Monday, 29 April 2013

Onward and upward!

Excelsior! Just got a FaceTime call from Gronk, he is getting ready to set out for Fontana Lake and the start of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The sun is shining and the sky was blue behind his face as we talked. He showed me some southern Dogwood blossoms on some trees up the hill behind him. Dogwood are my favourite flowering trees and they don't grow up here in Canada (NB my Dad reminded me that they DO grow in BC and in fact, the Pacific Dogwood is the provincial flower - but they don't grow here in colder Ontario.) I remember them fondly from when I lived in Virginia in the 1960s (as a very small child!)

He says the NOC is very nice and showed me around the extensive site, with lots of wooden buildings, and the river running through the area, the bridge, playgrounds, etc. I'll post some pix below. I am finding this map very useful for following exactly where he is (figure out how to make your browser enlarge it, to see the detail.)

He says that this small group of hikers has been mostly together since the beginning but they may start to stretch out and change as the hiking goes on. It has been two weeks now and the camaraderie has been great. They pool their knowledge and information and figure out what is the best way to go or do something. But now that they have been hiking for two weeks, it may be time to set out on their own, individual hike. It may sound sort of sad, if they part ways, but I think it is a natural progression. They all started as unique individuals and they have their own reasons for hiking. And if they do part ways eventually, they will meet other people and it's all good. And they may even meet up again, as there are many months before the whole hike is over.

Gronk bought himself some rain pants and a fleece shirt for warmth. I find myself hoping that they will be like insurance - now that he has them, he won't need them! It's much nicer to hike when you are warm and dry. The NOAA radar shows the east coast under water but hopefully, only scattered showers in the Smokies.

This is the NOC when he first got there. He and Ninja (Gronk called him that because he sneaks up silently) were sharing a pizza while doing laundry at the NOC:

And here are some pix after the sun came out:

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Tough days in the rain

I just heard from Gronk. I have been watching the NOAA radar all weekend and knew he had to have been under water, while we here in Ottawa have been enjoying nice weather Saturday, and glorious weather today (Sunday). I'll just post his own words here, not my interpretation of anything, as I only received texts and we didn't speak on the phone.

April 26 - 14.8 mi today. Bagged.

I'm tucked in and ready to fall asleep. Left Franklin on 9am shuttle back to Rock Gap, where we came off the trail. Surprised to see some go back to another gap 4 miles closer. I guess they don't want to walk every blaze. To each his own. 

The hiking was very tough on me and I developed my first blisters so it was painful and difficult. We knew weather was coming so we wanted to make as many dry miles as possible. We made it to Wayah Bald shelter at mile 120.8. 

Not much else to say. It was hard and I'm all beaten up now. Weather was beautiful all day. Tomorrow  may be a hike in the rain. At least it won't go below freezing like it has been. 

Uh oh I heard raindrops on the tarp. It's just before 8 pm. 

April 27- Miserable hard day.

It started around 4 am when I woke to find my tarp had sagged and was lying against the hammock. Rain and condensation had soaked my quilts and puffy jacket. Not good as the puffy was the only insulation I had to wear. 

We packed up and took off during a lull in the rain but it started up soon enough. After that it was just cool, wet and miserable. 

I wasn't having the slightest bit of fun. Shoes and socks were soaked. My pants hung on me like I'd fallen into a river. You had to keep moving to keep warm, so no breaks were taken. 

We ended up walking through streams of water, totally soaked. Not looking forward to putting on those wet clothes and shoes in the morning. Why didn't I bring rain pants? Somehow I expected warm rain and not cold mountain rain. 

We made it to Wesser Bald shelter around two. I got out of my soaked clothes and put on my damp puffy and long johns and I had some hot instant mashed potatoes and a hot chocolate. The shelter was full up with 5 people and we were all in the sack at 3pm listening to the storm. 

April 28 - rain rain rain

It's 9 am and we're still in the sack. It's been 18 hours and it's still raining cats and dogs and horses.  I got up and had a bagel with cheese, mustard and hot sauce. 

