Friday, September 27, 2019

2019 App Trail Thru Hike: Finished: Hiawassee GA to Springer Mtn GA

I finally finished the AT Thru Hike I started way back on April 3rd.  It was a rich, robust, and rewarding experience. There were many enjoyable moments, but I wouldn't call it "fun". It was quite a journey and a real mental and physical challenge.
Day 171
Time: Sat, 21 Sep 2019 21:57:56
Location: Henson Cove B & B Mile 2125.9 of Appalachian Trail

Helen and I stayed at the Henson Cove Bed and Breakfast in Hiawassee last night. We had a really nice breakfast and talked with a couple from Charlotte who are house hunting in the area.

We hung around and relaxed on the porch and talked with our hosts, Mariah and Dave. We petted the horse in the pasture across the street.

We went into town and visited the Trailful store, which is a neat outfitter. They were really nice and we chatted about the trail and their cool conversion van parked out front.

We browsed around a boutique and joked that the ladies in there would never camp in the woods. Different strokes for different folks.

I had lunch at McDonald's while Helen watched and ate some of my fries. We went to Dollar General and got some trail food. Then we got peanut butter shakes at Dairy Queen.

We relaxed a little at the B&B and then went to a local brew pub for dinner. They had live music outside so we stayed in the small bar area inside to escape the noise, but then they propped the door open so it was loud anyway. The place was filling up for the Georgia vs Notre Dame football game. Not a good choice for us. My burger was pretty good at least.

We swung by Dairy Queen so I could get a vanilla soft serve cone and then went back to the B&B and had some yummy chocolate covered strawberries and wine. Helen keeps nudging us towards the wine thing, but that just seems like a whole world I'm not sure I want in my head. It was pretty tasty with the strawberries though.

We're meeting Derek in the morning and he's going to hike with me a couple of days.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.93132%2C-83.68941

Sent from the Guthook's AT Guide app
Day 172
Time: Sun, 22 Sep 2019 18:23:11
Location: Tray Mountain Shelter Mile 2133.8 of Appalachian Trail

Helen and I spent last night at the Henson Cove Bed and Breakfast in Hiawassee GA. We had another delicious breakfast and chatted with our hosts, Mariah and Dave.

We drove to Unicoi Gap and met Derek. He's hiking with me for a couple days from Dick's Creek Gap in Hiawassee to Unicoi Gap. He met a hiker named Ben and told him we would give him a ride into town. Ben started on the Penhote Trail and is hiking north. We dropped him at the Dollar General and then went to McDonald's for lunch.

We finalized plans for Helen, Derek, and maybe Adam to meet me at Springer Mountain on Thursday afternoon and then we're staying the night at Amicalola Falls Lodge to celebrate the completion of my thru hike.

We drove to Dick's Creek Gap and Helen walked with Derek and I for awhile and then we said goodbye to her and hiked on.

Derek and I hiked 11 miles to Tray Mountain Shelter. It was a pretty day but there was a lot of climbing. We stopped at the shelter and talked with two section hikers who started at Springer. We got some nice cold water from the piped spring nearby and then set up our tents on the ridge near the shelter.

Derek called Madison and then took a nap. I called home and talked to Helen.

I ate some loaded baked potato instant mashed potatoes and sweet and spicy tuna out of a ziplock bag. It's amazing how much water instant mashed potatoes can soak up.

We sat out on a rock outcrop at sunset with two other guys and talked. One if the guys is the section hiker we met at the shelter. He talked about starting in the rain and having to take multiple days off in Dahlonega for his foot blisters to heal. He also told us about hitting a deer on his motorcycle. The other guy is set up in a tent near us. He's an EMT from Kennesaw who attempted a SoBo thru hike last year but had to get off in Pennsylvania. He's really nice and we talked with him about the trail and life. His trail name is Big Peach. He's going to Unicoi Gap also. We stayed out until 9:30 and watched all the stars come out and the lights come on in the valley below.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.80365%2C-83.67738

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Day 173
Time: Mon, 23 Sep 2019 17:30:56
Location: Low Gap Shelter Mile 2149.2 of Appalachian Trail

Derek and I spent last night at the Tray Mountain Shelter. We tented on the ridge and stargazed and chatted with a couple other guys.

The sky glowed red over the valley below as the sun rose. 

We finished the climb over Tray Mountain and then had another climb over Rocky Mountain. We got stung by yellow jackets along the way. Derek got stung once on the neck. I got stung on both calfs. It's not unusual to see comments in Guthook about people getting stung. I've only been stung one other time on my hike. Just one more thing to deal with on the trail.

We saw Ben, the older guy we gave a ride to yesterday. He said that after he resupplied at Dollar General a couple offered to take him to get a shower and clean up. He commented how people are so nice.

He's from Opelika AL and has a wedding to go to in North Georgia in October, so he decided to walk. He's almost there.

Derek and I hiked 5 miles to Unicoi Gap where Derek's car was parked. We had a pretty drive into the kitschy Alpine themed town of Helen where we went to Wendy's for lunch. Burger, fries, soda, coffee, and frosty. I was reluctant to toss my big soda cup in the trash on the way out because I knew I would want more ice cold soda later in the day while I was hiking.

Derek drove me back to the trail and we hugged and said our goodbyes. It's nice that I'll see him again on Thursday.

It was really nice to hike with Derek. It's a real treat to listen to him and get caught up on his life while we walk. I missed him while I hiked alone later in the day.

I hiked 15 miles to Low Gap Shelter. I'm the only one here. There was some ridge walking along scraggly rocks and a lot of loose rock on the trail. Thankfully most of it is flat loose rock and not the round rocks that roll out from under you. They're still annoying. I'm ready to cruise home through softly padded rhodendron tunnels along cool refreshing cascading rivers and streams.

