Friday, May 29, 2015

Day 31: Another Zero Erwin

April 7: During the night, the rain came down in torrents and it continued well into the morning. I hadn’t really been inclined to get back on the trail just yet anyhow—I still needed to catch up with more blog entries—but if I had any doubt before, the rain confirmed it for me: I was taking another zero day. However, according to weather forecasts, the rain would continue on and off for the next several days so it seemed unlikely I’d miss it completely, but I was perfectly happy to miss one day of it at least!


It was a scenic little bike path. Just ignore the roar of traffic from I-26 on the other side of the creek. =)


Unlike the day before when I got sucked into a series of tasks to work on for Atlas Quest, I spend the whole morning pounding out these blog entries. I still get a little stir-crazy sitting around all day without getting out for a walk, rain be damned! So I took the lunch shuttle into town with the intention of walking back again along the bike path. I didn’t have the urge to walk it in both directions—one way would suffice!


While waiting for the shuttle to leave, a new television set had been installed in the front and they were playing a DVD of Wild. I hadn’t even realized that the movie was out on DVD yet, but I was drawn into watching it for the few minutes while waiting for the shuttle to see if it was as depressing and sad as I remembered the book to be. Mrs. Dash was there as well (and just so you aren’t confused, Mrs. Dash is the trailname for a man who’s hiking the trail), and he had done the PCT last year. So we started critiquing the film. There was a section showing the trail as a narrow, skinny climb up some rocks, and we both agreed that there was nowhere on the trail like that. “So fake! Fake!” But we both admitted that the desert scenes looked pretty authentic even though we knew most of them were actually filmed in Oregon and the Joshua trees were fakes.


But I digress… We only saw about 15 minutes of the movie before the shuttle was ready to go, and off we went. No tears lost on my part for missing the rest of the movie!


I asked to be let off near the McDonalds where the bike path started. There’s a Pal’s Hamburgers across the street from it, and I figured I’d hit it up for lunch then walk back. I’m not a huge fan of McDonalds. Pal’s I’d never heard of before so I thought I’d give them a try, but when I got dropped off, I didn’t see any inside dining for Pals. Given the fact that it was pouring buckets of rain, this was a deal-breaker for me. I didn’t even see anywhere outside that was covered and would allow me to eat protected from the rain.


It had stopped raining by now, and the lightning had stopped, but the clouds certainly still looked mean!


So against my better judgment, I headed across the street to McDonalds instead. The food was typical McDonalds, which I suppose a lot of people like but I just thought was blah. Better than starving, though. While eating, the storm clouds reared up and starting throwing out flashes of lightning as loud thunder roared through the building. Wow, I was so glad I took a zero day today… The trail had to have been horrendous!


Given the severity of the weather, I lingered at McDonalds reading my Kindle and studying Polish. I was probably there for a little over an hour when one of the employees asked me if I was interviewing for a job there. Apparently, they were interviewing people and one of them was unaccounted for and they thought maybe it was me. “Oh, good Lord, no!” I wasn’t even wearing my tie! I can’t imagine that thru-hikers get mistaken for job applicants very often. It’s certainly the first I had been mistaken as a job applicant! =)


After my dawdling, the rain had let up a bit into a light sprinkle and the lightning and thunder had stopped. For the time being, at least. I figured that was my cue to go and I packed up, pulled out my umbrella and left down the same bike path I followed the day before.


The rain continued for about 10 minutes before stopping completely. I closed my umbrella and continued walking with it in my hands in case it would be needed again, but it wasn’t needed again. This time, I spotted about a dozen turtles sunning themselves on a log in the creek. Well, there wasn’t really any sun. Is it possible to “cloud themselves” on a log? In any case, they’re a skittish bunch because even though they were in the middle of a large creek and probably 30 feet away, they jumped into the water and vanished in the few seconds it took me to stop, pull out my camera and get a photo. I didn’t get a photo, which disappointed me immensely.


