White Mountains (pt 1)

So, I’ve been concerned about my timing to finish, so in an effort to keep things laid back, I’ve decided to jump up to the whites and continue heading north, then do as much of VT as I can before heading back to work,  then finishing up on weekends. 

So currently, I am in NH.

I did the first half of the whites with relatively little fuss.  They are extremely beautiful.   

When I got to the road before Mt. Washington(302), it showed rain for the next few days, so I came off and headed down to Boston for a few days off.  It still shows rain for a few days yet so I’m jumping ahead a few days worth and going to head south to over Washington, which should have me doing it Tuesday. 

Anyway, here’s some pics from the past few days.  I’ve continued to keep my journal and will eventually catch the blog up fully,  but most likely after I’m home. 







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Days 84 – 88 – Luray VA to (just before) Harpers Ferry, WV

Day 84 – 6/12

Antenna brought us all up to the trail and we said our goodbyes to Papa G for a while.

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He did a final TaiChi with Mr. Spudz.

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And we took a group photo before heading into the woods.

Jessica drove him down to Knoxville where Mom came up and met them to take him the rest of the way.

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I stopped at the Elkwallow wayside hoping to experience one of the famed blackberry milkshakes they make, only to discover that this location doesn’t do the milkshakes.  I cried (not really).

Had a blackberry ice cream root beer float instead.  It was still pretty tasty.

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Ended the day at the Gravel Springs Hut (as they call the shelters in the Shenandoahs).

Miles hiked Today: 14.3

Miles from Springer: 956.3

 

Day 85 – 6/13

We finished our short stint in the Shenandoahs today and hiked down into Front Royal, VA.

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After a few days down at water level, it was really nice to have some views again.

 

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And some shade.

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I also found a bunny that really wanted to run away but couldn’t figure out how, with this mean ol fence. I asked if it wanted to be friends, but it didn’t.  If I’m being honest with myself, bunnies are jerks anyway.

Jessica was running a little later than she anticipated getting back from taking dad south, so she wasn’t able to get us from the road.  Spudz and Moonshine had gotten there a while before us, and had hitched down into town to have drinks at the applebees.  Puns was there when I got there, along with two others hikers I didn’t know.

We decided to hitch down so we stuck a thumb (and I stuck a leg out) and we quickly got a ride for the four of us.  The lady when she stopped confessed it was my leg out that convinced her to do so.  Counting this as a win.

All I wanted was a massive amount of mountain dew, so when our hitch dropped us down in town, we went straight for the burger king .  They didn’t have Mtn. Dew.  I cried.  So I tried the McDonalds next door.  Same deal.

Deciding ultimately that I stood a better chance of using alchemy to make dew at the burger king, we went there and got sodas and a milkshake.

After about 2 gallons of soda, Jessica arrived and grabbed us and took us to a motel to go swimming!  I think this is where I first really met Chili Dog and Barrel.  Afterwards, we grabbed Thai food, and spudz tried his first ever curry.  It was pretty tasty.

Miles hiked today: 11.4

Miles from Springer: 967.7

 

Day 86 – 6/14

Mother Puns was planning on coming up Friday morning, so we planned to spend thursday night (the 15th) semi-close to the road.  Also considering Puns’ continuing foot pain drama, we decided to do two 15s(ish) over today and tomorrow.

First thing today we stopped in at the Jim & Molly Denton shelter, one of the nicer ones around.  There was even a shower (that I didn’t use — who needs them?).  I ran into Romeo (one of Prism’s family) for the first time in a while and also talked with Chili Dog and Barrel for a while here.

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Puns eventually arrived and we played some horse shoe (because apparently that’s a thing in the woods) for a while before heading on.

 

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I also found a nice spot at the trailhead just after passing under I-66 with three portals there, so I plopped down and played some ingress!  I’ve been needing gear.

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We stayed the night at the new whisky hollow shelter.  Spudz, Puns, Mellow Yellow and I played some Yahtzee with puns’ dice (because for some reason she has 5 d6’s).

While rolling to see who went first, I rolled a Yahtzee.  They told me it didn’t count.  I cried.

There were six yahtzee’s rolled that game.  I decided that spudz and Mellow Yellow are both witches, as they both rolled two yahtzees in the same game.  Spudz won with a score somewhere around 500.  It was ridiculous.

Miles hiked today: 17.2

Miles from Springer: 984.9

 

Day 87 – 6/15

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Stopped first thing today at the car with Antenna for an orange and a beer.  Antenna and Moonshine were still there, so we stayed there much longer than intended.

 

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We stopped at the Rod Hollow Shelter with the intention of waiting out the hot part of the day by playing hearts (Mellow Yellow, Puns, Spudz and I).  We stayed for about 4 hours (noon-4).

I found a snarl of honey suckle and feasted for a few minutes.  Spudz and Puns both showed up and to my horror neither had ever tried, or even knew what honey suckle was.  So, I showed them how to get the little drop of nectar out.

 

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Crossed the thousand mile mark and did some lounging.

Shortly after this was the Sam Moore shelter.  It was practically dark when I arrived so I setup in the shelter, ate and crashed.

Miles hiked today: 15.3

Miles from Springer: 1000.2

Day 88 – 6/16

Today, walked from Sam Moore shelter to Keys Gap.  Antenna and Mother Puns met us at the Bear’s Den Hostel around 11.  We dropped our packs with Jessica and I stole her dunkies iced coffee.  We got to meet puns’ doggo Maggie and Mr. Mother Puns (Bob) also.

 

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Crossed into West Virginia!

Once we arrived at Keys Gap, we found that Mother Puns had gotten us a hotel room with them for the night.  We all ate dinner at the restaurant in the hotel (White Horse Tavern).

Then we all went swimming in the pool.  Prism, Romeo and the rest of their family also showed up – It was great to see them all.

Afterward, Moonshine and I made friends with a stray tailless kitty before crashing out.

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Miles Hiked Today: 17.2

Miles from Springer: 1017.4

 

 

Days 80 – 83 – Aqua Blazing Waynesboro VA to Luray VA

Day 80 – 6/8

Today was a zero day while we worked on arrangements to aqua blaze some of the Shenandoahs.

Also, Jessica’s car indicated it needed service, so we spent the morning at the toyota dealership!

Then we went to walmart to investigate things for our canoe trip.

We thought Jessica might need a helmet.

We figured out our aqua blaze plans and slept at the town park in Waynesboro again.  We hung out at the library and had showers at the Y.

Day 81 – 6/9

Our first day on the river!  We made it to the canoe place’s headquarters around 8:45, packed into one of their buses (with the canoes being toed behind), and got on our way.

We made a quick stop off to pick up and drop off a kayaker, which afforded us the opportunity to see some of the boat ramps we’d be passing today and establish some landmarks.  This was good because after following white blazes for almost three months, I wasn’t sure how we’d know where we were.

While in the bus, we were provided sharpies and encouraged to sign in.  The bus was a bit of a mess, and while on the way it had trouble making it up hills, and when we were about 5 minutes away, it started to really crap out.  The guy was pumping the gas and we were praying we’d make it, which we finally did.

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We established three canoe crews:

  1. Dad and Me
  2. Antenna and Moonshine
  3. Puns and Spudz

Some fellow hikers that we’d been near started at the same time as us (Smokey Bones & Peter Pan, Katniss & Big Foot).

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We put in at Port Republic.  On day 1, we were going 23 miles downriver and ending the day at their headquarters where we’d left the car, so we took water and booze and little else.  We didn’t drink much of the water, but we did manage to finish off all of our booze.

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We paddled some, played around some, swam some, and had entirely too much margarita (or the perfect amount).  Jessica and Moonshine got dumped twice.  Once when Moonshine thought it would be funny to take them under some branches, where they proceeded to get caught, and once while getting back in their boat.

Spudz and Puns suffered similar fates, both times while trying to get back into their boats after stepping out on shore.

