Thursday, April 5, 2012

Two Timing It on the Appalachian Trail

***I'm posting this for my mom and I have no idea why most of it is in white text boxes or why some type is yellow and most is black. Sorry, Mom! I can't fix it :-) ***
a tree that has learned to bend and stay strong

After my last disappointing post, I'm happy to say I'm back on the AT! My sister, Tammy, and friend, Rhonda, drove me to Franklin, NC, where I finished the 3.7 miles I needed to get those last white blazes in to Winding Stair Gap. I met Jann Griffiths aka Brightflower who has graciously allowed me to tag along with her on this journey. Tammy and Rhonda decided my new trail name is: TwoTimer. I'm starting over with a new partner. It's all right with me, and some get a chuckle out of it.

3.7 miles to Winding Stair Gap

Brightflower and I took off at Winding Stair headed North to Siler Bald on the 31st, the day I turned 53. On our way, we ran in to a sad looking woman getting off the trail, and I felt for her. Such a let down. Soon, we past the bald and climbed toward the stone tower at Wayah Bald. The mountains were easily letting go of winter with bursts of spring green here and there, violets, fiddleheads, and lots of little flowers blooming along the way. I met Long Strider, EMT, Steve-O, and Juice as I hike. Wow...what a view from there. It was fantastic.

the view from Wayah Bald on my birthday

We arrived at Wayah Bald Shelter... a little more than 10 miles that day... and were joined by several hikers closer to our age: Native Dancer, Tick-Tock, Intrepid, Trog, and Dreamtimer, along with others. I celebrated my birthday with blueberry cheesecake shared with me by Brightflower! Next morning, a sweet pink sunrise rose softly off in the distance. Brightflower got out early, but I caught up with her at Cold Spring Shelter. After a good climb up out of Tellico Gap, I took a few minutes to enjoy the view from Wesser Bald, met thru-hiker Flash Gordown, and then pushed on toward A. Rufus Morgan Shelter.

the view from Wesser

It's not just the climbs that are tough! What an awful descent that was; especially, for a short 5'2" woman like me. Some of those rocks I had to get down were pretty high, but I got 'er done. At mile 16, we arrived to find a full shelter and tents everywhere, with hardly a spot left. There was a large group of Boy Scouts here, along with an older teen group. I found an area beside Trog and managed to set up, but slept on a hill all night. A whippoorwill sang part of the night and then after I couldn't sleep, I decided it was screeching. :-) A cup of coffee helped me finish the .9 miles to the Nantahala Outdoor Center where Brightflower had already arrived and introduced me to Hopper and Bismark.

I ate a huge breakfast burrito and home fries at the Rivers End Restaurant. After a shower and laundry, we headed up the steep climb hoping to make it a 10 mile day, but were happy to get 6.9 miles in and slept on a ridge above Sassafras Gab Shelter.

The Boy Scouts were ensconced at the Shelter. The good news is I slept better, the bad news was it was tick city! EMT and SteveO arrived after 7:30 and cowboy camped at the trail intersection. Since the climb the day before had caused my IT band on my left knee to hurt, I was taking it easy, but happy to realize the hike up to Cheoah Bald was not so bad from the camp. I found Brightflower at Locust Grove Camp where she was having lunch with Diesel. We all started out together and got to Stecoah Gap where they rested and I had my lunch. A gorgeous day with some clouds forming off in the distance. The climb from this gap is a killer- called Jacob's Ladder- and it kicked my butt and made me want to lay down and cry for my momma, or any momma! The storm clouds continued to brew and darkened with thunder in the afternoon heat. I drank most of my water by the time I arrived at Brown Fork Shelter. Right after I descended to the shelter, the sky opened with a downpour.

Diesel joined me there, along with another hiker, Blue, and two college boys I had seen off and on... I called them Cutie and Pa-tootie. We waited for a bit and then saw the Scouts coming in. I had seen two ladies in the older group of boys and when they arrived, the one lady named Alpha Tortoise came in with a problem. She was getting hypothermic. Her friend Little Momma helped her up on the shelter platform, but it went from bad to worse very quickly. Suddenly, Blue was there directing us to get her wet clothes off, get warm things on, get her in a sleeping bag, rub her muscles, talk to her, etc. Finally some of their stragglers arrived and in the group was a medic. He took over with instructions and helped calm Alpha Tortoise down. She was at the point of hysteria or at least a panic attack with the fear of what was happening. In the end it turned out I was where I needed to be. She went to sleep feeling much better. I, on the other hand, hardly slept as I was by Diesel who snored like a freight train all night!

with Alpha Tortoise and Little Momma
At six the next morning, I got up and got my gear together, had some coffee, and headed out to catch up with Brightflower. I made fast work of the 2.5 miles to where she camped and followed on with Diesel near most of the day, along with Scout who had also camped at Brown Fork. We descended the long hike to Fontana after 12 miles and were ready for some real food and a little rest. The shuttle arrived and for 3 dollars we rode to Fontana Village Resort. When I arrived at the room, Brightflower was there and asked if 2 nights would be okay and I cried with happiness! (Ok, maybe I'm exaggerating, but I was happy.)

I enjoyed shrimp n grits for supper, a huge biscuit/gravy/egg/sausage/hashbrown breakfast, and a steakburger for supper! Love those calories! With laundry all clean, and a few resupplies on food, I think I'm ready to tackle Shuckstack tomorrow and get to Newfound Gap, maybe in 3 nights.

A few notes for the trail:
1) If there's a gap, there's a mountain before it and after it.

2) Not every uphill gets switchbacks built in the trail. Sadly, those in charge of switchbacks don't care if hikers' hearts burst on the way up.

3) A lot of nice young me are on the trail.

4) Take time to look up every now and then, there are beautiful clouds up there sometimes.
above the clouds

5) Take time to look beside the trail. God puts these little sweet flowers there for you to stare in wonder at their beauty.
a burst of spring
6) Water is really a good thing.
a water pipe