Never one to give up so easily—especially on a zero day—I turned around and hiked back towards the McDonalds for about 10 minutes. I wanted to give the turtles space and time for them to feel comfortable to get back on the log. I turned around and continued back towards Johnny when I reached the “sun.” (There’s a park along the trail where there’s a scale model of the solar system. The sun is placed at the entrance to the park, and in quick succession you see Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars several feet away spaced accurately to each other. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are also represented, but they’re much further down the path and not visible from the sun. I never saw any Pluto, but I’m not sure if that’s because this scale model of the solar system was created after Pluto had been demoted or if they removed Pluto after it had been demoted.)


But I’ve digressed again… sorry about that!


Anyhow, by the time I got back to the sun, I figured the turtles had had enough time to return to the log, so I turned around and walked the solar system for a third time. From a distance, I could see the that the turtles had returned to the log, but this time, instead of stopping in full view of them, I stopped behind a tree that I hoped would obscure me and make them forget about me. Then I pulled out my camera and peaked it around the tree slowing and aimed at the turtles. Even with that subtle movement, about half the turtles dived into the water and disappeared. They were certainly a skittish bunch! But this time, I did get a photo with several turtles on the logs. I was disappointed I couldn’t get the photo I really wanted with that entire log packed with turtles, but at least I had turtles in my photo this time around.


By the time I arrived at the hostel, the little bit of rain I walked through at the beginning of the walk had dried off. I figured I’d arrive at the hostel soaked and maybe I’d throw my clothes into the dryer to dry them, but that turned out not to be necessary. Then I spent the rest of the night working on these blog entries! =)


This log might look like it’s full of turtles, but about half of them had jumped off into the water before I could snap this shot! It’s not a very good photo because the log was nearly on the complete other side of the creek and I had to zoom in quite a ways just to get this much.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Day 30: Erwin Explorations

April 6: I wound up spending most of the morning working on Atlas Quest rather than this blog. A surprising number of problems and bugs had cropped up that needed attending to. Thinking the lunch shuttle into town left at the same time today as it did yesterday (12:30), I wound up missing the shuttle which decided to leave earlier today (at 12:00).


Uncle Johnny’s!


It wasn’t the end of the world, though—downtown Erwin was a mere 4 miles away. Today was a zero day for me—zero in the sense of zero trail miles. I certainly could just walk into town, and that’s what I proceeded to do.


It wasn’t more than 5 minutes later, however, when a driver pulled over and asked if he could give me a ride. Sure! I wasn’t even trying to hitchhike and managed to score a ride! =) Richard gave me a ride to the far side of town, dropping me off near Hardees which I had no problem with. I stopped into Hardees for lunch, then slowly worked my way back to Uncle Johnny’s. I stopped at Food Lion on the way back to do some more resupplying, and wondered a bit around the downtown core looking for the Hanging Elephant Antique Shop.


I remembered it vividly from my first thru-hike because the side of the building had a mural of a giant elephant being hung to death. That’s the kind of thing that sticks out in one’s head! It’s even more vivid because it’s a true story—Erwin’s most notorious story involves hanging a real, live elephant from a railroad crane. In short, Mary (the elephant), had killed a handler and she was sentenced to death, and the powers-that-be had decided that the best way to execute her was by hanging her from a railroad crane in front of a crowd of thousands. It was a spectacle that I’m sure nobody at the hanging would ever forget. Just to be clear, this happened 99 years ago in 1916. One hiker, when I told him about Erwin being famous for having hung an elephant, was shocked thinking it happened a few years ago or something! Like, yeah, back in 2003 they were still hanging elephants! *rolling eyes* =)


Mary hasn’t gotten a historical marker, but I was amused to learn that Erwin was supposed to be called Ervin but a mix-up at the post office turned it into Erwin. =) I had no idea the post office had wielded such power!


But it is an event that the town of Erwin would like to forget because there are no memorials to Mary, nothing to mark her grave and they did not see fit to even put up one of those roadside plaques describing the event. If you go into Erwin, it had been whitewashed of any reference to the hanging of Mary—all except for this one antique shop that had created a giant mural on the side of the building showing the event. I wanted to take a photo of it and walked all around town, but couldn’t find it.