One guy has cell reception and using my credit card had booked 5 bunks down at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center). It's a 5 mile down hill walk and if the rain lets up a bit, we'll head out. And if it doesn't, we'll have to leave around noon.

I've never heard such rain. It's constant -- never letting up. The path down may be like walking in a stream bed.

Later. Five mile rain walk to the NOC. Have a bunk but it's no hell. No linens or pillow or bottom sheet. Hikers make do. I have a laundry in and have only changed clothes. The laundry is a 7-8 min walk from the little building where we five are housed. Everything here is spread out and it's still raining hard. 

Must admit I was in pretty good spirits regardless. I thought about reality and just dealt with it. 

More later I hope. Have wifi and want to see if these go out.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Zero day in Franklin

I wasn't going to post today, because there is no hiking going on, but Gronk called and we had a long talk about this, that, and the other thing. He says being in a town makes him feel odd, maybe unbalanced somehow, off his game. He says it makes him feel "slowed down" because the miles aren't disappearing under each foot step.

When they came off the trail yesterday, there was a gaggle of about fifteen hikers all wanting a ride in to town. Then this bus showed up from the motel that accommodates hikers and is one of several owned by a former through-hiker. Everybody was able to get a ride into town at once, so that was fun. I asked about the dogs and he said they had not showed up at this junction, so he didn't know where they were. He did mention this one hiker called Gramma B (who is probably our age! even though we don't feel "old", we could be grandparents at our age). He said she was a "vision" in a Tilley-style hat and safari shirt, complete with a white shepherd dog named Ghost. The dog started his acquaintance by growling but turned out to be friendly.

He and MacGyver are doing laundry - I got a text this morning asking how to wash fleece! All the fleece I know is practically indestructible but they weren't sure. Anyway, I had not heard that it disintegrated in the wash so I suppose it was okay. Then later today, they are going to get shuttled around to an outfitter and the WalMart, for stuff and food. Gronk's feet still get cold in the hammock and he wants to remedy that. Plus he is thinking ahead to the Smokies where you must sleep in shelters if there is room, and he doesn't have a mattress pad. Of course, he doesn't want to carry anything more, so it is something to ponder about. I am thinking the shelters will be full and he can go hang in the trees and there won't be a problem, especially if he is quiet about it.

Gronk is holding a map of the entire AT (you can find it here) and is indicating how far they have hiked to date. Kind of a long way to go!

There may be some more photos at his Flickr site later. The uploading chip thingy wasn't working  before but I see two new ones just now.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Beautiful day in NC

[I just got some email from Gronk! Update at 2pm -- he just called from Franklin, has to charge his phone, do laundry, have a shower, etc. and will be staying in town all day tomorrow, not resuming the hike until Friday morning. It's called a "zero day" as in no miles logged. He's still hiking with MacGyver (Adam) who, as Gronk called, was checking the motel for bedbugs.]

First, his first state line crossing:
Beard coming in nicely, I see.

[From Gronk] 4/23 Betty Creek campground:

This is just a flatter spot on the side of a mountain but we're full up. Tents everywhere. Must be close to 20 people sharing a bit of ground. Mac and I got here first - don't know how - so we had first pick. I'm up on a slope and made my best hammock setup yet. It's the 7th one, so I must be getting better.

Today was a 10-something mile day. Some hard climbs but a lot of easy slopes too. Started out rocky and pebbly and for almost two hours, we were rock kickers. Hard to walk on that stuff. Then it turned to roots. Very technical. You didn't see the scenery because you were too busy watching each and every step so as not get tripped up. And then there was mud. Lots of seeps from the rocks making everything muddy. Rock hopping was the norm. 

We're camped with 4 dogs. They keep barking and howling. It's 7:30 as I write this and I'm just waiting to crawl into the hammock. I'm facing west and the tarp is rigged in porch mode and I got to watch the sun go down. Nice. 

There are no trees suitable for a bear hang but the dogs ought to keep them away. 

Tomorrow, when you'll be reading this, we'll have our first rock scramble where it's so steep we need hands to get up, or so they say. There's a fire tower up top which is only 1/3 mile climb. 

Nine miles to a gap tomorrow and then a ride to town for a zero day.

