Day 22 (April 28): An orchestra of coyotes yimping and howling in the middle of the night woke the whole camp. After eating breakfast we discovered a cache of Walmart bags full of food that section hikers had left at the shelter. We confirmed with the remaining campers that it wasn’t theirs and jumped on it like a group of starving scavengers. Nadine and I scored some dehydrated vegetables, lasagna, and cheese. A good start to the day. Wildflowers lined the trail as we began our hike up toward Thunderhead Mountain.
Day 19 (April 25): Our morning out of Sassafras Gap Shelter (mile 144.0) started with a quick 1 mile hike up to Cheoah Bald. At the top we found a true bald with a campsite and great views of the surrounding valleys.
We decided to take a quick break to rest and stretch before heading down the other side. Ended up helping a fellow hiker remove a few ticks from his dog. The ticks are out. With the bubble of hikers still behind us, packing up camp, we headed back down the other side of the mountain quickly to beat the herd. Found some apples and bananas waiting for us at Stecoah Gap.
Day 14 (April 20): Still wanting to rest our tired joints, we decided to take a nero (near zero mile day) just outside of Franklin along the trail. This would end up being a great idea since while my Achilles pain recovered in Franklin, Nadine’s knees had become more stiff and painful. We took our time in the morning, packing our now heavy backpacks and grabbing some coffee in town. We headed out of town on the 11:00am shuttle back out to Winding Stair Gap and hiked a quick mile to some campsites just below Swinging Lick Gap (mile 110.9). Spent most of the day eating, chatting, sweating from the mid day heat, and napping. Chilled some whiskey that others had brought and the fireball I had bought in the nearby stream with the salamanders and crawfish. Ended our night around the campfire with Schnitzel, Pyro, Dead Weight, Thor, Sam, Johnny, Charlie, Charcoal (because he is always dirty), sad guy from Boston, and Natalie from Austria. Slept in the tent without the rain fly since it was such a nice night.
Day 10 (April 16): Our morning started with a steep climb and I was brown blazing most of the way to Muskrat Creek Shelter. Stopped for a short snack at Deep Gap before starting our ascent up Standing Indian Mountain. Had lunch with Johnny, Sam, Charlie, and Alex at the Standing Indian Shelter, half way up the mountain (we had camped there a year ago when we hiked this section). The rest of the climb was a nice gradual uphill with many switchbacks. Wasn’t too hard of a climb. I guess we must be getting stronger. Had to navigate past a troop of boy scouts dragging their feet. Dropped our packs at the top so we could climb the rest of the way to the summit and snap a few pictures of the view.
This time we had clear skies and a great view of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Found a nice rock ledge to enjoy the view by ourselves. The rest of our hike was a long downhill to Beech Gap (90.7m) where we setup camp. Boy scouts pushed on after trampling through the water source. Enjoyed some moonshine that Derek had packed in around the campfire before calling it a night.
Day 6 (April 12): Sleeping in a bed helped rest our bones for more miles. First headed to Mountain Crossing at Neel’s Gap to resupply our food for the next stretch. We are planning for 7 more nights before our next resupply in Franklin so started the day with a heavy load. Nadine took off like a lightning bolt, as usual, while I struggled with some pain in my left Achilles tendon. Took it very slow and popped so ibuprofen and by lunch was feeling better. Was another foggy morning and was nice to hike alone. Flowers are starting to bloom next to the trail.
More trail magic at Tesnatee Gap. Grabbed some chips, hand warmers, and a grape soda before our next climb. The last 3 miles of the day from Poor Mountain to Low Gap Shelter (43.2m) seemed to take forever, especially with the ankle pain. Tented with Sam, Johny, Charlie (dog), Pantyhose, Dead Weight, two New York girls, and a few others. Nearly burnt by beard off making ramen for dinner. Another campfire, but everyone seemed to head to bed early after our 11 mile day.
Day 4 (April 10): Coldest night yet, but awoke to a campfire already built which helped to warm us back up. Had some great views of the surrounding mountains while hiking, especially from Ramrock Mountain. Received our first trail magic at Woody Gap. Pancakes, hotdogs, chips, coffee, OJ, and fruit.
Helped a lot to climb the next few uphills to our campsite that night. Rachel and Dead Weight took a shuttle to the Hiker Hostel since they didn’t have a tent for the night. Ended at Lance Creek (24.3m) where we tented for the first time. Warmed around the campfire with Pantyhose, Thor, JC, Ompi, Jay, and Poor Design. Good Conversation.
“How big can a bonsai tree grow before it becomes just a small tree?” – Jay
If you don’t know already, Nadine and I decided to give the Appalachian Trail some of our time this year. I’ve been keeping a short journal on my phone so I figured it would be appropriate to post on our blog as we hike to keep our readers updated. Please forgive any typos and lack of editing since all posts and photos are being done via my phone. Enjoy!
Day 0 (April 6): Had a long day of traveling to get to the trail. 2 flights, a train ride, a shuttle, and 12 hours later we made it to Amicola Falls Park and setup in the shelter just behind the visitor center. Went to sleep early and it seemed like I barely slept at all. Lots of rain, lighting, and thunder that night but we stayed dry.
So our journey has finally come to an end. After 7 months and over 19,000 miles of traveling around the US and neighboring countries, we are now back in lovely Pennsylvania for the holidays. We’re excited to be home but also nervous since we’re now expected to be responsible adults once again. It’s time to relax but we also plan to get caught up on all the things we’ve been putting off. One of these being updating the blog with stories of the many adventures we’ve had while traveling. Aside from writing, we have more than 10,000 photos to review and edit to go along with our stories. We’ve got a lot to share, so stay tuned!
Nadine and I have been traveling for more than three months now and we thought it would be fun to give you some insight on how we’ve been sustaining ourselves while out in the wilderness. It’s been important for us to identify meals that are calorie dense, yet light enough for us to efficiently carry on our backs when on a long trek through the woods. This severely limits our options and, in many cases, increases the price of food substantially. In this post we’ll describe some of the options that have become staples in our diet without breaking the bank.
Wednesday, April 22, 2015
We spent the previous night at Claytor Lake State Park in Virginia enjoying kielbasa sausage and onions cook on a cast iron skillet over the campfire. Delicious. After a few warm beers and a good night’s rest we headed towards our first multi night backpacking trip through the Mount Rogers Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park along the Appalachian Trail.
Our plan was to park at the Grindstone Campground and spend three nights in the backcountry, enjoying quite nights, scenic views, and hopefully spot a wild pony or two. We arrived to a closed gate and gusting winds. Luckily, as we were desperately trying to identify a backup plan (without cellphone reception) a campground host arrived to help rescue us. He let us know the campground would not open for another week, but allowed us to park behind the locked gates for the following few night as we hiked. Crisis averted.