Monthly Archives: May 2012
After hiking a nice distance and being incredibly hot, we came to what is known as the Standing Bear Hostel. Curtis is the caretaker and he gave us the grand tour of the privy, shower house (hot water upon request and a donation), the bunkhouse, kitchen and the general store. At the store you can buy everything from a single roll of toilet paper to chapstick to beverages to $10 DiGiorno’s pizza. The pizza was so worth that $10! So yummy. We were able to cook the food we bought in the kitchen instead of using our stoves. We loaded up on electrolyte rich drinks and the amazing pizza. Did I mention I liked the pizza?
The bunk space was nice with plastic mattresses and pillows. I felt like I was at camp. We had a Bible Study with Buz, Steve and Greg. These guys blessed Reaper and I by inviting us to Bible Study and encouring us in our faith. We are so glad that we met them. Greg even gave Reaper his challenge coin from the army. This is a huge deal. Reaper is to carry this coin to Katahdin. Amazing.
I was able to slack pack for the first time from the top of Clingman’s Dome to Newfound Gap – about 8 miles. It was glorious. The scenery looked like the Black Hills with evergreens and pine needles covering the ground. I practically flew down the trail. Then at Newfound Gap I picked up Reaper and my really heavy pack and went another 11 miles. It was so close to a 20 mile day! At the gap people were asking us all sorts of questions like we were celebrities. In a week or so you can ask Alison all sorts of questions when she comes home. 🙂
A couple days later we did 22 miles – this time all with packs. I was exhausted at the end. We went from Standing Bear Hostel to Bluff Mountain. We decided just to sleep on the ground instead of putting up the hammocks cause we were so tired. We started hiking at 7 in the morning and quit at 8:30pm. Studs…yes.
So, this is Renee writing. It is sad that Alison isn’t on the trail anymore, but the fact that she is trail angeling Reaper and myself is amazing. We met her in Hot Springs North Carolina and everyone looked at us like we were crazy cause we had a car. It was quite hilarious actually. Even though the trail goes right through Hot Springs it was really nice not to have to walk to the post office, laundromat and other places. This town isn’t even the size of Freeman, but any less walking is great.
Because Alison left the trail I have acquired a hammock. It was nervous about getting in it the first time, but actually I succeeded. I only flipped out of it once while getting out of it in the morning. However the sleep that I got in it the first night was not quality. I believe there is a break-in period for such things. At least I hope the next time I try sleeping it I will actually sleep. The hammock is just for when I don’t sleep in shelters, so there is potential that it won’t be used a whole lot.
Speaking of shelters…do me a favor and if you decide to section hike anywhere on the Appalachian Trail, that you are not obnoxious. We had such an experience with some section hikers. We hang our food on bear cables and these cables were especially squeaky at one shelter. These people got into their food bag what seemed like every 2 hours during the night. They also complained about how much everything weighed – like headlamps. Okay, they are only section hiking. Ask any AT thru-hiker and they have shifted and figured out what things they can do without, nearly daily. The next shelter we stayed at everyone that had stayed in the shelter with those people slept in their tents or hammocks. I’m not sure they got the hint that the shelter was empty because of them.
As I (Alison) am writing this, I am taking a few days in Sylva to re -evaluate being on the trail. For the past week on the trail, I have been struggling with weakness while hiking that I believe is a combination of not getting the nutrition I need, losing weight too quickly, and not eating enough calories. For those of you who are worried about my feet they are MUCH better and now just have the usual “tired feet” at the end of the day. This has taken a toll on me emotionally because we haven’t been able to do the millage we need to do and we are hiking longer hours and going shorter distances. After talking with Renee and Reaper, I decided that the best thing I can do right now is rest. It was a very hard decision and I still struggle with some guilt over leaving Renee but right now it is what I need to do. I stayed in Gatlinburg while Renee and Reaper headed back to the trail. Luckily, a wonderful couple, Kim and Dicky (friends of Gayle whom we zeroed with in Sylva), have said I can crash here for a few days. At the moment I am not planning on going back to the trail. What I would like to do in the next couple weeks is rent a car and follow Renee and Reaper as they hike and support them in any way I can. I have bought a plane ticket home in May and then I am tentitively planning on driving back out here with my car and supporting Renee as she finishes this hike. I went into this wanting to challenge myself and told myself I would be proud of whatever amount of the trail I accomplished. While I am a person that likes to complete what I start, I don’t feel like I need to complete it all at once. Don’t be suprised if you find me out on the AT section hiking in the future. 200 miles done, 1, 984 to go!
