100 Miles and Balds

Day 8 It was one of those AT days you hear about. I packed up my tent in the rain, then hiked all morning in the rain. On the bright side, I stayed upbeat and got to try my rain gear. The highlights: My feet got wet almost immediately in my Salomon Speedcross 5 trail runners. However, the shoes dry much quicker than GoreTex boots. Plus, wet feet meant no reason to avoid splashing through puddles, woo hoo! I wore Frogg Toggs ultra-lite rain pants and they kept my legs completely dry. My rain jacket kept my top mostly dry (there was some leakage around the collar and hip belt). GoreTex mitten shells kept my gloves dry for a long time. Even when the gloves eventually got wet the shells trapped my body heat and left my hands comfortable. Mid-day I saw a big pile of bear scat after a hiker going south told me its location. A little later I got thirsty and went down a blue-blazed side trail for water. Usually they are short, but this one went a long ways, I almost turned around. I got water, went back to the main trail, and soon encountered three streams running right across the trail. It made me laugh! Luckily, the rain did stop. I pitched my tent near the shelter and everywhere tent parts and gear hung out to dry in a brisk breeze. The sun even came out to help for an hour or two. I ate my dinner in the shelter, chatting with people I met only today. There are always people to meet, it’s so fun! Day 9 It was a chilly night, low of 30 not counting the wind so I slept with my water filter. I was warm in my bag except for my feet, though I had socks on. Perhaps I waited too long to take off my wet socks post-hike? (Comment if you have ultra-lite suggestions for warming feet.) When I got up to fetch my Ursack I discovered that my shoes were slightly frozen and there were patches of frost on the ground. Then I found evidence a rodent got into my bear bag. The good news was it only nibbled on two bags inside and one was my trash bag. I pitched the nibbled snack; I don’t want a rodent disease. To motivate tent take down I started a pop music playlist on my phone. Soon I was packed up and on trail, with cold hands but still moving to the music. My poles were tucked under an arm so I could keep my hands in my pockets (gloves still wet from yesterday). I saw patches of a cool needle-like frost that crumbled delicately with a touch. Coming around a bend I got out of the wind and the full force of the sun hit me. An epic view stretched into the distance and a favorite song was playing. In that moment it hit me so strongly that there was nowhere else in the world that I’d rather be. Mt. Albert was the big climb of the day. It had a fire tower on top. The platform was locked, but the upper landing offered a great 180 degree view. Also, it marked the first 100 miles of the trail!! An exciting milestone! (That’s the official trail, doesn’t include the approach.) I ate my lunch at its base, chatting with Peter, Wendy, and others. We intended to stop at Rock Gap shelter for the night, but there weren’t many unclaimed flat spots. Peter, Wendy, and I continued on and camped on a ridge uphill from Wallace Gap. Day 10 The three of us woke at 7 am. Peter and Wendy were on trail by shortly after 8 am, but I am a slow eater so it took me a little longer.  Still it was my earliest start so far. The walking was easy along the ridge and down to Winding Stair Gap. My friends were waiting for the shuttle to Franklin so I sat with them. While we waited and chatted, Smokey the Bard strummed a beautiful tune on his instrument. When the shuttle arrived I said goodbye to Peter. Wendy is taking a nero in Franklin, but we hope to hike together further down the trail. The morning’s hike took me near the top of Siler Bald. It was an odd day. Most of the people I’d been hiking with stopped in Franklin to resupply or zero so I encountered only new people. It felt a little lonely and the climbs took more effort than usual. Yet I had no desire to leave the trail and soaked in the sunny spring day. I felt grateful to be surrounded by nature, with my home on my back like a hermit crab. My lunch stop was a large log with an excellent view. Afterwards was a long climb to the top of Wayah Bald, which had an awesome stone observation tower on top. The view was a sweeping vista of tree covered hills. Balds are an east coast thing that I don’t entirely get. Either originally cleared by deforestation or grazing, the Forest Service intentionally clears new trees from the top of Wayah to preserve the view and a thicket of azaleas, which were not currently in bloom. It seems strange to work against nature that way. I ended my day at Wayah Shelter. A couple guys told me there weren’t any good tent spots left, but I was creative and fit my tent into a small one. I felt really tired; the past several nights I either kept waking or woke and couldn’t fall back asleep for hours. So I ate dinner, hung my Ursack, brushed my teeth, and clim

