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.
Date: November 18 2000
Trail Day: 171
Miles Today: 18
Location: Cosby Knob Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1891
ECT Mile: 2592
Got a fairly early start today. There was 1.5 mile up and then down to I-40, then a little bump and onto NC 284. Hitchhiked the 1.5 mile to Mountain Mamma's - a country store. Had a big burger and 2 chicken sandwiches. Picked up grocery for 4 days.
Could not get a ride back to the trail so had to walk it instead. Then came a 3500 ft climb onto the Smokies ridge. Got to the shelter just as the sun was setting. There were 2 other section hikers there. Cooked dinner and slept. The shelter was somewhat warm because of a fire the 2 had started. A very good day considering I had to do a resupply stop and got here with most of the climb upto the ridge.
Date: November 19 2000
Trail Day: 172
Miles Today: 20
Location: Icewater Spring Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1911
ECT Mile: 2612
When we got up it was snowing. Got an early start again. There was snow everywhere. Caught 3 or 4 very good scenic views. My shoes and socks got wet by the end of the day. Another good mileage day though tomorrow is not looking good because everything is wet.
Date: November 20 2000
Trail Day: 173
Miles Today: 21
Location: Derrick Knob Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1932
ECT Mile: 2633
Last night was extremely cold. The over night temperature was 15 F. There was a group of 5 or 6 from Detroit and Chicago and another teenager. Everyone was complaining about the cold. Sometimes its relieving just to complain. I did not sleep well at all - may have done 2 half hour stretches of sleep. The shelter sits on top of a ride and catches the wind squarely. The shelter is built well, so it cuts most of the wind but not all. Both my water bottles were frozen solid. I did not even dare to get out of the sleeping bag before the sun was well up. The temperature however improved only to 17 F.
The starting off is the hardest part on such cold mornings. The boots are frozen and I had to force my feet in. Then came the inevitable agony of numb feet. Have to get moving immediately to get the body heat up.
I was thinking of just bailing out at US 441 and go to Gatlinburg and do a O. But once I got to US 441 I was hiking strong and decided to push on. Then came a climb upto Clingman's Dome - the highest point on the AT at 6643 ft. It was very windy. Looks like they close the road to Clingman's Dome when it snows. Went up the tower for a view.
I was thinking of stopping at the Silers Bald Shelter for a 17 mile day. But then I saw 5th Wheel and he said he was going to Derrick Knob shelter as I had originally planned. So I decided to push it too.
Made it just before dark. There were 2 guys from Tampa trying to get a fire going. Got into my sleeping bag immediately and started cooking. Going to be another cold night.
Date: November 21 2000
Trail Day: 174
Miles Today: 17
Location: Birch Spring Shelter
Section Mile: AT 1949
ECT Mile: 2650
The 2 guys from Tampa decided to cut their hike short as it was too cold. Me and 5th Wheel got a late start as we had only 17 miles to go. We passed the Tampa guys soon. Also met Crazy Kid and Joe - sobo's before we left. They were attempting to get to Fontana Dam by tonight.
The first 6 miles were quite difficult. After that the trail was much easier. Saw Crazy Kid and Joe at Russell Field shelter. They had decided that they could not make into Fontana dam and were going to stay at that shelter for the night. 5th Wheel and I continued on and got to the Birch Spring shelter well after dark. At one point I thought I had missed the shelter and would have to walk another 5 miles to the next shelter. But then I saw the sign pointing to the shelter and was relieved.
Its going to be another cold night. I was wearing all the clothes I have - 5 top layers and 2 bottom. I am now set extremely well to get into Fontana dam tomorrow and go to Dave's place from there. Really looking forward to it.
Date: November 22 2000
Trail Day: 175
Miles Today: 8
Location: Dave's House, Georgia
Section Mile: AT 1957
ECT Mile: 2658
Got a somewhat early start. The night was not as cold as we'd been told. Boots were not frozen and the water bottle was only partially frozen. After an initial bump it was all downhill. In the lower elevations the snow slowly disappeared. There was a 2 mile road walk near the Fontana dam. I was very happy to cross the Smoky moutain boundary - what a test!
I have also now completed my 14th state - Tennessee. The trail had been running on the border of Tennessee and N. Carolina for about 10 days. Thus I had started my 15th state without completing my 14th. Now the 14th is done. The trail will enter Georgia in about a week but make a small run back into N. Carolina.
Got to NC 28. They have a telephone on the notice board that you can use to call for a ride. I called the Fontana Village Resort and they picked me up in 15 minutes. Picked up my mail drop and went to their restaurant for lunch. Had an order of cheese sticks and 2 burgers for lunch. The waitress charged me only half price for the second burger. 5th Wheel joined me there for a while. I also called and let Dave know where I was. He picked me up at about 1:30.
Dave works at Pratt & Whitney. The company is restructuring and is causing a lot of problems for its employees. Ann and Ginny were at the house. Took my shower and did laundry. Also went to WalMart and got a pair of liner gloves and new pants. The older pair have now torn too much. I was able to find the same style. I was quite happy with the older ones and was pleased to buy the same style. Also bought groceries for 1 day.
Met Brian and Donna. Brian is Ann's son and Donna is his wife. They are expecting a baby in June. Donna showed me the sound photograph of the baby. It was amazing.
Had a deep sleep. I have not slept much because of the cold.
Date: November 23 2000
Trail Day: 176
Miles Today: 0
Location: Dave's house, Georgia
Section Mile: AT 1957
ECT Mile: 2658
Thanks Giving day. It was quite busy. Everyone was quite busy preparing while I sat and watched TV. The guests started arriving at about 3:00 pm. There were 12 or so in all. It was a good feast. I think this Thanks Giving is one when I was trully thankful. It felt good to be out of the cold, to sleep in a warm bed, have good food etc. Went to bed at about 10:00 pm.