Going to be a noisy night. A fire is about to be lit and most of the people are twenty-somethings, so between dogs and way too loud talk, I might get some sleep. I don't know why people I've met are so loud at every shelter and campsite. Talk talk talk and loud loud loud. Look at me! This seems not to be a wilderness experience for them.

Now the view to the ground at the fire tower:

And the view out from the fire tower:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Goodbye GA and hello NC

[Note from Julia here: I have been assuming that the next state after Georgia is South Carolina, because South is before North when you are walking in that direction! However! When you look at the map, South Carolina only goes west so far and North Carolina does overlap with Georgia. In fact, according to the map I have, the AT doesn't even go into South Carolina. So sorry if I mislead anyone.

I got a text from Gronk as I was leaving yoga class and when I got home, there was this email from him. Enjoy!]

Monday 4/22 - Thank you GA, hello NC.

Well, if yesterday was a 1/10 today was 9/10!

What a difference a day makes. I was strong and my heart stayed in check. I kept up with MacGyver all morning and he only pulled away after lunch but I was with him again for the finish at six.  It was over 12 miles today, our longest.  We're at Standing Indian shelter. There were 4 climbs that took us over 4500 feet. Tomorrow is our first climb over a mile to about 5500 feet. 

It will be cold again tonight.  No cell service so I'm writing this ahead of time and will paste into email when chance presents itself. 

Beautiful day out here today. The woods were fantastic. I really enjoyed it today. The hiking was hard but wonderful. 

We tried to do our first legitimate bear [food bag] hang as there are no bear cables and MacGyver volunteered to use his line. It went over the branch pretty close to the trunk. We hoisted the bags, inserted the stick and then let the bags back down to where the [carabiner] meets the stick. It's the stick that prevents the bags from [sliding?] all the way down. At least that what's supposed to happen. Instead we let released the rope and nothing happened. The bags stayed where they were up at the branch and the stick dangled just above head height by held rope was stuck

[Note from Julia: I had to fix some garbled text and auto-corrected text that didn't make sense, so I hope I got this right. Here's how not to do it. Instead of tying string to the rock, put the rock in a little mesh bag! Here's the system I think Gronk is using. At least, it has a carabiner in it, but I don't know about the stick thingy.

UPDATE: Here is the system Gronk is using! Also seen here: ]

We had no choice to climb the tree to free it. It was a skinny tree and Mac was up to the challenge. 

Hope I can send this tomorrow from that big hill we're crossing. Down to 15% power also so may be last one until Franklin, NC Wednesday night. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Trail names and hoot owls

Gronk made a list of trail names he remembers, so far. I am sure I don't know how he recalls them all!

Punky, Catchup, Pyro, Hiccups, Lighthouse, Blue, Bones, Shabby, Batman, Stitch, Up Early, MacGyver, and Kicking Rock, who is a trail maintainer and hiked it in 1984 and is giving back an hour in work for every hour he hiked. He's on his third rotation.

This morning, Gronk sent me a message:

Typing with numb fingers. Really cold night but looks like a beautiful day ahead. Cold in the hammock - on the bottom this time too. Don't know why. Only difference was I had wind blowing thru my house. Slept with head under quilt and wore puffy to stay warm. Had my oatmeal and a coffee so am feeling warmer. 

Hope Spring arrives for you soon. Buds are starting to come here and occasional flower but still early. Rock Kicker told us the other day if you leave early, there are no flowers but you see the views; leave later and you have lots of vegetation but no views. Think I'd trade some warmth for the occasional view tho, lol.

Crossing the border in 4 miles. Made mistake when I said it was 20 miles off. 

Haven't looked at the terrain yet but really don't need too. It's hilly!  :)

Photo is of the Plum Orchard shelter here. I hung up the hill a piece from it. Hoot owls again last night and this morning and a group of coyotes announced they  were heading out to hunt just as I got settled into the hammock. 

