Soon I will start posting journal entries again, I've been busy for a while. Keep checking for updates.


Journal Entries: 4/17 - 4/30

Monday, 4/17/2006

I had been sick so long I decided to see a doctor. That day I drove Leah's car to the Lexington Urgent Care center after dropping her off at her class. The doctor examined me and among other things, decided to remove a mole from my left buttock. He was curious as to the origin of my high fever and while looking for ticks discovered the abnormal mole. He told me it was abnormally shaped and colored. I asked him about my chronic cough and cold and he told me I had an infection that had spread from my sinus to my lungs, or in other words, I had bronchitis and sinusitis. I asked him if this meant I couldn't go hiking for a while and he said yes. He acted as if that weren't the big deal, it was that mole he was thinking about. He looked off into the distance as if pondering something metaphysical and then turned to me and told me, "We don't usually remove moles here you know. But in this case, I'd like to do it. Normally we'd merely cut it off, but because of the....the area...I need to punch it out." Punch it out? I told him I didn’t usually sunbathe “down there” and didn’t understand how the mole could be cancerous. He gave me one of those looks that say, “That’s why I’m the doctor” and quickly shot out some statistics telling me that moles down there could indeed be cancerous. He quickly left and I picked up a Scientific American magazine and read about black holes.

He returned with several sharp metal devices and a long needle. He told me to drop my pants and lie on the medical chair. As I felt the cold surface of chair I coughed like an old man. All I had wanted was some antibiotics. He cleaned the area with rubbing alcohol and let me know that I’d feel a pinch and just like that, he stuck a long metal object deep into my flesh. Instead of wincing I smiled, thinking it would make the whole experience much more pleasant. The whole time we made conversation, talking about hiking and about specific areas in North Carolina. He liked to fish in the Nantahala's, and as he talked about it he ground into my skin with a circular device for a while. He took a while and looked frustrated as he ground harder and harder. Finally it broke skin in an instant and then he cut out the cylinder of skin by pressing down around it and shaving it off with a razorblade. It was about 1/3" in diameter. When he finished I was irritated and squeezed his hand in a death grip when we shook hands. He wrote me a prescription for antibiotics, and for some sort of inhaler.

For the rest of the day, I couldn't sit down without wincing in pain.

The only upside to having to stay another week was that I'd be able to attend Pascha (Easter), as well as many of the services of Holy Week. I hadn't been fasting because of the hike, but I began fasting as soon as I arrived in Columbia. I was very glad of this aspect of the delay.

Tuesday-Saturday 4/18-22/2006

In the morning I felt worse than ever and took my antibiotics. I ate a banana and then went to my sick room to read. About fifteen minutes later I ran to the bathroom where I threw up the banana and then went into a coughing fit that lasted a couple minutes and echoed in the bathroom. This was followed by dry heaves which produced only about a tablespoon on bile. I didn‘t feel good. After washing my face and brushing my teeth I went back to bed in an elderly fashion. I couldn't stop coughing so I began using the inhaler every hour to clear my lungs. The rest of the day I took it easy and went to bed early again.

The next day I felt a little better and me and Leah went to the Congaree river after she finished her classes. After the hike in the mud to the riverside we walked out onto flat hot rocks. The river is at least 30 yards across. Columbia is muggy in the summer and our skin quickly became glazed in the heat. We took our shoes off and waded into the river to some rocks in the middle. Once there, we lied in the sun for a while. I felt all right. I was frustrated with being off the trail and my own perceived fragility. Why did I have to get sick? I was always complaining, like a baby. I was sick of it. Leah and I watched the river flow by and we ate baby carrots.

As the week passed with the antibiotics I felt progressively better. I attended some of the services for Holy Friday and Saturday but had to spend much of the liturgy in the hall because the incense bothered my cough.

Saturday night-Sunday, 4/22-23/2006


Leah prepared both of our Easter baskets and put dark chocolate, Pascha bread and small chocolates in them. It was Sunday night and I finished putting on a button-up shirt and slacks and decided I wanted some real Pascha treats for my basket, so Aaron and I jumped in the car and drove to Wal-Mart. I got a six-pack of Guinness, some fancy cheese and crackers. On the way back I got pulled over by a Cop for Leah's dead headlamp.

We arrived at Pascha at 11:36pm, six minutes late. Of course, all the Russians in town swarm the local parishes when Pascha comes around so the Nave was literally teaming. When I arrived, I looked for Leah in the choir and found her familiar, comely face immediately. I settled down for the four hour service, trying to take in the songs, the chants, the ornate beauty of the most beautiful time of year.

About a half hour later as the Nave was darkened and a frighteningly pretty chant was sung I thought about my condition and felt all right about it. Soon I would be back on the trail, and I was blessed enough to have a place to stay for a few weeks. Fr. Thomas lit the first candle and soon the entire nave was illuminated with flickering candles. After three processions around the church I stood with the other parishioners watching the cloaked priest bang on the door to the front on the church. The clanging bells stopped.

“Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death- and upon those in the tombs bestowing life”

It came softly at first from Fr. Thomas’s beard-enshrouded lips and slowly the choir joined him. It was so humid and hot even though it was 12:30 at night. I began to sing, and soon everyone was singing and it became absolutely clamorous. I watched the beeswax melt down the candlestick and onto my wrist.

Later that night after the torturous, glorious service was finished and we took communion (although I didn’t) we went to enjoy the Easter feast…at 3:30am in the morning. I put my Guinness in the freezer and looked around: baskets brimming with food were everywhere. Most of the parish had been fasting from meat and dairy products for 40 days! Immediately we all dug in and it was awesome.

I went to bed at almost 5 in the morning, so full it hurt- with the tanginess of jalapeño’s on my lips, grease on my face and the bitter aftertaste of beer still in my mouth. I love Pascha.

Monday-Tuesday, 4/24-25/2006

The Picnic and Hot Springs.

I woke at 11 the next morning with a horrible taste in my mouth. I immediately jumped into the shower and brushed my teeth. I kept telling myself- a few more days and I’ll be back in action. Spring was making itself known and I ached to see it out in the mountains.

At around 2 Leah and I drove to Lake Murray for the Pascha picnic. It’s about a 45 minute drive and when we first arrived, all I could think about was basketball. Finally I was feeling better and it was time to ball on some kids. I ate a lot of food and then joined Leah on a blanket to help her study for a test. Soon I ached to play basketball and left to organize a game. It was myself and a kid against Lawrence (an older guy) and some kids, but all that’s important is my team won and I was barefoot. It felt pretty good to beat teenagers and an older guy for some reason (just kidding). I returned to the blanket and then heard Bret’s chicken salad had arrived. It’s good stuff so I got up and helped myself to some. Bret had arrived on his new motorcycle but he’s a tightwad so he wouldn’t let me ride it.
When Aaron arrived we organized a larger Basketball game and he even brought me shoes. My team lost. I don’t want to say anything more about that game.

Every year Aaron and I swim across the lake to the other side and then swim back. The Keating crowd began harassing us to do it again this year but I explained how I was just getting over Bronchitis. They didn’t care. They called me names and offered me cold beer if I did it. So Aaron and I took our shirts off and ran down to the lake and jumped in. It was pretty cold. On the way over, I realized I wasn’t able to inhale fully due to my illness. So I turned over to my back and felt the brown water soaking in my beard and looked up at the partly cloudy sky. I love swimming in brown lakes for some reason. The residue on the surface collected on my face and when I briefly went underwater I tasted the sweet water. I bet the stuff could kill you. Aaron and I felt the familiar feeling of fatigue and blood rushing to our muscles as we neared the other side, which generally feels good.

We made it to the other side and both urinated quite flamboyantly and openly and then swam with some difficulty back.

I jumped in a seat and had Bruce Keating toss me a beer. For good measure Aaron grabbed one despite condescending glances from his mother.

We drove home, and I went shopping for resupply that night.

On Tuesday we were going to leave, but we didn’t because we weren’t ready until around one and didn’t feel like leaving. So I sat one more out.

Wednesday, 4/26/2006

I woke so excited I couldn’t contain myself. We packed the van up with my supplies and headed off for the four hour drive to Hot Springs. On the way the weather became quite menacing and I wasn’t excited about spending my first day back on, now completely out of shape, soaked in the rain. We arrived at Hot Springs and parked at the campground. It’s really a charming town, extremely small, but an atypical Appalachian town due to the hiker’s presence (the trail goes right down Main St.) and the small tourist industry there due to the springs. It has an offbeat feel to it.

Leah and I walked around in the rain, then decided to get something to eat. Most of the places were closed, but we found the ice cream parlor open. Leah ordered a root beer float and I got a dipped cone and we sat by the window watching the rain. I was anxious. I looked at the rain and imagined being soaking wet for the first few days. I saw myself soaking in some corner of the forest, crouched over and miserable. I looked up at the mountains and noticed some rocky cliffs hanging out above the French Broad River. “Hey Leah, there’s Lover’s Leap.”

In the fall of 2003 Leah and I had gone to Hot Springs together on a church camping trip. We were still getting to know each other. We hiked up a white blazed trail, not knowing what it was, to a rock overhanging called “Lover’s Leap” known as such due to a few lovers that had tossed themselves over in the 19th century. A couple hikers walked by and explained to me that it was the Appalachian Trail which went from Georgia to Maine that I was standing on. I looked at Leah slyly and related to her that I’d always wanted to do something like that. We went further up the AT to a small peak and sat on a patch of moss and both discussed how much we liked the mountains. Although I was talking to her my mind was spinning. I was gripped with endless thoughts about what an adventure it would be to hike the Appalachian Trail. I imagined continuous mountains, rustic Appalachian villages, clear mountain lakes, etc. After that day I spoke about it often, until the next summer in 2004 I announced my intention of thru-hiking the trail to my family and to Leah.

It got late and we stayed the night in Hot Springs. I didn’t want to leave that late in the rain. I bought a bottle of White Merlot and we set up our tents at the campground braving thunderstorms throughout the night.

Thursday, 4/27/2006

Second First Day.

