Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Appalachian Trail

I know it has been a long time coming but in my defense a good library is harder to find then one might think in this modern times.  So with out further delay I would like to discuss the AT and all it's glory. I started out in Pearisburg Va. I was definitely shocked at how hard the first climb was. I ended up climbing up to around 3000 feet in the span of a mile and a half to two miles. At the top I was greated by a wonderful scenic spot called angel's rest.
From there I went on to see my first eight bears of the trail. They were all hanging around the area of the rest because there was a spring, blueberries, nut trees and several large bee hives in the area and there was little to no water else where. Some of the younger bears were inquisitive and one started to run up to me to check me out. I decided it was best to yell at it to run it off. Some people may be feeding these things like they do in the great smokey mountains. More on that later. I ended up walking another eight miles to the first shelter of the AT that I stayed in. Doc's Knob
These shelters are pretty nice though they tend to be over run with mice and sometimes even bats. The problem with Doc's Knob was that the nearby spring was dry. I ended up walking eight miles in high heat the next day before finding a blue blaze trail, which usually means water. Turns out it was just another trail that some idiot decided to mark with blue blazes. I walked it for around a mile before coming out on a dirt road with tire and horse tracks. Since I was feeling sick from heat and no water I decided to follow it down hill hoping it would lead to a stream or a town. Eventually a conservation officer drove up the road and gave me a lift to a gas station where I slammed a quart bottle of gateraid and bought two one liter bottles of water and a country time lemonaid. I got back onto the trail refreshed and ready to go. Only to find out that by getting off the trail I missed the next shelter and ended up walking another eight miles to jenny's knob shelter. So in my second day I made out with eighteen miles progress down the trail.
My first few weeks on the AT were definitely slow going since it is harder than the rail trails I had just come off of. The thing about the AT is that if it can go uphill, it will. The highest point I got to was at spruce knob which sits at 4429 feet. There is a really nice shelter there, but the nearby spring was bone dry. I attempted to dig a hole to fill with ground water but when I tried pumping it my water filter cartridge ruptured and spat out dirty water.
The place has a really nice view though. and even ginseng in the nearby areas.
So aside from having to boil water there was no problems in the past few weeks of travel. I stayed at spruce knob for two days. After that I decided it would be best to get off the trail and road walk to damascus VA where I could get a new filter. This way I could stop at stores for water when I needed it. I ended up stoping at three Mcdonalds a subway and some kind of stand called dipdogs, which makes an awesome banana milkshake, by the way. With all that super healthy food in my veins I had enough energy to walk thirty miles a day and made it to Damascus in only two days. I went to Sundog's outfitters for my new katadyn mini ceramic filter which was on sale 50% off since I'm walking after season. I stayed at the local church hostel and met a kid named Josh who I walked with for a good while before getting off the trail in TN.

Along the trail I was able to collect hickory nuts, butter nuts, walnuts and various other wild foods to save on money and add nutrition to my diet. Because all of these nuts were in the area it is also a good spot to see bears. These ones all seem to have a healthy fear of man so it's okay to walk quietly in hopes of seeing a few. If you are walking in the fall like I am try looking in the tree tops for them as they like to go up and eat the nuts up there. Do not worry though. No matter how quiet you are they will still notice you before you notice them in most cases and you will see them as they are coming down the trees to run away. I lost count at around 70 bears, most of which were on iron mountain.

As we progressed further south we started to meet northbounders that told us that the shelters in the smokeys were closed and you are not allowed to camp just any where. This was due to idiots feeding the bears which resulted in several people being stalked by them and even a few attacks. Do not be one of those idiots. You ruin it for every one else by feeding these animals. I decided to get off the trail in Hampton TN since the smokeys were basically closed. As a result I missied out on clingman's dome and several other big mountains. I did however stay at kincora hostel.

The one bad thing about this place is if you have cat allergies, you are going to feel it. They have several cats there. They do have a tree house out back but it only has one bed. The night I stayed there I got to meet the racoons that live under the cabin and come up at night to finish off the cat food left behind.

Some tips I would give for the trail and long distance hiking in general. Be inventive. There will be times when something will break or wear out and replacing it can become expensive. If you repair it with what ever else you might have around you save money and lots of it.
The snap on my knife sheath rusted and the button pulled free of the fabric so I used a buckle from the side of my army pants and a little bit of strapping cut to fit and made this little set up.
You can also make things from trash other idiots leave behind like this little hobo stove I made from a sterno can.

  It is very easy to make and does a good job of cooking food pretty quickly.

There are tons of wildlife along the trail provided people do not run it all off with stupid bells and whistles. Some of the easier ones to catch sight of are the slow moving small ones.

Since getting off the trail I have made my way south west to collegedale and stopped for a three week break along the way at Cherokee lake. I will discuss that and the adventures along the way in my next blog post.

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