Renee is planning on continuing to hike and it makes me feel better knowing that Reaper will watch out for her and vise versa. There are also lots of thru-hikers traveling the same pace that will watch out for them.
Currently, I am have a peace about my decision and I am excited to be a personal “trail angel” to Renee as she finishes this journey. Thank you to all of you for your prayers and support. I couldn’t have made it this far without all of you. Please continue to pray for Renee as she continues.
So, this week has been a bit more challenging for us. On Monday night we stayed in the Fontana Dam ‘Hilton” shelter. This shelter could sleep 24 people, had an awesome view of the lake and dam, and had actual flushing toilets and showers. So nice! I believe all told that we had around 40 people staying including those that tented. Fontana Dam is the gateway into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and last resupply for several days.
The next day we officially entered the Smokies! This is where we would climb the tallest mountain on the AT Clingman’s Dome at over 6600 ft. It was a beautiful day! At one point on the first day we saw two of the thru-hikers from Germany, Ralph and Armando just standing in the middle of the trail. At first we thought they were just talking but they said there was two bears about 10 ft from the trail ahead of them. Since Reaper had hiked ahead of us we thought he was pretending to be a bear and play a joke on us. Turns out they weren’t joking! There was a cub sleeping not 10 ft from the trail. At first we didn’t see the mom so we were worried about getting in between them. We waited about 15 min until there were about 9 of us and we all passed it together. Moma bear was another 20 ft away from the cub! As we passed the cub ran closer to its mother but they didn’t seem the least interested in us. Thank goodness! They must have just eaten! 🙂 Turns out most of the bears in the Smokies will stay away from humans unless you get in between a mom and her cub. Most of the bear problems happened because people fed the bears in the 60’s and then they became a nuisance. Unfortunetly, we don’t have a picture right now but we will try and get one uploaded to our photo page soon.
Wednesday was a really tough day for Alison. She was struggling with weakness on the uphills. At one point Reaper carried her pack for her. What a sweet guy!
Thursday was a really interesting day. We knew we needed to hike over 13 miles to meet the people pick up our maildrop. We started out early and as soon as we stepped on the trail it started raining, 0.5 miles later it started hailing grape sized hail. The next shelter was only 1 mile away but it was closer to go back so we did. By the time we got there we were drenched and bruised from the hail. We changed and waited a couple hours until the rain stopped. At one point a guy came into our shelter and said he had a truck on the top of Clingmans’s Dome and he would take us into town from there. So we slogged through the ankle deep mud, 1000 ft climb and 5.3 miles to the top of Clingman’s Dome. There were also a couple of section hikers Rose and Sharon who where behind us. Sharon was struggling with a heel blister and trouble breathing, so Reaper ended up going back and carrying her pack while Renee carried both her and Reaper’s packs! Praise God it wasn’t raining and we all made it to the top of the mountain. The 5 of us then caught a ride into town so we could warm up, wash clothes and sleep indoors! So nice.
Here are some random facts about the Smokies:
In the Smokies, they don’t have many privies, they have marked “toilet areas”. You want to watch your step or you might step in a cat-hole!
The shelters used to have chain-link fences to keep the bears out. They don’t have them anymore…I wonder if that is good or bad?
If there are a lot of people weekend hiking they have to “reserve” spots in the shelters. If it is full, only 4 spots can be for thru-hikers, then they have to tent. That doesn’t sound fair.
If you don’t like the weather in the Smokies, wait 5 min. It went from sunshine to snow back to sunshine in 30 min.
One day we were on our feet for 10 hours and only went 15 miles. Yuck.
We will be glad to get out of the Smokies.