Monday, April 28, 2014

Day 12


Muscrat shelter to Beech Gap -We didn't go as far as I wanted to go today, but considering scouts had taken over the next shelter and our group/fam was stopping here, this was by far a better choice.



Woke up today with the realization that my journey was coming to an end and this would most likely be my last full day on the trail and that I better take it all in. I picked up a stickpic in Hiawassee, it was one of my deliveries and I could use it with a case that I had gotten for an Ipod 4 (PS: hikers there is an attachment case to use an Ipod 5 in a hiker box at the Top of Georgia Hostel in Hiawasee, take it and order a stickpic and you are set guessing most dont know what it is). So I played around with it this a.m., Fall and Oats and Gator hung out eating and talking we were the last people in camp,this doesn't usually happen but we were just taking it easy today. We had some big miles planned but our legs were feeling so strong and we seemed to be gliding the last few days despite the difficulty. Our bodies were changing and we were just really noticing that we were getting much faster.


our camp site near Muskrat shelter

I was ready and wanted to get moving down the trail so I went ahead so I could play with videoing and my stickpic attachment without Fall and Oats waiting on me. I passed a Sobo seciton hiker and just enjoyed some of the scenery. Even though our elevation was 4400, we were not on the ridge so we were somewhat without views for a bit. I finally sat on a log and waited for Fall and Oats, no sign. I went on again and down a hillside and again waited and waited. Finally he showed up, apparently he forgot his poles and had to go back for them. Off we went. It was a good day, we were both feeling pretty good. He has had a cold and I had a little bit of a sore throat but nothing bad. I was feeling strong so I was happy. We did about 6 miles when we came down to a gap and I saw a lot of cars on this old Forestry Road, trying not to get my hopes up, I told myself it was day hikers, it is a Saturday after all. I then saw a boy scouts trailer and realized that was what it was, scouts weekend. Then I saw a big circle of people waving to my right, TRAIL MAGIC. I started crying, ha.. what! I never cry, but this made me cry,it was burgers, hotdogs, beer, water, cookies and OREOS, oh and bacon too. Yes, I know I should be more excited over Bacon but I wasn't just OREOS. There were easily 20 of us here enjoying trail magic given by Breeze and Windy from the class of 2013 Thru Hikers. It was a great time, Fall and Oats had four beers, ha ha I had one. I knew I would be passed out with any more. I had a hot dog and Oreos oh what joy. Everyone was enjoying and we quickly lost track of time.







Finally about 2:30 we headed onward with much of our hiker fam. Then was the tough climb up to Standing Indian Mountain in the 5,300 feet of elevation roughly. I was climbing and climbing and was going pretty fast and didn't need to stop. We were passing hikers left and right, what was going on? REALLY?! Oreos? No, legs! Finally, I have legs. I didn't have to stop once, no breaks no rest. Went all the way up tossed our packs off at the blue blaze trail head and headed for the views and an open patch of grass! OH it was GORGEOUS. Best views yet!!! I was elated. What an amazing day again! What a life! I am most certainly in love with the trail and its people.

Fall and Oats, DQ, Sam, Sweeps and Odyseus







On top of the Bald on Standing Indian, we enjoyed comradere and hanging out! It is great fun to enjoy these moments together! Video to come. :) See below


Friday, April 25, 2014

Day 11 - my first 15

 bigger miles continue, this was a hard push but we were proud! I pushed 15 miles today, however two were off trail, OH WELL! Live and learn. :)

Woke up with the sun today and the sound of hissing brakes from tractor trailers. Wow, I don't miss any of those sounds at all. I am looking forward to getting back into the wilderness and woods. Sleep is now peaceful there to the sounds of the night. Not sounds of hustle and bustle and everyone rush, rush rushing somewhere... nowhere fast. Really, think about it. Take in every day and every moment it is all that you truly have.
Top of Georgia Hostel, in case you missed it :)



He hated these shorts but later was so happy to have them, I would sing who wears short shorts as we hiked