Eventually, I figured that even that one reference had been whitewashed away. No more could I buy a postcard of Mary’s hanging. I was a little sad to realize that. Not that Mary’s execution should be glorified per se, but at least recognized for the tragedy that it was. Imagine if all history books were written to skip the bad parts. Hey, let’s just skip over that whole slavery thing our country used to condone. Let’s not remember how we stole and looted the lands of the Native Americans. No, people need to remember this stuff. It’s not something to be proud of, but it’s a reminder not to let something like that happen again. Erwin, however, is a town that would rather forget its past—at least the dark side of its past.


After giving up the search for evidence of Mary, I walked back to Uncle Johnny’s along a bike path that followed along a creek. Noise of Interstate 26 marred the otherwise tranquil and pleasant walk, but it was still preferable to walking along the surface streets of town back to the hostel.


Then, for the rest of the night, I worked on this blog, taxes, and a little TV. =)


The public library is in this old building which I believed used to be the town’s train station and is probably not far from where Mary was hung. I had wi-fi at the hostel and didn’t need anything from the library, but during my last hike (in 2003) I did use the library’s computer to get online. And I remembered the mural with Mary being nearby, so I went to the library and wandered around hoping to find it, but I never did…


During my explorations, I found this “homeless encampment” made up of… cats! You can see three white cats near the right side of the image, but when I first walked up, there were about a dozen cats loitering around and my presence scared most of them off. (There are other cats inside the cat-houses looking at me, but you can’t really see them in this photo.) I’d never seen what appeared to be a camp for stray cats before. Seems like Erwin is treating their animal population better now than they did back in 1916!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 29: Easter in Erwin!

April 5: Yep, that’s about it. I spend Easter in Erwin. Oh, sure, I could tell you more details than that. It did get pretty cold during the night—according to Quirk’s thermometer, we woke up to a chilly 28 degrees and I certainly took my time getting out of my sleeping bag. Especially so since I knew I had a relatively short hike into Erwin. Definitely no reason to rush things!


The Nolichucky River far below. The trail crosses the river a few miles outside of Erwin.


The Appalachian Trail, technically speaking, hits the outskirts of Erwin about 4 miles from the center of town, but goes right passed Uncle Johnny's, a popular hostel that thru-hikers often use and seemed like a good base of operations. When I arrived, I got myself a small cabin for a little privacy—I had work to do, and other thru-hikers milling around aren’t very conductive towards focusing my concentration to write these blogs and fix and adjust code. It was a privative room with barely enough space for me to unload my pack, and included no special perks such as a private bathroom. Nope, that was still shared with all of the other hikers.


I had my maildrops sent directly here which was convenient for a couple of reasons. First, I didn’t have to go into town to get my mail—it’s already here! And second, I didn’t have to worry about arriving on a Sunday or when the post office had already closed. I was set with the mail situation the second I walked into the hostel. =)


A couple of hours after my arrival, there was a shuttle into town which I took for lunch for an all-you-can-eat pizza buffet. Because it was Easter, I figured I’d “dress up” by wearing a tie. I should look nice on Easter, right? Strapped had also arrived at Uncle Johnny’s and while he didn’t plan to spend a night, there was a Dollar General right next to the pizza place and another grocery store across the street from it. So we both did the buffet, then resupplied before the shuttle took us back to the hostel.




During the drive, I had asked the driver what he thought of my tie, and he said he thought Miss Janet had given it to me. Oooh… I’d forgotten about Miss Janet. Back during my first thru-hike, I remembered there was quite a rivalry between her hostel and Uncle Johnny’s. I’d heard lots of stories, although it was hard to sort fact from fiction. What I’d also forgotten was that apparently, Miss Janet had given away ties to hikers at the kickoff event. It hadn’t even occurred to me that anyone might think Miss Janet had given me the tie, and waving it in the face of an Uncle Johnny employee probably seemed something like waving a red cape in front of a bull.


