, the vendor area and tent city. Tent city is where most people camp – close to 2,000 hikers and other carefree people make up tent city in the woods along the river, just upstream from the vendor area. As I was walking through, I came across Hula, Blazer, Car Bomb and Made It. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my old group, so we spent some time catching up. They are all about 200 miles behind me on the trail. Next, I walked through vendor row and entered every raffle I could! The drawings a few hours later were of no success, but it was worth a shot and besides, the better prizes would be given away tomorrow! I walked back to Crazy Larry’s where Click’s dad was grilling up some steaks! Being from New Orleans, I love festivals and Trail Days is definitely one I’d like to come back to.

Vendors Row at Trail Days

Vendor Row at Trail Days

Waiting to hear the raffle outcome on 5/15

Waiting to hear the raffle outcome on 5/15


Day 77, 5/16/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

I woke up early and most of my morning was occupied by much of the same activities as the day before – enjoying the amazing weather with good company and entering every raffle available! Oh, and eating – lots of eating! Hikers and townspeople were cooking everywhere – free food was easily accessible which made everything taste that much better!

Trail Days - Damascus, VA

Trail Days – Damascus, VA

Around 2:00PM, Cheese Beard, Car Bomb, Made It and some others lined up for the parade. A few minutes later, we were underway. The parade was great and of course, 2015 was the biggest group. We were sprayed with water guns the whole way by the townspeople. During the parade, I met a hiker I hadn’t seen since night 3. Of the 9 guys in the shelter that night, one was unaccounted for and 6 had left the trail. After the parade ended, I met Click and Pie and we walked back to the vendor area for the last round of raffles. The big prizes up for grabs were a lightweight backpack and a sleeping bag. I had two chances for each and waited along with a few hundred others for my number to be drawn. Well guess what, it was! I was speechless as I walked away with a $350 sleeping bag! The trail provides indeed! I finished the night hanging out with Pie, Thunder God, Mile Marker, Scooby and some others in tent city – great times had by all!

More vendors at Trail Days

More vendors at Trail Days

Right before my number was called for the sleeping bag raffle!

Right before my number was called for the sleeping bag raffle!


Day 78, 5/17/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Not Ophelia were planning on heading back early, so I called them up and arranged my ride back to Buena Vista. We made the 3 hour drive back and all agreed that Trail Days was an amazing time. I thanked them for the ride and checked into a hotel room. Mile Marker, Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Skipper and Cookie Monster pulled up a few hours later and split the room with me. These guys are known as Team Vortex. A hiker vortex is when you could have hiked, but decided to stay in town or at a shelter instead, even though you really didn’t need rest. Team Vortex is made up of really fast hikers who hike 100 miles in 4 days, then won’t hike at all for 2 days. We filled the afternoon with cards and stories from Trail Days and were all eager to get back on the trail in the morning.

Team Vortex  Top row left to right: Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker Bottom Row: Murphy's Law, PoBoy, Cookie Monster

PoBoy with Team Vortex
Top row left to right: Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker
Bottom Row: Murphy’s Law, PoBoy, Cookie Monster


Day 79, 5/18/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: Spy Rock Campsite
Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles To Go: 1366.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 823.1

It was hard to get going this morning, several zero days will make you weak! Since there were 6 of us needing to find a ride back to the trailhead several miles up the road, we decided to split up to make it easier to land a hitch. Scooby, Murphy’s Law and myself were the first to get picked up and we were back on the trail in no time. We had a really steep 2,000 ft climb before the trail evened out some. The weather was warming up quite a bit and I was sweating profusely, literally dripping. I usually only carry about a liter of water and fill up at every water source, but now I have to carry 2 liters. The extra liter means I am adding 2.2 lbs to my pack weight. In a given day, you can expect to have at least 3-4 water sources that cross the trail. These can be small springs just barely trickling, up to large rivers. Some days, there is water every few miles. I filter 100% of my water, not all hikers do, but it is worth the extra time it takes for me to treat it.