Halleluiah


I am up and I hear Doggle and Kimber up behind me as she is starting to whimper, this means Doggle walked off without her. She gets so upset if he leaves her, she will start to cry so everyone tries to help console her when they can. It is early a.m. though and most are still sleeping and just starting to move. I lay around a bit to wake up and then Sir Packsalot comes through camp to wake everyone. You have an hour and a1/2 before the shuttle leaves for the trail head, two hours for Hiawassee. The shuttle waits for no one be ready. Free coffee in the house! "Did he say fee coffee?" I think I only really understood that. So off to the house with all the zombies for coffee. Many took part in the big breakfast of home cooked goodies he offers here for $7, we did not. Trying to keep costs down on the trail can be hard when you want to have some good food or a nice bed. Luxuries of home and things you miss. I don't mind sleeping in my tent, I actually prefer it, although I haven't tried staying in a hostel, but imagine a room full of bunk beds you share with oh 8 or more hikers. Sound refreshing? Even if on a bed that is all those other snorers and people, I prefer the comforts of my tent and the little privacy it gives me. I am often up late and don't want to impede on others and I can listen to my music and write, read, turn on my headlamp ..etc;

My home
The bathroom (two here) is a hot commodity, running water, a couch, so many fun things... I talked with the other hikers said bye to many as my days were running short and I didn't know who I would see again until trail days or other visits to the trail. I exchanged numbers and went down to pack up. Beef Jerky Pie and crew were heading off to slack pack the next section of about 15 miles with only water and snacks so easily saving them some serious weight. This can be done for a fee at various points on the trail. They were being picked up at 10. We however needed to run to town for a resupply and hit Blueberry Patch Hostel where I had several packages waiting. It was a quick trip to town, we were given 1/2 to do what we needed and get back to the shuttle or it leaves without us. So I ran to the grocery picked up some goodies for us while Fall and Oats hit the post office to mail off some food, he was carrying way too much, making his bag heavier than necessary. My first purchase, Starbucks, my weakness I haven't had it in t weeks. I only had half before we were dropped at the trail but it was deliciousness that needed partaking in. I also grabbed some summer sausage, I have been craving this with cheese ever since Blue Mountain and rescuing those boys. I also grabbed a tall beer to hike out to camp. We were going to eat good tonight.

Dropped at the trail head about 10:30 a.m. I realized I didn't have my shoes, only my crocs so off to the  Georgia Hostel I went another extra mile for my day. I left them because he has a special place for shoes and I was trying to be sure to catch the shuttle. Oh well. The Germans were hanging out with us a good bit of the time but they started on before I got back except for Bennett and Fall and Oats. So we started up the trail at this time. I was moving very slow and the heat of the day was catching up with us now about11:20. I felt very overheated in that first few miles, miserable, must have been all the hot coffee and no real water, I knew I needed to get hydrated and cool down so I took off some layers and put some water on my bandana on my head to keep me cool and hopefully soon we would be out of the direct sun. I was burning again on my arms. I was so sluggish that Fall and Oats even ran my pack about a mile down the trail while I got water. That is until I realized the water was at the bottom of the mountain I had just climbed and I was already nursing bad blisters I didn't need to climb it all over again and gave up. There would be other water sources and so I waited it out. In the meantime Fall and Oats offered his audio book "walk in the woods" I haven't read it yet, so sure why not. It would take my mind off my tough day, bad feet and over heated just bleh feeling. It def helped and he was able to hike ahead of me. I felt bad I was very slow, so he would hike for a bit and then stop and wait and move on when I got closer or asking if I needed a break. Great friend!! It can be tough on the trail when you don't feel good or are having a bad day. He didn't have to wait but he did. Finally by mid afternoon, lots of water, cooler temps and good eats I was feeling better except for my feet. My blisters now much worse on the back of my feet literally open sores now. I kept trying to re-wrap them. We caught up to the Germans, Ashley and Corey and some other hikers at a water source. I filled up, big mistake, It was even steeper than the first water source, this just wreaked havoc on my blisters, I took my shoes off and re-wrapped them again. We were off again and took a few small snack breaks but today was a big mile day and despite my feet we were going for it. We finally hit a sign for Nantahala Forest, I yelled with excitement this call I have been doing, it is a cross between something almost Indian and Mexican sounding. It helps our groups know where we are or when I am on top of the mountain. I was stoked to be back in Nantahala, this is where I wanted to get to, this was the forest I saw last October, mind you it was the northern end, but little things like this pick your spirit up so much. I was happy and hiking harder now. Then BOOM, NORTH CAROLINA!!! Say what!!! How exciting! I hiked from GA to NC!!!

