Sleeping on the picnic table bench may not have been the best idea. It was pretty narrow. I did, however, choose the side of the table that stayed dry under the tarp in the rain. After people had gotten up we made pancakes, or rather we tried and Pancake and Rooster made them. It had stopped raining but was pretty foggy when I left. Rainbow Braid was kind enough to slackpack us to Big Stamp Gap, so it was a fast hike. I stopped at the Hawk Mountain Shelter for lunch and a short break. There was a guy there drying out his gear. It was an easy seven miles to the road from there. I met Pivot Dude and Rainbow Braid there, and we reloaded our packs and all headed up the last mile together. The sun was out and it had turned into a beautiful day. At the top we signed the register and took lots of pictures. We each had a bottle of champagne to celebrate. It was then a quick return down to the car at the road, where Rainbow Braid gave us a ride to her apartment for the night. It is weird to be done. So much time spent walking and living in the woods. It seems like yesterday I was in Maine, slogging through the 100-mile wilderness.
We took our time getting ready because it was very foggy out. The climb up Blood Mountain was shorter and easier than I thought it would be. It was still foggy at the top, so no views. There was a long slow descent. At Woody Gap Fresh Grounds was set up and cooking food for hikers. I had been told before that there was food there, so I nearly ran there. Upon my arrival, Rooster and Pancake started making me some eggs, and shortly later Bison, Chickadee, and Rainbow Braid arrived. Pivot Dude got here, and they started cooking more food. We decided to stay and spend the afternoon and night here, and it was a lot of fun hanging out with other hikers. Fresh Grounds and Chickadee made a resupply run and brought back a cake, beer, and wine. We played ninja, and did a tequila shot every few rounds. I even managed to win a few rounds. Rainbow Braid made an Indian dish for dinner, which was really good. We stayed up very late talking, then eventually went to sleep.
Today was a pretty easy hike. It was downhill to the first shelter, where we filled up and had a snack. At Hogpen Gap we met a lady who asked us if there was anything she could do for us. We mentioned that we were looking for some champagne for Springer, but everything was closed in Hiawassee on Sunday. We sad bye and continued on our way. We ate at an overlook, then pushed into Neels Gap. At the hostel the lady had left not only a bottle of champagne, but salad, bread, chicken, and a cake. We took showers then sat around eating and watching movies (on VHS). It was great.
Pivot Dude was still asleep when I was ready to go so I left and hitched back to the trail. It was very windy until around lunch, but I stayed warm while moving. I passed a lot of section hikers and day hikers. The views from Tray Mountain were great. All day there were views through the leafless branches of the trees. Georgia is quite pretty. I go to the shelter, and Pivot Dude got here about an hour later. It is quite breezy, and I think it is going to be a chilly night. Tomorrow we'll go to Neels Gap and stay at the hostel at the outfitters there. One less night in the cold. Only three days left, 50.5 miles.
We got going in the cold weather, an hour earlier because of the time change. At Bly Gap, the NC/GA border, a NOBO passed us with a dog following her. She said it was lost. We volunteered to take it into Hiawassee with us. The dog followed us for a while., and right after we called the number on the collar it ran into the woods. A mile or so later it came back and we tied a leach onto it. The owner was at the road, and we returned the dog and got a ride into town. The first order of business was food, so we went to the all you can eat buffet. Back at the motel we took showers and laid around watching TV. I resupplied and spent the evening watching more.
We got up and got out by 8. It was a nice morning, but not as warm as yesterday. We passed a lot of people out for the weekend. Right as we got to the Standing Indian Shelter a dark cloud moved in and it started to hail. We sat in the shelter until it had blown over. On our way out of Deep Gap another cloud moved in and it hailed on us again. We made it here without further incident. There is a section hiker here, and a lot of mice in the shelter. It will be an interesting night. Hiawassee tomorrow, with warm showers and town food.
We had a slow morning in the motel. We called the chamber of commerce and they found a driver who would take us back up to the summit. By the time we left it was a beautiful sunny day. I went back up to the tower to get a better view than yesterday, then started down the mountain. It was mostly downhill. It was also a warm, sunny day, perfect hiking weather. This shelter is new, it was built last year. A bunch of section hikers got to the shelter after dark, and took their time cooking and setting up and eating. It is amazing how much more efficiently I can do camp chores since I've been doing them for so long. A few of them were mechanical engineers, and reminded me that "you can't spell 'geek' without the double 'e'." Tomorrow looks like it will be a good day. We'll pass the NOBO 100 mile mark and the 2100 mile mark. We'll also go over our last 5000' peak. It will be our last full day in North Carolina.