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.77619%2C-83.82439

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Day 174
Time: Tue, 24 Sep 2019 19:41:25
Location: Lance Creek Restoration Area mile 2168.2 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Low Gap Shelter alone. Lots of sweat drenched climbs today including Blood Mountain, the highest point in GA on the AT. I want Georgia to be easier. People are leaving water jugs at road crossings, which helps when it's warm and water is drying up.

I stopped in Neels Gap at the Mountain Crossings outfitter. There was a lot of activity as usual. I did a shakedown there and bought a lot of my gear there before my hike. They were really nice and we talked about the trail and my hike. They gave me a free soda. The girl working the register finished her thru hike Sept 1. Her trail name is Brother. I had a few sandwiches, a couple sodas, a coffee, and a Big Sur brownie.

I hiked 19 miles to a tenting area called Lance Creek Restoration Area. There were quite a few section hikers headed north and a number of day hikers around Blood Mountain.

Tonight is probably the last night in my tent. Tomorrow is my last full day of hiking and I'll stay at Hawk Mountain Shelter. The next day I'll hike 8 miles and meet up with the family around noon at the parking area a mile before the finish at Springer Mountain.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.70766%2C-83.98521

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Day 175
Time: Wed, 25 Sep 2019 17:01:21
Location: Hawk Mountain Shelter Mile 2183.9 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Lance Creek Restoration Area alone. I was camped right off the trail and a couple guys walked north early in the morning with their headlamps.

Today is my last full day on the AT. Tomorrow I'll walk 7 miles and meet my family at the Spinger Mountain parklng lot and then walk the last mile together to Springer Mountain.

Today I hiked 16 miles to Hawk Mountain Shelter. The first half of the day was nice. The trail was nice and easy winding along and even through some rhodendron tunnels and along streams like I wished for.

The second half of the day was up and down some steep gaps with a bunch of loose rock in the trail.

My mind wandered from reminiscing about my trail experiences to what I'm going to do when I return to normal life.

Another guy showed up at the shelter. I had seen him at Mountain Crossings yesterday. He does a lot of hiking around here and is planning to start section hiking the AT.

I called home and finalized plans for meeting up tomorrow.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.66599%2C-84.13609

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Day 176
Time: Thu, 26 Sep 2019 11:31:45
Location: Springer Mountain 2192 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

Finis.

Today I finished my Appalachian Trail Thru Hike.

I spent last night at the Hawk Mountain Shelter with a nice young section hiker. We talked about my hike and all the hiking he's done.

I walked 7 miles to the Springer Mountain parking lot where I met Helen and Derek. Adam has some quizzes today and an internship interview tomorrow so he couldn't make it.

It was a nice 7 miles. It was cool with a nice breeze. The trail walked through rhodendrons and crossed streams. I spent some time enjoying Long Creek Falls.

I met some ladies at the parking lot preparing for a section hike. I helped them adjust their backpacks and they were so excited about me finishing my thru hike.

Helen and Derek walked the last mile with me to the trail terminus on Springer Mountain.

We're staying at the Amicalola Falls Lodge tonight to celebrate.

It's been a rich robust mental and physical challenge with many enjoyable times, but I wouldn't call it "fun".

It's hard...really hard, but certainly doable. You have to be comfortable with being wet, whether it's humidity, perspiration, or precipitation. And you will have to take off your dry clothes and put on your wet ones to hike in. You will be cold, hot, tired, hungry, aching, lonely, etc.

It's hard to eat enough. It's hard to get proper rest. Something will almost always hurt. There's not enough time for your body to recover. You will get injured. You will get sick.

You will meet lots of nice and interesting people. The shared experience with other hikers and the people around the trail supporting hikers is the best part.

I'm glad I did it. I'm going to sit around now and drink lots of coffee and beer with a big smile of satisfaction.

I'm so glad Helen and Derek got involved (and Adam a little bit). Sharing the experience has made it so much richer.

I couldn't have done it without Helen. She's my hero. She came and visited me numerous times, provided unwavering support, and handled everything at home. ♥️

Happy Trails 🥾

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.63775%2C-84.19493

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Friday, September 20, 2019

2019 App Trail Thru Hike: Weeks 23 & 24: Hot Springs NC to Hiawassee GA

It's weeks 23 & 24 of my AT Thru Hike. I made it back to Georgia. Helen came up to visit me at the Fontana Village Lodge in NC last weekend and is meeting me tonight in Hiawassee GA. Derek is hiking out of Hiawassee with me on Sunday. I'll be done by the middle of next week.
Day 161
Time: Wed, 11 Sep 2019 19:58:57
Location: Double Spring Gap Shelter mile 1994.8 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Peck's Corner Shelter. I was the only one there.

There were some nice viewpoints early on but the views were hazy. I didn't see anyone until I got to Charlie's Bunion, a rock outcrop with nice views. It's a popular day hike from Newfound Gap. I must have seen 50 people of all types. It's a pretty good hike 5 miles each way.

There were also a lot of people at Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the AT at 6644 ft.

I hiked 20 miles to the Double Spring Gap Shelter. It was a tough hike and I didn't have as much energy as yesterday. I need more recovery time.

The Smokies are tough. Lots of ups and downs and the highest elevation on the AT. There's lots of loose rock and they have a lot of steps and the steps are too high so they're tough going up or down.

We seem to be in an afternoon thunderstorm pattern. I got rained on twice today.

There are about 8 other section hikers at the shelter. All headed northbound. They're nice and asked me about my thru hike and shared information about the trail.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.56525%2C-83.54251

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Day 162
Time: Thu, 12 Sep 2019 18:15:07
Location: Mollies Ridge Shelter mile 2014.3 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Double Spring Gap Shelter. There were about 8 other section hikers there. A group of them got up at 5:30 so they could be at Clingman's Dome for sunrise. A father and daughter were still there and talked about their Minnesota Boundary Waters trip. I've heard that trip mentioned often on the trail.

