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AT trip report

Hi. I just returned from a 4 day trip on the AT and am forwarding my
journal to the group.

Carver's Gap, TN to Highway 321 at Hampton, TN
Sept 15-19, 1995

Day 1 - Sept 15

Left Chapel Hill mid-day, picked up Lynn and headed for the hills. Arrived
at Browns Grocery in Hampton, TN, where we were to meet Rob, around 6:00PM.
Ate subway sandwich and Rob arrived about 6:30. We talked to owner of store
and hostel (he was an AT hiker) and he told us directions to Carvers Gap,
our starting point, and gave us other helpful information. Left Rob's car
at his store and drove to Carver's Gap and arrived near dark (7:30). Rob
brought a lantern and another light so we had no trouble setting up tents
in the dark. We're near the parking lot in the woods at the side of Roan
Mountain. Sat outside of tent and talked a while about upcoming trip. Am in
my little tent now (I love this tent). Am nervous about tomorrow. Will hike
12 miles in one day (first day, too!).  Not used to that. Hope I can do it.
Will get up around 5:30 and on the trail by 7:00AM. Should be pretty
tomorrow --- lots of balds to go over! Wind is blowing really hard now but
not cold as we are protected by trees in the woods and our tents. Bet its
cold on tops of the balds! I'll have more confidence once we've done 12
miles tomorrow. Yikes! Nestle is happy and is sleeping right now. Rob and
Lynn are sharing Rob's tent. I'm really hyper tonight -  wish me luck! I
miss my cats and hope my kids are OK. Forgot to call mother....oops. Pack
weighs in at 41 lbs.....9 lbs lighter than on previous trip.

Day 2 - Sept 16

Didn't sleep well last night - not sure why. Wind was blowing very hard and
started to rain at 1:00AM and continued on through today. Packed up in the
rain and got a late start at 8:00AM. Hiked over Round Bald and Jane Bald
and others but could not see much due to the fog and rain. It was even
raining sideways! Fog was so thick we could barely see 20 feet ahead of us.
But even though we could not see any of the spectacular view, all this
still had its own special ambiance that was really neat. The wind was
awesome as we climbed the balds - almost blew me down a few times. Also
very muddy on our descents - we all fell down several times, though no one
got hurt, just muddy.  Decided to stop at Overmountain Shelter for lunch
and to dry out some. A really cool shelter! Its an old barn that is
converted into a shelter. A huge place! The whole upstairs  loft is great
for sleeping and it also has spaces downstairs. Rob and Lynn really wanted
to stay here for the night, though I wanted to move on since it was so
early in the day. I gave in so here we are until tomorrow morning. Has
great views from the loft, though it is mostly too foggy and rainy to see
much. Now we are behind schedule so we'll have to change camping site plans
for the next 3 days. Its great to be on the AT again - feels like home!
Feels so familiar and friendly to me. Really wanted to keep going to Apple
House Shelter. Oh well. Right knee is bothering me a little but the long
rest here will surely heal it. Very quiet and peaceful here but all this
extra time on my hands makes me miss my cats and my kids a lot. We are
dying things in here somewhat, or at least spreading them out. Rob does not
have a rain cover for his pack so his pack got soaked big time.

Now we're in bed for the night. We set up our tents in the barn for more
warmth. Another couple, Susan and Shane from Raleigh, came in about 5:30
and are staying the night. After dinner we all talked for a while and had a
really good time. They are really nice people and I enjoyed them a lot.
They even loaned Rob a raincover - trail magic for Rob! They also have a
great dog named Maggie and the 2 dogs get along great. With all our tents
set up in here, it looks like a very cozy indoor campground! Will get up
early tomorrow and hike as far as possible. Its supposed to rain all day
again, though. Its raining hard now and the wind is howling. Sure am glad
I'm warm and dry now.

Am having a good time and even enjoyed the long layover in the barn today.
It was fun. I learned today how to relax more and to be more flexible with
plans and schedules. Learned to enjoy each thing as it comes and not to try
to stick so tightly to a fixed plan. This is neat. Am glad that Susan and
Shane came, too, as it gave us all a sense of togetherness as we would like
it to be in the day to day world.

Day 3 - Sept 17

Really great day! Tried to play catch-up due to lost miles, but not sure we
can do it. Hiked 11 miles today in 10 hours and we're pretty exhausted.
Went across several huge balds - very steep and windy!  Oof! Hump Mountain
was a monster and I wondered if I could make it to the top several times,
but knew that I had to. Lots of false tops, especially for a bald. Stopped
raining finally, though still foggy and some drizzle, so not many views.
Right before we left the barn this morning, we did have a glimpse of what
the view might look like on a clearer day. Still, though no views in the
fog and drizzle, it had its own beauty. The balds were very forlorn-looking
and quite lonely feeling. Made me appreciate the love of my family and
friends. Had more serious doubts about going up some of the balds, but we
finally made it and it felt really good to accomplish that. Several times I
had to reach deep down inside of me and pull out some inner strength which
I didn't know was there in order to keep going. It was amazing. Just when I
thought I couldn't do any more, I did more. Ate lunch at Apple House
Shelter (never did find the apple tree), crossed highway 19E and hiked
across a cow pasture. What a cool pasture! We decided to spend the night in
the cow pasture, as it is really beautiful. Its clear enough now to see
some mountains in the distance and the views are great. Owners must be neat
people to give their cows such a great place to live and also to let the AT
go through it.

