Wednesday, April 20, 1994 (Standing Indian Mountain) – The Red Rainman, Brown Falcon (Lance), and I packed up and were on the trail by 9am this morning and the time went quickly despite the steep ascents in the first few miles. Lance picked up his truck at Deep Gap, NC around noon and headed home. The Red Rainman and I continued northbound and climbed about one mile to Standing Indian Shelter for an hour break and a dip in the creek that ran in front of the shelter. At 3pm we started the two mile ascent to Standing Indian Mountain where we pitched our tents on the summit at just over 5000 feet. This is the first time the Appalachian Trail has risen to over 5000 feet since I started the hike at Springer Mountain. Today was also the first full day on the A.T. in North Carolina. There were tons of bugs at the summit when we arrived this afternoon and I tried to escape them by slipping into my tent. Unfortunately, it was too hot inside so the Red Rainman and I started a fire to kick up some smoke and deter the insects. By 7pm the temperature dropped into the 50’s and the bugs were no longer a problem. We cooked dinner and watched a spectacular sunset around 8:15pm tonight and there were numerous stars in the sky after dark. There are fantastic views to the west from Standing Indian Mountain and it was a great evening sitting around the campfire and checking out the sky.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Mid 80’s Low 40’s
(The Standing Indian Shelter has moved to a new location since our hike in 1994. It is now closer to the summit of Standing Indian).
Thursday, April 21, 1994 (Rainbow Springs Campground) – I was on the trail by 8am this morning and the miles came easy as they were mostly downhill with the exception of Albert Mountain which was a steep and challenging ascent. There is a firetower at the summit and the views are outstanding to the north and east. It was also nice to climb into the winds and get some relief from the gnats which have been annoying the last few days – to say the least. I ran into two hunters in full camo this afternoon as I reached the Betty Creek Trail. We didn’t see each other until the last minute and both of us were startled – especially me when they spun around with their rifles. But they were nice, and I pushed on to finish a twenty mile section and reach Rock Gap at about 5:30pm. I mistook it for Wallace Gap and after reading the ATC companion headed in the wrong direction and downhill toward Standing Indian Campground (after some bad advice from a day hiker sitting in his truck). Fortunately an older couple from Florida found me near the campground and gave me a ride to Rainbow Springs. They are members of the Nantahala Hiking Club and knew exactly where the place was located. I ran into Kung Fu Rob and about 7-9 other thru-hikers at the campground. Most of them took the day off and hung around Rainbow Springs. I met up with them in one of the rental cabins in the evening, but stayed in the bunkhouse for the night. The campground had hot showers, oven-baked pizza, and a pay phone (where I made a quick call to Mom and Dad.) All were a nice bonus after six days on the trail.
Mostly Sunny Clear Night Mid 70’s Low 50’s
(On November 11, 2001, I returned to hike the 0.6 miles between Rock Gap and Wallace Gap which I missed with the wrong turn to Standing Indian Campground and subsequent hitch to Rainbow Springs Campground.)
Friday, April 22, 1994 (Rainbow Springs Campground) – Slept until about 9am this morning, did some laundry, then packed up and moved to a campsite at Rainbow Springs with Maineac. I had a relaxing day around the campground and watched a number of thru-hikers roll in during the day. The Red Rainman showed up late this morning and was followed by Bull with his son-in-law (who we dubbed Little Dick). They pitched their tents with us in the late afternoon and we cooked up a pot of chili and hot dogs for dinner. Maineac was craving a beer, but the campground is in a dry county and didn’t sell any alcoholic beverages. So he hired a cab to Franklin and returned with some cold beverages (which he graciously shared around the campfire). Mr. Clean (who started at Springer as a thru-hiker but bailed for a job at the campground) also hung out with us this evening.
Mostly Sunny Afternoon Showers Partly Cloudy Night 70’s 50’s
Saturday, April 23, 1994 (Wine Spring Campsite) – Woke up just around 8am this morning, took a shower, then packed up at the campsite. I spoke briefly with Bull then had a lengthy conversation with Mo on the telephone. The Motor City Ramblers and Slowly/Surely showed up at the campground right as Maineac and I were catching a ride via the Rainbow Springs station wagon to Wallace Gap. I hiked to Siler Bald shelter by 2:30pm but it was empty (and still early) so I moved on to the Wine Spring campsite where I pitched my tent and spent my first solo night on the Appalachian Trail. It was clear this evening with a bright moon after dark. The Walkman was nice to have after hours.
Mostly Sunny Breezy Clear Night Low 70’s Low 30’s
Sunday, April 24, 1994 (NOC Campground) – I was packed up and on the trail by 9:13am and slept well last night despite having my first solo night on the trail. Most of the hiking was downhill today so I decided to crank out 20 miles to get to the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Wesser, N.C. I hiked until 6pm this evening and arrived to find the bunkroom full. The lady at the NOC drove me a mile up the road from the main office to a private campground. Unfortunately, the camp host didn’t take Visa and I only had $3 on me. So I coughed it up and gave him another $2 worth of stamps to pay the tab. Some travelers checks are waiting at Fontana Dam which is only three days away. I got a shower at the campground and had a restful evening after a long day on the trail. A thru-hiking couple from Quebec was also here but they didn’t seem to understand English very well (although I thought both English/French were taught in most Canadian provinces.) So I spent the rest of the night on the pay phone talking to Tammie and Grimes’ brother (since he was out.)