I had good energy but the climbs and the trail wore me down. I stopped at shelters after 8, 13, and 16 miles for breaks.

I hiked 20 miles to the Mollies Ridge Shelter. Guthook comments and northbounders said there was no water at the shelter so I brought some from the previous shelter. Lack of water is a pain.

I only saw a few northbound section hikers today and there's nobody else here at the shelter.

I have 13 miles to Fontana Village where I'm staying with Helen Friday and Saturday night. So looking forward to it.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.54596%2C-83.79343

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Day 163
Time: Fri, 13 Sep 2019 17:15:48
Location: Fontana Village Resort Mile 2030.2 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at  Mollies Ridge Shelter alone. When I'm alone I can play music on my phone without earbuds.

I had restless sleep again, but I do like the new foam pad and pillow better than the air.

I was on the trail about 7:30. I passed a couple section hikers. I talked to an older lady from Texas named Elaine. She started from Springer, so she's come a good way. She was thinking thru hike in a few years, but now is thinking about breaking it up into 3 sections.

The trail was overgrown to start, which made it even worse when there were sections eroded with loose rocks. That's also the time when the gnats seem to want to get in your eyes. I rolled my ankle twice but it's ok. Prevent defense. Don't want to get hurt now.

There were also some pleasant sections. It was warm so I was soaked in sweat on the climbs. I really smell.

After a long descent I finally reached Fontana Dam. There was a long road walk over the dam. It was hot but interesting. I met some section hikers headed north into the Smokies and gave them some advice on water. Whew! I'm glad to be done with the Smokies.

The Smokies had a few nice views but mostly it was tough ridge walking. The AT could be routed along much prettier scenery, but is mostly a lot of tough ridge walking.

I finally reached the Marina restroom building where there's a house phone you can use to call the Fontana Village Resort, but the phone was broken. I started to walk the mile and a half but decided to turn around and walk out on the dock to the Marina building. It was nice and cool inside with beer and food. They called the lodge  for me and I had to walk back up before I could get a beer.

The shuttle driver was a young guy and asked a lot of questions about the trail. He likes to run the trails and was familiar with the Smokies AT section.

Thankfully they let me check in early. I went for a nice relaxing swim and cooled down. Then I walked to the Grill restaurant and had some beer and a nice meal.

Flipswitch was at the bar. We said hello but he was on the phone. Two young hikers who started in Springer stopped and talked while they waited on their ride. They're just planning to go to Virginia or West Virginia and get off before the snow.

I went back and cleaned my clothes and stuff and took a nice soaking bath and shower. Now I'm just waiting on Helen to get here and then we'll go have a nice dinner and relax.

The real world has its advantages.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.43268%2C-83.8213

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Day 164 & 165
Time: Sun, 15 Sep 2019 20:14:24
Location: Locust Grove Gap mile 2044.6 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

Helen arrived the Fontana Village Lodge around 7:00 Friday night. We went to the nice restaurant in the Lodge for dinner. Flipswitch was there also.

It was nice ambiance with a pretty sunset view of the mountains. I had the ribeye and Helen had the signature Cajun pasta dish. Our Russian waiter Jerry was fun. He was very knowledgeable and reminded us of the waiters we had on a Disney cruise. We call them Hans and Frans. They always told us what to order.

The food was good not great. They tried too hard by over saucing and over seasoning everything. We only ate about half and boxed the rest.

On Saturday morning we hung out in the nice lodge lobby and drank coffee and ate some snacks Helen brought.

We drove around and checked out Fontana Village. It's a fun place but winding down for the season. There was some wedding stuff going on. That seems to be a big business for them.

I went to the store and got enough food for a couple days until I get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. We went to the Fontana Dam visitor center and learned about the area. We went to the village gas station for some local beer.

We sat on the porch of our room and ate the dinner leftovers and drank the beer. Helen cut my hair and then we went to the the lazy river pool and floated around and swam. We made it to the ice cream shop just before they closed.

We went to the more casual grill restaurant for dinner and had pizza.

I watched some AT YouTube videos and listened to some Mighty Blue On The AT podcasts.

This morning we went down to the lobby and had coffee again and then went to the restaurant for their breakfast buffet.

We got packed up and Helen drove me to the Marina where the trail crosses. She walked with me some and then we said our goodbyes and said we would see each other on Friday in Hiawassee.

I hiked 17 miles to an unofficial campsite at Locust Grove Gap. There was a big climb out of Fontana. And quite a bit of ridge walking on scraggly rocks. There was a big descent into Stechoa Gap and then more climbing. The trail was narrow, rooty, rocky, often tilted downhill, and overgrown. Generally, not much fun to hike. I was missing my honey and the lodge.

I saw several northbound section hikers and a young couple doing the Southern Appalachian Loop Trail.

I talked to Helen and Adam and texted with Derek about coordinating a day when he can hike with me.

A big climb and a big down into the Nantahala Outdoor Center tomorrow.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.33393%2C-83.70395

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Day 166
Time: Mon, 16 Sep 2019 15:58:10
Location: Nantahala Outdoor Center mile 2055.2 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Locust Grove Gap unofficial campsite. I was the only one there. I actually slept pretty well. I had some oatmeal/grits mix, a Krispy Kreme cherry pie, and breakfast drink/powdered milk/coffee mix.

There was a climb up to Cheowah Bald where there was a a nice view of clouds settled in the valley.

The trail was narrow and winding. In addition to the constant barrage of spider webs the overgrowth was constantly brushing against my face and head. The footing was tough with rocks and roots and more ridge walking over sharp rock jumbles.

I met a nice father and son doing the section from the NOC to Fontana. Then I met a nice couple finishing their section from Springer to Fontana.

I made it down to the Nantahala Outdoor Center about 1:00. The place was buzzing with activity. An older couple from Pensacola stopped me and asked me to take a picture then asked all about what I was doing.

