Powder River’s Appalachian Trail Journey from Georgia to Maine 2008

Spring Mountain

Day 32
Location: Spring Mountain Shelter
Miles hiked today: 11
Miles from Springer: 282.7
Miles from Katahdin: 1893.5
Elevation: 3300′

Hot Spings has been the hardest town to leave so far. There were still two more days to the music festival, and it was supposed to rain all afternoon. There were a few friends I wanted to visit before I left. Rawhide and Maverick, a couple of my favorite guys on the trail, are going to stay here and try to heal up. They are concerned that their bodies won’t carry them all the way to Maine. All I can say is hang in there buddies. The trail is a much greater place with folks like them. One of my good friends, Top Shelf, has left the trail. His legs are not really cooperating, and he felt it was best to get off the trail and get home to see a doctor. It is sad when people close to you start succumbing to the statistics, as they say only about 10 to 20 percent of us will make it all the way. I have to be real careful not to push myself too hard.

Today’s hike was pretty brutal, as I’ve been sitting around doing nothing for 3 days. The climb out of Hot Springs is almost straight up a mountain, which affords very beautiful views looking back over the town far below. One of these is called Lover’s Leap. (You first, honey!) We could see the festival far below along the river, and could hear the music just fine for several miles.

Late in the day I arrived at a firetower, which is always something I make a point of climbing. On top I ran into two guys from Asheville, one of which I recognized from the festival. He had walked past our camp at the festival and said, “Nuggets?” That was all he said, and then walked off. We didn’t know quite how to respond to that, but we suspected that it was some sort of code word for buying drugs. Freakin hippies! We decided if he were on the trail, his name would be Nuggets.

Even though today was “only” 11 miles, it felt like twice that. The fact that most of it was uphill only added to the problem of my town-softness. I finally got into camp around 6, having left sometime around noon. It felt good to finally be able to take off my shoes!

I suppose that I have not yet written about bear bagging. Bear bagging is one of those necessary, yet really irksome and time consuming aspects of hiker life. Just when you are at the very end of a very long and tiresome day, and after you have eaten and it is getting mostly dark, it is necessary that you peform the most amazing feats of skill and concentration, and successfully rig a very thin rope from the branch of a tree 15 or 20 feet up. They do not teach you this before you get on the trail, but it is best if you have a background in knot tying, baseball and basketball. Sometimes you have to throw a rock through a gap in the brances only a few inches across, 20 feet away. More than likely you are going to miss several times, and spend most of your time trying to untangle your line after each unsuccessful attempt, or worse yet, tugging on your rope to get it unstuck from the tree. The real art of a successful bear hang is not getting your rope tangled in the very highest branch, and thereby losing most of your rope. Every evening, hikers of all sizes and abilities go through this time honored ritual, most of us athletically unsuited for the task. I am convinced that the bears watch this from the trees, greatly entertained at the spectacle they have created.

The point is, of course, to hang your food bag out of reach from the bears. It must be high enough off the ground, and far enough away from the nearest tree that they cannot climb up and get it. It also must not be on too flimsy a tree, that they can push over or bend. Sometimes they are clever enough to find where you’ve tied off your rope, and slash it so your bag drops to the ground. Some friends of mine actually just had all of their food stolen by a bear, which left them nothing but some coffee and a pot with two big holes in it from the bear’s teeth.

Tonight, my friend Papa Sarge graciously offered to hang my rope for me. I was very appreciative of this, and of course according to Murphy’s Law all did not go well. Not only is my rope now stuck high in the tree, but his is as well. It may have something to do with the fact that he was just giving me a hard time about my purple rope with matching purple carabiner in the moments before he tossed it up there. (Ok I know what you’re going to say, but I happen to be very secure with my purple rope. It came from a very special outfitter in Boston). I am sure the bears were greatly entertained.



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