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Backpacking the Appalachian Trail in January

Appalachian Trail Georgia to Maine

Date: 06 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: -4.0
This was a short hiking day for me. It was after 1:30 pm by the time I began the tough ascent of Amicalola Falls. I certainly didn't break any land speed records getting to the top. It took about an hour. I was delighted to discover that the following hour was spent ascending too. I didn't make it to the shelter in time so I am sleeping under the stars tonight on Frosty mountain.

I wish I could have started earlier today but all in all today turned out good. The temperature remained in the 50s although it got cold and breezy quickly on Frosty mountain--go figure.

Today's hiking was difficult but not so bad that it has given me any doubts at all.

I saw two other hikers briefly tonight while I was starting my journal. They passed through with their headlamps on. They seemed to be looking for a campsite but I think they moved on further down the mountain.
Transcribed on:    ??-Jan-2000 14:12:12 EST

Date: 07 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 5.0
This campsite is the perfect conclusion to an awesome day. First, I woke to discover that I had a new arrival during the night. A solo hiker pitched his Eureka near me. I guess that means I picked a nice spot. Although he seemed like a friendly guy, we didn't speak too much as he was hurrying to break camp and I was busy trying to eat an entire Chicken Helper w/12 oz of chunk chicken added. To make a long story short, he beat me to Springer by about an hour even though I became a man possessed once the Chicken Helper kicked in around Black Mountain.

The couple I saw from the previous night passed by going southbound and I exchanged greetings with two more hikers coming down from Springer Mountain. I didn't know it was Springer at the time. I kept thinking how disappointed I would be if I found I had another mountain yet to climb before the start of the AT.

Fortunately, the mountain was indeed Springer and I took a few pictures and looked at the view. I noticed that familiar Eureka tent pitched at the summit so I wandered over and talked with him for a little and he helped me with a picture next to the plaque.

I didn't forget to read and sign the register before I left the summit. There were some funny entries therein and I discovered that the summit was quite a popular place Dec 30-Jan 2. Since I was originally supposed to make the top of Springer Dec 31st before I got sick and postponed my trip; I was a little bummed. There were a few thru hiker entries too.

The next five miles to my present position went quickly. I'd like to say it is because I am such a good hiker, but in reality all but the last mile were mostly downhill. I was tempted to keep going since I appeared to have plenty of daylight left(my watch isn't working)and I felt strong. When I stopped at Long Creek Falls I knew I found my camping spot though. The sky is clear again so I'm sleeping in a little valley under the stars about 30 feet from a sizable waterfall. I took a few pictures that maybe my transcriber will put online (hint, hint). The water is clear and plentiful here. I celebrated with 4 cups of an excellent vegetable soup for which I carried in canned tomato sauce and mixed some Tang for tomorrow. I may finish the night with a cigar from a certain country that shall remain nameless.

Today's hiking was fairly easy. There were a couple steep spots on Springer but nothing very rough. I have been able to find lots of water, too. In fact I have been able to gather it 1-2 quarts at a time as I need it. It's nice to be able to carry only the water I need in my sipper. I did manage to lose a bandana at one of the springs though, so I'll have to buy another one at Walaysi-Yi when I get there. I was using the bandana over the mouth of my water bottle to keep leaf particles and such out. Now I'm using one of my fleece glove liners.

That's all for now.


p.s. Hello to my ex-team at Ford. I hope that you are having fun at work!
Transcribed on:    ??-Jan-2000 14:31:30 EST

Date: 08 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 13.6
I got a very late start today. I didn't break camp until almost noon. Still, I managed to get 8.6 miles in before it got dark. I'm camping again using the tent this time as it is raining a little. The site is nice enough at Jostas Creek-- plenty of water again.

I met many people today including three groups of Army Rangers and a trio of day hikers that gave me some fresh banana bread. The trail was a busy place.

The last few miles took lots out of me. Sassafras Mountain beat me up and I haven't recovered yet. There are some aches and pains to attend to in the morning. My clothes got fairly wet with sweat too and are now hanging over my face. If my socks or briefs should fall onto my face during the night I think I may vomit. Most people would state that I have a case of body odor right now. They would be correct. What they cannot fathom is how much worse it will be in 3 days when I hike into Walasi-Yi. Again, I will keep my journal updated with the nuances of the "hiker aroma."

p.s. I found the bandana that I thought I lost.
Transcribed on:    ??-Jan-2000 14:38:39 EST

Date: 09 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: ??
I'm writing this entry a day late. In short, the hiking was fun. It was foggy and drizzling all day but that made for some incredible effects--very eerie. I also got a few good pictures of the trail disappearing into the fog and a valley below me obscured by mist.