The barbecue restaurant is now a Mexican restaurant, which confused me for a minute. I was all ready for some barbecue. I got a pork burrito. The best of both worlds.

I walked across the river and browsed around the outfitter. Then I walked across the street to the General Store to resupply until I get to Hiawassee on Friday.

I saw the section hikers I met in a shelter in the Smokies and chatted with them. They got out at Max Patch. I sat next to the river and ate strawberry ice cream and talked with one of the girls. She's from Michigan and this is her second section hike. She and her brother were going to go in 2015 but their schedules didn't mesh. He died not long after and she's out here for herself and her brother.

I hung out at the bar, drank a beer, and recharged my phone. I had dinner at the River's End Restaurant. 

I saw Wrongway and Cheerleader hanging out in front of the General Store and caught up with them. They're hiking up to the shelter just south of town like I am.

I talked to Helen and Adam on the phone. We talked about meeting in Hiawassee on Friday and Derek hiking out of Hiawassee with me Sunday.

I hiked up to the Rufus Morgan shelter about a mile south of the NOC. It's too warm down here at lower elevation.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.33184%2C-83.59217

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Day 167
Time: Tue, 17 Sep 2019 19:59:42
Location:Wayah Gap Picnic Area mile 2076.7 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Rufus Morgan Shelter about a mile south from the Nantahala Outdoor Center. Wrongway and Cheerleader camped nearby.

I was on the trail about 8:00. I had a big climb up Wesser Bald. That area was hit by fire awhile ago and the forest still hasn't filled in. I was glad to be climbing it in the morning before it got too hot, although the morning wasn't that cool.

There was another climb up Rocky Bald and the trail turned nicer. That area must have missed the fires because there was a nice canopy and the trail was in better shape. The Cold Spring Shelter area was really nice with good water and lots of rhododendrons. I met a nice couple just starting a section to Fontana.

I stopped at the Wayah Shelter for a break. I walked a good way to get some water but the spring was dry. There was a nice tower on Wayah Bald. There were three northbound thru hikers up there and we chatted while we took in the nice view.

I stopped at the Wine Spring Camp and ate dinner. I thought about staying but loaded up on water and pushed on to the Wayah Gap Picnic Area. It's in a nice grove of trees. There are three old concrete picnic tables. It doesn't look like the area gets much use. Twenty one miles today. Forty six more to Hiawassee by Friday.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.15329%2C-83.58036

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Day 168 
Time: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 19:52:56
Location: Carter Gap Shelter Mile 2098.5 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Wayah Gap Picnic Area. There were two owls calling out to each other, "Who cooks for you".

The trail was really nice most of the day. It wound through rhododendrons along nice switchbacks.

The weather was cooler and overcast. I saw a couple section hikers and met a thru hiker named Old School Moose. He got the name because he carries an older external frame pack. He's heading north to Maryland where he started.

In the afternoon there was a climb up Albert Mountain and some rock climbing back down and a serpentine ridge walk. When the trail dipped back into the woods, everything was wet. The rest of the day was spent in a wet rainy fog. I was tired and hoping for some easy trail but it was a bunch of rocky ridge walking.

I hiked 22 miles to Carter Gap Shelter. I'm the only one here. Less than a hundred miles left.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.99853%2C-83.4944

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Day 169 
Time: Thu, 19 Sep 2019 18:42:07
Location: Muskrat Creek Shelter mile 2111.0 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Carter Gap Shelter alone in a dense fog with rain falling on the tin roof all night.

I slept in to let the weather clear and because I was planning an easy 12 mile day.

It was overcast and cooler. I hiked up Standing Indian Mountain. A comment on GutHook said the trail was overgrown and it was to start but got much better. There were clippings where you could tell someone has cut things back, thankfully.

I took a break at Standing Indian Shelter. I met an older guy, Merlin. He's from Atlanta and is doing some day hikes. He attempted thru hikes in 99 and 01. He made it 600 and 800 miles. He has Physics degree from Georgia Tech and we talked about our Tech experiences.

I hiked another 5 miles to Muskrat Creek Shelter. There are 2 guys from Baton Rouge here. They're picking up a missed section before they meet up with a bigger group to finish the Smokies. They gave me some red beans and rice on a tortilla. They stopped by Fox Brothers BBQ in Atlanta and raved about it. Made my mouth water. There's always good eating with Cajuns around.

A group of five lady section hikers got here late. They're nurses from Pensacola. They seem fun too.

Twelve miles into Hiawassee to see Helen. Derek is hiking out with me on Sunday.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘


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Day 170
Time: Fri, 20 Sep 2019 16:15:33
Location: Henson Cove B&B Mile 2125.9 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Muskrat Creek Shelter with the two Cajun guys from Baton Rouge and the nurses from Pensacola.

The guys asked the nurses for some good stories around the campfire. They got some good ones. One involving a 500 lb guy and his enlarged scrotum getting stuck in a chair reclining mechanism. They finally asked the girls to stop telling stories.

It was a chilly night in the 40s and a nice cool morning. I crossed from North Carolina into Georgia. It's good to be home. People have said the Georgia section is better maintained and more fun to hike. There are leaves on the ground and it's starting to feel like Fall. It's kinda nice, but also a pain because they hide the rocks and roots that are trying to hurt me.

There were some climbs but overall I had a nice 12 miles into Hiawassee where the B&B owner picked me up. I got cleaned up and now I'm waiting on Helen to get here.

I didn't have any food left, but the B&B had complimentary coffee, cookies, peanut butter crackers, and granola bars. 

Helen arrived about 5 and we went to dinner at a Mexican restaurant in town. I had a big margarita and the Cowboy fajitas with steak, chicken, and shrimp. Helen had the carnitas platter and I ate most of that too.

