Pre Smoky Mountains

Pre Smoky Mountains

NEW! A Photo Gallery added to the side of my blog with tons of pictures I’ve been taking! Please check them out! It is on the right side of the screen below the follow buttons. I am only able to do this when I have access to a computer and add the captions when I have tons of time and stay up til 3 in the morning which I don’t want to do again anytime soon, so it might be awhile before I can update the gallery again. But in the meantime I really hope you enjoy all of the photos! πŸ™‚ please let me know if you have any questions about them at all! Some where taken on my phone, others on my camera, and some are from instagram. Boom. Enjoy!

 

4/19: The Nantahala Outdoor Center is awesome! Cool outfitter, awesome river, amazing food, and unexpectedly comfy bunk beds. A nice mix of locals, tourists, river guides, and thru hikers makes for a rowdy time. We were not planning on taking a zero there, but we heard about live blue grass music that night and a few of our friends rolled in and we decided to enjoy our time at the NOC. We hung out at the outfitters, and resupplied. I had a lot if extra food so I sent it forward to Gatlinburg (half way through the smokies). Because I had been so so cold at night I had ordered an underquilt from hammock gear and was told it was going to be in Fontana Dam the time I got there in a few days. I decided to send my inflatable therma rest x therm back home. I also sent back my silk sleeping bag liner and bought a warmer liner to hopefully help sleep warmer at night. It was a rainy day but enjoyed the time with friends and even got a personal blue grass concert at the bonfire. Angrybird, a 2013 thru hiker, gave us all words of wisdom to enjoy your time on trail, take your time, respect the trail, and make lots of friends and memories. I felt guilty for taking another day off, but I think Angrybird is right. And it is also important to give your body a break. The night was fun and I got to meet new thru hiker friends!

The AT went over the Nantahala River at the NOC:

20140501-082631.jpg

20140501-083717.jpg

4/20: Had a great Easter breakfast with Pigpen, Becca, Fall n Oats, Angrybird, Peepshow, Doug, and Tigergin. You can tell hikers are in town with all of the packs outside:

20140501-112252.jpg

Headed out for the legendary climb out of the NOC, the mountains where in the clouds:

20140501-083606.jpg

Solitude colored hard boiled eggs and his them around the NOC. At the trail head he had a whole box full, complete with a salt and pepper shaker!

20140501-111944.jpg

The NOC is also down for it’s major descent in and it’s major ascent out. There was a lot of hype about it and it was easier than I thought it was going to be. It was a gorgeous day and trees and flowers were starting to bloom so it was a fantastic hike.

20140501-112739.jpg

Casual millipede:

20140501-112835.jpg

A memorial for Wade Sutton, a Forest Service Ranger who died in 1968 trying to put out a forest fire. There were prayer cards and stones and pebbles all around it. I stopped and paid my respects and added a stone to the large collection.

It’s important to remember and realize the amount of labor the volunteers and workers put into the AT to make it was it is today. Most of all of the trail upkeep is all done by volunteers who have to carry heavy hand tools (no power tools are allowed in most areas) and saw fallen trees, create steps with logs and rocks and dig drainage trenches. Without the continued hard work and dedication of these people we would not have this amazing trail! Since then, whenever I come across fallen branches on the trail I try to move them out of the way. I have even met hikers who will move and cut fallen trees out if the way! It’s those little things you don’t really think about in the early days of trail that are actually a huge deal in your everyday hike.

20140501-154759.jpg

Natural sunscreen and air conditioning via the rhododendrons:

20140501-155227.jpg

Views of Nantahala Gorge (where the NOC is located) from the Jump-up:

20140501-201647.jpg

20140501-201708.jpg

Sassafrass Gap Shelter Outlet:

20140501-201816.jpg

 

After stopping at the shelter for a lunch break, I climbed up to Cheoah Bald. It was gorgeous!! The Trail suddenly opened up to this huge view and it was so pretty! It was awesome just to sit and chill and take in everything around me.

20140502-030629.jpg20140502-030710.jpg20140502-030732.jpg

I also discovered a short side trail that lead to another view off of the bald. It was a small spot and everything was so quiet and peaceful. It was awesome!

