Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Good weather but tough hiking

Just got an influx of emails from Gronk...

April 29 - hardest day yet.

Left the NOC around 10:30 a.m. and began climbing the 7 miles to the first shelter where we'd planned to stop. The woods and trails were damp from two days of rain. The sky was blue and the sun was hot so the humidity was up too. I didn't take long before I was covered in sweat. 

I booked a room at the Hike Inn for Wednesday night and we have about 30 miles to cover in three days. But when we got to the shelter, we felt like doing another 3 miles, one up and two down to a wild camp site between shelters. That will put us in good shape for Jacob's Ladder tomorrow, a half mile scramble that is so steep in parts you can reach straight out and touch the trail. 

So we did about 10 miles total but it took me over five hours to climb from 1700 feet to just over 5000 feet. It was STEEP!  The steepest yet. I had to stop and wait for my heart to slow down before going on about every two minutes. Very slow progress.  I thought the mountains of Georgia were trying to kill me, lol. I thought about Luc's theory that the heart may have only so many beats in it. At 180+ per minute, I'm using up my quota fast!

We have a tent city set up here -- maybe 12 people. I'm the only one who seems to think it's bedtime. It's 7:50 p.m. and getting cooler. We're camped at Locust Cove Gap at mile 147.6. No sign of locusts or a cove.

April 30 - like yesterday but harder!

Today on Jacobs Ladder was the first time I asked myself what I was doing here and who I was kidding. It was a frustratingly hard climb and I was taxed in getting over it. The downhills didn't help because in many ways they're harder than the climbs. Very steep and my toes are jamming into the fronts of my shoes making me wonder if I need larger shoes already. They say your feet do get longer and wider. 

I've picked up two new blisters, one each on the front of middle toes. But I have nothing to complain about. Stitch made contact with some sort of poisonous plant and has huge fluid filled blisters on the backs of her ankles. It's funny how a group of ordinary people can sit around a shelter floor eating dinner and looking at each other's hideous feet and still scarf down the food without a second thought. 

I'm wearing long johns in the hammock even though it's too warm for them. It really was a warm day today. I'm doing it in self defence as there's poison ivy all around my campsite and my legs will be saved (hopefully) should a midnight stroll be needed. 

It was hot and humid today. I was soaked in sweat all day long. Things are turning from brown to green. Buds are sprouting into leaves and there's now green grass on the flatter spots. Wildflowers were in abundance today adding colour to the sides of the mountains and I was pleased several times in rounding a corner to be greeted by a hillside of Trilliums. Very pleasant. 

Camped tonight with a very friendly group (our original group of twenty-somethings is long gone) of hikers at Cable Gap shelter at mile 159.2. There's Time Out who has a hammock, Bootzie, Tiny Tim, Enigma, Stitch, Honey and Mooner the newlyweds, Coach and Navigator, nice couple, Bonjour who is from MN, not French but says he can sing the Canadian National anthem sometimes in French. 

Tomorrow it's 5.6 miles to Fontana and a stay at the Hike Inn. Shower, laundry, ride to town for dinner and resupply for the Smokies. I figure about 4 days to Newfound Gap where I hope to hitch a ride to Gatlinburg TN for a zero day. 

The most amazing thing today was meeting a mother, Houdini, and her four kids, Lol, Tutu, the two girls and the twins, Hi 5 and Roadkill who are about seven years old. They're spending 200 days on the trail and figure to do 1500 miles. The daughters take the boys on a section. The girls carry a day pack and the boys weren't carrying anything. Houdini drives ahead, parks the car and then hikes back to meet them. She seemed kind of tense when we left a gap just as her kids were about to head up the trail. She made sure she knew our names, to tell the police I suspect, in case her progeny go missing. 

May 1:

Nice walk today for the most part but the feet are pretty banged up and tender. Still not sure if I need new shoes. 

MacG, Bonjour and I were picked up at Fontana Dam by Nancy of the Hike Inn. I had a shower and laundry is in. We've just been on the phone with Ranger Nick of the Park Service arranging our Great Smoky Mountains National Park back country permit. Ranger Nick made sure I understood there may not be a rescue available if needed and we were basically on our own. Then he said they have Ninja bears in the Smokies and we have to hang our packs as well as the food, because they've had several instances where the bears have grabbed packs when hikers wander a little too far from the tent. 

Bonjour has gone off with Jeff, Nancy's husband, back to the NOC to buy new boots. It's only 30 minutes away by car. Took us two and a half days of sweating. :)

Tonight we're going to Robinsville for dinner and resupply. Nancy and Jeff are totally laid back. There are six cats here and three dogs. 

I broke the arm off my glasses and Jeff gave me some tools and a magnifier and I made repairs. It seems to be holding. 

That's about it. Just chilling on the veranda and watching the cats sleeping. Life is good. 


  1. Check out Jeffs collection of native artifacts, he's got a lot! There's a huge (the Mother Ship) NOC outfitter in Gatlinberg. You should be able to get larger shoes at their store.
    Keep up the hike Gronk, it does get better and easier on the body after the Smokies.
    Good Penny

  2. Hi Gronk, Sorry to hear about your sore feet. Is it possible to change the lacing to lock in your heel? I do this for my running shoes but I'm not sure if its possible on hiking boots. Good to hear that you are planning another zero day for some R&R.

  3. Hi Gronk, what a amazing adventure you are having. So sorry to hear about your sore feet, perhaps you need a bigger pair of shoes. Take care and try to get some new shoes.

  4. got my first mosquito bite yesterday. Hope they don't get bad for you on the trail. baby powder is good for feet, I heard. Hot in Ottawa today too. I love it but couldn't do the kind of hiking you are on in it. Take care and tx for the vicarious adventure:)

  5. Thanks for your suggestions all! The main problem with acquiring more gear is that you have to carry it all. As for powder on feet, I think for this kind of rubbing, maybe Vaseline would work better - really reduce the friction. Not sure as I am not there and those are not my feet. Plus, I don't know if he brought powder but I do know he brought Vaseline. May, I have been wondering about keep the foot still inside the shoe and how to do that. I'm not sure there is a way. I think that could be why people wear hiking boots with ankles, to keep the shoe still around the foot. I think you have to find a solution that works for you and no one fits for all. Hopefully, he will work it out.

  6. Try "Body Glide" I used between my toes to prevent blisters in that area. I know keeping your socks dry is difficult at best, but try changing into a drier pair around noon. I also made it a habit at noon to have lunch at a stream, take off my boots and socks and cool my feet in the stream, I think it reduced any heat swelling and it felt good to cool the feet. You might have to ditch the shoes and get larger ones in Gatlinburg. After the Smokies the trail gets rocky with sharp pointed rocks so you might want to add foot beds for even more protection to prevent sole bruises. Find a hiker box and put your old shoe in it for someone else, bite the expense and eliminate the foot pain. Take a look at the toe caps on your shoes and see which one is scuffed up more, that will be the weaker leg, then every once in a while concentrate on making sure your picking up that leg the same as the stronger one, it will balance out the leg strength and distribute the pressure on the knees more evenly. Enjoy the hike, your free, your outside, and you’re a man on the move walking home.
    Good Penny

    1. Good advice, I thank you for Gronk! I will advise him in case he has not read this comment by the next time he checks in.

  7. Peter, you are out there because you have a dream and the courage to pursue it. It doesn't get much better than this. Enjoy the moment.


  8. Comment was about dogwoods.