Walken’

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

Archive for Georgia

Zero

Day 9
Location: Blueberry Patch
Miles hiked today: 0
Miles from Springer: 67.5
Miles from Katahdin: 2,108.7
Elevation: 2,675
Temperature: 70

I did absolutely nothing today. Breakfast is amazing here. They ring a big dinner bell, and all the hikers rush for the door to the house, wherever they are. After the scramble to find chairs, Gary and Lennie bring out the most beautiful stack of pancakes you ever saw, and homemade blueberry syrup (from the bushes outside) and eggs, coffee, sausage, etc, etc. Gary says a really great prayer and we all dig in.

We went downtown today to pick up more food and supplies. I was looking for a new pair of shoes, so we checked out the only outfitter in town, the gun shop. I didn’t find any shoes to buy but we grilled the owner on what caliber of gun we should be packing for bear, wild boar and mice. He suggested that we should be carrying at least a 44, if not more. For mice, he said the 38 would be adequate. He also showed us several giant knives that would be handy for a close-up for one of those wild boars.

Even though we’re not carrying our packs around town, everywhere we go we are identified for what we are, hikers. It is almost uncanny. Is it the beards? The smell? The polyester? Who knows. Folks in this town get a lot of training at it though, as it is full of hikers all the time. It could also be the Hiker Wallet too, which consists of ID, debit card and cash inside of a ziplock bag.

It’s been nice being able to relax for a day. There is some weather moving in, in the form of a thunderstorm this afternoon, rain during the weekend and possible snow on monday. Unlike most others I’m actually quite excited about the snow.

Butter Beans!

Day 8
Location: Blueberry Patch
Miles hiked today: 13
Miles from Springer: 67.5
Miles from Katahdin: 2,108.7
Elevation: 2,675
Temperature: 70

I love southern food. I’m telling you, if I could have a restaurant built next to my house it would be… Well actually it would be a mexican restaurant. But if I could have a restaurant built next to THAT it would be southern “low country” food. Sweet tea, fried pickles, black eyed peas, fried chicken, fried green tomatos… Oh dear. Anyways, I’m sure you can see where this is going.

We really pushed our hike today so we could reach highway 76, which takes us to Hiawassee. Dreams of a large pepperoni and banana pepper pizza kept me going. Today’s hike was actually the toughest section yet. The trail just keeps going up and down, up and down. Most of the time you are walking the ridges, so from one mountain to the next you don’t actually descend all the way to the base of the mountain but you follow the ridge to the “gap” between the two mountains, then climb the next one. These really add up, and as one hiker said today we are being nickle and dimed to death. Finally we came to Kelly Knob, which was a monster climb straight up.

After a few more mountains we came to a shelter, but decided to push on the final 4 miles to the road. The philosophy was that it was all downhill after the final mountain. However, the downhill turned out to be the toughest part because the trail dropped 1,200 feet, which is really tough on knees and toes.

After this tough day we finally reached the road and arranged for Gary from the Blueberry Patch Hostel to pick us up. This place is really special. It is already one of the highlights of the trail so far. Gary and Lennie run a Christian ministry for hikers, in the form of a hostel with a shower, laundry and an awesome breakfast. They have blueberry bushes from which they produce the blueberry syrup in the morning. They don’t charge to stay here, although they do accept donations. They are really wonderful people and are walking the Word.

Since we had been dreaming of a pizza delivery all the way down the mountain, we were distressed to learn that nobody delivers pizza all the way out where we were staying. However, Gary told us if we needed to go in to town the keys were in the car! (told you they were great) So we called a place called the Georgia Mountain Restaurant, which was the aforementioned southern food restaurant.

We had a spectacular feast! The special on the menu was fried chicken or meatloaf with butter beans, black eyed peas, collard greens, cole slaw or mashed potatoes (pick 3) plus a piece of german chocolate cake for 50 cents extra! I ordered up one of the specials (with butter beans!) AND the giant cheeseburger. (That’s cheeseburger number 3 for those of you keeping track at home). Many of us ordered 2 meals each and the whole tab for 7 people came to 70 dollars. You’ve probably never seen anybody eat like we did tonight!

