Sunday, May 11, 2008

Appalachian Trail, Section Three

At some point over the winter of 2004-05 we decided to spend our summer vacation on the Appalachian Trail. We were going to start in early May at Hot Springs and hike for as long as it was fun. We tentatively had a goal of reaching Harper’s Ferry, WV which is about half way along the trail. But that was not a goal set in stone. Primarily, we wanted it to be fun. We had had such a wonderful experience on our first trip and we wanted that again.
Starting at Hot Springs, NC

My parents were happy to take us to Hot Springs and see us off. It was a raining morning and light rain continued all day. Once again we were starting out without the proper conditioning for such an endeavor. Unlike the previous year when we had the luxury of short mileage days at the beginning, the second day out was 11.5 miles. Of the first 6 days, only the first was less than 10 miles. Plus we were carrying 6 days of food making for very heavy packs. Oh well, if you work and have family, hiking is probably not your first priority.
Standing in Spring Beauty on Bald Mountain

Our other hikes had been in September, so we were thrilled with the display of wildflowers. We often saw large patches of flowers along the trail—crested dwarf iris, trout lily, and trillium. As we approached the summit of Big Bald Mountain, the spring beauty was so thick it looked like snow. God, in his wisdom, knew how to keep us smiling those first long, hard days. I don’t think I was ever so happy to see anything as I was the morning of the seventh day when we crested Temple Ridge and I looked down at the Nolichucky River and Erwin, TN where the Holiday Inn awaited.
Bone Cove Road at the TN state line

Part of the fun of the trail is meeting the people. Hikers take on what we call “trail names”. I’m not sure if this is a practice particular to the AT or if hikers on the Pacific Crest, Continental Divide or other long trails have this practice. Anyway, along the trail we met Yeng and Yang, Skywalker, Santa, Phoenix, Tin Cup and many others. Gene and I, by the way, are Trekker and Rising Fawn. You generally don’t have anything in common with these folks except hiking, but, if you are hiking about the same speed, you see them often.
It's pretty unusual to see a donkey on the trail.

As we were hiking around Wautaga Lake we came upon Phoenix in his camp with a blazing fire going. He had bought and carried hotdogs and buns from the last town and was passing them out to the hikers as they came by. What a treat! These special treats are referred to as “trail magic” and they are often fresh fruit, cold drinks, or juice left on the trail by local residents. One of the best trail magic we got was a trash bag to put our trash in. Packs are heavy enough without having to carry garbage. We are always looking for a proper disposal place. Whatever it is and however it gets there, it is always appreciated.
Virginia, finally.

We walked on over mountain after mountain finally able to do 12 miles days without wanting to die. I was so excited about getting to Virginia. Gene had hiked a lot of the trail in Virginia and the open, rolling fields are some of his favorite places. I wanted to experience that, but to get into these fields the trail uses stiles or ladders to pass over the fences. We would be in a cow pasture walking along the trail littered with cow dung. We’d come to a stile and every time I put my hands on the rungs to climb over, all I could think of was all the hikers who had passed through the cow dung and climbed the ladder before me. After a few of these a day, I was an unhappy hiker.
Pastureland of Virginia

We took a break from hiking in late June. Gene’s niece was getting married at the Biltmore in Ashville, NC. We selected Pearisburg, VA for our jumping off spot. It was relatively close to Ashville and large enough to get a rental car. Plus, it is right on the trail so we wouldn’t need a shuttle. We had a week to rest which in retrospect was too long, but at the time was a gift. My knees had started to give me some pain and I felt the week would be good for them.
Sugar Run Mountain

The wedding was a grand affair and we got to see lots of family. We had our wedding clothes mailed and they were waiting at the hotel when we got there. After the wedding, we mailed everything back to Nashville including some winter gear we didn’t need on the trail any more, returned the rental car, and were back on the trail. It only lasted for a week, however. My knees had not had enough rest and were soon screaming at the end of the day. We decided to give it up.
To try to get rid of some of the stink in our shirts, I tried washing them in a ziploc bag.

We got off the trail near Roanoke after 408 miles.

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