Monday, April 25, 2011

270+ miles and counting..

We acquired the lovely miss peach (a.k.a. Tuck) about halfway through the Smokies and now we have exited those hills and will travel along the TN-NC border for a few hundred miles. We arrived in Hot Springs and are staying at this ridiculously awesome place - an old Victorian house that you wish you lived in - antiques, tons of books, music room, etc. but its main clientele this time of year appears to be hikers, so you don't feel bad about being quite so vagrant-ey (yes that's totally a word). The last couple of days have been really amazing. We ran into a group of trail angels that goes to this particular gap in the middle of _nowhere_ annually and then proceeds to ply all hikers passing thru with fabulous food and great company. We got there around lunchtime and ended up hanging for dinner as well - steaks, etc. And fruit. And Girl Scout cookies, of all things. And some great live music too. We still wanted to make it to the top of Max Patch (a 'bald' - 360 deg view on top) to see the sky, it was a clear night after all, so we night hiked up to the top (only about an hour and a half for those last 4 miles) and got a great starry sky with very little light pollution. And, even better, Tuck managed to wake up spontaneously before the sunrise and got us up to see as well. Thus we enjoyed one of the most amazing sunrises I've ever seen. I'll post a pic of that soon.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Smoky Mountain Hop!

Hey guys, we're in NC just shy of 200 miles along the way!

The weather has been pretty nice up to now, a couple of cold nights, but nothing really serious in terms of temperature. We have been taunting the weather a bit, so perhaps fate will smack us down soon enough..

Petek is very cold. Look, see there is some ice on her head and on the ground! Oh no, so cold!!!
Well, actually, there was that one big hailstorm, but it wasn't that long..

 We hit Fontana Dam a couple of days ago...
 And now we're happy to be in the Smokies!!


- RD

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Day 1: Atlanta
Strangely cosmopolitain compared to what I had expected. We got here pretty early and had a few hours to kill. Petek had looked up the location of an REI before we left so that we could get any last minute things and pick up some fuel. We easily found the right bus and took a gorgeous walk in a heavily planted and southern looking neighborhood, guided by the old smarty phone, which led us straight to the address of.. some person's lovely house just past an odd little industrial area. Aaaand adventure #1. So then we booked it over to the train station so we could catch our train out to Gainesville. Petek had arranged through couchsurfing to stay at the house of some lovely people that turned out to be AWESOME. They fed us and we chatted a long while (they had traveled all around europe for months so had all sorts of fascinating stories) and we took our last showers for a while.
Day 2: Approach Trail
So we got a ride from our hosts to the greyhound station to pick up our shuttle to the trail from 'hot rock', a nice hiker guy who travels around and shuttles around hikers and was full of great advice. At the amicalola falls building there were some pretty special outdoors dioramas with all the creatures you might meet along the trail in a little menagerie of zombified fur and feathers. Very cute. Also a bunch of live snake displays, I guess to show people what a rattlesnake looks like vs. a rat snake. We headed out of here in high spirits that we'd somehow managed to not have ridiculously heavy packs, despite not really shaving off too many luxuries (39# for me, 31# for petek).
Day 3+: The day(s) we stopped paying attention to what day it is/was/willbe
Well, we appear to be moving along pretty well, hopefully we'll hit the GA-NC border tomorrow. Met all sorts of interesting people along the way - tons of people that appear to make this trail their entire life, and sometimes they look it. We've been lucky enough to get great weather thus far - clear skies and relative warmness except for one crazy thunderstorm that we viewed from the dry comfort of a shelter on the trail. Wow time flies when you have like 20 minutes to write stuff in the library...

Happy (late) April Fools Day!

There have been several April Fools moments since last week, so that seemed appropriate. Heck, that's how our trip started off - with me playing a joke on ourselves.

We flew into Atlanta on 3/30. I'd done some research on the logistics before we left. Google told me there was an REI (outdoor retail store) right near the Amtrak Station. Our plan was to go from the airport to REI to pick up some white gas for the store before taking a train to Gainesville for the night.

We took the subway to the Amtrak/REI stop when we got to Atlanta. I set my phone to REI's address and we started walking the 1 mile that we had. As we kept walking and the area got more and more residential, we kept our faith that we would find an REI soon. My phone told us to turn onto a street that appeared to have only houses on it, but we kept our faith. We walked right up to a house with the exact address that was listed for Rei, Inc. That's when we lost our faith. Guess I should have used the REI website and not Google for locations. :) It was an interesting introduction to our adventure, anyway..

At Gainesville that night, we stayed with our couchsurfing hosts Eric and Jenny. They were the definition of southern hospitality. Not only did they have some really good stories from their recent 6 month journey in Europe, but they made us dinner - and cookies - and muffins - to boot! I couldn't stop staring at the spectacular photographs on their walls, and I was really surprised to learn that they were all pictures from their travels. Eric is very talented.

We were picked up in Gainesville by Hotrock, a former thru who have us our last bits of advice on the way to the approach trail. And then, we were off! We were happy as clams. Giddy, giggly clams.

We've made many a mile since we started off on April Fools' Day and are slowly transforming into thru-hikers (smelly, hungry, hardened hiking machines). Georgia weather has been mighty kind to us, as well as the hills and mountains.

My favorite moment on the trail so far came a few nights ago, when we stayed at Low Gap Shelter. That day I had had a tough time. I'd been hiking slowly and it was hot. Rachel was hiking ahead of me and got to the shelter before I did. We hadn't stayed at a shelter yet, especially since they tend to be noisy and crowded. That night though, when Rachel got to the shelter, she decided we should stay in it and claimed our spots. And a good thing she did, too.

A couple hours after sunset, the skies just opened up and let loose. For what seemed like several hours during the night, it rained buckets. Lightning was flashing around us and the thunder was as loud as I had ever heard it. The storm passed directly over us, and it was exhilarating to be outside - right underneath it! That's the beauty of a shelter - you can enjoy watching a storm, since it's only 3 walls and a roof. But you enjoy it while staying dry.

The skies have been sunny the whole trip except for the storm of doom and awesomeness. We've been hearing stories about bears stealing food, and have largely avoided the problem areas. Today we are at our second hostel of the trip. Freshly showered and laundered, I'm ready to go eat some ice cream! (and salad, and steak, and...)

-Bandit (Petek)