Mostly Sunny Clear Night Upper 70’s Low 40’s
Monday, April 25, 1994 (Cheoah Bald) – I walked about a mile from the campground to the Nantahala Outdoor Center this morning and bought a few things at the outdoor store. I saw a number of thru-hikers around the outdoor store and caught up with most of them later in the day on top of Cheoah Bald. Dr. Doolittle (Terry) and I had breakfast at a nearby restaurant then I grabbed a soda and hit the trail around 12:15pm. It was a long and difficult eight mile climb to Cheoah Bald. I decided to push on to the summit instead of staying at the Sassafras Gap Shelter and this turned out to be a great call. Laughing Bird, Walking Stick, Nols, Nikki, Herb and Buzz (Chris) all stayed on Cheoah Bald tonight. The sunset was awesome this evening and I snapped some great pics from an overlook to the north. Buzz was traveling without a tent and got caught in some showers after dark. I let him crash in the Sierra Clip Flashlight so he didn’t get soaked this evening, but the rain was not that intense.
Mostly Sunny Evening Showers Mid 70’s Low 40’s
Tuesday, April 26, 1994 (Cable Gap Campsite) – The rain started around 3:45am this morning, but it stopped by the time Buzz took off at 8am. He is on a four month schedule since he has to be back in school at Virginia Tech by the fall quarter. I saw him take a swallow of vegetable oil to keep the fat calories in his system. He is a skinny dude, and the constant exercise is making him even thinner. I left Cheoah Bald about thirty minutes after Buzz and the hike was much tougher than I expected – especially around Stecoah Gap which the profile map seemed to underestimate. After a series of difficult climbs, the A.T. crossed Yellow Creek Gap late in this afternoon and I remembered sitting here with Slawdog in 1992 while we waited on Tamalama to return with a tow truck. (Her Toyota had been vandalized with two slashed tires and Matthews, Slawdog, Tamalama and I had to skip work on Monday to get them fixed in nearby Robbinsville.) It was actually nice to see an area on the A.T. where I’d hiked in the past (although the memory was bittersweet.) I hit the Cable Gap Shelter in the late afternoon, but it was full so I set up my tent with Walking Stick and Laughing Bird in a flat area near the shelter. Nols and Nikki, Travelin’ Jack, and Chilly Willy also pitched nearby. We sacked out around 9pm after cooking some dinner.
Cloudy AM Partly Sunny PM Breezy Clear Night Mid 70’s
Wednesday, April 27, 1994 (Fontana Village Hostel) – I was up early at the Cable Gap Shelter and hit the trail by 8:30am. It was a six mile hike to NC 28 and I caught a ride from the road to Fontana Village with another hiker. I didn’t feel particularly guilty missing the section from NC 28 to the Fontana Shelter (aka Fontana Hilton) since I just hiked this section in 1992 and I was ready for a shower and some food this afternoon. The hostel is new this year and it is very nice. I had a big lunch at a nearby cafeteria but couldn’t hit the pizza place since I was out of cash and they didn’t take Visa. The post office was also closed today in memory of President Nixon who died in the last month. Kung Fu Rob, Walking Stick, Laughing Bird and a few other hikers were hanging out in front of the small grocery store and I spent some time chatting with them and feeding my rapidly increasing appetite. Nols and Nikki asked me to mail a package for them so they could hit the Smokies today, and the $5 in cash was enough to do laundry and play pool/video games in the recreation room. I cooked a pizza in the hostel for dinner then caught up with C.R. and Falling Rock (Don) for most of the White Fang movie which was showing in the lodge. It was a nice break and I enjoyed the movie. I spoke with Mom and Dad, Barber, and Elizabeth after the show then played some pool with Falling Rock until they closed the rec room at 10pm. The hostel also had a T.V. and I finished off some cookies and watched some more shows until around 11pm. I had the hostel to myself tonight. Everyone else was either staying in a cabin or booked a room in the lodge/motel.
Sunny AM Cloudy PM Breezy PM Heavy Rain PM Clearing Mid 70’s
Thursday, April 28, 1994 (Birch Spring Shelter) – Slept until about 8am this morning, then had breakfast with Falling Rock (Don) after we stopped at the post office to pick up our mail drops. I had a new tape for the Walkman and was looking forward to breaking it in on the climb to Birch Spring Shelter. I packed up and lounged around the Village until 2pm this afternoon, then hit the museum and bought a sub sandwich with Falling Rock at the Pizza Shop. Maineac showed up just before I left town today and headed for the hostel. I really enjoyed the break at Fontana Village and was tempted to stay here again tonight. There was a cool crowd headed into town today, but the need to make some miles took precedent and I ended up catching a ride out of town in a Lance potato-chip box truck. The driver dropped me off at the crossroads, then another hiker took me the rest of the way to Fontana Dam. I decided to check out the “Fontana Hilton” before I hit the trail, and judging by the large number of entries in the log book this place was pretty crowded last night. I also stopped by the visitor’s center at the top of the dam which had some great views, but it was under construction and was closed to the public. The five mile hike to Birch Spring Shelter was mostly uphill but I made the trip faster than I expected and arrived at the campsite around 6pm. The new tunes definitely helped pass the time this afternoon. I ended up camping with four French Canadians (two of which are thru-hikers) and C.R. who was also in town last night. Everyone crashed out early but before I sacked out, I wandered into the designated bathroom area behind the shelter. It was a mine field of half-buried feces and toilet paper. The national park service would do well to build a privy here. It was a rather disgusting sight.