Trail shot 5/18

Trail shot 5/18

It started raining at 3:00PM and it felt great! Usually, I would hate hiking in the rain, but because of the heat and humidity, it was welcomed. I didn’t even bother putting on my rain gear. It let up around 7:00PM which was just when I was getting into camp.Spy Rock is a large rock outcropping that hikers can climb up to see the sunset. Just below the giant rock is the campsite where about a dozen hikers had already called home. After setting up our tents, Mile Marker, Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Cookie Monster, Skipper and myself got on the rock and watched the sun go down over the Virginia valley – awesome! Before bed, Skipper treated us to a violin performance. He has been carrying it for the last few hundred miles and is very talented. He has been playing for 19 years and can play anything from Beethoven to Disney songs.

Spy Rock Sunset

Spy Rock Sunset

Another picture of the sunset from Spy Rock

Another picture of the sunset from Spy Rock

Days 49 – 51 (4/18/15 – 4/20/15)

Day 49, 4/18/15

Start: Damascus, VA
Finish: Damascus, VA
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1719
Overall Miles Hiked: 470.2

Took a zero today and moved from a bunk at Crazy Larry’s to his backyard and a cheaper tent spot. The A.T goes right through the heart of Damascus for about 2 miles before heading back into the woods. Every year thousands of former and current thruhikers will assemble in this sleepy town for Trail Days. Trail Days (held this year May 15-17) is a giant party celebrating time spent hiking on the A.T. Hikers, past and present, parade down Main Street and swap stories. From what I am told, it is not a party you want to miss and shuttles to and from Damascus are readily available up and down the trail. As of right now, I don’t intend on making it back here for Trail Days this year, but who knows what is in store for me – Stay tuned!

Of all the zeros I have taken so far, I have probably needed this one the most. I used my time off today resting up and eating healthy. I have been craving fresh fruit for the past week and was able to walk over to a grocery store and purchased watermelon, pineapple and bananas. It was delicious! For dinner, I continued my healthy trend and ate a salad. Just kidding, I had a greasy hamburger and chocolate shake…also very delicious!

Once again, it looks like we are in store for some nasty weather over the next few days. Before starting this A.T. adventure, I knew I would have some unfavorable weather to contend with, but I was certainly not thinking it would be so much! Since the start, I can only remember a handful of days where the weather has been really nice. Oh well, I’d rather be hiking in bad weather than not hiking at all. It was nice hooking back up with Billy Goat. It looks like he will be leaving the trail in a few weeks, so we made plans to continue to hike together as long as possible. Rain or shine, we leave Damascus tomorrow.


Day 50, 4/19/15

Start: Damascus, VA
Finish: Saunders Shelter
Miles Hiked: 8.4
Miles To Go: 1704.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 478.6

It started raining at 6:00AM. I am writing these words now at 7:15PM and it is still raining. It hasn’t let up all day and it doesn’t look like it will anytime soon. We were very tempted to stay in Damascus one more day, but decided to try to save some money and just deal with the rain. We had about 2,300 ft. of climbing to do, so I decided to only wear rain gear on my upper half and just shorts on my lower half. Again, it didn’t matter because after an hour or so I was soaked everywhere from either rain or sweat. By the time I reached the shelter I might as well just have jumped into the river nearby. Speaking of rivers, a lot of the trail today flowed like one. We had no choice but to walk in it and probably accumulated a full cup of water in our boots by the time we reached camp. Absolutely miserable.

The shelter was already full when we got there so we were forced to pitch our tents in a downpour. Not fun. It took me about an hour to dry off the inside of my tent with my small camp towel – I must have rung it out 100 times and removed a gallon of water from inside my tent. “Isn’t this fun?” I asked myself. I’ve heard that it isn’t crazy to talk to yourself, just as long as you don’t answer. Well if that saying is true, then I am definitely crazy! I had a 2 minute conversation with myself about my decision to hike the A.T. What’s even crazier is that I came to the realization that should I ever really come to hate the A.T. and want nothing more than to wave the white flag and come home – I won’t. I don’t care how miserable I may become out here, as long as I can walk, I will see Katahdin in Maine.

