Sunday, May 4, 2014

Standing Bear Farm to Hot Springs, NC

I woke up Friday morning feeling well rested and ready to hike. Odysseus' aunt once again treated us to an amazing breakfast of eggs, toast, yogurt, mixed fruit, and of course coffee. I've become an avid coffee drinker on the trail. After packing up all our gear we hoped in the car and headed from Knoxville to standing bear which is about an hour drive. Once at standing bear we hungout awhile to show Odie's aunt around the farm. She really enjoyed getting a small taste of what its like to be a hiker. It's awesome how much people are interested in what we are doing out here! Back in California most people I talked to about the AT for one didn't know existed, and two thought I was crazy for undertaking such a serious hike. Now that I'm on trail everyone seems interested, I've even been asked to empty my pack and explain why I carry everything I do! We all took some pictures with Odies aunt and thanked her for what she had done for us, and let her know that she was most definitely a trail angel. Then it came time to hike. Oh I was feeling it those first few hours. I think rest days (zeros) are absolutely necessary because they give your muscles time to heal, but then you just get to break them all down again, great fun. After about 4 miles I was able to get into my groove again and my trail legs kicked in. First we had an amazing view at an air traffic control tower five miles in, after a quick rest and snack we head out for Max Patch Bald nine miles further, during our break we decided we would meet at the bald and watch the Sun set cuddle puddle style. (Our group name, because you guessed it we cuddle in a puddle.) Probably one of the best decisions I've made yet on trail. Gulliver got there first and I pulled in about 20 minutes later. It was beautiful. You could see for miles. Its crazy being able to look back at a mountain range and know that you just walked from there to where you are. So it was amazing being able to see the smokies. I met a group of college students who were hanging out to watch the sunset as well. They we're asking me all kinds of questions and were amazed that I've been hiking for a month straight. Five more to go hahaha. I met up with Gulliver and we both decided to break out our sleeping bags and chill while we were waiting for the others, because the wind was raging strong. The others showed up and we assumed the cuddle puddle position to conserve warmth. We watched the sunset, and I can honestly say it was the best I've seen. Never forget it. The group decided we would do our first bit of night hiking! And with that came my decision to take mushrooms. Another awesome one on my part! About an hour again I started to trip. The grass was glowing, the ground was blurry, and all my senses were working at once. We pulled over by a stream to cook our dinner, I made mashed potatoes mixed with ramen and mac and cheese. Just try it, I dare ya. you'll fall in love. We packed up our gear and head out. Around 11 we stopped set up camp and all passed out exhausted. I woke up before everyone and got a nice morning fire going. I'm the fire guru, so I'm told. Everyone else woke up a little later and we packed up our gear, ready for the day. The previous day we did 18 miles and today we had 15 to do. The terrain was great and the scenery changed a lot. Our pace has picked up tremendously I can pull about 3.4 miles an hour. After a day full of hiking Hot Springs came into site. I walked down into the town and continued along the trail which is marked by AT signs in the sidewalk. I'm now staying at Laughing Heart Hostel, tenting with the puddle in a big grass field. We got our showers and resupply in and then I head over to the spa to get hooked up with a massage my aunt paid for. It was the most glorious glory. After the puddle got a mineral water hot tub and soaked for an hour. Tonight will consist of beer, fire, food, and bonding. I'm loving every bit of this trail, never would consider getting off unless forced to do so by physically injury. The cuddle puddle is summiting Katahdin, no doubt about that. If you think otherwise well you can go ahead

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

I've conquered the Smokies. It was an awesome experience I'll never forget filled with up's and down's. I left from Fontana last Tuesday, originally shooting for Monday I wound up staying another day because I got the day flu. After a day of rest DQ and I head out together after Sending off some mail. We got to pass over the Fontana Dam, which is actually a part of the Appalachian Trail. Green was everywhere in abundance. After we crossed the dam we finally saw the sign that marked the beginning of the park. After excitedly filling out our permits bottom half and dropping them in the hiker box we started our ascent. It was some rough going for me the first few miles seeing as i still felt a little sick and hadn't been hiking for a few days. Usually when I'm feeling down in rewarded with something awesome to lift my spirits. This moment came when we came upon the small trail up to ShuckStack Tower. The tower was high above the tree lines and offered amazing views. After a quick smoke break in the tower, and a lunch break at the foot of it we got back on the trail. I hiked by myself for most the day with DQ dipping in and out of sight every now and then. I started to notice that little white flowers were popping up from the ground, and then suddenly I was surrounded them. It felt extremely magical, especially when i came upon a hollow tree surrounded by the flowers with its very own footpath. After a good day of hiking we came upon Mollies Ridge shelter. There ks where we caught up to Odysseus, Gulliver, Sweeps, Peepshow, and Firefox. I set up my hammock, conversed with my friends about the day while cookingy dinner of a mixture of mashed potatoes and top ramen. After watching the sky for shooting stars for awhile i head to bed. The next day was a hard one for me, we had a lot of elevation changes in order to really get into the depths of the smokies, but all the hard work was worth it once i was treated with fir and pine trees. I was constanlty walking through groves of them, the sunlight being nearly completey blocked out by there limbs. Serene is an understatement. We got to another shelter as a group set up camp and passed out early. The next day was a lot more fun, i hiked by myself again but the terrain was much easier and my surroundings had changed tremendously. There was fog everywhere i couldn't see but 10 feet in front of me, and I'm walking on the ridges of mountains. I was surrounded by nothingness and I've never felt more at place. After hiking for the day we slept at a beautiful shelter nestled beneath the fir trees. The next morning was Clingmans dome and Odysseus,Gulliver, and I decided to catch a shuttle there and head into Gatlinburg. Sweeps and Dq where already there. The hike up to clingmans was short and the weather had cleared up amazingly, giving us clear views from the dome. We head into Gatlinburg and had an amazing time filled with beer, great food, music, whiskey, wine, and moonshine tasting,meeting new people, and sleeping in soft beds. The next morning I woke up late and hungover therefore missing the first and only shuttle. A little bummed i head over to the NOC outfitter thinking I'd have to get a room until I saw a kid putting his backpack in a taxi, i asked if he was going to clingmans dome and holy trail magic he was. I hoped into the cab and started talking to him that's when i came to know the awesome Shit Nick the Prodigy. He was a stoner like myself and we decided to hike up to the next shelter together. On the drove up we saw a bear on the side of the road and he was just chillin eating grass. That got me pumped to start hiking. I put some miles between Shit Nick and I, but he caught me at the shelter where i met up with the cuddle puddle again (the names i mentioned earlier). We all ate and then knocked out. The next day we hit a hard day and all ended up together again. It rained that night and i got a little wet in my hammock but nothing too bad. We woke up and head to our last shelter before we got to our last shelter in the smokies. I woke up early and ready to go i was going to see charlies bunion which was an amazing sight. I decided id do an 18 mile day and go to standing bear hostel. The hostel was my favorite thus far. It was on a little farmhouse with chickens and treehouses for hikers to sleep in, i ended up sleeping on the farmhouse wrap around porch which was an unforgettable experience. The next morning Odysseus came into the hostel and invited me to come with him to Knoxville to visit family and have a lot of food. Obviously i jumped on in as the entire cuddle puddle wound up doing. This visit has been amazing, so much great homemade food and time growing closer with my friends. I'm now sitting on top of one of their many staircases in the house updating my blog. I love the spontaneity this trip has brought into my life and look forward to all I'll experience in the coming months. Oh yeah! I've been out here for a month! Totally loving it and never want it to end. I know I've skipped over something's so if you have any type of question ask in the comments. Thanks for reading about my journey.