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.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Pond Mountain 5/17

Ryan called Monday to set up his next drop package for Damascus, VA.  He was camped Monday night at Pond Mountain Wilderness, TN.  Today, they should reach the Watauga Lake Shelter.  At that point, they will have hiked a total of 424 miles.  This is slightly under 20% of the total trip.

Since leaving Erwin, the group has been wilderness hiking some of the higher mountain peaks in the eastern Appalachians.  Midweek they crossed Roan Mountain at 6,275 feet.  This is the highest mountain they will climb until they reach Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  They are a day’s hike from Watauga Lake where they had planned a down day.  Ryan said they have had a lot of rain over the past few days and it is forecast for the next 4.  If it is raining when they reach Watauga, they will resupply and move on to Damascus, VA.  Damascus is about 5 days out of Watauga. Damascus is a milestone destination.  It represents the start of Virginia and a significant change in topography.  Mileage should pick up at this point. The elevation is a little less aggressive. Damascus caters to hikers and has several outfitters and hiker hostels.  It is a major trail stop off.    
He proceeded to fill me in on the past week’s wet trek. On the way into Overmountain Shelter, he said lightening struck 20 feet away while crossing a bald.  Hail the size of marbles pelted them for an hour.  He almost stepped on a 4’ Cottonmouth snake.  He turned his ankle again.  His sleeping pad developed a hole he can’t get plugged. His water bag is leaking.  He lost his knife.  He ran down the list with humor in his voice.  I can tell when Ryan is faking.  He’s taking it all in stride. He said he and everyone else has had their “moments” this week, both positive and negative.
The scenery is starting to change.  Spring is in full bloom even at the higher elevations.  They have passed 4 beautiful waterfalls in the past two days and Ryan said the Pond Valley Wilderness looks a lot like Red River Gorge in KY.  He reports Lemon, Fish, Beer Burger, and Habitat are all doing well.  Everyone was wet but they all recognize they have been very lucky with the rain.  
The group has come to the realization they are carrying far too much weight.  Ryan said he weighed his pack in Erwin at 50 lbs.  In discussions with other hikers, some report hiking with as little as 25 lbs.  No one in this group has yet to figure out how to pull that off. They all vowed to investigate the topic in detail once in Damascus.  Ryan guaranteed things would be shipped home.  In the coming weeks they will be moving into lower elevation and warmer temperatures.  It’s time to go to summer weight sleeping bags and Trail Runner type shoes.  I am shipping new shoes, protein powder, carbohydrate energy gels, protein bars, packs of tuna, toilet paper, a new knife, Virginia maps, camera cards, and candy to Damascus.  I was told to never send a package without toilet paper.  It apparently is almost a currency on the trail.  Ryan will be buying a new sleeping bag, water bladder, and sleeping pad in Damascus.  He did mention that he absolutely loves his tent. 
I have had several requests as to how to ship things to Ryan.  Due to weight, he is very particular as to what extras he carries.  I’ve thrown a few niceties into his box and they’ve all come back in his bounce box…unless they can be eaten immediately.  He appreciates the thought.  One concern he has is the speed at which he is moving through his budgeted finances.  As free as the experience seems to be, equipment, food, and an occasional town stop brings the whole experience back to monetary earth.  As he continues to advance toward Maine I will be adding  a Paypal donate button to the Blog for those interested in helping him along. 
He apologized for not sending journal entries with the last pictures.  He’s not really found a good way to get these home.  He does not want to tear pages out as the book will fall apart.  He said he writes nightly and has almost filled a notebook.  I get the impression verbalizing the experience in not easy.  He’s used the term indescribable frequently.  He promised to spend some time at the Library in Damascus and get some files emailed.  The past 6 weeks has had very limited telephone and internet access.  Virginia should offer more opportunity. 
He sounded good. 

1 comment:

  1. thanks Ryan & Chuck this last post is very comforting, as I have not heard from Lemon in over a week, but I have been watching the weather & stressing!! I'm glad " all is well" (that is a Fish saying)!!