Times and Travels: AT hike conclusion

I will remind readers that this hike took place in 2004. I am revisiting it in order to have in mind the good and the not so good as I prepare to finish more sections of the fascinating AT this year. 

Day 5

There was wind. It was chilly. We stayed in the tent till almost 9 wondering whether it would rain again. There wasn’t much to do except start walking and find out. I knew I didn’t want to climb the infamous Albert Mountain, so was planning on the bypass trail. Esther’s knee was hurting, even before the weight of her pack was added. We knew we would be crossing several forest service roads and felt that if a ride out came our way, we would take it.

As you sit safe at home reading this, you can’t really grasp what it’s like to feel hurt, uncertain and fairly helpless and then come upon a scene like this. God bless men with trucks.

We started at 11 am and had a good two hours of nice flat and down stretches. The sun came out, there were flowers everywhere and fresh bear scat on the trail (just to keep things real). While eating lunch at Betty Creek, we heard a truck in the distance,beeping as it backed up. However, it must have been on another trail, and farther than we could run to to catch it. On we went to Mooney Gap with Lorraine and Kenton leading the way, as we were now quite a bit slower.

As we approached the next road, there were Lorraine and Kenton talking with a whole crew of men from the Nantahala Hiking Club. They had been working on the trail (putting in an elevator at Albert Mountain, they said. Giving CPR to a blackbird, they said.) and were about to head back to Franklin. They were concerned about Esther and happy to pack us into the back of one of their trucks and take us back to town.

It was a little surreal, two hours later, to be back at the Microtel taking a shower instead of on the trail in jeopardy of hurting ourselves. I thanked the Lord for taking care of us. We will live to see another day, maybe even hike again. We took Kenton’s car which she left at the motel and drove to Wayah Crest to retrieve my Aztek. Found a Thai restaurant! Back at the motel, went to bed on a real mattress!

Day 6

Things I learned:

  • In early May take gloves and warm jacket and hat
  • Take a good rain suit and cover for my pack
  • Go lighter still – it can be done
  • Take treats and morning coffee – you need them and they don’t weigh that much

Hiking can be pleasant and the scenery beautiful but the most amazing thing is finding yourself dependent upon God, and pretty much out of control of your own welfare. I felt the experience was as much an exercise of faith, discipline and persistence as it was for our muscles. That has become a big reason why I love hiking in remote places.

Esther and I had a great day checking out Franklin, visiting the outfitter’s store and a book place. We ate lunch at a creekside cafe with robins singing over our heads and the brook singing underneath our balcony – very Appalachian. We found a great park to lounge around in and read our books. Succumbing to the mundane, we had pizza for supper and relaxed watching a thrilling episode of Extreme Home Makeover on TV.

Day 7

I had breakfast (that’s me, always), Esther didn’t (usual for her) and then we got ourselves packed up and into the Aztek for the rendezvous with Lorraine and Kenton. We parked where the trail crossed the main highway at Winding Stair Gap. Esther’s knee wouldn’t let her go very far up the trail but I intended to meet the girls, identifying flowers along the way with my new book. I only got a short way up the trail to discover Lorraine and Kenton sitting, eating morning snack and thinking they were still a couple miles from the meeting point.

They were in good shape but also content with cutting the hike a little shorter than originally planned. We whisked them back to the motel for a quick shower (for which we were not charged, even though it was past checkout time, yay!) We had a celebratory meal at the renowned “Fat Buddy’s Barbecue”. It was a place worth another visit and even Esther (vegetarian) found some good stuff there. Lorraine didn’t mind heading home right away so we left about 3 pm and had a safe trip home to Florida. There are many other details I could have written but, basically, that’s the story (morning glory).

Does this story make you want to go hiking, or not? Are you curious about any element of the story?


Times and Travels: Hiking the AT

I have tried for days now to find my journal of the first AT hike – I’m coming up with nothing, although I know I’ve seen it somewhere. But I have the record of the second hike from 2004.

Finding people to hike with can be a bit of a problem. Someone has to be able to get time off and really want to do this. That narrows down the prospective pool of hikers. I found three women online who were interested in planning with me and we corresponded for a couple months before our hike. One of them hurt her ankle right before the hike and couldn’t go. 

Day 1

Our packs look a little overwhelming, but we need it all, probably.

A good start from my daughter’s house in Tampa. Just enough clouds to make easy driving. We met Lorraine for the first time in person. She was nice and talked easily so we got to know each other pretty well.  I forgot all my vitamins and pills at Esther’s so we stopped at a grocery store to replace it all (plus a cake server, don’t ask…). Other than that we only stopped once for breakfast in Gainesville, and once for gas in Tifton, getting into Franklin N.C. about 4:30 pm. Another of our hiking buddies, Elyse, and her husband were waiting at the motel. The last member, Kenton, came a few minutes later.

We decided to do the car drop at our end point, Wayah Gap. What a beautiful drive up in the mountains! We had a real dinner (maybe our last for a while) and then went back to the motel to go through our gear one final time. Our packs still look too heavy.


Hopefully not our last meal, but perhaps our last GOOD meal for a while.

Day 2

I am up first and out to the lobby to journal. There are big storm clouds out there and 70% chance of rain. Are we being stupid?

I barely survived the ride to Dick’s Creek crammed in Elyse’s small Blazer (actually I was stuck to the ceiling). Dick’s Creek. Who is Dick? I want to know. We took parting pictures and got on the trail by 10 am.

Kenton, Lorraine, Elyse, me and Esther. This is a hike, not a fashion show. 

We had only a few sprinkles for the first two hours, which was kind of cool and pleasant. Then it started to pour, which was nothing but cold and unpleasant. We put garbage bags over our packs and that worked fairly well. But our ponchos only kept part of our bodies dry. By the time we reached Plum Orchard Gap we were soaked head to foot, either with rain or sweat, it didn’t much matter which.

We crowded into a trail shelter with 10 other wet, smelly people at about 1 pm. This left a lot of afternoon and evening to sit and do… yes, what? Dry off? Hardly. The temperature started dropping so we huddled in our sleeping bags after supper and listened to mice for the next eight hours. May I never have to repeat a night like this. Saw my first “bear bag” cables.

Esther in her deluxe upper shelf (where most of the mice were). This was before five other hikers joined her. My cold, wet finger on the lens, sorry.