The Appalachian National Scenic Trail, generally known as the Appalachian Trail or simply the AT, is a marked hiking trail in the eastern United States extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. It is approximately 2,181 miles long. The path is maintained by 30 trail clubs and multiple partnerships,and managed by the National Park Service and the nonprofit Appalachian Trail Conservancy. The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions do traverse towns and roads, and cross rivers. The Appalachian Trail is famous for its many hikers, some of whom, called thru-hikers, attempt to hike it in its entirety in a single season. Along the way, the trail passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Ryan's Journal Entries - 4/9 thru 4/14

I’m sitting here on my first night around a camp fire with a German named Ollie, Mike who just got off the phone with his wife who's going to see Gallagher tonight, and Bill.  Our boy Sweeny has not stopped talking about gear and the “right” way to hike the trail for a couple of hours.  That’s why we have separated ourselves from the shelter. Hawk Mountain shelter is a two story wood building with a tin roof.  A lot of tents are sprawled out around the shelter.  At first I was reluctant to go out and socialize on the first night.  I was half right.  It was a fun day and with only one “holy shit” moment but it was brief.  The first 6 miles of the day was pretty easy and extremely enjoyable.  It is going to take a while before I can really let my mind go.  I kept catching myself thinking about things that really don’t matter now.  Live for the day. I live in the woods now.  Walk, eat, drink, and enjoy. Frog Paw just showed up with 3 packs on.  One main pack, a pack strapped to that pack, and an extremely big front pack.  Good gracious.
There was one tough stretch in the 8.7 miles I hiked today. Right around 6.5 miles the trail was pretty steep for a mile.  I felt great at the end of it though.  One thing I found to be helpful is to pop the boots and socks off for about 15 minutes.  Once I put them back on it felt like I had just started hiking. 
It was a great first day. Low mileage, beautiful scenery and I found some hiking buddies.  It is funny how the younger and not so bitchy group instantly found their way to the same part of the campground. I’m very excited about tomorrow. I have 7.5 miles, I think, and some new friends.  Should be an easy day other than the 900 feet of elevation in a quarter of a mile.  Until tomorrow.
Got 7.8 miles in today by 1:00.  I started at 8:00 this morning.  It was a little bit of a hard day but hiking with Ollie and Bill was a lot of fun.  I kept a very good pace and saw a lot of great views. The top of Sassafras Mountain was beautiful. Saw my first snake today on a water break. I didn’t filter the water from a fast moving creek. Let’s see if that comes back to bite me in the ass. 
Taking a break at Gooch Mountain shelter. It’s a pretty new shelter and is in very good shape. Laid down on the loft and saw 3 mice in 10 minutes. That supported the idea that I have no interest in staying in shelters.
Getting some food cravings but not too many.  Bill was eating a bagel with peanut butter and it looked amazing.  The freeze dried stuff is good but I think there needs to be some balance. I had a steak craving yesterday and I had Skyline on the brain for about an hour today. Once I got it shut out, 5 minute later it was back.  Time for lunch, freeze dried chicken pot pie. 
We took off from the shelter once it started to fill up around 3:30.  The goal was to find somewhere that didn’t involve the likes of Sweeny.  No one could handle another night of that.  We hiked about a mile down to Gooch Gap. We set up camp at a grassy wooded area pretty confident it would be secluded away from the group.  Turns out we were wrong.  A couple from Hawk the night before were there when we came back from getting water – (not filtered).  
The attempt at a bear bag hanging was a big failure.  Not really too concerned about bears at this point but everyone else did it so we felt obligated.   We had a 10 minute conversation about all of the different kinds of crackers there are and how we wanted all of them - first really strange craving.  This must be like being pregnant. 
Time to crash. Another early day planned tomorrow. Headed 11 miles to Slaughter Creek Campsite.
I was the first to rise this morning.  I figured I’d go get the food bags out of the trees.  Then I realized this had to be the worst attempt at a bear bag ever. Had a lazy morning getting everything together and eating breakfast - granola and blueberries again.  My feet started burning pretty quick today. They were numb after about 10 minutes of hiking.
At the first stop.  I put a piece of moleskin around a blister that was forming on the ball of my left foot. I DON’T GET BLISTERS! The AT doesn’t mess around.  It’s beating everyone up today. Our new friends Fish and Lemon are all banged up, knee and ankle issues. Luckily no one is all that mentally beat up. Spirits are high. No one in this loose group has given any thought to giving up. It’s great! I’m sore and beat up but I’m loving every minute of it. You hike up a tough 900 foot incline and at the top you are rewarded by an amazing view of the Georgia countryside.  There are random farmhouses and rolling hills that get greener the further you go.  The trees above 3,000 feet still haven’t put on leaves. The only green is the pines and hemlocks and some wildflowers just breaking through. The trail is pretty rocky through at this elevation.  Lots of great views, and wonderful breezes.  It’s been hot during the day especially in the sun. I’ve almost rolled my ankle quite a few times. You can’t help but get lazy and careless with your steps from time to time with the views. Going downhill is by far the toughest on your body.  The climbs get you winded and your legs burn but you get over that once you stop or change elevation.
Camped at Slaughter Creek tonight.  11 miles today.  It feels good.   Blood mountain summit is a mile away and 2 miles past that is Neels Gap. There is an outfitter there that the AT passes straight through.  I’m going to send a couple of things home.  Rainpants, radio, food bag, extra notebook, under armor cold gear just excess weight.  Should shave 5 pounds.  I normally carry 2 liters of water.  There have been some stretches I carried 4 which brings my total weight up to 45 lbs. That weight is somewhat brutal. 