It's a nice cool night.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=34.93132%2C-83.68942

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Friday, September 13, 2019

2019 App Trail Thru Hike: Week 22: Erwin TN to Hot Springs NC

It's week 22 of my AT Thru Hike. Helen came up to visit me at the Laughing Heart Lodge in Hot Springs NC and I'm getting ready to enter the Smokies. 

Day 154
Time: Wed, 4 Sep 2019 19:22:05 -0400
Location: Flint Mountain Shelter mile -308.5 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Bald Mountain Shelter with Detour. I was on the trail about 7:30. I still had some climb to the top of Big Bald.

It was a pretty and breezy morning. On the way to the top of Big Bald there was a sign about a raptor research team doing work in the area. It wasn't long before I came across the team. They had nets setup in the brush and a guy was sitting at a table tagging a bird. Pretty neat.

The arches, or more specifically, the joints above my arch on both feet were really bothering me yesterday. I rubbed them with some heat rub, took Aleve at night and in the morning, and taped my arches with KT tape.

They felt much better today. The top of Big Bald gave great views especially if the clouds filling the valleys below. It was a really nice way to start the day.

I stopped and talked to a couple of ladies. They were interested in my hike. One of the ladies had met her husband on a thru hike. The other lady said she was getting ready to hike The Camino in Spain. She also noticed my sandals and the pronation of my feet. She told me how she was a big believer in yoga therapy and touted a guy in Asheville, Yoga International, I believe. She talked about lifting your arches on both sides of the foot and balancing on the four corners of the foot. She also didn't like me bending my knees backwards and showed me the proper resting position. Nice ladies. I had fun with them.

I tried to lift my arches and walk on the four corners. My feet felt better today. Still beaten down, but better.

The trail was hilly. It wound through mature hardwood forests and rhododendrons. I was glad to be in the trees. It was hot and humid. I stayed soaked in sweat and cooled off a couple times in nice streams.

I hiked 19 miles to the Flint Mountain Shelter. It's in a nice setting among rhododendrons and there's a nice stream nearby.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.0349%2C-82.59644

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Day 155
Time: Thu, 5 Sep 2019 19:53:01 -0400
Location: Spring Mountain Shelter mile -285.9 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Flint Mountain Shelter. There was a climb up to Big Butt. The top was covered in chest high growth and the trail was overgrown.

There was quite a bit of ridge walking with some nice views. The ridge walk went up and down and in and out of rhodendrons and ferns. It felt like a rainforest. I really liked it.

The terrain was nice and varied today. I went 23 miles to the Spring Mountain Shelter. Water is a little hard to come by but the springs at the shelters are ok.

I was hoping the country store at the road before the shelter was open, but it wasn't. I started up the climb to the shelter and someone had left a couple cans of beer and a can of cider with a "Happy Trails" message made of sticks.

I sat on a log and drank a beer and the cider with a cliff bar. I was a little woozy for half an hour. 

There was a big climb to the shelter. I was surprised there was a big group there. A group of 5 section hikers is going from Hot Springs to Erwin. A couple ladies are from John's Creek and Lawrenceville. They're all nice.

A thru hiker I summited with showed up late. He's coming from Springer and is finishing at McAfee Knob.

Three long hot humid days of hiking have set me up for a short day into Hot Springs tomorrow to meet Helen. So good.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.9516%2C-82.78999

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Day 156
On Fri, Sep 6, 2019, 4:49 PM david nixon <david.h.nixon@gmail.com> wrote:
Time: Fri, 6 Sep 2019 16:25:00 -0400

Location: Laughing Heart Lodge Hot Springs NC Mile -274.6 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Spring Mountain Shelter. There was a group of 5 section hikers headed north to Erwin TN and McAfee, the kid I summited with, who is finishing at McAfee Knob.

I'm pretty beat after all the long humid days but still didn't sleep well. I flip from side to side and end up on my back, but I know I snore in that position so I try to stay awake until I can flip to one side. I woke up about 1:00 sure it was almost morning.

The section hikers were up early and giving us food they didn't want to carry. They asked us a lot of questions. They were fun.

McAfee dumped a bunch of gear when he flipped and his pack only weighs 8 pounds now. Mine weighs 17. I told them I never carry more than a liter of water. 

McAfee has gone 280 miles to my 190 in the same time. He said he did a 35 mile day leaving Georgia. Youth.

I only had 11 miles to Hot Springs. Sometimes short days are mentally tougher because you expect it to be easy and quick, but it's usually not. I've been doing a pretty good job of staying in the moment and just walking and enjoying the trail, but it's a challenge sometimes when I hurt or the footing is bad or I've reached my sweat or face plastering spider web limit.

There was a steep climb initially to get me all sweaty right away. My clothes have so much stank and salt I think they can stand on their own. The cork grips on my poles are coated with salt and slippery.

There's a nice view of Hot Springs and the French Broad River as you descend into town.

I stopped by Bluff Mountain Outfitters and printed out my Backcountry permit for the Smokies.

I ate lunch across the street Spring Creek Tavern. I had a porter beer, blue cheese salad, and a burger with gravy and an egg. A guy came over and introduced himself and wife as thru hikers who recently finished. He invited me to join them. I noticed Flipswitch was there and told him I didn't recognize him all cleaned up. They're from Canton GA and had hiked with Flipswitch and drove up to spend some time with him and cheer him on to finish his flip-flop.

I walked back to the Outfitter and had some coffee and ice cream. Wrongway and Cheerleader stopped to talk. They're staying at Laughing Heart also. I watched all the motorcyclists enjoying the town and the weather.

I walked across town to Laughing Heart Lodge and cleaned a bunch of stuff and myself. I'm relaxing and waiting for Helen to arrive.

I watched some Papa John YouTube videos about the section of trail coming up.

I watched some Radiate Joy and Wrongway YouTube videos.

