Monthly Archives: March 2013


Clay, who, with his wife Karla, played spades with me and Katfish my last night at Hemlock Hollow, taught me how to make panoramic pictures with my phone that night, so this post will be full of them. Hope they fit on your screens.

I woke up early that next morning and got my coffee and breakfast, settled up, and packed. Around 9:30, I got a free ride to the trailhead. It hadn’t been snowing too long, as there was only around an inch on the ground. For the first couple of miles, the only footprints were those made by me and Copper until we were passed by Zippy and Ditto, who had spent the night at the last shelter before the gap. I caught up to them at Little Laurel Shelter and we chatted over lunch. I told them I’d be pushing on to Jerry Cabin Shelter that night, and they made noises about doing the same. We also discussed the upcoming decision of whether to take the trail along the exposed ridge the AT follows over Fireskald Mountain, or to take the Bad Weather bypass trail because of the snowstorm. I knew I would be staying off that ridge, but apparently I was the only one who avoided it, because I was snowblazing the bad weather trail (or Packgrabber Trail, as it should be called because of all the low-hanging laurels I had to duckwalk under) when I got to it.


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Mom’s Trail Magic

My mom and her friend Renea were expecting to meet me in Hot Springs two days after I arrived at Standing Bear, with four mountains and some thirty-odd miles between the two, so I got up as early as I could and ate a nuked sausage, egg, and cheese croissant with the orange I had been gifted the night before and a juice box. It took quite a while to get everything squared away and make a plan, including climbing a hill to get enough cell service to discuss plans for Hot Springs. I figured I could hike all the way if I could make it to Roaring Fork Shelter by nightfall. Of course, that meant climbing two balds that very same day. I grabbed a can of Vienna Sausage and an Oatmeal Creme Pie for lunch on the trail, heaved my pack onto my shoulders, and set off down the road.

The first task of the day was to climb Snowbird, which started with a very steep climb right up the side of a hill, and then slowly leveled off into a gradual two mile climb. Altogether, I rose around 1500ft. in two miles. When I got to the top I was surprised to see an FAA radar station.

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It’s not the walking, it’s the being there.

I learned something about my phone when my last post uploaded: it can drop from 70% to 10% in the space of ten minutes when the radio is running. I also learned something about the usb cable that came with my mobile battery: it can’t be used to charge my phone. As a result, for two days after my last posting, I was completely without use of my phone, and I didn’t have paper to take notes on either, so this update will be covering 5 days from memory.

From Spence Field, my next target shelter was Silers Bald, which meant crossing the (usually) most difficult piece of trail in the Smokies, up over Rocky Top and Thunderhead, down to Derrick Knob and then doing the first half of the long, slow climb to the top of Clingman’s. Rocky Top is supposed to have about the finest view in the Smokies, but the visibility was poor all that day, as a fog had rolled in following the snow that morning. I made it to Derrick Knob by 2:30, and decided to change pants and eat a bite. Burt (Wildcat) and Roy were already in there putting together a fire to warm the thru-hikers. Wildcat is an old notorious triple-crowner (AT, PCT, CDT) who works at an outfitter in Maryville. He gave me a piece of peppermint chocolate, some cheesesticks, and a trail name: Blast. Roy let me try to charge off his mobile battery, but,  of course, it was unsuccessful, though I hadn’t figured out why yet. Of course, because the temperature was below freezing all day, my hose to my waterbag had frozen solid, so I melted it in front of the fire before I left. Of course it refroze within minutes of leaving.

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The Last Night

I’m now at the Lodge in Fontana Village. Today was mostly uneventful, except for lunch at the Dillard House. It was easily more than my mom and I could eat in a single sitting, but we took a good bit for supper too. Behold and be jealous of my last minute carb-loading:


Sometime after arriving, I decided to pull out everything I was packing and reconsider it. A few things didn’t make the cut, but the tent will be going. I don’t expect to have to use it, but I need to get used to carrying it since I will need it once I get out of the Smokeys and Copper joins me. Take a look and see if there is anything here you would do without:


There are very few hikers this far north. Four are staying at this hotel. The two from Oregon are waiting for a package, but the two from Pennsylvania will be hauling themselves up Stecoah with me in the rain tomorrow. I’m only planning to go the first ten miles to Mollie’s Ridge tomorrow after a satisfying last real breakfast for at least a week.