Here’s a good example of what that looked like:

 

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At the end of the day we camped back at their headquarters in our tents.  Some boy scouts were also camping on the property, but they didn’t bother us any.

Peter Pan wanted steaks, and as it turned out, so did I!  Jessica took him to the store and picked up two steaks for us as well.  We built a fire and Peter Pan brought back a disposable baking pan for us to cook the steaks on.  It’s at this point that he became “the man with the pan”.

Once the fire got down to coals we got the pan in, and I managed turning the steaks, darting in and out and turning them over using my long handled spork.  It was hot, but once done they turned out delicious.

Miles canoed today: 23

 

Day 82 – 6/10

Day two on the river!  We put in at 10 AM and planned to do 14 miles today.

Since we were going to camp on the river today, we brought all our stuff, which caused us to be more careful with rolling the canoes today.

We swam tons and tons.  We started to get creative, and used our bear line to lash the canoes together so more of us could be in the river at once without actually having to dock.

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This duck decided it was hungry and tried to eat my oar.  Luckily, it failed.

 

We decided today that we would play a game with the water guns purchased earlier, where the object would be for one canoe team to steal the water guns of all the others.

Dad and I had orange guns.  Spudz and Puns had blue.  Antenna and Moonshine had purple.

I managed to snag one of Spudz and Puns guns early, but then we called a truce to focus on taking Antenna and Moonshine out.  They guarded their guns well, dad and I recruited Peter Pan and Smokey Bones as mercenaries for our cause, offering a bounty of one beer per water gun stolen.

They made quick work of Antenna and Moonshine’s two guns.

Antenna wasn’t too happy about being out of the game though, so I offered her one of her guns back if she’d work for me and call me Admiral Thunder Buns, and then we raised our improvised pirate flag.

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When we got to the campsite for day two that the rental people suggested, it was so tiny that there was no way we’d all fit there.  So we floated down river to try for another spot.  We actually looked for a while without much luck until we found someone who had a house on the river and Jessica convinced them to let us stay in their yard.  Peter Pan, Smokey Bones, Katniss and Big Foot had already gone by, so we camped with just the six of us.

Miles canoed today: 14ish?

 

Day 83 – 6/11

Day three of the aqua blaze!

Only 10 miles to go!

Woke up and had coffee/breakfast on the riverside, which was really nice.

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I tried again to make friends with the local cows, but alas, failed again.

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We came out of the river in Luray.  All of us were pretty sun crazy.

We called the place and they came and picked us and the canoes up.  We grabbed Antenna’s car and went to the Italian spot Antenna and Moonshine went to a few nights ago.

We went and got a hotel in Luray in preparation for getting back on trail tomorrow.

 

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At one point, spudz died on the hotel floor.

Dad decided today that he was going to head home instead of continuing to do day hikes.  Ultimately it wasn’t a super fulfilling experience for him, and while he wanted to come out and spend time with us as a big part of doing the trail, he felt like he’d done that, had fun, and was ready to be home.

So we were all sad, but sometimes that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

We would be getting back on trail at Luray, VA (mile 942.0).  I’m not entirely sure how to deal with formatting our total mileage.  I know I don’t want try to deal with subtracting the miles we aqua blazed, but also know that “Total Miles Hiked” won’t be accurate.

I think I’m going to go to “miles from Springer”, and list the mile # where we stay or our furthest point north.

All the guidebooks list things at specific mileages from Springer or Katahdin, so that’s how things get recorded.

 

Miles canoed today: 10(ish)

Miles from Springer: 942.0

 

Days 71 – 79: Catawba to Waynesboro 

So, my apologies, but I’ve slacked on recording some details of the last few weeks.

In summary, I went to a wedding in Birmingham, came back to the trail, found the family again, rode a Ferris wheel with a 10-year-old stranger, and hiked a lot.  I’m going to post pictures and milage below.  If yall have questions about specific pics, feel free to ask.   I will do my best to answer as I remember or make something up.

I will also do my best to take better notes while out in the wild!

At the time of this writing, we are in Harpers Ferry, WV, the spiritual halfway point of the trail.

Day 71 – 5/30

Miles hiked today: 19.8

Miles hiked total: 728.1
Day 72 – 5/31

Miles hiked today: 19.3

Miles hiked total: 747.4
Day 73 – 6/1

“What is that thing down there.  Lets investigate.”

Miles hiked today: 20.2

Miles hiked total: 767.6
Day 74 – 6/2

Glasgow, VA

Miles hiked today: 18.4

Miles hiked total: 786.0
Day 75 – 6/3

Dinosaur Kingdom 2 – Natural Bridge, VA – Amazing.

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Went to a town fair and couldn’t ride by myself (everyone else went to sleep), so when a 10 year old’s little sister backed out, it was time to ride with strangers.

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Miles hiked today: 13.9

Miles hiked total: 799.9
Day 76 – 6/4

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Stopping to let a danger noodle pass.

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Miles hiked today: 15.3

Miles hiked total: 815.2

Day 77 – 6/5

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Hiding from the rain under my umbrella.

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Trail magic!

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Miles hiked today: 16.9

Miles hiked total: 832.1
Day 78 – 6/6

 

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Got down to Devil’s Backbone:

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Stayed the night in the yard of the brewery.  It was a super awesome spot.

 

Miles hiked today: 15.5

Miles hiked total: 847.6
Day 79 – 6/7

Ate hiker breakfast at Devils Backbone – $5 for a big breakfast, coffee, and some DB gear.  Sadly no beer for breakfast.  Then back on the trail!

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Arrived in Waynesboro, where they allow you to camp in town.  Got boxes and did some exploring.20170607_165138.jpg

 

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I’ve never seen a motivational poster on the outside of a house before.  Teamwork!

Also, we got a giant cake and just ate it.  All we had for utensils was Baberaham’s (Formerly Spudz’s) giant serving spoon.20170607_205205.jpg

It got wrecked.

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Hikers are hungry folks.

Miles hiked today: 14.3

Miles hiked total: 861.9

Days 64 – 70 : Falls of Dismal to Catawba

Day 64 – 5/19

Woke up early today, around 7.  Tree’s doggo Annie greeted me with some ruffs and then a request of pats.  

Corn Chip was already packed and gone when I got up and out.  Armadilla and Cali were just waking up when I was all packed down and out.

Being the first official day of trail days, I wasnt terribly surprised that the trail felt almost entirely deserted today.

I only saw two people through the day, both SOBO sectioners.  I didn’t catch one’s name, but the other was an older lady (about dad’s age) named Dark Horse.



Saw my first (and so far only) deer of the trial.

Rhodedendrons in bloom.

Got to my camp spot around 4:30.  I had service, so I downloaded the new Mountain Goats album and listened to it as I did chores.  Once chores were done, I got to talk to Carol for a while!

It was super buggy here, so I made a fire to try to drive them off.  It had middling success.

Around 7, much to my surprise, a guy named Shogun showed up.  He was skipping trail days because he was trying to finish ASAP, was hiking alone, and doing 30s daily.

He got his hammock setup and crashed pretty quickly.

About 45 minutes later, a guy named Johnny Bravo showed up.  He was skipping trail days because when he was in Damascus he got sucked into the vortex for either two or three weeks (hes not sure), and doesn’t want to go down that road again.

We talked for a while and built the fire up, but ultimately still went to bed pretty early.

Miles hiked today: 15.5

Miles hiked total: 632.0

Day 65 – 5/20

Got up and out early today.  Rain was in the forecast for the afternoon, so I wanted to beat feet, get my resupply done in Pearisburg, then get setup and in my tent before the rain.

Started off by stopping at Angels Rest briefly and seeing the valley clouds.

Then walked the remaining 3 miles down to Pearisburg.  At the hotel where my box was, ran into Tom and Kari, who let me hang in their room and charge up as I delt with the food.  Also got new shoes today!

After resupply was handled, I stopped by DQ for a blizzard then walked back to the trail 



I got up to rice field shelter and saw things looking pretty nasty.  I said, “you know what, I’m going to take a nap and see how things develop before I move on.”