“Oh, no!” I told him. “Miss Janet didn’t give me this tie. I’ve hiked with one for years for special occasions! I’ve never even met Miss Janet before!” (Which is quite true.) But I was a little curious about what he thought about Miss Janet and tried to question him about it. “I’ve heard a lot about her, though. What do you know about her?”


He took a moment to answer, finally telling me something to the effect, “The less I say, the better.”


Ah, okay. Understood… He definitely didn’t have warm and fuzzy feelings towards her, but he wasn’t going to say anything bad about her either. At least not to someone who was wearing a tie that, despite my protestations, he probably suspected came from her anyhow. I couldn’t get him to gossip, and I wondered if I’d have had better luck had I not worn the tie.


The rest of the day was uneventful. I did laundry upon returning to the hostel, and the rest of the day and evening catching up on emails and messages.


It was a beautiful day to walk into Erwin!


Uncle Johnny’s hostel has this helpful signpost. Katahdin (the end of the Appalachian Trail) is just another 1,822.4 miles away! =)

Friday, May 22, 2015

Day 28: Trail Magic!

April 4: During the night, thunder and lightning rocked the area, but it was the wind and the rain I was more concerned about. The wind was far stronger than I imagined it would be, and I wound up opening my umbrella to plug the “hole” in the open side of the tarp. It worked well enough, but when I tried to use my headlamp, it would only stay on for a few seconds at a time before it shut off leaving me completely in the dark to try and write.

The morning was cloudy, but very cold and windy!

So I was glad when morning arrived. The rain had finally stopped, and while the skies didn’t clear completely, at least I could see without the need of my headlamp. But it was still very cold and very windy.

I was tempted to skip breakfast this morning. A couple of days earlier, we had heard reports that a trail angel was making pancakes and eggs for passing through hikers each morning at Sam’s Gap and was still expected to be there through the week. It was also an hour of hiking away, though, and I’m hungry when I wake up. I ate my usual breakfast figuring I’d have digested most of it and would still have room for pancakes by the time I reached Sam’s Gap—assuming the rumors we’d heard were true. Sometimes, they aren’t.

An hour later, I arrived at Sam’s Gap, close on the heels of Strapped who’d been talking about the pancakes non-stop for days. He’s called Strapped because he’s “strapped for cash,” as it were, minimizing stays in towns and picking up trail magic wherever he can to stretch his finances. I knew without even asking that Strapped had skipped breakfast in anticipation of the pancakes.

Sam’s Gap, but there were no pancakes to be seen anywhere. =(

But there was no trail magic. No pancakes. No nothing. A few cars parked at the trailhead, but they all appeared empty. I was mildly disappointed, but glad I hadn’t skipped breakfast earlier. Strapped was still ahead of me on the trail and at a switchback going into the woods yelled back to me, “Where are the pancakes?!”

I yelled back, “I guess there are none!” But he kept hiking. It was too cold and windy to stop to chat in any case.

Several minutes later, I did catch up to him where a fold in the earth created a natural windbreak and Strapped had taken a rest to eat. Since he had skipped breakfast, he was hungry, and he went on about how disappointed he was about the lack of pancakes. I haven’t posted much about Strapped, but he’s one of those guys that I don’t think anyone could hate. He’s always got a big, infectious grin on his face and even now—despite knowing his immense disappointment about the lack of pancakes—he still had that giant, infection grin. I pulled out my camera to take a photo, which I did, then he goes, “Wait, take another one of me being sad.” He puts on an exaggerated sad face and holds out his pathetic breakfast—an energy bar or something. Even with this exaggerated sad face, he still had a happy aura about him. Later, he was telling people that he was so sad about the pancakes, that he might have even had a tear in his eye and I got it on film.

Since I had eaten breakfast, I continued onwards and soon passed a sign warning of trail magic ahead at Street Gap that started yesterday afternoon and would continue through this morning. Trail magic! Strapped would certainly be thrilled about that once he sees the sign!

The trail crosses Sam’s Gap right at the Tennessee-North Carolina border.

It didn’t say what kind of trail magic was ahead—just that something was ahead. Pancakes? Maybe the trail angel we’d heard about had moved locations?