Cloudy AM Partly Sunny PM Clear Night Upper 70’s/Low 80’s
Friday, April 29, 1994 (Derrick Knob Shelter) – Cranked out sixteen miles today and it was hot and buggy for most of the hike. At 1pm, I ran into Monk and Ski at the Spence Field Shelter right as a major thunderstorm was rolling through the area. The shelter is in a picturesque open ridge meadow and all the trees were blooming. I relaxed for an hour and had lunch in the shelter as a number of weekend hikers rolled in during the break. By 3pm, it was evident that the shelter was going to be packed tonight and Monk and Ski were pushing on to Derrick Knob. After much debate, I decided to join them and eventually caught up with them as another thunderstorm rolled through the area. All of us got soaked, but the rain was a major relief since the gnats were chasing me up the trail for most of the day. Once the rain hit, the bugs vanished and it was actually a pleasure to get a break from the heat as well. I beat both Monk and Ski to the shelter and was able to squeeze into the upper deck which was packed with thru-hikers (most whom I’d met earlier during the hike). Monk and Ski decided it was too tight in the lean-to and both pitched their tents/tarps outside. It was Laughing Bird’s (Barb’s) birthday this evening, so we gathered some wood and all of us sat around the fire for a while after dark. Deer were grazing in the area at dusk (and licking the urine soaked grasses around the shelter) and it was a very pleasant evening.
Mostly Sunny Afternoon Thunderstorms ClearingUpper 70’s/Mid 80’s 50’s
Saturday, April 30, 1994 (Willow Motel – Gatlinburg, TN) – The weather was very pleasant for hiking today and the drop in temperature virtually eliminated the gnats that have been circling my head during the last few days. There was a steady wind this morning and it was very gusty along the ridge tops and in the open areas along the A.T. Some of the thru-hikers were cold enough to heat up some soup when we hit the Siler Bald Shelter for a noon lunch break. The group included Monk, Nikki/Nols, Walking Stick/Laughing Bird, and Taco Bob and the main topic of discussion was hitching to Gatlinburg for the night. By the time we hiked to Clingman’s Dome in the mid-afternoon, the decision was all but final. We caught up with Kung Fu Rob and Ski at the Dome (which is the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail) and they both decided to join us. A tourist gave us a ride in the back of his mini pick-up truck and dropped us off at the Happy Hiker (a local outfitter) where we had our Polaroid pictures taken and hung on the wall with the Class of 1994. After loading up on a few supplies, we jumped the Gatlinburg trolley and rode across town to the Willow Motel which is a hiker friendly (and wallet friendly) motel that is reminiscent of those in the heart of Myrtle Beach. I couldn’t resist the temptation of their leaf cluttered swimming pool, and with temps pushing 70 degrees in the valley, jumped in without changing out of my hiking clothes. Our entire group went to a Mexican place for dinner tonight, then we walked the main drag to partake in the various activities of the strip: bars, old-time photos, souvenir shops, game arcades, etc. I felt like I was in Myrtle Beach for the weekend (and loved every minute of it). Taco Bob and I managed to get split up from the thru-hiker pack and we cruised the strip until 12:30am when some local guy drove us across town in the back of his pick-up. We ran into the rest of the group near the motel and ended up having another beer with them until after 1am. I had a great time in Gatlinburg this evening and ended up crashing in a room with Kung Fu Rob for the tonight.
Cloudy AM Partly Cloudy PM Breezy (mountains) Partly Cloudy Night
Sunday, May 1, 1994 (Willow Motel – Gatlinburg, TN) – I had a huge breakfast this morning with the other thru-hikers then packed up and walked with them to the Happy Hiker for a 2:30pm rendezvous with a cab company that promised to take us to Clingman’s Dome. Unfortunately, the cabbie showed up at the wrong time and Taco Bob and I decided that it was a sign that we needed to stay in town for another night. The other hikers booked another cab which hauled them off at 3pm to the Trail. Falling Rock showed up at the Happy Hiker as Taco Bob and I were doing laundry and we decided to share a room with him for the night. We took the trolley back to the Willow Motel then Taco Bob and I hit about every fast food joint in town: KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, etc. (My appetite is out of hand these days.) We also repeated last night’s routine and hit some bars, shops and game arcades. Falling Rock watched TV most of the night and we bought some beers and hung out with him late night until 1:30am.
Partly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Mid 70’s 50’s
Monday, May 2, 1994 (Mount Collins Shelter) – Taco Bob, Falling Rock and I had another huge breakfast this morning then we took the Gatlinburg trolley to Pigeon Forge to check out the Elvis museum. The trolley passed by the campground where I stayed during Spring Break with Knights and LaCerdas in 1981 over Easter weekend. I enjoyed seeing the place again. In Pigeon Forge, the Elvis museum was pretty small but entertaining. We had to hustle back to Gatlinburg to meet our cab driver who we booked for a ride back to Clingman’s Dome this afternoon. He saw us walking down the street to the designated pick-up point, and we rode with Front Seat Finn and Jaguar Bob back to the trail. They jumped out at Newfound Gap, but we continued on to Clingman’s and the cool, sunny weather was perfect for hiking this evening. I took a box dinner from KFC with me to the trailhead and finished it at the Dome. Taco Bob and I ended up hitting the trail around 6pm and hiked the 4.5 miles to the Mount Collins Shelter rather quickly since it was mostly downhill. By 7:15pm, we were pitching camp and there was a good crowd of ten around here tonight (although we were the only thru-hikers). All were new faces on the trail, and we kicked up a nice fire due to the cool temps. I am writing in the journal tonight and sitting by the fire at 10:11pm. All the others hikers have gone to sleep for the night. It’s good to be back on the trail after spending a few days in town.
