Davenport Gap to Hot Springs, NC

Matt (far left) and Andrew (far right) join Laura and I for four days of hiking. This is us on top of Max Patch.

Matt (far left) and Andrew (far right) join Laura and I for four days of hiking. This is us on top of Max Patch.

Day 24: We hiked a short nine miles with the boys! The day started out with rain off and on. The rain was warm, so it was no bother hiking through. When we got to the summit of Snowbird Mt., it was rainy, windy and cold. There is an FAA tower at the top that looked neat, but we didn’t check it out closely, because we were in the cloud and wanted to keep moving to stay warm. There were supposed to be good views, too! The rain held off after we got to camp and we played a game of Spades.

Taking a quick snack break.

Taking a quick snack break.

Day 25: A great day! It was sunny and warm. The hike up to Max Patch wasn’t bad and the 360 degree views were awesome! We got all sorts of trail magic at the top and some down in one of the gaps. A short and easy hike. My feet and muscles love it!

Lunch break atop of Max Patch.

Lunch break atop of Max Patch.

Day 26: What a hot and humid day! Only 10.5 miles but I still feel tired because of the heat. We didn’t get much for views, but the forest floor was all green plants with flowers littered everywhere. Very cool and pretty! Catnip and Wheels caught up to us today. I hope we get to hike with them some. Headed into Hot Springs tomorrow!

Forest floor littered with trillium.

Forest floor littered with trillium.

Day 27: Today we woke up before the sun to get to Hot Springs as early as possible and to try to beat the rain. We hit the trail just as the sun was coming up. We cruised through the mileage, as the terrain was nice and easy. Plus the guys were excited to get to town to grab a beer. The food in town was great and soaking in the Hot Springs felt wonderful!

Walking through Hot Springs.

Walking through Hot Springs.

Day 28: Zero Day 🙂

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The Smoky Mountains

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Day 18: Today we entered the Smokies with rain off and on all day. We got some nice vistas but didn’t get up the fire tower before the showers started. At just under 15 miles my feet are feeling it. We saw these little white flowers everywhere. It looked like the hillside was speckled with snow! A packed shelter tonight since you have to stay in it unless they are full. The poop situation here is pretty dire since there are no privies. I shouldn’t have had so much chili in town! We heard there were some bears sighted the day before. It would be neat to see from a distance!

Ground littered with white flowers.

Ground littered with white flowers.

Day 19: We hiked 16.4 miles today! We decided to push on from the previous shelter since this one was only 1.7 further and tomorrow the terrain is supposed to get tougher. Plus, when we saw this one had a privy, we were sold! We got some great views today and more white flowers. The flowers opened up to reveal purple stripes on the petals. Sore feet as usual and I turned my ankle not paying attention, but it seems fine. Hoping for another warm night!

Close-up of the white flower.

Close-up of the white flower.

Day 20: A shorter day today, with lots of views! We climbed Clingman’s Dome, which is the highest point on the AT at 6655 feet. We also passed 200 miles! We are hiking right along the North Carolina/Tennessee border. Nice weather today. We ran into some more trail magic! I had a turkey and cheese sandwich, an orange, some peanut butter crackers and mnm’s. We are so lucky for trail angels! I’m glad we got a second lunch there, because at dinner I never felt full. I need to bring more snacks! I don’t think I slept well in the shelter last night. I am super tired tonight! I can’t wait to get back to our tent. We met a newly wed couple today that is doing a thru-hike for their honeymoon. Very cool!

View from Clingman's Dome.

View from Clingman’s Dome.

Day 21: A short day today. We were hiking along a ridge line, so we would have had great views if it weren’t so cloudy! We did get some views early on, but by mid-morning we were white-walled. Thankfully the rain held off for the most part. We only got hit with passing showers and it was pretty warm out. We got to camp early and ate an early dinner. I regretted that as I was hungry again before bedtime. I didn’t have any extra snacks so I stole a snickers from tomorrows rations since Andrew will be picking us up with snacks. Hopefully I can make it 15 miles on pop tarts, a granola bar and a bagel with chocolate spread. That’s all the food I have left! I need to bring more next time.