So I guess I can say I’ve been eating pretty well so far. Tomorrow I’ll take a zero, which means a zero mile day. I’ve got to resupply on food, go to the post office and enjoy a day in town. It will be nice to relax!

Map

Cheesecake Factory

Day 7
Location: Cheese Factory Site
Miles hiked today: 13
Miles from Springer: 54.5
Miles from Katahdin: 2121.7
Elevation: 3,590

Just today I figured out what every single boy scout troop has in common. Usually there are a dozen or so of them, and without fail every one of them will ask you how much farther to wherever they are going. In fact, today one of them was so eager to know when the pain would stop that he automatically assumed I knew where they were going.

“20 minutes?” He asked, as he passed me.

“To where?” I said.

“Oh. Chatahoochee Gap.”

I told him it was about 10 minutes. The very next boy, who was walking right behind him, asked me how far to Chatahoochee Gap. The boy behind him wanted to know if it was uphill or downhill. It reminded me of the other day, when I was basking in the sun atop Blood Mountain with the most beautiful view in all of Georgia before me, a different boy scout troop had passed. Not a single one of them stopped to admire the view. One of them stopped to ask me where the trail was, but that was as close as any of them came to looking to their left at the sea of clouds in the valley. Makes you wonder if they are enjoying themselves.

We are camped at this wonderful campsite called the Cheese Factory Site. It is called a site because the factory is not actually still here, but it makes a great campground. Automatically I think of the Cheesecake Factory when I hear the name of this place, which of course is problematic because there is not one of those anywhere closeby.

13 miles felt good today. I climbed a couple nice mountains. One of my favorites was Rocky Mountain. Of course it has a great name, but it was a nice climb and descent too. It goes 1,000 feet straight up out of Unicoi Gap, and then almost 800 feet straight down the other side to Indian Grave Gap So by the time you’re done you’re really tired and right back where you started in just a few miles. But it was well worth it, of course. Who knew that Georgia had all these mountains?

Map

Low Gap

Day 6
Location: Low Gap Shelter
Miles hiked today: 10.8
Miles from Springer: 41.5
Miles from Katahdin: 2,134.7
Elevation: 3,050

I am glad I stayed at Neel’s Gap last night. The hostel had a bunch of great people there, many of them friends I’ve already made. We watched movies and got some much needed rest, and I recovered from my lack of sleep the night before.

There was a sorority from a local college that had come down to serve dinner to the hikers. They looked extremely uncomfortable there and I didn’t see very many of them engaging in conversation with hikers. One was overheard to say “I don’t get that outdoor stuff” and another one came out of the bathroom with an apparently scary horror story. They left really early. Maybe they weren’t down with the collective smell of 14 hikers.

Our host at the hostel was one of the legends of the AT, Pirate. He has thru-hiked every year for nearly 20 years, and I have heard great stories about him from Mogo, who hiked in 98. He’s an extremely nice guy and volunteers his time to taking care of the hikers. He spent a lot of time cleaning after us and cooking, and had a huge breakfast prepared for us this morning

The hike today was really nice. There are still no leaves on the trees here which means that we have really great views off of all the mountains. After the leaves come it will be the “green tunnel” until the taller mountains up in New Hampshire. The names of these places are really amusing. Today I hiked Bull Gap, Levelland Mountain, Swaim Gap, Rock Spring Top, Corbin Horse Stamp, Wolf Laurel Top, Baggs Creek Gap, Cowrock Mountain, Tesnatee Gap, Wildcat Mountain, Hog Pen Gap, White Oak Stamp, Poor Mountain and Sheep Rock Top.

Map

Blood Mountain

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Day 5
Location: Neel’s Gap, GA
Miles hiked today: 3.7
Miles from Springer: 30.7
Miles from Katahdin: 2,145.5
Elevation: 3,125

Today was the best day yet. Last night, as we dried our stuff out from 3 days of rain, we talked about yet another forecast for a sunny day the following morning. Of course we’ve heard these nasty rumors before, but after 3 days of rainy soup it was a wonderful thing to believe. Sure enough, about 10 pm or so the sky completely cleared and we had the most beautiful stars.