Helen left home late so I wasn't sure if she would make it for dinner. No cell service in Hot Springs. I walked down to the hostel and the hosts, Tye and Solo, invited me in and gave beer, homemade soup, bread, and rice. Then an Iranian couple from Dallas doing a section hike joined us with some lentils, salmon, and mashed potatoes. We also had fresh tomatoes and butter. I was just hoping for a frozen pizza. What a treat.

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.89072%2C-82.83322

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Day 157
Time: Sat, 9 Sep 2019 21:03:29 -0400
Location: Laughing Heart Lodge Mile -274.6 of Appalachian Trail

Helen and I spent last night at the Laughing Heart Lodge in Hot Springs NC.

Helen didn't get in until after 9 from Atlanta. It always takes longer than the GPS says.

In the morning we had breakfast at the lodge and then walked down to the hostel to see Tye and Solo. Helen had talked to them on the phone when she was making reservations. They're really nice.

We saw Wrongway and Cheerleader and talked with them and then we walked into town. We went in the visitor center and looked at the displays. Wrongway and Cheerleader came in and Cheerleader played some nice music on the piano.

We looked at the knickknacks in the hardware store and sat outside and watched all the motorcyclists coming and going.

We went into Bluff Mountain Outfitters and looked around. I got a thermarest closed cell sleeping pad and a nice big closed cell pillow. Hopefully they'll help me sleep better. I also got more than enough food to get me to Standing Bear Hostel in a couple days.

We walked down to the French Broad River and watched the rafts and kayaks. We got some sandwiches at the Hillbilly Market on the way back to the lodge.

We discussed plans to meet next weekend in Fontana Village, things going on at home, future plans, etc.

We sat on the lodge porch and ate while we talked to Mike, the caretaker, and a local guy. We learned about the history of the area and the lodge.

Mike told us about walking here from Colorado and how he came to be the caretaker this past May.

We relaxed and then sat on the lawn and ate dinner in the evening.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.89065%2C-82.83321

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Day 158
Time: Sun, 8 Sep 2019 19:56:10 -0400
Location: Roaring Fork Shelter Mile -257.5 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Laughing Heart Lodge in Hot Springs NC with Helen. It was a nice cool morning and we walked around the grounds while we drank coffee. We had breakfast and talked with Mike the caretaker.

We got packed up and then walked down to the hostel to say goodbye to Tie and Solo. 

Helen walked some on the trail with me and then we said our goodbyes. It was so nice to see her. I just have to make it 100 miles to Fontana Village to see her again this Friday.

There was a big sweaty climb out of Hot Springs and then up Bluff Mountain. I saw a big scout group coming into Hot Springs and several groups during the day headed towards Hot Springs. Max Patch to Hot Springs seems like a popular hike.

There was some nice graded switchbacks through rhodendrons but there was also a lot of rough trail with overgrowth and soft dirt trail along hillsides that didn't provide very good footing.

The light really felt like Fall. The days are getting shorter. I went 17 miles to the Roaring Fork Shelter. There's no one else here. That leaves me 15 miles to Standing Bear Hostel tomorrow.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.80556%2C-82.94984

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Day 159
Time: Mon, 9 Sep 2019 15:31:34 -0400
Location: Standing Bear Farm Hostel  Mile -241.5 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Roaring Fork Shelter. It was the first night with my new foam pad and pillow. I felt like I slept better but I still woke up 6 or 8 times.

It was a pleasant morning and a nice hike up to Max Patch bald. There were several tents spaces out on the Bald but I was the only person out walking. It's a pretty place and I thought about when Helen, Adam, and I visited in 2017.

It warmed up quite a bit and I had a tough sweaty climb up Snowbird Peak. There was a scary neat FAA radar tower at the top.

I saw my first person of the day and ended up seeing several northbound hikers headed towards Hot Springs.

I met a thru hiker named Dirty Girl, for his pink gaiters, and he gave info about water and shelters in the Smokies. He's from Woodstock GA.

I hiked 16 miles to Standing Bear Farm Hostel. I'm the only one here so far. Creatch, the caretaker, is really nice. I started with a couple Sierra Nevada Pale Ale's, a supreme pizza, and a couple ice cream sandwiches.

I'm going to get cleaned up, rest, resupply, and make a plan for getting through the Smokies to meet Helen in Fontana Village on Friday.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.78589%2C-83.10163

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Day 160
Time: Tue, 10 Sep 2019 20:26:12 -0400
Location: Peck's Corner Shelter SoBo Mile 1974.0 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at Standing Bear Farm Hostel. Wrongway and Cheerleader showed up late. They had spent the night on Max Patch and didn't leave there until noon. They had pizza and beer like I did.

I had some coffee and breakfast and was on the trail about 8. I met a young guy, Kyle, just after crossing under I-40. He's hiking to the other end of the Smokies and back.

I saw Wrongway and Cheerleader at Davenport Gap, just before entering the Smokies. It was hot and the climbing was relentless to over 6200 feet. Like coming out of Erwin, it seemed like I climbed all day.

I had good energy and was motivated to make good miles to set myself up to meet Helen in Fontana Village on Friday.

I stopped for a break at the Tri-Corner Knob Shelter after 18 miles. It started to thunder and rain a little. There was a bunch of young adults working on an ATC trail crew. They had been out about a week and were excited to be finished with their shift in a couple days. They were talking about food and other real world things they were missing.

I hiked another 5 miles to the Peck's Corner Shelter. It was a long 23 mile day and I wasn't happy about the shelter being .4 off the trail. I'm the only one here, except for the mouse I can hear scurrying about.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=35.65111%2C-83.30816

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

2019 App Trail Thru Hike: Week 21: Hampton TN to Erwin TN

This week took me through the high elevation balds of the beautiful Roan Highlands in the mountains of Tennessee. 
Day 147
Time: Wed, 28 Aug 2019 17:00:45 -0400
Location: Mountaineer Shelter SoBo Mile -403.9 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at Kincora Hiker Hostel in Hampton TN. I was there alone and enjoyed talking to the legendary owner Bob Peoples for over an hour while we relaxed on the porch.

