Entry #68 - Georgia

Hiked a 16 mile day to Unicoi Gap. Had some nice weather and some nice views. The weather has been perfect and the hiking is getting easy. There is a definite confidence in our strides as we push closer and closer to the end. At this point, baring a major accident or incident, all four of us will finish. One person finishing the trail is beating the odds, let alone a group of four people ALL finishing the trail and there is a definite satisfaction in this. 

We met up with Keith and Lisa as well a group of their friends who live in the area. they drove us to a nearby campsite for an impromptu end of the journey celebration. They put on a great feast with burgers, pork loin, hotdogs and plenty of beer to go around. 

K & Lisa’s friends set up there tents to sleep while Mike, Gills and I decided to “cowboy camp” next to the stream. A few hours later, in the darkness, we witnessed one of the funnier moments of the trip as a fairly intoxicated female party goer stumbled out of her tent over a small edge rolling down the river bank we were perched on. We flipped on our lights and she crawled towards us laughing as she knocked the leaves out of her clothes. 

Next day, we hiked a short day in to Neels Gap. Cool hostel right on the trail. Actually, the trail actually runs through the hostel. We watched a movie and enjoyed some BBQ. Easy day of walking. 

Next day we met up with K & L and did the hike up and over Blood Mountain. Tough climb but spectacular views at the top. Did some relatively easy hours after that with plenty of breaks in the sun. The end is near. On to Springer tomorrow. 

On the way to a Georgia backwoods cookout.

The trail runs right through the hostel. Cool!

New Jack City, population three. 

Beautiful ridge walking in Georgia.

Entry #67 - Georgia

The generosity of people along the trail continues to amaze me. We did a 16 mile day in to the town of Hawasi, Georgia as we needed to resupply and could use a shower  Nothing too spectacular on the day, but a pretty challenging series of PUDs. We got in to town, running fairly low on money. Through the powers of the trail we met Kurt, a former thru hiker that insisted he would put us up in a motel for the night. Ron the owner of the motel set us up with some beers, laundry, shower, and pizza. Massive thanks to Kurt & Ron, whoever you are.  

We are close to the end. People are starting to congratulate us for finishing. A bitter sweet haze has fallen over the Joe’s Hole Posse.  

Crossing our final border on a beautiful fall morning. Leaving North Carolina behind and stepping in to Georgia.

Entry #66 - Tennessee / North Carolina

11.3.05

5 Months In.

First day out of Fontana was long but the walking was pleasant. Walked right up on a group of deers bedding down. Plenty of good views, Cheoah Bald was fantastic. We got a nice fire going and got a good night sleep. 

Next day we did another 20 miles including a very long descent in to the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) which is some kind of adventurers paradise with kayakers and rafters running the rapids. 

The view on top of Wesser Bald was incredible. We could see all the way back to Clingmans Dome. 

Next day we did 17 miles in to Franklin, North Carolina. The view atop Wasah bald was great. We have had a couple great days of hiking with nice, clear, dry weather. 

In Franklin we did our food resupply and tried to get back out of town and back to the woods. We hitch hiked for a bit and an older guy with his wife picked us up. We drove us a few miles out of town and then his wife started to act nervous and started whispering to him. Well, he pulled over and told us he was running out of gas and couldn’t take us any further. Puzzled we got out of the car, and he drove on in the same direction we had been heading. Well shit, now we are on the side of the highway, the sun is setting and we are halfway between Franklin and the AT. 

We made our way back to town, and found a cheap hotel as it was not well past dark. Bumped in to a former thru hiker and we ended up having a few beers and swapped trail stories. 

Today we hiked 24 miles. Only good view was atop the firetower on Albert Mountain. I was exhausted by the end of the day but the climb down Standing Indian Mountain was nice and the sun was setting. Cool mountain, long day. 

The NOC

What a view

Looking back at the ridgeline we had just crossed.

Hitch hiking in to Franklin NC

Left for dead in the middle of the highway, thanks bro

Our first look at GEORGIA

Entry #65 - Tennessee / North Carolina

The next day we woke up to perfect blue skies and a cold world covered in snow and ice and we knew this would be an adventure. We ate breakfast in our sleeping bags, packed quickly and were on trail by 9. 