I had already decided I was going to night hike Blood Mountain if the sky cleared. After 3 days of rain and moisture, I figured that there would be very low clouds covering the valley floor while the sky would be clear. It was tough to get out of bed but I did anyways, and packed my stuff in the dark. Somehow I managed not to wake anyone in the shelter and set off. Almost immediately I felt very tired because of the lack of sleep. Since I didn’t know what time it was, I was only estimating that I was setting off a few hours before sunrise but couldn’t be sure.

One of the really creepy things about the hike is the AT goes between Blood Mountain and Slaughter Mountain, in a place called Slaughter Gap. These places got their names because there was a massive battle between the Cherokee and Creek nations centuries ago, and the ground was so covered with blood that they named it Blood Mountain. However, no indian spirits jumped out from any trees.

The hike was awesome. There was a full sky of stars and for the first time since leaving Springer Mountain I could see across to the other mountains. Of course, they were just shapes in the dark but it was cool to see the massive shape of the mountain I was about to climb. It was still pretty wet and sloppy so I stumbled a bit but I’m so thankful for my hiking poles because they have really helped out a lot.

At one point I reached Slaughter Creek campsite and I remembered that my UGA friends were camped there. Sure enough, there were several tents. Being the middle of the night I knew anyone who was up would hear a “large animal” moving through the woods, so just for fun I was sure to make some growling sounds as I moved past. I learned later that there was a boyscout troop camped there too so I guess I really missed an oppurtunity to have some real fun. Oh well, maybe next time.

When I finally got to the the top I was starting to realize that I was way too early for sunrise. I got out my camera and looked at the internal clock and realized it was only 4 am! This meant I had left the shelter at around 2 or 2:30, which means I could have slept for another 3 hours. No wonder I was so tired.

I could tell there were already people in the shelter on the mountain, and since I didn’t want to disturb anyone I found an overlook rock facing to the north-east and laid down my sleeping pad and bag at the base of it. I had a wonderful view of the stars and just before going to sleep I heard a coyote way off in the distance howling and a squeaking noise which I’m pretty sure was a bat. I hadn’t counted on the condensation, and after a few hours my sleeping bag was completely wet. I was in a pretty exposed position on the north face of the mountain, but thankfully the wind was calm. It was still pretty cold though, and since I forgot my beanie hat I ended up wrapping a shirt around my head.

In the end it was all worth it. I woke when there was just barely a bit of color in the sky. The overlook rock I was sleeping below was perfect, and I got my camera and tripod, put all my warm layers on and went to work. Sure enough, for as far as I could see there was a carpet of clouds, with just the tallest mountains poking through. With the continuously changing colors and light levels in the sky I was changing my exposure on almost every shot. The pictures turned out really good.

Soon enough the people from the shelter were up. They were a group of students from Florida. One of the people I met is a schoolteacher from Florida who was really fascinated by my thru hike. I gave her my web site address and she said she would have her 5th grade students check it for a class project. So hello, class!

As if to top off this beautiful start to the day, after I had spent a couple hours basking in the sun and beautiful view, I hiked down to Neel’s Gap to find a wonderful surprise. As it happened, today they were having something called Trail Magic, which means they had free cheeseburgers and hotdogs! So, my second cheeseburger in 3 days was just as glorious as the one before. There was also all kinds of other great food there, and even a free spagehti and smoked trout dinner! All of that plus they have a wonderful outfitter store and great people here at the hostel.

Quite a wonderful day ’twas. Tomorrow I’ll put down some real miles, which I’m looking forward to. Should be beautiful weather!

Map

The Cheeseburger Log

The first time I met Chipmonk

The first time I met Chipmonk

Day 3
Location: Woody Gap, GA
Miles hiked today: 6.3
Miles from Springer: 20.1
Miles from Katahdin: 2,156.1
Elevation: 3,150 ft
Temperature: 40

I’ve decided that I am going to keep an official record of the cheeseburgers I consume along the way. Now I have only been on the trail for 3 days now, but like any hiker I can already tell you there is nothing quite so motivating as a pile of bread, beef, cheese, mushrooms, onions, tomato, lettuce and a pool of sauces that awaits at the next town. I can see now, after having braved three days of lipton noodles and foil sealed tuna packets that cheeseburgers, pizza, quesadillas, and lasagne are going to be the real motivators that will get me to Maine. Only now fully appreciating the role of the cheeseburger (and its brethren, pizza, etc) I think it is only prudent to pay tribute to the invention and, as Mogo suggested keep some sort of record here on this site. Years from now as I remember the ‘good ole’ days’ of hiking the AT I will have an accurate accounting of one of the greatest contributers to success.