The place has so much history but Bob doesn't seem up to caring for the place any longer. The walls and ceilings of the bunkhouse are covered in postcards and notes. Many are faded or curled. There was a hodgepodge of food and food stuff around from who knows when. I had a peanut butter and honey tortilla and coffee. My stomach was a little unsettled during the night.

The orange cat gave me lots of love, kneading me with his sharp claws. He slept against me in the bed and didn't like me flopping around.

I woke up to falling rain. I had another tortilla and finished the pot of coffee. Orange kitty purred and kneaded me a lot. 

Bob leaves cat food on the porch for outside cats, racoons, and a big bowl for a bear that's been coming around. I heard the bear on the porch and as he was leaving he stood up on his hind legs and looked at me looking at him.

I left a little after 9:00 in a light drizzle. The rain fell steady all morning. I attached my umbrella to my pack.

There was a big up out of Hampton but the trail was great. Lots of switchbacks, stairs, and well groomed. I stopped at the Moreland Gap Shelter for a break. Wrong Way, Cheerleader, and I were supposed to stay there last night. I never made it and they didn't sign the shelter log.

Thru Hikers complained a lot about not being able to "just walk" because of all the rocks, roots, and terrain, but this section of trail south from Damascus has been really nice. Bob Peoples said the overgrown section is in National Forest and that they don't maintain it as well even though they're paid. Priorities, I guess. He also said no power tools are allowed in National Forest, so maintenance is more difficult.

I went 16 miles today to the Mountaineer Shelter, a shelter Bob Peoples and his hard core team built. It's really nice with three sleeping levels.

I didn't see anyone today but the trail was beautiful as it wound through rhodendrons and over and along streams.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.22009%2C-81.98585

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Day 148
Time: Thu, 29 Aug 2019 19:16:32 -0400
Location: Mountain Harbour Hostel SoBo Mile -395.5 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Mountaineer Shelter. Skinny Kid showed up late. He's flipping out of Harper's Ferry. He's from Lake Hartwell GA, so another hiker "walking home". We talked about the trail and hikers we both know like Puff and Shine, Blackbeard, Apple, Welcome Committee, Peewee, and Rosebud. Some section hikers he hiked with live in the area and posted a note to Skinny Kid with their number. He's getting picked up in Roan by them today.

He went to North Georgia Tech and works with power generators. He graduated a couple years ago and got a leave of absence to hike the trail. Nice kid.

In the morning I met Flipswitch who is flipping out of Front Royal. The three of us met up near a creek and I took a picture of them. 

The first part of the trail was more nice rhodendrons, streams, and waterfalls. The last couple miles was overgrown and we were wading through torso high wet weeds.

I got to Mountain Harbour B&B around noon. It's almost 8:00 now and I'm the only one here. Mary, the owner, was so nice and spoiled me. She and her husband built the place but now her son and daughter in law run it. They were out and Mary was looking after things. She gave me beer, coffee, cookies and we talked for over an hour. Off-season has its advantages. Like a grandma spoiling her grandkids, she kept giving me things and told me not to tell. So sweet.

I shaved, showered, did laundry, soaked my feet a couple times in epsom salt and Dr Teals menthol foot soak. I watched hiker YouTube videos. I called home and talked to Helen for the first time in a few days. Cell service has been spotty. It's been nice having the hostel to myself. Helen will have to come back sometime and stay in the B&B. Roan Highlands is a  beautiful area.

This place is known for its incredible breakfasts, so I'm looking forward to that tomorrow.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.17902%2C-82.01614

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Day 149
Time: Fri, 30 Aug 2019 16:03:06 -0400
Location: Overmountain Shelter SoBo  Mile -385.7 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at Mountain Harbour B&B Hiker Hostel. I found a couple of Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls and a bag of frozen veggies in the freezer. I mixed them all together with some Siracha sauce and it was pretty good. There were a couple of electrolyte and creatine energy drinks and I drank them too.

A group of 4 came into the bunkhouse late. Two older guys and their mid twenties sons. The guys are friends from Memphis. One still lives there and the other lives in Destin. We talked about hiking, kids, grandkids, and life. 

We all walked up to the B&B house for a fabulous breakfast with eggs, ham, sausage, biscuits, gravy, french toast, tomato pie, raspberry tort, and fresh cookies.

They all took a shuttle to Carver's Gap about 15 miles south and were hiking back north to Mountain Harbour over the next few days.

I got some cookies, sausage, cheese, and candy bars and then headed out. The weather is chamber of commerce beautiful and supposed to stay that way for the next several days.

There was a 2000 foot climb up Hump Mountain to over 5000 feet. It started along nice switchbacks and rhododendrons and eventually reached exposed balds filled with wildflowers and beautiful views. The Roan Highlands are always mentioned as one of the prettiest places on the AT. If only the rhodendrons were in bloom.

I took some breaks to take in the views. I saw Flipswitch slackpacking north and met a couple from Mountain Harbour who did a SoBo thru hike last year and were out for a day hike. They have a pretty Doberman.

I hiked 9.5 miles to the Overmountain Shelter, which is a neat old barn. Two older trail maintainer volunteers from the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club were there finishing up mowing and doing other stuff. They gave me a Dr Pepper and some cookies and we chatted.

With such nice weather and all the beauty and elevation, I'm going to take it easy and enjoy.

I'm set up in the upper level of the barn next to an opening where I can look out and enjoy the view.

A few others have shown up. I expect there will be a lot of people in the Roan Highlands with such a beautiful Labor Day weekend.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.1236%2C-82.05438

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Day 150
Time: Sat, 31 Aug 2019 19:28:00 -0400
Location: Greasy Creek Friendly SoBo Mile -368.7 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Overmountain Shelter (aka the Red Barn). About 10 other people showed up. Most tented but a few slept on the platforms attached to the front of the barn. I was the only one in the loft of the barn.