As I saw laying down, a professor at VT named Ron came through (and his doggo said hi) and decided to move on. 

When I woke up about an hour later I checked the weather and saw a severe storm warning had been issued with high gusts and hail.  I decided to go ahead and stay in the shelter for the night!

In the shelter were Bigfoot, his friend from home Cynthia, ducttape, and a few sectioners.

Shortly after, it absolutely dumped rain and hail on us.  It was nuts.  



After the nasty passed and shortly before bed, there were some nice views down into the valley west of the shelter.

Miles hiked today: 10.1

Miles hiked total: 642.1

Day 66 – 5/21

I had hoped that since it wasnt going to rain anymore today, I’d keep my new shoes dry.  No such luck.  All the grass along the trail wad sopping, and it instantly transferred all of it directly into my shoes.

Dad and Jessica were returning to the trail today (they’d rented a car to go down to AL and get Jessica’s car), so my destination was a road crossing at 655.

Also, people would begin returning from Trail Days today.  


It was pretty foggy in the morning, but cleared up around 1pm.



I hiked most of the day with DuctTape and the VT professor, Ron.  He had kept hiking yesterday for 2 miles, and was setting his tent up when the weather rolled in.




Miles hiked today: 12.9

Miles hiked total: 655.0

Day 67 – 5/22







Miles hiked today: 15.2

Miles hiked total: 670.2

Day 68 – 5/23






Miles hiked today: 16.8

Miles hiked total: 687.0

Day 69 – 5/24






Miles hiked today: 15.3

Miles hiked total: 702.3

Day 70 – 5/25







Found a very confusing picture in a mexican restaurant in Pearisburg.



Stopped at REI so Jessica and Moonshine could get new packs.  Tried on new hiking outfit. 

Miles hiked today: 6.0

Miles hiked total: 708.3

Days 50 – 56 – Damascus to Marion

Day 50 – 5/5

I spent the morning at the broken fiddle.  Apparently the night before was a hot mess, but I was too passed out to notice.  Jessica said people were playing guitar inside at like midnight and she yelled at them.  

We had breakfast at Mojo’s trailside cafe.  Lots of people came through, but we ate with GQ, Brock (now chardonnay), and his friends from Indiana whose names I cannot currently remember.

Jessica and I explored town a bit, I played some Ingress, and then headed over to the Library to use their computers.

We heard that puns, spuds, ironman, and tinman were close to Damascus, so we headed over to Mojos (again) to have some marguaritas and have dinner with them.

Dad, Aunt Karen and Uncle Warren arrived, and we got checked into the Appalachian Trail Town Inn.

After getting situated, we went to the grocery store and bought beer and breakfast supplies.

We were planning to zero again the following day for Jessica’s birthday so we wanted to make her a nice breakfast.

Day 51 – 5/6

Today was our 2nd zero in Damascus.  

Ironman and I woke up around 8, cracked open beers and immediately started cooking.

Breakfast for 9 hungry hikers consisted of:

  • 5 lb sausage
  • 3 lb bacon
  • 2 dozen eggs
  • 1 lb Mushrooms
  • 2 cans of biscuits
  • Whatever else goes into Ironman’s gravy.

After breakfast, the household set to handling town chores like resupplying and doing laundry.  Since I had handled most of that yesterday, I was left to my own devices.

I went down to the AT sign at the edge of town and took a pic, since when I arrived yesterday I was too exhausted to care.

Sadly, it rained all day.

I also ran into Queen Pee sitting outside Bobo McFarland’s eating alone, because her puppy Isis wasnt allowed inside.  So, I took Isis from her and let her go in.  Isis crawled up into my lap and we cuddled under an awning in the rain.

After QP finished eating and came back out, I went inside and sat with Cumin, Jukebox, Sprinkle, and Ducky, and sampled all of the bar’s IPAs.

Looking stunning in my town clothes.

Afterward, I headed back to the house to find that Scout had arrived and been invited to sleep on the floor.

I visited the outfitter to pick up some seamsealer and additional guy line.

Then, I just futzed around the rest of the day.  We all ate dinner at Bobo’s and watched some TV before crashing out, preparing to hike out the next day.

Day 52 – 5/7

Getting everyone packed and out of the house was a nightmare.  I intended for us to leave around 9:30.  We actually left at 11:30.  

That said, once we got on trail today was beautiful.  We opted to take the creeper trail out of Damascus as there has been lots of advice to do so, mainly focusing on how much prettier the creeper trail is.  Not being purists, we set off.

The Virginia Creeper Trail is a mixed use old railroad bed that follows the river out of town.

The trail goes over lots of the old trestle bridges and you can see lots if evidence of the old railroad.

We stayed the night at the Lost Mountain Shelter.

Miles hiked today: 13.0

Mileshiked total: 485.0

Day 53 – 5/8

Today was PONY DAY!

We headed up through some fields and back into the forest before eventually coming up onto Mt. Rogers.  We didn’t actually summit it, but passed close to the summit.

At one point today, dad tripped and broke one of his trekking poles.  I let him use mine until we could replace them.

We stayed at the Thomas Knob shelter.  As soon as we turned the final corner to the shelter, the ponies were there.

All the ponies wanted to lick us for our salt.  They also werent super careful with their teeth.  Still.  Ponies.  I mean come on.

Since it wad supposed to rain solidly for the next few days, so Dad and Jessica hunkered down in the shelter.

I needed to re-seam seal my tent, so I set it up and prayed the ponies wouldn’t eat it.

After getting everything setup I headed back to the shelter to socialize and get chewed on by ponies.

Miles hiked today: 12.3

Miles hiked total: 497.3

Day 54 – 5/9

Woke up and as predicted it was rainy.  I got packed down and met the fam at the shelter.  Made it through the night uneaten by ponies.

It POURED.  We honestly considered taking a zero in the shelter.  It was also super cold.

There was trail rumor of a break in the storm though, so we decided to risk it.

This one did chew a hole in my frogg toggs though.

Ducky got to give one kissies.

Since Dads pole had broken, we found an outfitter that we could get to from Massie gap.  So we planned to come off trail for a bit to replace them.

Going through fat man’s squeeze.

Dad through the fog.

We came down to Massie gap and tried without much success to get in touch with the outfitter to get a shuttle down.

After a while some guys who worked for Grayson Highlands let us borrow their phone, and we got a ride!

Once we got down, the weather was so nice, and the outfitter also had rooms available, so the decision was made to stay.

We were glad we did, as it poured on us again.  Come to find out from people who stayed up that it hailed on them like crazy. 

We ate ice cream at the outfitter then talked for a while and crashed out.

Miles hiked today: 3.7

Mikes hiked total: 500.4

Day 55 – 5/10

Technically we passed 500 miles yesterday, but since we didn’t notice the marker and we found a misplaced one today, here’s our 500 miles!

There were more ponies today but they were less friendly (and bitey).  However the sun was out and all of us felt awesome. 

We planned to staying at Hurricane Mountain Shelter.  I hiked with dad and sent Jessica on ahead.  When we arrived, we found Jessica with a broken nose having fallen on it.

Ducky had found her shortly after it happened and cleaned her up.  Jessica had reset it herself, but resolved to come out early the next day.

Miles hiked today: 12.9

Miles hiked total: 513.3

Day 56 – 5/11

We all got up and goimg pretty early today.  Jessica and Puns came off trail at a side trail to a campground after 2.5 miles.

The rest of us pushed on to partnership shelter .

Jessica asks, “WHY DO I HAVE TO PUT MY SHOES ON, MY FACE HURTS”

Since Jessica and dad were going to town, i aimed for it too.

Miles hiked today: 19.3

Miles hiked total: 532.6

Days 45 – 49 – Roan Mtn, TN – Damascus, VA

Day 45 – 4/30

As Joni Mitchell says, “I slept last night in a good hotel.”  That’s the benefit of Mom coming up — No cheep hiker spots!

