Saturday, 18 May 2013

Zero day in Erwin

Gronk decided his blisters needed a rest, so he took a zero day in Erwin. MacGyver decided that sounded like a good idea too, so they are hanging out at the hostel. They also took the shuttle into town, to get some supplies and pass the time. 

I wanted to post the two sound files Gronk sent me - one of the noisy woods at night (cicadas) and the other of that woodpecker who kept him awake. I could play them on my computer because they are m4a files from his iPhone and I have a Mac. But it seems so complicated to post them to the blog. Apparently, I need to sign up to some sound cloud thing and get a player and blah blah blah. So sorry, until I feel motivated, you'll just have to imagine.

In the meantime, here are some of his thoughts while on the trail. He sent me point form notes so I have written them up for him.

May 14 

Remember there was talk of the norovirus making people sick from Hot Springs on. I noticed that there seemed to be several 'sobos' (south-bound hikers) showing up and talking of throwing up. 

The temperature was 2C (36F) at 3500 feet of elevation overnight, which made for a cold butt in the morning. The day began with an easy 4 mile downhill walk but then that became 5 miles uphill. The last mile was a climb of 1200 feet in elevation gain. There wasn't enough water along the trail and my tongue was hanging out at the top of that hill.

Despite this, it was a beautiful day, not too hot and not too cold. The last 5 miles of the day should have been easy, as the Guide indicated a slight downhill run. Unfortunately, it was anything but easy, as the hike up to and then along Big Firescald Knob Ridge and then down from it was a bit of a nightmare. Nearly everyone I talked to got a bit lost, as it was a rock scramble where you needed hands and feet. I felt like a mountain climber.  Not easy. 

It was a nine hour day to hike 15.4 miles but we had a milestone - we're at mile 300.3!

May 15

Long gorgeous day highlighted by a 3 min phone call to Julia where I heard everything she said but the only thing she heard was 'wa-wak-wak' like Charlie Brown's teacher.

I pushed it to complete 19 miles and my feet felt totally flat afterwards. In spite of that, I felt in the moment most of the day. I asked myself about life and what I wanted to do with it.  

I wondered why many hikers are always interested in getting down the trail. I'm here for a Zen experience. If you enjoy hiking, should you not linger during the day's hike? Yet an A.T. through hike doesn't seem conducive to Zen hiking. Through hiking demands you always look forward and northward to get to Katahdin before she's closed for the season. The goal is Katahdin always, and not smelling the flowers. Through hikers seem to talk about what's next and not what's now.

I got lost going down a rock scramble at one point. Headed back up and found Tedly scratching his head as well. We debated whether to go farther down where clearly many had gone before us, or up to the left where climbing over boulders was required. I finally said I'd go up to see if here was a blaze but none was to be seen.  Nothing but more boulders.

I went back down to where Tedly was waiting and he said let's go down but something didn't add up, as The Guide clearly indicated a summit with a road walk afterwards. Down made no sense. 

I suggested I scramble up the boulders one more time but go farther and sure enough there was a blaze around the next set of rocks. I called to Tedly and when he was up, we walked on and there was the gravel road. But it was more like a cart path and not a road and it wasn't made of gravel either. 

The Guide said 'East 1.5 miles,' so off we went to the right. Regardless of which direction you're pointed, East is always on your right hand when you're a NoBo. 

Because the road allowed us to walk side by side, I got to know something about Tedly. We'd been passing each other for several weeks but I knew nothing about him. 

He's 64 and has a beard down to mid chest and a pony tail to balance it out. He's been a documentary movie maker for 40 years and while in the military, covered the US troop pullout of Vietnam. This is his first, and will be his only, hiking experience. He sold his business and car and his stuff is in storage. When he's done the trail he will not hike again. His plan is to pull in a few favours and get himself embedded with US troops in Afghanistan next year. An interesting character to say the least. 

I caught up with MacGyver who was chatting with several hikers I had not met before - Peanut who begins chef school in July, Rider, Bill and Elenia. We were at a gap which contained I-26 which runs to Charleston.  He said they were going to a "meadow" indicated on The Guide. 