20140502-030844.jpg20140502-030917.jpg

After passing Locust Gap where everyone was going to camp for the night, I decided to hike a little longer and stealth camp by myself. Stealth camping is where camp off of the Trail that is not at a shelter or a designated campsite. Stealth camping is totally kosher in most parts of the AT. I found a great hammock spot about a mile and a half up on top of a ridge and enjoyed a quiet dinner and sunset to myself. It was perfect. A great ending to a great 12 mile day.
20140502-031217.jpg

4/21: I slept in and hit the trail about 9:30. In 2 miles I hit the recently hyped up Jaccob’s Ladder, famous for climbing 600 feet in 1.3 miles. We had heard rumors of people practically climbing up the mountain on their hands and knees. I was nervous for it, but also excited for the challenge.Β It was a pretty steep climb, but not at all as hard as I thought- I think I’m definitely getting my trail legs!

It was another hot and sunny day and I hiked most of the day by myself. I got to Cable Gap Shelter where I met Wolf and Strider. It was about 4ish and I had hiked about 10 miles and there was miles 6.6 miles until the Fontana Dam Shelter. I was feeling pretty good and knew I would see familiar faces ahead, so I decided to hike on. I was keeping a great pace and eventually you could see Fontana Dam from the distance. 20140502-072212.jpg

Since I could see the dam I thought I would be at the Fontana Dam Shelter (known as the Fontana Hilton) real soon like. 2 hours later (sooo looong) I finally arrived at the Fontana Crossing over NC 28. It was only 1.1 miles to the shelter. It was the longest 1.1 mile of my entire life! The trail went on and on and when you could finally see the shelter you still had to go up and around the mountain to reach it. The positive thing was that because of the lower elevation everything was green and beautiful. 20140502-073326.jpg

The Fontana Hilton gets it’s name because it is a 20 person shelter, there are 3 large areas to set up tents, just down the road there are bathrooms and a shower, and down the road even farther is the Visitors Center with huge granite bathrooms. I had about a 17 mile day and I was feeling really tired by the time I reached the shelter. Met up with some friends and got to meet new people as well. I did not want to sleep in the shelter and the only available spot to hammock was on a steep hill. At the bottom was an inlet/cesspool filled trash and real funky looking water. As I was setting up my hammock and unpacking my gear I took out my sleeping bag which was in it’s stuff sack compressed like the size of a volley ball. I set it on the ground and accidentally kicked it. I watched in horror as my sleeping bag ferociously rolled down the side of the hill, gaining speed and momentum about to fall to it’s demise. And then at the last second, a strap snagged a log and saved it! Praise the woods!

4/22: Woke up and broke down camp just before the rain hit. Tang, Muscadine, Sasquatch and I got a ride to the Fontana Lodge which is like a big resort. I had a mail drop there with food and was expecting my underquilt to be there. I got my food but no sign of the underquilt. Sweeps and the rest of the Cuddle Puddle showed up at the Lodge and I decided to take a zero to wait for my underquilt so I could have it for the smokies, where it is notoriously cold, windy, and rainy. Had a cool view of the Great Smoky Mountains from Fontana Dam and it was such a change to see blooming trees and flowers! 20140502-081033.jpg

More to come soon I promise! Today also marks my 1 month trailiversary! After (or maybe before) my post about going through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park I will reflect on this past month and what I have learned.

Thank you so much god reading! Don’t hesitate to ask questions or give me your thoughts! πŸ™‚

Peace like a river,

Dairy Queen

Advertisements

Mountains for years!!

4/16 finally left Franklin! Got a hitch to Winding Stair Gap and had a nice nearo of 5 miles to Siler Bald Shelter. It was a really cold night and we found out the night before it has snowed there and had stayed on the ground for a few hours. We where finally reunited with Mac and Kat who we had started the approach trail with! Met some new friends Tinder and Birch and we all huddled around the fire for as long as we could before going to bed. I have been struggling staying warm at night and tonight was no exception.
Gulliver (previously known as Nick), Odysseus, Mac, Tinder and Birch huddling around the fire:

20140419-134615.jpg

4/17: Woke up with crazy frost on the ground

20140419-134927.jpg
Hiked up Siler Bald for the most amazing view yet! A full 360 degree view of layers and layers of beautiful mountains! They almost looked like watercolor. Spectacular!

20140419-135110.jpg

20140419-135228.jpg

20140419-135336.jpg

20140419-135400.jpg

20140419-135434.jpg

Had an awesome hike to Wayah Bald for even more great views!

20140419-140339.jpg

Kat and I enjoying the view:

20140419-140429.jpg

Team cuddle puddle:

20140419-140508.jpg

From the tower we could see Clingmans Dome in the Smokies where we will be in about a week

20140419-140619.jpg

We could also see Siler Bald where we came from earlier. It’s the bald spot you can see in the mountains. It’s such a cool feeling to see how far where you came from is, makes you feel pretty powerful!