We got a pretty late start to the day, left the Best Western around 11, took a detour to stop by a CVS, then headed to the trailhead.  Once there, we spent more time hanging out and not hiking, talking with the hostel owners who post up at the trailhead hoping to lure customers and with other hikers coming in.  While we were there Spudfz and Puns arrived and we talked with them for a while.  They were coming off trail for the day, while we were about to get started.  We handed out some bananas, other fruit, and some beers Mom and Dad had brought up at our request.

Finally at 12:30 we got moving.  Like I said, a super late start.

The scenery today was really beautiful, a mix of some forests and some open land.  There were several spots where we were able to look back at the Roan Highlands and see where I’d been the few days before.  Jessica felt that she’d for sure lost her trail legs as she was huffing and puffing up the hills.

While we were out we ran into Fancy (the hiker formerly known as Placemat) and talked/hiked with him some.

When Jessica and I got to a nice deep looking river (I believe called Elk River), I think we both looked at each other and said, “I’m getting in that”.  Then we did.  Fancy and another hiker named Schlog (I think?) joined us for a while as well.
I think we were in for about an hour.  It was cold, but not so cold as to be really unpleasant.  While it was only about knee deep, I was able to find a nice flat rock, sit on it, and lean back and just get a full soak as the current washed over me pleasantly.  I think as summer comes, I’ll be sitting in a lot more rivers and streams.

We also passed mile 400 today!

We were playing today by ear, and since we started so late, we decided to stay at Mountaineer Shelter at mile 402.  While we were walking we passed a few nice waterfalls also.  We were expecting rain, so instead of tenting like normal, we got shelter spots.  We also discussed and said if possible we’d head to Kincora Hostel (Bob People’s place) the next night.

As is often the case in spots just after towns, people were being a little rowdy and stayed up pretty late.  It was all fine though, I stuck my earplugs in and was OUT!

Miles hiked today: 8.8

Miles hiked total: 402.5

 

Day 46 – 5/1

Forecast called for rain today so we were up at 7 and out by 8.

I was surprised today as we hiked all day and didn’t see Moonshine at all.  He’d camped just before the shelter, and I think he hikes faster than us, but we didn’t see him at all today.

We did run into Gas Monkey and find out that Fancy, Queen P, Sprinkles and the rest of that crew were nearby.  We also passed “Family Man”, an 18 year old dude that stayed at the shelter last night, a bunch of times today.  He’d be stopped doing something, we’d pass, then about 5 minutes later he’d shoot by saying, “Sorry!”

It was crazy windy all day and raining on and off.  Around 1pm, we got to the shelter at 10 miles.  We hung around for a little while with Gas Monkey and the others.

Cumin did some cuddling with Isis.

After an hour or so, it was sunny (although a little cold/still windy).

We hiked on, hoping for warm beds.  We tried calling Kincora, but there wasn’t ever an answer.  We said, “Well, if we get beds, we get beds.”  It was significantly less important now that the rain had passed and we’d MOSTLY dried out.

We hiked through some burned out areas that must have burned early last year, as we saw new growth coming through.  It was a significantly nicer sight than the burned sections we saw in GA.

When we got to Kincora, Bob was gone running people into town, but Mother Nature was sitting on the porch and said there was tons of room, just go put your stuff on a bunk.  So we did.  Then we took showers while everyone was out.

Bob’s place is basically an old log cabin he lives in.  Behind that is a newer log cabin he built.  Connecting the two is a porch area, two bathrooms, a shower, and a laundry room.  It’s a nice little setup, and felt significantly more like a maintained shelter than a hostel.  He runs the place for a suggested donation of $5 per head.  You just stick the money in a box by the door.

When the folks got back, the crowd seemed to be Fancy, Mother Nature, Cloudz, and a bunch of others I didn’t really know/get to know.

Of note, Bob has 11 cats.  10 live outside / in his main cabin.  1 lives in the bunk house.  Mother Nature had gotten an amazon package delivered and one of the cats named Simba claimed the box.

At the CVS earlier, I’d picked up a sharpie planning to give my food bag some decoration so I could more easily differentiate it from others when there are communal hangs.  I saw Cloudz drawing in her sketchbook and talking about her art, and since I’m actually pretty terrible with drawing, I asked if she’d to a piece on my bag for a little $, and she said yes.  This is what I got:

Miles hiked today: 16.0

Miles hiked Total: 418.5

 

Day 47 – 5/2

We talked with Bob this morning and he agreed to slack pack us over Pond Flats.  Bob took us out to Shook Branch Rec Area and we walked southbound back to his place.  We passed a lot of people going the other direction.  It was weird!

Apparently southbound over this section is easier on your knees due to the # of steps down, so Jessica enjoyed it.

We passed Laurel Fork Falls, the biggest waterfall we’ve seen yet.

Once we got back to Kincora, Bob gave us a ride back to over to Boots Off campground where we picked up our package.  We got there around 3:30.  Unfortunately, the next 4 miles were a camping no-go area due to an active bear that likes to climb into hikers tents.  While I love Carol, I don’t love the thought of actually being bear food, so we decided to abide by those regulations.  It would be 7 miles from our current spot before there was a reasonable place to actually camp, so Jessica and I discussed and agreed that 7 miles starting at 3:30-4pm, with a lot of UP would not be a good end to the day.  So we just stayed at Boots off for the night.

The folks there gave us a ride into Hampton TN, where we both destroyed subway foot longs and walked around playing some Ingress (for all 6 portals in town).

Riding in the back of an suv with doggo.

While we were walking around, we made friends with a town Doggo.  At first it came out from a fence and we thought it had just gotten out of its yard.  We walked around to the front of that house with it and thought about knocking, but when we got around we saw the other side gate was just wide open, so it was apparently just a loose doggo.  He was friendly though, and followed us around for the next 20 minutes or so, until we got a hitch out of town.

On the hitch, Jessica had to deal with several dozen eggs hanging out in the front seat.  Otherwise everything was golden.

Miles hiked today: 8.5

Miles hiked total: 427

 

Day 48 – 5/3

On our way out, we saw that the Watauga Lake area was actually slightly flooded.  The water was up over the grill and lapping up on some picnic areas.

We also saw some geese with goslings, but they sadly did not want to be friends.

We hiked over the Watauga Dam, made some dam jokes, then proceeded to ridge walk for most of the day.

We mostly busted our butts all day, and got to the Iron Mountain Shelter around 6.
While we got setup and made dinner, Jessica told her story about the bunnies on Rocky Bald.  In the process, she asserted that Jackalopes were ABSOLUTELY a real thing.  Then we talked for a while about Bassalopes, which are totally a thing, but sadly not real:

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We decided that since it was going to rain the following evening, we would get up early (5am) and try to bust out as many miles as possible.  Damascus was only 26.3 miles away.  She said she doesn’t think we’ll make it there tomorrow.  I think she’s wrong, but didn’t tell her that.

Miles hiked today: 15.9

Miles hiked total: 442.9

 

Day 49 – 5/4

I had a brief fight with my snooze button, but managed to coax myself awake by 5:10.  I made coffee and broke everything down.  When I went to get the food bags, Jessica had already packed EVERYTHING, and was ready to go.  So she came up to where I’d setup my tent and we talked while I finished taking stuff down (and drank the coffee).

It was light enough to see without headlamps by about 6:20, so we headed out.

Soon after we left, Jessica was out of sight just ahead of me and walked up on a bear!  She said her trekking pole clacked against a rock and the bear about 20 feet from her looked up startled and bolted.

Shortly after we got to the Nick Grindstaff monument, a marker for an area hermit.  The monument reads, “Lived Alone, Suffered Alone, Died Alone.”  My first thought was why do they think he suffered?  Then I thought well… I guess they knew him better than me.

After the monument, we came down to the lowlands and crossed some cow pastures.  None of the cows wanted to be friends either.