Partly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Mid 70’s 30’s
Tuesday, May 3, 1994 (Ice Water Springs Shelter) – I slept in until 10am this morning and was the last to leave the shelter today. Taco Bob and I hit the trail around 10:30am but we got separated when I took a wrong turn and walked 1 1/2 hours in the wrong direction on a side trail near Indian Gap. It started raining after we left the shelter and didn’t stop all day. When I hit Newfound Gap at 1:15pm, I decided to dry out briefly in the bathroom and it was a welcome break. From here, it was three miles to the Icewater Spring Shelter and it went by quickly despite the showers and steady climb to the ridge. Eight other hikers were packed into the shelter tonight, and most of them had not moved at all during the day: Ranger Smith, Jaguar Bob, Front Seat Finn, Taco Bob, etc. It was a rowdy crowd this evening as most of the hikers had partied all day rather than hike in the rain. I was able to swap two airline bottles of Jack Daniels for four dinners (which I desperately needed.) In my haste to beat feet out of Gatlinburg, I forgot to buy food for the next few days. I made it to the shelter at 4pm, cooked dinner, and did what I could to warm up in the sleeping bag. There was a weekend hiker from Michigan here tonight and he and I played chess, then I wrote some letters later in the evening. There was a fire burning most of the night in the shelter pit but it didn’t do much to warm up the place. I stayed in this shelter with Slawdog and Soul Glow in October 1992, but this time it was reserved for thru-hikers due to problems with the sanitation system. This is a popular hike in the park.
P.S. Late night, things got interesting when Ranger Smith positioned a candy wrapper about a half inch from his hiking stick. When he heard some “action” on the candy wrapper, he knew he had a mouse. In the darkness of the shelter, Ranger Smith slowly lifted his wood hiking stick and slammed it to the floor of the upper deck. By repeating this process 4-5 times during the night he managed to kill three mice. It was terrifying to fall asleep and be jolted awake by the slam of the hiking stick on the mouse, but the vermin were running rampant. A successful kill usually resulted in a “Whoo … eeeey, look at him bleed.” Surprisingly, the mice kept coming back for more punishment until after midnight when the death campaign ceased and I drifted off to sleep once again.
Showers AM/PM Heavy Rain Cloudy Night Mid 40’s 30’s
Wednesday, May 4, 1994 (Tri-Corner Knob Shelter) – I left Ice Water Spring Shelter between 9:30-10am this morning and hiked thirteen miles to the Tri-Corner Knob shelter with Taco Bob and Falling Rock. We had lunch along the A.T. at the turnoff to the Peck’s Corner shelter (where I stayed with Slawdog and Soul Glow in October 1992) and the cool weather gave us a nice break from the gnats that have been irritating during the last week. Views along the scenic ridges of the Smokies were limited due to the mist and fog, but we made it to Tri-Corner Knob by 4pm. We also started a fire tonight in the shelter to dry out our boots and played some cards that we got from some section hikers. The couple was very kind to us after being rescued yesterday by some other thru-hikers who ran across them in the middle of the Trail. Both the young man and his wife were hypothermic in the heavy rains and the women had lost her will to hike. The thru-hikers hauled their packs to Tri-Corner Knob and stayed with them for the last few miles. The couple decided to take a rest day at the shelter today and offered us some of their left over food as a result. After a hearty dinner, I sacked out around midnight but woke during the night when a mouse was perched on my head. It scampered off my fleece cap when I woke up, and the mice have continued to run rampant in the shelters of the Smokies this year.
Cloudy AM/PM Fog Mist Cloudy Night Upper 40’s/Low 50’s 40’s
Thursday, May 5, 1994 (Mountain Mama’s Kuntry Kitchen) – I hiked the entire day in long underwear and long pants do to the cool temps in the Smokies today. The fleece hat and gloves were also on/off during the hike since it was pretty chilly when I hit the trail at 9am with Falling Rock and Taco Bob. For lunch, I cooked up some soup and green beans at the Cosby Knob Shelter, then the three of us were back on the trail by 1pm for a downhill hike to Davenport Gap on the NC/TN state line. At the trailhead, the couple that stayed with us at Tri-Corner Knob drove up the gravel road looking for Taco Bob. He left his watch in the shelter last night and they brought it back to him. They also gave us a ride down to Mountain Mama’s Kuntry Kitchen where we booked a night in the blue trailer/bunkhouse. We knocked down a few hamburgers, fries and everything else we could afford, then spent the rest of the evening cleaning up and doing laundry (via a washing machine on skids in the backyard). I called The Seeker tonight and he plans to pick us up at Mountain Mama’s tomorrow. Falling Rock and Taco Bob get a ride to Hot Springs, and I’m headed to Greensboro, N.C. for the weekend. We were up until 12:30am reviewing trail maps via candle light. The goal is to make it to Trail Days in Damascus by Thursday of next week.
Cloudy AM Partly Cloudy PM Partly Cloudy Night Upper 60’s Upper 30’s
Friday, May 6, 1994 (The Seeker’s Apartment, Greensboro, N.C.) – I hung out at Mountain Mama’s Kuntry Kitchen all day and the time went surprisingly fast. A number of thru-hikers rolled in this afternoon and I devoured cheeseburgers at the grill and swapped trail stories with most of them. The Seeker picked us up in a rental car around 6pm this evening, then drove Falling Rock and Taco Bob to Hot Springs. It was 11:30pm by the time we made it to Winston-Salem and we stopped briefly to see Hawkeye before he went to work the nightshift at Baptist Hospital. We finally made it to The Seeker‘s apartment around 1am and ordered some pizza and had some beers until around 2:30am. It’s nice to take a break from the trail for the weekend.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Upper 70’s Upper 50’s
Saturday, May 7, 1994 (The Seeker’s Apartment, Greensboro, N.C.) – I slept until around 9am this morning and saw Clayton briefly who was on his way to study for an accounting final at UNCG on Monday. The Seeker and I got breakfast, took the rental car back to the Greensboro airport, then spent the afternoon hanging out at the pool. I haven’t driven a car for nearly a month, and it was actually enjoyable to get behind the wheel. Hawkeye bought a new 46″ monster TV this week, and we picked up some brews, got some wings at Ronnie’s in Clemmons, NC and spent the evening watching television at his place. Hawkeye had the 12 midnight to 8am shift again, so we watched about eight hours of TV (including the Stallone movie Cliffhanger) with his brother Jared. We took a brief break for brews at Corbin’s, but for the most part it was an eight hour TV bonanza. The Seeker and I made it back to Greensboro around 3:30am.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night 80’s 50’s
Sunday, May 8, 1994 (Braemar Castle Hostel, Hampton, TN.) – I called Mom and Dad this morning and both were in Z-town, so The Seeker, Clayton and I headed out for a quick breakfast. Hawkeye decided to join us for the ride to Hampton, TN, and we picked him up around 3:30pm after a brief tour of the WFU campus. Wake was looking sharp for graduation and I enjoyed the quick trip to the quad. We made it to the hostel at Braemar Castle by 5:30pm and both Falling Rock and Taco Bob were there when I arrived. Taco Bob and I walked down to a nearby beverage store then talked Wheels (who is another thru-hiker) into a card game that lasted until 12:30am.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Low 80’s/Upper 70’s 50’s
On May 8, the Seeker and Hawkeye dropped me off at Hampton, Tennessee so that I could hike the 40.7 miles in to Trail Days at Damascus, Virginia. Trail Days was the largest festival on the Appalachian Trail at the time and was a great experience. After it ended on May 13th, I caught a ride from Damascus with the owner of Mountain Mama’s Kuntry Kitchen and finished the Davenport Gap to Hampton, Tennessee section on May 27th.
