Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Day 6 Hiawasee GA

0 trail miles. 
Wednesday April 29, 2015. No photos. 

I took a zero day off today. Stayed at the Budget Inn. Mailed back some unnecessary electronics. Opened my mail drop, and arranged for the Inn to shuttle the extra to Franklin NC. The same person owns the Inn there too so it's free. I did laundry yesterday evening but cleaned up some gunky equipment today.

Perhaps my most important tasks today was organizing the pack and planning likely mileage for the next couple of stops before the Smokies. 

My most pleasant activities were talking to my wife and sister. There's only two bars of signal here, but it's better than on the trail. And I have more time and energy. 

Its relatively expensive eating in town. Two stops at Subway. Their breakfast sandwich is massive. Had great pulled pork platter for lunch at a local BBQ. I was good and had a chicken salad at Zaxby's. But yesterday I couldn't resist the chocolate shake at Dairy Queen. 

I plan to watch TV this evening, then get the 0900 shuttle tomorrow morning back to the trail. 

Have a good evening!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Day 4 Neels Gap to Low Gap Shelter

31.7 to 43.2 or 11.2 miles. Started 10:10 am and finished 7:20 pm.

Monday April 27, 2015.  Here's today's elevation profile:

This is my second time writing this. The first version was lost by the app.  

It was another nice day. Except during mid-day there's a chilly breeze on most exposed slopes.  I got started late because I did my laundry at Mountain Crossings. But I want to spend some time on yesterday. 

Blood Mountain was a 1500 foot climb and descent at the end of the day. Very rocky on the way down. My primary limitation seems to be my oxygen system. Lungs and heart labor on uphills. I pause every once in a while to let my breathing slow. Then I take it carefully on the downhills.  Anyway you can tell I'm not fast. I'm pretty tired at the end of each day.  And I'm stopping too late for a leisurely setup and dinner. 

I got in yesterday after Mountain Crossings had closed. So no picking up my mail drop, buying dinner or doing laundry. I got a bunk but had to wait till 08:30 the next morning to pay etc. But they wanted us out of the bunk room by 09:00. The rush was irritating. 

Machine was there ahead of me but for some reason he set up his tent for the first time. Somehow Butterbeard got there several hours earlier. I had seen him a couple of days ago and thought he was behind us. He gave me a Hot Pocket. Really appreciated it. Then we got into a political discussion. He's a liberal and I hope he didn't regret the Hot Pocket!

Finally, don't expect these daily. I will write them each evening but I probably won't get enough signal to transmit photos except for towns. I'm getting failures with just a bar or two. 

Well here's today's photos.  Good night!

Day 5 Low Gap Shelter to Unicoi Gap / Hiawasee GA

43.2 to 52.9 or 9.7 miles total. Started at 07:40 am and got off the trail at 03:20 pm.

Tuesday April 28, 2015. Here's today's elevation profile:

I put up the tarp at Low Gap. While the temperature didn't get too cold the strong breeze made it difficult to stay warm. I use a quilt that only goes to the shoulders. If I pull it up over my head I end up trapping moisture in the down. I have a down hood but it was deep in the pack. I made do with a beanie and a buff. 

The day was sunny again with cool breezes on the slopes. Terrain was pretty rough but no big ups. 

The Machine was planning to do 15 miles and stop a few days out in Franklin. But his 15 miles included 2 big ups late in the day. That extra six miles looked tough. He's a stronger hiker and would have been an hour ahead. 

I needed to stop at Hiawassee for a mail drop. I could have used another gap/road crossing 16 miles further but it's supposed to rain all day tomorrow. I was also daydreaming about Subway and Dairy Queen. And I'm carrying too much food and a couple of other items. 

Anyway I got very lucky at the Unicoi Gap parking lot. There was s nice young couple that gave me a ride. My first hitch. No cell to call for shuttle, I thought I was going to have to put out my thumb and hope. 

The Budget Inn here is about what you would expect.  But friendly!  I decided to take a zero tomorrow and avoid the rain. I also get to work on my pack and plans. 

Only a couple of pictures today.  Good night!

Day 3 Gooch Mountain to Neels Gap

15.7 to 31.7 miles or 16 miles. But it took from 0800 to 7:20 pm.

Sunday April 26, 2015. Here's today's elevation profile:

Nice day with sun and wind. But lots of up and down. Coming down from Blood Mountain was a rock obstacle course. 

Met Flatfeet, a triple crowner on the trail, and got some good advice from him. 

The Machine talked me into coming to Neels Gap and Mountain Crossing outfitter and hostel. But he's not here. He usually gets to the camp location ahead of me.  Maybe he didn't realize he could stay in the bunk room even after they closed. 

Here's the daily pictures ...  Have a good night!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Day 2 Stover Creek To Gooch Shelter

From 2.8 mi to 15.7 mile or 12.9 miles total. Started 0915 and finished 6:40 pm.

Saturday April 25, 2015. Here's today's elevation profile:

I overdid it yesterday, and was a bit dehydrated this morning. Legs felt dead. But after a while and hydrating I felt better. 

It rained most of the night, pretty fierce in the morning hours. Spray was hitting the bivy. I packed up in the rain then it stopped. It was foggy till around 1400. The sun didn't come out till 1457. I'm pretty exhausted. And all the tent sites were taken. So I'm trying the shelter for the first time. 

Terrain was pretty rugged with only some flat trail before the shelter. No AT&T again. So this will be delayed too. Here's some photos.