Reading the weather, it was supposed to be SUPER windy with sustained winds of 35-55 mph and gusts up to 80.  Jessica looked at that and said she had no interest in having her tent break again, so after 12 miles, she decided shuttle forward (as she’d be doing this section again soon).  She took my pack with her and I slacked the remaining 15 miles, starting at 12:30.

It was tough, but I made it to Damascus around 6pm.

 

Miles hiked today: 26.3

Miles hiked total: 469.2

Days 42 – 44 – Erwin to US 19E (Roan Mtn)

 

Day 42 – 4/27

I woke up rearing to go after a night of Calzones, beer, and Kill Bill vol. 1.  I was up around 7:30 and ready to go by 8:30.  Would’ve been sooner but I was trying to be a little quiet moving all my stuff outside, as Air Bud, Fitbit, and Spudz were all still asleep.  Y’all had stayed the previous night in the bunk room at Uncle Johnny’s and Puns had decided to push on and not pay for a place to stay.

So I waited for the store to open, grabbed a new bear line to replace the one stuck in a tree some miles back, a new lighter as I couldn’t find mine, and a new battery for my headlamp.  I said my goodbyes to y’all (who was waiting for a box that hadn’t arrived), and HoneyBee/TSquared (who were taking a zero to attend the festival this coming weekend at Uncle Johnnys.

I had mixed feelings as it feels like I’ve missed every festival thing that’s happened by 1-2 days.  However, this being my opportunity to make up some miles quickly, I decided to get on it.

I made tentative plans to stop at the Cherry Gap shelter, which would put me at a 17 mile day, one of my longest so far, and then got moving.

It was supposed to rain this afternoon around 4pm, so I hoped to make it to the shelter and avoid it.

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Leaving Erwin

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I ran into some Trail Magic by Brother Tom and his Doggo, Moses:

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Drank a very nice cup of coffee and made to leave.  Moses jumped up on Tom’s lap and whined at me, basically saying, “It’s going to be wet out there, don’t go!”

And it certainly didn’t look like it was going to be dry for too long:

 

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On my climb up to Unaka, I found this tree decorated in memory of a guy named Max.

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Up on top of Unaka was weird, foggy and smelled like christmas.

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I got to Cherry Gap shelter around 4pm, and found Scout, who I hadn’t seen since before the Smokies.

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I decided that 4pm was too soon to call a stop to the day, so I checked what was ahead, and saw that there was an old apple orchard with camping space, so I signed the log and headed out.  A section hiker named Chili was leaving at the same time as me, with the same destination.  Our paces matched up so we walked the rest of the day together.  He lives in Austin TX and has a business doing maintenance on stone and wood floors which he still enjoys.  I only took a picture of his butt as we were arriving at the apple orchard:

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Sunset through the trees was beautiful:

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Also here was Sweetheart, who I had camped with a few days back, still working the kinks out of his new zpacks tent:

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There were just 4 groups at our site tonight, Me, Sweetheart, Chili, and Snowshoe/Sailor.  We ate dinner together and talked, and enjoyed some nice hiker TV of Snowshow teaching Sailor how to hang a bearbag:

I think he probably needs to work on his technique some.

Miles hiked Today: 21.5

Miles hiked Total: 364.2

Day 43 – 4/28

I was so enamored with our camp spot that I took a few more pictures before leaving in the morning.

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Apple blossoms.

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Sweetheart and I started hiking about the same time today.  I was a little bit faster than him, but we saw each other a lot.  We ran into some mobile trail magic by Sandy, who was just doing a day hike but brought out cuties and nutra-grain bars.

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Sweetheart and Sandy.

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Today, we were entering the Roan Highlands.  The trail in lower part of this area was made up almost entirely of little tiny crickets who were all jumping to get out of the way of my incoming feet.

The climb up was brutal, and I didn’t snap many pictures.  When I got up to the cloudland hotel site, I was nearly out of water, and Butter, who I had hiked with some this morning, told me that if I left the trail at the hotel site, there were bathrooms and water fountains nearby.  When I got up there I found them.  They were all closed, water off.  I had a sad.

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Not only was the climb brutal, but the trail was rocky the whole way down the other side.

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My feet no likey.

Roan Mountain itself is (along the trail) all spruce-fir.  No views, but delicious smell.  Once I got to the other side though, the views really opened up:

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Looking back on Roan Mountain from Round Bald.

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The view up to where I would be spending tonight (Grassy Ridge Bald).

This spot was off the trail by 0.6 miles, but Scooby (whose house we stayed at earlier) said this is the best spot to spend the night in this area, and I trusted his recommendation.

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So I hiked up the trail, through some pretty thick bushes up to the top.

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Unfortunately, when I got up there, it got completely socked in with fog.

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Fog rolling in — although you can still see the blue skies above.

I quickly cooked dinner and since it was pretty cold and VERY windy, got in my tent and passed out.

Miles hiked Today: 17.4

Miles hiked Total: 381.0

Day 44 – 4/29

I was woken up around 1 a.m. by the wind.  Got up to use the bathroom and was greeted by clear skies, stars everywhere, and lights from the cities below.  I felt better about this choice of camping spots, rolled back the vestibule of my tent so I’d have a good sunrise view, and went back to sleep.

When I woke up, this is what greeted me:

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I hiked the few miles over to Overmountain Shelter, which is an old barn that’s been converted to a shelter.  It’s named after the Overmountain Men, who were a fighting force during the revolutionary war.

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While I was there, Gas Monkey (the monster who named me) was still hanging out, so we chatted for a few before I headed on.

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Further on the climb, you could look back and see Overmountain Shelter where I’d just come from, then in the background see Grassy Ridge Bald, where I stayed the previous night.

The big climb for today was Bald Mountain, another of the grassy balds of this area.  I met a new group that had been just in front of me for a while, and got to give some pats to Queen P’s doggo, Isis.

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I hiked down and out to the road with this group for the rest of the day.

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The trail which has been straddling the TN/NC line since the smokies, turned north today and left NC for good.

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Left to Right: Cumin, Queen P, Sprinkles, and Fancy (formerly Placemat).

Mom, Dad, and Jessica were coming to meet me here so Jessica could get back on the trail, but it was going to be a little while before they arrived, so I walked back down to the creek just by the road and stuck my feet in it:

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I spent the rest of that afternoon chatting with Moonshine (who we had hung with in Gatlinburg, and who was spending the night with us) and Mover, a guy who’d thru hiked the AT and PCT previously.

Once the folks showed up, we went down into Roan Mountain to Bob’s Dairyland for some grub.  Jessica and I split their BBQ special and a double cheeseburger, then had milkshakes (black raspberry).  We left STUFFED.

Then we all headed over to the Best Western for some bunk time!

Miles hiked Today: 13.3

Miles hiked Total: 393.7

 

 

Days 35 – 41: Hot Springs to Erwin

Day 35 – 4/20

Today, due to Dads shin, Fitbit’s ankle, and Spudz birthday, we decided to take a zero in hot springs.  We briefly looked around for places to stay and settled on a 2nd night at Elmer’s.

We lounged about and drank some beers at two bars.  I worked on getting the blog caught up, which was much easier with a computer it turns out.

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Spudz hanging out in the music room at Elmers.

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This is how the AT is marked through Hot Springs.

We ate dinner at the Iron Horse Tavern and ran into Wilson, who was headed home.  Sadly I didn’t get any pics from that dinner.

Dad wanted to get a head start the next day since there was a big climb AND we wanted to do around 11 miles, so he decided he and Jessica would do breakfast at the diner across the street while I and the rest of our group would do breakfast at Elmer’s.

Day 36 – 4/21

I woke up to Dad and Jessica banging around, but knew I didn’t have to rush anywhere so rolled over and tried to go back to sleep while they cleared out and headed onto the trail.  Eventually I got up and packed up before heading down to breakfast.

Elmer makes as mean a breakfast as he does a dinner – we had omelets, granola, cantaloupe, toast and several other kinds of fruits/juices.