Monday, May 9, 1994 (Vandeventer Shelter) – I got up at 10am this morning and took a shower and packed up for the trail. Taco Bob and Falling Rock caught a shuttle to Trail Days and grabbed some campsites by the river. They took my tent with them, so this was the first day that I hiked without it in my backpack. At noon, Wheels gave me a ride to the trailhead in a car he borrowed from another hiker. He spent most of the morning shuttling people back and forth from the trailheads. In this section, the A.T. leaves Hampton and crosses an earth dam built by the TVA then makes a gradual ascent to the Vandeventer shelter. It was a nice hike and I enjoyed being back on the trail after a few days off. When I arrived at the shelter, there were 8-10 other hikers in the area, but Flare, Campro and I had the lean-to to ourselves since everyone else pitched their tent this evening. Getting water was a major hassle and there was a steep blue-blazed trail to the spring, but the view from the back of the shelter made up for it and I enjoyed the rest of the night. I plan to take my time hiking to Damascus this week but look forward to the festivities at Trail Days.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Light Breeze 70’s Low 50’s/Upper 40’s
Tuesday, May 10, 1994 (Double Springs Shelter) – I hiked from 8:30am to 3:30pm today and covered fifteen miles to reach the Double Springs shelter by mid-afternoon. It was nice weather for walking, and I felt like hiking further but it was ten miles to the next shelter and my tent was with Falling Rock at Trail Days. There were 6-7 other hikers at the Double Springs shelter tonight, and we had a big dinner this evening. The bugs have not been bad lately and it has been enjoyable hiking throughout the day. There was an 80% eclipse that hit at 1pm, and the skies got somewhat dark for a few hours.
Sunny AM Partly Cloudy PM Clear Night Low 70’s/Upper 60’s Low 40’s
Wednesday, May 11, 1994 (Damascus Hostel) – I hiked 18.2 miles today into Damascus to take the next four days off at Trail Days and met Thunder Chicken (who is Perri Helm’s cousin) on the way into town. He and I had worked up an appetite on the trail and grabbed some pizza and beer at Quincy’s as soon as we walked into Damascus at 3:15pm. I decided to stay in the church hostel tonight since it will be crowded the rest of the week and it was worth the experience (although much more noisy than I anticipated.) After a quick shower, I spent the evening at tent city and carefully consumed some brews by the river (since a hiker got arrested earlier tonight for an open container). Someone left some lawn chairs near the water and they made for a relaxing evening at the camp with Taco Bob and Falling Rock. I crashed out around 12:30am at the hostel, but the bar crowd rolled in at 2am and woke up the entire house.
Mostly Sunny AM Partly Sunny PM Clear Night 75 Low 40’s
Thursday, May 12, 1994 (Tent City, Damascus Virginia) – I packed up at the hostel this morning and headed for Tent City near the river. Falling Rock slept in my tent the last few days, but moved over to the hostel and I took up residence in the Sierra Clip Flashlight. I spent the next 3-4 hours working on my stove which conked out recently. The local outfitter offered some help, then I went to lunch with Falling Rock and Taco Bob at Quincy’s. With their encouragement, I accepted the local hardware store’s offer to sponsor me in the “Missed Appalachian Trail Days Pageant.” The ladies at Al’s hardware store dressed me up in full costume and delighted in the process. From there I headed to the salon with the other contestants where we got make-up and all the final touches. The show started at 7pm at the Gazebo, but I was eliminated in the first round. This turned out to be a blessing since one of the intoxicated finalists showed the crowd a “fruit basket” and was immediately arrested by the town sheriff. It was a fun event until this fiasco, and I left the show feeling that the thru-hiking community had let the town down this afternoon. The rest of the evening was somewhat somber as a result, but I had a few beers with Kung Fu Rob and Ski who hitched into town tonight and it was cool to see them again.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night 70’s Low 50’s/Upper 40’s
Friday, May 13, 1994 (Tent City, Damascus Virginia) – Falling Rock, Taco Bob and I went to the bean dinner at 11am today which was sponsored by the local senior citizen’s group. At the lunch Don entertained some older ladies who really enjoyed the time with us, and I felt redeemed for the events on Thursday night. I did some laundry before the meal, then spent the afternoon checking out the numerous vendor booths at Trail Days with Falling Rock, Taco Bob, Kung Fu Rob, Ski, and Dr. Doolittle. I also did some reading at The Place from a huge magazine library they have on-site. Warren Doyle spoke at the church tonight, and after some late afternoon cheeseburgers at the Dairy Freeze, we watched his show until late in the evening. Warren told a variety of stories from his numerous hikes on the A.T. and it was pretty entertaining for the most part. After the show, I had some food and brews with Texas Turtle and Trail Snail who met up with our thru-hiker mob at Quincy’s. We took the party back to Kung Fu Rob’s campsite after dinner and all of us hung out until 1-2am which made for a fun evening.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night 70’s Low 50’s/Upper 40’s
On May 13th, I caught a ride from Damascus, VA with the owner of Mountain Mama’s Kuntry Kitchen back to Davenport Gap, NC. I missed the section of the A.T. between Davenport Gap and Hampton, TN when the Seeker and Hawkeye dropped me off on May 8th in Hampton, TN so that I could hike in to Trail Days – the largest Appalachian Trail festival at the time – and a really great event back in 1994. So this was my chance to make this section up.