It was a relatively uneventful morning. The climb up to the ridge was not hard. Wesser Bald ah a tower on it so you could see above the trees. It wasn't bald at all. I took the side trail to Rocky Bald and had lunch at the top. Its not bald either. Pivot Dude caught up there and we hiked the rest of the day together. We could see and feel the rain clouds blowing in, so we decided to try and go into Franklin for the night. Two ladies from the chamber of commerce picked us up at the summit of Wayah Bald, brought us into town, and got us some fast food. They were awesome. We spent the rest of the evening watching TV, only venturing out for pizza and beer. Hopefully the rain will stop by tomorrow morning.
An 'easy' day today. It was a nice night at the shelter, despite the mice. There was a pretty sunrise. A section hiker came down around breakfast time and we talked for a while. I only did one faceplant on the way down. It was a long way down. At the NOC I did laundry and had lunch. Pivot Dude got there in the early afternoon and we spent the afternoon drinking beer and talking. We went to the restaurant for dinner and split a pizza. Pivot Dude tried to yogi a stay with one of the waitresses, or at the staff housing, but it didn't work out, so we're at the shelter. Tomorrow is 15.5, mostly uphill, but over a few balds. Hopefully they aren't too hairy.
This morning was overcast but relatively warm. I ate and packed up, used the flush toilet, then headed out. As I was leaving Walker Gap the sun started to show through the fog. It was a good day after that. Cable Gap Shelter still had the register from early this year and it was fn to flip through it to see the people I had met up north. After the next shelter we went down Jacob's ladder. It was New England steep. Pivot Dude then decided he didn't want to do such a long day so he stopped at Stecoah Gap and went to a hostel. I'll meet him at the NOC tomorrow. From there it was a long uphill to Cheoah Bald. Its a very hairy bald. There were some guys camped at the top. I then dropped down to the gap here, and have the shelter to myself. Today was my fourth 20 in a row. Tomorrow is seven downhill to the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where showers, laundry, food, and beer are waiting. Only 144 miles left!
I'm at the Fontana Hilton. It's not as nice as I thought it would be, but there are flush toilets. About 9 AM I passed the 2000 mile mark. That's a lot of miles to walk. It wasn't so cold this morning, which was nice. The mice were very active last night. The first climb was steep and felt tough but the views at the top were good. I stopped at the first shelter to use the last privy in the park. It was then mostly down, a few thousand feet. About two miles from the park boundary we saw four bears, a mother and three cubs. We could have watched them for hours. The smallest ones were hiding partway up trees and such. We roadwalked across the dam, which is the highest dam in the East. The snack bar at the visitors center was closed, and the coke machine out of order. So sad. We got to the shelter, then got a ride into town. We did a small resupply then got dinner. After we finished eating we just sat on the couch with our beers and watched TV until closing time. Back at the shelter it feels really warm, but its probably only in the 50's. Tomorrow is 21 miles uphill. What fun.
It rained a bit last night which melted the snow and ice. I packed up quickly and headed out. It was all downhill to Newfound Gap. Lots of people there. The climb up to Clingmans Dome felt really long. The top was socked in, visibility was only a few hundred feet. I waited at the tower a while for Pivot Dude, but left when I got cold. At the next shelter I met JJ, a fellow SOBO. There were also two people out for the day who quizzed me on hiking and gear choices and such, because they want to do it next year. It was then an easy seven miles to here. No one else is here which is nice. Just us and the mice. Tomorrow we're exiting the park. Only 11 more hiking days left.
It was nice and warm in the bunkroom. This morning was cold and gray, so we sat around until 1. We then left. There was a cooler with a beer on the other side of the highway. The climb was long but not bad. There was snow in the shade. When we got to the lookout on top of Mt Cammerer we decided not to go the extra three miles to the shelter. Bernie and Biner are here as well. Pivot Dude, Bernie, and I learned "Lean On Me" in three part harmony with a ukulele. The sunset was gorgeous, and we'll get up to see the sunrise tomorrow morning. Its cold out, but the lookout is fully enclosed and it is a bit warmer in here. Tomorrow Pivot Dude and I are doing 23, and the other two may try. I hope they do, its a fun group. The shelter tomorrow should have a view, and I'll walk past the 90% mark.
