Appalachian Trail–Tellico to Wayah Gap

Michael and I had been trying to get an AT trip in this fall but had to cancel once because the weather was not being cooperative.  However, on Wednesday the Weather Channel said that Thursday would be beautiful so we headed North to pick up the Appalachian Trail in the spot that Michael and Brian had ended on their last hike.

We were met at Wayah Gap by our shuttle driver, so we left our truck there and were driven to Tellico Gap to start our hike.

About two hours into the trip we finally conceded that the Weather Channel didn’t know what they were talking about as this was the only thing that we could see……

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It stayed cool and wet all during the day with the sun finally coming out at 5:00pm staying around for about 3 minutes!!!

We managed to have a great day of hiking anyway!!!

When we were waiting at Wayah gap there was a truck parked there with two hunters in the front seat and two dogs in the back of the truck.   Then as we started up the trail at Tellico, we met two more dogs, each with their radio GPS systems on their colors.   A bit further and we came on two more hunters with a dog.  When we asked, they told us that they were hunting bear and apparently there was some sort of race going on to see who could bag one first!!

About an hour later, we were met by a sweet dog who took a fancy to us and stayed with us as we walked.   He acted like he was hungry, so Michael finally fed him a handful of Cheese-Nips.   Then he REALLY stayed around!!!

After about 30 minutes, we could hear other dogs baying in the distance and his ears perked up and finally he took off down the mountain….

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We laughed thinking about the other dogs saying “Hey Ralph.  Why do you have Cheese-Nip breath?”!!

We were wondering if there would be any autumn leaves on the trees, but most had already fallen.  There were, however, some beautiful ones on the trail…..

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After walking 8.7 miles, we found a great campsite and started getting ready for the night…..DSC03503

After we got the tent up, Michael went out to find a good branch to hang the bear bag on and I started setting up our home for the evening.   Here I am using the “Insta-flator” to inflate our sleeping pads….

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Once we had our camp set up, Michael started boiling water to reconstitute our dinner for the evening……Chicken Vindaloo….DSC03516

It was yummy and even had a bit of spice to it!!   We figured that every bear in a 5 mile radius could smell it!!!

After dinner, we relaxed around camp.  Since our last trip, I had purchased a camp stool and found it to be really comfortable and MUCH better than sitting on the ground…..

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Michael’s clothes weren’t as warm as mine so he crawled into the sleeping bag…..

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We finally crawled in and closed the tent up about 7:30 and then read for a while before sleeping.   We both slept well and woke up a bit before daybreak.

Michael climbed out first, pulled down the bear bag so that we could get to our food out and started heating water for coffee and tea….

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He allowed me the luxury of having breakfast in bed…..

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It took us about an hour to break camp, load up our packs and hit the trail again, with beautiful sunny weather.

About 20 minutes later we came to the Wayah Gap Observation Tower….

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The tower was cool, but the views were magnificent……

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The low clouds looked like large bodies of water…..

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We continued up the trail, stopping once to filter some water and refill our water bottles…..

DSC03577 There were several cool trees and fungi that we photographed on the way….

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We happily completed the last 3.8 miles, arriving back at Wayah Gap at 11:45….DSC03611

This trip was a bit of a shakedown to see if we were going to be attempt the Himalaya trip that we want to do in May (remember….NO ONE mentions this to my Mom or to Michael’s Mom!!!!).

I didn’t have any trouble with my knees (even with a 20 pound pack) or with sleeping on the ground, so I think that we are ready to book the trip …..SSSOOOOO EXCITING!!!

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Product Review…..Tarptent & ULA Packs

 

I wanted to write a separate post about some of the equipment that we used on our trip.

First are our Backpacks…..  On our first Backpacking trip (on our honeymoon in 1977), we both carried frame packs that weighed MANY  pounds when empty….

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When we got ready to start hiking again, Michael did some research and came up with a company called ULA Equipment.  The name stands for “Ultra-Light Adventure” and all of their equipment is sturdy and SUPER lightweight. 

Michael chose the “Catalyst” model  (weighs 3 pounds) for himself and picked the “Circuit” (weighs 2.5 pounds) model for me.   Chris (the owner) was a great help as we decided which size of pack we needed and which type of straps would best fit our body type.   We must have chosen wisely because I barely felt the 18 pounds that I was carrying…..