20140419-140826.jpg

Stopped at Cold Spring Shelter for a good 12.5 mile day.

4/18 Had some awesome climbs up Rocky Bald and Wesser Bald. A overcast day but great hiking weather!

20140419-141159.jpg

20140419-141217.jpg

20140419-141341.jpg

20140419-141409.jpg

Solid crew on the Wesser Bald Tower: Kbar, Flint, Bamboo, Birch, Tinder, Odysseus, Sweeps, and Gulliver.

20140419-141625.jpg

I hiked to Rufus Morgan Shelter which is only a mile away from the Nantahala Outdoor Center and decided to get a bunk there.

20140419-141744.jpg
Stayed dry from the rain and enjoyed new and old friends and a bacon BBQ burger. Delish! Who knew hiking was going to be this great!?

4/11-4/15 Rowdy AT times and zeros on zeros

4/11 Had the most glorious breakfast I’ve ever had! Gary and Lennie cooked us pancakes, biscuits, scrambled eggs, sausages, hashbrowns and blueberry syrup! Where we ate was an attachment of the house Gary built to look like a one bedroom cabin. It had all these old cooking supplies and was so cozy! The Blueberry Patch has been open for 22 years and Gary and Lennie moved there specifically to care for hikers- 2 amazing people!

20140415-125933.jpg

Gary drove us back to Dicks Creek and it was great to hit the trail. Powered up Buzzard Knob with Chewy and As Knob with Sweeps. It was another sunny day and the climbs are getting harder, but we were going to hit the Georgia/North Carolina border and we were pumped! Sweeps and I got there first and it was so exciting! We dance partied it out and felt on top of the world! 1 state down, 13 to go! There was also a note to us from Hemlock! Notes are the coolest and most fun way to communicate on trail.

20140415-142407.jpg

20140415-142416.jpg

Shortly after the border we stopped at the famous twisted tree for some pop tart action and a water break.

20140415-171818.jpg

Then NC really rolled out the red carpet. We had hiked 9 miles to the border that had about a 1000 foot increase in elevation. We where about to do that again in under 2 miles. Couthouse Bald had 3 separate summits and they were the steepest and hardest climbs I had experienced. While I was dying I was thinking about how it actually felt like I was climbing a mountain and that motivated me to not keel over. It was hot, so whenever I hit a tunnel of rhododendrons I kept calling it the AC and made a goal to keep hiking to the next one. Sweet relief whenever that happened! There was a bunch of switchbacks and it was a lot of work with no good view at the top, but hey! A bunch of people dropout before North Carolina so I was happy to be on the trail. Made it to Muskrat Shelter and saw a bunch of familiar faces and got to meet new hikers too. A group of us went to watch the sunset and it was the most spectacular view I had ever seen. It wasn’t even the sunset itself, but the layers and layers of gorgeous mountains in different hazy shades for as far as you could see. The pictures I took on my camera do not at all come close to what I saw, but it is a picture I will keep in my memory for a long time to come. Here are a few pictures of the sunset.

20140415-234409.jpg

4/12 We wanted to make it to Carter Gap Shelter 12 miles away today. We were coming up to Deep Gap which was right before a pretty large climb up to Standing Indian Mountain. Sweeps, Odysseus, Chewy, Nick and I decided to take a break at the gap. And then the most amazing thing happened! Our first big TRAIL MAGICCCCC!!!! NOBO 2013’s Breeze and Windy rolled up with some of their friends and offered us cases of beer, hotdogs, hamburgers, and bacon. It was truly spectacular! As a few more hikers filed in it truly turned into a magical moment as Breeze was telling us his trail stories and we realized we have so much ahead of us and so many more amazing people to meet. It was overwhelming in the best way possible. It was also interesting to hear how much Breeze misses the trail and how lucky we are to be hiking it.

20140416-090105.jpg

20140416-090120.jpg

We ended up staying at Trail Magic for 3 hours! It was sad to leave but after all the beers were gone, the hike up Standing Indian Mountain didn’t seem so bad. The view on the mountain was amazing!

20140416-090738.jpg

Firefox, Brave, Odysseus, Sweeps, Fall N’ Oats, and Peepshow on Standing Indian

20140416-091023.jpg

We ended up going about 9 miles altogether to Beech Gap but it ended up being an awesome day on the AT!