Sunday, 21 April 2013

At Plum Orchard Shelter

Peter is in for the night at Plum Orchard Gap shelter, at mile 74.1 for the hike. Today was a long one, and he felt beat up, not wanting to eat much or drink water. It was mostly all climbing today. The first big climb was Kelly's Knob, one mile up, which took more than an hour to hike. He tried walking 50 paces and then resting but it didn't always work out. On the vertical places, there's really no place to rest or take your pack off, so you just keep going. As a result, he has sunburnt forearms and blisters just starting on his heels - the skin has separated from the substrata. Maybe with bandaids or moleskin, he can avoid a full blown blister.

Sometimes, he tried walking just 25 paces and then having a brief rest, especially on the uphill when he noticed his heart over 180 beat per minute. It was also tough walking downhill. Even with laces tied tight, he felt his toes being jammed into the toe box of his shoes.

By the time he texted me, he was thinking all he needs is some rest. He's hoping the wind dies down, but in the Gaps is where the wind tends to howl through and that's where they tend to camp. I suggested he try his jacket around his feet overnight but he said he has been wearing it in the hammock! I should have known he would do whatever he could and my suggestions are lame. But you know, you just want to help.

Here is the trail leading to Plum Orchard Shelter. At least it's pretty and there's sun!

It has been cold at night

Nothing much new to report. I heard from Peter this morning, via texts, that the night had been quite cold and he has to rethink how he keeps his feet warm because of it. When you are trying to keep what you carry to a minimum, you do things like make your quilts short and then they don't cover your feet. Maybe Peter can stuff a jacket around his feet at night, but I guess not if he is wearing everything he owns! I am sure he will work it all out.

This morning, it was 34F (1C) at 6 a.m. The wind shifted 180 degrees during the night and was blowing up the slope where he was hanging and right into his hammock. He got up and rejigged the tarp but was limited in how he could fix it. The insulation he was wearing for the night got damp (I guess from the wind?) and he was not sure if it would dry out as he started walking.

As he lay there, too cold to get up, he contemplated packing quickly and heading up the trail to cook breakfast and dry out in sun. He wasn't sure if there would be a sunny space where the other tenters were, where he could cook and dry out. They were all about 60 yards away from where he spent the night.

After he got up, he checked and his weather App said the winds were at 35 mph, which he knew was true based on his hammock being buffeted by winds, making if difficult to peck out letters on his iPhone keyboard! He figures there was a wind chill below freezing this morning.

Here he is "camelling up" as he says, at a water stop. Water on the trail comes in the form of natural streams and springs. You have to filter or treat the water before you drink it. Peter got a filter system, rather than chemical treatment system. It works pretty fast too, so what he does is put the dirty water into a container and filter it into the drinking container. Then, while another batch is being filtered, he drinks the first batch, so he is super-hydrated for a while until he has to pee it out. He fills all his water bottles at each water stop, and "carries" as much water as he can in his stomach too!

That blue blaze on the tree in the photo means the water was on a side trail. The main Appalachian Trail is marked in white blazes.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Over 100 kms so far

I just got a text message from Gronk. He has passed the 100 km mark, even if the U.S. still measures things in miles. It's a metric century!

He is at Sassafras Gap, logging in at 63.3 miles total for the journey. UPDATE: That means he has NOT crossed the border from Georgia into South Carolina. I got a text this morning (April 21) saying they are still in Georgia. I am not sure why I thought he has crossed state lines now -- okay, I see that I saw something on the interwebs when I Googled how to spell Sassafras that indicates there is another shelter with that name in NC and I mistook it. Anyway, it will be a big deal when they get to SC, but that won't be for another 30 miles or so and maybe two more days.

Bagging states is a big deal on the AT. Virginia is the longest stretch without crossing a state line, so it is encouraging when hikers finally cross out of VA and into WV, near Harper's Ferry. But, that's a long way away.

His feet are tired. I told him people are reading the blog and enjoying it and he said he feels bad he hasn't personally responded. But that's hard to do texting from a tiny keyboard in the woods! I also encourage you-all to check out photos at his Flickr site because I am not going to guess at which should be posted with which entry.

However, he sent me this one by iPhone:

Crazy! "Muscle Milk. Contains no milk."