WHOAH! New state, I hiked from GA to NC! We almost walked right by it. I think I forgot to sign in again, I am so bad at that.





We were coming to a camp at Bly Gap where many our friends were staying for the night which surrounded the twisted tree.


We decided 3 more miles we have this, let's keep going, it was about 5 p.m., we could knock this out. I ate some cliff bar and started up the next series of harder mountains with the largest gain of the day. It was tough but well worth it, we went slow and steady.
 

The views at the top where phenomenal. Then on to camp. I caught up with Ryan I think he is Ghost now but not sure, he was sitting at an overlook ready to watch the sunset and then came Kylie and Millie! Yay, camp and views. Sweet! We went down to find a spot and ran into Sasquatch too! We met Gator he was our camping neighbor and DQ, Texas Jack, Sweeps, Nick, Sam and Odysseus. It was a full camp. I even met a guy from Maryland that I did an overnight with three weeks prior. We met in a Maryland Shelter when I went out with friends for a small section/overnight. What a coincidence, his name is Groundscore now. He remembers me as the girl who gave him a beer, ha, could be worse right? It def could because as I remember it Gnarly Harley was giving me trail names I wasn't fond of and thankfully he was only joking so they never stuck. SO we will leave it as yes it could be worse.

Fall and Oats was kind enough to get camp started and told me I could go back down trail to catch the sunset, most of the camp was doing the same thing. It was beautiful, check out the pics below. Some of the guys had a fire going there too. It is such a community out here even if it is our first night/day meeting, we are all out here sharing the same/similar experiences and it brings you together. After the sunset I went back to camp and we got a fire going and hung out and got to know Gator. He is super cool and had lots of stories for us about when he hiked Kilimanjaro and spent time in Africa as well as some of his concerts he recently had been too. He wasn't going to bear bag, but we ended up saying something that made him change his mind, so we all went off to find a spot to bag and I had to laugh because he came out with the largest headlamp I had ever seen. It looked like he almost had a miners cap with a headlamp attached. It was so bright. He went to throw his line and all you heard was the rock take off and he almost put it right through his tent, then the line wasn't attached to his bag or came off and you just heard boom. LOL We hung out and shared food, ate our summer sausage and he shared some goodies and we shared our beer. YUM! Soon it was time for bed. The moon was gorgeous and right over top of us. No winds, it was a nice cool night. Weather was perfect.





 Camp for the night, we set up our tent just beyond the backpack here against some Mountain Laurel, of course. Elevation 4400 feet tonight.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Day 10- smiles & miles

12/13 mile day

I slept pretty great until 5:20 a.m. when I awoke to a variation of the third and fourth call in this video. Not only was it loud it was CLOSE, within a 100 yards. I was both terrified and thrilled. Part of me wanted to see them and the other part wanted them to stay away.





I said what was that, knowing that Fall and Oats heard it too, he said Coyote's. It was confirmed, no doubt we were in their territory. It was pretty exhilarating and I would definitely go back. I was shaking from both fear and excitement. I had to remind myself logically they would leave us alone. Then I realized if I wanted them not to come sniffy my tent I should make some noise so I turned on my Ipod and didn't hear them again. We were up to see the Sunrise by 6:45, gathered my sleeping bag, cameras and sit pad and we headed over to the rock face opening.










