Appalachian Trail journal

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Week Five: Settling into rainy days

Sunday, May 8th, 1983
It's been raining, on and off, all day. Hiked 'till noon alone, then Poole caught up and we hiked together for the rest of the day. He continued with his many stories. Those stories, combined with a great personality made him someone I enjoyed hiking with. We hiked over Max Patch Mountain, famed for having a beautiful view; unfortunately, we did not have one due to the rain throughout the day. With nothing to look at, we spent our time talking and getting psyched to get into the town of Hot Springs, North Carolina. We won't arrive until tomorrow, but will be heading there starting off at the crack of dawn so we can get into town early.

Camping out at Walnut Mountain Shelter tonight so I am only thirteen miles to Hot Springs and it's P.O., pig-out, shower, and groceries. I can't wait!

Monday, May 9th, 1983
Woke up at 5:00 am this morning intending on scooting off to Hot Springs, but it was cold, dark and drizzly. We reset the alarm for 5:30 am, but it was still too dark to hike even then. Neither of us could sleep so Steve made some hot cocoa for us while I put a new dressing on the blisters I had developed recently. We packed up and were out by 6:45 am. We both hiked like men possessed, and arrived at Deer Park Mountain Shelter (10 miles) by 11:00 am. After a quick lunch of bologna, we continued toward town with less than three miles to go. In Hot Springs there are at least three places one can stay: 1) at the Catholic Hostel, 2) At the local Motel, or 3) at a new place called Elmer's, run by a former thru-hiker. The decision had been made before we arrived in town to stay at Elmer's since we had read that the food was great, plus you could work off the lodging. I didn't know how far my nest egg would take me on this trip, so I decided to preserve whatever I could, whenever I could.

Once in the town of Hot Springs, we each got a room at Elmer's Victorian home for $8:00 per night, and opted for the optional dinner for $5:00 extra. The meal was an all you can eat vegetarian delight. Dinner consisted of pea soup, brown rice with hard boiled eggs sliced in half and placed on top, tossed salad, banana pudding, and peppermint tea. It was great!!

In town I did laundry and bought some groceries. I was glad to pick up my care package and letters. "Hot Spott" Diane Spott, who was also in town at the post office at the same time as me, was so glad to see me that she reached out and gave me a big hug. She's very nice, and very generous as well. Everybody wolfed down the brownies she discovered in her care package. They were excellent, and we all loved them.

Later, I called Dia. It was nice to hear her voice. We talked extensively about my journey, but she had already figured out that I was playing down the trip so she wouldn't feel bad. I didn't want her to regret her situation so I thought that it would be best to keep many of the high points out of my conversations and letters to her. What I had not counted on was that she would go to my parents house, where I periodically sent my trail journal pages upon completion, and read it all! I had been having quite a bit of nasty weather on this first part of the trip, yes, but a pretty good adventure as well.

Tuesday May 10th, 1983
Woke up at 7:30 am. I tried to fall back asleep and enjoy the "real bed" a little longer, but sleep did not come so I got up and took a shower. My blisters are becoming barely perceptible, but the affected areas still hurt considerably. Under Steve's advice I've been wrapping them each day and they are getting better.

We had a huge breakfast with three pancakes, two eggs, two toasts, hash browns and a large milk. Afterwards, I finished grocery shopping and mailed my letters, post cards and package. By the time I got done it was too late to hike to the next shelter so I opted to stay for another night. With extra time on my hands now, I asked the innkeeper if I could work off last night's meal and he agreed. He had me mow the rear lawn and rake for two hours. Instead of eating dinner at the Inn again, I ordered dinner at The Trail Café. It consisted of a huge hamburger, a large order of fries, and a large Pepsi. Even though Elmer's vegetarian cuisine was tasty, I needed some meat protein and good old fashioned fast food. I weighed myself and I have so far lost 30 pounds (weight now = 165 lbs.). I hope that I lose more.

Tomorrow Steve and I will try for a twenty-miler to Little Laurel Shelter.