Thankfully, I don’t hate the A.T. just yet. I just tell myself that tomorrow will be better or easier than today and move on, whether it is the truth or not. I have overheard several hikers say “Never quit on a bad day.” Well, if everyday is a bad day then I guess you will make it all the way! Now, am I really having a bad time out here? No, I’m just venting because I am cold, wet AND tired. Here is to tomorrow and a better day! Goodnight.


Day 51, 4/20/15

Start: Saunders Shelter
Finish: Whitetop Mountain Rd
Miles Hiked: 12.1
Miles To Go: 1698.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 490.7

It rained all night and finally stopped at 9:00 this morning. Packing up wet gear is the worst, but at least the rain looked like it may be gone for a while. Hikers have the option of either taking the A.T. out of Damascus or the Virginia Creeper Trail. The A.T. is up, down, up, down and repeat, while the Creeper Trail follows a beautiful trout stocked river and is relatively flat. If you were to take the Creeper Trail you could avoid 13 miles of the A.T. and have amazing views the whole way. While I never really considered taking the Creeper Trail, several hikers do. Again, hike your own hike! The A.T. and Creeper Trail meet three times and each time they did, I would take a break and sit down by the river. The Creeper Trail was an old railroad, but is now a 34 mile bike path. I’d love to come back one day and travel it.

Creeper Trail Bridge

Creeper Trail Bridge

Just before lunch, I left the last Creeper Trail/A.T. intersection for good, but not before taking a few pictures. When I arrived at the Lost Mountain Shelter for lunch, Billy Goat and several other hikers were taking advantage of the sun and were attempting to dry out their tents, clothes and other gear. I did the same. After about an hour, most of my gear was dry, so I packed up and moved on.

Walking through someone's farm

Walking through someone’s farm

I had another 2,000 ft. climb in front of me and wanted to get to camp ASAP because the weather was not looking like it was going to hold up much longer. After climbing and climbing, I finally reached the summit of Whitetop Mountain and was rewarded with 30 seconds of sunshine and some great views. I sat down and ate a snack while I soaked it all in. The sound of thunder in the distance got me moving again and I just had enough time to eat dinner and set camp before the rain started. For the second night in a row, I write in my journal to the sound of rain against my tent, only this time I’m in much better spirits. Being dry and warm has 99% to do with that!

The bad weather approaching

The bad weather approaching

Days 44 – 48 (4/13/15 – 4/17/15)

Day 44, 4/13/15

Start: Roan Mountain, TN
Finish: Mountaineer Shelter
Miles Hiked: 8.8
Miles To Go: 1786.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 402.6

We awoke to light rain and tried desperately to delay our inevitable departure. Since Hot Springs, all anyone can talk about is reaching Damascus, VA by the 17th for the second Hiker-Trash open mic night. The first one was a big hit and now hikers who aren’t even in our bubble are making plans to attend the festivities.

A “bubble” is a group of hikers who after miles of hiking side by side have formed close bonds and try to stick together while hiking. Generally, although not always the case, hikers that form these bubbles start the A.T. around the same time. Our bubble is comprised of Billy Goat, Blazer, Hula, Car Bomb, Made It, Pie, Blade, Click, No Hat, Just Matt, Luna, Taser, T-Square, Thunder God, Genesee, Turtle, 45, Peck, Rocky Mountain High, Lonestar, Far Out, Q-Tip, Small Fly, a few others and myself. All of these hikers are spaced out within about 25 miles of one another on the A.T. There are many more hikers out there, but either by choice or some other reason, are not members of our bubble. When we get to town, we all get there around the same time, generally stay at the same places and eat in the same restaurants. We have basically formed a really stinky hiking gang! We have been told that our bubble is the second one to have formed by this point on the A.T., the first one is about 2 weeks ahead and smaller than our crew. I imagine there are several more behind us. Safety in numbers!

