The End of the Hike

•May 31, 2013 • 1 Comment

Well, the ankle did not survive the two miles to Standing Bear Farm, let alone the 30 miles to Hot Springs.   I DID hike that last two miles to Standing Bear Farm on crutches, so some folks thought I was nuts.   Now that I’ve been home more than a week, it finally feels fully healed, but there was no way to tell how long it was going to take in Tennessee – it throbbed every time I put my foot lower than my torso.    

It was a fun end to the hike, with Rocket as the Hostel Manager, lots of food to eat, a lovely porch to sit on for a few days waiting for the plane, and a nice country road to walk down when I needed cell service – on crutches – more than 1/4 mile.  Yikes!    

Some pics from the end:   

Rocket, the hostel host.   

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Apple:  my trail angel that gave me a ride to Newport, TN, and took me to a couple of breakfasts and dinners, as well as to the hospital to get the foot x-rayed.  He’s a trail angel for two weeks every spring at Davenport Gap.   

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The Standing Bear Llamas.  

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The I-40 entrance.   It was the first and only interstate i crossed on the trail. 

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The trail stairs up from the road on the north side of the I-40 crossing.  Yep – did them on crutches.   One at a time, slow and easy.   

 

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Even hobbling along out of the Smokies on the last day, I still took time to get a few wildflower pics:

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What is next?   I hope to catch up to the family I met in GA to do a bit of the AT in NH later in the summer, and I’ll start working on those 4000 foot peaks again.   I’m not really tempted to attempt another thru from the beginning, but I can see doing section hikes of the AT in the future.  Whether or not I’ll finish it is anybody’s guess at this point.    

I have to say at this point I LOVED seeing the southern mountains – it was an area of the country I had never seen before at to hike through them, in particular in the spring, was just wonderful.    Hopefully, Ric will get his foot problem solved and we can do some of this stuff together at some point.   

But wait – we have kayaks and bicycles as well – the Allagash is still on my list of things I want to do in retirement.    Lots to think about.   

Pics from the northern Smokies

•May 15, 2013 • 2 Comments

Some cloudy views, finally some sunny views, a few wildflowers, the last caged shelter in the Smokies, and whatever else took my fancy while hiking with mildly sprained ankle:

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The ankle plan

•May 14, 2013 • 1 Comment

Ok – I made it out of the Smokies with the help of some pain killers. Apple – a trail magician- offered to give me a ride to town. I’m taking the opportunity to get the laundry done, the bounce box mailed, then I’ll hike the two miles to Syanding Bear Farm where I’ll pick up my new ankle brace – an “Aircast.” If it helps for the three days to Hot Springs, then I’ll continue the hike. I’ll post more pcs tonight.

Smokies – Part II

•May 13, 2013 • 1 Comment

Did I mention that through the Smokies, my left foot hiked TN and the right one hikes NC? It’s true. They probably don’t even quibble over trail relocations as there isn’t a nickel of tax revenue to fight over.

Anyway rain, more rain, and cold is the story of the northern Smokies, with a “Twenty Minutes of Terror” break to so Charlie’s Bunion in the pouring rain. I wet my pants, just a little bit getting off it. And I skipped the AT between the two trail points that formed the Charlie’s Bunion loop trail.

Oh, and for fun, no cell reception on Morher’s Day all day, and I twisted my ankle, probably strained it, and have 11 more mile to go to get out if the Smokies. Whew!

On to the pics. Love the handicapped bars in the privy at close to 6000′.

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The Smokies , Part 1

•May 10, 2013 • 3 Comments

Ok, so after two days chilling at the Fontana “Hilton,” a gang of folks were ready to start the Smokies.

Ram into Tu-tu and her family at the “Hilton.” Since Tu-tu gave me my trail name, I got a pic of us together.

We hoped, by waiting, that the weather would clear for Clingman’s Dome on the third or fourth day, but it wasn’t to be. The Smokies – at least the first 49 miles – lived up to their name – giving us fog and drizzle at altitude during the day and condensing into rain at night. I had my rain coat draped over my shoulders most days, but didn’t have to zip it while actually hiking for more than am hour. We had some views as well, briefly.