I continued onwards eventually reaching Street Gap where a few other hikers had already stopped and gathered around a campfire chatting—the trail angel circle. Heck, just having a campfire was trail magic! It was still bitterly cold and incredibly windy, and the fire felt great. I was handed a glass of grapefruit juice and a couple of minutes later, a plate with scrambled eggs and bacon. Awesome! Yeah, Strapped was going to be in heaven as soon as he arrived!

He arrived about 15 minutes later saying he saw the sign and tried rushing here as quickly as he could to catch the trail magic before it left. The sign only said it would be there that morning, but it didn’t have a clear time that it would end and he wanted to make darned sure he would catch it.

More eggs were cooking, but with the arrival of Strapped and the other hikers already there, I figured it might be awhile before I could get seconds and I was itching to push onwards. Stopped, even at a campfire, I was getting cold in the brutal wind. So I pushed onwards.

That’s a good sign! =)

Later in the afternoon, the temperatures had started warming and the wind had died down to normal levels—much more comfortable for hiking. The skies even cleared for the most part leaving great views whenever a viewpoint was available.

And late in the afternoon, as I crossed the road at Spivey Gap, two people in a truck at the parking area yelled out to me if I wanted trail magic. Well… sure! Why not?! =) Some sort of childhood lesson about not talking to strangers who offer me candy popped into my head, but I ignored it.

“Sure!” I told them, starting to walk in their direction. “What are you offering?” As if I was really being picky. =)

They pulled out a bag of Easter candy and some Cokes, and I helped myself to both. Minutes later, Disciple and Mongoose also came out of the woods and joined us, then a father and son pair just behind them. The trail angels had been waiting for an hour to do trail magic, and just nabbed four of us in mere minutes. Strapped was still somewhere behind us—I last saw him at Street Gap eating scrambled eggs and with the biggest smile you ever did see. He would be disappointed if he missed this additional trail magic. And he might—his knees had been giving him trouble and he was thinking about slowing it down so not to permanently injure himself. He wasn’t sure how far he would hike that day.


The couple providing the trail magic were former thru-hikers—or at least the guy was. If they told me their names, I failed to make a note of it because I have nothing written in my journal, but the guy said he had hiked the trail years earlier and suffered some pretty bad snow in the Smokies when a trail angel provided him a much needed boost with Easter candy, so now he likes to do the same. He never actually finished his hike—he’d gotten a job offer while on the trail and as they say, it was an offer that he couldn’t refuse. Make that a lesson—if you ever want to thru-hike the trail successfully, don’t send out a bunch of job applications before you start! =)

I eventually continued onwards to No Business Knob Shelter where I met Quirks, a quiet German fellow section hiking the trail. He’d already set up his tent near the shelter, but the shelter itself was still empty which took me by surprise. Disciple soon arrived, however, but he only took a brief stop before continuing onwards. He wanted to get closer to Erwin so as to get to an Easter Sunday service tomorrow morning. Mongoose told me he was getting picked up at Spivey Gap and would likely be slackpacking from there to Erwin the next day, so I didn’t expect him.

Then Strapped arrived, who I was happy to see and he was grinning about the trail magic he’d scored at Spivey Gap—candy and a Coke. There was a note left with it for Thru-Hikers to help themselves, so Strapped hadn’t met the newest trail angels, but he still benefited from them. He was, however, disappointed when he found out that I had had two Cokes and a dozen pieces of Easter candy and the trail angels tried to get me to take some more with me for the trail. I refrained, not wanting to add the extra weight to my pack, and Strapped only took a couple of pieces and one Coke wanting to show restraint and leave something for other hikers. When he found out how much I had had, though, and that the trail angels had tried to foist even more onto me, he was disappointed that he had shown so much restraint!

Strapped puts on his “sad face” to show his displeasure about missing pancakes.

In reality, this is how he looked when I actually found him on the trail.

