My Walk in the Woods, Ch 3

This is the tale of A Lo Hawk’s 132 day, 2200 mile traverse of the Appalachian Trail fron Georgia to Maine in 2008.

My Walk in the Woods, Ch 2

Chapter Three (April 21st-29th)

Day 14: (TN)  5 miles from Mt Collins Shelter to Newfound Gap, ride to Gatlinburg, TN

UPHILL and I cruise downhill to the road crossing at Newfound Gap. He calls a friend who gives us a thrilling downhill curvy autobobsled run into Gatlinburg, TN. We stop at Flapjacks Pancake Cabin for breakfast then I say aloha to my new friends and step onto the main street of this kitchy tourist town.

I dial up dad’s number, he and Chris are staying here at a time share condo for the week. (I estimated when I would reach this point and coordinated with him earlier this year) The massive condo complex has an indoor water park surrounded by an MC Escher designed road system.

I relax with a long hot shower then meticulously clean all the gear. We make a trip to WalMart then enjoy a condo cooked meal.

Day 15: (TN/NC)  Ride to Newfound Gap, hike to Peck’s Corner Shelter

Kenton and I have breakfast at the same Flapjacks Pancake Cabin. I astound him with my insatiable appetite for biscuits, butter, eggs, sausage and stacks of fluffy cakes drenched in sticky syrup. He drives me to the post office then to the public library so I can use their computers. Chris makes spaghetti for lunch then we drive up to Clingman’s Dome (highest point on the AT and popular tourist attraction) so dad and I can revisit the overlook he brought me to as a child.

They take me back to Newfound Gap, mahalo and aloha to the helpful pair. Once again I am headed north. A beautiful evening of hiking rugged ridges until well after dark. Happy Earth Day!

Day 16: (TN)  20 miles from Peck’s Corner Shelter to Davenport Gap Shelter

It is a nice day so I make the 1.2 mile sidetrip to the beautiful stone fire tower on Mt Cammerer. More pleasing views around every corner. I end up at the last shelter inside the national park boundary.

Day 17:  17 miles from Davenport Gap to Max Patch summit

Today’s hike is a big climb to the summit of Max Patch which is a huge bald hundreds of yards across. The views of the Smoky Mtns is stunning and I have to camp at this incredible spot. There are several tents dotting the grand meadow but I easily find a nice site away from everyone. Still it is easy to hear conversation from people sitting on the soft grass watching the remarkable sunset. Aloha!

Day 18:  16 miles from Max Patch to Deer Park Mtn Shelter

Camping on the bald is windy but it is a warm night. I get up to watch the sunrise and see there are photographers nearby set up with their tripods.

During the middle of the day I keep running into slow hikers who are part of a large church men’s group. I prefer hikers who move like the devil is chasing them.

The beneficent trail spirit rewards me with trail magic at Gerronflo(sp?) Gap. A heavenly trail angel feeds me hot dog and homemade cookies washed down with Mtn Dew ambrosia.

Day 19: (TN)  3 miles to Hot Springs, 10 miles to camp

Out of curiosity I make a short detour in the morning to visit Standing Bear Farm. It has a reputation for being an interesting place to hang out with the bohemian trail riffraff. I arrive to see hung over and comatose bodies I recognize from Franklin and leave slightly disappointed.

Next the white blazes follow the two lane county road through the friendly hamlet of Hot Springs, North Carolina. Besides being a mail drop and resupply point, the town is having a street fair with colorful booths and the wonderful smell of meat cooking on a grill. I am extremely satisfied with a stacked buffalo burger and onion ring basket.

As I watch people go by I occasionally hear the term ‘hacker’ and ‘them hackers’. Was there some kind of computer hack in the news that I am totally unaware of? I’m not quite ready to get back on the trail so I get a seat out on the patio of the Paddler’s Tavern and put down cold beers in the warm afternoon until I have a good buzz. I finally ask the waitress, “What’s all this talk about hackers? Who are the hackers?” There is a long pause while she gives me a quizzical look. Then she says in an amused voice, “Well of course its you, honey, you’re the hacker!”

Its a long climb once the trail resumes but it gets cooler and I get sober. I camp nowhere near a shelter.

Day 20: (NC)  17 miles from camp to Jerry Cabin Shelter

What can I say? Today is a long rainy slog, menacing clouds darken my mood. I keep pushing the miles then am a late intruder at a crowded shelter. Room is made for me to squeeze in but the only place for my pack is a hook on the edge of the extended roof. Even with a pack cover it is getting soaked tonight.

Day 21:  17 miles from Jerry Cabin to a mile beyond I-26 at Sam’s Gap

It is raining when I wake up and continues as I leave the shelter. It takes all day but eventually the weather and my mood improve. About a mile after crossing under I-26 I camp at a tiny site at Sam’s Gap. Although out of sight of civilization, I still hear traffic noise from the freeway as I drift to sleep.

Day 22: (TN)  20 miles from Sam’s Gap to 2 miles past No Business Shelter

What a night! Apparently I camped in a wind tunnel and I wake up to below freezing wind chill temperatures. I have to drag my camp downhill to get out of the hypothermic wind and pack up. Once I get moving I notice the ground and leaves have a thin layer of snow dust.

It is by far the coldest morning of the trip, I maintain a quick pace to get the furnace going. Around a corner I am surprised by the most amazing trail magic. On the ground next to the trail I find a tupperware tub filled with fresh baked chocolate muffins, an industrial size thermos of coffee and a thick hardbound trail log. It is difficult for me to open these delightful items with frozen fingers but the effects are immediate and transformative. I can see whisps of smoke from a chimney over a small rise. I shout, “Haleakala, Aloha!” to the unknown trail angel extraordinaire.

Later in the morning, I arrive at a shelter where I meet a honeymooning couple about to leave their campfire burning. The dippy dude from Oregon warns me he just tossed a nearly empty gas canister in the fire. We move a safe distance and wait for the seriously stupid prank to deploy with an underwhelming THUD.

The breezy afternoon is spent climbing yet another big bald. I camp a few miles past the shelter to get a head start for Erwin tomorrow.


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