4/13 The plan for today was to go a good 12 miles so we could be close to Winding Stair Gap and get into Franklin in the morning. We where having a great hike about 9 miles in and knew we would be scaling the glamorous Albert Mountain which just looks like ‘A’ in the guide books it’s so steep. Right before the climb this is what I walk into:

20140416-124959.jpg
More trail magic!!! This time in the form of sloppy joe hot dogs and endless servings on chips, sodas, and honey buns! Thanks to the Oconee County Hiking Club! After feasting until I could be rolled up the mountain, I hit the trail with Wings. Climbing Albert was the steepest climb yet and consisted of having to practically rock climb in some areas. But we finally made it to the top and had a glorious view!

20140416-125545.jpg

We also had hit the 100 mile mark (109 including the Approach Trail)!! In true AT fashion this milestone was graffitied on the fire tower on the mountain

20140416-125719.jpg

We chilled up there until the rest of the crew caught up and took a sweet group shot with Admiral Caboose, me (DQ), Moxy, Odysseus, Sasquatch, Ranger, Sweeps, Tessla, and Easy Day. We yelled into the mountains and the echo went on foreverrrr, it was so cool!

20140416-125820.jpg

After trail magic and conquering Albert, spirits were soaring and we where all feeling great! We had a 2.5 mile hike to Long Branch Shelter (built in 2012 and fits 16 people. 2 story and super fancy) and me, Ranger, Tessla, Sasquatch, Easy Day, Admiral Caboose, and Wings decided to press on to the next shelter. We were half joking about walking all the way to Franklin but where still feeling great. After 3 miles we hit Rock Gap Shelter and ran into some familiar faces. It was about 6 o’clock and we were feeling like totally hardcore. Me, Ranger, Easy Day, Sasquatch, Admiral Caboose and Irish Mist decided to press on to the 3.8 miles to Winding Stair Gap. We knew the moon was going to be bright and thought a night hike would be a great idea! After a pretty tough hike, navigating the trail during a super cloudy night, and 20 miles, we finally stumbled to the road! We made it! Now we just needed to get to Franklin 12 miles away and find a place to stay. A super thought out plan. After getting to town, we went where we knew hikers would be. The local bar! Ended up seeing Wild Turkey, who was another girl I had started the Approach Trail with. It was a great night filled with meeting new hikers, a well earned margarita and 3 mile walk to a janky motel where we stayed the night. It was a spontaneous and hard day that ended up being a total blast!

4/14 When we woke up, we quickly realized that maybe a 20 miler in the first 2 weeks of trail was not the smartest idea. Our feet and knees where crying and hobbled like old men to meet up with our group who was coming into Franklin in the morning. We all went to Outdoor 76 to have out feet looked at. I learned that the insoles in my shoes where unnecessary and were very detrimental to my feet and the reason for a lot of my foot pain. The outfitters was a really cool place with great craft beers and a wall to sign your trail name to.

20140416-131844.jpg
We had also gone out to eat and received trail magic in the shape of the remnants of a yellow chocolate cake and it was the most fabulous thing in the entire world. You really start to appreciate the little things like scraps of food. NOMS!

20140416-141312.jpg

I had also received the most amazing Wisco care package consisting of cheese curds, spotted cow and whiskey. I spread the love in the form of cheese to hikers and locals that had never had a cheese curd before! I changed lives one curd at a time. That night we went back to the bar and tore down the house with some thru hiker karaoke. The best kind of karaoke.

20140416-142443.jpg
We met some great locals and it was so cool the huge thru hiker community that was in town.

4/15 Rather than head to the trail we decided to take another zero to relax and run errands. Also those of us that hiked the 20 still felt like we were falling apart. We resupplied, got stranded at Walmart for several hours, and feasted on pizza. Aka bummed around all day long and had zero productivity. But it was great! Everyone is getting so much closer and we saw Mac and Cat who had started the approach with us! Its been chill hanging out in town but we are so stoked to get back on trail. We will be at the NOC in 2-3 days and Fontana Dam in 5-6!

Also this day was important to me because during the Approach Trail when I was having a hard time and through the tears had given myself until April 15th to decide to stay on trail or go home. There is no doubt in my mind that the trail is the place for me. I am so happy and lucky to be hiking on the Appalachian Trail! I’m sorry this post was short and uneventful, I am still getting used to this blogging business. If anyone has suggestions for more things you would like me to talk about or more/less pictures just let me know- I would appreciate it!

Cheese and love,
DQ