Little Foot wasn’t feeling well and had an appropriate snickers to show how she felt:

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Unfortunately, I couldn’t afford to just hang around all day, so I made my way out to walk the rest of the way through the town and up into the mountains.

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Elmer’s place from the street.

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The AT crosses the French Broad river in Hot Springs before following the bank of the river for a while:

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While I was down here, there were multiple places to camp along the river before the climb.  I ran into James (who is now going by “The Guvnah”) and we saw a river snake swimming along.  Then eventually, I did the climbing:

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Hot Springs from above.

I also ran into an ornery blue bug who looked like he wanted to fight:

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I ran into Dad and Jessica after a few hours and we continued on to the Spring Mountain shelter.

Miles hiked today: 11

Miles hiked total: 284.4

Day 37 – 4/22

Dad decided this morning that even after a day off, his shins weren’t feeling any better, and on our way down to Allen Gap, he decided that the downhill was really hurting, and he would need to come off the trail for a little while to let things heal up.

So, we got him a shuttle from Allen Gap down to Asheville, and we got Tim to agree to come pick him up in Asheville and take him the rest of the way home.  Sadly, while we were on our way down, Jessica slipped in the mud and twisted her knee badly enough that she also felt she needed to come off trail for a while.

Luckily there was a small store right by the road called Mom’s that was open, which allowed me to pig out briefly (mmm Klondike bar) and Dad and Jessica to stay out of the rain.  It rained while we were there.

After about 30 minutes there, we said our see-you-laters, and I headed on (the rest of the group had already gone ahead).  With Dad and Jessica off trail, our options on where to camp and how far to go opened a little bit.
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We passed this weird crypt looking spring (the water was delicious),

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Found this pipe that goes who knows where sticking right out of the trail,

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And found this marker that marks… something?  Very not sure.

Toward the afternoon we got to a good camp spot at mile 295.  It was threatening rain and Air Bud and Fitbit were tired (and Fitbit’s ankle still wasn’t feeling great), so they decided they wanted to stay there for the night.  Spudz, Puns and I wanted to go on and see the views on Firescald Knob before the bad weather hit, as it was going to be raining all the following day.

After some feelings, we parted ways and headed on.

The views from Firescald were absolutely worth doing:

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Looking Ridiculous:

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While we were up there though, weather started to roll in:

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So we beat feet to get to our planned camp spot for the night, Lick Log Gap.  How could we not want to stay there with a name like that?

We made it there, setup our tents, and began to hang our bear bags.  And failed, spectacularly.  Then it started to rain.

Eventually, both Puns and I got our bear lines stuck, and soaked and dejected, got into our tents.  Spudz, showing wisdom beyond his 23 years, held onto his food until it stopped raining briefly around 1am.

Miles hiked Today: 14.4

Miles hiked Total: 298.8

Day 38 – 4/23

It rained almost all night.  It was raining when we got up.  We didn’t want to, but we eventually did.

We saw where Spudz had his tent setup:

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On the right side of that puddle.  He has an REI StormBreaker.  If you want a tent that is actually a boat, his is the tent you want.  He said he stayed dry all night.  Luckily my tent wasn’t setup in a lake, so I was also good to go.  Except it was still raining.

So grumbling, I got into my banana suit and got moving.  We quickly passed the 300 mile marker, and there was a little thing made of twigs, that I completely botched taking a good picture of.  Life in the rain is hard.

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This is my banana suit.

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The trail in the fog and rain.

While we were out we ran into Scooby at one of the shelters.  He said he was getting a ride to his parents house in Johnson City and invited Spudz, Puns and I to join him.  We enthusiastically agreed, because we were all soaked to the bone, and it was actually pretty cold.

We did the 11 miles to Rector Laurel Rd in what felt like record rain walking time, and made our way to the hostel close to the trail.

I only got a blurry pic of the hostel doggo, but it shows the blurry hostel in the background.

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The hostel owner was kind enough to let us come in out of the rain, dry off and change into dry clothes, and then hang out, even though we weren’t planning on staying there.  He also sold us some beers and corn dogs, which were delicious.  Scooby showed up a little while later with his friend Barley.

While we were hanging out and the rain stopped briefly, Spudz and I walked the half mile down to the former Hiker Paradise hostel.  Thankfully, we were able to get our boxes even though the hostel wasn’t open this year (they were listed in AWOL though, which is why we sent stuff there).

The arrangement to get to Johnson City was a little complicated, as Scooby and Barley were getting a ride to Barley’s car in Hot Springs, the Barley was coming back for us.  They got picked up around 5 – 5:30.  Around 7:30 I was beginning to believe were were just going to have to crash at the hostel.  Barley apparently had been having adventures of his own though, as he showed up to grab us around 8pm.

We headed the hour or so to Scooby’s house and were greeted by a late dinner by Scooby’s very wonderful parents Priscilla and John.  After eating our fill, John helped us hang up our soaking tents in their garage:

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Then we crashed out.  I got to sleep on their couch upstairs with their very cuddly doggo:

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Miles hiked Today IN THE RAIN: 11.2

Miles hiked Total: 310.0

Day 39 – 4/24

While we were in Johnson City, we had to eat at Pals, which is one of their local chains:

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They only do drive through.  It was very tasty.

Spudz, Puns and I took some time to plan out our potential next few days, and made a plan to get to just past Erwin.

After kicking around Scooby’s house and eventually getting our act together, we headed back to the trail around 2pm.

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Doggo was sad to see us go.

We got out there around 3:30 and luckily decided to just head to Hogback Ridge Shelter.  Unluckily, it was basically one big climb.

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Walking along a very old barbed wire fence.

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So old that this tree completely ate it ages ago.

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We made it to the shelter pretty late, but still before dark.  There Air Bud and Young Fitbit were waiting for us there.  They’d only done 5 miles the day it poured raining all day, and did a full day to this shelter.

There was a fire going when we arrived and after setting up our tents (I setup mine slightly apart from everyone else, slightly down the blue blaze water trail), we ate dinner and socialized around the fire.  We met some SOuthBOunders (SOBOs) who had recently picked up their hikes after coming off for the winter.

As it got dark, the fog got really soupy, and since I’d setup my tent apart from everyone else, it was a struggle to find it — gray tent, gray fog.  Took me about 10 minutes longer than it should have done.  Thankfully, I found it and got in, and konked out quickly.

Miles hiked Today: 5.8

Miles hiked Total: 315.8

Day 40 – 4/25

Today was muddy.  Very very muddy,  Almost first thing, I climbed “Big Bald”.  It was like climbing a mountain of slippery mud.  It was exhausting.  Way way more exhausting than the distance/elevation should have made it.

I hiked on the way up with Patch, HoneyBee and TSquared.

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The view from the top of big bald.

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From left to right: HoneyBee, TSquared, Me, and Patch.

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Muuuuuuuuud.

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Weird twisty tree.

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Weird lumpy tree.

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We stayed tonight at Whistling Gap.  At this point all of us were back together except Jessica and Dad.  We were joined this night also by two older gentlemen and a German guy named Sweetheart.  He earned this name by calling everyone sweetheart, forever.

Miles hiked Today: 13.6

Miles hiked Total: 329.4

Day 41 – 4/26

We started today planning on doing our resupply in Erwin and heading on.. and quickly decided to just stay the night at Uncle Johnnys when Air Bud got a cabin there.  It would be a full day of hiking as it was, and it was only $20 for a bed for the night.

First thing today, we climbed up “High Rocks” and got some awesome views of valley fog:

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Trail was still muddy today:

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We saw down into Erwin about 2 miles before we were actually down there.  The main view from where we were is the Nolichucky River:

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I’d left or dropped my water bottle a few miles back, so when spudz caught up to me (after taking a nap at No Business Knob Shelter), I asked him to stick near me to make sure I made it down OK,  Puns eventually caught up to us as well and we saw this view together.  The first thing I said was that I was getting in that ASAP.

