Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Day 32, Wednesday March 31, 2021


Job 1 - 4

Stealth campsite to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel- 2 miles - Total AT miles hiked - 344.3.

Short hiking day today as we headed into Erwin, TN to hunker down for a couple of days as some nasty weather passes.  We struck camp before the sun was fully up, and hiked down off of the mountain and into Johnny’s hostel.  We had secured a 2 person cabin for two nights until the sub freezing temperatures and snowy conditions passed. 

We made it to the hostel before 9 and caught their shuttle into town, since our “cabin” (really just a set of bunk beds in a shed) wasn’t ready yet.  We had breakfast at McDonalds, as they surprisingly did not have a local diner of any sort available.  After breakfast we stopped at the post office to pick up a couple of packages, and then stopped in Walgreens and the grocery store for a few supplies.  Then it was the hostel shuttle back to Uncle Johnny’s to check in.

The afternoon was spent doing laundry, showering (a hot shower is such a luxury now!), and reorganizing gear.  At 4:30, the shuttle again took us to another part of town where dinner options and the local Walmart is located.  We opted for Italian and I enjoyed a lasagna.  Two other senior hikers joined us for dinner (part of the large over 55 contingent currently in the bubble we are part of).  After dinner, a run through Walmart for additional food resupply and then back to the hostel to call it a night.

Tomorrow we’ll visit the local outfitter to see about some potential equipment updates.  My sleeping pad has sprung a leak and I may have to replace it if the patch job I did today doesn’t hold.  Tomorrow will tell the tale.

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Day 31, Tuesday March 30, 2021


Esther 1 - 10 ... for just such a time as this...

Bald mountain shelter to a stealth site on the hillside 1.8 miles outside of Erwin, TN. 15 miles hiked today - 342.3 AT miles hiked to date.

Another beautiful day for hiking. Clear and sunny with lots of sunshine and highs approaching 70.  Not too many steep climbs today as most of the day entailed coming down off of the high ridge line preparing to enter the next trail town, Erwin, Tennessee.

Today as I listened to my daily Bible reading, this time from the book of Ester, I was struck by the verse where Ester is told that she had been put in the position that she was in for “just such a time as this”.  While I have no illusion that it was God who prompted me to undertake this trek, I have no doubt that He is using me for His glory as I am on this walk in the woods. As is always the case when you allow Him to, He has given me multiple opportunities to share my faith in Christ on almost a daily basis.  From sharing my trip’s foundational scripture almost every time I give the meaning of my trail name (Isaiah 43:19), to talking about Family Promise, to discussions about mission trips, to sharing about the work of Samaritan’s Purse and the BGEA, to sharing what Centerpoint church is up to in my home community, the list goes on and on.  Some are receptive and enjoy talking along these lines, many are not.  Either way, I try to be faithful with what God puts on my heart every day.

After a full day of climbs and descents (more of the latter than the former fortunately), conversations with interesting people along the way (and there are a lot of interesting people on the trail), and natural beauty all around, we pulled up short of Erwin and set up camp for the night. Dinner was a couple of tuna on tortilla shell sandwiches, as the food bag is finally about empty.  We replenish in town tomorrow (I’m out of Snickers!).

The plan is to take a Nero tomorrow and a Zero on Thursday as the weather is about to turn ugly.  Wednesday is supposed to be torrential downpours turning into snow Thursday, and lows to be in the teens. We’ll be hunkered down in a hiker hostel cabin (Uncle Johnny’s) for the next two days until it’s safe to hike in Friday.  Laundry and showers to look forward to.  Fortunately the cost of a no frills hostel is less than half of a motel.

Until next time...

Day 30, Monday March 29, 2021

Nehemiah 1 - 13

Hogback Ridge campsite to Bald Mountain shelter campsite- 10 miles - 327.4 total AT miles hiked.

In case I hadn’t mentioned it before, hiking (especially long trail hiking like the AT) is hard.  It’s also simultaneously wondrous, challenging, uplifting, dispiriting, amazing, tedious, and beautiful.  Every morning is like getting up to go to work at a job you love (or so I’ve been told). You begin each day with anticipation of the challenges, wonders, and excitement that each new dawn promises, and then deal with the circumstances and obstacles as required.  At the end of the day, you experience a feeling of accomplishment from knowing you did your best and met the daily goal you set out for yourself.

That said, today broke sunny and cold.  It froze overnight with temperatures in the high 20’s. Everything was frozen including my shoes which were solid blocks of ice.  It took longer than usual to pack out as we had to wait for the sun to thaw everything.