He had to go because the sun was setting and he had just hung his hammock and still had to cook dinner. The temperature is dropping fast too.

I asked him how Adam was and he said "he is officially 'MacGyver' now" but didn't give me the reasons. Hey, having a MacGyver around is pretty handy, I would guess. Adam hangs out with the younger crowd at the camp sites, but that's okay because quiet is what Gronk needs. Gronk thinks that is is likely that hiking companions will change as the weeks go by, so I said, "even Doctor Who changes companions from time to time."

I checked the Hiawassee weather and it says it will be 4C tonight and 19C tomorrow, but dry! So, another good day hiking, I hope.

The photostream and some kids

For those who are interested, you can go straight to Gronk's Flickr site and look at his pix there.
Nothing is labelled or sorted, so you'll have to figure them out yourself. That's half the fun!
These are just the first batch of photos from his camera. The others I have been posting on the blog for him have come from his iPhone.

Also, Adam has a friend who teaches a grade 2 class. She asked her students to write out questions they wanted to ask Adam and his hiking friend Gronk, and provide tips for them while hiking the trail. It's not my video to post but I can tell you, it sure is cute.

Tip: Don't forget to brush your teeth.
Q: How do you get food?

Tip: Don't brag about the thumbs to the bear. [Okay, I am not sure I transcribed that one correctly!]
Q: Did you bring your pocket knife?

Tip: Have a good time.
Q: How often do you shower?

Tip: Make sure the bears don't sneak into your tent.
Q: Is "Hunk" a camping name?

[She meant "Gronk" because when the camera panned to the whiteboard, on it was written, "Good luck and stay safe on your journey Mr. Adam and Gronk!"
There was another child whose turn it was after the last girl, but she whispered to the camera as it panned away, "he's in the bathroom!"]

So cute!

Reality - it's real.

Here is the story Peter texted me from his iPhone. He says it is hard to type on it and so I have fixed up the typos. I have also decided to change the name of the (apparently) guilty person, just to be on the safe side.

"A guy called Ray came hiking into Hawk shelter after us. He was 27 and a machine, having hiked in one day what took us two. Funny, gregarious, a real charmer. He talks to these two women who each had been married for 30 years, Stitch and Up Early, and they thought he was the cat's meow. We all had breakfast at the picnic table next morning. At noon Adam and I caught up to Stitch and UE at Woody Gap just as the Lumpkin County Sheriff's car was pulling away ... with Ray!  Apparently, he had sent drugs to the Hiker Hostel to be delivered to Woody Gap but an under cover police officer brought them instead. When he admitted the box was his, he was cuffed and hauled off to jail. So he is off the trail but we don't know for how long. Stitch and UE were a little shocked because he was such a nice guy. They are both hiking because they say their husbands owe them this trip."

My comment is about the other dope-smokers that Gronk has run into along the trail. They do tend to be young too. I wonder why you would go into the wilderness to commune with Nature and then befuddle your brain? You can stay home and do that. When you are out in the woods, becoming more your true self, realizing the glory of reality, why would you want to dope up your brain? Reality is it. That's all there is and it is wonderful. [Climbs down off podium now.]

Friday, 19 April 2013

In Hiawassee

Julia here. I just got a phone call from Gronk. He is in Hiawassee with his hiking buddy Adam. Bert the German was hiking faster and went through Neels Gap before they got there, as evidenced by his sign-in on the register. It is good to have a hiking buddy, at least from time to time, even if you can phone your wife from the tops of mountains!

Peter says less than half the people he has met seem to have trail names. He will stay with Gronk but Adam suggested he might be called "Navigator" as he is always finding out where they are.

Today was a wet, cold, difficult day. It rained the whole time and they were walking in run-off that courses down the trails. Roots and rocks conspired to trip them up so they had to be careful. According to the White Blaze weather site, the temperatures were only around 11C so it was a chilly one, made worse by the rain. But, Gronk is still happy to be out there. As he says, no one is making him do this. He is there by choice!