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We hoofed it the final 2 miles down and got checked into Uncle Johnnys.  First thing we saw on getting down into town was this tree eating these poles.

Spudz first order of business was to check out their collection of VHS tapes.

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My first order of business was getting a good pic of their doggo, Jerry Garcia.

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Followed quickly with borrowing a bike and getting some beer from the store a mile and a half down the road.  This radio station had a giant field of flowers that were being mowed by a monster.

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Then I came back and hung out in the hammock while having a beer.

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Then I remembered my river view thought and started asking questions.  Just jumping in was out since the current looked pretty quick, and getting dragged off to wherever the Nolichucky goes wasn’t on my to do list.  I learned that there was a recreation area not too far away, and y’all and I took biked over and jumped in.  I actually got wholly in, and it was pretty cold, as rivers in spring often are.  It felt wonderful though.

We hung out and ordered calzones for dinner, and drank the rest of our beers.

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Left to right: Y’all, HoneyBee, Air Bud, and Spudz

To wind down the night, we watched Kill Bill and then crashed out.

Miles hiked Today: 13.3

Miles hiked Total: 342.7

Days 28 – 34 – Smoky Mountains Pt 2 – Newfound Gap to Hot Springs

Day 28 – 4/13 – Zero day in Gatlinburg!

One thing I realized I forgot to mention in the last posting was that Wilson, a guy we’d been hiking with off and on for a while twisted his ankle pretty badly coming down off of Clingmans Dome.  His companions Tin Man and Iron Man were pressing on while he went into Gatlingburg to ice it and see what could be done.  Since I knew he would be alone and it would be just the three of us in a 2 queen bed room at the motel 6, I reached out to him and asked him to join us, both to cut our costs and to keep him from dropping $50 on a solo room if he didn’t want to — he decided to join us.

I like Wilson and while he was mostly like, “I think I may have to go home,” I definitely pushed him to wait and see before he headed all the way home to Mass.  So when we all got up on the 13th, Wilson essentially said he didn’t think he could do the Smokies, since you MUST camp at shelters, but he would skip ahead to standing bear and do short days until he felt better.

So for breakfast, we ate at the recommended-by-everyone “Breakfast Camp” restaurant in Gatlingburg.  I ended up getting one of the skillet meals, which was ridiculously big.

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After failing to eat this monstrous amount of food, we went back to the motel 6 and checked out and began our wait for mom to arrive.

We passed the time looking around the NOC store in Gatlinburg.  I unfortunately couldn’t find my hat — I’m guessing I left it in the car of the lady who gave us a hitch down into town.  I felt bad because she mentioned that she wasn’t going to tell her husband for a few days she gave us a hitch, so I hope that didn’t cause any problems for her.

I looked around in vain for a new hat, but nothing REALLY caught my attention.  We looked at the other gear there and dad waffled about potentially buying a new tent — we all basically yelled at him to just stick with what he had or get something else from REI.  If he’s not careful he’ll blow his entire budget buying tents.

After playing around in the NOC for a while we bought some sodas and sat on the porch drinking them and talking plans.  Jessica and Dad eventually decided that they would skip ahead to Standing Bear Hostel (after the Smokies) and go slowly to allow time for her ankle to feel better.  I would go back to Newfound Gap and catch up to them as quickly as I could.

That decision made, I wandered a bit around Gatlinburg and searched for other hats that could replace the one I lost.  This one was considered and discarded as retaining too much moisture:

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Finding a new hiking hat is hard.

Also Little Foot and Moonshine were hanging out in town for the day, so we all had a few beers (this place had $1 woodchucks!) while we waited for Mom.

Mom eventually arrived like the cavalierly she is, and we met her at the Hampton, got checked in, and went off to do Laundry.

While Laundry was going, I also considered a new hiking shirt:

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Figured it was a little too tight, will revisit when I’ve lost a little more weight.

Had dinner with Mom, Little Foot, and Moonshine at the Smoky Mountain Brewery, then FINALLY FOUND MY LONG SOUGHT HOT TUB!!!!

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It was glorious.

Day 29 – 4/14 – Back on the trail

We got up and checked out, then grabbed Moonshine and headed up to Newfound Gap.  We got our pic at the state line (that I put in the last post), said our see-you-laters, and I headed out.

I left around 10:00 am with plans to spend the night Peck’s Corner shelter (about 10 miles down trail).  I got to Icewater Springs Shelter pretty quickly and found entries in the shelter log that the gang finally caught up to Yall (who had jumped ahead to meet her boyfriend in Gatlinburg):

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I discovered that when I’m not around friends, I take more pictures of just trail forward / views, so here’s a few of those:

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I also made friends with a little blue bird:

While hiking a guy named stretch caught up to me.  I decided to push my pace a little to keep up with him and talk for a while.  He went fast, but I was able to keep up, at least until I got to the shelter.

When we got there, it was only like 2:30 or 3pm.  I checked my water and the guide book and decided to go ahead and push on to Tri-corner.  Stretch did too, but I didn’t think I could keep his pace all the way there so I said see you later.

I got to Tri-corner knob shelter about 6:30 pm and got guilted by the ridgerunner to sleep in the shelter.  Right around then, we got the only rain I experienced in the smokies, a quick shower that lasted about 15 minutes.  The Colonel and U-turn were there, as well as stretch, but otherwise it was a bunch of folks I hadn’t met before.  Everyone crashed out around 8:30 as it got dark.

Miles hiked Today: 15.1

Miles hiked Total: 221.9

 

Day 30 – 4/15 – Blasting out of the smokies 

Woke up today really early – about 6:30 — and got packed and on the trail by around 7:20.  Spudz had sent me a text that they spent the night last night at Cosby Knob shelter, which was 7.7 miles north.  I figured if I hurried, I could get there before they even left for the day.

One of the first things I saw was this old helicopter pad that was on the ridge:

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It was weird to find this concrete thing up there.

Some nice views down into the valleys to the north:20170415_084419.jpg

I got to Cosby around 11, but they had beat me out.  Convinced they hadn’t left too long ago, I pushed on, hoping that they’d take a nap at the Mt. Cammerer fire tower and I’d catch them then.  I talked with some day hikers and inquired about “two dudes in round cone shaped hats” and he said yes they’d  been at the fire tower the same time as him.  Since I was still about 2 miles away, I wasn’t sure if I’d catch them or not, but figured I’d try anyway.

The whole day, there was a lot of ridge walking.  It was nice that the trees greenery hadn’t come in yet as I was able to see out and see mountains on both sides, only through the trees.  It’s a really pretty sight and wonderful to walk through, but doesn’t translate to picture form very well, so I’ll just have to remember it.

When I got to the side trail to Mt. Cammerer fire tower (which is 0.6 miles long), I dropped my pack and headed over to it.

Sadly, no Spudz or AirBud were evident.  The fire tower was super nice though, the view was amazing.

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I had a snack there and headed on.  Figuring that I wouldn’t catch the group, I slowed my pace a little bit.  I was still hoping that they’d be camping at Davenport Gap Shelter that night.  Sadly, shortly after I got a text saying they were pushing on to Standing Bear, so I figured I would just push on to there and have a Pizza that night.

 

And then made it out of the Smokies.  It was super awesome to be up there.  The weather was amazing.  I count myself very lucky that I didn’t get snowed on or rained on the entire time I was there.

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When I was about to go under I-40, I was walking with World Champion, a german guy who is thru hiking.  We saw some people rafting down a river we went over and we were both super jealous.

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Had to go up some scary stairs. 20170415_171440.jpg

I got to Standing Bear about 6:30 and was greeted by the whole crew, including Y’all.  Sadly she said she was going off trail for a while due to shoe issues and her boyfriend was picking her up shortly.  I knew that would upset Jessica, but Y’all assured us that she’d be back as soon as she could.

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I had a few Fat Tire beers and ordered a pizza, got my box and played with their two Boston Terriers.  One of them would go get a rock and put it on your shoe, trying to get you to play fetch.  With a rock.