100 Miles and Balds

Day 8

It was one of those AT days you hear about. I packed up my tent in the rain, then hiked all morning in the rain. On the bright side, I stayed upbeat and got to try my rain gear. The highlights:

  • My feet got wet almost immediately in my Salomon Speedcross 5 trail runners. However, the shoes dry much quicker than GoreTex boots. Plus, wet feet meant no reason to avoid splashing through puddles, woo hoo!
  • I wore Frogg Toggs ultra-lite rain pants and they kept my legs completely dry. My rain jacket kept my top mostly dry (there was some leakage around the collar and hip belt).
  • GoreTex mitten shells kept my gloves dry for a long time. Even when the gloves eventually got wet the shells trapped my body heat and left my hands comfortable.

Mid-day I saw a big pile of bear scat after a hiker going south told me its location. A little later I got thirsty and went down a blue-blazed side trail for water. Usually they are short, but this one went a long ways, I almost turned around. I got water, went back to the main trail, and soon encountered three streams running right across the trail. It made me laugh!

Luckily, the rain did stop. I pitched my tent near the shelter and everywhere tent parts and gear hung out to dry in a brisk breeze. The sun even came out to help for an hour or two. I ate my dinner in the shelter, chatting with people I met only today. There are always people to meet, it’s so fun!

Day 9

It was a chilly night, low of 30 not counting the wind so I slept with my water filter. I was warm in my bag except for my feet, though I had socks on. Perhaps I waited too long to take off my wet socks post-hike? (Comment if you have ultra-lite suggestions for warming feet.) When I got up to fetch my Ursack I discovered that my shoes were slightly frozen and there were patches of frost on the ground. Then I found evidence a rodent got into my bear bag. The good news was it only nibbled on two bags inside and one was my trash bag. I pitched the nibbled snack; I don’t want a rodent disease.

To motivate tent take down I started a pop music playlist on my phone. Soon I was packed up and on trail, with cold hands but still moving to the music. My poles were tucked under an arm so I could keep my hands in my pockets (gloves still wet from yesterday). I saw patches of a cool needle-like frost that crumbled delicately with a touch. Coming around a bend I got out of the wind and the full force of the sun hit me. An epic view stretched into the distance and a favorite song was playing. In that moment it hit me so strongly that there was nowhere else in the world that I’d rather be.

Mt. Albert was the big climb of the day. It had a fire tower on top. The platform was locked, but the upper landing offered a great 180 degree view. Also, it marked the first 100 miles of the trail!! An exciting milestone! (That’s the official trail, doesn’t include the approach.) I ate my lunch at its base, chatting with Peter, Wendy, and others.

We intended to stop at Rock Gap shelter for the night, but there weren’t many unclaimed flat spots. Peter, Wendy, and I continued on and camped on a ridge uphill from Wallace Gap.

Day 10

The three of us woke at 7 am. Peter and Wendy were on trail by shortly after 8 am, but I am a slow eater so it took me a little longer.  Still it was my earliest start so far. The walking was easy along the ridge and down to Winding Stair Gap. My friends were waiting for the shuttle to Franklin so I sat with them. While we waited and chatted, Smokey the Bard strummed a beautiful tune on his instrument. When the shuttle arrived I said goodbye to Peter. Wendy is taking a nero in Franklin, but we hope to hike together further down the trail.

The morning’s hike took me near the top of Siler Bald. It was an odd day. Most of the people I’d been hiking with stopped in Franklin to resupply or zero so I encountered only new people. It felt a little lonely and the climbs took more effort than usual. Yet I had no desire to leave the trail and soaked in the sunny spring day. I felt grateful to be surrounded by nature, with my home on my back like a hermit crab.

My lunch stop was a large log with an excellent view. Afterwards was a long climb to the top of Wayah Bald, which had an awesome stone observation tower on top. The view was a sweeping vista of tree covered hills. Balds are an east coast thing that I don’t entirely get. Either originally cleared by deforestation or grazing, the Forest Service intentionally clears new trees from the top of Wayah to preserve the view and a thicket of azaleas, which were not currently in bloom. It seems strange to work against nature that way.

I ended my day at Wayah Shelter. A couple guys told me there weren’t any good tent spots left, but I was creative and fit my tent into a small one. I felt really tired; the past several nights I either kept waking or woke and couldn’t fall back asleep for hours. So I ate dinner, hung my Ursack, brushed my teeth, and climbed right into my sleeping bag.