First day was a twelve mile uphill hike! It was long. I almost literally ran into the back of hiker Scott at one point. He said “hike with me.” Uh – ok. Then he said “That bear down the hill hissed at a bear that was up on the trail. Not sure where the bear on the trail went.” OK then – I’m RIGHT on his tail. Saw the bear by the tree. Looked like it was likely a momma guarding her cubs. No – no pics of that.

The wildflowers were at times carpeting the forest floor, and at other times they were scarce. By far, the most common flower is a small white one with faint red stripes in the petals.

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I’ve never seen it in New England, so I’m not sure what it is.

Hemlocks are dying in many places, but up at the highest elevations seemed to be doing a bit better. The Hemlock forest at the higher elevations of Clingman’s Dome was the first fir forest since I started the trail in Georgia. Some of the dead trees looked like ghosts.

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Oh – the second day took us over Rocky Top – the mountain of I believe the University of NC’s fight song or some such thing. There was some discussion about whether it was the bear of a climb for the day or the lovely 100 year old orchard we hiked through. The orchard was my favorite part of that day’s hike – blooming fruit trees and a lilac just coming to life. The mountain that came afterward was steep and a very slow climb, but we did have good views from it.

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And when we got to Newfound Gap, I was grateful for a ride to town for a much needed shower! Gatlinburg is kind of ticky-tacky, but lots of eating choices. I had mud slide for dinner this evening to commemorate the hike down from Clingmam’s Dome yesterday – a seven mile mudslide.

Oh yes – Fontana Dam: I read where they had to drill down and reinforce the Dam because the foot was moving downstream and the head upstream. I think it’s true.

In no particular order – other pics from the Smokies:

The metal grate is the hiker gate through a feral pig containment fence!

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The good, the bad, and the ugly – the Fontana Hikton

•May 4, 2013 • 1 Comment

The cleanest shelter on the trail – but the bathroom and shower weren’t.

It is the ONLY shelter with a bathroom and shower, but it was clear from the cobwebs it hadn’t been swept let alone washed in many months. The shower was icky with a bit of mildew, lots of dirt, and bugs.

OK, I was going to “zero” (miles) here, so I figured it was my turn to be a trail angel. I picked up some bathroom cleaner , Lysol, a sponge and a pack of Hamdi- wipes at the grocery store the day before. As I arrived at the shelter for my “zero” around 10:00 am, I had lots of time. Two hours later, every surface of the bathroom below the top of my head had been scrubbed with Lysol and the shower had the soap scum and mildew remover on the wall and floor as well. It was a huge improvement.

I kind of feel as though I’ve paid my “trail dues” now, even though it’s not a term I’ve ever heard. I’ve done a bit to better the trail, and that is important with the thousands of of folks who sacrifice to keep the trail passable for the hikers. Can’t say I have a great opinion of the TVA, who run the shelter and property.

The afternoon was spent greeting new arrivals, socializing, and having a generally better time in a crowd than I’ve had in a while. One more zero for truly awful weather tomorrow and it’s time to do the Smokies.

Smokies coming right up!

•May 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The weather for the next 48 hours is not supposed to be the best, so I’m holed up in the “Fontama Hilton” waiting for the worst to blow over. And blow seems to be the operative word for today. The winds at the shelter are probably 15-20, although 1/4 mile away over the rise at the Dam it’s pretty calm. I’ll wait until the inch or so comes through tomorrow to turn in my Smoky Mt. Park Thruhiker Pass at the other end of the dam. If you turn around because of bad weather, it’s a three day wait for a new pass. The Smokies provide the highest terrain of the hike – you’re up between 5000-6500′ or so most of the time once you get up there – it’s about 70 miles through the park with an 11 mile climb to the ridges.

Can’t wait to finish them and send a bit of my cold weather gear home.

The owner of the Hike Inn pretty much said the Smokies are easier than the last stretch, so the worst is over until NH. It remains to be seen if my left knee agrees with that assessment. It’s pretty much hurt since the descent into the NOC.

Oh the wild flowers have been amazing the last couple of dayss. My favorite was a wild iris, but the pink trillium are great too. First pics are the Fontama Hilton, then some views coming down to it and flowers. I accidentally erased a blog entry yesterday about the last couple of days hike.

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