Saturday, May 14, 1994 (Mountain Mama’s Kuntry Store) – Texas Turtle talked to John (aka. Papa Mama from Mountain Moma’s Kuntry Store) and scored a ride for me back to Davenport Gap where I got off the trail a week ago. John was in town for Trail Days and to promote his store and bunkhouse. He offered me a free ride this afternoon, and after a big $3 AYCE breakfast at the Dairy Freeze with Taco Bob, I left town at 2:30pm with Texas Turtle, Trail Snail, High 5-er, and Larry (a section-hiker). John drove us to Erwin, TN where the ladies bailed out, then on to Franklin, NC where Larry left us after a quick meal at Western Sizzlin’. There was a Wal-Mart nearby, and John took me to the store to find a part for my now defunct Coleman stove. We also bought fuses for his truck and I changed them for him since he didn’t have his reading glasses on the trip. By 10:30pm, John and I made it back to Mountain Mama’s Kuntry Store and I walked to the phone at the GSMNP parking area which is a short distance away. I spoke with Tamalama but couldn’t catch Mom and Dad at home this evening and ended up walking back to Mountain Mama’s in the dark around 11:15pm. After a brief shower, I retired to the same bunkhouse I shared with Falling Rock and Taco Bob last week and wrote up about four pages of journal entries. I had some good memories hanging with them here (and of planning our road trip to Trail Days), but I don’t expect to see them anytime soon.
Showers AM Partly Sunny PM P. Cloudy Night Rain Overnight 70’s 50’s
Sunday, May 15, 1994 (Groundhog Creek Shelter) – I was up at 7:15am this morning to change parts on my camp stove, but after three hours (and no success), I caught a ride with 10-12 other hikers to the trailhead at Davenport Gap. It was a fun ride up the mountain since we all loaded into a flatbed truck. Our group hiked under I-40 this morning then hiked on to Groundhog Creek Shelter. The rain started shortly after our arrival and the shelter was crowded tonight. I worked on the stove some more, but ended up cooking on the fire this evening until the rain picked up. For entertainment tonight, Avalon did some handwriting analysis and I did some card tricks. We also played board games (from a miniature set) until around 10:30pm when we all crashed out for the night.
Mostly Sunny AM Showers PM Rain Overnight 70’s 50’s
Monday, May 16, 1994 (Walnut Mountain Shelter) – The hike today started with a 5-7 mile uphill but climbed to Max’s Patch which was one of the best spots on the A.T. that I’ve seen thus far. I took a long lunch break on the mountain from 11:15am to 2:30pm and hung out with a group of thru-hikers that was in the shelter last night. The majority had dropped their packs just past the summit, and as I descended to their lunch spot I pulled out my camera to capture the moment. The next thing I know, I’m under a pile of thru-hikers who decided to pounce on me in mass. We all got a good laugh out of it, then hiked on to Roaring Fork Shelter to cook some dinner. I had to borrow Puck and Pig Pen’s (later known as Spooner) stove since mine is still D.O.A. Around 5:30pm, I decided to hit the trail and hike another two miles to Walnut Mountain Shelter for the night. Amy and Django stayed in the shelter this evening, and Carbo Man (Mike) camped up on the hill. We had a nice fire at the shelter tonight and it reminded me of Cable Gap Shelter in the Smokies during a August 1992 trip.