There is a 70% chance of thunderstorms tonight. It might get interesting. None of us has yet to see any rain. We all think we’ve got this down.  Ha, we’ll see when it rains for 6 days straight. They say some go off the trail after just two days hiking in the rain.  Up at 6:30 to get to Neels by 9.  The mind is starting to get right. It’s almost gone!
Today was the day I gained understanding of the whole bear issue.  I was woken at 5:30 this morning to Chris running around with his headlamp on.  He was yelling that Ollie’s food bag was pulled down and scattered around the camp.  Needless to say I was awake for the day. 
After the mornings festivities the day started with an ascent to Blood Mountain. At the top we met Norman, Kevin and Lunchbox at the shelter. I heated some water for a cup of coffee and signed the trail register.  Looking around we noticed bear claw marks in the tree limbs 8 feet up.  Bears had climbed and taken the entire bear bag here last night.  Blood Mountain shelter is a two story stone hut. It has 4 walls, unlike most shelters. Definitely the coolest looking shelter yet.
It was 2.6 miles from Blood Mountain to Neels Gap. The outfitter at Neels was a very welcome sight after 2.6 miles downhill.  First it was kind of a milestone but I was also out of food.  After resupply and some junk food gnarling Bill and Ollie decided to stay and take showers and do some laundry so the rest of us moved on.  Chris and I pushed on to Boggs creek so we could have a nice and easy day the next day.  So we pushed on to Low Gap shelter making for a 14 mile day. 
My feet were sore and aching but there were no blisters.  I haven’t had a problem with blisters since I started taping the balls of my feet with athletic tape.  The blister I had is almost completely gone.  I feel like I’m becoming what I need to become on the trail - malleable, resourceful and adaptive. 
Low Gap was packed so I moved on to a spot at the top of the hill. Chris showed up about 45 minutes later. I’m starting to get back to hiking by myself. I’m starting to enjoy that more. My own pace entirely. I have seen more wildlife and have been able to take better pictures.  We cooked dinner, lasagna scooped onto saltine crackers with Oreos for desert. Delicious!
 It’s getting very cold and supposed to be much colder tonight. My tent and sleeping bag are great.  I’ve not been cold yet. Still haven’t got much sleep.  It will happen soon. 
Not a lot of sleep! I feel fine though.  Today was an awesome day of hiking. Didn’t get out of camp till 10:30 and only had 7 miles today.  The trail was smooth and very little grade. I was in no rush. The rhododendrons made a tunnel down long stretches of the trail. Spring growth is just getting started and the leaves are just barely budding. They seem to be in less of a hurry than I.
Bill, Ollie, Fish, and Lemon caught up with us at Blue Mountain Shelter.  It was good to see all of them again.  The mood was great at camp. We got a huge fire going and all sat around talking about Sweeny 1,2,3, and 4 and smart ass gear inventions.  For instance a gore-tex snuggie and eagle head leatherman. The idea of leading cattle out into the woods and eating them as we see fit has been discussed on multiple occasions. 
Blue Mountain shelter is a pretty basic wooden shelter. There is a tarp up on the open side because winds from the North are known to be pretty brutal at night. So far it’s a very calm night but we’ll see.  Getting tired.  Think I’ll crash. 
The day of the burger and beer at camp.  I finally got some sleep. Thank Jesus. The sleep came with some pretty crazy and vivid dreams but, hey, I can’t be choosy.  Sleep is sleep.  As I unzipped the top of my tent I was greeted by a beautiful sunrise right in front of me.  It was as if the entire production was for my benefit. It can’t be beat.
I thought about going into Helen today with Bill and Bear Bait. Bear Bait was voted in as Ollie’s trail name. He was the first to have his food eaten by a bear. I decided against going to town because Berry Patch was coming up in two days. I would like to conserve some money and spread my town days out for places I want to visit. Who know maybe that will change.  Maybe I’ll become a town junky. The woods just feel right at this point.
I had a nice lei surly pace today overall but there was 3000 feet of elevation change in 3 consecutive miles. The inclines are getting owned but the declines are just so tough on the joints. The hills were steep and long.  I knocked out 8 miles in 3 1/2 hours today. The feet are feeling great. The blister is very close to being gone. I think it’s time to go to a mid boot or low top shoe. I like my boots but they are so heavy.
Bill and Bear Bait went into Helen to eat and get a beer. The town is a Bavarian town so BB wanted to see what it was all about. Helen is called the Gatlinburg of Georgia. Fish, Lemon, Chris, and I were at camp building a fire pit up with rocks as high as we could get it.  It ended up looking like an old well with a fire in it.  Bill and BB rolled into camp with big smiles on their faces and busted out the beers from BB’s home town and 6 Cheeseburger from Wendy’s. To top that off they had 3 different kinds of fudge. It was a great night at camp!  The view we had at Troy Mountain shelter was ridiculous. It was such a clear day.  You could see forever. After the burger and beers everyone made a double batch freeze dried meal.
Food is such a common subject. It’s all based on mileage and food.  I love this group of people.  The Wolfpack.  It all feels like a dream at times. Another really fun day. The places I get to everyday are unreal. I saw two snakes today and got a lot of pictures.  I really need a book on wildlife. I am starting to see a bigger variety of thing.
Got a bit of trail magic today for the first time. Got a bar and crackers from a couple of folks at the road crossing that goes into Helen. Let’s see if I can string together a couple of nights of sleep. Got a sunrise to see!


1 comment:

  1. Hi, great to read Ryan's blog. We are the parents of Bear Bait (Ollie), living near Munich in Bavaria (good beer!). We're getting regular emails from Ollie and he sent us the blog link.. He is just as enthusiastic as Ryan. Sounds like they are are really getting into their stride now. Hope the wolf pack has many happy days, weeks and months ahead!
    Bob and Renate Taylor