By evening the fog was thick and I couldn't tell where the sun was and my watch keeps resetting to Jan 1 4:00 pm. So I pitched my tent when I thought it began getting dark. This is when my troubles began. First, it is not really a tent. I have brought only the rainfly, poles, and ground sheet. The actual tent is in a later maildrop. It's more of a fancy tarp that I carry for an emergency shelter. I had just made some oatmeal when I noticed probably a couple hundred very tiny little insects covering my stuff where my stove was. I guess they were attracted to by the light. There wasn't much I could do other than turn my sleeping bag around the other direction and try to get some sleep. Then the storm blew in. Everything was already damp because of the thick fog. The heavy rains and wind meant that water was entering under my rainfly and also knocking any conden- sation off the fly and onto my gear and myself. It was a long night.

A hiker I had met earlier left me with some words to remember when I asked how he was doing. He said, "A little wet but no harm."
Transcribed on:    ??-Jan-2000 14:47:14 EST

Date: 10 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 28.3
I awoke to wet gear but a beautiful 60 degree day. I packed up, ate and continued deeper into the Blood Mountain Wilderness. I was gusty today and I kept taking my windproof/waterproof outer layer off and on. As I climbed higher and higher the temperature dropped to about 45 and the wind remained gusty. I ended the day at Blood Mountain shelter about 1200-1300 feet higher than where I "tented" last night in the storm.

This is an awesome stone shelter with four walls and two rooms. Most AT shelters are three-sided. The windows in the sleeping area can be closed up with a tarp and some rocks to weight down the bottom. It is still a bit drafty but it stops the big winds.

I got here very early. I could have gone on to Walasi-Yi but the summit was tiring to get to so I wanted to enjoy the top. I had plenty of time to read the shelter journal, explore the summit, and take many pictures.

According to Indian legend, Blood Mountain was named so after a battle between the Creek and Cherokee nations that left the mountain red with blood. Well either that or hikers gave it that name after the trail to the top was covered in blood from their feet.

2,132 miles to go.
Transcribed on:    ??-Jan-2000 14:54:17 EST

Date: 11 Jan 2000
AT milepoint:
Transcribed on:    

Date: 12 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 37.2
I have got to start hiking earlier. Starting in the P.M. just does not leave me enough daylight.

It was a nice day today with temps in the 60's. The sky is clear so I threw down my sleeping bag near GA 348 at Hogpen Gap. It's a nice little camping spot.
Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:15:10 EST

Date: 13 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 48.5
Well I got that early start that I've been wanting. I was awoken several times by gusting winds (and a few by a mouse which forced me to hang my pack which had been my pillow) and I saw the clouds they were bringing. So a couple hours before sunrise I decided to pack up and hike to the next shelter 4.1 miles away rather than setup my tent.

I won the race and made it to Low Gap shelter. This a a typical AT shelter used by backpackers. Just as I arrived and lay down the rain started and the sun rose.

I was going to sleep for a couple hours but the shelter was occupied by two northbound thruhikers Kurt and Curtis and they started getting ready for their day of hiking. This motivated me so I just made some dehydrated beef burgundy and Tang for breakfast.

Kurt and Curtis are a nice pair with their early starts they've been putting more miles in than me these past few days. They left before I did with plans to go a few miles past the shelter I'm in now. I'd like to meet up with them at a shelter again. It was fun sharing some AT stories. They got soaked in Sunday's rainstorm too.

Now I am in a shelter on Blue Mountain in the same style as Low Gap. Tonight I'm planning a small fire and to rummage through some food left by a previous hiker who found his/her pack too heavy.

I want another early start tomorrow. My desination is only 7-8 miles away but it is on the other side of some large ascents and descents.
Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:24:51 EST

Date: 14 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 56.2
Mission accomplished. I'm glad that I started fresh this morning. The day began early with me taking a picture of Blue Mountain shelter--then packing up and moving out. Cresting the summit was easy enough, then I had a 1000+ feet descent into Unicoi Gap in about a mile and a half. Naturally I had to climb back out which was 1000+ feet up Rocky Mountain in about a mile then back down about 800 feet in a mile and a half. I finished the day at Tray Mountain shelter after a three mile ascent of almost 1400 feet.