Leaving camp around 9:30, we decided to make it a short day and hike 10 miles to the next shelter.  It was clear and cool, warming up as the morning progressed. 2 miles down the trail, I came across an inspiring sight. A plaque had been erected by the Moye family who had given this section of land to the forest service (see picture). On it each family member had inscribed a scripture reference.  They ascribed “this part of the Appalachian Trail as a manifestation of the glory of Christ Jesus our Lord”.  My feeling exactly.

From there, as I crossed a road at Sam’s Gap I was greeted by trail magic.  A former thru hiker/Marine was cooking scrambled eggs and hash browns with ginger cookies and sodas.  A great way to start the day.  Hiking was good in the morning as the trail mud was frozen and crusty and easy to walk on.

After crossing under I-26, the afternoon was not as easy hiking as the sun had melted the frozen trail and we were back to hiking through mud.  We also had two large mountains to crest, and including Big Bald mountain, a 5500 ft behemoth that took us to an incredible overview of the surrounding area.

From there it was an easy hike to the shelter which I arrived at by 4:30.  Setup, dinner, and then a couple of hours listening to the rambling talk of the crew spending the night in the shelter.  Finally things got quiet well after hiker midnight (currently about 9 pm).

Until next time...

Monday, March 29, 2021

Day 29, Sunday March 28, 2021


Ezra 1 - 10

Jerry Cabin Shelter campsite to Hogback Ridge shelter campsite - 15.7 miles - 317.5 total AT miles hiked.

Well I guess they can’t all be sunshine and clear days.  Woke this morning to a continuing rain,  which hadn’t let up since yesterday.  Packed up the tent in the rain , adding about 2 pounds to the pack from the retained water.  Headed out around 8 am, with another 15+ mile day planned.

Progress was slow, often leaning into 40 mph gusts and driving rain.  Hiking up the mountains felt like trying to climb a mudslide.  Downhills consisted of slipping and sliding through a torrent of muddy water.  All in all, not a pleasant experience, but all part of the adventure.  To top it off, on top of Big Butt Mountains (that’s what the sign said) I encountered was another technical, requiring clambering over boulders and rock outcroppings while accounting for the prevailing winds and slick conditions.  I felt like a contestant on some deranged reality show.

However, I survived the morning and ended up at Flint Mountain Shelter for lunch (PBJ).  It was about half way to our intimate destination for the day. Stayed for half an hour and saw about 15 other thru hikers come and go.  Most I had seen or met along the way.  

After lunch , I headed back out into the drizzle and continued on.  Rick had caught up to me by then (I’d started earlier than he had).  As we crossed a road at the bottom of one of the hills, there was fresh fruit left by a trail angel.  I had an orange and Rick had a banana.  Shortly thereafter we can across the Laurel Hostel, so decided to check it out.  It was about as bare bones an operation you could imagine, with a 3 sets of 2x4 bunk beds and a refrigerator with minimal supplies.  After drinking a Coke, we headed on.

The rest of the afternoon was more rain and dropping temperatures.  By the time I reached camp at about 5:30, it had stopped raining, but had gotten considerably colder.  Forecast for the night was for below freezing temperatures, which would be the case for the next several days at night.  Quickly setting up camp and eating dinner, I called it a night, knowing I’d wake to frozen clothes and shoes.  Oh joy!

Until next time...

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Day 28, Saturday March 27, 2021


2nd Chronicles 1 - 36

Spring Mountain shelter campsite to Jerry Cabin shelter campsite - 16 miles / almost 10 hours of hiking- AT mile 301.8.

Today was certainly a long and diverse day of hiking.  We got up early as a small group of the 15 or so other hikers at the shelter area decided that 6 am was the time the entire camp should arise.  Since it was not possible to sleep with the noise they were making, we went ahead and packed up and headed out as dawn was breaking.

The skies were overcast with the promise of rain later in the day.  We hiked the morning with moderate temperatures in the 60s.  By lunchtime we had arrived at the Little Laurel shelter about 8 miles in, so we stopped there for lunch.  I had skipped a trail magic opportunity a short while before (with donuts and hot chocolate) as I need to eat what I was carrying to lighten my load.

During lunch the skies started to really darken, and rain was on the way.  Several times I heard the phrase “no rain, no Maine” from others lunching at the shelter.  Apparently a common saying on the trail.  Donning my rain jacket and putting on my pack cover I started up the 1.7 mile climb up Camp Creek Bald just as the rain let loose.  In less than 10 minutes, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and the wind picked up.  Soon, the rain was blowing horizontally and progress up the mountain was slow.  I had to stop every couple of hundred yards as I passed a big tree to get a wind/driving rain break for a few minutes before moving on.  It lasted about an hour.

Just as the rain was breaking I came across the 2nd trail magic of the day.  A guy who had hiked the trail in 2007 had a canopy set up right on the trail and was handing out snacks and other food.  He was already out of sodas, but I did have a tootsie roll.