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….and it is a pretty purple color!!!

We also purchased our sleeping bags from ULA and were plenty warm even though it was in the 30’s during the night.

 

The tent we chose was the “StratoSpire 2” from Tarpent.  Once again, the owner and employees have been really helpful, patiently answering all of our questions about water-proofing and setting up the tent. 

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The tent only weights 2.5 pounds and EASILY sleeps two. 

It was amazing how warm it stayed in the tent during the night.  Between the comfort of the tent and the warmth of the sleeping bags, we actually got too hot….amazing!!!

We are also using Thermarest Sleeping pads…..

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….and “Black Diamond” trekking poles.    For many years we had just used a staff but have both found that having two trekking poles makes the hike much easier!!

The new equipment certainly makes the hiking experience MUCH more fun!!!!

Appalachian Trail Hike–Day 2

 

We got up around 6:00 and immediately went to check on our bear bag.  Thankfully it was still there……

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We immediately started heating water for for coffee and tea and broke out the Granola bars.   Gotta love this photo with my head lamp on…..

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The leaf colors were fairly dull early on in the hike, but as we moved further South, they became more and more colorful.   They were especially nice early in the morning and just before dusk as the sun would kiss the tops of the trees….

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We cleaned out the tent and folded it down into this amazingly small bundle…..

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I found this cool tree that was covered in Lichen….

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It was even cooler when I put the camera under the lichen and took a photo of the underside….didn’t expect it to be brown…..DSC01383

We left camp around 8:00 and headed on toward our destination.  We had a good laugh about how our trekking poles would pick up leaves along the way…..

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We felt a bit like trash collectors doing community service!!!

We found this cool den built into the base of a tree……

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Interestingly, the tree was still alive, even though much of the trunk was gone!!

We also passed this mass which I originally thought was a dirt covered rock….

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As we passed it, we realized that it actually was a root ball from a fallen Pine Tree…..amazing size!!!!

We walked by a tree stump that had two large gallons of water sitting on it.  This was an example of “Trail Magic”, where non-hikers will go in and leave special treats for the passing hikers……

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We arrived at our destination (Dick’s Creek Gap) at 12:05, covering 6.8 miles in four hours…..not a bad rate considering that much of this part was either up or down……

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In total, we hiked 16 miles and were both a bit sore when we got back to the truck.  After driving 2-1/2 hours to get home again, we could barely get out of the truck!!!  Now, four days later, we are once again walking normally!!!

It was a fun two days!!!!!!

Day one on the Appalachian Trail

 

This past weekend, Michael and I enjoyed a two day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail.

We left our truck and met our “shuttle driver” at our destination (Dick’s Creek Gap) and were driven into southern North Carolina to Deep Gap.  We donned our backpacks at  9:40 and headed off for our adventure……

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The first part was hard for me….first of all, I was worried about whether or not I would be able to make it thru the entire trip.  Also, the trail was fairly rocky and was covered in wet leaves, making it really slippery.   I was SO happy to realize that we had covered the first mile…that was truly a milestone for me!!!

I loved these leaves that were tucked away under a tree and were still covered with frost.  I really like how the veins are so well defined…..

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We had to be careful to stay on the trail and not end up on a side trail, but fortunately most of those were pretty well marked……

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The foliage varied through out the trip, including several Rhododendron tunnels….

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We stopped for lunch at 12:05 at Muskrat Creek Shelter (about 4 miles into the hike) and decided to break out the stove and make some Cup-A-Soup.DSC01282

We were interested in the table inside the shelter.  You could easily see where so many hikers had set up their stoves …..DSC01288

The leaves were beautiful, however there were not a lot of good overlooks.  This was about the best one that we passed…..

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We reached the North Carolina / Georgia border and had to take a photo of the famous “Twisted Tree”……DSC01303

We stopped at our campsite about 3:30…..9.1 miles since we started this morning!!!   Michael started setting up our camp……

……first getting a rope into a tree to hold our food bag up away from any roving bears…..

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Next was to re-fill our water bottles from the water source…..if that is what you would call this tiny trickle of water coming from a pipe……

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Michael was able to use our filtration system to dip water out of the pool at the base of the drip.   It came out looking like this……

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GROSSS!!!    But, after putting it thru the filter, it comes out looking like this…..