It wasn't too bad in the enclosed lookout last night. The sunrise wasn't as nice as the sunset. It was cold hiking this morning. especially around Mt. Guyot. Lots of stow up high. Bernie and Biner both made it to the Tricorner Shelter, and we said goodbye before heading out. We're too fast for them. There were a lot more views this afternoon. There was some color, ut a lot of the trees have already lost their leaves. There are a whole lot of weekenders here. They started a fire and the shelter is quite worm. It would be great if Bernie had come with his ukulele. Its also surprising how many people are breaking the rules and camping. The park could make a lot of money in fines if a ranger came by. Tomorrow is Clingmans Dome, and the last night in the park.
It was cold this morning. I left wearing a lot of clothes. I caught Biner at the next shelter, then went up Max Patch Bald. The view was awesome, but it was too cold to stay and enjoy it. I ran down to the trees, then had a view-less ridge walk. The next mountain had some views and an FAA tower on the top. There was a long descent to the read, then a quick road walk to the Standing Bear Hostel here. The bunk room has a wood stove and is the greatest thing ever. I hear its going to be 27 degrees in Gatlinburg tomorrow, which means it will bu much colder up in the mountains, maybe in the single digits. I hope I don't freeze too much.
Its really nice to sleep in a warm house on a real mattress. I got up at 7:30 and the delicious breakfast was at 8:30. We had a relaxing morning, and got lunch at the diner again. I hit the trail around 2. It was cold. I didn't step because it was so cold. I got to the shelter, got water, then put on all of my warm and dry clothes. My fingers are a bit cool. If it stays this cold we might change our plans and stay at more hostels and less time in the Smokies. Cold.
--> Elmer's Sunnybank Inn, Hot Springs, NC, 11.0 miles
That mouse last night was terrible. None of ups got much sleep. We got up early and all left by 7:20. It was a lot of downhill to Hot Springs. I had trouble finding the hostel because it didn't have a sign or anything out front. I got here, took a shower, then Pivot Dude and I got lunch at the diner across the street. When Biner got here we did laundry. I bought my Smokies permit, then went to the library. We had dinner at a tavern with 50 varieties of beer. (No, I didn't try them all, or attempt to) We then went to the Iron Horse Station to see some of the live music. I played piano back at the hostel for a while, then went to bed.
Its nice having a climb first thing to warm up. The morning was a cool but pleasant ridge walk. We stopped a the second shelter fro lunch, and caught up to Biner. A weekender arrived with a tea kettle he found on the trail, so we named him Genie. We went down the hill singing Disney. There was a small store at the gap where we got sodas. I ran up the last 3.7 miles in 1.1 hours. Its a party with Biner and Pivot Dude here. There are some very noisy mice in the roof, and we can't get them out. It really sucks. Hot Springs in the morning!
It was quite cold this morning. I didn't hang around once I got out of my bag. It was a quick climb up to Big Bald, where it was nice and warm with the sun shining down on me. There was then a long, cold descent to Sams Gap. We got a ride from some trail runners to a nearby diner, but it was closed so we went to a gas station for some snacks instead. While we were munching a couple offered us a ride back to the trail. They were '07 thru hikers. It was then a pleasant walk in the woods to the shelter. No one else is here, and it isn't as cold as last night. Both are good signs.
It was overcast and not too cool this morning. It was quick five miles into Erwin where I stopped at Uncle Johnny's and got a few 40 cent snickers. From there it was mostly uphill. There were a few views along the way. Little Bald Mountain was disappointing- its not bald on top. The High Rocks were nice. There are two weekenders and a section hiker (and former thru-hiker) here. Its windy, and will probably be around freezing tonight. I'm comfortable with all of my clothes on. Hope it doesn't get much cooler.
I got up and packed up, then went over to the house. Pivot Dude and I got breakfast then headed back up to the trail. The AT goes along the ridges to Cherry Gap Shelter, then climbs up Unaka (pronounced 'you-nake-a') Mountain. It was a 1300' climb, but pretty easy. On the other side are some open fields, and two day hikers pointed out where the trail goes the next few days. From there it was an easy walk to the shelter. Tomorrow we'll stop by Uncle Johnny's outfitters and hostel so Pivot Dude can pick up his new shoes. His are literally falling apart as he walks. Then it is a climb back to the border, and we'll end the privy-less section of the trail. Very exciting.
