Date: November 11 2000
Trail Day: 164
Miles Today: 4
Location: Uncle Johnny's Hostel, Erwin
Section Mile: AT 1775
ECT Mile: 2474
Grinder and I got up at about 8:30 am and hiked the 4 miles into Uncle Johnny's hostel. It had been a cold night. Wet nights are hard. I have to sleep in shelters that are cold. The terrain was all down and flat so we made it quite easily.
This hostel is also a very cozy place. John is a very nice and helpful guy. Took a shower, did laundry and got a ride into Erwin. Grinder bought me lunch at the Pizza Hut. Did some grocery shopping, checked e-mail and got a ride back. Now drinking beer and watching a movie.
Date: November 12 2000
Trail Day: 165
Miles Today: 0
Location: Uncle Johnny's Hostel, Erwin
Section Mile: AT 1775
ECT Mile: 2474
Decided to take a 0 day today. This is a very comfortable place. Rode a bicycle into the town of Erwin for breakfast. When I got back Firebreather and Fall Girl were at the hostel. They have to be at Hot Springs by a certain date and therefore would be moving on. They hitched a ride into Erwin for groceries. Andrew and Richard showed up some time later.
Grinder made chilli for all the hikers. I helped him chop the onions and green peppers. Spent the rest of the day eating and watching TV and talking. Also talked to Kumar, Suriyan and Vivek.
At Uncle Johny's Hostel
Date: November 13 2000
Trail Day: 166
Miles Today: 20
Location: Near Low Gap
Section Mile: AT 1795
ECT Mile: 2494
Had a good chat with Andrew last night. Got a slightly late start. Most of the day was a climb, so the progress was slow. Started drizzling in the middle. Got into my "water resistant but not water proof" jacket. Depending on the sun and the terrain it can get warm or very cold. You have to keep playing with the clothes all the time.
Passed Richard along the way. The climb upto Big Bald seemed to go on forever. Met Sheperd doing a north hike of this section. I had passed him somewhere in Connecticut and had met him again briefly near Catawba. He is always hiking with women - have to envy that.
Decided to hike past Bald Mountain shelter in order to get into Hot Springs on 15th night. Dave Farley, a friend at work has invited me to his cabin somewhere in Georgia. I am trying to make it to Fontana Dam (another 150 miles) by Thanks Giving. I dont know if its possible. I have not yet talked to Dave although we have exchanged e-mails. Hiking has now become quite weather sensitive. I cannot get started till the sun is well up and things have slightly warmed up. I think its going to be this cold till I clear the Appalachian range - another 800 miles or so.
I had to hike about an hour in the dark to find water. Set up my tarp and cooked dinner. Its going to rain tonight.
Date: November 14 2000
Trail Day: 167
Miles Today: 22
Location: Jerry Cabin Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1817
ECT Mile: 2516
It rained last night but I had stayed dry. Got a late start. Hiked about 6 miles to Sam's gap where they are working on a road. I talked with an 83 year old tobacco farmer for a while. A fairly uneventful day. Saw 2 hunting dogs that seemed to be lost. One of them at the shelter was in bad shape. She could not even walk much. The hunters are quite careless with their dogs. I have seen and heard of numerous such lost dogs.
Had to hike about 2 hours in the dark as I had no water. It is fairly easy to lose the trail in some of these balds at night. Saw the valley all lit up with lights - it was magnificent.
Tried starting a fire at the shelter with no success. My skills here are quite poor. I have to make it a point to learn it for my own safety. Cooked dinner in the dark and settled in for the night. The shelter catches the wind and is therefore quite cold.
Date: November 15 2000
Trail Day: 168
Miles Today: 15
Location: Spring Mountain Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1832
ECT Mile: 2531
Last night was the coldest so far in this hike. The thermometer at the shelter read a cool 20 F at night. My thermometer reads 10 F now. I know its 12 F off. My water bottle was half frozen at about 2:00 am but by morning was frozen almost solid.
Got a late start again. This is getting to be a problem . Getting out of the sleeping bag into cold hiking gear and walking the first hour or two is the worst part.
Met Richard on the way. He had stayed one shelter behind. I was not in a hiking mood today. Took a break at Little Laurel Shelter. Richard joined me shortly. It was warm at the shelter because of the sun. Decided to cut the day today and stop at Spring Mountain shelter. This shelter because of the hills nearby gets little sun and the temperature was 45 F when I got there.
Cooked in daylight for a change and looked at the register. Looks like Firebreather and Fall Girl will be taking 4 days off in Hot Springs. We might finish together. Crawled into my sleeping bag and ready to sleep.
Date: November 16 2000
Trail Day: 169
Miles Today: 11
Location: Elmer's Hostel, Hot Springs
Section Mile: AT 1847
ECT Mile: 2548
Last night was relatively warm. It stayed above 40 F for a daily range of 40 to 45. Got a late start. The terrain was fairly easy and had only 2 minor climbs. This distance is covered quickly when running into towns. The pack is light, its downhill and there's the enticement of a town - food, shower and a WARM bed. This time I have run out of food completely. I think I am eating more because of the cold. The ice in my water bottle has still not melted even though I have poured water into it.
Saw Richard at Elmer's hostel. He told me Hymmetus and Andrew are also there. Had lunch at a nearby diner. The food was excellent. Andrew came by and we chatted for a while. Andrew is 24 years old and trying to find direction in life. He has been to several colleges but hasn't finished his degree yet. He said he is having a hard time with the cold. I think we all are.
Talked to Dave Farley. The plans are for me to be at Fontana village on 23rd night and he will pick me up on the 24th morning. I was hoping to make it there before Thanksgiving, what with the turkey dinner and all, but it seems difficult. If I do the Smokies in 4 days (70 miles) then I will be there 22nd night. But due to the late starts and terrain it will be difficult. I will certainly try it.
Also saw Nomad's book. It is in a journal form. I think it would have been better in a narrative form. I find journals tedious to read. I have read only one journal from start to finish so far. Its Dragon Breath's journal.
Date: November 17 2000
Trail Day: 170
Miles Today: 26
Location: Groundhog Creek Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1873
ECT Mile: 2574
Talked to Vivek in the morning and asked him to mail me the Georgia Pinhoti maps. He is also trying to get a newer set for me. Had a long talk with him.
I am also experiencing a mixture of anxiety and apprehension. The Smokies are the highest elevations in the AT and hence the coldest. If I clear it comfortably I think I should have no significant problems after that. I was also trying to get to Fontana dam by the 22nd. My morale and spirits are now high.
There was good climate from Hot Springs to Bluff mountain. Made it quite easily. Passed Hymmetus on the way. I was planning on doing a 20 mile day but as I had some day light left decided to go over Max Patch and find water and tarp. I have heard of Max Patch a lot and now know why. It is a beautiful bald. I was also trying to determine where the Smokies where. I was at about 4000 ft while the Smokies are at 6000 ft. As I climbed up and reached the summit of Max Patch there was no doubt as to where they were. It was the huge moutain range half lost in the clouds.
There was absolutely no water on the other side of Max Patch. Kept hiking to the shelter and walked for an hour or so in the dark. Its not fun. Made it to the shelter where Salmon and Malochai were there. Both are section hikers. We were then joined by a teenager and a guide.
It got cold quickly and even the denatured alcohol was difficult to light. Did not feel very hungry for some reason and ended up eating only half the normal ammount. Crawled into the bed and bundled up. Talked to the others for a while. Salmon has a very graphic way of describing things. I think he must have some artistic talents.
End of a very good day and a good start to get to the Thanks Giving
turkey dinner by 22nd. I hope it continues.