Sunrise at Icewater Spring Shelter.

Sunrise at Icewater Spring Shelter.

Day 22: A 15 mile day today and we did it in 7 hours, including breaks! We were cruising. The terrain was pretty easy, with mostly downhills. A beautiful sunny day with a couple of nice views. When we got down to the road, Andrew was waiting with southern BBQ and soda! It was so delicious, I had thirds! Looking forward to our zero at Andrew’s coworkers house. We are very grateful for his hospitality!

Day 23: Zero Day 🙂

Dick’s Creek Gap to Fontana Dam

Laura and I at the NC/GA border.

Laura and I at the NC/GA border.

Day 10: Today was a great day! We crossed into North Carolina and it feels like we are actually making progress. Only thirteen more states to go! I am still feeling tired at the end of the day, but not like before our zero. Coming into NC we got hit with steep hills right away. It was beautiful weather but felt too hot to hike in! Lots of nice people at the shelter tonight.

Cool tree just after entering NC.

Cool tree just after entering NC.

Day 11: Wow, 16.2 miles today! My feet are the most tired. The rest of my body is tired but should be good to go with some rest. The views from Standing Indian Mt. were spectacular! I’m curious if we will hike any of the mountains I could see. Had a hard time finding a tree to hang our bear bags in. Hopefully our food survives the night!

Myself at the outlook on Standing Indian Mt.

Myself at the outlook on Standing Indian Mt.

Day 12: Today was shorter at just over 12 miles, but my feet needed the rest. We are camping next to a nice stream which should be pleasant to sleep to. Today is the last day the couple from Oregon is on the trail. It is sad to see them leave as they were such nice people! We got some great views from an old weather observatory tower today and some trail magic! I had soda, a sloppy joe, cheese puffs, a nutty bar, an apple and a banana! Yum!

Views from the tower!

Views from the tower!

Day 13: Today we did a short day, though we meant to go 15 miles. It was raining when we stopped at the shelter for lunch and we heard there was a big group already at the next shelter. Wanting to sleep out of the rain, we decided to stay and hike the miles tomorrow. I’m happy for the short day and to stay dry.

Views before the rain hit!

Views before the rain hit!

Day 14: We did 16.5 miles today to reach the Natahala Outdoor Center (NOC). The rain started back up just as we left the shelter around 7:45 AM. We hiked super fast in order to stay warm as the temps were in the low 30’s with rain and wind. We were lucky though, as people just a half hour behind us reported hiking through sleet and freezing rain! We got to the NOC just after four and my knees were not happy with me. However, after a burger, salad, chips and salsa, chili, a brownie sunday, and two beers, I was feeling great. Next came a shower and laundry, which appeased my achy muscles. I’m happy to be staying in the hostel here tonight as it’s been spitting snow and we are only at 1700 feet! Loving life.

Lots of hunger hikers at the NOC!

Lots of hunger hikers at the NOC!

Day 15: Today was a long but great day! We got up in a warm room and got our packs together. We went to get breakfast, which included 3 eggs, 2 pieces of french toast, home fries, a biscuit, 3 slices of bacon, a cup of fruit, orange juice and coffee. I think we have the hiker hunger! On top of this, we found out that Moe, a fellow hiker from Maine, had bought our breakfast for us! Trail magic from hikers is even better! Stuffed, we resupplied at the general store which pretty much has gas station food. We didn’t get onto the trail until 10 AM! A very late start for us, but that didn’t faze us. We took our time hiking and talking with others along the trail. We got some nice vistas and the sun was out. There was even a warm breeze! We saw evidence of frost and there was ice falling out of the trees as the sun warmed them up. We didn’t get to the shelter until 7PM, so we decided to just eat snacks for dinner to avoid the lengthy cooking process. The bear bag hung easy and I ended the day by watching the sunset. I had to borrow some of Laura’s gear to stay warm over night. The temps got super low and by bag wasn’t cutting it!

