Appalachian Trail journal

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Week Six: Tennessee/North Carolina and some bad weather?

Sunday May 15th, 1983
Steve and I Got up and out of "our house" early. We definitely did not want to be found squatting by the builder, or the owner in their fancy new home that was not finished yet. The day was mostly uneventful except for the views to be had at Little and Big Balds as we hiked to No Business Knob Shelter for the night. Steve wanted some hotel/motel time in Erwin, Tennessee, and left not long after arriving at the shelter to continue on for a few more miles to reach Erwin. I'll get there too; tomorrow I will head for town for Pizza Hut and a shower, but most of all for expectation of cards and letters from home. I must conserve my money so I opted to stay at the shelter to avoid paying for a room.

I find myself alone here this evening. It is very peaceful and I love it! I have finished my supper, and I have my sleeping arrangements laid closed cell foam pad under my sleeping bag to give me a little comfort on this nice wooden floor. I have my pack leaning up against the back wall behind me and I am sitting with my back up against the pack like a backrest. From this position I can write in my journal and survey the view outside the fornt of the shelter like a king. One of my subjects just strolled by, a young doe. And now another one showed up. So quiet, and only interested in one thing, getting something to browse upon. It is amazing how close these creatures are to me right now! It is as if they don't even know that I am here. This trip is getting better every day!

(Steve Poole on Big Bald) (View North from Big Bald) (Looking back at summit of Big Bald)
(Deer at No Business Knob Shelter)

Monday May 16th, 1983
Woke up to a raging rain storm but even that couldn't dampen my spirits. I put all of my rain gear on and headed out for my six mile hike to Erwin, Tennessee. By the time I got to the road I was swimming in my own sweat. Are rain suits really very effective? So far I can find no one able to stay dry in the rain - even in a rainsuit. Most people eventually live with the fact that they will get wet and hike that way. Additionally, hiking without a rainsuit leaves more room for food in the pack!

Once I got to the road I took off my rain gear and hiked in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. I hiked about three miles and arrived in Irwin by 11:00am.

I flagged a guy down and asked for directions to the post office. Instead of telling me, he gave me a ride to the P.O., waited for me to get my mail and then drove me to Pizza Hut! He was a real nice guy! While I waited for my Cavatini Supreme, I changed into some dry clothes before pigging out. After "The Hut", I did laundry, finished my letter, and shopped. With all that, my town duties were finished so I headed toward Nolichucky Expeditions along the Nolichucky River, where I showered for a buck. Not wanting to spend any more money there, my fresh and clean body hiked to Curley Maple Gap Shelter which was 3.5 miles up the trail. At the shelter I found Steve, Kathy, Bruce and Claudia Gross. They squeezed me into the shelter and sleep came fast. I only covered 10 miles today, but had a great town stop. Not Bad!

Tuesday May 17th, 1983
A cold front came in last night causing the temperature to remain cool all day. Perfect hiking weather!

Not long into the day I arrived at what is known as Beauty Spot. Everything I have heard about the place is announcing how beautiful it is. My impression of the place is of a bucolic landscape, a large open field
angled up a slight slope. I often wondered if we, as a species, find this type of landscape so pleasant because the cradle of civilization looked just like this? Seemingly endless grassy fields dotted with brush and trees. Perhaps that is why we have mono-cultures surrounding our homes in the suburbs. I; however, prefer thick lush forests with high mountain peaks standing as sentinels guarding the land. I did not even get my camera out.

I hiked to Iron Mountain Gap (15 mi) where I followed the road down to the grocery store (.8 mile off the trail) and ate a half gallon of ice cream and drank one bottle of strawberry soda. I then proceeded to hike six miles to Clyde Smith Shelter for a total of 21 miles. Fantastic!!

Wednesday May 18th, 1983
Got off to a late start. Hiked up to Roan Mountain (or what I call "Groan" Mountain) and nearly died - the climb was so intense. I've been very tired all day as a result. I started out the ascent alone, but caught up with Claudia so I hiked the remainder up to the top with her. We parted company near the summit as I headed to Roan Highland Shelter. I was treated to some beautiful views from Roan High Knob, and some of the nearby balds. I was impressed at the sight of the great fields on and surrounding Jane Bald. you might ask how is this different than Beauty Spot. Well, Beauty Spot was not as grand a scale as the balds, and the balds still fit into the description of "standing as sentinals" and were surrounded by lush forests. The worst part about Roan High knob is that it is easily accessible by road and therefor not as exclusive as other peaks. This aspect makes Roan High and its rhododendron gardens "an easy hike" for those in an automobile. Quite a scenic spot though. I want to take Dia there someday.