Moving on, I started another climb that took us over Big Firescald Knob, a rocky and strenuous section referred to as a technical.  It entailed climbing boulders and rock outcroppings hand over hand both up and down.  Here we were rock climbing vs any hiking.  However, once at the top, the views were worth the effort, as the rain abated long enough to enjoy them.

From there, more rain as we pounded out the rest of the way to the planned campsite at Jerry Cabin Shelter.  Just before making camp, we crossed the 300 mile point.  

For those of you supporting Family Promise through the hiking challenge, your running liability at a penny a mile is now $3.00.  If you accepted Edwina’s call out at $.05/mile, you’re at $15.00 and counting.  I know some have pledged even more, and for that I’m thankful.  A reminder that every penny raised goes to Family Promise.  

Set up the tent around 5:30 in the rain, cooked some 3 Bean Chili and hot chocolate and hunkered down for the night.

Until next time...

Friday, March 26, 2021

Day 27, Friday March 26, 2021


1 Chronicles 13 - 29

Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Spings NC to Spring Mountain Shelter campsite - 11 miles - 286 total AT miles hiked.

After a deluge of rain all day and night yesterday, the morning broke clear and sunny.  With temperatures in the 60’s it was a perfect day for hiking.

We packed up and left the hostel around 8:30, heading into town.  We were dropping off boxes at the post office of things we were sending home.  It didn’t open until 9, so we stopped by the Dollar General and picked up a pint of ice cream each for breakfast.  Have to fuel the engines.  

Once we’d taken care of the PO duties, we headed out of Hot Springs, crossing the French Broad river.  All of the rain had caused the river to overflow its banks by about 6 - 10 feet.  Once we passed over the river and started down the path, it was apparent the the AT was under several feet  of flowing river water.  Although possibly passable, we elected to take the alternate route up the other side of the cliff we had to climb, using the Silver Mine trail.  It was the former route of the AT prior to rerouting several years ago.  It intersected the AT about half mile on. 

The rest of the day was pleasant with highs in the mid 70s and several interesting sites.  We climbed a fire tower on top of Rich Mountain with typical 360 degree views.  Saw a cool dammed up pond, and lots of spring greenery.  At one point I was saying my daily prayer of thanks after listening to the audio Bible reading for the day and looked down to see this: 

We arrived at the campsite just after 4, and set up tents. After securing and filtering water, we had dinner (summer sausage, hard cheese, and Ritz), and turned in for the night.  Tomorrow is a 15 mile day.

Until next time...

Day 26, Thursday March 25, 2021


1 Chronicles 1 - 12

NERO (near zero miles) day.  Deer Park Mountain Shelter to the Laughing Heart Hostel in Hot Springs, NC.  3 miles hiked.  275 total AT miles hiked.

Got up early to a cloudy morning and headed for Hot Springs, trying to beat the rain.  Hot Springs is the first town that the trail goes right through.  Just made it as the day long deluge hit later that morning as we ate breakfast. 

Arrived at the Laughing Heart Hostel around 9 and secured a room for the night for $30, a very reasonable rate.  We dropped our packs and headed further into town, seeking out the semi-famous Smoky Mountain Diner.  We met up with Blizzard and V8 and had breakfast.  I had the largest Country Fried steak I’d ever seen (along with biscuits and gravy, bacon, and hash browns).  I ate every bite.  Did I mention that I’ve lost about 10 lbs so far despite packing away 3000 - 4000 calories a day?  Amazing what 7 - 8 hours of strenuous activity carrying 35 pounds on your back.

After breakfast we went back to the hostel a d checked into our room. Large, roomy, and comfortable.  We were able to shower and do laundry, as well as reorganize our gear before heading back out.  That afternoon we did a resupply at the local outfitter and Dollar General.

Now laden with trail food (tuna, spam, fresh PB and jelly, dehydrated meals, crackers, and Snickers), we headed back to de-package and repack the food.

I also filled a box of things I’m sending home, including my chair, which broke a support strut and is no longer stable.  I lightened my load by a couple more pounds. Rick is sending a box home as well. We’ll stop by the post office on the way out of town tomorrow.

For dinner, we ate at the local pub the Spring Creek Tavern.  I had BBQ pork sandwich and the largest serving of tater tots I’ve ever seen.  Town food is always a treat after multiple days on the trail.

Tomorrow we’ll head out around 9, drop our packages and head on up the trail, with an 11 mile hiking plan for the day.

Until next time...

Day 148, Sunday July 25, 2021

                   Zero day at Hikers Welcome hostel As planned, we took today as a zero, waiting out the thunderstorms and letting our bodi...