Sunset!

Sunset!

Day 16: We woke up late and were some of the last people out of the shelter. I woke feeling well rested and perky. As the day went on, it got very nice out and I decided to listen to some music as I hiked since there wasn’t much to look at. Eventually, we could see Fontana Dam from the trail. Very cool! I started to chafe today… ouch! Hopefully it will heal over our zero day. Staying at the Fontana Lodge tonight and it is very nice. A bit pricey, but not bad. Excited to take a rest day!

Day 17: Rest Day 🙂

Neel Gap to Dick’s Creek Gap

Laura and myself on Blood Mt.

Laura and myself on Blood Mt.

Day Six: After a nice stay at the hiker hostel, we procrastinated getting ready to go hike. It was raining pretty hard and it was so cold out! By the time we got ready, the rain had stopped and we started our hike out dry. This did not last long though and we endured our first day full of rain. It was so chilly that we only stopped once to shovel food and water before continuing on! I felt pretty sick to my stomach most of the day too. It turns out that eating all that food at the hostel worked against me! This was our first long hiking day and I was happy to get to the shelter and set up our tent.

Day Seven: Waking up and having to put on wet and cold clothes was a great challenge. What a long day! We did 15.4 miles today, the first half being relatively flat and the second half having big elevation gains and losses. We saw a dead baby bear in the trail, which was very sad! We suspect a male killed it in order to mate with the female. We didn’t stick around to find out if she was still in the area! Hiking up Tray Mt. was difficult, but it paid off with great views. As we were getting ready for the night, I noticed I could start to see my own breath! We think it dipped below freezing over night. I’m happy that my gear was still able to keep me warm!

View from Tray Mt.

View from Tray Mt.

Day Eight: Getting out of bed was difficult as it was still very cold up on Tray Mt. I was also feeling sore from adding big miles over the last few days. We had another 11 plus mile day to get through today. As we hiked, we noticed that our pace had slowed way down and that we were very achy. We decided to take our zero day early to let our body recover. We made it to Dick’s Creek Gap and grabbed a shuttle into Hiawassee, a cute trail town in Georgia. As we left our motel for dinner, we ran into some of our hiker friends whom we thought we wouldn’t see again, since we were moving along faster. It was nice to chill in town and have a beer with them! They will be missed in the days to come.

Our room at the Budget Inn!

Our room at the Budget Inn!

Day Nine: Rest Day 🙂

Springer Mt. to Neel Gap

Sunrise at the Hiker Hostel.

Day one: Today was so warm and by far the hardest hike we have completed. The approach trail gave great views! Pictures to come soon. Sunburnt and tired by the time we got to the shelter! Thanks to Mike and Amanda for joining us.

From left: Laura, myself, Mike and Amanda

From left: Laura, myself, Mike and Amanda

Day Two: Today was a breeze. It felt like we were hiking downhill all day! We completed our miles in four hours and got to set up camp early. I didn’t mind as I got to finish my first book of the trail. I’m very happy to have my kindle along. By far my favorite luxury item! I also got a small blister on the ball of my left foot. Nothing serious though!

Day Three: Another easy day today! We caught up to some friends we made at the hiker hostel and they wanted to challenge themselves by trying to keep up with us. That felt pretty good! I’m starting to feel antsy about getting in longer mileage but I’m holding back so as to avoid early injury. It happens a lot in this section, sending hikers off trail. A cold night, happy for all my warm gear!

Day Four: I’m happy to say the rain has held off. We keep hearing about bad weather but its only cooled off a little, which is actually more pleasant to hike in! Another short day and the completion of my second book! This truly is the good life. Getting to know some fellow hikers from across the country and world. I am happy to hear their stories and share thoughts about this world. Off to bed early!

Day Five: We made it to Blood Mt., the high spot on the Georgia section of the AT. It gave us some great views but was chilly so we didn’t stay long! Having a nice warm night at the hiker hostel at Neel Gap. Rain in the morning.

View from Blood Mt.

View from Blood Mt.

 

Happy Trails