He loved it though.

This is the doggo:

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Y’all’s boyfriend Joe came through and introductions were done.  Then he gave me a ride back to the nearby blue blaze trail we were all going to camp on.  I setup my tent and headed back up to standing bear to hang out and wait for my pizza.  The thing about Standing Bear’s pizza system is that they can only cook one pizza at a time, there’s a 20 minute wait per pizza, and there was a stack of 6 before mine.  So I got my pizza about 9pm.  I ate one piece and put the rest in a ziplock for the morning, annoyed.  Lesson here is, check first if your pizza will take 2 1/2 hours before buying it.

Miles hiked Today: 19.6

Miles hiked Total: 240.3

 

Day 31 – 4/16 – Post Smokies Reunion Hiking

Today started with some trail magic.  We’d camped on a blue blaze trail just outside standing bear farm and a lady named Maple Leaf drove up as she was being dropped off to slackpack for the day.  The road was on the other side of the small stream we’d been camping near, but far enough (and down enough) that she’d have to throw what she was giving us.  Turned out what she was giving us was cokes, everyone except Otto said yes.  So Maple Leaf’s getting her cokes out of the back of this truck and tossing them all over to me.  One lands well short of me and goes down into the creek.  Another bounces off a log in front of me and hits me in the chin.  So sweet, face coke!

It was OK though since she’d brought her dog, “Yankee”, with her to hike for the day.

I said happy easter to everybody and shared around the mini cadbury eggs that Jessica had bought me in Gatlinburg.  I don’t know if that’s what she had in mind when she bought them, but I kind of doubt it.  Regardless — Jessica for the win!

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Otto started hiking super early that morning and Punz got ahead of us pretty quickly, so it was mostly just Spudz, Fitbit, Airbud, and I hiking together today.  We got 2nd trail magic on top of Snowbird Peak, which has a weird FAA tower.

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They had chairs set out and all kinds of stuff.  We all had peanut butter and banana sandwiches and some water and soda.  They also had oreo balls, which were crushed up oreos, cream cheese, dipped in white chocolate.  They were seriously delicious.

One thing that I thought was really cool was looking back south the way we’d come, you were able to see where where we’d been.

The sharp point between the guy standing and the guy sitting down in this picture is the Mt. Cammerer fire tower I visited the day before (day 30).  Running to the left of it are the rest of the Smokies.

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That’s where I’d been.  This is where I was going.

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The slightly lighter area on the mountain dead center of this photo is Max Patch, a giant bald we were going to be climbing later this day.

Another view from up here down into the valleys:

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Also, started seeing way more vegetation that was green around today.

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Saw a weird tree:

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And also several trees that had fallen and had their root systems pulled up.  This is something I really enjoy seeing so I often get pics.

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When we got to the road crossing immediately before Max Patch, there was today’s 3rd trail magic.  It was several ladies who had previously done a thru.  We found out later Otto went to college (at the same time, but didn’t know, but had multiple friends in common) as one of them.  As we were talking with them, it started raining, and we decided to go ahead and camp down there instead of on Max Patch.  It eventually stopped raining, and the sunset through the trees was beautiful.  I suspect that it would’ve been better on Max Patch, but hey what can you do.  We resolved to go to bed semi-early and get up and do sunrise on Max Patch.

I should also point out that the group picked up a dude named Scooby that I had met previously, who stayed with us this night.

Miles hiked Today: 12.5

Miles hiked Total: 252.8

 

 

Day 32 – 4/17 – Post Max Patch Reunion Hiking

Today, we got up super early as we intended, grumbled extensively about it, and eventually hauled our butts out of our sleeping bags and tents, packed up, and headed up to Max Patch.  On the up side, we finally got to do some NIGHT HIKING!!

The sunrise up there was exceptionally beautiful.

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The group after eating breakfast waiting for the sun to come up.

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The money shot.

After Max Patch, our plan was to hike to the Walnut Mountain Shelter.  On our way, we passed by the Roaring Fork shelter, and low and behold, found Dad and Jessica, plus the family of 7 just finishing packing up for the morning.

So we all reunited, told some stories about our time apart, and headed on.

When we got to Walnut Mountain Shelter, Dad, Jessica, Air Bud, Spudz, and Fitbit all jumped into the shelter and I setup my tent higher up on the ridge.

The forecast called for sporadic storms but we didn’t see anything coming, so we started a fire and hung out talking near the shelter.  At one point, the sky darkened, then just dumped rain on us for about 10 minutes.  As soon as it started I threw the remainder of the wood on the fire and we all hopped under the shelter.  The fire survived the downpour and we came out, taunted the sky, and continued putzing around for a while.

Maybe 2 hours later, the sky darkened again and I thought to myself, hey I’m gonna get in my tent this time, said, “Uhhh CYA!” to the guys, and headed up to my tent.  About halfway there it started raining, so I hoofed it the rest of the way.

I got a little leakage in my tent, and weirdly had service here, so I did a chat with TarpTent and after sending them pictures of my pitch, they made some recommendations that helped.  I got rain again that night but no further leakage.  I’m going to re-seam seal that portion regardless.

Miles hiked Today: 7.5

Miles hiked Total: 260.3

 

Day 33 – 4/18

Spudz started today by melting a hole in his heat holding package.

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Today, we waffled about if we should go all the way to Hot Springs, or stop at the shelter just before.

We decided one, decided the other, then decided not to decide until we got to the shelter just before.

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As I was back with the fam, Jessica and I did some hiking together.

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The vegetation was really starting to come in too.

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The trillium was blooming.

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I thought this plant was cool with the water beading up on it instead of pooling.  Not sure what it is.

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Jessica wanted us to stop and take a picture since this sign had miles to both Springer and Mt. Katahdin.  My face didn’t cooperate.

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Then we fought about it.

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Ultimately, when we got to Deer Park Shelter, Fitbit strongly didn’t want to keep going, so we all settled in and did the night there.

Miles hiked Today: 9.9

Miles hiked Total: 270.2

Day 34 – 4/19 – TO HOT SPRINGS!!

Today, we got up pretty early, and got going.  Hot springs was only 3 miles away!  HOT BREAKFAST WAS ONLY 3 MILES AWAY.

Air Bud and Fitbit slept in, but Dad, Jessica, Spudz and I made our way directly into Hot Springs.

On our way in, we were passed going south by Pyro and Tank.  It was Pyro’s 32nd birthday so he was recreating a portion of his previous thru hike.  To celebrate, he was bringing and giving beers!  Trail magic!

Another trail magic beer consumed before noon!

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Once we got to Hot Springs, we made our way directly into the Smoky Mountain Diner, directly into a booth, and got coffee and skillet plates.

Looking down into town from the trail:

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Here’s dad coming down some stairs into Hot Springs:

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Otto and Puns had apparently come into town the night before, but came into the diner as we finished eating and took over our table.  I couldn’t come close to finishing my breakfast, so I took it with me.

After breakfast we checked into Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn.  This place is wonderful. I highly recommend to anyone who’s ever in Hot Springs for any reason whatsoever.

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Outside was this extremely regal looking kitty who really enjoyed getting pats.

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We did our laundry and said our hellos to other hikers we knew in town.  This is an EXTREMELY SMALL TOWN.  The trail passes right through the whole thing, on the town’s one main street.

Elmer makes gourmet vegetarian dinners for his guests for $12, so we all signed up.  It was honestly wonderful.  Most of the guests came and ate, all together at one table.  It was a nice experience, and the food was wonderful:

  • Vegetable soup with lentils and brussels sprouts
  • Giant garden salad with home made peppercorn dressing
  • Bowtie pasta in a tomato sauce with all kinds of veggies
  • Some kind of sweet custard seeming pie for desert

The beds were wonderful, and after stepping outside to talk with Carol for a while, I came back in and directly fell right to sleep.

Miles hiked Today:

Miles hiked Total: 3.1

Miles hiked Total: 273.3