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MUCH better!!!

Next was to get the tent set up…..

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…..and inflate the sleeping pads.   Our friend, Lyn, had given us this wonderful invention to use to blow up the pad.   You simply blow into this tube a few times, attach it to the pad and roll up the bag to inflate the pad……DSC01340

SO much easier than having to blow it up manually!!!!  

Michael got out the stove and cooked up a Rice, Brocolli and Cheese dinner for us……

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By this time we were so tired that we simply hung the food in the tree, and crawled into bed…..it was 6:30!!!!

The night passed slowly, mainly because our tent was on a slight slant and we both kept sliding to the end of the tent.  It was fun to listen to the silence in the woods, with occasional interruptions from Owls, Hawks and other birds.  Fortunately, we were NOT visited by bears!!!!

Day two to come……

Hitting the trail……

Back in January, Michael and I started planning for an upcoming trip to Texas to give my Mother a 90th Birthday Party.  We decided that we would add some vacation time to this trip and spend a few days in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  As we talked we started reminiscing about our honeymoon that was spent Backpacking in the Pecos Wilderness area of the Santa Fe National Forest.  As we talked further, we decided that we would return to the area and re-trace a portion of our honeymoon journey.

Now it gets interesting…..first of all, our equipment was all old, out of date and HEAVY, so Michael has spent a lot of time in the last few months searching for and purchasing some nice new equipment.

The next worry was whether or not my knees would hold up to such a journey.  My Physical Therapist said that he felt sure that I wouldn’t have any problems, but I was concerned anyway.

So, we planned to do a day hike along the Appalachian Trail to test out the equipment and my old (and remodeled) knees.  Today was the day for the journey………….

We had postponed several times due to the rainy weather, but since the weather service was predicting a decreasing chance of showers as the day went on, we decided to give it a try.

We arrived at the approach trail to Blood Mountain (the tallest mountain on the Georgia section of the AT)……

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The first thing that we noticed were TONS of mushrooms, of all sizes, shapes and varieties….

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This one was really interesting……

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….and Michael climbed the side of the mountain to photograph this one……

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As we hiked upward, the weather changed from fog, to rain, to sun and then back to fog or rain again……so much for the predictions!!!

Our first view from the top of the mountain was shrouded in fog, so we continued a bit further to the Blood Mountain Shelter…….

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….where we proceeded to have morning tea  (coffee, tea and Trail Mix)…..

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We enjoyed using our new stove……

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….which weighs over a pound less than the old one!!!!

As we started the return journey, the clouds started parting and the sun began to shine……

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At each outlook we were able to see the surrounding mountains more clearly…..

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We learned a valuable lesson when we missed the White Blaze that marked a turn in the trail…..

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….and instead ended up on this shear face of lichen covered rocks……

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As the rocks became more and more slippery, Michael decided that we had indeed missed the trail.  We ended up traversing the rocks on our butts and then climbing “cross-country” to return to the trail.    Needless to say, we watched diligently for blazes for the rest of the journey!!!

As we arrived at the turn to go back to our car, we were both feeling healthy and the weather looked good, so we decided to climb further down the trail and visit the backpacking store at Mountain Crossings.  Most of this leg of the journey was wonderful, except it started pouring rain just before we reached the bottom. 

We made a mad dash across the road to the store, only to be met with movie cameras and crew.  They were apparently making a Sci-Fi movie about a backpacker….will have to watch for it!!

The rain returned while we were in the store, but stopped long enough for us to make the short hike up the road to the parking area…..

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The great news is that my knees didn’t hurt at all and should be fine for future hiking.

The bad news is that we found out that the area we were planning to hike in New Mexico has been closed due to potential fires and/or floods, so we will not be able to backpack there this year.   After today’s success, we are thinking that we might make a day trip to one of the other National Parks in the Santa Fe area…..will let you know!!!!

Appalachian Trail Update

My friend, Lyn, who is hiking the Appalachian Trail has hiked over 400 miles (just 1700 more to go).

If you remember from my post about her setting out, I gave her a mascot…a blue Hello Kitty doll.   This is the photo that she sent (by text) of the day that Lyn and HK crossed into Virginia……

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If you are interested in following along with her trip, her blog is  HERE….  I am enjoying the virtual hike….it is the only way that I will ever do it!!!