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AT trip report (?)



Hi. I've already introduced myself to this list, but am still not sure what
kinds of messages are appropriate here. I have just returned from a week
long AT trip and thought I would post a trip report if thats appropriate.
If not, please tell me gently. Actually, this is a copy of my journal which
I kept while on the portion of the AT from Wallace Gap, NC to Stecoah Gap,
NC.

AT Trip. June 10, 1995 - June 17, 1995. Wallace Gap, NC to Stecoah Gap, NC


Day One. 6/10/95

Spent most of today driving to trailhead. Met Lynn and Kim at Tuskagee
Motel (Robbinsville), then called our shuttle person, Charlie Watts. Took
our cars to his house, and Charlie and his mother shuttled us to Rainbow
Springs Campground at Wallace Gap. Met Buddy and Jasine, owners, bought a
pizza and canned dog food for Nestle. Enjoyed talking to Charlie as well as
Buddy and Jasine. They hike vicariously through other hikers and genuinely
enjoy talking with hikers. We talked until dark, laughing and joking about
our upcoming trip. Read AT register at store and saw Keebler's (NandO Net)
entry in April - interesting to read. Plan to take hot shower tomorrow
morning before heading off. Kevin gave me a small rubber lizard for a good
luck piece - also have my lucky watch that Michael gave me. Named my lizard
Stecoah, as that is our destination. Pack weighs in at 48 lbs.


Day Two. 6/11/95

Moderate 1st hiking day. Hiked 5.1 miles, with 2 steep ascents and 1 little
one. Buddy shuttled us from Rainbow Springs to Wallace Gap. Had last hot
shower and good breakfast before leaving. Crossed about 4 streams and
filled up each time. Lynn's knee popped out but seems to be OK now. Very
hard thunderstorm started around 2:00 but our rain gear seemed to keep us
dry. Found campsite when rain slowed down. Ate early dinner in case of more
rain. Hung bear bags, etc. early evening. I like my new tent - just the
right size for me and Nestle. Rain is gone now - might rain tonight though.
Have seen lots of snails and frogs, some flowers. Feel good with one day
behind us. Gave me more confidence that maybe I really can do this. Was
questioning myself briefly during thunderstorm as to why I'm here, but
feeling subsided quickly. Personal challenge is addictive and obsessive.
Nestle is tired - will sleep well tonight. 7:00PM - Killer thunderstorm
right now. We're all in our tents. Kind of wish we had brought my 4-man
tent and we were all together. Kind of scary just me and Nestle. She's
shaking with every thunderbolt. Strong winds. My thoughts wander to the
safety of home and my kids and cats.


Day Three. 6/12/95

Today we were tested by the elements. It rained all night, but after the
thunder and lightning eased up, it was pleasant to hear the rain. We woke
up at 6:00AM, with the rain still pouring heavily. Decided to pack on up in
the rain. Broke camp and on our way by 7:30AM. Took a side trail to Siler
Bald Shelter to dry out and organize. Met only other hikers of the day
there - a couple from Florida who portion hike every year. Took another
side trail to top of Siler Bald but too rainy for views. Rain finally
stopped mid-afternoon, but turned very COLD! Brrr!! Stopped at Wayah Gap
for trash can and latrine. Made it to campsite by 5:00. Too cold to relax
while eating dinner. Hiked about 6.2 miles today - two very steep and long
ascents. Kim and Lynn hike at a good pace for me. Kim leads, then Lynn,
then me in rear. To go up balds, I have to put myself in a trance and just
go. We are all 3 introspective hikers so we don't talk much while hiking,
but when we do, its always about AT and what we are doing and seeing (and
aching!). We're very focused. Hope the sun is out tomorrow - got a long
day. Should be nice views from Wayah Bald. Wind blowing strong right now.
Saw lots of blooming plants today. We're so grateful for small things like
pieces of sun, or hot MRE. Still nervous about bears. Nestle is a very good
trail dog. Have kitty pic and Stecoah lizard inspirations.


