Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Hiking: Updates from Storm's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike (4/30/16 thru 5/10/16)

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Storm (Moe) is making his way through Tennessee on the Appalachian Trail. Here's a look back at his last several days of hiking in his own words:

April 30, 2016

I woke up early today, 5am! Quietly packed up my gear and tent. Wrote in my paper journal a bit and read the guidebook. I got our food bags from the bear cables and wished I had a can of WD-40 as the line squeeked so bad I thought I was gonna wake up the whole camp. At 6:15 I whispered into Luigi's tent its "Pancake Time"! She has wanted chocolate chip pancakes for about a week now.

I pushed off about 7am and Luigi wasn't too far behind me. The trail this morning was a nice downhill grade. It followed for awhile the road going up to Clingmans Dome and you could hear the traffic through the woods. We arrived at the only climb of the day which was Mingus Ridge. The trail was laid out in such a way that you hardly felt like you were climbing. This section had 2 wild hog containment bridges with a fenced in area which was to protect a group of native beech trees that have been devastated by the wild hog that's not native to the area. It was introduced in the 1950's and has decimated the new beech saplings. Kind of a neat structure. We came down the other side of the ridge and came into New Found Gap. It was kind of an emotional moment for me as this was a section of the trail or place I had been to about ten years ago. I remember the vacation Jeff and I took where we just rented a car and headed south and ended up in the Smokies. We did a hike near New Found Gap and I remember standing by the Appalachian Trail sign looking down the trail thinking of how amazing it would be to do and now here I am in the very same spot doing it ten years later. Very cool feeling, I won't lie and say tears welled up. We came across trail magic which was just setting up, chips, soda and ham sandwiches. We were able to get a ride back into Gatlinburg from a woman who was dropping of a resupply for a woman. It was 5 bucks a person to ride the 15 miles into Gatlinburg. Sold!

The plan for Luigi and I was laundry, shower, resupply, pancakes at the Pancake Parlor and the get dropped back off at New Found Gap back onto the trail. We got dropped off at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the same NOC company that I stayed at a week earlier. This is an outpost location. They offer free pack watch as well as free showers. We dropped off our packs and walked down the street to do our laundry. We changed into our rain gear and did our laundry while charging our phones. Next door was a Mexican restaurant which also had a grocer with super cheap prices. We supplied up and saved a ton. Score! We then walked back to the NOC for our free shower. They told us there is no hot water just so you know, we were like that's fine with us. It was the best COLD shower I've ever had. I got dressed and met Luigi back upstairs and we shopped in the NOC for the remaining supplies. I needed boot laces, body glide and some lunch items and a few power bars. Once that was all complete we hiked back down the road to the Pancake Parlor. We opened the door and walked in. The man at the register said I'm sorry we are closed at 3. We looked at our watches and it was 3:15. The look on Luigi's face as she has been craving chocolate chip pancakes for two weeks and has not been able to obtain them for one reason or another. She said "that's it, we are staying overnight" so we walked to the Grand Prix and got a room for 23 bucks a person. We then went to Texas Road house for dinner and the Royal Couple walked in so we ate together. Tomorrow the plan is PANCAKES through hell or high water and then hitch hike back up to New Found Gap to get back on the trail.

May 1, 2016

We stayed overnight at the Grand Prix motel. The main reason for the stay was due to not being able to get our chocolate chip pancakes. We got up at 8 and went with the Royal Couple to the Pancake Pantry. The Royal couple had bad news for us. Sarah (Scavenger) told us her grandad is very ill and is dying. She needs to get off trail and fly home back to the U.K. Simon (honey buns) is staying here and Sarah will meet back up with him later on. They are staying again tonight in Gatlinburg and Sarah will get transport to Knoxville and will be flying from there to Chicago and then to London. I'm gonna miss them terribly as they are great people. I told Simon when he gets back on trail on Monday to try and catch us. Breakfast was good but very expensive. They seem to charge for everything separate. If you order specialty pancakes for 9.95 that's all you get, no hash browns, eggs etc. It was an expensive breakfast but good. The other odd thing is they only take cash, no credit or debit cards. Odd for this day and age but it didn't hurt their business. They still had a line down the street when we left.