It doesn't get any better than this, in a sleeping bag, cuddle puddle on a mountain top in the middle of nowhere

“Climb up on some hill at sunrise. Everybody needs perspective once in a while, and you’ll find it there.”
Robb Sagendorph

WOW, the sunrise was more beautiful than sunset. If I find my video on my other card I will add it here. Keep in mind these sights are so much better in person than they can ever be on film. We sat sleeping bag over us on my sit pad perched against the rock on a steep cliff face with our food and drinks next to us. It was quite a show. We stayed about an hour before we headed back to camp to set up a fire and do some cooking.




Early a.m. fire to keep warm and cook by :)

Pirate face "just gotta wear shades"
Believe it or not the coals were still going here and I am cooking up some hot water for hot cocoa with coffee for us. YUM!

We ate some more, relaxed, had another fire before finally about 11 we decided to head north.Today was a big day for miles again, back to 12/13 all the way to Dicks Creek Gap. It was a great day, we stopped into the Tray Mountain Shelter on our way down the mountain, signed in to the log book and retrieved some water, why is water always so far from the trail usually. This put an extra mile on the books and more elevation. The views were plentiful along the ridges and a lot of straight up and down the mountains in between. In the pic above you can practically see where we went if you follow the ridge to behind me. The last 3 miles were the longest down hill yet, our elevations are growing so now getting down or going up is miles long, the knees let you know just how long it is. We met a German group today that we lovingly call "the Germans" to others in the bubble. Bennett, Chuck and Loveliss are from the town were they make gummy bears, my favorite on the trail snack. How appropriate. Bennett we met when he came up so ninja like behind us on the trail both Fall and Oats and I jumped. This guy makes the mountains look like nothing, he just flies with ease. We met Loveliss and Chuck at a resting spot taking in views and reacquainted with them at the Gap. We were lost as to how to get out of the Gap and do we go to town, I had a pick up at the Blueberry patch, this was another 3-4 miles down the road, :/ and Fall and Oats had one at the Top of Georgia Hostel, since it was getting late we went to Top of Georgia, but we couldn't figure out where it was, no signs were close to the trail. Cars were barreling down the gap but none were stopping. Hitching could be done but it was not a great place for it based on speeds and the small amount of time people had to see you and get over. We decided to start walking and if it were wrong we would turn around. We were in luck and chose the right way and found the Top of Georgia Hostel about 1/2 to 3/4 miles down. I was quite happy to immediately see Hot Spitz and the gang! I looked and saw Beef Jerky Pie, very happy to see everyone again I gave them all hugs and got a quick update before going to secure a tenting spot for the night.


It was a great night spent at the Top of Georgia Hostel, it was a full house, bunk house and tent sites were full, we had foot baths with marbles. It felt amazing. We had showers and even a couch to sit on and a dining room table and coffee and we could buy cokes and pizzas. What could be more perfect.
Peep show, Bennett (eating tow pizzas and ramen...lol) Fall and Oats and Max

Remedy, Beef Jerky Pie (Too long) and Hot Spitz

My toe nails are dying, I have blisters and a large one on the back of my foot I will spare you by not enlarging this photo
Top of Georgia Hostel and just to the left of this picture was a small wedge of grass where we lined up at least 6/7 tents not to mention a full bunk house, thinking there were well over 20 of us here easily.
It is a new place just opened this year and not in the book. We loved it! We tented out front, it was loud because 18 wheelers fly down the road next to you, but just the same it was $10 and came with goodies. It was so nice to be back with so many hiking buddies. I love the comrade-re that develops out here. So good to catch up and see Remedy and Gatorade, talk to Hot Spitz and Beef Jerky Pie. I met some new hikers here, Down Dog, a yoga teacher and super nice person as well as some from the very first day at Springer.  I also think this is where I first met Nick.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Day 9 - Stealth camping

On the TRAIL again, I can't wait to be back on the trail again!

