Monday, April 28, 2008

Visual Aids

Man, I said I wouldn't zero at Erwin, but the vortex (aka the group of people I'm hiking with) has sucked me in yet again. I'm currently writing from Uncle Johnny's Hostel in Tennessee, where it has been raining pretty steadily today. We got in last night after a 21+ mile day (new record!), and we were planning on hiking on today, but the rain coupled with our sore feet made us decide otherwise. But we're bunking with a bunch of cool people, so it should be a good time.
Some new hikers in our group:

Link to larger image

(top row: hollar, freefall, pixie poop, crabby. middle: Long-Shot, Brahma Bull, Sweet Potato, Chewy, Bert. guy with dog: muffin paste).

This was taken after eating the undisputed best trail magic thus far. These kind folks treated us to a Belgian waffle with whipped cream and strawberries, followed by homemade beef-stew, ending with a choice of dessert (brownie sundae, banana split, apple crisp, or cherry cobbler). All for free. It was amazing to say the least. Of course the books about god showed up at the end of the meal, but the couple wasn't pushy at all about us taking them. So a good deal all-around.

Here's picture of another friend we made along the trail:

Link to larger image

He's a five-foot long rat-snake who showed up in our shelter about mid-afternoon. We named him Sherman. Ya'll still want to hike this thing?

Here he is cozying up to our sleeping bags:

Fun times.
Well my goal now is to get out of Erwin tomorrow with less than 47 pounds on my back. That was the weight of my pack leaving Hot Springs. A lot of fun to lug up a mountain.
Till next time!
- Long Shot

Monday, April 21, 2008

Rancho Relaxo

After a 20-mile day yesterday (furthest yet!), I had an easy 3 miles into Hot Springs this morning. This is the first time the trail actually goes straight through a town, albeit a very small one. There's one road, and everything you need is on it: diner, hostels, outfitter, post office, dollar general. I did most of my resupply shopping at the dollar general. 8 fun-sized snickers for a buck!

The rest of the Smokies gave us some great weather with a clear view off of Clingmans dome. It walking through the leftover snow from the storm in the warm sunny weather was an amazing experience. At one shelter in the Smokies, we counted 38 people! 24 in the shelter, and the rest tenting. It's actually pretty cool though, since everyone continues to be very friendly and easy-going.

We've become separated from one person who was in our group originally. She met some guy and decided to pink-blaze1 it ever since Fontana Dam. Cool and all, but since she's sharing a stove and water-filter with another person in our group, it's made things a bit inconvenient. But who am I to interfere with Cupid's bewildering arrow?

Also, one of the straps on my backpack broke yesterday. So as soon I got into town this morning, I called REI to see what they could do (since I'm a member and all). And they're actually going to overnight me a new one! So I'll have it by tomorrow. What a company! But I guess if they didn't make such crappy gear in the first place, we wouldn't have to go through all this.

One last thing. I thought I'd share with you a recipe for some sweet trailfood I invented:

1 tortilla wrap
peanut butter

1. Slather peanut butter on tortilla
2. Dump trail mix on peanut butter
3. Roll 'er up and eat it.

Here's what the reviewers have to say:

"What are you doing?" - Freefall

"Ew, that's gross." - Sweet Potato

"That's awesome!" - Brahma Bull

Oh yeah, I got a neat straw hat from a hiker box2. I feel it's pretty sharp.

1 To hike the trail whilst following a boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other.
2 A place for hikers to leave crap they don't want, and take crap they do want.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Snowky Mountains

Hi all. Just writing to you from an unscheduled stop along the great Smoky Mountains.
The weather was pristine when we started off on Saturday: Sunny, in the 70s... shorts and T-shirt all the way. The next day was a little colder, and we actually got dusted with snow along our trek up and down the peaks. This made for a very cold night though (someone recorded a 25° temp), and we awoke Monday to two inches of snow on the ground, and it didn't look like it was letting up.
During our hike that day, we ran into a ridge-runner who informed us the temperature would dip into the teens that night. Since I own a 20° bag, this was not an option I wanted to go with. Everyone else was in agreement, so we had to find a way off the mountain. The only option was to catch a side trail off to a parking lot for Clingman's dome. From there, we had to walk 7 miles down a winding paved road to a shuttle. There were eleven of us in all, but we made it.

So after cramming into the 8-person van, we were off to Gatlinburg, the Tackiest Place on Earth ™. Seriously, the whole town is like a carnival on steroids. There are tons of restaurants and hotels, wax museums, haunted houses, Ripley's Believe it or Not, mirror mazes...the list goes on. I guess all this stuff is a hit with the southern tourists who probably don't take to kindly to us hiker-trash. But you can just feel the money being sucked out of your wallet. Luckily all of us scored a couple hotel rooms that came down to $6.25 a head. That, I can deal with.