Day 1 Amicalola to Stover Creek Shelter

8.8 mi approach trail + 2.8 miles AT or 11.6 miles total.

Friday April 24, 2015.
I'm going to be inserting elevation profiles from the AT Hiker app. Today crosses two sections of trail, so there will be two images. 

(Believe I was number 1327 signed in starting at Amicalola. Hostel operator said 2/3 of hikers skip Amicalola and start at Springer Mt.)

Tough day. Started at 0930 and finished about 5:30 pm. Pitched the tarp on a tent site. Sunny today but expecting 100 percent rain tomorrow and probably tonight. Took a lot of pictures and you will see them below. I could tell how soft I've gotten since the operation six and a half weeks ago. It's about 8:30 now and getting dark I'll head to the bivy sack and finish the pictures. 

I did start with three other hikers. Stayed up with the Machine who is also here. Here's the Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega the night before. Great place and people.
the Hiker Hostel

Hiker with trail name 'the Machine'

Me!  'Cipher'

Thought this was Springer Mt, bad guess.

Me at Springer...

And I'm off to bed. No cell here so it will be delayed. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

1 Day Until AT Start, Travel

Yesterday I started my bus ride from Texas to Atlanta. While I was waiting for the bus, I noticed a guy staggering around. A couple of minutes later he went into a seizure and fell against the bench I was on, about 2 feet away. Security must have been watching since he was right behind me. He called EMS and they got there in less than 5 minutes.  Shortly after that they took him away in the ambulance with a police escort. My guess would be a drug problem. 

The bus to Houston was nice with synthetic leather seats and plenty of leg room. That was not the case for the rest of the trip.   That is, until the bus out of Atlanta. 

From Houston to Montgomery Alabama, every seat was filled. And they had put outlets in where you would normally stretch your legs. It was like economy coach on an airline, only without the leg room.  And they kept the air on all the time. Everyone wore coats, hats and sometimes blankets. 

The Greyhound restrooms, except for New Orleans where the terminal was shared with Amtrak, were not large enough or clean. 

I'm adding here my second day of travel to keep it to just one blog. 

The first late bus was the one from Atlanta to Gainsville Georgia this morning. Just like the airlines, you stood there an extra hour with no info. 

The bus dropped me off at the Shell station and Derek from the Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega was there in minutes. He dropped me off at Walmart/Subway to let me get some food, then took me on to the hostel. It' a great place and just as nice as its web site. Instead of pulling out my camera, I took this shot with the iPhone. It clearly doesn't do the hostel justice. 

I'm going to study the AWOL Guide now and tomorrow, after breakfast here, start the trail at Amicalola State Park. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

7 Days Until AT Start - Wild Flowers & Planning

I wanted to touch on a couple of topics today. First, I finally got around to going through the AWOL Guide yesterday to plan hostel and motel stays and mail drops. I like to read Wired's journals and I thought she was exaggerating the pain. But it felt like torture working about 12 hours straight on a computer spreadsheet. And when I finished, it felt like a work of fiction.  I am not confident about likely daily mileage or whether accommodations will be available when I get close enough to make accurate reservations. Luckily, my wife will be able to adjust the mail drops when needed.

Now to the Texas wild flowers. After I missed photo opportunities with the bighorn sheep, I decided to carry my camera today and get some photos of the hill country wild flowers. Here are some of what I saw ...

At this point I wanted to show a couple of shots of the 400 acre controlled burn completed on 2/11/2015...

And now some more flowers...

That last one almost looks like a weed, but a nice red color.  But I still think it's a flower.  That's about it for today. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Desert Bighorn Sheep?

This morning, I took a long day-hike in Guadalupe River State Park, and I saw something I've never seen on my other hikes in Texas.  I came around a curve in the trail and about 150 feet ahead were about six rams, I presume male, desert bighorn sheep.  They had light beige tops and dark brown on their undersides.  At first I couldn't see them clearly, and puzzled about what they were.  They were as big as ponies.  But we don't have any wild ponies.  Then I thought about wild boar, there has been some churned up dirt that looks like it was done by wild pigs.  But these were BIG.  That thought made me a bit nervous, as the trail wound pretty close to their location.  Then I saw their curved horns.  I went from nervous to uneasy, I had never seen rams in Texas, and I didn't know how they would react. Unfortunately, I haven't been taking my camera on my day hikes--once you've been to a state park here, you really don't get any new, unique photo shots.  Normally, that is.

I waited a few moments watching them, then slowly started on down the trail.  At that, they decided to leave their grazing location and take off towards the nearest dense wooded area.  That's when I realized there were six of them.  Even more interesting, they ran straight toward a moderate sized herd of white-tailed deer I hadn't noticed.  This panicked the deer who ran ahead of them.  Kind of reminded me of an African safari on TV where the animals are panicking.  The sheep made the deer look small.  Admittedly, Texas white-tail deer around here are not real big except for a few bucks that can get pretty hefty.

In under a minute, the dual herds of sheep and deer went into the dense woods and disappeared.  I continued my hike, enjoying my rather unique and exciting few moments.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Short Hike Guadalupe River State Park

It's now been several weeks since my minor surgery. I decided to move from walking the driveway to a short hike in a state park. So I went to Guadalupe River State Park and did a short loop of about 2.5 miles.  It went well, a little bit of soreness, but nothing significant. I'll add a few pictures below. I was surprised with a fairly large burned area. Must have happened during the last year.