We woke up and we were taking forever to get moving, yesterday I was antsy to get on the trail and now today I didn't want to leave. We lounged around and before I knew it I was running out of time to be ready for checkout. I took another nice shower and packed my things and checked out right at 11. The lady that works the Super 8 is amazing, she even offered to give us a free lift back to the trail (TRAIL MAGIC)! She was so kind and we were spoiled by her the entire time at the motel. Our room with a jacuzzi was 30$, I heard she even did laundry for some of the hikers. We did our own or should I say Fall and Oats was kind enough to do it for me. Apparently, you had to cross a really muddy area to get to it that turned into a small muddy creek/river, so he was kind enough to offer to manage it for me.

We had forgotten about breakfast, which was fine, she still offered us some of the left overs and fruit so  Fall and Oats took an orange for the trail. I ate a cliff bar and made myself some decaf coffee at the hotel and we were on our way back to Uniqoi gap. The hike out of the gap was a big climb up to get us back to ridges of the 4,000 footers. I am always slow to start and getting your heart moving again and adjusted to the pace, but once up the first big mountain I was in a rhythm. It was a gorgeous and cool day, the kind where when you stop you put on a jacket to stay warm or keep from getting chilled. This is important. .

Sasquatch, Admiral Caboose and Natalie wouldn't be with us because they were actually going back to where they got off which were South of us. Today was what I called a TRIAL day, I was having a tough go of it and my mental game was not there. It was an easy day, we were not going to far today, about 8 miles to the Tray Mountain Shelter or somewhere near it or past it to camp. The next gap wasn't until Dick's Creek and we had about 21 miles total for that. We just resupplied and were able to go about four days without stopping for more food. It is great not to have a plan and we decided we were going to just camp wherever we wanted along the way if we didn't go to the shelter. This sounded like more fun anyway. What a great sense of freedom it is out here. I love it. Knowing that you have all that you need to stay out for days on end and that all you need to worry about is where to set up camp and find water. It is amazing how much more stressed we are at home, being out here is such simplicity. So basic and so satisfying. I really didn't know what could be better, sure I had blisters that were getting worse and my feet hurt and my legs ached and my body was sore, but it still felt good. This was a beautiful section we were getting to and we were coming up soon to Tray Mountain when we got our first views and Fallen and I took a lunch break, we were about 4 miles in and sat at an overlook. We were really moving slow  because of my feet and not feeling well so we took our time today. It was now about 4 p.m. at this point and we just sat with feet dangled out and took in some great views of Tray Moutain ahead of us.



After a wonderful break, with music, CHEESE and some PEPPERONI (go figure) I was a happy hiker and ready to move on and powered up on gatorade and goodies again. For me this is like my super hero combination, with it I can climb any mountain or do anything, without it I lay around like Robert Downey Jr. without his suit in Iron Man unable to do anything.

It doesn't look like much of a climb from here but we had been climbing for a hile and still had several more feet of elevation to climb. You wouldn't believe the amount of climbing out here and AWOL I think likes to kid us by making it not look hard in the book, FRIENDS, don't believe it. Just know it is one climb after another all hard and difficult with weight on your back. Stamina is the name of the game out here, not speed, slow and steady is all you really need to get you there. I learned fast my normal powering up a mountain wasn't going to get me to camp every night. I was going to poop out before ever making it to camp. So up we went, I like when some of the climbs start with steps and this one did. It even had a "poke here" for your pole and we complied!



We got to the top for some great views.. but I was surprised to see so much mountain laurel that obscured some of the views. Don't get me wrong, I love Mountain Laurel, I just knew I had seen some beautiful shots from this mountain, so I hoped maybe we would find a better clearing.We enjoyed and went on and decided to find a camp, luckily we were loaded and sharing water so we had plenty for the night.