We walked back down the street and I stopped to get an iced coffee from Starbucks while Luigi stopped into Walgreens. We checked out of the motel and walked back towards the NOC. I ran in to buy a new spork as mine broke and I bought titanium this time and not plastic. We then said ok let's try and hitch back to New Found Gap. It was my first time doing it ever in my life. After only 10 minutes Bryce pulled over and gave us a lift and drove us the 15 miles to New Found Gap. We were most thankful and got on trail by noon.

I have to say this section of the AT between New Found Gap sand Pecks Shelter is by far my favorite. The climb was steady up today. I should mention Luigi and I hike similar paces but most days we hike separate and meet up when the other stops. We occasionally hike together and talk but often it's our solo time to listen to music, podcasts or most recently for me I've meditated while hiking. I came to a view point and there were 2 day hikers a few minutes in front of me and they said when they got to the clearing there was a bear cub that had run into the woods. I moved on and stopped at Icewater Spring Shelter and signed the log book. I left a note to Mr Honey Buns (Simon) and said catch me if you can. I moved on and then got to the side trail for Charlie's Bunion. I dropped my pack and Smitty and took my hiking poles. I was gonna combat my fear of heights. It was spectacular and had a few moments of Woah!! I took many panoramas. Luigi showed up next and had checked out the views. Next thing I knew Chloe the ridge runner was there asking who had left their packs unattended. We were like they are ours. She scolded us saying you can't leave your bags unattended as there has been a heavy bear presence on this section of the trail and they will get your food. We were like ooooops sorry, sorry. She was nice but was doing what she is supposed to. We ran back to our packs and moved on.

Now the next 6 miles of the trail was simply amazing. The trail followed a ridge line, sometimes along a cliff, sometimes almost knife edge like. There were vistas after vistas and I said WOW almost 50 times. The visibility wasn't perfect but it still was pretty spectacular. I took many pictures. I arrived at the shelter at about 5:15. I was able to get a spot and save one for Luigi. I filtered water, did my chores had dinner and hunkered down for bed by 7:30. Tomorrow we are planning on going 12.6 to Cosby Knob shelter and we will only be about 12 miles away from being out of the park.

May 2, 2016

I actually slept in today and woke up at 7. Made breakfast packed up my stuff and got on trail at about 8. I had a .40 mile climb up and out of the shelter which was down in a hole. Finally getting on trail I stopped at Eagle Rocks took some pictures and moved on.

The big climb of the day was Mt. Guyot which was the last tall mountain in Smokey Mountain National Park at 6302 feet. The climb was steady but manageable. Once up the trail followed a ridge line which made for easy walking. There were several great view points where I got some fantastic pictures. Then I had a long downhill climb of about 3 miles to Camel Gap. Once to the gap I had another climb up Cosby Knob which was fairly steep. Up at the top I stopped and had my lunch and then dropped down again to Low gap.

I arrived at Cosby Shelter and decided to push on to the next shelter which would make for my biggest day yet. The last climb of the day was Mt. Cammerer which was under 5000 feet but of coarse was the steepest of the day. Once to the top it was only 5.2 miles to Davenport Gap and all downhill. The radar showed an intense line of storms moving in from the west so I tried to boogie to beat the rain. The last 2 miles felt like 100 but at last I arrived and there was space in the shelter. I had texted Luigi that I had pushed on from Cosby and that there was rain coming. Once at the shelter I set up, filtered water and made dinner. Luigi showed up about an hour later and must have decided to push on and she beat the rain. The heavens opened and it poured. I did walk in the rain for about 20 minutes coming down the big hill but it was mostly light rain and I barely got wet. Tons of people are showing up now to the shelter who are soaked. We are trying to fit everyone. If anyone else shows they are gonna have to sleep on the floor as it is now a full house. I am so proud of myself for doing 19.7 miles today.