I was front throughout the day and it was physically taxing to climb, slip, and slide our way down the trail. The trees were heavy with ice and snow and it made the trail an endless obstacle course of low hanging tree branches.

Regardless, the views were spectacular, very strange to be in a snow covered world looking down at the valley that is orange with fall colors and not a sign of snow.

We continued along the ridgeline slowly but surely, stopping once at Ice Water Spring Shelter for a hasty lunch. We began to drop in elevation and by 4 oclock we stumbled out in to a large parking area alongside the blue ridge parkway.  We chatted with a few tourists who informed us that the temperatures on the next day would be below 20 degrees. Without proper winter gear, we made the decision to hitchhike in to Gatlinburg to visit an outfitter and warm our bones. 

We found a cheap hotel and picked up some additional gear and stove fuel at the outfitter. The next day we did a quick 12 miles. We passed Clingmans Dome, the highest point on the AT but the views were blocked with fog. Stayed the night with a large group of section hiker. They had a nice fire going and gave us all kinds of food. Nice group.

The next day we did 28 miles down to Fontana Dam and out of the Smokys. Up and down all day but the walking was relatively easy. Saw some nice views of the rolling Tennessee valleys off in the distance. Met up with Keith and Lisa, and Gantz after crossing Fontana Dam and we made our way to the Fontana Dam Shelter. Reaching the Dam is a huge milestone for SOBO thruhikers because the looming Smoky Mountains are officially behind you and Georgia is within sight. We managed a ride in to town and picked up some celebratory beers to share at the shelter which we drank with gloved hands. 

The next day we decided to take a zero at the Fontana Resort which is a summer season resort that opens its doors to hikers in the off season. Kind of strange/fun to have this sprawling resort all to ourselves.  We spent the day watching football, swimming, writing, catching up on email, and studying the map. 

Waking up to a cold world. 

A long day ahead. 

Looking down in to the green valley thousands of feet below us. 

Rime ice, shows how powerful the wind was during the night.

Smiles for the first time all day knowing we are descending down to the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

No view at the highest point on the AT

Descending out of the Smokys after a dramatic couple of days. 

Peaking over the edge of Fontana Dam

Entry #64 - Tennessee / North Carolina

We left Mountain Mama’s hostel around 10 a.m. to a noticeable chill in the air. We had a great big breakfast knowing this would be our last “real” meal for several days.  After finding our way back to the trail head we crossed over a marked boundary and began a long, steady descent in to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. 

As we made our way up the mountain snowflakes began to fall slowly. As we got above 5000’ there was a full blanket of snow on the ground. We were not prepared for this. By 6000 feet there was a good 1/2 to 1”” of snow on the ground and all the trees were covered. Hiking in shorts and a coat, it really wasn’t bad as my internal temp was high from the long climb up. Cold hands with no gloves. I caught up with Gantz about 1/2 way in to the day at one of the shelters. It was hard to leave as he had a nice fire going in the shelter firepit. 

Mike and I wanted to stay on schedule so we got up and got moving, it was not easy to leave the group (and the fire) behind. As soon as we left, the wind and snow begane to escalate dramatically. It really made the uphill climbs a challenge and the downhills were slick with snow. We eventually made it to our shelter, we were both very cold. I knew that we had to work quickly while our bodies were still warm and I immediately set off gathering firewood. With no gloves, my bare hands were frozen, and a very painful numbness set in. Made it challenging to gather wood properly, so I gathered enough to get a good base fire going and decided I would venture out for more once I had a fire going. Back in the shelter, Mike had arrived and helped to gather additional wood. I went to work getting the fire struck.

I have made 100s of fires in my life, but the initial stages of hypothermia left my head clouded and confused and I had an extremely hard time getting the fire started. After what felt like an eternity, the kindling caught and we began to warm up. 

We made dinner and crawled in to our sleeping bags to ride out the night. 

The beginning of a long, steady climb up to 6000 feet in the Smokys

All smiles at the first sign of snow but we wouldn’t be so happy in a few hours.

We caught up with our friend Gantz who had built a fire. It was hard to leave!

The last photo of the day, Mike without a proper coat or gloves does his best to bundle up as we prepare to make a 10 mile push to the next shelter.