(Four views from Jane Bald)

It was quite cold today and very windy. It should prove to be a chilly night. Tomorrow I will head into Elk Park, North Carolina for a post office stop, and maybe groceries if I decide I need some.

Some killer climbs today - even though I did only 10 miles, I am beat!!

Thursday May 19th, 1983
Last Night it started to rain about midnight. The way this shelter is situated the wind began blowing the rain in. Battling the high winds, I hung my tarp across half of the front of the shelter. I placed my rainfly down the middle and held it at the botom with some rocks I found on the ground outside. The wind became so fierce during the night that the rocks couldn't hold the rainfly down any longer, so at about 3:00am I found found myself outside searching for some larger (huge) rocks that managed to secured it - at least in that area.

My alarm woke me at 6:00am only to find the rainfly had been blown loose from the top this time, and my sleeping bag was beginning to get wet. By then it was getting light enough that I could see well enough to secure it for good. For good? Yes, I am still at the shelter. Here, in this saddle, I figure the winds are much lighter than on the mountain tops: so if the winds are high here, then the top of the next few mountains (which are balds with no vegetation to block the wind) they must be awesome! I am forced to stay here for the day.

The forecaster said sunny and warmer tomorrow. No matter what the weather does - I'm leaving tomorrow. This idleness is driving me nuts. Today I listened to the radio and read a sci-fi book that Mark had given me. In the book there were a group of Lords who had created a world in which they had built floating castles where they lived. One of the characters was named urbano, or something like that. The sound of the radio and the fantasy were the only two things which kept my sanity. Sitting in a shelter all day long in weather like this is a killer! ....... It is now 4:12pm and I am very bored. I am beginning to understand how Dia might be feeling at home by herself. With nothing else to do, I began writing a letter to my grandfather telling him all about what I had been seeing over the last month.

(letter sent to Jos. O. Montville postmarked May 21, 1983 in Elk Park, NC)

Speaking of books left inside shelters along the trail.... I have seen my share of small bibles and other religious materials left by do-gooders, but never found any of it worth reading, or useful. I cooked with a small stove, but in emergencies, that paper could become useful as firestarter I thought. One book I did pick up cronicled the life of Albert Einstein. I read that one cover to cover before leaving it in another shelter for another traveler to become enlightened with.

Friday May 20th, 1983
Got up at 6:30am this morning, packed all of my gear, and headed for U.S.19E and Elk Park seven miles up the trail. I arrived down at the highway by 11:30am. Along the way, I saw some beautiful views while on the Hump Mountains. These balds never cease to amaze me. I could not imagine what it must have been like yesterday with the high winds on the summits.

(Little Hump Mountain) (Hump Mountain)

Page 79 of the Tennessee - North Carolina AT (Sixth Edition) guidebook says that Elk Park, North Carolina is 1.5 miles west on Rt. 19E. Bullshit!! It is east, and I found out the hard way. I corrected it in my guidebook after the fact. Once I got into town I located the post office and was greeted by two care packages and numerous letters from home. I never knew that I was so loved!! Even Pep wrote a letter. Pep, short for Pepere, is my Grandfather. I'm worried about him 'cause he is losing his eyesight and motor functions in his old age. I finished my letter to him, thankful that I had written the day before, then sent the letter I had penned, and smiled while thinking about him.

I stocked up on my provisions, and decided to get a hotel room to dry out all of my gear. I called home, and Dia and Pep were both glad to hear from me. I was happy to hear that Dia's knee was getting better and may have only been a badly bruised muscle, and soon she will be functioning normally again.

Saturday May 21st, 1983

This morning I got a ride to the trailhead from Ronnie Harrison, who picked me up before I had walked too far along Rt 19E. We chatted about my journey during the short time it took to reach the trailhead, and then as I was shouldering my pack and shaking his hand in thanks, he asked me to write when I complete the trail.

I was back hiking on the trail by about 12:00 noon, and reached Don Nelan Shelter by 1:30pm. That was rather early I thought, so I decided to push on to the next shelter. Besides, I had only hiked about five miles for the day by then. Unfortunately, the trail became quite rough and muddy. Then to top it off, it started raining on me a few hours beyond that first shelter. I finally stepped into Moreland Gap Shelter by 7:00pm, and met a lady thru-hiker from Toronto, Canada named Pat Guthrie. Claudia walked into the shelter out of the darkness at about 11:00pm with another thru-hiker named Steve Rohrbeck. Seems she really gets into that night hiking thing. Claudia was wearing an all Gor-Tex rain suit. The state of the art at the time, and I thought that gear must be expensive. I had gotten to know Claudia over the past week, and felt Claudia to be like the little sister that I never had. She liked to tell stories, and giggled a lot. Always up to some adventure, I never knew where she would turn up or in which direction she would be going. It was fun to have her around and we got along well I thought.


Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983