On top


FYI for those that don't backpack, you always need extra water at camp, you use it for cooking, cleaning, brushing teeth, etc; so you should also fill up as you tire so you have the flexibility stop when you want. However, I say that and sometimes you have to walk miles before you can even find a spot to put a tent because you are walking on a small two foot wide ledge on a steep mountain side. But , we got lucky this night, very lucky we found a camp spot and some small side trails, these side trails led to a more secluded camp spot with a rock fire ring that didn't look like it was used too recently and off of that was another trail or two that led further in to an amazing 360 degree view! That is right 360. It was phenomenal. The only downer is that on the way we passed some scat. I went back to take a closer look, it wasn't from a Bear, it was definitely a carnivore as it had lots of animal hair in it, but it was bigger than the average dog's scat. UH OH, what animal is this do you think, I asked Fallen Oats, he wasn't sure and said maybe coyote. I have no idea what it is for sure, but it has to be one of the two, it is too big to belong to a bob cat, but it seems to big to belong to a Coyote too.

View from The center of the trail that goes directly over Tray Mtn

Coyote or Coywolf? This scat was as big as my shoe, big for a small Coyote, this guy had to be close to 50 lbs, running a dog rescue allows you to know more than you want about scat 


We set up camp as dark was coming soon and wanted to catch the Sunset, gathered wood and I asked Fall and Oats to teach me how to make a good fire. I have made fires, but never really learned the proper way. He was the best person to ask and seemed to be the best fire maker on the trail and always had one going at night and in the a.m. We started by gathering dead trees and branches, etc; and then I used some goodies in my fire kit to help out, it did rain a lot just recently but the wood was still dry enough fortunately. It was going to be a very cold night, especially where we were camping it was on a ridge that led to a gap so winds came over the side of the mountain but the laurel did quell it a bit. We anchored my tent in good just to be sure. I was really excited about finally staying out in  a stealth spot away from camp. Once camp was all set up and the wood was gathered we went to watch the sunset.



video 




















It was gorgeous. The little rocky outcropping was perfect to catch views all around us. We were super excited to have such an incredible spot. I easily could have stayed here for days. Finding 360 views isn't easy. We brought some food and a my sit mat to relax on. After we went back and got the fire going and cooked dinner and relaxed by watching hiker tv and taking it all in. Relaxed with our backs against a tree and our feet up, the wind still blowing we had to stay back enough because the fire was blowing right toward us. After a bit I made some hot chocolate because I was still cold despite the fire. That is about the time we decided to clean up and hang our bear bags so we could get in our sleeping bags to stay warm.


 Fall and Oats was happy to have his new FLOAT, wow that thing was loud but worked like a charm at keeping my pad from slipping all over. I kept all my warm gear out and put on my wool set I sleep in. I am glad I did because this was also the coldest night on the trail, I am guessing teens or lower on that ridge with the winds blowing but the tent helped keep us warm. I slept pretty great until 5:20 a.m. when I awoke to a variation of the third and fourth call in this video. Not only was it loud it was CLOSE, within a 100 yards. I was both terrified and thrilled. Part of me wanted to see them and the other part wanted them to stay away.



I said what was that, knowing that Fall and Oats heard it too, he said Coyote's. It was confirmed, no doubt we were in their territory. It was pretty exhilarating and I would definitely go back. I was shaking from both fear and excitement. I had to remind myself logically they would leave us alone. Then I realized if I wanted them not to come sniffy my tent I should make some noise so I turned on my Ipod and didn't hear them again. We were up to see the Sunrise by 6:45, gathered my sleeping bag, cameras and sit pad and we headed over to the rock face opening. WOW, the sunrise was more beautiful than sunset. If I find my video on my other card I will add it here. Keep in mind these sights are so much better in person than they can ever be on film. We sat sleeping bag over us on my sit pad perched against the rock on a steep cliff face with our food and drinks next to us. It was quite a show. We stayed about an hour before we headed back to camp. We ate some more, relaxed, had another fire before finally about 11 we decided to head north.