Going up from 19E to the pasture I had a few moments of crying from sheer
exhaustion, plus I felt really nauseated and my stomach hurt.....all from
exhaustion I am sure. Am feeling better now. Lynn is extremely tired and
wants to backtrack tomorrow back to Carver's Gap rather than go on to
Hampton....she's exhausted. We'll all talk tonight. I want to go on, but
I'll have to agree with whatever Rob and Lynn decide on. This is such a
great place. I love it. I surely do feel alive now, though a little
disappointed that we might not go all the way. Very quiet. Mountains look
so majestic and powerful. Makes me feel little. Will be clear tomorrow and
Tuesday and I thin we should get great views no matter what we decide to
do. I love the AT. Met a few other hikers today - all are so nice and
friendly. View from here makes me feel the power of nature and how delicate
life is. Temp is warmer now at these lower elevations than a top of balds
where it surely was cold!

Yippee! We just all talked and Lynn decided that she wants to try to go all
the way to Hampton! We showed her the elevation map and it looks like the
changes are not as bad as today and on last day we can even short cut into
town if we have to. Everyone feels better now and I'm happy we're
continuing on. Talked about how women cry when exhausted and men often
curse. Funny. I'm remembering how my mind made my body climb those balds
around the Hump Mountains even when I thought I had nothing left. I pushed
myself to the limits and over.....cool.  Eleven miles in a day (and 10
hours again) over steep terrain is a bit too much for me, I think. Maybe 8
miles is more my style.

Day 4 - Sept 18

Neat day! Hiked over 11 miles and almost caught up to schedule. Rob
suggested we take a short cut at one point from one highway to another,
thereby skipping a couple of AT miles, so we did, though I was hesitant.
I'll have to come back someday and day hike that little section! We hiked
down a road to do this and saw lots of local people and dogs and other
interesting stuff. We understood that the locals were not thrilled with
anything that has to do with the AT near their town.

Rob blew out his knee really bad and limped most of the day. Lynn threw up
twice from exhaustion and was unable to eat. So far I'm okey but really
tired. Arrived at Moreland Gap Shelter at about 7:00PM and set up tent away
from shelter. Lynn is in shelter. Can hear 2 or 3 owls not far from
shelter....cool. Nestle is tired but having a great time. Have learned a
lot on this trip about myself. Saw snake in trail, lots of caterpillars and
huge acorns. I really love hiking the AT. Crossed some huge open meadows
today....really pretty. Some hard ascents with more false tops. Met only
one other pair of hikers all day. Got another long day tomorrow but we will
make it. I guess Rob needs to finish soon as his knee is really bad, but as
usual, I'm sad to see the last day come tomorrow. This has been a very
challenging trip! A little disappointed that we cut off a few miles today
but it was the best thing to do under the circumstances. Some leaves are
beginning to turn color now and I feel the fall in the air. Days are so
short now, too. maybe we wouldn't have taken short cut if days were longer.
None of us wanted to hike in the dark.

Day 5 - Sept 19

Wow! What a day so far! We left shelter at 8:00. Encountered TWO BEARS (or
maybe same one) on the trail!!! Yikes! First one jumped up on a rock not
far from trail. I was by myself dragging behind the others. I stomped my
foot and he ran the other way. Then as my heart was beating like crazy, I
booked it straight up a steep ascent to catch up with Lynn and Rob. We sat
and rested and I hysterically told them about the bear. Nestle kept barking
and looking in the woods and that spooked me but I didn't see anything.
Just as we left, I turned around and saw a bear LAYING right where we had
been sitting only a few moments earlier! Could have been same bear but
looked more brown and bigger. I'm thinking maybe it was Mama bear to other
young bear I saw earlier. Rob started to run down mountain but we told him
not to run (told him why) but just to walk and talk. Wow! Big adrenalin
rush twice!

Right now we have stopped and climbed a fire tower and am now sitting on
top. Beautiful views and warm sunshine and it doesn't get much better than
this. Lots of crickets and grasshoppers and I'm very happy. I love it. Lynn
is ready to go home. I'm not. Rob doesn't want to leave either except for
his bad knee. Rest of way is downhill mainly. Will do 10 miles today.

Later.....went to Laurel Falls area. Really pretty area. Similar to
Linville Gorge. Let AT for a short while and rejoined it later (another
small portion I will have to come back and hike someday so I can officially
log it in as having done it all). Got off trail near Hampton and hiked
along river into town. Rob hiked to his car and came back to trailhead and
picked us up, then drove to Carver's Gap for my car. Stopped for great
cheeseburger and fries at a local diner! Drove home talking with Lynn about
trip. Nestle slept- tired after many days of herding her humans and
watching out for us.

Afterthoughts of trip:
This was a very enlightening trip for me. I pushed myself to and even
beyond my limits and learned what my physical and mental limits really are.
It made me realize I CAN do what I think I can not - that the strength is
within me somewhere and that I can always pull it out if really needed. I
learned to be more flexible in planning as well as tolerant, and to enjoy
things for what they are and not for what I would like them to be. This AT
trip was not as leisurely as my one in June but certainly was full of fun
things as well as lessons. I strengthened my knowledge of what I like and
what I don't like. And despite my complete exhaustion, it was a great trip
and I knew I was alive. And I was quite proud of myself, and of us, for
completing most of what we had planned.