In the morning we ate a hearty breakfast at Smoky Mountain Diner and talked about how long I had been off. The diner was full of hikers I didn’t know, talking eagerly amongst themselves. I was so out of the loop. I recognized Crutch from Franklin eating in another booth and said hello. Everyone ahead, I’m sure, thought I had quit the trail due to the abrupt way in which I left. We then drove to bridge and Leah decided to hike with me on the trail for about a half mile to see me off. It was still cloudy, but there was no rain, so I left my raincoat off. She took a couple pictures of me ready to head off again and we left together, climbing down steep steps off the side of the bridge and onto the trail along the swollen French Broad river.

White blazes! And the green trees, so green, for Spring had come while I was gone. Everything screamed out that life was struggling out of the brown winter: green shoots, leaflets, insects, moss, mushrooms, mist, centipedes, salamanders, and all at once. Leah walked a little bit behind and we were both sad to part again. My now 60 pound pack literally tore at my shoulders and I knew I was stupid for carrying such a big pack. I am a stubborn person and romanticized my weight. I thought I was more rugged then the rest, plugging up mountains faster than others with more weight on my shoulders. A bigger pack to me represented bigger penance.

I now realize this is just stupidity. Leah and I kissed sweetly and just like that, she turned around and was gone. I absorbed my new home, alone in the mountains once again. White blazes clearly marked my path ahead. “I’m back!” For a mile the trail was flat, following the river which at some points water almost flowed onto the trail. And then the trail shot straight up the mountain, switch backing viciously up the mountain. Immediately my heart began pounding and I was out of breath. The coffee and food from breakfast churned in my stomach.

Some time later I took my pack off next to a large rock because I was already too hot in my long sleeve shirt to breathe. My pack fell with a thud and almost rolled off the edge. I took my long sleeve shirt off and I was steaming, which I liked. Everything was wet due the recent rain. I sat down and my butt got wet immediately. The air was clean.

I got up and kept pressing up the mountain, forcing myself to take each step forward. With each step, I felt better. Soon I was hiking fast and digging my poles in enthusiastically. I turned around another switchback and suddenly things became familiar. I looked at the rocky outcropping and saw Leah and myself, both barely 18, sitting together on the rocks. I saw myself on the rock, shorter and thinner. My face was so smooth. My hair was dyed black. I crouched over and looked into my eyes. They looked back at me with wonder and blind idealism, not seeing me. I realized at the moment I would do anything to talk to myself at that moment, to warn myself. “Listen to me”, I whispered. The other me lied back on the rock and stared into space, musing to Leah about why love drew people to jump off cliffs. He wouldn’t listen.

I left the rock realizing how much two and half years can change someone.

I hiked on that day, moving at a steady pace for several hours until I came to a small concrete dam with a bench next to it. The sun came out. I ate cheese and meat together and then drank several large gulps of wine from my Nalgene and relaxed. I heard voices. Several hikers hiked up the trail and said hello. I asked them, “Hey, are you guys thru-hikers?”. “Yup!”, said a short, happy girl. “I’m Harley Hog-pit!” and then Step-and-a-Half and his wife introduced themselves. I had already met Step-and-a-Half at the Walasi Center (the first hostel at Neels Gap) and didn’t like him at all. Apparently he was really slow, as I was gone for three weeks and he was still behind me. “I’m Caveman, I just got back on the Trail”, I told them casually. “Caveman!!?? I thought I would never meet you! I love your entries, they are hilarious. Let me get your picture, here, stand here and make a caveman pose”, Harley Hog-pit exclaimed to me. I didn’t expect that at all, but I smiled and posed for her. My register entries are extremely strange, and usually consist of grunts, descriptions of food and privies, and my bad artwork.

I moved on and hiked up another mountain for several mountains and once at the top hiked a half mile off trail to reach Rich Mountain Firetower. The weather was perfect now. I spent a half hour lying in the sun on the tower and took a couple pictures. I got cell reception so I made a few calls as well.

Once down, another couple miles downhill, and then uphill led me to Spring Mountain Shelter, a small one right on the trail. My mileage for the day was only 11 miles but I was wasted. I made little conversation at first. The shelter was full and there were tents everywhere and I had to hike up a side trail to a small knob where several more tents were staked to find a clearing.

I set up my tent on the knob, got water, used the privy, and then met some new people. I was really quite gloomy and didn’t talk much. Harley Hog-pit and I stayed up a bit and talked by the fire. She was really a funny girl, we were talking about what it would be like to have kids someday. I went to bed and drank the rest of my wine and started reading “ALIVE!”, a book I had bought in Hot Springs. I fell asleep with my face in the book.

Friday, 4/28/2006

I woke several times during the night due to animals. In the morning I woke feeling fairly well but coughing. I used the inhaler and got out of the tent. Almost everyone was still sleeping but I packed up and left. A few miles onto the trail I was passed by a cross-eyed shirtless hiker carrying a staff and sporting an enormous beard. His name was Dirt Knapp, he told me, but he hadn’t thought of a trail name yet. I chuckled at what I thought was a joke but his face was dead serious. Dirt Knapp, apparently, was his legal name. He showed me his license. I hiked a few more miles trying to keep up with Dirt Knapp but he eventually was out of reach. About a mile later downhill I came to a road crossing at Allen Gap, NC208/TN70 was a very small road. On a tree there was a sign that stated if hikers went a quarter mile to the right down the road, and up the driveway just past the “Welcome to North Carolina” sign, they wouldn’t regret it. So I went.

Once up the steep, long driveway I came to a quaint southern house. There were backpacks and boots next to the door and a dog barked from inside. I felt my stomach juices flow. The door opened and a charmingly beautiful woman opened the door and told me to take my boots off and leave my pack on the porch so I could come in and eat. I smelled a warm aroma of food and the smell of a clean womanly house flow from inside. I took my boots off and came inside. There were four hikers sitting at the table eating and the woman told me to go wash up in the bathroom. The inside of the bathroom was immaculate, wallpapered, and potpourried. I had to go, but I didn’t out of shame. I sat down at the dining table, and saw three people I hadn’t met. Dirt Knapp was there as well. A friendly looking fellow introduced himself as “Ramps”, another with an English accent said, “Just Steve” and the third was “Rock Chalk”. I introduced myself as Caveman and they stated they remembered my entries. The nice lady and her husband introduced themselves as former thru-hikers and that they bought the home specifically to help out hikers during the summer. She poured me a glass of lemonade and coffee then asked if she could start me off with blueberry Belgian waffles. “Uh-huh” I said as my eyes glazed over and I drooled openly onto the table. I looked through the register with pictures to see how far everyone I knew was ahead of me. They were everywhere from 15 to 23 days ahead of me. That wasn’t so bad. I sipped my coffee and felt a surge of gratitude. I thought to myself that these folks must be Christians and immediately my suspicions were confirmed. I could see it in their faces. She brought me my waffles, which I ate very quickly and then asked me what I wanted for lunch. I was awestruck, “Lunch too?” Yes, and homemade dessert after that. She gave me three options, all mouthwatering- and I settled with a pulled-pork barbeque sandwich with homemade coleslaw and potato salad. After that, she brought me out a warm brownie covered in fudge served with vanilla ice cream. I couldn’t believe it. They did their evangelical Christian spiel, as I expected, and offered us Calvinistic (what they called Christian) theology books for free. I think what they are doing is a good thing and I enjoyed their little talk, but I could tell my fellow hikers were extremely uncomfortable with it. Dirt Knapp challenged them a bit, but apparently didn’t feel like getting into it as they were being so generous so he stopped. They explained how some hikers were so mad at their “witnessing” that they had torn off the sign inviting fellow hikers. I would have taken one of their books if I didn’t already have one. Dirt Knapp and Rock Chalk left and Ramps and I stayed a little longer chatting and watching their dog do some tricks with a ball. We left together and got water out of a spring on someone’s front lawn.

Ramps and I started hiking together and engaged in deep conversation immediately. We started talking about India, where he had traveled extensively, and about economics. He told me a bit about himself- he’s an investment banker from Manhattan and decided to take a year off of his busy life to hike the trail. I immediately liked Ramps immensely for his good nature and thoughtfulness. Time flies when you’re lost in conversation and soon we had gone three miles to Little Laurel Shelter where I stopped and wrote “CAVEMAN IS BACK” with an accompanying drawing which I then photographed. There were 7 more miles to the shelter I was heading to and it was only 2 in the afternoon so I hung out at Little Laurel for a while and read. I headed back out onto the trail at about 2:30 and by this time I was alone.

For five miles I went up and down mountains feeling like I was starting to get back in shape again. After a long, strenuous climb up some rocky trail I came upon Dirt Knapp laying out on a rock and eating peanut butter and tortillas. I stopped and joined him and soon Steve came as well. It was a spectacular view, 360 degrees of blade sharp mountains. Dirt Knapp went on a rant on how high vistas are the crappy views, and that real views are inside of the forest: trees, streams, brushes, etc. I sort of agreed with him. We all took off together and struggled for five miles on the ridge, rocky and with steep drops on both sides, till we came to Jerry Cabin Shelter which was packed with people. I had hiked over 16 miles and my feet were burning. All the tent sites were taken so I set up my tent practically right on the trail. After a grueling hike down hill to get water I set up my stove and cooked a Lipton Side, macaroni and broccoli. Crutch was there with Wonderfoot, who generally were an item now. A huge fire was made and I stayed up talking to all the new people, and then I went into bed and read Alive!, which I was quite obsessed with by now. I felt a strange connection to Parrado, one of Uruguayan rugby players trapped in the middle of the Andres and forced to eat their dead friends raw in order to survive. As a result of reading the book I was constantly dreaming of the Andes and horrifyingly, cannibalism. This night was no different, except with a change in location. I was lost somewhere in Greenland next to a downed fuselage where I lived. Everywhere inside the fuselage were frozen cadavers with frozen facial expressions. They would whisper as I would approach them to take a piece of meat and then they would suddenly start and scream and would be animate when I would cut them.

Saturday, 4/29/2006

I slept in the next morning due to a fitful night; it was 9pm before I even got out of bed. The only people left were Dirt Knapp, Crutch, Steven, and Wonderfoot. Steve was just leaving. I was still lost in my dream when I sat down and boiled water to make oatmeal.