I ended up zeroing again. It was raining when I woke up, and the forecast was for rain all day, so there was very little motivation to get out. I typed up a bunch of blog stuff, and watched a bunch of movies. I am going to leave tomorrow, even if its a blizzard. I can't take another day on the couch. I think the government is back in business, so I should be able to go through the Smokies legally. :)
I hadn't planned to, but I took a zero. I went back to the house from the bunkroom at 8 and got some eggs and grits for breakfast. Connie said she was going into town, so I decided it would be easier to hang out for a day than to try and hitch into Erwin. We watched Django Unchained, then went into town. On the way to Wal-mart we went to a buffet. After resupplying we came back and watched movies until wayyyy past my bedtime. I'm hoping its nice tomorrow or I may get sucked further into the Greasy Creek black hole. The forecast is for rain. I now understand the signs that say "Hiking is getting in the way of my trail experience." Could be worse places for a double zero.
There was a beautiful sunrise. I enjoyed it while eating breakfast and using the open air privy, the first one since Damascus. I left before Pivot Dude and quickly got up to the first bald. It was beautiful on the balds. There were about three miles all out of the trees. Just as pretty as the Grayson Highlands. I got to Carvers Gap, then ran up Roan Mountain. I stopped by the shelter on top, the highest on the AT. It was then a pleasant walk through the woods to the Gap. I followed the side trail down to the friendly (hostel). CeeCee, the owner, likes to talk, and is probably the friendliest hostel so far. Pivot Dude Showed up later. We both got dinner and watched movies all evening. A nice way to end the day.
We left the shelter and got to the read around noon. At the road we walked to a restaurant, but it was closed. Just down the road we yogied a ride to a different place. It was a nice little diner, and we both at our fill. We sat around for a while, and got a ride back to the trail from one of the waitresses. It was a nice climb up to the top of Hump Mountain. The Roan Highlands are beautiful, even if it was a bit foggy. I got to the shelter just as it was too dark to see. I ate dinner, the Pivot Dude and I talked to the weekenders and told them our best trail stories. Its fun having an audience. Tomorrow we're going to a hostel for a shower and some real food.
We slept in, then decided to have a leisurely morning and to not leave until noon. I finished the Crichton book I started last night, then looked through the PCT guide at the hostel. At noon we saddled up and left. It was overcast, and a few miles in it started to rain. There were scattered showers all afternoon. It was nice to got to the shelter and put on dry clothes. Tomorrow we plan to go to a restaurant near the trail for lunch, then up to the Overmountain Shelter. We will cross the TN/NC border, and will follow it for the next 200 miles or so. Roan High Knob the day after is the first bald, I believe.
Seiko gave us a ride back to TN 91, and we started walking at 8. Hiking with a day pack is much easier than with a full load. We got to Vandeventer Shelter at 11:30, our original destination for yesterday. We enjoyed the view and the Bob Peoples graffiti, the headed downhill. At the bottom is a dam where we had the second half of lunch. The afternoon was a 1700' climb then descent over a viewless mountain. Laurel Falls and gorge were very pretty, but there were a lot of people around. As we were coming down the mountain Pivot Dude's shoe broke. He stopped for a while while he had cell service to try and sort it out. As I was climbing out of the gorge it started to sprinkle. I flew past the day hikers and got to the read and hostel before the rain really started. Trashcan was here, cleaning out the fridge and hiker box of all their food. I cooked the spaghetti we got yesterday, and Pivot Dude got back just before it was ready. We demolished the 2 lbs of pasta and a jar of sauce. Trashcan headed back out into the rain while we took warm showers and did laundry. It looks like it will be another quiet evening. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow morning.
I summited Springer Mountain yesterday afternoon. We got lots of pictures and drank the champagne we carried up. Its hard to believe I'm done after so long. Two thousand miles is a long way to walk, and a long time to live in the woods.
Tomorrow I fly back to NH, and will type up the rest of the entries, so you all can find out what happened the past few weeks.
Jeff arrived in Georgia today (the picture above is him in Virginia). He expects to summit Springer Mountain (the end of the AT) on Thursday and to arrive back in New Hampshire on Saturday. He's still enjoying his hike and will update his blog when he has access to a computer.