 He started to say that there has been no "trail treasure"* yet but then he remembered a fellow he met on the train out of Atlanta, going to North Springs. This guy had been a federal prosecutor for white collar crimes but had been surplussed like Peter (told his job was no longer necessary) and so had gone into defence work. He talked to Peter about hiking the AT and then gave him a $10 "Miss Emily's Pecan Log Roll" as his first bit of trail treasure. Unfortunately, they may have lost touch because something happened with the email address that Peter gave him. I suppose if he finds this blog, he could reconnect that way.

As soon as they checked in to the Budget Inn, Gronk had a hot shower that felt worth the walk. When he hung up, he was off to find a laundromat where he could dry out all his clothes and fluff up his down stuff. It looks like weather tomorrow will be better than today.

*Trail treasure is when you unexpectedly find something good for free along the trail. Often times, there are former hikers who put out food in coolers (sort of like feeding the squirrels) or people leave stuff for others.

Some pix just came in. Here is one view from his hammock in the morning:

And here is Hawk Shelter on day 2:

Thursday, 18 April 2013

At Low Creek Gap shelter

Julia here again! I just got a nice "FaceTime" call from Gronk. I am calling him that now because his beard is coming in all grizzled and he looks more like a Gronk. He called from 'Low Creek Gap' shelter, where he is going to spend the night tonight. It is very hilly terrain, which makes it difficult for tenting but fine for hammocking. However, he will be spending tonight in the shelter, on the hard surface, because it is supposed to rain overnight, and packing up wet gear seems worse than lying on hard boards all night. I may have chosen the hammock myself, but then, I'm not out there. He and his hiking buddies want to get an early start so they can get to the next town, where they have reserved rooms in a motel. (According to Good Penny, who hiked the trail last year, the next town should be Hiawassee.) Apparently, packing wet gear takes time and they want to push on quickly come daylight. Here he is at Wildcat Mountain.

He says that was a hard climb. Last night, he and a hostel full of other hikers spent the night in Neels Gap. It was a full house and unfortunately, one older man snored non-stop, all night long. Gronk said, "there wasn't five minutes of silence between lights out and 4 a.m., when I finally fell asleep from exhaustion." The other hikers were equally annoyed. The guy was in the top bunk and Peter was right beneath him. Every time the guy woke himself up with his snoring, the whole bunk shook. Gronk had brought earplugs with him but they were of little help against that onslaught. He plans to buy some silicone ones (the ones he has are foam) and hope for the best. Or avoid that guy.

The owner of the hostel is a pony-tailed grey haired guy who has hiked the AT nine times. He made them all a chicken BBQ dinner for donations and said, if they donated enough, he would make them pancakes in the morning, which he did. Gronk said except for the snoring guy, it was swell. Also, on the advice of Good Penny (see the first comment here), Gronk got a knee brace. Unfortunately the store only had one! But that knee felt much better for it. Now, if only he can find another one. Here is the Neels Gap hostel.

So, aside from doing what bears do in the woods for the first time (he says, the lesson is to dig the hole deeper, otherwise turds roll downhill), Gronk is having a great time. He is feeling better physically except for the knees but even that may work itself out as time passes. He is enjoying himself very much.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Ramrock Mountain FaceTime

Julia here again. I was at my computer and suddenly got a dingle signal from "FaceTime", an app that Peter installed so we could communicate (besides texting and all the other ways). He was standing atop Ramrock Mountain and I could see all around him while we talked about how he was doing. It wasn't raining although it was a little overcast. He's still hiking with Adam and Bert, and they were taking a rest. He's going to be climbing and then descending Blood Mountain today. He's a little concerned about how his knees are feeling, especially on the downslope. I suggested many, frequent, short rests. They will end up at Lance Creek tonight. He says he has been comfortable sleeping in the hammock, although it gets hot under the quilt and then cold after he kicks the quilt off. It was about 15C in the hammock last night. He has been sleeping without the bug net as there have been no bugs, but today, he noticed gnats were out. He says waking up in the morning and watching the sun rise without looking through a screen, is wonderful. This photo just came in, as I was typing up this entry. Peter said he had been trying to send it, but I guess the phone just acquired a signal at the top of the mountain. So! So far, so good!