I set off at last with a slow start and over seemingly endless terrain. Four miles in I came to the Shelton Graves where Crutch, Dirt Knapp, and Wonderfoot were having a snack. I examined the graves closely, ate a powerbar and then kept hiking, following the trail steeply downhill along an overgrown logging road. At the bottom there was a shelter where I stopped to get water. Dirt Knapp showed up and offered me peanut butter and tortillas, which I gladly accepted as I was already low on food and still a couple days away from Erwin. Downhill a little further I ran into a somewhat overweight couple with a little poodle. They asked me if I wanted to have lunch with them and I agreed, even though I was quite full from the tortillas. We hiked together for about a mile to Devil Fork Gap where their SUV was parked. He boiled me a hot dog, and gave me a beer. Dirt Knapp joined me and we ate the hot dogs with effort. The couple’s respective trail names were Rambo First Blood, Teardrop, and Angel (the dog). Rambo First Blood had done a southbound thru-hike a few years earlier. I really liked them. They were really southern, from Tennessee. I stuck an extra beer in my pack for later.

I thanked them and took off with a surge of energy. I was getting my trail legs back and I decided I was going to school Dirt Knapp, so I hiked the next 7 miles fast. It was tough terrain - I passed a waterfall and a toilet sitting on the trail, and then shot up a mountain till I almost couldn’t take another step. The last mile was torture and Dirt Knapp was on my ass but I kept on pushing until the difficulty of the task gave me strength. I pushed hard with my poles, pushing myself uphill, breathing deeply, and soon Dirt Knapp was behind and next thing I knew I was pulling up to the sign for Hogback Mountain shelter, which is .2 miles off the trail.

I ran down the trail feeling a rush as I imagined my swollen feet boot free and massaged (by myself) once I arrived. I pulled up and saw Ramps sitting down in the shelter, a couple I hadn’t met, and Steve the Englishman. I took my beer out and opened it, talking voraciously right away. I was glad Ramps was around again. They told me a couple miles away there was a road crossing where a restaurant was only a couple miles away and I announced I would wake early to have breakfast there. Soon Dirt Knapp pulled up and I informed him that he had been schooled. He replied that I was going trail crazy already.

I took the quarter mile walk up and down hill to get my water, then I set up my tent right behind the shelter. Clearwater and a girl whose name I don’t remember had a bow, a rod, a board and rock both with holes in them and some hay with which they intended to start a fire. I didn’t believe it at first, but this guy (Clearwater) had it down pat. As he would hold the wooden rod down tight into the board with the rock with the hole in it (which was waxed) he would whip the bow back and forth quickly and regularly till black ash would appear in the hole in the board and it would smoke. Then he would pour the hot black ash onto the straw and blow until a flame started- and so on. Easier said than done. Steve the limey tried repeatedly and it took him about 45 minutes to get it right.

It got dark and after I got talking to Ramps about India I went to bed and read until owls lulled me to sleep.

Sunday, 4/30/2006


I opened my eyes in the tent and got my headlamp out to read. After a while I found my cell phone and turned it on to check the time. It was 5. I jumped out of tent, dreaming of the restaurant only miles away. I got my water and manically packed up and the sun was barely creeping out of the mountains in the horizon making the sky turquoise blue and dark purple. As I propped my overweighed pack on, Ramps creeped out of the shelter rubbing his and said he thought I was crazy. I told him I’d be eating bacon and eggs while he would be eating instant oatmeal. I intentionally didn’t eat anything, wanting to enjoy my breakfast to the fullest.

I didn’t have a flashlight, I had left in Columbia while sick, so for the first mile or so I tripped in the dark several times. Then the sun rose above the horizon and it was a beautiful morning and the trail was rocky and enshrouded in mist. I saw some of the first flowers on the trail, thousands of yellow and purple pedals everywhere. I was hyper and hiked extremely fast and before I knew it was at Sam’s Gap where the I-26 crossed overhead and the trail goes under the overpass on the US23. It started raining hard so I got under the overpass and took the databook out. There were no cars on the road- but then again it was barely 7 in the morning. I realized I left too early to catch a ride easily and this greatly disturbed me. I took off my rain clothes and sat in my sweaty T-shirt praying for a car. I was starving but I stayed strong and in about 10 minutes a truck came by. I stuck out my thumb and smiled but he trucked on by. I was angry so I cursed him. I was so hungry and there was a fresh poptart hanging out in the top of my pack. I took out the silver package and stroked the sprinkles beneath the foil. Another truck came and passed. Just as I was about to get angry a man in a “Disabled Korean Combat Veterans” trucker hat stops in a jet-black Ford F-350 and asks me if I am trying to get a ride for breakfast. “Yes!”, I tell him and without saying anything else I toss my pack in the back and hop in.

His name was David, a man of normal height, about 50, with a large build and a kind face with glistening eyes. He drove me two miles up the road to the Exxon where the Diner is located, but it was too early and it was closed.

“Well, if your looking for a real breakfast, I am going just 10 minutes down the freeway for that very thing myself. I eat breakfast each morning here and its good.”

I looked into his eyes and trusted him, so I accepted his offer. He liked to talk and he liked to help out hikers apparently. He told me of his tours in Korea and getting shot in the leg. I told him I wanted to join the military and couldn’t and he told me I wasn’t missing anything. I insisted I was and he insisted back that I wasn’t. It really wasn’t worth talking about, since there was no chance of me getting in.

We arrived at the exit and pulled into a Huddle House. My gastric juices went haywire as we walked in and I smelled the aroma of bacon and pancakes. He asked for “The Usual” and I asked for the biggest combination on the menu: A stack of pancakes, bacon, sausage, hash browns, biscuits and gravy and Sunnyside up eggs. He told me he was a devout Christian and through our conversation I quickly figured out he was a charismatic. I didn’t feel like cramping his style so I didn’t mention me being Orthodox, instead I just told him I was a Christian too and I let him talk about it without interruption. He looked a bit lonely in fact.

My coffee was brought and I drank it immediately.

The food came and I stopped listening, I just ate. The yolks broke out of the delicate yolk skin and got all over my biscuits and gravy and then I topped it all off with exorbitant amounts of hot sauce. I mixed the eggs with the hash browns and then piled it on buttered toast and ate it. I poured syrup on the sausage and bacon and ate them together. After I finished the main plate, I moved on to the pancakes, pouring hot syrup on the stack which melted the butter into buttery streams. He told me how he had witnessed to nonbelievers and heathens who were hiking and I thought to myself if he knew what I believed, he would probably consider me a heathen. I finished the pancake stack and was suddenly overtaken with a feeling of great grief as I was out of food.

I was finished, so I started listening again as he was telling about his theory of High Ground which he derived from a smorgasbord of arbitrary verses from the bible, as most American sects and theologies are based on. I am always amused when people begin taking this route, quoting verses authoritatively as if that should end the argument, when there are always an equal amount of verses to be found stating quite the opposite of what is being proposed.

“…that’s why the Appalachian Trail is so important, Caveman. It has been taken by the darkness. That’s why you Christians need to be sanctifying the high ground, the trail. Take back the darkness Caveman!!”

“All right David, I will. I’ll take back the high ground.”

I said this seriously even though what he was saying was out there. It was out there, but I liked him, so I agreed to do it. He then paid for my breakfast, which I didn’t expect. Even though we were finished with breakfast he wanted to keep talking which I didn’t mind since he bought my breakfast.

“Have you ever been Whitewater rafting?”

“No, never. I’ve never really had a chance.”

“Great, because Erwin is where the Nolichucky river crosses. That’s one of the greatest places for whitewater rafting. I can’t do things like that, look at my leg! You must do it, or, I’d like you to do it if you want.”

“I would David, honestly, but I really am on a tight budget so I shouldn’t.”

“Do you have enough mone-”

“Yeah I have enough, but not enough for excursions like that. Don’t worry about it.”

“No, come with me. Come on.”

So I followed him into the gas station next to the restaurant and he went to an ATM and put his card in. I felt really awkward standing behind him, not sure what to say to convince him to not give me money. I loathe taking money from others, probably because our family used to have to fundraise for missionary work. Which by the way is a big scam. He turned around with a fold of bills smiling and he handed them to me. I stared at the 20’s wondering what to say.

“Take it. I want you to have money for excursions. Go whitewater rafting if you want.”

So I took it. I didn’t count it, I put it into my wallet feeling sort of ashamed. We got into the car, and because I had told him about my illness in Hot Springs and he had heard me coughing during breakfast he bought me a supplement called Airborne at a drug store nearby .

On the way back to the trailhead we talked more. He told me the money he gave me didn’t even make a scratch in his budget because he owns a fruit orchard in the hills. He got off at another exit and swung by several churches to show me how they built them on the high ground.

When I finally got back to the trail I didn’t know how to thank him but to say thank you . He prayed for me in his charismatic style, which was fun. I even joined in a little bit and threw some Amen’s in for good measure and then I got out and he drove away. Immediately I noticed my cell phone had fallen out of my pocket in his truck, but I didn’t worry about it because I knew he would get it back to me somehow. I took out my wallet and counted the money. It was $100.

Once on the trail again, now passed 10:30am I paid dearly for my gluttony. The trail sort of lingered at a good elevation for a few miles but then it started going uphill towards Big Bald. I was daydreaming heavily when I suddenly smelled onions. I looked around and noticed there were hundreds of Ramps (wild southern onions) around, so I picked several for later. After struggling uphill some more, I noticed a day hiker gaining on my from behind. I let him catch up and we began talking. He was going on a day hike but was planning a week long hike on the AT with his class. He’s a teacher at a small charter school. We talked for the 5 miles to Big Bald, which actually wasn’t that bad of a climb. On the bald it was freezing but the view was awesome. I sat down and pulled out a packet of tuna (one of my last food items) and my knife and began dicing up the onions into the tuna. Even though I had eaten several hours earlier, I was famished all ready and after I finished my tuna I began to give my day hiker friend the eye. He was holding fresh grapes and he had a peach. He noticed my hunger so he gave me the peach and some grapes. I noticed how high we were and I muttered a few things for David. I took some pictures then he turned around to go back and I kept going.