Well, now it's off to the grocery store and outfitter. And tomorrow, we'll pick up where we left off!

- Long-shot

Friday, April 11, 2008

Fontana Damn that's a big dam!

Well, it's been a while since my last post, but I've covered many miles in the interim. I am now 162.5 miles in, to be exact, and the trip continues to be great! Just got into Fontana Dam in North Carolina: the highest dam in the eastern US. Built by the Tennessee Valley Authority, which was enacted by FDR in 19---yeah, it's a big dam!

The weather has been very kind to us as of late. However the next 3-4 days after my last post, all we had was rain. But there's been a lot of sun to make up for it.

Everyone in our group of four has trail-names now. Emma is No-amputoey. She had a bad blister a week back and had to see a doctor, but since they didn't have to amputate her toe, she got that name.
Jess is Free-fall for the way she literally runs down the mountains (baffling the rest of us).
Deb is Spidey, from her spiderman-esque hat.
We've met a whole slew of others too: Rabid and Pick, Solo, Rainbow, Brahma-bull, Sweet Potato, Bucky, Cookie-monster, Pilgrim, Muffin-man... and more. Lot of great trail names.

We've also experienced a bit of trail magic along the way. For those who don't know, trail magic happens when thoughtful, generous people decide to bring/cook food for thru-hikers along the trail. The people who do this are called trail-angels, and are usually previous thru-hikers themselves. It's been great treat during those long days. I had hot dogs, apples, and soda yesterday. And all kinds of different drinks and snacks from others. Hatteras, if you're reading this, I can still taste those croissants!

Well, we're just stopping here at Fontana village for the day. Resupplying, doing some laundry, gorging on ice cream... the usual. But after this, and for the next six days, we'll be Hiking the Smoky Mountains. There, we'll reach the highest point of the trail, Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet. Should be a good hike if the weather is decent (they're reporting some rain/snow, but we'll see.)

Alrighty, that's enough for now. Till next time!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


One of our party is having blister problems at the moment (she's currently seeing a doctor), so we've decided to take a zero day. So another entry why not?

After telling you about the weather and the hike in general, I thought I'd go into a more human side of this trek. We've already met many colorful characters with some great trail-names, and I think a short bio for each might be appropriate:

Pirate - the proprietor of mountain crossing hostel at neels gap. An old, southern, ex-hippie who has supposedly hiked the trail 22 times. Gives away prizes each night that range from a brand new sleeping bag to a packet of Tabasco sauce (my lucky winning)--all over the Ghostbuster's soundtrack. Also rumored to be an ex-marine.

Ooftah - guy from Minnesota who brought his mandolin on the trail (great idea!). He sweetly serenaded us for a couple nights

Earthbound and Hot-tang - girls who started out with Ooftah, but are now separated. Likes: peanut butter, hitch-hiking, editing some guy's book along the trail. Dislikes: cold-weather, mice in shelters.

Inspector Gadget: guy from Connecticut hiking with many forms of electronics: Solar panels, battery chargers, pda, ipod, ipod speakers to name a few. Pretty neat, but I had the pleasure of hearing all about the cysts on his back a couple nights ago.

Cindy - woman from Ohio who just quit hiking after her third attempt. Sadly, she has a pretty negative attitude. She is currently talking with some pseudo-therapists here about who is really responsible for her actions (others? god? ...herself?)

Tortoise - Fairly large guy from Arlington, Virginia. I've only really seen him at hostels, which seem to be his hangout of choice. Dropped out of college and his parents are giving him $200 a month to hike the trail. Not a bad gig. Had the pleasure of sleeping above him and consequently moving to another bunk to escape his snoring.

The Colonel - never actually met, but people keep talking about this epic song he keeps singing. Supposedly it has sixteen verses, with people's reactions ranging from "pretty impressive" to "you shut the tv off for that?"

Red - twelve-year old kid hiking with his dad. Nice little guy, but he talks a lot of trash when playing cribbage.

As for me, the trail-name I'm going by is Long Shot. I felt left out for not having one (even though none of the girls I'm hiking with have one yet). Anyway, I think it captures the scope of this whole journey, while also representing a type of shot I usually take with my camera. I've got one guy calling me it...let's see if it spreads.

Well it's a beautiful day. Let's see if I can't catch some fish at this guy's trout pond. That's something to do. Long Shot out.