We took a quick side trail to Jones Falls. Outside of Amicalola Falls on day 1, this was by far the biggest waterfall we have come across. We stopped there for lunch then moved on. We walked through intermittent rain until we finally arrived at our shelter for the night.

Jones Falls

Jones Falls


Day 45, 4/14/15

Start: Mountaineer Shelter
Finish: Dennis Cove Road
Miles Hiked: 15.9
Miles To Go: 1770.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 418.5

It rained all night. Hikers are slow to leave camp when it is raining and this morning is no exception. The only difference today is that I was one of the first ones out of camp – A rare phenomenon! I looked at my map and it seemed today would be the easiest day of hiking since I started. Although the terrain was relatively flat, the sporadic rain and high temps led to high humidity. You would have thought it was raining, I was completely soaked after a few hours.

Big Hump Mountain - Can you spot the hikers?

Big Hump Mountain – Can you spot the hikers?

Throughout the day I was passed by every single hiker I left behind this morning at the shelter. Oh well, some days you have it and some days you don’t. Today, I definitely didn’t have it and was the last one into camp. Just when you think you have an easy day in front of you, the trail has a way of humbling you. The fact is, there are no easy days. What’s worse is I’ve noticed a weird feeling in my right knee. It is not painful, but I feel pressure behind my kneecap on the downhills. Knee injuries are the most common reason for hikers to leave the trail. I will take it slow on the downhills and plan on buying a knee brace as soon as I reach Damascus, VA. When I reached camp, I learned that Click and Turtle were also dealing with knee injuries of their own. We have all hiked over 400 miles on the A.T. and it looks like the miles are showing in places other than our waist bands. A good night’s sleep does an amazing job on a tired and sore body. Hopefully we will all be in a better condition in the morning.


Day 46, 4/15/15

Start: Dennis Cove Road
Finish: Shook Branch Recreation Area
Miles Hiked: 8.6
Miles To Go: 1762.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 427.1

Again, we awoke to rain. We didn’t have any dry clothes left since nothing could dry overnight due to fog and humidity. There was a hostel not too far off the trail, so we walked over and paid to have our clothes dried. The owner of the hostel approached us with the opportunity to do a slackpack. For a few bucks he would drop us off at the trailhead and then pick us up a few hours later. We all took him up on his offer and hit the trail a few pounds lighter. Before today, I didn’t think I would have been interested in slackpacking, but because of the rain and pain in my knee as well as the 1,800 ft climb awaiting me today, I decided to go for it. Click, Pie, Made It, Car Bomb and I were dropped off and we hiked in constant rain, hating every single minute of it. I can only imagine how much worse it would have been with our packs on. The only, and I mean only, highlight of the day was Laurel Falls. Laurel Falls put the Jones Falls waterfall to shame. The only positive of all this rain is that the waterfall was quite powerful. I didn’t bring my camera today because of the rain, but I did take a GoPro video. If I learn how to upload it, I will.

We made it back to the hostel and dried out. A few other hikers we knew were about to be shuttled into town to grab steaks, veggies and other goodies. All would be prepared tonight by our resident chef, Peck. We got in on the action and had one of our best meals yet on the trail. Sorry for the lack of pictures, as soon as the rain lets up I’ll be sure to snap a few extra!


Day 47, 4/16/15

Start: Shook Branch Recreation Area
Finish: Iron Mountain Shelter
Miles Hiked: 15.9
Miles To Go: 1746.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 443

For most of the day we walked around Watauga Lake. The first 4 miles were in lower elevation and every half mile or so there would be a sign warning hikers of recent bear activity and advising them to move on as fast as possible. In fact, the only shelter in the area has remained closed for 2 years due to aggressive bears. Camping in this 4 mile stretch is strictly forbidden, so I moved out of there fast!