Today was the first cold day. Last night the temperature dropped into the low to mid 20's. I started hiking in 25 degree weather. The sky was clear though. I'm at Tray Mountain shelter with a fun group of five guys who packed in from Unicoi Gap. They helped me with a summit photo on top of Tray Mountain. It looks like there will be a fire tonight too.

Tonight's temperature is supposed to drop into the teens so I will have to sleep with my water or else it will freeze in the bottles like last night.

Last bit of information before I put some warmer clothes on is that a crack has developed in my 96 oz collapsable canteen. I don't think this will affect me too much but maybe I will try a duct tape repair just in case.


Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 08:49:31 EST

Date: 15 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 63.3
This morning we arose with the sun. I snapped a nice picture of "Tray Mountain Village" as we called it with the shelter and three tents. I left a little before the other group of five but we had the same destination of Deep Gap Shelter 7.1 miles away. The hiking turned out to be fairly easy until the last 2 miles. Hiking the 1.1 miles over Kelly Knob at 4276 ft was a killer. The group caught up with me here while I was talking to some southbound weekenders. We made it to the shelter together.

The shelter is really nice. Most of us are staying inside. This is a two story structure. I'm one of the two spending the night in the loft because we figure warm air rises.

Another pair from NY are camped here as well. They started at Springer on Monday so they have some hiking legs to make it this far, this fast. Today they started at Unicoi Gap. They want me to contact them as I approach Bear Mountain State Park in New York. By that time I should be able to match their pace.

I just saw one of the mice inhabiting this shelter. It seems to have a nest about two feet from me here in the loft.

Well I hear that it is 8:40 PM which is far, far, far later than I've stayed up in a long time. I am overdue for sleep.

Good night. --G

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 08:57:57 EST

Date: 16 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 71.1
I bid farewell to the group of five from GA. I enjoyed staying at Tray and Deep Gap with them. They sure build some nice fires.

I was the first to leave the shelter but the pair from New York City caught me as I descended into Dick's Creek Gap. They decided to make this a short day and head to the shelter at Plum Orchard Gap the same as I.

Plum Orchard Gap shelter is a really neat structure. It is a three level building airlifted in by the Army Rangers. I'll get another picture of it tomorrow. I've got two already but don't know how they will turn out.

Tim and Ray make fine shelter companions having warmed me up some broth as I arrived. Shortly afterwards another northbound thruhiker by the name of Albatross hiked in to the shelter. This will be his third thruhike. He is a nice retired gentleman taking it easy and planning to take a whole year to hike it this time. Now a section hiking family has arrived. They are planning on finishing Georgia tomorrow.

Monday I cross my first state line into North Carolina after 4.1 miles of uphill hiking. I hope to hike the 12.2 miles into Standing Indian Shelter. It will be a rough day though; I see big elevation gains on the map.

If all goes well it is four full hiking days until Franklin, NC where a little R&R awaits me. I also want to swap my sleeping bag with another (under warranty) because I have been having a problem with cold spots.

Other gear failures/problems: My thermometer seems to be reporting temps 5-10 degrees warmer than they really are. Also, I had a lighter go bad back a few days but my emergency matches saved the day.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 09:10:00 EST

Date: 17 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 83.3
Yesterday's rain wasn't with us hiking today. The morning did not look promising as it was foggy and wet but once I hiked out of the valley I discovered that the thick fog was confined to the valley only.

Tim and Ray the guys from New York liked my idea of skipping Muskrat Creek shelter and heading to Standing Indian Shelter 12.2 miles away. We didn't leave together but we all departed between 9-10.

We met up just inside the NC border. One state down! The hike out of Bly Gap up Sharp Top Mountain was ridiculous. I stopped and laughed on two separate occasions about how steep the trail was. My words cannot do it justice.

The three of us do not hike together but we do meet up occasionally during the day. Our next meeting was at Muskrat Creek Shelter where Albatross was staying. Tim who was waiting for us left quickly but Ray and I stayed to fix warm lunch and talk with Albatross again.

One worrisome item for me was a pain that had developed during the last mile above my right knee in the muscle. I only felt it taking big steps up or down but it was a concern because I was still 4.9 miles away from my destination.

The next 4.9 miles proved to be fairly easy with a few difficult spots. One long descent though really gave my "bad" knee a workout. I did make it to the shelter on the slopes of Standing Indian Mountain at twilight as the temperature dropped and additional clouds arrived. This turned out to be another nice night with a fire and cigars.