After Strapped had finished the Coke, we decided to use it to create a “rat trap.” Not so much a device to catch rats, but rather to thwart mice from being able to get our food. You run a rope through it and tie a stick to the end of the rope, dangling from the ceiling, and supposedly mice can’t get your food. They can’t get around the can without falling off onto the ground. The science behind it is simple, but I’ve always thought it seemed too simple—like mice ought to be able to outsmart the device, but in the hundred-plus times I’ve used them, I’ve never had a mouse get into my food so they must work.

So I cut the can in half and make two “mouse-barriers” for the shelter which, surprisingly, had none until then.

The father and son hikers never showed up and Strapped never saw them, so presumably they got off at Spivey Gap along with Mongoose, leaving just Strapped and I in the shelter and Quirks in a tent just outside of it. And that was it—just the three of us all night long!

I put on my warm clothes for the night. Weather predications had indicated that it would be a very cold night—down into the 20s. It was a good night to bundle up!


The trail magic circle around the campfire. On the far right is Disciple. Second to the right is Mongoose. I’m not sure what the names of the girls on the left are. They were section hikers I’d see several times during the week, but everyone always referred to them as the “three girls” who were hiking together and I always knew who they were talking about so I didn’t even think to ask their names. (When I first met them here, I thought they were part of the trail angels! It wasn’t until they left down the trail that I realized they were hikers.)

I’d already scarfed down the bacon before I thought to get a photo of the trail magic. =) Delicious!


Hiking up Big Bald.

Views from Big Bald. What you can’t see are the winds that are so strong that they can push you over!


I goof around at a viewpoint along the trail.

Our wonderful Easter-candy trail angels.


I saw this rock beside the trail thinking it looked like a small tombstone. I guess someone else did too, because someone had already written, “Here’s lies Noravirus.” I’d heard that a bad noravirus epidemic had swept this part of the trail the year before, so maybe this message had something to do with that.


One of the “mouse barriers” we had created for the shelter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day 27: Another Uneventful Day…

Dscn6868April 3: Yep, it’s another uneventful day. Perhaps even less eventful than yesterday! It rained overnight, but not much and had stopped by morning.

Early in the morning, the trail passed Big Butt Mountain, which naturally led to much thru-hiker discussion about how it got its name.

For part of the day, the trail actually went due south, which is annoying when you’re trying to hike north. But the Appalachian Trail twists and winds and sometimes, takes you southwards. Trail north, but compass south.

When I arrived at Hogback Ridge Shelter at the end of the day, the shelter was already starting to look full with Goosebumps, her two friends, (Super) Lemon, and Loner Boner (get your mind out of the gutter—the guy’s real last name is Boner!) and Strapped already in the 6-person shelter. So there was still room for me, and it had started to sprinkle upon my arrival, but I decided to set up my tarp instead. I didn’t feel like being in a crowded shelter tonight.

Loner Boner is an interesting character. He’s an older gentleman—I was afraid to ask his age, but he said something about being 72 or so. Give or take a year or two. Early 70s. I think that’s what I heard, at least. He’s friendly and had already thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail not once, but twice meaning he had double the number of trail stories that I had to tell. (At least about the Appalachian Trail. Goosebumps and I had more PCT stories!)

While cooking dinner, a gust of wind blew over Lemon’s boiling water, splashing it onto her bare legs. Her legs turned red and definitely gave everyone a scare, but no serious harm was done.

During the day, I had picked up a couple of sticks I thought might be suitable replacements for the broken part on my trekking pole, but after making dinner, I found two segments of an aluminum tent pole abandoned at the shelter. Perfectly straight, small enough to fit the broken trekking pole. This might be perfect! Unfortunately, the tent pole was too skinny and my trekking pole could not get a grip on it. Every time I picked it up, the tent pole slid out.

To fix that, I wrapped the tent pole with duct tape to make it marginally bigger and a better fit, at which point it seemed to work perfectly. The pole was slightly askew giving the trekking pole a bent look, but it was small enough that I didn’t think it would be a problem. So far as I was concerned, the trekking pole was fixed! At least until it broke again or the tent pole fell out.