Hawk Shelter

Julia posting again. Peter arrived at Hawk Shelter on Sunday. Apparently it rained from 2 a.m. onwards and everything was damp in the morning. He texted me on Monday just before 6 p.m., as he had one bubble on his phone. He was tired and having knee "issues". I have faith that will work out as it is early yet and his body is just getting used to the work. He says everything hurts, but again, I hope that will become "normal" and he won't mind after a while. And he did say it was "still fun!" It had rained Monday morning but it was sunny when he was texting me. Here he is at Hawk Shelter: You can follow the weather all along the trail by going to the White Blaze Net.

And... we're hiking!

Julia here again, posting for Peter. On Sunday April 14, Peter sent me some photos from the top of Springer Mountain! He made it! When you turn around, this is your view. Here he is, about to sign the register at the start of the Appalachian Trail. These are two fellow hikers, Adam and Bird (Not sure which is which.) It depends on hiking style and speed, whether hikers stay together, so we can't be sure who will show up later on the trail.

And... we're in Georgia!

Julia here, posting an update for Peter. He has managed to send me some photos via his cell phone (I think), even out on the trail! It's amazing. Technology, that is. He got to Atlanta without any fuss. Going through security was easy. He says the guy in front of him had to remove his belt and shoes but they didn't make Peter do that. Then again, he doesn't look disreputable yet! He checked his pack because it had the hiking poles and a knife and other metal things in it, so only had a small carry-on with passport and stuff. We realized later that we forgot to pack a lunch for him so he was pretty hungry and had a headache, by the time he got to Georgia. He was picked up at the North Springs terminus of the MARTA system, with two other hikers. One of them was German and didn't speak much English, so it was handy for him that Peter was there to translate. This is the place that picked him up and will shuttle him to the trail the next morning. An interior shot. And here's Maggie, the helpful hostel dog. That's Peter's pack behind her (I am pretty sure), the smaller one with the green side pouch and the yellow shock cord. I am glad he is not toting as much as what appears to be in the pack with the red straps. He was weighing everything in grams before he left.

Monday, 8 April 2013

What's a Gronk?

Gronk was a character in a 60's TV show called, It's About Time, played by Joe E. Ross.  It was a fish-out-of-water sitcom where two astronauts travel back in time and must live with caveman Gronk and his family.  It didn't last long, but as a 10 year old, I remember Gronk, a bit of a dimwitted but nice guy, always saying, Ooh! Ooh!, when he finally clued in to what everyone else seemed to already know.

I've recently become interested in eating low carb and Paleo, and then found Mark Sisson's "primal living in a modern world" site and wondered if it would be possible to hike the A.T. eating in a primal or paleo manner instead of living almost exclusively on simple carbs and junk food like most hikers.

I had been pondering a "trail name" and have read it's better to give yourself one before you hit the trail as you never know what your fellow hikers will saddle you with.  And so Gronk was born.

NOBO Hobo?

Benton McKaye's original concept for a trail along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains was to have a nature reserve available for city dwellers living adjacent the trail where they could escape their routine on weekends.  He envisioned they would hike a section of the trail, spend the night in a shelter, and then return home rejuvenated.  But after WWII a returning serviceman, Earl Shaffer, hiked the whole trail which brought it to the public's attention and thru-hiking was born.

One of the big decisions is which direction to hike.  The majority begin in the south and "walk with spring" northbound.  They're called NOBOs.  But if you wait until most of the black flies are out of the Maine woods and begin late June or early July, you can hike SOBO and avoid most if not all the snow and cold.

Some hikers begin later in the season to avoid the spring snows in northern Georgia and along the Tennessee/North Carolina border.  Since they won't have enough time to finish on Katahdin before the peak is closed for the winter, they do a "flip flop" hike. Once they reach Harper's Ferry, the half way point, they leave the trail, travel to Maine and then hike hike south back to Harper's Ferry, completing their "thru".

And those with lots of stamina, time and money sometimes do a "yo-yo"  They will hike NOBO from Springer to Katahdin, turn right around and hike SOBO all the way back to Springer.   Two thru-hikes in 12 months!