There is some talk of doing 14+ miles tomorrow. We'll see how the weather and my knee are in the morning before I commit.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:54:16 EST

Date: 18 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 90.9
The time is almost 10 o'clock in the morning. Some big winds and big rains hit us last night. It's still raining now and that has squelched any talk of a 14+ mile day. We are lounging around the shelter, eating and drinking, and staying in our sleeping bags.

My knee feels good. I shouldn't have any trouble with a 7-8 mile day although five miles of today's hike are downhill which will likely bring the pain back.

(time passes)

The three of us are at Carter Gap Shelter. The hiking was easy and my knee is better than when I stopped yesterday.

Tim and Ray may be leaving me in the morning to push on to Franklin. I will stick with my original plan of 7+ miles tomorrow and 9 the following day. That will be less stress on my knee and I'm expected in Franklin Thursday or Friday by Dave "Moondog."

Time to take some Ibuprofin, Tylenol sinus, and fall asleep.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:59:58 EST

Date: 19 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 97.7
I had a serious lack of energy today. I did manage to crest Mt. Albert after much sweat and toil. That was the hardest .3 miles yet. I actually had to use my hands to scramble to the summit. I took a few pictures while I was up there but didn't climb the observation tower at the top.

Tim left early this morning for US 64, the road into Franklin. Ray stayed behind and we were to meet here at this shelter. Ray must have passed it up accidentally though because he wasn't here when I arrived. That is too bad for him as he doesn't have a tent and the next shelter is 6 miles away. At least the sky doen't look like rain.

I will be in Franklin Thursday afternoon.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 15:54:52 EST

Date: 20 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 106.8
I'm at David "Moondog" Tripp's Franklin, NC mountain home. It is a nice place here. I'm waiting for my laundry to finish so I can take a shower and get into clean clothes.

I got into Franklin in the early afternoon after hitchhiking most of the 10 miles from the AT intersection with US 64. Two guys in a van picked me up and dropped me off by Three Eagles Outfitter where I looked around for a little bit. I guess I planned well because there wasn't anything I felt I needed in the store. I may go back for a little extra stove fuel and to replace my 30 feet of 5 mm cord which I must have left at a shelter somewhere. I asked about swapping my sleeping bag for a similar model. They can't do a swap but it doesn't matter because they don't have my -20 degree bag in stock. I've been warm since that first night as I've begun wearing two layers on my legs. There is another outfitter a little bit further along the trail that might prove more helpful.

I still don't know what happened to Ray. I didn't see him nor his footprints in the snow further up the trail. It did rain and then snow last night.

I'm going to see about visiting the library tomorrow. I'm planning on taking only a half day off and then hiking the 3.7 miles to the shelter on Siler Bald. I'm feeling strong and this puts me in a good spot to reach Nantahala Outdoor Center in about two 12 mile days. There is also supposed to be some bad weather coming so I can hopefully hike some miles before it arrives.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 16:04:01 EST

Date: 21 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 110.5
I'm going to make this quick as it is getting dark and cold (sub 20 degrees).

I'm staying the night on the slopes of Silar Bald at a small 3-sided shelter at 4,700 feet. I got here early enough to drop my pack off and hike to the summit at 5,200 feet. The sky was clear and I could see the Smokey Mountains to the north. The Smokey Mountains looked large and cold.

Tonight's dinner was Ramen Noodles, beef flavor. Yummy.

I wasn't able to stip by the library to check my email before I left Franklin, NC. My next chance might come at Hot Springs, NC.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 16:07:43 EST

Date: 22 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 122.6
Today is the reason I started a winter thruhike. Last night was very cold maybe around 10 degrees. This morning there was a light snow during breakfast which got heavier as the day continued. The trail was deserted.

I did speak to two groups of people on top of Weyah Bald where there is an old fire tower converted to an observation tower and reachable by car. They wanted to know if I was thruhiking in the winter and were impressed to find out that I was.

It is cold and dark now so I am blowing out the candle and going to sleep.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 16:11:26 EST

Date: 23 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 134.1
I made it into Wesser, NC as darkness covered the town. My plan was to stay at the Nantahala Outdoor Center's hostel-like lodging, if open, or a motel. The NOC was closed by this time and I discovered that I didn't have phone numbers for motels in my guidebook. I didn't see any ads posted with the other tourist information. Things were looking gloomy for me as I headed towards the one NOC building with lights hoping to get directions to nearby lodging from a guest. Dame Fortune smiled upon me and the pair of guys I spoke with offered to put me up in their room free of charge. So here I am, showered and wearing dry clothes--not clean though as I didn't have enough change to wash them only to dry them.