I had one tonight. Due to a poor bit of planning I came up a bit short on time and long on miles this afternoon. Last night I tented (that is, slept in a tent) only a mile and change from the nearest shelter. Even though it had been foggy all day I was still giving hope to the nasty rumor someone had started that it was supposed to be 72 degrees and sunny today. Of course it rained all night. My pack got completely drenched when my tent sagged on top of it, and of course I had hung my food back to keep it away from the bears (Mom, if you’re reading this I actually meant mares) so of course the food bags were wet too. Thank goodness I have a very smart girl in my life who got me a big plastic trash compactor bag so all my clothes stayed dry. But by morning I had a sopping wet tent, wet pack, wet food and wet clothes from yesterday to put back on. This being the case I decided to wait out the rain.

Around 10:30 I decided the rain wasn’t going to stop, so I got all my wet stuff together and set off. I made Gooch Gap shelter in about 45 minutes, and stopped and had breakfast/lunch there. Woof Man and Camel were there along with a guy named Chipmunk. By noon I had decided I needed to press on, even though it was still pouring down rain. The nearest shelter was another 12 miles away, but I figured I could make it in six hours.

Around 4pm I reached Woody Gap, and realizing I still had 7 miles to go I started to weigh my options. Realizing there was no way I was going to make the next shelter, I decided to come into town.

So tonight I am snug as a bug in a hotel, with wet stuff hanging from every available hook and doorknob. Of course I sit here completely free of guilt for all the poor saps braving the rain outside tonight. Turns out its a really good thing that I came off the trail anyways, as there is a huge thunder storm rolling through and a tornado watch for all of the nearby areas I even got drenched walking back from getting food, after having put on my only dry clothes.

Which brings me back to the cheeseburger. Oh, it was glorious. A giant half pound angus burger with double cheese and all sorts of stuff piled on it at a place called Shane’s. They even asked the burrito joint next door to grill me up some onions to put on it. I also had two tubs of sweet tea (did I mention I love the south?), some slaw, fries and a quesadilla for good measure.

So tomorrow I’ll give all this up and go back to the trail. There is a large-ish mountain coming up called Blood Mountain, which I’ll probably summit on Sunday. It’s been nice to recoup and dry out, but I’m already starting to love being on the trail.

Map

Cloud Soup

april-31

Day 2

Location: Justuce Creek
Miles hiked today: 11
Miles from Springer: 13.8
Miles from Katahdin: 2,162.4
Elevation: 2,550
Temperature: 50

I’ve adopted Powder River as a trail name! I’ve had several people tell me they really like it, and just as many get kind of a confused look on their face. It is a long story to explain so I just started telling people it means “get ‘er done” in Wyomingese and they seem to nod their head approvingly.

Today was a really great hike. It was cool all day, and for most of the day we hiked through the middle of a cloud. Thankfully it didn’t rain, but because of all the condensation there were a lot of drops falling from the trees. The low cloud cover is still there as I go to bed, but there is a rumor that it is supposed to be 72 degrees and sunny tomorrow. I met a lot of people today who seemed close to quitting. There were quite a few who were really struggling at 3 to 4 miles per day. There was one guy on the approach trail yesterday who seemed to be carrying about 80 pounds, and had a 6 pound tent dangling from the waistbelt that was hitting him on the knee with every step. He was also wearing jeans, which are bad news because cotton can give you hypothermia when its wet.

I climbed 3 mountains today and still feel pretty good; Hawk Mountain, Sassafras Mountain and Justuce Mountain. By the way that is no misspelling, that’s really how they spell justice down here. But I guess that kind of makes sense given that this is the deep south, and they’ve always had a problem with justice anyhow…

Oops, did I just say that? Well hopefully none of my southern readers will be so offended as to cancel their readership. =)

Tomorrow, if I put in a really really big day I can reach civilization at Neels Gap. But probably not, because its 17 miles away. That puts the nearest cheeseburger 2 days away.

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