For the next 5 miles I tried to focus on praying constantly. At first I was speaking automatically, asking and pleading for faith. This gets tiring after a while and after a few miles I just settled down into the prayer of the heart. After a while, still muttering to myself, I came upon G-Walk sitting down on a rock. We started hiking together, both doing a long day and planning on getting to Erwin by early afternoon the next day. We saw a deer and a woodchuck. At about 7 we came upon the US19W and we decided to camp at a small campsite just off the road. I had done 17 miles. I put up my tent and G-Walk put up his tarp. We both expected it to rain. My water filter wasn’t working well so we both got water out of a nearby river and he used his chemicals to treat it. It was getting dark when we began to eat dinner. I had the last meal in my food sack, apple cobbler I had got in Fontana Dam. G-walk ate like a king, beef stroganoff and then cheese and bread. I told him after dinner I was straight out of food. We retired to our respective shelters and talked for a while about Erwin. I read Alive till late in the night. I woke up suddenly, barely realizing I had fallen asleep or where I was, and realized it was pouring rain. I took out my cell phone and turned it on. It was only 11:30 so I went back to bed to the sound of rain and its accompanying clean aroma and cool air.


Sweet Maryland I have reached you

I took my last steps on the Goodloe Bryon Memorial Footbridge and stepped into Maryland and looked back over the Potomac river to Harper's Ferry and Loudoun's Heights rising above it and felt extraordinarily happy. I took my pack off. For several moments I wasn't sad at all, but then I realized it was over. I looked down at my boots, the soles falling off and my feet burning inside them and laughed at them. They look ridiculous. I took them off and slid my socks off and sat with bare feet, flicking ants off my bare skin every few moments. It was only about one in the afternoon and Leah wouldn't come to pick me up until six, so I had some time to hang around town. I still felt entirely conflicted about leaving. Had I done everything I could to keep hiking? Loans? Begging? I could have gone into debt, put off another semester of college and kept going if I wanted.

But I didn't want that. I felt satisfied with 1010 miles behind me. I was in Maryland and I let myself cry silently, without tears. I let my stomach wrench and my face distort. On the Trail life was simple, austere, and eternal. There was always more rocks, more big climbs and big miles, more heat and stench to come. I would miss sweat and constant pain, the fluid motion of hiking, and most of all- my friends, all commiserators.

And then this all faded away. I wrapped the Trail inside me, tucked it away securely in a solemn place and took a nap. When I woke, I was no longer a Thru-hiker but a civilian again.


The end is near

I am getting off the trail at Harper's Ferry Maryland, the half-way point of the trail. The decision to do so has been excruciating for me and I am still not used to the idea. I will arrive there in about 9 days from now. Nine days! Nine days is a blink of an eye, only 160 miles. My mind is still set on Maine, on the northeast, on over 1000 more miles of trail.

As I was sick and off the trail for almost three weeks, I no longer have the time or money to finish the whole trail in the first place. College at University of Arizona starts August 25th, but orientation is August 16th (about the time I would finish the trail if I kept going). More importantly, I can't afford to continue much longer especially considering my impending tuition.

1009.8 will be my final mileage. The journal entries will be finished and current by July 2nd, so keep checking the blog. After that I am going to compile and edit the whole thing into a word document, so e-mail me at Kaikaapro@gmail.com if you are interested in getting a copy (this will be much later, sometime in August I will finish).

On to Harper's Ferry. Thanks for following and keep reading.


After the fact

Trail Days 2006 was great. I'd estimate there were probably around 5000 people there, but the news will say something like 15,000 people were there. During the parade I especially enjoyed being pelted by waterballons and standing helpless as a barage of water pistols wielded by 13 year olds assualted me.

Leah came and picked me up at the hostel in Troutdale, VA and we went on a short hike (it was originally planned to be longer) for 14 miles up to the Mount Rogers National Recreational Area headquarters. She got blisters so we went to Damascus and set up camp in "tent city". It poured that night (friday) and unfortunately Leah's tent leaked so she was rather unhappy in the morning. On top of this, Leah's starter on her '97 Grand Am decide to quit collagulating as well. It had been doing this for a while, and before I had slid under the car each time and beat on the the starter with a hard object to get it to start. Well, this time it barely worked- but we managed to make it to Abington where we found an Advance Auto Parts store which carried a reconstructed starter for a decent price. We went back to trail days and parked in a dirt parking lot in front of Tent City. I spent the majority of Friday going around town looking for wrenches and ratchets, and asking advice from people who knew something about cars on how to replace it. I finally aquired the tools and returned to the car and jacked the left side of the vehicle up and stuck flat rocks under the tire to prevent the car from falling on me if the cheap jack decided to slip. An hour passes...and the old starter is out. I was greasy and my hands were black and I was pretty proud of my accomplishment. It took me 30 more minutes before I got the new one in. I told Leah to get in the car and try it. It started beautifully, taking only seconds to revv to life. So, if you ever need a starter changed, I'm your man.

I also got another instant camera developed, this one was a 27 exposure underwater camera I had bought the year before. I used it on the trail for wet shots during the rain. Unfortunately, only 10 came out exposed. Instant cameras on the trail are a bad idea. At any rate, here a few that turned out:

Fontana Dam from the mountains

The bear

In the storm on Max Patch

In other news, my hip is killing me and I absolutely love Virginia. This is my favorite section on the trail so far: rolling hills, cows, horses, switchbacks (as opposed to rock climbing), and green foilage. It is so green I cant believe it. Last night I camped in the middle of a green field of long grass and in the middle of the night left the tent to pee. The grass was swaying in the wind and I could see purple flowers in the moonlight. The log entries will be updated to about 4/15 today, and in a week when I visit Columbia again I will update it up to now. I've alot of writing to transcribe.

Also, Travis Plympton is coming to hike with me in New England. He's coming mid-June for over a month. I can't wait, Travis is my cousin and close friend and it will be awesome to have a partner for the last leg of my hike.

Thank you for reading.


Journal Entries: 4/4 to 4/16

Tuesday, 4/4/2006

Long nap.

It was over 20 miles of tough hiking today to Derrick Knob Shelter. I felt great early on and took breaks often to enjoy the beautiful weather and the views from the balds. Without the overbearing weight in my pack I was able to make good time and hiked 10 miles by 1pm. I put down my pack on a nice bald and took off my shirt and watched the steam evaporate off my skin. I took out my prayer book and read a few prayers and then slowly closed my eyes. Suddenly I started when several deer galloped onto the trail in front of me. At the sight of me they froze and I slowly took out my camera. They were about 3 yards away and at the sight of my camera they took off into the woods. I followed them for a while and got a couple pictures and then hiked back up to my pack where I promptly flopped onto the grass again and closed my eyes and fell asleep. Sometime later I awoke feeling sunburnt. I still was dreaming as I opened my eyes and I saw the ocean lapping on the sides of the bald. I saw sailboats in the distance. I then saw my pack and realized I had fallen asleep and that I needed to hike again to make it to Derrick knob, another 10 miles away.

The rest of the day was very hard and I suffered greatly. During the last 4 miles I began to see my first "Shelter Mirages" in the woods, after a climb i'd look down the trail and see a roof in the woods and people standing around. I'd get closer and it would be a fallen tree and flowers. I finally made it to the shelter at 7 (I realized then I had slept for a long time) and put my pack down with an enormous grunt and lied down. My muscles hurt. I looked up at Solo, a fast hiker from Maine who was smeared with shaving cream and he looked down on me with understanding. "You look wasted Caveman" "I am. I fell asleep for a while on Siler Bald and thought I wouldn't make it here." He smiled and looked wistfully into the woods with his sunken eyes as he took out a razor and intently shaved. "Why do you shave out here Solo?" "For the ladies partly. But mostly becuase it itches when I let it grow." I cooked dinner and then helped with the fireplace as the temperature dropped with the sun. I slipped into my bag and fell asleep listening to Solo talk to the other hikers about his hunting trip earlier in the year when he had shot a buck while running. Tomorrow I will see Leah and Aaron.

Wednesday, 4/5/2006

I hiked alone this morning for about 7 miles contemplating the reason why I was hiking. As I climbed the mountains I felt all my sins and mistakes and felt despair. I felt like a failure. I begged for God to speak to me. I pushed up the mountains and stopped to listen as hard as I could: birds singing and trees swaying in the wind with ice crystals falling everywhere out of them like diamonds. I found that God is everywhere in the mountains becuase you are forced to listen. I hiked further and like many times before on the trail, my minded reeled with emotion as I thought of the last couple years of my life. You see, you do not go into the wilderness to escape your demons. That a big misconception people have. You confront your demons in the wild, there is no escaping them. St Anthony and other monks went into the desert in the fourth century not to escape from the world, but to find the real world.

Modern life in this country tends to be pure escapism. Feel bad? Just plug in. You never leave the comfort of modernity. You never feel true loneliness, desolation, despair, or boredom. Until last year, I had never even faced the fact of my own impending death. It's considered a morbid thing to do at my age I suppose. I guess one could say that I had a mid-life crisis at the age of 20. Before, I lived as if I was immortal. That is what the comfort and pleasures of life give you-a feeling of untouchability, of immortality. Lacking the ability to escape from the reality of death, hiking in the Appalachians has slowly given me perspective. I could think so clear and my thoughts were unimpended by anything but my own constant fatigue.

Now I listened again to the ice crystals falling from the trees. I felt my own burning hunger and thirst in my body. I've noticed that the deprivation I've experienced so far becomes more and more natural the further I hike. I pushed to the top of Jenkins Knob and stopped. At the top of the mountain I was intoxicated by the aromatic Spruce trees and budding wild flowers and saw the jagged earth of the Appalachians all around me and felt the indians, frontiersmen, mountaineers, and colonists before me that had been there. There was so much to think about, and amazingly, so much time to do so.

Around 3pm I reached the parking lot for Clingman's Dome where Aaron and Leah would park. We were supposed to meet at Double Spring Gap shelter (which was about 3 miles south on the trail trail) but I decided to meet them at the parking lot since I was early and then hike back with them. It was strange coming out of the woods to see normally dressed people with their camera's coming out of cars. I had been alone all day and was suddenly surrounded by people. I sat next to a tree and read for a couple hours. They didn't show up so I hitched a ride (20 miles) to Cherokee to make a phone call and make sure they were still coming. Upon arrival I noticed a red van drive by which I figured was them. For good measure I grabbed a Hardee's thickburger and sat at the side of the road while waiting for a ride back. It was a stupid idea to leave the parking lot and goto Cherokee. Long after the burger was consumed I still sat there, waiting with my thumb out. Finally a park ranger stopped and took me back to the parking lot. The red van was there but they were nowhere to be seen and the sun was sinking below the horizon so I put on my headlamp and headed back down the trail. I started jogging in hopes of catching them. As I ran it became dark and I quickly became out of breath from running uphill. I walked peacefully for another half hour when I heard voices and saw lights coming toward me.
At first I didn't think it was them but quickly realized it was as I approached them. They were coming from the other way so had apparently already been to the shelter. I wanted to scare them so I tried to hide in the trees but they spotted me. We were all happy to see each other and quickly headed back towards the shelter. They informed me they had met the hikers at the shelter who knew me, and had been waiting quite awhile. The night was cold already, and once at the shelter we buckled down for a cold night.