Cloudy AM Mostly Sunny PM Clear Night Breezey Low 70’s Low 40’s
Tuesday, May 17, 1994 (Jesuit Hostel, Hot Springs, N.C.) – It was cool this morning when I woke up and in the upper 30’s to low 40’s. I started hiking by 8am with plans to make it to Hot Springs by 1pm. I tried to stay at Elmer’s in town but he was booked solid, so I ended up crashing at the Jesuit Hostel with Squeeze Box. The hostel was a nice place, but Elmer’s was top notch (and the stay includes a vegetarian dinner.) In the evening, Squeeze Box and I headed over to Elmer’s after dinner and watched the Trail Magic video with Amy and Django then went with them to the local hot springs from 9:45 to 10:45pm. The soak was a great way to wrap up a busy town day that included buying groceries, doing laundry and hitting multiple restaurants. The stars were out for the walk back to the hostel this evening, and I spoke with Mom and Dad and Snyder before turning in for the night.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Mid 70’s Upper 30’s
Wednesday, May 18, 1994 (Mill Ridge) – I spent the morning doing town chores and stopped at the bank, P.O., grocery, and hardware store (for fuel) today. At the P.O., I ran into Wingfoot and talked with him in detail. It was nice to finally meet the author of the Thru-Hiker’s Handbook after using it for the last several weeks on the Trail. By noon, I was getting hungry and stopped at Smoky’s Diner where I saw Travelin’ Jack and Bill Erwin and joined them for lunch. Most of the thru-hikers in town were staying at Elmers and I stopped there on the way back to the Jesuit Hostel and jumped in on a jam session lead by Avalon on piano. The Max Patch thru-hikers gave me the drums and the make-shift band was pretty fine entertainment this afternoon. I had decided to hit the trail by 3pm and after playing a few video games, I hiked to a ridge on the north side of town and enjoyed a cool 32oz brew. The nice spring breeze and views of Hot Springs made for a pleasant break, and I hung out on a rock outcropping for nearly two hours until 5pm. Carbo Man also planned to camp at Mill Ridge tonight, but he never showed by sunset. I found a nice flat campsite here and it was recently mowed and had excellent views of the surrounding mountains. The site is near a small pond and I saw some fisherman in the area working the crank baits this evening. A secondary road leads here, but I basically had the place to myself. For dinner, I cooked up a hearty meal before sacking out for the night. The new Whisperlite stove works like a champ.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Breezey Clear Night Mid 70’s Upper 40’s
Thursday, May 19, 1994 (Little Laurel Ridge) – It was a nice hike down to Allen Gap this morning, and I got some ice cream, sodas, and candy bars from a small mom/pop gas station after the descent from Mill Ridge. My hip strap came unraveled from the hip belt during the climb to Little Laurel Shelter today and the last three miles were very difficult as a result. The shelter couldn’t come soon enough. In the last five days, both of my shoulder straps, my hip strap, and my Coleman stove have all crapped out on me. I spent from 7-10pm this evening sewing the hip strap back to the pack with dental floss and the needle broke during the project (since the leather strap is quite thick). Fortunately, Bellwood Barney had a spare needle and he was the only other thru-hiker in the shelter tonight. I was wiped out after the repair work, but fired up another great dinner on the new stove late night.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Mid 60’s Upper 40’s
Friday, May 20, 1994 (Hogback Ridge Shelter) – Today was my biggest mileage day yet … 21.3 miles hiked from 9:50AM to 7:30pm. I left Little Laurel Spring Shelter with plans to stay at Flint Mountain until I read about a girl being bitten by a rabid fox in the shelter overnight. It was around 2-3pm when I read the journal entry from the previous night, and I decided to move northbound on the A.T. since I am in a thru-hiker gap and would most certainly spend the night solo in the shelter. I was extremely exhausted by the time I reached the Hogback Ridge Shelter this evening. I shared it with two guys from Maryland that had a fire going when I arrived at dusk. Both just graduated from High School and were on a two week vacation in the south.
Partly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Mid 60’s Upper 40’s
Saturday, May 21, 1994 (No Business Knob Shelter) – I got a late start today and didn’t start hiking until nearly 10am. Someone left an issue of Backpacker magazine dated April 1994 in the shelter and I read it for about thirty minutes this morning. On the trail, two grouse bluff-charged me but I didn’t get to my camera fast enough to capture it on film. I also met four older ladies who were day-hiking and looking to feed a hungry thru-hiker. They gave me three apples and some small candies, and trail magic as they say. The hike over Big Bald was awesome, and I snapped a few self-portraits from the summit as a storm gathered in the distance. I made it to the Bald Mountain Shelter by 3:15pm but decided too push on to No Business Knob which I made by 7:45pm. The shelter was empty when I arrived, but a southbounder showed up around 8pm and was relieved that he could cook and didn’t have to worry about keeping anyone up (since I hadn’t started dinner yet). He was a nice guy and I enjoyed his company although I don’t remember his trail name. By 10:30pm, I was pretty tired and sacked out after another big mileage day.
Mostly Sunny Afternoon Thunderstorms Partly Cloudy NightLow 70’s
Sunday, May 22, 1994 (NOC Hostel – Erwin, TN) – I left the shelter by 8:30am this morning and hiked seven miles to the NOC Hostel in Erwin, TN by noon. It was hot today and I was ready for a shower. After cleaning up, I was sitting outside the hostel and noticed a guy in a WFU (Bowman Gray) T-shirt. I struck up a conversation with him, and next thing you know I was running he and three companions upstream for a kayaking trip back to the NOC. The bonus: He gave me $20 for the help and full use of his Ford Explorer for four hours. It was great to drive again, and the Jimmy Buffet tape was also a plus – especially at loud volumes. I spent the afternoon doing laundry, buying groceries, and enjoying the AYCE buffet at KFC. On the way back to the NOC, I saw two of the Rational Hedonists in the back of a pick-up truck and they jumped in with me for a return trip to the KFC and to the hostel. They camped up on the A.T. tonight to save some cash. By late afternoon, the kayaker’s were back at the NOC and they gave me three extra brews (and some additional trail magic.) The bunkhouse was empty tonight, but it was a great day nonetheless.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Low 80’s Mid 60’s
Monday, May 23, 1994 (Cherry Gap Shelter) – I got up around 8am today to catch a ride with a kayaker into town to ship a maildrop ahead and to get my pack fixed (again). It only cost me $6 to get it fixed, I had some breakfast until 10:30am when it was finished. After walking 3.8 miles back to the NOC, I hitched a ride on a school bus with another rafting company who dropped me off by the bridge. A NOC guide took me the rest of the way back to the hostel, but he had me stand on the back bumper which was a near death sentence. I finally made it to the hostel by 11:30am, took a shower, ate lunch, then swapped stories with Mad Markum who hiked in around 1pm today. He tried to talk me into staying, but I decided to hike five miles this afternoon and left around 2pm for a campsite just out of town. There were too many bugs to stay, so I decided to push on to the Cherry Gap Shelter which I made by 9pm just as it was getting pitch black. Four other hikers were in the shelter tonight, and I cooked outside to keep the light and noise to a minimum. It was also very buggy at the lean-to, and I did not sleep well during the night (although I was pretty tired after hiking fourteen miles from 2-9pm).