There are three guys in this bunkhouse. They are part of a larger group taking a wilderness EMT course. One, a former thruhiker, gave me a spare Ace bandage for my left knee which has been getting sore after a half day of hiking. The soreness above my right knee seems to be gone.

Today's hiking was really fun. Overnight additional snow never materialized, but there was a freezing rain which wet all the fluffy snow down and left a frozen crust on top. I got to break a lot of fresh trail today. Mine were the only footprints for most of the miles. I did not see anyone else on the trail either. Although, I did hear one or two hikers crunching through the snow below me as I ascended Wesser Bald in the fog/clouds.

Today was a wet day. At lower elevations there was a light drizzle which prompted me to wear my rainproof shell. Wearing my rainproof shell jacket means that sweat and condensation dampens my shirt and fleece jacket. Crunching trough the layer of ice for 11.5 miles removed any of the remaining waxy Snowseal that I use as waterproofing on my boots. After a while, my boots became saturated with water. My sleeping bad was still damp from the night before when the water bottle I had inside so it would not freeze leaked and from being inside wearing damp clothes. Everything about me was wet or damp but I was very warm as I hiked.

The terrain today was excellent even if the views were lost to the thick clouds and fog. At one point after descending from Wesser Bald the ridge I was travelling narrowed and the sides steepened and disappeared from view. The top of the ridge was maybe three feet wide and caked with snow and ice. Rhododendrons grew in abundance on the slopes but I figured that it would take an awful lot of bushes to stop my descent should I slip and fall off the path. The elevation was still in the 4,000 ft range at this time. Getting down from that ridge was tricky with all the snow and ice but the experience was thrilling. As I was packing the snow into steps, chunks of ice would break off and tobbaggan down the path or shoot off the side of the ridge and explode on a Rhododendron trunk 40 ft down.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 16:30:18 EST

Date: 24 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 141.0
I am writing this journal entry on the 28th of January. That should tell the astute journal reader something about the past few days.

I got my usual late start after a breakfast of grits and a fried egg sandwich with cheese and Tabasco Sauce and taking another shower of course. I bid farewell to my roommates and received several "good luck" replies. Those three are a cool group of people but then most river guides are. The ex-thruhiker among them (I really wish I could remember his name now--Krandel or something similar) is of the most uncommon variety. He is no older than me but has been all over the world doing amazing things--too much to write here.

I hiked in to another AT shelter at dark. This one is located on a ridge between Swim Bald and Cheoah Bald. Elevation is approximately 4,500 feet. The shelter is not one of the nicer ones that I have seen. In fact it is rather decrepit and the whole structure is leaning to one side and holes in the floor, walls, and ceiling have been sealed by past thruhikers with duct tape.

As it is dark already, I prepare my dinner by memory until my eyes adjust to the dark. My cans of canned beef hash have frozen so they ist on my stove's burner and thaw while I scrape off the warmed hash from the icy block in the center. It is a slow process but I am in my sleeping bag so I am warm. I don't know at what temperature hash freezes but it is noticeably colder by the time I am done. I forgo getting water from the spring until morning.

The shelter register contains an entry from Kurt and Curtis made on the 21st so they are now 3 days ahead of me. It is too cold for the pen to work so I don't sign the register.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 16:41:00 EST

Date: 25 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 149.0
The top of Cheoah Bald came as sort of a surprise. Suddenly, there was a summit sign in front of me. The views were nice so I took a few pictures. The summit isn't really bare as "Bald" would imply but there are some open areas mostly on the southern slope. To the north the Smokey's sit waiting for me. They look closer than they did from Silar Bald.

I haven't been drinking enough today. I decided to thaw out the water in my water container under my jacket and pick up some more along the way. There have been many unmarked springs along the trail so far.

After only a couple miles it is apparent that I am dehydrated so at Locust Cove Gap I supply. Since I have to wait 20 minutes after using my iodine I don't drink any there. Two more known water sources exist before my planned stopping point so I thought I would be okay. I didn't see the first though and didn't make it to the second.