Wednesday May 11th, 1983
Started out at 9:00 am, stopping only for lunch at Spring Mountain Shelter. We hiked all 14.4 miles today with heavy packs due to resupplying. That is not too bad considering the weight we were carrying, and the weakness that sometimes follows a one day layover

I don't know why we did not stop at Rich Mountain Fire tower; we must have just by-passed it without much thought. Maybe our conversation was so engrossing that we missed the sidetrail. One thing that we did stop for was to photograph something really amazing: a groundhog that had climbed up a tree! We must have snuck up on it because suddenly, we were upon it, startled it, and it ran up a tree. Figured I'd take a picture of the little bugger since it is not everyday one sees a groundhog in a tree. Besides, I grew up in a city and hadn't seen many woodchucks of any kind before.

(Woodchuck up a tree!)

Tonight we are tenting out in Allen Gap. There is a small store in the Gap and we took advantage of it. When we got here we immediately ate 2 pints of ice cream and guzzled three sodas each.

It was in the mid-seventies all day. It's amazing that in a few short weeks the brown forest has turned into a green, lush haven. I suppose the rain helps bring out the green also. Too bad it has done such damage to my feet.

Thursday May 12th, 1983
Hiked only 11.4 miles today. We were going to hike more, but we encountered a rain storm five minutes past Jerry Cabin Shelter, so Steve and I hiked back, and prepared to spend the night. Got my first look at Mt. Mitchell (6,684'), the highest peak in the Eastern US. The mountain is not on the trail, but someday I'll come back and climb it.

(View from White Cliffs Overlook)

A surprise visit from Rob Spaulding this evening made the evening more special. Rob had run out of money so he decided to call his mom while in Hot Springs.. She had no money to allow him to continue on, so he decided to go home. He had hitched about 80 miles off the trail when that same evening, at about 11:30 pm he decided to set up camp a little bit off of the road. While building camp, he spotted something with his flashlight. Closer inspection found it to be $85.00 in cash! Just laying there! Lucky bastard! Next day he hitched back to Hot Springs and is now back on the trail.

Friday May 13th, 1983
Woke up to torrential downpours this morning, but that did not stop me from hiking later on. By noon it had cleared, so I headed to Flint Gap Shelter which was relocated one mile south of the old shelter. This shelter is one year old and very spacious. Yesterday we met Mr. Davis who is the chairman of the A.T.C. board, and the man who designed this shelter. Only traveled about six or seven miles today, but the rain played a major factor in that.

I said the rain had cleared, but actually it had not totally cleared; I hiked between rainstorms today - started hiking just after the morning rain and finished just before the late afternoon rain.

Dave "Smitty" Smith just hiked in at 7:45 pm, drenched by the rain, happy to be here and is staying for the night. Two other "new" hikers came into the shelter that I had not met yet, Bruce and Kathy Bytwerk, a husband and wife team. They started from Springer on March 31st, but got held up by family matters. I passed them as a result, without even knowing. Up to this point I had become familiar with a thru-hiker signing into the registers as "Fuzzy Jim". I had never met him, but his writings were funny, sometimes crude, and occasionally would be in comic form with the main character a stick figure with a triangular head whose name was, of course, Anglehead. Well, I am pretty sure that Bruce would have punched me if I had been Fuzzy Jim, even though he had never met him either. He hated Fuzzy's dark humor in the trail registers. Kathy, was a sweet, kind and soft spoken little thing. She said that she was married to Bruce, and confided in me that he had studied to be a Baptist minister. Under her breath she told me that Bruce was gunning for Fuzzy. This day in May became the first time that I had witnessed such a visceral hatred for a person - someone he had not even met - and to think this was coming from a man of the clergy. Bruce was a big guy, and had fire in his eyes when anything was said about Fuzzy.

Saturday May 14th, 1983
Today Steve and I we hiked 15 grueling miles to a gap where a road led downhill to a store where we each purchased ½ gallon of chocolate ice cream. After indulging, we returned to the trail and looked for the small shelter known to be in the area. The shelter is designated as an emergency shelter called the "Genghis Khan Shelter". We got into camp to find Smitty bundled up inside. Actually it's an old lineman's shack that can accommodate only one person comfortably. Smitty told us of some new houses that they were putting up just over the ridge so Steve and I ventured over and slept in one of the vacant houses. All of the houses are beautiful, so we ate supper and slept in style this evening - All because this part of the trail has a 27 mile span between shelters which makes it hard on rainy days unless you have a tent.


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983