Entry #63 - Tennessee / North Carolina

10.24.05

We did 27 miles in to Hot Springs, North Carolina. We are feeling very strong and healthy and doing consistent back to back big mile days. Long day of hiking but it was very pleasant walking. Nice ridgewalk in the morning and met up a couple at a road crossing who offered us free BBQ and ice cre cream. Some kind of religious tie in but we were polite and excused ourselves when the bibles came out. 

We got back on trail around 2 and did the last 9 miles or so down the long switchbacks in to town. As I was walking through town a woman stopped me and asked if I was hungry. I said I was and she invited me to pull up a chair (with her husband) I ordered a burger and a beer, second free meal of the day! A welcome reemergence from the treeline. We met up with Keith and Lisa and Keith’s Mom and family were in town and put on a good feed for the group. Very nice people!

Stayed at Elmers hostel. Felt like we were staying in a museum. We stayed in the basement bunkroom. Next day we took a zero and watched a few movies and football. At night we met up with Keith’s family for an outdoor grill feed. Good times. Next day we got a late start but still did a 19 mile day.  Got to a new shelter, met a cool seciton hiker “Tim” from Georgia. Day’s hike was challenging with a long endless climb to vistaless Bluff mtn. Kind of a let down to put all that work in, come 300 feet from the top then the trail dips away from the summit across the side of the mountain.

A big cold front rolled in and we woke up to SNOW! Took us a while to get out our sleeping bags and brave the elements. The hiking was easy and stumbled down to Davenport Gap. Crossing Snowpeak mountain we got our first view of the Smokey mountains in the distance. We are staying at Mountain Mama’s hostel tonight, fairly unusual place. Part diner, part trailer park, part hostel, part museum.  Regardless, the showers are hot and the bunk rooms are warm. Great day on the trail, we are in the Smokies tomorrow!

Editors Note: While not in my journal this was a special night for our group. Under the dim light of the hostel kitchen, Keith, Lisa, Mike and I huddled around maps and our trail guides and plotted our final schedule for the remaining miles on the trail, knowing for the first time, that we we would reach the southern terminus in Georgia. 

Postcard day in the southern Appalachians 

What a view

In the hostel bunkroom. 

Our first taste of snow on the trail, weren’t we JUST complaining about the HEAT?

Wearing the fleece Miss Janet gave me would get me through the next 100 miles of cold and snow. 

Group shot outside MTN Mama’s hostel

Entry #62 - Tennessee / North Carolina

We woke up to our coldest morning on trail yet at the Roan Mountain shelter, hands are cold, water, food, etc all partially frozen. But we got up and about and hit the trail. The best thing to do is start the motor it seems. 

We’ve had great days of hiking, nice and cool with plenty of nice breezes to keep us dry and no shortage of cool country to enjoy. 

Made our way in to Erwin, Tenn and to another famous hostel, Miss Janets Hiker Hostel. The hostel is run out of the first floor of her house. It is quite a place. MJ is super cool, very friendly and Erwin is another good hiker town. 

We did a 20 mile slack pack in to Erwin accompanied by MJ’s dog. Fun day of hiking. Crossed over “beauty spot” which lived up to its name. Five star weather and a great grassy vista. 

The next day some hikers we met much earlier in our trip arrived and there is a bit of a reunion atmosphere in the hostel. I spent some time working on and fixing MJ’s computer.  Hikers here are now Spud, Gantz, Skip, and OD Green. We did a 25 mile slack pack back to MJ’s for one final night. Ended up organizing a game of latenight game of backyard football. Good time had by all. 

Gills and Samoa are staying with friends in town and we haven’t seen them in a day or two. MJ’s has been awesome, the slack packing was a nice break, and she was incredibly nice. She even hooked me up with a nice fleece coat as she was worried that I have no winter gear for the Smokey Mountains.

Today we did a quick 17 miles with one nasty climb up “Big Bute” … straight up!!

Staying in a shelter with a crew of four older guys from Indiana, funny crew, tons of extra food so we are eating well. 

Nice welcome to the south.

Slackpacking the highlands.

Computer repair guy.

Hikers outside the hostel

Atop a tall peak at sunset

Entry #61 - Virginia / Tennessee

Back after a short hiatus in journaling. I actually ran out of room in my second notepad. Mike was enough to pick one up for me while we were resupplying as a peace offering after a brief squabble in town. 

Writing this entry from a cold windy shelter atop Roan Mountain which has the distinction as the highest shelter on the AT. 