It was a 1.7 mile uphill slog but we finally made it. We camped in the trees adjacent to the meadow 
 and I had my hammock in a little field of wild flowers. I had dinner and was in bed by 7 pm. 

May 16

Spent a nice night at a meadow site. As I hiked, I noticed for the first time that there were more signs of human habitation. Power lines and ATV tracks, houses visible on hillsides, and fences!

The hiking was great except I acquired two new blisters and my big toes hurt again. We camped past the No Business Knob shelter where Whiteblaze says people were ill with the norovirus. I had a nice hang in the trees and a balmy night. I didn't use the net on the hammock as there were no bugs. I wore shorts and no insulating layers, as temperatures were finally in the teens C (high 50s F.) 

Total distance today was 16.6 miles.

May 17

The 6 miles into Nolichucky was harder than expected. I developed two new blisters, one each under big toe joint under the callus. Not sure what do to treat them. I was wincing coming down the mountain.  Surprising what body parts you really need, every second of the day. 

The walk into town fortunately was not taxing on anything else and it was a pleasant 3 mile downhill, after the inevitable uphill, into the gorge where the hostel is located.

I got here after the rest of our little group who were camped together (they had set out before me and hiked faster.) I chatted with Uncle Charlie, the Nolichucky's proprietor and arranged accommodations, laundry and a shower. I had until 3 p.m. to figure out the next resupply point which I think will be Hampton TN. 

The shuttle dropped us at the Food Lion and then we had a couple of hours to hunt up dinner which ended up being at a Mexican place. If I can figure out what to do with my blisters I'll be on my way out tomorrow. [NB Instead, Gronk took a zero day.]

Rain in Erwin TN.

May 17-18

Just got back from town. Bounced my box, had breakfast ($1.99 for egg, bacon, sausage on a biscuit), and a stop at Walgreens for hand sanitizer, bandages and alcohol wipes they gave me for free as I only needed a half dozen. Wonderful people hereabouts.  

Not sure what to do. No rush as there's camping 5 miles out and that will take 3 hours or a bit longer. I may pay for another night and let the feet rest. To go into town I used the corn pads and taped the heel blisters (3 on the same heel) and they felt not too bad once I walked on them a bit. Don't really want to get my shoes and socks wet and that'll be a given if I go out today. 

Just listening to a guy talk about the virus he picked up. He had a really bad day yesterday. Couldn't keep a saltine down. Crap. Literally. 

Watched the Nolichucky Fire rescue team in the river, practising.


  1. Wow Peter, what a few interesting days you have had. I hope that your blisters begin to heal, that must be so painful for you. Congratulations on reaching the 300 miles. Just think you have walked or hiked from Ottawa to Toronto and a little bit more (this puts things into reality for me). How amazing is that? You sure are meeting a amazing cast of characters on your adventure, they all sound interesting and it is great that they all have their reasons why they are doing this adventure on the AT. I love their names, Peanut, Rider etc. Keep on trucking Peter, take care and enjoy this adventure.

  2. Just think of it, you started with 8-10 mile days and now its 15+. More than a 50% increase!
    Interesting thoughts about living in the moment and thinking about the finish line. Its a perplexing issue for all of us but for some reason it seems a bit easier to appreciate the moment when we are outdoors. Maybe we are closer to our primordial past - something a caveman would appreciate.
    Happy Trails, Bonjour

  3. Thanks Kathleen. I have been watching the radar on the TN NC border and he could be under a thunder storm at any time today. I hope he can find shelter!

    Very good observation, Bonjour! He has indeed doubled his mileage from when he started. As for being closer to our real selves outdoors, I suppose it is similar to getting a "wake up call" from some life crisis. In any event, it is good that it happens eventually, hopefully without the crisis!

  4. So many interesting people you already met. It might be difficult to say goodbye, but thinking of all the other very interesting people you will meet is a great motivation factor.

    Keep in mind, many of the weird people you already know, me included are following your adventures daily :-)