Now Entering Smoky Mountain National Park

Entering the Smokies

All in all, we had about 3000 ft of elevation change to do (equivalent to around 250 commercial stories – the Empire State building is 102 stories tall), not to mention the ups and downs along the way. So far, the trail in the Smokies was nice, though we got some rain our first afternoon in them. Continue reading

Trail Magic

icey snowy branches

There’s a whole different culture on the trail, and one of the things that people talk about is trail magic – and yes, it’s a real thing. Trail magic is what hikers call acts of kindness that others (often people who have thru-hiked before, or have some connection to the trail) do for the hikers – often in the form of food. Today, a couple thru-hikers from 2012 (named Whitewater and Video) had decided to meet up at a road along the trail; they set up a tent, turned on a grill, and shared a bounty of snacks, burgers, and stories with this year’s hikers as we came through the gap. The burgers were great! Continue reading

Getting Cold Feet

snowy branches

There’s still a lot of snow on parts of the trail, but we were getting even more restless just waiting. We managed to get a shuttle to Wayah Gap, where we left off the day before when we headed back into town. Depending on if we’re on the sunny side of the mountain, the snow is beginning to turn to slush, and we’re really hoping that the Smokies are not too bad in this regard, as we’ve heard bad reports about the conditions there. Continue reading

Walking in the Snow

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Siler Bald in the snow

It has been snowing lightly in town for most of the last 24 hours, but the forecast said it was supposed to clear up by the end of today so we got a shuttle to the trail head this morning, knowing that there was snow build up in the mountains. We got a few miles before the snow got deeper than we expected. Continue reading

Our Longest Day Yet!

Huge fallen Tree

Today started with yet another cold wet morning. I think this makes three in a row. We knew this was in the forecast, but it doesn’t make it any more pleasant. Today we took my motto of “Rainy days are made for walking” to heart. We decided to get up and get moving because thunderstorms were in the forecast for the evening. So we packed up as quickly as we could and got moving, which is really the only way to be warm in this weather. Jonathan’s knees have been slowly feeling better since we left Hiawasee, and today he was moving so fast I could barely keep up. Continue reading

Trail Names and Snow Flurries in North Carolina

J and Hiccup at the NC border

For those of you not familiar with the Appalachian Trail, or Thru-hiker culture, you may not have heard of the concept of Trail Names. I don’t know exactly how the tradition started, but it has become part of hiking the trail that you have an alias. You go by a different name than you would in normal life. Some of it might be that you can only meet so many people with the same first name before you can’t tell them apart, but some of it also is a bit about redefining yourself that so many people seek when they are on the trail. Continue reading

Blueberry Patch Hostel and Hiawasee, GA

J at Blueberry Patch

We had a slow start, but still managed to make it to the Blueberry Patch Hostel by about 11am and got there just in time to get the last two spots. The Poteats are a wonderful couple that run a donation based hiker hostel near Hiawasee, GA. They accept mail drops for hikers, provide a place to shower and relax, and even took care of our smelly hiker laundry. We greatly appreciated their wonderful hospitality, especially after a couple of cold damp days in the woods. Continue reading

Knee braces and thunderstorms

Neels Gap sign

We got a late start leaving Neels Gap in the morning, after picking up a few more things from the Outfitter there, and having some frustrating adventures with our modified cooking setup (I’ll get around to taking a photo of it eventually) which is both lighter weight and smaller, we set out much later than we had intended. Also, Jonathan’s knee has started bothering him, so we weren’t sure how we were going to make the 12+ miles we intended to do. Continue reading

Climbing Over Blood Mountain

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Blood Mountain Shelter

The weather turned gorgeous this morning and provided us with such warm breezy weather that I got my first sun burn of the year far earlier than normal. We only ended up hiking about 8 miles today, but it included some spectacular views. We also needed to clear this particular part of the trail by the end of the day because camping in this section requires a bear canister. The bears have been particularly active and they are trying to protect both bears and campers by requiring canisters. As this is the only stretch of the trail that requires them, we thought it best just to pass on through rather than carry the weight. Continue reading