Lot’s to catch up on, will give some highlights.

Mike and I did a 33+ mile day in to Damascus crossing through Grayson Highlands on a misty, foggy day. Had a chance to see the famous Grayson wild ponies too. 

We stayed at “The Place” a large, two story church hostel with plenty of bunk space and common areas. There is not a dedicated full time caretaker here, everything is kind of on the honor system and we honor that. 

Keith and Lisa rolled in to town the next day as they had opted not to do the long haul  on the previous day. We bumped in to them as they were coming in and the four of us had lunch at a nearby diner. Damascus is really cool, easily one of our favorite town stops. Plenty to see and do and everything is accessible on foot, very hiker friendly.  We took a zero that day and we eventually settled in at a local tex/mex place for football and food. 

The next day we made arrangements to do a reverse slack pack at the local outfitter. In the morning he dropped us 20 miles south of town and we spent the day hiking north back to Damascus. It is such a treat to walk without the heavy burden of the full pack. Plenty of nice ridgewalking. We passed a pack of radio collared dogs (hunting) at one point tearing down the trail.  We made our way back in town and headed to Tex/Mex  ”The Place” for showers. We met a film crew there who were shooting a show for PBS called Globe Trekker. They filmed a few scenes in and out of the hostel with apperances from all four of our crew. 

We made our way back to the Tex /Mex place for diner, the owners were former hikers and we enjoyed a long night with a small band of fellow adventurers who had descended on Damascus sharing stories and beer well in to the night. Lots of jokes and story telling. 

The next day we took care of some much needed errands, email, and laundry.  Caught up on some sleep and scouted the maps for our next stretch on the trai. 

The following day we did a 27 mile hike to the famous Kincora hostel. A great day of hiking which ended with a long final stretch through some canyon type terrain.

This marks the beginning final chapter for us on trail as we are headed back to the high country with plenty of big mountains coming up and we are excited to move through the highlands of Tennessee and  North Carolina. 

Kincora hostel was great, a big beautiful cabin with a hikers bunkroom. Tons of good stories and good company. 

The next day we did a rugged 24 mile slackpack and then shuttled back to Kincora. Not a very glamourous stretch but we are trying to set ourselves up for ideal mileage in the next few days (long stretches between resupplies) so it was a necessary evil. Funny moment today, was actually kicked by a wilde horse. We passed him on the trail and I guess I got in the wrong position. He got me right in the thigh, leaving a muddy footprint on my leg. I am fine though, kind of saw it coming and was able to pull back in time. Rolling all day long up and down up and down up and down.

The next day we did a fantastic, 15 mile day across the famous Roan Highlands which are a long chain of “Balds” which are high mountains with clear cut, grassy tops. It makes for fantastic hiking. We passed a group of long horn cattle, pretty cool to see. The cold wind was blowing all day and it made for very comfortable hiking. 

Tenn has proved to be of my favorite states and this is just the start! It is great to be back in the big mountain country and the dog days of the mid atlantic states are definitely behind us. The climbs are big out here, the mountains are big, the views are big. Hands are getting cold so I will call it a night here. 

Feeding the wild horses atop the Graysons Highlands.

Foggy, cool day as we crossed the Highlands on our way to Damascus. 

Your author catches up on some sleep outside “The Place” hiker hostel

Celebrating that we are out of Virginia and turning the corner to Georgia!

Your author at the border crossing of VA and Tennessee.

Walking in to Damascus

Mike on of the towers stretching out in to Watuga Lake / Dam

The horse that kicked me!

That man Gills enjoys a conversation with Bob Peoples of the Kincora Hostel

Climbing a bald for the first time

Mike checks out the long horn cattle

More bald crossings. Would have liked a blue sky day but we were very happy to be out there on the soft grassy trail.

Red Barn shelter off in the distance, we stopped there for lunch.

North Carolina, hard to believe. 

A rare shelter photo. Taken at Roan High Mountain shelter where I wrote this journal entry. 

Journal # 3 of 3 coming up!

Journal # 3 of 3 coming up!

Somewhere along the way Mike lost his credit card and I became the money man. This is his tab. 
Editors note: all debts were paid

Somewhere along the way Mike lost his credit card and I became the money man. This is his tab. 

Editors note: all debts were paid