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Low 80’s Mid 60’s
Tuesday, May 24, 1994 (Roan High Knob Shelter) – I left the shelter by 9am today and had a big climbing day with Roan Mountain on the schedule. The bugs (gnats/black flies) were driving me crazy during the hike. Fortunately, the rain showers that hit around 4-5pm finally brought some relief and chased them away. I hid out under a spruce tree during most of the storm and the frequent lightening and thunder made me extra cautious since I was near the summit of Roan Mountain. By 6pm, I was standing at the bathroom and parking area on top of the mountain. The bathroom was similar to the Newfound Gap building where I waited out a previous storm. Carbo Man (Mike) was cooking dinner in the bathroom when I arrived, and the rain-free environment encouraged me to do the same. I had an enjoyable time with Carbo Man and it was a nice break from the weather. He and I headed to the shelter which was 0.6 miles away after we finished dinner. We hiked in light rain but quickly found the two-story cabin structure which was pretty cool. I slept in the loft with the Rational Hedonists and Carbo Man and there were also two other people staying on the first floor. The thunder and lightening returned late night and it rained most of the night.
Mostly Sunny AM/mid-PM Thunderstorms PM Rain Overnight 80’s 50’s
Wednesday, May 25, 1994 (Roan Mountain Hostel) – It was a chilly hike out from the shelter this morning but it warmed up quickly. We had some of the best views of the entire trip today as we crossed the Hump Mountains which had spectacular views in all directions. The Overmountain Shelter was also quite interesting since it was a converted barn with scenic views into a valley below the trail. I walked down to the shelter for a lunch break around 12:30pm but it was too early to stop for the day. Roan Mountain Hotel was also calling, and fortunately, I met two day hikers on top of Hump Mountain that offered me a ride into town. As I hiked with them, we ran into Maineac at the Apple House shelter and I talked him into heading into Roan Mountain with us. The day hikers were so cool they even ran us ten miles out of the way to get beers in North Carolina. Manieac and I were the only ones in the hostel tonight, and we spent the rest of the evening watching Beavis and Butthead on MTV and pounding brews. We also hit the burger and snack place up the street where I shoved down five tacos and a double cheeseburger – my appetite is out of control these days. When we got back to the hostel we ran into Bigfoot, Purple Haze, and Moose River who opted for a hotel room over the hostel (which essentially was a converted room with bunk beds.) They hung out with us briefly until around 1am.
Sunny AM/PM Showers Late PM Rain Overnight Upper 70’s Upper 40’s
Thursday, May 26, 1994 (Moreland Gap Shelter) – The A.T. shuttle left the hostel at 9am this morning, and I hiked a 13.6 mile section that was rumored to be a “danger” area with incidents dating back as recently as 1990. We had no problems as it turned out and I found the townspeople in Roan Mountain to be quite friendly. Back on the trail, I was hit with a torrential downpour between Laurel Fork and Moreland Gap shelter. The rain was relentless during these five miles and it pounded down like I have never experienced before in the backcountry. Purple Haze, Moose River, Monk, Bigfoot, and I were in the shelter this evening and someone wisely put up a tarp to keep the rain out. The wind was blowing so hard that the lean-to was not exactly water tight. My sleeping bag got wet during the hike, and I vowed from this moment forth to forever wrap it in a trash bag. It is a cold and miserable experience to sleep in a wet bag in 40 degree weather. I had a big dinner tonight and did the cooking from my damp sleeping bag. It was hot around noon but after the storm came through the temperature dropped significantly and trapping heat in my wet bag was the only way to stay warm. On the upside, I brought a left over beer on the trail and soaked it in a spring briefly this evening and am enjoying it as I write. I expected Maineac to show up tonight but he never made it. Wherever he is, he’s getting soaked to the bone right now (unless he has a really solid tent).
Mostly Sunny AM/mid-PM Thunderstorms PM Rain Overnight Upper 70’s Upper 30’s
Friday, May 27, 1994 (Braemar Castle Hostel) – It was cold this morning and very hard to get out of the sleeping bag, so I didn’t hit the trail until around 9:30am. After running into Monk and hiking a few miles, we had lunch and saw the slackpacking Rational Hedonists, Freebird, and Rob near the firetower. I stopped to read the shelter register just before Laurel Fork Falls and was sad to see that the Red Rainman made his final journal entry and left the A.T. due to bad ankles. I had to write an ode to the Red Rainman since he was the first thru-hiker I met on the A.T. and we spent most of those first few nights on the trail together. After a moment of silence, I hiked on to the blue-blazed side trail and followed it in to the town of Hampton, TN by 2:30pm to check into the hostel and make a trip to the post office before they closed at 4:30pm. I had a mass of letters (mostly from Mo) that had collected at Mom and Dad’s house and I took them to the nearby Pizza Place to read. The grocery closed at 7pm, so I also made a quick stop there on the way back to the hostel. Monk and Purple Haze (Becca) hiked into town this evening, and Purple Haze decided to stay. So I showed her the way back and she/I spoke with Beverly and Sutton Brown for a while this evening. They own the hostel and have done a really nice job at fixing it up. Late night, I walked down the road and made some calls to Mo and Mom/Dad before midnight.
Mostly Sunny AM/PM Clear Night Upper 70’s Low 40’s
On May 28th, I caught a ride with Zig (of the Rational Hedonists) and Purple Haze from Hampton, TN back to Damascus, VA to start the Virginia section of the A.T. I hiked the 40.7 miles from Hampton to Damascus a few weeks earlier from May 8-May 11 so that I could walk in to Trail Days – the biggest festival held on the A.T. in 1994. Follow this link to continue reading about my hike on the Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail.