June 20, 2016
I slept in until 7:30am and had the hotel breakfast of raisen bran, OJ, bagel with cream cheese and jam with frequent cups of coffee. I caught up with my AT adventures on this blog, before I headed out for the hitch up to Newfound Gap some 15 miles east.
I walked to the edge of town right across from the NOC outfitters shop where I had gotten a resupply the night before with Kaley and Richard. I started hitching at about 10:45am and got a ride within 15 minutes.
Bless the trail Angels. Lloyd and Maria were just returning to Georgia after delivering about 3/4 tons of honey to several of the retailers in Gatlinburg. They said they packaged some with the retailers label and some with theirs.
Lloyd said that he and Maria first met over an Internet dating site about 12 years ago and have been married for the past 10 years. She is a retired meteorologist from Mexico City and will soon take her US Citizenship test to become an American citizen.
Lloyd had grown up around this area and had hiked a lot of the Appalachians including a lot of portions of the AT. As far as the beekeeping business, he has about 1,000 colonies of bees and each colony has 30,000 bees. His colonies are stationary at various farms and he has several types of honey based on what type of plants the bees are located in ranging from cotton, fireweed, melon, berry, and so on. Since the bees are dormant during December and January, they use that time to travel usually to Mexico City to visit Maria's relatives. Here they are at the Newfound Gap parking area after getting me there with a short pause for me to photograph a wild turkey along side the road.
I started up the AT about 11:45 at milepost 207.1. There were more day hikers both heading out and returning on this trail than I had ever seen before. Almost all of them went to visit the Charles Bunion viewpoint some 4 miles from Newfound Gap.
While walking I found a young guy was keeping pace with me so we talked along the way. After graduating from college, Quincy became a general aviation flight instructor with both single engine and twin engine airplanes both VFR and instrument rated. One of his most exciting flight adventures occurred in the Moab, Utah area. He had just dropped off four sky divers from his Cessna and was returning to the airport when his engine went out. He was at just 1,500 feet and barely had time to locate an emergency landing spot. He successfully landed the plane without crashing, the right wheel support came off and slashed a bit of the side of the airplane as well as the right aileron. He had no injuries and they were able to repair the plane. Apparently the accident results are still pending with the NTSB. He said that in landing the plane, his training just kicked in and his actions to land the plane as he did played out as planned. He is hoping some day to fly commercial planes instead of staying as a flight instructor. When I learned how to fly Cessna 150s and 172s I remembered that most of my flight instructors were young like him and wanted to become commercial pilots as well.
Before we knew it we had come the four miles to the Bunion viewpoint---the big rock outcropping looks like a big bunion as well. At that point, I left Quincy and the crowds behind. I would hike the rest of the day without seeing any other hikers until I got to my Pecks Corner Shelter---217.3 miles.
Along this way, there were several views as I walked along this knifepoint ridge to the shelter. Lots of Rhodhedrons in bloom along the way and even carpeted the path with pink petals.
I shared the shelter with a family of three, Alicia and Charles the parents and their son August. Alicia was now a personal trainer after have been a supervisory social worker at a hospital----I am sure there was a story there.
Two women who had just graduated from college. Krista was going on to Vet school and Bethany wasn't sure, but for now she continued working at a bakery.
Jordan was a math and music teacher from Potomac, MD and was busy lightening his load by sorting out some unwanted food items from his gorp. Alicia was giving Jordan lots of nutrition advice hence the sorting out of the gorp.
Apparently bears were a big problem so we all put not just our food bags but also our backpacks up in the bear cables provided by the NPS.
June 21, 2016
Summer Solstice! I got a 6:30 am start while most were still asleep since I wanted to get to Davenport Gap and stay at the Standing Bear hostel----240.6 miles---a 23.3 mile day. I thought this was doable since most of the way would be downhill--from a high of 6,300 feet to a low of 1,700 feet.
There were lots of views as I made my way along this recently well maintained trail that was on a knife edged ridge with some great views that shortly became obscured by fog and clouds.
After that it was one last hill to climb, Mt. Cammerer---just 700 ft up and the rest would be down from 4,950 down to 1,700 feet.
Near the bottom, the trail widened out and then plunged down along side a creek after leaving the Great Smoky National Park. The trail emerged at a road bridge across the Pigeon River---239.5. I missed the AT trail that headed up to the Standing Bear hostel and instead did the road walk and was glad to get there about 6:25.
The place looks like a set from the Knotts Berry Farm with a bunk house, general store where you buy resupply things on the honor system including do it your self dinners---I picked a Digiornios Supreme pizza washed down with Mountain Dew. I first showered, washed my stinky clothes, and put them in a dryer before chomping down on the pizza.
I was entertained by a musician---trail name Trubador, along with others playing a wash tub cello, and a 5 gallon bucket as a drum while eating my pizza.
I also met up with Janine who shared a shelter with me back on June 18th. She had to hike through the Smoky NP because dogs aren't allowed on the trail and she is looking forward to reuniting with him at Hot Springs where she had him shuttled.
Loud claps of thunder and lightening followed by rain ended the night here as we all shuffled to our bunkhouse.
June 22, 2016
I got a late start---8:40am--on the first climb out of the day of about 2,500 feet to Snowbird Mountain that was "bald"----just grasses grow on on balds----except for an FAA VOR humming along providing navigation service to airplanes. It was good to have some views of the surrounding area instead of just the "green tunnel".
On the way up, I passed most of the hikers who had stayed at the Standing Bear hostel including Trubador who entertained us with some jazz guitar music and Further Father---a Catholic priest from Italy.
Four of the springs I was planning to get water at were dry and I was hoping that the water at Brown Gap---250.4 miles--was running. Just as I arrived a hiker in a blue shirt emerged from the campsite where the water was suppose to be. He said it was but, barely. He said his trail name was "Bald Eagle" and I would catch up with him later at the Max Patch summit---another bald at 254 miles.
I met him there along with a crew of three who were waiting for the light to be just right to do a photo shoot of a beard product commercial. They thanked me for volunteering, but just red beard was needed and not a grey beard.
I pulled into the Roaring Fork Shelter---255.7 miles---at 7pm and there were just 4 women who had hammocked up next to the shelter. Bald Eagle joined me in the shelter as did Janine and Blue Auditor about 2 hours later. Soon it was bedtime as darkness fell.
June 23, 2016
I woke up early so I headed out just about 6am dawn for what would be a mostly down hill hike to Hot Springs, NC---one time retreat for FDR. There was lots of water available along the way and the tread was good so I arrived at Hot Springs---273.7 miles---at 2:40pm.
After a welcome shower, I gave all my dirty clothes to the manager, Greg, for washing while I put on some loaner clothes and headed to the Hot Springs Resort and Spa for a hour soak in the mineral waters and a half hour massage. How relaxing. After that I ate at the Spring Creek Tavern with a local band performing. Stopped at the Dollar Store for resupplies and then it was back to the Hostel at Laughing Heart for organizing and sleep.