Everyone was up early to watch the sunrise over the mountains. The trail wound up through the trees until it reached exposed balds with a view of clouds settled in the valley below.

There were quite a few people camping on and hiking the balds. Carver's Gap to the South was packed with cars. There was a group from East Tennessee State and several other groups hiking up. 

Across Carver's Gap the trail wound up into dense fir trees and the air got cooler. There weren't many people there.

I took a break at the Roan High Knob Shelter, at 6270 ft it is the highest shelter on the trail.

I hiked 17 miles to the Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel. I met Too Many, Little Feet, and Tapper.

Tapper is a section hiker from Minnesota. He was slackpacking back to Greasy Creek Friendly and I hiked in with him. Tapper had hiked with Better Together last year and heard from them that they summited yesterday. I had met them at Woods Hole Hostel in April.

The owners, Cici and Gadget, are super nice and quirky. They have a couple dogs and a cat.

I called home and talked with Helen and Adam about their Labor Day weekend.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.13907%2C-82.1889

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Day 151
Time: Sun, 1 Sep 2019 20:19:58 -0400
Location: Curley Maple Gap Shelter mile -348.5 (Southbound) of the Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Greasy Creek Friendly Hostel with Tapper and a couple. 

Tapper is a 65 year old retired teacher from Minnesota. He's been thinking about doing the AT since he heard about it when he was 15. He's doing his 3rd section. This one from Erwin TN to Harper's Ferry WV. He liked the wood stove in the hostel and talked about his love of all things wood and wood stoves. He showed us a picture of the 12 cords he has aging and drying in his greenhouse back home. His house stays at 75 degrees all winter. 

The couple is from Charlotte. She's originally from a family of lobster fisherman on an island in Maine. He seemed foreign and had hiked the trail several times. She said he gets overwhelmed by people.

Cici and Gadget the hostel owners were a hoot. She's the crazy doting aunt you love. She kept making me food. She didn't have a license to sell beer but she gave me a couple. Good people.

It was a beautiful quiet Sunday morning with a gentle breeze. The trail was nice again. There were a couple climbs. It wound through rhodendrons and evergreen firs at higher elevations and over a Bald called Beauty Spot.

I've been melancholy since Damascus. It became obvious that the homecoming I envisioned and talked about wasn't really going to happen. Instead of skipping home, I've been walking slowly and pondering the onion layers of mismatched expectations. The trail has been nice for that. I feel isolated yet content and peaceful. I'm worried about falling back into familiar patterns back home and generally reassimilating. My apathy for real world concerns has only been sharpened and honed over six months on the trail and I'm reluctant to give up the peace of mind and insulation it gives me.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.10427%2C-82.39706

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Day 152
Time: Mon, 2 Sep 2019 20:39:41 -0400
Location: Erwin TN Mile -344.1 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Curly Maple Gap Shelter 4.5 miles north of Erwin TN. I had a nice easy hike into Erwin in the morning, although I didn't sleep much.

I stopped at Uncle Johnny's Hostel to check it out and use their WiFi to email Helen.

I walked a mile on the highway access road and then got picked up by a nice guy.  I'm staying at Mountain Inn and Suites. I got some food and beer from the convenience store nextdoor. And then had some coffee and cakes.

I took a nap and talked to Helen and Derek. I took a nice soaking bath and then ordered a large supreme pizza to go with my beer.

I talked to Helen again and made plans to meet in Hot Springs NC this weekend. I'm really looking forward to it. Maybe Adam will come and go to Max Patch.

I'll have to get my thru hiker permit for the Smokies in Hot Springs or maybe wait until Standing Bear Hostel.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.12105%2C-82.44537

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Day 153
Time: Tue, 3 Sep 2019 19:34:30 -0400
Location: Bald Mountain Shelter SoBo Mile -327.4 of Appalachian Trail

I spent last night at the Mountain Inn and Suites in Erwin TN. It's nice to sleep in a bed with air conditioning.

In the morning there was a stern Indian woman behind the desk overseeing the breakfast area. There was the typical hotel offerings but only a few of each item. Made me wonder if she prepared based on  guests and I was the only guest. I ate quite a bit and kept thinking she was going to come out and tell me to stop. 

I resupplied at the convenience store nextdoor. I got enough to get me to Hot Springs on Friday.

I had a mile plus road walk back to the trail. It was a pretty morning. I stopped by Uncle Johnny's Hostel but they didn't have any instant coffee.

Today was the hardest since getting back on in Damascus. There was a big climb out of town and then up Little Bald and Big Bald. It was a climb all day long.

The North Carolina Hiking Club takes over from the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club before Little Bald and you can tell the difference . TEHC does a really nice job with switchbacks. Their  trail is graded nicely and the switchbacks help keep the trail from eroding. The climbs of the Balds were tough and condition of the trail was a big factor.

I took a break at the No Business Shelter. I recognized a lot of names on the grafitti board. Detour stopped by. She stayed at Uncle Johnny's. She summited last week but has a small section she skipped when her dad got sick.

It was a warm day and humid which wasn't great for all the climbing. There's not a lot of water but there was a really nice stream at just the right time. I took a nice break there and soaked my feet and splashed cold water all over myself.

Detour was going to camp on Big Bald but decided to stay at the shelter area also. She's from Athens GA and we talked about the trail and people we knew in common. She hiked a lot with the Wander Women before her dad got sick. She has a high school senior also and she and her husband are looking to retrofit a van and hit the road as empty nesters. Her YouTube channel is Radiate Joy.

Love you ❤️ Miss you 😘

Google Maps link to my location: http://maps.google.com/maps?z=14&t=m&q=36.00021%2C-82.4781

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