I pitched my tent tonight on the slope above Sweetwater Gap more commonly referred to as the upper part of Stecoah Gap by AT hikers. It was a lengthy hike up and I didn't have the energy to complete the uphill before the winds started blowing stronger and the sun set.

The temperature is in the low teens and the sky looks bad. My water situation isn't good either. I finished my last sips before zipping completely into my bag.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 16:50:18 EST

Date: 26 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 155.2
Today is the Day of Wasted Opportunity.

It is a beautiful day though. Several inches of snow fell during the night. It really put my rainfly to the test. The nice thing was that as the snow slid down the fly, it piled up on the sides and kept the wind out. It is a nice fluffy snow and it is covering everything. I have a nice picture of the scene.

It's military rations (MRE) for me this morning because they don't need any water to prepare. Since the temp is only 10 or 11 degrees, I ate them inside my sleeping bag which has become damp from my breathing and because I can't change into all dry clothes before I get inside. Tonight my bag will have frost and ice inside just like it did last night. Ahh, the joys of winter camping. Fortunately, I bought a synthetic bag that retains much of it's insulating capability when wet. It isn't comfortable, though.

The next water is located at Brown Fork about 1.5 miles away. That mile and a half is hard to do when dehydrated. Really for two days I have been low on water. Now my body is having a hard time metabolizing food and producing energy. Finally, after an enormous amount of time, I get to Brown Fork Gap and discover the water source is really just a patch of damp leaves. North Carolina hasn't been getting enough water lately, either. The next water I know of is at Cody Gap 1.8 miles away. The terrain is fairly easy so I'm not too upset. The situation could be much worse.

I have been inputting some water since breaking camp. My routine goes something like this: 1) Go 10-20 steps up the mountain, 2) While leaning on one knee resting, scoop a handful of snow into my mouth, 3) On the way to my next resting spot, if there is any mouth-level branches with snow on them, then lean over and eat the snow.

This routine helps a little. I keep thinking, "If only my friends could see me now." That makes me laugh.

My hopes of making it to the Fontana Dam Area today after a 13-14 mile day are gone. I really believe I could have done it if the situation was different. Now I just want to get to Cody Gap and then maybe a couple miles further before it gets dark.

My salvation came at Cody Gap where there was a running creek. I celebrated with a huge bowl of soup I made while laying down behing a log to stay out of the frigid wind. Today's hiking was in the 13-15 degree temperatures.

After that fine meal, I walked until it got dark--only 2.4 miles. The soup worked wonders but I camped out directly on the trail with no water again. My next water is at Cable Gap where I plan to have breakfast.

Two other things besides dehydration slowed me down. Maybe I am putting too much emphasis on the water issue. Number one is the freezing rain from a few nights ago. That crust of ice is hard! Traverses along slopes are slow going because the ice is at the same angle as the slope and it keeps making my feet slip off the trail. I've fallen a few times. The second obstacle are the drifts. Usually they are just shin-deep on the ridgeline, but many times I am forging a new path through hip-deep snow. Luckily, the snow is light and fluffy so it isn't as tiring as it could be.

Winter is here! This is the reason I wanted to do a winter thruhike. What an adventure! I bet you all want to be here.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:59:36 EST

Date: 27 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 163.1
Today I broke camp quickly and made it to Cable Gap where I refilled my water containers and ate some chili for breakfast. I was prepared and kept the can of chili in my bag with me at night then under my fleece during the day so it wasn't frozen.

The day's desintation was the Fontana Dam Vistor's Center located on the Little Tennesee River at the Southern end of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. The AT milepoint is 163.1, I've heard that 2/3 of northbound thruhikers will quit the trail before reaching the dam. I made it to the dam in the early afternoon so I guess I'm doing good, especially considering the weather.

From the Vistor Center I called the Hike Inn run by Jeff and Nancy Hoch. Jeff came and picked me up and brought me to their motel. This place is awesome! My room has everything I need--even a small kitchenette.

Jeff and Nancy are great hosts and really have taken care of me. I'm planning on taking off a whole day here to rest before taking on the Smokey Mountains in the winter.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 21:05:50 EST

Date: 28 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 163.1
Still here at the Hike Inn. Jeff drove me into town yesterday so I have been enjoying some non-hiker food, including Wendy's. This is a dry county but he brought me over a couple barley pops to enjoy.