The hardest part is going to be hiking without the dog. This will be the first overnight hike without him since before we adopted him. I miss him already!

I leave for the Smokeys tomorrow

Well, later today really. Tonight, the clocks spring forward, and I will be up at nine to square away the last few things here, with a plan to leave by 1pm.

Current pack weight is 44lbs, including 8 days worth of food. It’ll easily be 50 once I add the water. If I had my rainfly (which is on my hammock, which is with Leighton), I’d consider leaving my tent. I doubt I’ll use it in the Smokeys. It’s not too late to change my mind about it, though, and I’m going to be carrying it later, so I may as well get used to it, and brainstorm other ways to cut weight. Perhaps I could ditch the filter pump and just rely on chemical treatment? I’ll probably end up deciding on the basis of what does and does not get used.

Here’s what I’ll be eating for the next week:


That’s fajitas, bagels, rice stuff, and cheesy pasta stuff. I think I picked stuff so delicious and easy to prepare that I’ll have no trouble convincing myself to eat. The fajitas, for instance, I can make without even getting any dishes dirty.

Just 34 more hours until the adventure begins!

Shake-Out Trip with Steph and Leighton

The morning started with a huge scrambled egg and grits breakfast courtesy of my mom, and then a scramble for me to get some unpacked stuff put together.


We were in high spirits for the two-and-a-half hour drive to the Cohutta Wilderness, with all kinds of different music playing the whole way and leftover grapes and cupcakes from the party to fuel us. We wanted to get on the trail by around 2pm, but the roads to our intended trailhead were slabs of ice, for which our 2WD Trailblazer was no match. A helpful couple who had just finished pulling someone out of a ditch told us how we could get into the Jacks River area without going over the mountain and led us halfway there. I navigated the rest of the way via the trail maps in Backcountry Navigator. We wound up starting from the Wilson Creek trailhead closer to 4:30pm, which was, thankfully, only an hour from Brey Fields and all its wonderful campsites along the Conasauga River. By 5pm, we were saddled up, adjusted, and headed off into a Winter Wonderland coated in a blanket of newfallen snow.

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FRIST PSOT! Gathering my wild oats

It’s getting so close to the day of reckoning now and there is so much to do! I still have a multitude of things on my to-do list and I wonder which ones are not going to get done. I have some idea. At least I can now scratch “Create A Trail Blog” off the list.

I’m head-starting the trail at Fontana Dam on March 11 in the morning. I want to get that part done with because it’s the only section Copper isn’t allowed to hike. He’ll be staying with my mom for those two weeks, and hopefully she’ll keep him in shape so his joints won’t be creaking when he joins me.

Here’s what my schedule looks like for the next week. Tomorrow is my send-off party, a huge affair my mom decided to throw that I’ve had to help with many of the preparations for and it has eaten up a good bit of my time. There has been a solid week-and-a-half of logistics and preparation for that affair. I hope everyone will enjoy it.

The guests arriving from the furthest away will be Steph and Leighton from Annapolis and Raleigh respectively. They will be staying the night Saturday night and accompanying me and Cop on our shake-out trip, which will run from Sunday to Wednesday. We’re going to do a fairly short loop I know up in the Cohutta Wilderness, only about 30-something miles, so it won’t be a particularly strenuous trip when spread out over four days, especially since we’ll be hitting the trail pretty early.  If all works out in terms of power, expect to see a post with plenty of photos from that trip next Wednesday.

Next Thursday, Friday, and Saturday will be last-minute preparation days. Some time in there, I’ll be doing a post describing the gear I plan to start the trail with. I guarantee you’ll see some things there you’ve never seen before.

Sunday the 10th, my mom will proceed to drive me to the the Smokies, where we’ll spend the night. She’ll drop me at the trailhead on Monday morning, and then I’ll be off.

In general, I’m going to try to write something everyday, though I may combine several boring days into a single post sometimes, and get the post uploaded two days after the events it describes have finished. There may be some gaps where, say, I run out of power and have to write up the events ex post facto, but I’ll be as stingy with my power consumption as I can to avoid that whenever possible.

I expect I’ll hit Katahdin by July or August or so, then fly back to civilization for transference back to Fontana Dam. Then I’ll spend the last month or two hiking south back to Springer Mountain. And then I’ll decide how I want to spend my post-trail life.