Watauga Lake

Watauga Lake

Watauga shelter closed

Watauga shelter closed

After crossing the Watauga Dam, the trail starts gaining elevation and the posted notices stopped. It looked like it was going to rain all day, but it never did. About half way through our hike we were surprised to see Blazer, Hula, Peck, Thunder God, Taser and a few others coming towards us. For a second, we thought we had been walking in the wrong direction, but as it turns out, they were slackpacking southbound to avoid the steep climb we were in the middle of. They were planning on walking 13 miles southbound and then getting a ride tomorrow to get dropped off where they started today and continue northbound. To call yourself a thruhiker you just have to get from Georgia to Maine. It doesn’t matter how long it takes or what direction you hike. There are many different ways to hike the A.T. and because of the trail’s rising popularity, more and more hikers are choosing to hike the A.T. in a non-traditional style. Although most hikers, such as myself, hike the whole trail northbound, there are some who are called flip-floppers because they start somewhere in the middle, walk to either Springer Mountain in Georgia or Mt. Katahdin in Maine and then go back to do the other half of the trail from either direction. This helps alleviate possible overcrowding on the trail and in the shelters. Again, hike your own hike! After saying our goodbyes, (which in hiker lingo is “Have a good hike!”) we moved on.

Another view of Watauga Lake

Another view of Watauga Lake

Something else to note is that many hikers, myself included, do not shake hands with anyone and instead opt for a fist bump. This helps prevent the transmittal of germs in a very germy environment. When showers can be a week apart, hand sanitizer is our only defense against the spread of germs. But, since not all hikers use it, shaking hands is not very common for us. Enough about germs!

We continued our hike and made camp for the evening around 7:00PM. I pitched my tent and spent about 30 minutes rubbing my aching feet. My knee held up a little better today, but my feet are incredibly sore. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. At the end of a long hiking day, my average pain level from 1 to 10 (10 being I‘m on the way to the hospital!!) is somewhere between a 5 or 6 on average, but again we are all pretty sore all the time. The only remedy is a good night’s sleep – Good night!

Appalachian Trail Sign

Appalachian Trail Sign


Day 48, 4/17/15

Start: Iron Mountain Shelter
Finish: Damascus, VA
Miles Hiked: 27.2
Miles To Go: 1719
Overall Miles Hiked: 470.2

The only way for us to reach open mic night on time would be to put in an epic day. The worst part is that we were already in front of the bubble. I’m not really sure how everyone else is planning to get into town on time, but our only option was to put in a marathon day.

We left camp early at 7:00AM and headed north. Thankfully, the weather was amazing and the trail was relatively easy. We were making really good time and cracking jokes all day to take our minds off the miles. The section of trail we were hiking is part of a hiker challenge where some hikers elect to hike 40 miles in one day to get to Damascus. We were only doing 27 miles and I’m damn thankful it was not a mile more. Mile after mile passed under our feet until we finally reached the Tennessee/Virginia state line. We would now be in VA for more miles than we have hiked since starting the trail on Springer Mountain. The Virginia section of the  trail is a little easier than Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina, but still kicks your butt.

TN/VA state line

TN/VA state line

Made It, Car Bomb, Pie, Click and I took some pictures and slowly walked the remaining 5 miles into town. I met back up with Billy Goat and checked into Crazy Larry’s Hostel. After showering and eating, we walked over to the mic night location and I was surprised to see most of our bubble already there. Hardly anyone had hiked in as we had, most had arranged shuttles to pick them up and bring them here. Now, they would either have to get a ride back to where they left the trail or just skip that section completely. This is the problem walking with a time goal – you can’t hike your our hike. The good news is that mic night was a big success! I was asked to revive my story about Unicoi Gap – I was happy to do so and received a round of applause.  In total, I would say that there were about 50 hikers at mic night, most with a song, story or joke to perform. It was a great time!

Damascus, VA

Damascus, VA