I'm the first northbounder this year. In fact, they haven't heard of any other northbounders ahead of me. That doesn't mean there aren't any, but it does make me wonder about Kurt and Curtis, and the northbounder calling himself Itsy Bitsy Spider. The weather has been unforgiving and they might have gotten off the trail, even if temporarily.

Jeff also told me of a section hiker he dropped off at Amicalola Falls recently. The crust of ice formed by that freezing rain forced the hiker off the trail at Soches, Georgia only 20 AT miles later. That made me glad for the pair of 4-point ice cleats I have been wearing for the past two days. I want to thank the person from ATL mailing list who recommended that $5 Campmor purchase. Also, any ATL'ers out there who remember my request for comments on snowshoes for my early start should know that I picked them up in my maildrop today and decided to keep them around for the Smokies.

Speaking of ATL'ers and experienced backpackers in general who may be ashed-faced at my references to canned food on the trail, I don't consider it a big deal. The judicious use of canned goods has always been something I look forward to on a hike. During longer periods between resupplies, I decrease my heavy food and increase heavy foods during shorter periods such as NOC to Fontana.

I had a chance to do much today. I've dried my gear and gone through my maildrop supplies. I took that shower I have been needing and have clean laundry now. This journal is finally current and I have called several people. I still have to run a gear check on my gear so I don't have any unpleasant surprises in the Smoky Mountains.

I haven't decided to leave for the trail tomorrow or not. I'm rested and feel ready but my left knee still has that ache. I'll check the weather and the knee tomorrow and make my decision then.

One other bit of news. It is tradition for the AT thruhikers to have a trail name. They are easier to remember and are usually descriptive of a hiker or something that happened to a hiker. This is especially useful when there may be 100 "Chris's" on the trail.

In the tradition of Napoleon I shall bestow a title upon myself. My hike or myself has been described by several people as "hardcore" and Nancy Hoch thinks it is an appropriate trail name for me. I was also considering "High Adventure" and "Raidho" but have decided to take "Hardcore" as my trail appellation. (Kudos to anyone understanding Raidho)

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 21:22:22 EST

Date: 29 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 163.1
I decided to stay over another whole day here at the Hike Inn. At this low altitude we have cold rain. The mountains are experiencing freezing rain and snow. Tomorrow morning I leave.

The park requires that I stay in the bear-proof shelters at night so I will plan on Mollies Ridge Shelter 10.3 miles from the dam. If for some reason I get a late start or the weather or terrain slow me down then 5.2 miles in is the Birch Spring Shelter.

My feet have not felt this good since the bus ride down to Gainsville, GA and I have not felt any aches in my knee.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:32:46 EST

Date: 30 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 168.7
It is not too bad of a day to return to the trail. There is not much wind and depending on my altitude, temperatures ranged from the high 30's to the high 40's. Down below there was lots of melting ice falling off tree branches and occasionally landing on me. There was also water running down tree trunks under the layer of ice coating the trunk. It was a little bit of a weird sight.

I left earlier than usual but later than I wanted. A a result, I am staying at the first shelter only 5.2 miles further. I don't know whether I had time to make the next shelter or not. The AT was not all uphill like the first four miles but the sun's position was obscured first by the fog, then by clouds so I did not know how much daylight remained. I must remember a watch battery in Hot Springs.

I am officially in the Smoky Mountains now. I saw some bear tracks immediately on the other side of the dam. I have not seen any since, though. I am sitting inside one of the bear-proof shelters now. Like tha last few hiking days, I seem to be the only person out here.

As an aside to any future thru hikers reading this, Jeff and Nancy Hoch, proprietors of the Hike Inn are still somewhat concerned that the motel's name change is not well known. So, for the record, the Fontana Motel is now known as the Hike Inn. I highly recommend the place. The Hochs really made sure that I was taken care of.

Jeff informed me that a pair of southbounders recently left Hot Springs (or was it Damascus, VA?). I should cross paths wit them and get some news of any thru hikers ahead of me. The last few shelters didn't have registers so I don't know the status of Kurt and Curtis and Itsy Bitsy Spider.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:42:31 EST

Date: 31 Jan 2000
AT milepoint: 173.8
First, the mouse situation last night was unbelievable. I was under assault. They were everywhere.

I don't know what happened with today's hiking. It must have been a combination of the snow and heavy pack (10 days supplies). I only made another 5 miles. I hope to make it up tomorrow.

Transcribed on:    ??-Feb-2000 20:44:29 EST

generated 03-Aug-2000 17:47:46 EDT

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