These pink flags mark a recent reroute of the AT that hasn’t yet been blazed!

Well, some blazes have been installed, but they’re so new, you can still see the area that was scraped clean before it was painted.

Devil Fork Gap; NC 212

I see a stile like this, and I think, “That’s not how this is supposed to work!” In fact, why was it even created if you can just walk around it?!

More graves on the trail, but these have daffodils! =)


Spring is trying to peek out!

Near the end of the day, I felt some pain on the back of my foot and found this chaffing. I slapped a band-aid on it which took care of the problem. Weird that I can hike hundred of miles in a pair of shoes without any problems, then presto! A problem! After a few days, the problem went away as mysteriously as it appeared. I was a little disappointed that it wasn’t a blister, though, because I still haven’t gotten one and haven’t been able to name any!



The shelter was already getting pretty full when I arrived, so I set up my tarp instead. (It was sprinkling when I arrived, and much more rain was expected overnight.) That’s my tarp on the far left side of the photo.

This was one of the more interesting privies on the trail. First, notice that there’s no door. You get quite a view while doing your business! (The shelter is behind the privy, so hopefully nobody there gets a view while you are doing your business.) More interesting, however, is that gap in the floor. You do a poop, and it rolls down the pile of poop to your feet. It’s… odd… Just watch where you put your feet!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Day 26: A Nice Day For a Walk

Dscn6604April 2: I woke up to mostly cloudy skies which turned into partly cloudy skies as the day progressed for a pleasant day of walking. Not much of a story to tell today, but here are the highlights:

* Met the first trail maintainers thus far who had a chainsaw and were taking out blowdowns from the trail.

* Broke my trekking pole. It had been damaged just prior to my arrival at Fontana Dam when I accidentally dropped a log on it leaving cracks in the carbon fiber, but the pole hadn’t broken completely, so I kept using it. Today, the bottom several inches snapped clean off. Only the bottom segment was broken, though, and I figured when time permitted, I’d look for a good stick that I could replace the broken part with and see if I could keep it working.

* Stopped at “Mom’s” for a Coke and a Klondike bar. It was at a road crossing and my AT guidebook said nothing about it. All I saw was a sad-looking sign pointing down the road a short ways. I went ahead and followed it to a structure that looked like it had been condemned with boarded up windows and all, but a sign on the front said it was open so in I walked. Inside, half the place felt like a flea market or maybe a storage unit with all sorts of junk (antiques) laying around, and the other half was a simple store with snacks and drinks for hikers. A boy was tending the store, who looked old enough to be in high school. He spoke with that thick, slow southern accent and fiddled with a cigarette as if waiting for me to leave before lighting it. He seemed nice and chatted a bit, but the conversation felt a little forced and I left after finishing my Coke and Klondike bar.

I finished the day at the Jerry Mountain Cabin Shelter, a forgettable shelter I shared with a few other hikers. For the most part, not an especially exciting day…

Rich Mountain Lookout Tower

Although it was still cloudy early in the morning, the clouds were high enough to still leave some views from the lookout tower.

Hiking back down the lookout tower.

You’d think this would be an exciting story!

But it was clear that the prescribed burns had already happened and were long over.

Memorial on the trail! Passed a few of them today! (Note the prescribed burn just behind it.)



Sounds… interesting…

Mom’s store was in this building that looked like it had been condemned!

The Coke and Klondike bar I had to snack on in Mom’s store. I rather liked the cigarette ads in the background. You don’t see those very much anymore!


Another mysterious pipe in the middle of nowhere.

Drats! Trekking pole gave up the ghost! I extended the rest of it as far as it would go and continued using it, broken tip and all until I could find a suitable stick to replace the broken part. The pole was, obviously, a little short for me after this mishap. I’d definitely need to do something about it.

View from Whiterock Cliff.

View from Blackstack Cliffs.

Oh, we’re totally taking the “exposed ridgeline trail”!

Yep, that’s definitely an exposed ridgeline!

And the views from it were great!


‘Tis the Jerry Cabin Shelter. Not much to look at!