Day Four. 6/13/95

Today was an EXCELLENT day! Started out a bit bad, though. I felt nauseated
and weak. Weather was really cold during the night. I even let Nestle sleep
on top of me, as she was wet and cold and shivering. While feeling
nauseated I even had thoughts of quitting - felt frustrated. After I ate I
felt better, though still cold. Sun began to come out and I felt good. We
broke camp late - around 9:00AM and headed out for long 7.6 mile day. It
turned out wonderful! Lots of easy miles mixed with one gigantic ascent at
end of day. A few medium ascents. Several ridges were cool and went for a
mile or so. Dangerous though, as the drop was straight down. My pack is
lighter now since more food is gone. Maybe down to about 43 lbs. Climbed
Wayah Bald (oof!) and ate lunch on grass below stone observation tower with
great killer views....with sun out. Excellent! I think this was my turning
point day. I want to finish this and will. More positives than negatives.
This is real - this is why I'm here. I'm even enjoying hiking in closed
woods without views - something I didn't like as much as all views before
this trip. I notice so much more than before. Each bug, snail, plant, sound
of wind, etc. is so magnified now. The smell of dirt, smoke, animals is
strong. I love it here. Saw some tourists on Wayah Bald - they seemed so
alien. Saw a deer run across the trail - he seemed so real and natural.
Tonight we stopped at Cold Spring Shelter and have the whole shelter to
ourselves. Nice views from campsites above shelter. Spring in front of
shelter. Feel cozy and happy. No physical problems - knees good. Only
normal aches and pains of back, hips, shoulders, etc. Got to know Nestle
even better last night as we kept each other warm. Really love my tent now,
too. I'm feeling high now. Things are great. Looking forward to our
"slumber party" in shelter - plenty of mice here to join in. All's right
with the world.


Day Five. 6/14/95

Great day! Before we went to sleep last night, we pitched the tents in the
shelter! No one was there, it was cold, and I was concerned for Nestle
seeing and chasing wildlife (in the tent she can't see out). Mice kept me
awake as they investigated our packs (we hung them as well as keeping
pockets open) - no damage done in the morning. Heard screech owls during
the night. Got late start again. Fairly easy first few miles. Took a mile
side trail up to firetower at Tellico Gap (than backtracked same mile) -
straight up - oof! Left packs at bottom though. Magnificent views from
tower!! 360 views and day was clear and warm - getting hot (better than
cold!) Tried to find where we had been and where we're going. Some helpful
day hikers up there. Hiked along ridges part of the day - neat! Climbed
Wesser Bald (oof again!) and climbed yet another firetower - excellent!
More helpful day hikers. Relaxed, took our time. Doesn't get any better
than this. I'm in the rhythm of the trail now and feel very comfortable
with routine of daily hiking and camping. Am appreciating everything so
much more. Tonight we stopped at Wesser Bald shelter. Lynn and Kim will
stay in shelter and I pitched my tent near shelter - same reasons as before
(Nestle). Kim's knees are hurting - hope she is better tomorrow. Ate dinner
(shelter has great dining area under cover - this is a brand new shelter -
probably no mice yet!) A southbounder thru-hiker is here - named Bo-Jo.
Really interesting guy. Has already hiked AT as a northbounder. Started in
Oct in Maine (Brrr!). Our trip is over half finished and that saddens me. I
want to keep doing this! I'm already changing somewhat - I can imagine how
a thru-hike would change me even more. I think I am a tent person, though,
rather than a shelter rat. Life is good on the trail. Life is paradoxical
out here, as it is both easy and difficult at the same time. A whole
different world out here. Am very at peace with myself. Looking forward to
Wesser and a hot shower and real food! Not sure I want to see civilization
though. Am amazed at how my body (and mind!) has adjusted to this so
quickly. We also decided that MREs have extra fiber in them. :-)


Day Six. 6/15/95

Had a great night sleeping in my little tent away/near the shelter. Wasn't
scared at all! Even got up to pee and wasn't scared. Something that Bo-Jo
said but I'm not sure what - may have been his relaxed attitude. Anyway,
I'm glad. Hiked down Wesser Bald into Wesser - what a steep descent! Had to
consciously put on brakes and go slowly - didn't want to blow out my knees.
Magnificent views at Jump-Up Rock - found Cheoah in distance - what a
monster! Got hotter as we descended into gorge. Sunny and beautiful. I love
this trail. Made good time and got to Wesser early. Seems strange to be in
civilization. I think Kim and Lynn are more happy to be in town than I am.
It seems so busy and intense to me - a mini culture shock. Got a Wesser
burger - yum! Fries, iced tea - yum! Did some laundry, re-supplied at
several stores. Got more food later (baked potato, salad) and bought Nestle
a hamburger patty because regular grocery store was too far away to hike
since we had a one mile additional walk to campground (and back in the
morning) - thought I should save my energy for big trek up Cheoah tomorrow.
Met another hiker who plans to hike Cheoah and stay where we will camp,
too. Left Wesser and hiked the side road to campground - arrived around
8:30 PM and set up camp. Took hot shower for at least 25 minutes! Felt
great! Camper next to us gave Nestle 2 hamburger patties and a hot dog -
Trail Magic for Nestle! Will leave early tomorrow to do the big one - good
luck to us! Tourists asked usual questions.