Thursday, 4/6/2006

Nero Day (as opposed to Zero, meaning "Nearly Zero")

Aaron and Leah were very cold last night. Aaron coughed on the top shelf all through the night. In the morning both seemed gloomy about their glimpse into my world on the trail. We went and got water from a stream and decided to hike back to the parking lot so I could take a break for the day and eat. I was very grateful they came to see me. We hiked laboriously back to the parking lot and I got behind the wheel for the first time in two weeks. We drove to Gatlinburg (the mecca of rednecks) and got breakfast at an awesome pancake place. I hadn't eaten since the burger the night before, so I ate the breakfast skillet with trembling hands. I ate sausage and bacon and hashbrowns, all topped with gravy and melted cheese. It was almost too much to take. After scraping the plate clean, I still felt hungry. We then drove on winding Appalachian roads to the tiny resort of Fontana Village. We ran low on gas on the way, and stopped at a tiny gas station that had one pump that was locked with a chain. The gas price was 2.99 a gallon. It's a good time to be hiking and not buying gas, I thought. We picked up my rucksack at Fontana and then asked where we could find a Walmart. I needed to resupply badly, I needed hiking poles, food, a stove, fuel, etc. Also, Aaron decided to join me for a section hike until Hot Springs so he needed supplies as well. An hour later we arrived at a town near Asheville that had a Walmart. We also ate at Ryan's, where I ate four plates of food. Having circled the entire Smokey Mountain National Park, we pulled into Newport off the I-40 to get a room at Motel 6. Early the next morning me and Aaron would be dropped off at the trail 15 minutes away, and Leah would go home.

That night all three of us went out and soaked in the hot tub for a while. It was a pleasant change in scenery and felt good. We then went inside and fell asleep watching UFC on the television.

Friday, 4/7/2006

Max Patch.

Leah woke Aaron and I at 6 in the morning. She was anxious to get home and catch her noon shift at Red Lobster. Unfortunately, we didn't feel the rush and went back to sleep. I pulled myself off the bed and wiped the drool on my beard away after Leah struck me several times, first with something soft and then something hard. I stood in front of the mirror. I told myself, more hiking to do- your beard is not nearly long enough. The motel room was a paradise after being in the woods for so long. It's funny the little things one takes for granted every day. Weather means so much more to me now that I live exposed to it for the greater part of every day. Distance is extraordinarily important on the trail and never have I understood the length of a mile, five miles, ten miles so intimately. Brushing my teeth in the poorly constructed bathroom, I thought about all this. What was strange was that even being away from the trail for the most part of a day had almost been hard; the trail felt like home. After we packed up and got in the van, I felt excited to be returning to the trail. Leah raced down the freeway to the exit where the AT crossed and we hastily said goodbye to Leah.

Aaron had knee surgery in January and he was still weak from this so we planned to take it slow to Hot Springs. We hiked nice and easy for about 6 miles and then took a lunch break ontop of Snowbird Mountain. We took out tortillas and rolled chicken chunks, cheddar cheese, and pepperoni in them. Aaron's knee felt fine, so we pushed it a little harder and at about 3pm we met a man named "Apple" at the top of Hawk's Roost, a wooded peak. He led me and Aaron another mile to Brown Gap where he had a large trail magic operation set up: A ten person tent with propane amenities, hot dogs, donuts, and soda. He told us that the weather report called for extreme thunder storms and possibly tornados in the valley so we decided to stay the night in his massive tent with the heater. We ate several hot dogs and sat in a circle to shoot the breeze with Apple. He was a short, slightly built man from Texas who loved to help hikers. He wasn't much of a hiker himself, he had wanted to Thru-hike this year but only made it 10 miles before quitting. Several more hikers came through, including the Can Do Man. Oh man, I hated this man. He's really a hard guy not to hate- but I hated him even before he opened his mouth, and this is despite the fact as a rule I try not to hate. The man has two replacement hips and quickly informs everyone of this, and that if he makes it he'll be the first one to do so, and that he used to be a Sea-captain and lives in Massachuettes and I know endless amounts of information about him becuase it is all he knows how to talk about and he talks alot. When Can-do man got out of earshot Apple snidely remarks that he wished Can-do man had fallen on his head instead of his hips. Soon, Can-Do left and me and Aaron went to the tent to ride out the storm. Apple went to the Hostel in his pickup a few miles away around 6. The storm didn't come right away so we went back out and made a large fire, just for the hell of it. It then started to rain so we went back inside and slept.

Saturday, 4/8/2006

We woke the next morning dry and talked about the thunder we had heard all night. Apple pulled up and said a tornado had touched down somewhere and that he was tempted to come pick us up last night, but didn't. Aaron quickly discovered that his boots were left outside and full of water. Also, the tarp covering our packs hadn't worked as well as we expected. We got our things together after eating breakfast and prepared for a gloomy day of rain. After three miles we came to Max Patch Rd. where a van was parked in the fog. A couple got out and introduced themselves as former thru-hikers and offered us freshly baked cookies, brownies, and beer. We felt quite spoiled. "Man, we sure feel yall's pain. The weather is horrible for climbing Max Patch." They told us several stories and we finished our beer and snacks and headed up the trail towards Max Patch, the massive bald mountain. Half way there it started raining and Aaron realized he didnt have a rain jacket. He was wearing my waterproof pants though, so I had my lower body exposed to the elements. Also, we both needed to take "wild ones" so we put our packs down and went exploring for a good spot in the light spring rain. Having accomplished this we pressed on despite the rain up the mountain. A half hour later the trees broke and we could see the bald mountain before us. The wind was strong but the rain let off a bit, so we thought we'd get off easy. Struggling up to a ridge, the second we stood on it we were confronted by 30 mile and hour winds and rain coming sideways. It was so bad we were soaked to the bone in mere seconds and comepletely disoriented. "WHERE'S THE TRAIL AARON!!" "I DONT KNOW, DO YOU THINK ITS THAT WAY"
The rain was so bad I considered turning back and kicking it with the trail angels down trail until the storm passed but Aaron found a white blaze a little bit north so we pushed on through the wind. We climbed higher and the storm bared itself in all its fury and I kept stopping to take pictures with the underwater camera which infuriated Aaron to know end. "Kai, IM GOING TO GET HYPOTHERMIA, IM FREEZING, IM GOING TO DIE STOP TAKING PICTURES!!" "YOUR NOT GOING TO DIE, THIS IS AWESOME I WANT TO REMEMBER IT" It went something like that. We reached the peak and the clouds zoomed past us and we saw trees down below us. We raced down the muddy trail, sliding our way to some sort of shelter where we stopped to take a break. We were soaked and quite cold. We hiked a mile and a half passing up a very strange boy scout troop and took shelter in Roaring Fork Shelter. We made a fire out of small sticks we found under the shelter and attempted to dry some of our clothing. Railroad and Critter pulled in, as well as Centipede and the Coast Guard guy. We waited for a while for the rain to stop, then the boy scout troop came. They had serious issues. One scout leader was handing out asian fish snacks, while several of the scouts seemed to the point of tears. "Am I going to die scoutmaster?" one asked. They really shouldnt have been out there. For the rest of the day the weather was rain-free and we hiked to Old Roaring Fork Shelter which we shared with Railroad and Critter. We spent several hours making a fire from wet stick sufficient enough to dry our boots and socks slightly, then cozied in for bed.

Sunday, 4/9/2006

Hot Springs

The morning was clear and we quickly ate and left for a 15 mile hike to Hot Springs. Aaron had some trouble getting up, but he had to pee really bad so he finally left the warm sleeping bag for the cold air. We hiked really fast in the morning and made great time for the first 10 miles. Throughout the day we would pass other hikers and Aaron would shout, "Yeah man. We SCHOOLED THEM!!" which means, apparently, we passed them. As happens with certain combinations of people, when me and Aaron talked to each other it always disinegrated into ebonics and rap. Then I did my "Appalachian Trail Radio" for several hours where I sing songs and take callers. We made it to Deer Park MTn. Shelter around 430pm which was only a couple miles from Hot Springs. The last stretch was hard on Aaron's knees as it was quite steep, but we pulled in around 530 ecstatically happy to be in town. We hiked all the way to the campground to get a 5$ spot by the French Broad River, and then went to the Paddler's Pub for burgers. Aaron devoured his and praised the backpacking life simultaneously which was interesting to watch. I also ate earnestly and then we were quickly joined by other hikers: Centipede and Coast Guard guy, Can-do man, and double shot. When Can-do man was walking nearby, I called him over just to be spiteful to all of us hikers. Without even greeting us he pulled up a chair and starts running his mouth about him self. Aaron gave me a menacing look. We ordered a pitcher of Guiness and quickly drank it. Can-do left, thankfully and then it got cold, so we went inside and played pool and drank till about 11pm when we hiked in the cold to the campground. We made a small fire and sat by it and I laid back and looked at the stars and felt a tickle in my throat. I coughed. I thought it must be the smoke. We went to bed around midnight.

Monday, 4/10/2006

I woke seriously in incredible pain. I opened my eyes and immediately wished I hadn't. My head felt as if a large fissure had opened up during the night and I had tunnel vision. At first it occured to me that I may have drank too much the night before, but after a quick mental count of the drinks I had drank it became clear that I wasn't having a hangover. I climbed out the tent and was cold and my feet got wet in the grass. A train chugged by across the campground and the wailing horn only increased my suffering. The back of my throat felt parched and burnt. Had I breathed in too much smoke at the campfire the night before? I coughed and then tried the smell but only suceeding in sending a shot of flem into the back of my throat. I spit and hobbled over to my bag and took 3 ibuprofen's and then grabbed some Dr. Bronner's and walked to the showers. It was a fine campground, besides the railroad near by, and the shower room was so warm. I blew my nose, took off my putrid clothes, turned on the water, waited a half-minute for the water to get scorching hot and stepped in. I have never experience such rapture at the feeling of hot water in my life. I watched the black water off my body splatter below on the white surface and dissapear into the drain. My hair was so dirty it was thick with dust and grim. It was so sastisfying to run the water in it and feel the dirt leave. Before I even lathered up I slid to the seductively slippery floor and propped my legs up and enjoyed being warm and temporary relief from pain. I squirted a large gob of Dr. Bronners into my hand and as I scrubbed while sitting I couldn't even smell the peppermint. I almost slept in the shower but after a half an hour or more I left.

We called Leah and she annouced she would arrive around 4pm. We split a breakfast skillet for two at a small diner. We went to the library so I could update my blog and then we went to campground so I could lie down. I walked to the river I slept alongside it. I woke up after being bit by several insects and realized Aaron had cleaned everything up and was waiting at the front of the campground waiting for Leah. I gathered my sleeping pad and joined him. A little later Leah pulled up wanting to hang out in town but I wanted to leave as I felt bad.

We drove to Asheville, about 40 minutes away, and got a room. I was going to rest and then the next day we would go back to Hot Springs to go in the Springs and hang out and then Aaron and Leah would go home. Leah was angry at me becuase I was mean to her the whole time. I didn't feel like dealing with it so she was angry until she helped me do laundry in the evening and I explained how bad I felt. That night I awoke feverish and wet. I became aware I was awake and crawled across the room to Leah and woke her. The sun extinguished in the sky. My fellow hikers gasped and the warmth sucked from my body like a soul leaves at death. I told Leah I was hot and she felt me and gasped. We hid in a cave and watched the earth darken and the world freeze. We huddled, souless, and lamented the loss of the sun. I have never felt such sorrow in my life. It was terrible. I felt a wet cloth being drapped over my forehead and felt the feeling a child feels towards his mother towards the feminine face looking down on me. Why had the sun left us?

Tuesday, 4/11/2006

In morning I was sicker so Leah bought another night to give me a day to feel better and hike again. I stayed in bed for the most part, we tried to do some things but I felt bad even walking. The dream still haunted me and I looked anxiously at the sun several times during the day. Don't leave. I understood fully why man has since the beginning had a burning desire to worship the sun. So glorious above and so generous in it's warmth, I felt deeply grateful to it. Don't ever leave us. In the room I watched stupid television and Leah went and got groceries and thermometer. 103.5 was my temperature. I thought of everything I could have: spotted fever, lyme's disease, the flu- the possibilities were endless after hiking for so long. Later I was coerced by Leah into taking a lukewarm bath which is probably one of the worst experiences in my life. I was so chilled I moaned like a 7 year old in the water and left immediately and slid back into bed. I was fed chicken soup and 7-up. I awoke again that night soaking wet and on fire several times.

Wednesday, 4/12/2006

It was obvious to us all that I was too sick to hike so in the morning we packed the van and we drove back to Columbia where I planned to recover in a couple days. I was greatly annoyed by my sickness. I slept on the way. Once there I slept all the day but walked around apparently in my sleep several time. At dinner I acted like a crappy 70 year old and walked decrepit and with effort. Leah gave up her room for me and slept in the living room.

Thursday, 4/13/2006

I declared in the morning I would return to the trail on the following monday as I felt a little better, only the cough was worse. My fever stabilized but I was still hot. I still slept all day.

Friday, 4/14/2006

I felt worse that day. I dreamt and slept and ate pretty much. I ventured outside once, and hated the wind immensely.

Saturday, 4/15/2006

I coughed incessantly and longed for the trail with great passion. I spoke about it all the time, how I was going back on monday. I was up for more of the day and went on a couple errands with Leah.

Sunday, 4/16/2006

I realized I was too sick to go back and I put off returning to the trail until I felt better, which couldn't be too far away. My dreams were wild and I lived in them. I was so frustrated and could feel all my fellow hikers push north ahead of me while I lied in bed.


New Photos

I added a new photo album to the photo's section. Soon I will post a new log as well. Love you all.


Journal Entries: 3/25 to 4/3

Saturday, 3/25/2006


Before the sun had come up I was packed and ready to go. I muttered my prayers under my breath as I took my first steps of the day and watched the sun come up... "O Heavenly King, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth who art everywhere and fillest all things...."

When I awoke suddenly earlier that morning I had quickly put my clothes on and rolled up my sleeping bag as I was cold in my tent. I unzipped my way out into the dark and shoved unfeeling feet into my boots, carefully tying them tight as I oriented myself in my head. I untied the rope holding my food bag, ate a cold breakfast, and packed my pack in the dark with just an inkling of glowing blue light on the horizon. My fingers were numb so it takes longer than one would think to get ready for the day, about an hour. I hoisted my pack on my back, groaned, and walked up to the 18 year old still shivering in his hammock. "Do you want to get up now?" I whispered to him. "No." was his reply. Too early. It wasn't even 6 yet.

I hiked all through the morning for about five miles where I stopped for lunch and water. I took my pack off and sat down on the grass next to spring to relax and filter some water. The sweat in my shirt steamed off in the sun. I hadn't seen anyone all day.

The first person I came across, after 12 miles or so, is the person I came to call "Napoleon" after Napoleon Dynamite. Napoleon has a slight overbite, has large legs, and is entering into law school after the trail. Although intelligent, he is socially awkward at times and has a habit of spitting litanies of pained complaints while exhaling which is why I gave him the name. He prefers "Flash Gordon". Apparently we hike at about the same pace because over the course of two hours we crisscrossed several times while led inevitably to us hiking together. He has run four marathons he lets me know. He also can’t stand “all these stupid rocks!” whatever that means.

Another 5 miles and we came to Dick’s Creek Gap where a state highway intersects the trail. My ankle had swelled up substantially during that last two miles so I really want a quick break to let it soak for a while. We decided to hitch to Hiawassee to stay at the Hiawassee Inn. We were immediately picked up by a missionary family taking a leave from Africa.

“So, ya’ll are hiking the Appalachian’s then?”
“That’s great. Ya’ll smell like you haven’t shower’d in years!”
“Well, a week or so”
"That's okay, were used to it. You should smell the people we work with."

It’s true I haven’t showered in quite some time, but I have kept clean in everyway possible. In the freezing cold it’s not like you can just take off your clothes and splash in a creek because it would probably kill you from the cold. The best I can do is put some Dr. Bronners on strategic area’s, brush my teeth, trim my nails, and usually wash my face.

After a buffet and resupply at the Ingles, I now lie in bed across from Napoleon falling asleep to the sound of Law and Order.

Sunday, 3/26/2006

I am now in North Carolina. I am so happy to finish my first state. I’ve traveled a whole 78 miles and Georgia is now in the past. The hiking today was extremely difficult, some of the hardest so far. Up and down all day with Napoleon. I’ve come to almost like him now. Were staying at a shelter now and I am currently watching Little Spot warm his rear on the fire. 12 miles today.

Monday, 3/27/2006

Long, strenuous hiking today with Napoleon. We did about 17 miles today. I would really like to get through the Nantahala’s to Fontana where I can get a room and take a shower. Napoleon and I are camping our here at Betty Creek Gap. I am eating Asian noodles and oatmeal for dinner.

Tuesday, 3/28/2006

Trail Magic and the Cherokee

Magically it stopped raining as I unzipped my sleeping and climbed outside to make coffee for the morning. After it brewed, I sat on a wet log sipping it out of my red cup and feeling the moisture absorb through my pants into my underwear. Ahhhh. It was a good morning finally. I thought of how glad I was that I finally invested in some instant coffee mix. Napoleon got out of his tent and put his glasses. “Do you want some coffee?” He answered, “No” in a drawn out voice. I started singing “That’s Enough” by Johnny Cash as I boiled a second pot of water and listened to Napoleon’s strained breathing as he took down camp. “Are you singing already? Man.” he exclaimed. I just kept singing until the water boiled and I could sip on the coffee and watch the creek in the distance.

About an hour onto the trail that day we came across a large sign which said “TRAIL MAGIC -->” so we followed the arrow to find an RV and a 20’x20’ tarp hung up to block the rain. It was a large trail magic operation. Fishing Fred and Gatorade, two former hikers, come out each year for about a month and cook people meals. I was very excited as I noticed they were making blueberry pancakes. They poured me some coffee and I sat down and smelled it and said , “The coffee, it’s black like my soul.” A bit later I ate two stacks of pancakes, mine and Napoleons (he left after drinking some milk).

The rest of the day I hiked alone. On the way up one climb (Albert Mtn.) the trail was so steep I had to crawl on all fours. Towards the end of the day I began to get really tired and slowed down to a slow stumble. The pack weighed on my shoulders and cut into my skin. I had done about 15 miles and had let my mind wander for most of the time, and suddenly I realized that I was exhausted and each step was painful. I stopped and sat down and noticed there was a shelter nearby, so I hiked down to the shelter (Rocky Gap). I used the privy and watched the sweat evaporate off of my clothes. It was a nice weather for hiking, not too cold. I kept hiking from there for another 2 miles or so to Winding Stair Gap where I had hoped to camp near to call it a day. I loitered at the gap watching cars go by for a while, then I hiked .5 miles up the trail on the other side where there was a fine campsite next to a stream. I set up camp and ate dinner with effort and sat on a log and thought about how tired I was. I was so tired I couldn't see straight. A man walking in suspenders caught my eye and I realized he was walking around my camp. I made eye contact with him and he changed his course and headed for me. He talked to me for a while however I was too tired to say much back. He pulled out a zig-zag and rolled a marijuana cigarette and offered me some. “No.” I said with the wave of my hand and a look of disapproval. He stated a medical condition forcing him to smoke J’s. I scrutinize him closely as he doesn’t have a backpack and he claims to live nearby and he didn't have my sympathy for this medical condition. He lives nearby, here in the middle of a national forest? He must be parked at the gap. He turned to me with his raised cheekbones and began telling me about the Nantahala’s. “Do you know what Nantahala means?” “No” I tell him. He told me it means the land of the mid-day sun in Cherokee because of the way the mountains are shaped. He explained the mountains are shaped in such a way that one only receives direct sunlight around noon. Apparently he is part Cherokee. He left and the sun was about to go down and I decided I didn’t like the situation, so I packed up camp and headed for the gap. It got dark on the way there and my light died, so I found my way groping in the dark.

Once at the gap, only an older hiker with his dog were parked and he called me a shuttle into town. I waited for about an hour looking at the dark clouds move in front of the stars and watched the hiker go through a few bowls of pot. “You want some?” “I really don‘t.” Thats two times in one night.

I stayed at the Sapphire Inn and got a room all for myself. Once inside I took off all my clothes and lied on the bed for a while with the TV on. It was very nice. Something about the Cherokee made me anxious, and I was glad I wasn’t sleeping out there. I then showered, and used up half of the bottle of body wash in the process.

Wednesday, 3/29/2006

Tent Poles.

In the morning I organized my pack and then walked to an Internet Café (the name of the town was Franklin, a nice place to be for a thru-hiker) where I updated my blog and had some coffee and some good conversation with the girl who ran the place. I then hitched a ride from a young man in a 60’s beetle to Wal-mart to resupply. He shopped with me and then he drove me back to the trailhead at Winding Stair Gap. It was about noon. I hiked shirtless for a great 10 miles to Wayah Bald where I set up camp and lie in the sun for a while. Around 530 I decided to set up my tent for the night when I discovered my tent poles were not in my backpack. I was frustrated to the point of rage and tore through everything I owned and scattered it about the campsite. No tent poles. While in despair, it occurred to me the tent poles had to be in Franklin somewhere as I had had them at the site with the Cherokee. So…I had to hike back to Winding Stair Gap, a full 10 miles, in the dark? I packed up and began walking back when I noticed a pickup truck with tools in the back driving down a USFS back road. I waved my arms and they pulled over. Luckily they were going pretty close to Franklin and were willing to give me a ride. I threw my backpack in the back and hoped in. First thing that happens when I get in is I hear, “Want a Bud-Light?” All right, I'll have one. So does the driver and his son. It’s North Carolina, that’s what they do here.

Back in Franklin the poles are not in my former room, nor at the Café. I wasn’t about to pay for another night, but some other hikers graciously offer to let me sleep on the floor in their room, so I do so. I use the restroom and notice the bathtub is filled with, that’s right, Bud-Light. No tent-poles yet.

Thursday, 3/30/2006

I took the morning shuttle to winding stair gap on a quest to find the poles when Brave Friend reaches under the seat and finds them. They had slipped out the night before when I shoved my pack in and had rolled under the seat. Greatly relieved, I went back to the Sapphire Inn to learn there was a shuttle going to Wayah Bald, exactly the place I left off. So I got my stuff and went back to Wayah Bald. Hardly a day lost. I hiked a strenous 12 miles to Wesser Bald Shelter, tucked away down from Wesser Bald. I camped a ways from the shelter as it was crowded and came into camp where I met many new people. Slick B, Rasta Legs, Squarel(spelled wrong intentionally) and others. Slick B is known as Slick B becuase of his use of Vaseline to combat the chafing he had in a certain area. I sat next to the campfire and ate dinner and listened to the conversation and then hung my foodbag and climbed up to the ridge and hopped in my tent to read Siddhartha. I read for several hours late into the night until I finished it.

Friday, 3/31/2006

The Nantahala River.

I opened my eyes this morning and stared at the green fabric of my tent above my head. I had a late night, so I felt horrible and didn't want to get up. I was warm, roasting in the heat of my own body insulated by my mummybag. Again, I didn't want to wake up. I sat up and rubbed the sand out of my eyes and reached into a pocket to check the time. I groaned and grunted and got halfway out, feeling the cool air creep against my stomach and down to my legs. I quickly slipped my pants and shirt on while still in the bag and went outside. Everyone was leaving already. I cooked breakfast and had a generally lazy morning and then left for Wesser, which was just over 5 miles away. I hiked fast down treacher and got to the N.O.C. around noon, in time to stop at the restaraunt for a burger.

Wesser is a small adventure town, the center of which is the Nantahala Outdoor Center which the trail passes right through. It's right on the Nantahala river, a beautiful flowing green river. I ate a burger with some fellow through hikers watching delicious water of the river. After the burger I was still hungry so I went to the outfitter and bought a a whole box of pop tarts and an iced coffee and I went down to the river and took off my shirt and sat on a rock in the sun. It was warming up, maybe spring is coming? I thought. I ate the whole box of chocolate pop tarts and drank the coffee and felt fine. I had someone hold my legs and I submerged under the freezing water and looked across the clear green water and saw the bottom of a kayak float by. I came up and washed with Dr. Bronner's and for the first time really felt like a thru-hiker as several "civilians" were staring at me from the bridge as I bathed in the river. I stayed there around the rocks for an hour but then the clouds came and I got cold so I packed my bag and moved along. On the way up the mountain two tourists saw me and flagged me down.

"So your hiking a long way then huh?"
"Yeah, to Maine."
"Wow, to Maine, what is that 1000 miles?"
"Wow, 2200, can we take your picture?"

And so it goes with people of the outside world. I can't say I don't mind the attention, but they always ask the same questions. How long will it take? Are you bringing a gun? How long you been hiking? Are you scared? You become so accustomed to the questions you go on auto-mode and answer them the same each time without thiking. I kept hiking and the clouds became somewhat ominous, so when I saw Slick B shirtless with his wild beard full of suds near a campsite I decided to stay there for the night. I setup my tent and got water and sat down and stared at the clouds for a while. I talked to Slick B about music for a while but he didn't seem that interested so I went back to staring at the clouds. Rain was coming. Eventually the camp of three turned into a camp of 18 as everyone passing through Wesser saw the clouds too and camped at the site. So it looked like a basecamp at the edge of a mountain. As I looked at all the tents I thought of how much I wanted to climb big Himalayan mountains. Among the crowd was three sisters all the way from Australia. They came all the way here just to hike the Appalachian Trail, two redheads, a brunette- all pharmacists and all with bright orange tents. Really nice girls. I spent about an hour asking retarded questions about kangaroo's and barbies and such. I climbed a tree but Supersize yelled at me becuase I almost knocked down a branch on his tent. I came down and it started raining so I got in my tent and took a nap. When I woke up it was dark and there was a nice campfire and the rain had stopped. I sat and talked to one of the Aussies for a long time and then went to bed when the rain and thunder came.

Saturday, 4/1/2006

One of the most difficult climbs on the whole trail (so I've been told) was the climb I did this morning. The elevation at the N.O.C. was 1740'. The elevation at the top of the first climb this morning at Cheoah Bald was 5062'. I saw that on paper but I did not comprehend it. This morning, I found out. I left early and started strong. As I first started hiking I thought about how much I didn't feel like hiking today. Thats one thing about long term backpacking, you have to hike whether you feel like it or not. Staying in one place is not only boring, but its a waste of time and money. So when you wake up one morning and think, "Man, I don't really feel like strapping on a heavy pack and drudging through the woods." Too bad. I hiked the first 1000' to a shelter and used the privy and ate a powerbar I had bought at the N.O.C. I got back on I climbed for the next two hours, sweaty and grunting all the way. On top of Cheoah Bald looking at a grand view I sneered and vaulted my hiking stick off a cliff and yelled, "Caveman has defeated another mighty mountain" while two other hikers sat and watched and I picked up another stick and kept hiking, now downhill.

Fontana was within my reach, only a couple days away. After 11 miles of mindless hiking I came to Stecoah Gap where there was some trail magic? I saw tables and smelled hot dogs. I was greeted and offered gatorade and a plate of hot food. It just keeps coming! I was delighted and took the proffered food. I sat exhausted and watched all the hikers for me arrive over the next hour. I was winning before this. I ate four hotdogs and two plates of food. I hitchhiked into the town and bought some supplies and fuel at an Ingles and hitched back to the gap. This took only an hour and I hiked a steep, steep 2.4 miles to Brown Fork Gap Shelter. I was so exhausted I threw my pack to the ground and laid on the grass stiff and steaming with sweat. I turned over and looked at green leaves. Spring? I turned my head and groped sweet buds on a small bush and saw little shoots of grass coming up out of the dirt. Spring was here! I couldn't wait to watch Spring come from the woods perspective. Every leaflet, every shoot, every bud I would see come to life. Everything told me the God was still there and that my prayers each night would come to fruition just like the buds I held in my hand. I looked up at the rays of light through the trees and my own steam and I loved living very much at this moment. Thats night in my tent I had nothing to read so I read my prayer book for an hour, whispering prayers for forgiveness, for peace, for humility- evening prayers and morning prayers, just about all of them. I fell asleep warm and dreamt of living by a river and spent the night bathing in the sun.

Sunday, 4/2/2006

I woke early to a temperate morning and smooth hiking. I hiked an uneventful 12 miles to Fontana Dam. Towards the end of the hike it started to rain, but I didn't mind it. I was in great shape by this time and I noticed how naturally hiking had become. I got to the road to Fontana and sat with my thumb out for an hour before I was picked up. I went to registration and came in soaked as it was pouring rain. I got a room at the cheap hiker rate and hiked the quarter mile to the room at the "village" and opened the door to find a large room with two beds, both for me. I took my pack off and stripped my clothes off and stepped into the bathtub. I reached to turn the water on but found the knob that controlled the water had been broken off. I called the front desk and bitterly complained so she told me she'd give me on of the nice renovated rooms if that would make me happy. She said they had great showers. I accepted and I got my key and walked to the resort rooms and stepped into a bigger room with bigger beds and stepped into a wonderful shower. I showered well and wrapped myself in a white hotel towel and looked at myself in the mirror. I was pretty hairy and wild looking, even after a shower. I put my laundry in and walked up to the Bistro and ordered a Hamburger with cheese and a pint of Guiness. I then went down to the indoor heated pool and swam, lifted some weights, and then took a sauna. I love saunas so I got it hot and sweated in the dark. It was a good afternoon. I watched HBO for a while and then slept peacefully.

Monday, 4/3/2006

I woke up feeling like heaven and I got my stuff together and walked to the Post Office to get my packages. There were four! I was so excited. I packed all the goodies and attempted to put my pack on. With all the foodstuffs that were sent, my pack must have been over 60 pounds. I put on my new boots that were sent from my parents and threw my old ones in the trashcan in front of the P.O. I got on the shuttle to the trail and hiked into the Smoky Mountains a couple miles when I noticed all my toes were bleeding. My new boots were too small. I hiked back, caught a ride with Ridgerunner, and dug my old boots out of the trash and mailed my old ones back. Now it was 2pm and I still hadn't made any progress at all. Now, I was supposed to meet Leah and Aaron on Wednesday afternoon at Newfound Gap which was 40 miles away. Now, I couldn't get back to the trail until 430ish becuase of the shuttle schedule so I only had about 2 days to do it. I decided to leave a rucksack full of things at the outfitter at Fontana in order lower the weight of my pack so I could make it there. When Aaron and Leah came to trail, we could drive and pick it up. So I left about 20 pounds worth of supplies and caught the 430 shuttle to the trail. By the time I entered the Smoky Mountains again it was already almost 6pm. I flew up the mountains that night, climbing for 3 miles in about an hour to a campsite where I set up my minimalist camp. I had two days worth of food, the clothes on my body, my tent and sleeping bag. Thats it. I cooked myself a quesadilla with sausage in it on a pan over the campfire and went to bed.


Stuck in bed

I have the flu so I will be off the trail for a few days to recover. Also, I posted some photos from the instant cameras which were a big mistake as the quality is really bad. Luckily I now have my digital camera, so photos will be much better in the future. Thanks to everyone who sent me a package at Fontana.

4/13/06 Update: Lots of new photos, decided to use a better photo server.

4/17/06 Update: Still sick, hope to get back on the trail in the next two days. I'm really frustrated with this flu. Log two will be finished by wednesday.

4/21/06 Update: I have Bronchitis, so ill be out until at least the 24th. I went to the doctor and have anti-biotics so it should kill the infection soon.

4/24/06 Update: Feeling better finally after two weeks, tomorrow I head back. Thanks for the prayers.


Journal Entries: 3/18-3/24

Saturday, 3/18/2006 11pm

Tomorrow I start. I am quiet and anxious about the whole thing.

Sunday, 3/19/2006 330pm

Today at noon I hiked the 9/10ths of a mile from USFS Road 42 (where Leah dropped me off) to the peak of Springer mountain where I signed my first registrar and met "many sleeps". I then re-walked the 9/10ths north on the trail for 2.5 miles to Stover Creek Shelter. I am sitting in front of the fire, awaiting an inch of rain tonight. I have no idea right now why I am doing this, but for now I am content just to be in the woods. I doubt I will sleep much tonight.

Monday, 3/20/2006 930pm

I am lying in a sleeping bag, on a pad, in a tent, on a picnic table inside Gouche Mountain Shelter. There are about 26 people at the shelter, on the floor in the shelter, in the crawlspace under the shelter, in tents around the shelter- or in my case, in a tent on the table. Under me is Natty Bo, a guy from Maryland. It can't be comfortable sleeping in the dirt.

So much for solitude. I can't wait until it starts thinning out in the next few weeks.

My first night last night didn't go well. I hardly slept. I just sat awake listening to a medley of snores mocking my sleeplessness. I eventually got up and sat next to the fire and thought about hiking and how much I liked my thick socks. They are trekking socks, made of wool. My sleeping bag is not warm enough. I fell asleep around 3am and dreamt of bears and women. Not in the same dream though, they were separate dreams. I awoke at 530 and got an early start down the trail for my first day of hiking. I soon found myself in a sea of Rhododendrons in the fog, with beams of lights shining through. My first day of hiking had started. I hiked fast, and stiff, and made it to Hawk Mtn Shelter by 9am (thats 5 miles) There was a swarm of hikers headed to Gouche Shelter (the next one) becuase of the rain, so I picked up the pace to try and catch a spot there. I am not so sure now why I was so eager to sleep in the shelter (it is much better to tent in almost all circumstances) but I hadn't realized this yet. Me, Natty Bo, and Brave Friend hiked fast the 7 miles to the shelter only to find the only spot was on top of the picnic table. At least we don't stink yet. I was extremely exhausted as I am extremely out of shape, it will be two weeks before I will be in good hiking shape. I am already dying for a cold Hefelwiezen with a fat orange wedge.

Tuesday 3/21/2006 9pm

Such glory this morning struggling up the mountain to suddenly find the fog clearing and to see endless blue mountains in every direction. The air was so crisp from the rain, and the white frost beneath my boots crunched with each labored step.

My pack is 50 pounds. Way too much weight.

I woke this morning depraved. I had slept very little on the picnic table. I felt better after some black tea and instant oatmeal. Later today while taking a break to filter some water from a spring, I met Tech One and Kick Flame. They are from Louisville, about my age, and we ended up hiking to together for the rest of the day. Snow is falling outside my tent now (I am 10 yards from Woods Hole Shelter) but I am tired so I will definitely sleep tonight.

Wednesday 3/22/2006 10pm

I am showered, my clothes are laundered, and a mattress is under my body! Neels Gap is a little hostel/outfitter right on the trail. All of this for $15. Last night I froze in the snow so I woke around 530am determined to make a fire in the freezing dark. All the tinder was wet and frozen, so I fiddled with sticks and my lighter for about 20 minutes, when Bo came out of the shelter and stared at me. "W-w-w-hat are you d-d-oing?" he asked me. "M-m-aking a fire" I replied (this last syllable was up-inflected). After several more minutes of fumbling with wet sticks with numb hands he came out with a Nalgene bottle full of a clear solution which was pretty much jet fuel for his stove. Very flammable stuff. So I put a stack of wet sticks in the pit and emptied the container on and looked at him slyly. Oh yeah baby, this will burn. So I take out my lighter and it seems almost a split second before I even flick it a burst of flames 15 feet in the air explodes and burning sticks lie everywhere. Oh yeah baby, warmth. We laughed and threw more and more sticks till the fire raged and we took off our boots and gloves and in my case, my pants, and we got really really warm by the fire. The downside of the whole experience is everything I own smells of campfire.

The hostel is nice. Fellow hikers mock my cleanliness (i have hairgel, cologne, deodorant etc) but man I look good when I goto town. I want to be as clean as possible. I greased my hair back back and combed it with scented pomade. I put on a clean T-shirt and pants and fresh crisp underwear, then hitched into town. The man in the truck who picked me up (Tech one was with me) was a blue collar type of fellow. We told him we hoped to get to town and get some beer and wings and he related to us that the town was dry. Suddenly he took a turn and said "Y'all don't mind if I make a little stop, do ya?" and we pulled up to a questionable looking residence from which were walking pierced rednecks with beer in their hands, apparently getting ready to drive. Our driver got out and shouted "HEY HANK, YOUS ANY BEER IN THERE?" and sticks his head back in and says "Hank's an alcoholic, bless his heart. Alcholics always got beer." He then ran into the house and returned with two beers. "YOU DONT MIND BUD-LIGHT?" We accepted and stuck them in our pockets. In town I bought supplies and also the book Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.

Thats my story for now.

Thursday 3/23/2006 7pm

Finally I am getting into shape. Hiked 12 miles from Neel's Gap talking to Kick flame most of the way. Tech one was having knee problems.

It's snowing now at Low Gap Shelter. There's a nice little crowd here today: Supersize who has a 70 pound pack, Irish from Ireland, Tech One and Kickflame, and some folks from the Northeast. I have a liner for my sleeping bag, so we will see how warm my bag is tonight.

Friday 3/24/2006 7pm

Rocky the Bear Cub.

I woke cold today at the shelter. I had some tea, instant grits, and limped over to the creek to get water. I've been twisting my bad ankle and its beginning to swell. I sloshed miserably on the rocky trail for 7 miles to Blue Mountain where I had lunch consisting of Top Ramen asian noodles, 4 granola bars, and some dried fruit. At the top of Blue Mountain after lunch I saw a black dog drinking some water. I walked up and lightly grazed its black fur with my hand to see its face turn and look at me and I suddenly got a face full of bear. It had a brown snout and round ears, and was quite skinny for a bear. I stood very still for about thirty seconds or so while I waited for an angry mother bear. She didn't come immediately, so I whipped out my 6" sheath knife (generously donated from Anthony) to battle the momma bear to the death. If I should succeed in battle, I would skin the bear of course and have a fine meal of bear meat as well as a new fur coat. I looked extensively but there was no mother bear in sight. I cautiously kept hiking past the bear cub. The cub curiously followed me, and it was then that I realized the bear was emaciated and obviously an orphan and starving. I dropped some dried fruit for it (dont tell anyone) and it ate it earnestly. I spent about an hour with bear cub and named him Rocky. I limped up another mountain or so when I found a fine bald mountaintop to set up camp. I sat in the grassy clearing and ate my dinner as I watched the sun in the sky and massaged my calves. And 18 year old kid comes around the bend cursing and I find out he has been hiking for two weeks. Thats slow. He sets up camp next to me in a hammock and as I lie here can hear him shivering.

I hope Rocky is okay.


First Week on the Trail

Kai has completed his first week on the Appalachian Trail (start date Saturday, March 19th) and as of today has completed 66 miles. Tomorrow, Sunday March 26, he will cross into North Carolina and have completed 78 miles of his journey. After this initial introduction by myself, Kai will be posting his own thoughts and experiences as I receive his journaling by mail, which I will transcribe and post. I can tell you that already this week he has had great experiences and met many people, including a baby bear cub! He is doing very well, although experiencing the expected fatigue, hunger, and discomfort in the cold rain and snow. For anyone who would like to send a little care package to Kai (it would have to be mailed within the week) you can mail it to "Kai Kaapro/U.S. Post Office/General Delivery/Fontana Dam, North Carolina 28733" and marked as such: Please hold for through hiker, estimated arrival date 4/7/06". He would love to get small, light treats such as candy bars and energy bars, etc.

-Kimberly Kaapro

About me

  • The Appalachian Trial

    March-August 2006

    Sole Hiker: Kai Kaapro

    Final Stats

    70 days into the hike

    14.4 average miles per day (includes zeros)

    1010 miles hiked

    5 states hiked: GA-NC-TN-VA-WV->MD

    56 resting heart rate

    180 pounds body weight

    18 sick days

    Status: Going Home

    Final Location: Harper's Ferry, over the Shenandoah in Maryland.

    ----------------------------------- Currently Reading: The Three Musketeers by Dumas, The New Testament

    Read: Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse, Alive by Piers Paul Read, the Colossus of Maroussi by Henry Miller



    6/22 update: New Photos.


    6/23 update: New Videos.