Day Seven. 6/16/95

We're here! One mile (+) from the top of Cheoah Bald! What a killer climb!
Seven miles of ascending hell. This was probably the hardest thing
physically I have ever done. At the end of the first 2 miles I was so
exhausted I sat down in the trail and cried. Then I ate something and
continued on - I wasn't sure I would make it. At some point endorphins (or
something) kicked in and we were all in trance-like states - taking tiny
baby steps up this gigantic mountain. In many places it was so steep my
hands could touch the ground. In other places it wasn't quite as steep, but
very rocky and slippery. But as the time went on I began to enjoy this in a
perverted way. Through my tranced state I could still see the awesome views
and all the lush green leaves and every tiny snail, worm, frog on the
trail. I was obsessed with pushing on. We stayed together pretty well,
though sometimes Lynn or Kim would get ahead. I kept plugging on. Nestle
continued her climb along with herding us in her usual fashion - up the
trail and back, then fall in line behind the leader. We had left Wesser
late - around 9:00AM because we stopped in at River's End for biscuits and
coffee. Figured we might not reach Sassafras Gap until late. But we pulled
in around mid-afternoon! Jody was already here. He is guy we met in Wesser
yesterday. He started at Springer and will hike until late July (he was NC
State student and will go to U Louisville Law School). I pitched my tent
beside shelter then joined everyone in shelter for good talk and laughs.
Ate dinner. Jody cooked cornbread and pudding. Kim is ready to get off
trail and Lynn is almost ready. I'm not. Wish I could continue on longer.
We're finishing a bit early and even that makes me sad This is our last
night. Tomorrow we only have a 1-mile climb to tip the top of Cheoah, then
moderate/easy hike of 6 miles out to Stecoah Gap. I'm really into rhythm of
the trail and don't want to get off. Will stay in shelter for a while and
socialize. I can't believe most of Cheoah is behind us! The reputation it
has is TRUE! and we climbed it! Not bad for an old woman. I feel my body is
just now getting into good hiking shape.

A note about Nestle: She has shown me what complete loyalty and trust is
through-out this trip, as well as unconditional love. She has enjoyed the
pleasures of this hike as well as endured all the hardships - never
questioning, only trusting. I will never know a better trail companion, nor
friend, than she. Thank you, Nestle, for walking these miles with me.


Day Eight. 6/17/95

We woke up early - about 5:30AM and began our day, trying not to wake Jody.
He soon woke anyway and said he needed to leave early to get to Fontana
tonight. He said a mouse had run over his face during the night. We broke
camp and began the final one mile straight up ascent to the top of Cheoah.
Grunt! We finally arrived!! What a feeling!! After thinking about this and
planning it for a year we finally made it! The views on both sides were
fantastic - the Smokies are huge! I soaked in the beauty as well as the
glory of doing it. We took pics of the scenery and the "Cheoah Bald"
marker. We sat around and ate and looked and kept silent and talked. The
day was clear, especially to be so early in the day. We felt fortunate
indeed. More Trail Magic. I could have lingered there all day but Kim and
Lynn were thinking of home, so we left the top. We thought it would be a
rather easy 6 miles to Stecoah but were we wrong! The elevation map didn't
show the many long and steep ascents. Whew! Downhills were difficult as
well. Another reason it seemed hard was because we were not pacing
ourselves like we had done on previous days - also we were not in order nor
were we focused. Its hard to focus when you know a wonderful trip is about
to end (at least thats why I couldn't focus - perhaps different reasons for
Kim and Lynn). We reached Stecoah Gap in early afternoon - a huge surprise!
We could have easily done 6 or 7 more miles today for a total of 14 miles -
I see how one can build up to 20-25 mile days. Kim's car was there, as
Charlie had promised to drop it off sometimes Saturday at Stecoah. We then
picked up my car at Charlie's house. We decided not to stay at a campground
but to take a shower at Tsali, eat a huge meal, and drive home. We did just
that, and parted at the restaurant. Oh yeah, saw a snake on the trail today
- not poisonous. We just went around him. Told Jody his trail name could be
"Pizza Boy" as that is what he craves. Got home 10:00 PM - hungry.


Afterthoughts

This was probably the best backpacking trip I have taken. It had all the
elements, both good and bad. It gave me tremendous confidence in myself, as
well as gave me a chance to know myself better. I am positive now that I
HAVE to hike the entire AT - its in my blood and I have to do it. And I CAN
do it. As I sit here, every muscle and joint in my body aches, my feet are
covered with sores and blisters, I am eaten up with insect bites, my limbs
are swollen and scratched, my body is exhausted - but my soul is completely
at peace and my spirits are soaring. I can't wait to return to the AT.