May 3, 2016

Woke up super early today. I forgot to mention Bojangles and his girl showed up at the shelter. I had not seen them since Fontana Dam. They were picking up their 2 dogs today Stella and Baxter. Gosh it made me miss Sandy Pup so bad. Had a cold breakfast of just a pop tart. The rain had stopped and it was just wet.

I got on trail about 7:30 in the morning and started the hike down to the highway underpass. About 15 minutes into the hike it started to downpour. It poured for about 30 minutes. I came to the northern boundary and have left the Smokies. It was so amazing to be able to hike through the whole park. I got to the creek crossing which you cross the creek 5 times. The creek was in flood which made for an interesting crossing. It was kinda fun, it made me thankful for having boots on instead of trail runners. You had to submerge your entire foot to get across. I continued down and got to cross a river over a bridge, this being my first. I then got to the I-40 highway and was like what is that? Traffic?!!! Ha ha. It's so weird to see it after about a month. Luigi was stopping at Standing Bear Farm to get her package and I'm not sure if she was planning on staying. I hope we meet up again as I really enjoyed my two weeks hiking together. She really is a fantastic person.

I then began the tough climb up snowbird mt. This climb was miserable. First to me the trail was poorly done. Between steep switchbacks and horrible side hilling then add mud and rivers running down it made for an unpleasant 4 mile trek straight up. When I got to the summit it was a bald in pea soup fog. So not much of a view. I trekked on descending down the other side. The sun finally broke through which made for a better day.

I stopped at groundhog creek shelter for privy use and to have lunch. After lunch I had the next big climb up Max Patch. I counted and I had 15 assents and descents today. Made for tough going. The climb up Max Patch wasn't as miserable as Snowbird but it was very muddy and had 10 separate climbs which got you higher and higher in elevation. My legs were about ready to give up. Suddenly there was a sign that said .40 miles and you could see the grass. When I got to the official top it was pretty EPIC. An emotional moment which made the whole day of SUCK go away. Wow wow wow wow was said about 20 times.

I then descended down max patch and met up with Feather. We hiked the rest of the way to the shelter. When I arrived at the shelter you could tell the pack is shrinking. There are only 8 people here tonight. 4 tenting and 4 in the shelter. I met Susan, Jc and Kate and Fryer Tuck. We all had a good time talking while making dinner. I feel pretty damn good considering I did 19.7 miles yesterday and 18.7 today. My hiker legs have arrived. Tomorrow I'm going into Hot Springs. It will be a long day of hiking before I get there but can't wait for a shower. Overall I'm doing ok. My feet are sore occasionally but not to bad. I have no blisters. My legs throb every now and then but no real issues with knees. The only real pain I experience is when I sleep my lower back sometimes is in pain. Especially if I end up on my back. Generally speaking though it only hurts at night. I forgot to mention that Davenport Shelter, the last in the Smokies still had the chain link fence in front of it with a door. It felt like we were a zoo for the wild life.

May 4, 2016

Woke up to cold and rain in the shelter. It was in the low 40's and the kind of temperature you don't want to get out of your sleeping bag. I resisted the urge to not move and got up and packed, ate a cold breakfast and got my rain suit on. I said goodbye to Susan and Feather and got on trail by 8am.

The rain stopped immediately after getting on trail. That was a bonus. The first 4 miles were an easy downhill and then I had my first climb of the day up Walnut Mt which was a grassy knob. Not nearly as awesome as Max Patch and it was pretty cloudy. I stopped at Walnut Mountain Shelter to take off my rain gear and have a snack. My next climb of the day was Bluff mountain which was steady long up but not terrible. Then the long descent into Hot Springs began. It was pretty much all downhill except for two small climbs, one of them being Deer Park Mt. A couple people passed me and I passed them and they were familiar faces from the first couple of days I the trail.

Finally I came around the corner and could see down into Hot Springs. The descent seemed to take forever as the town never really seemed to get any closer. I finally arrived and the trail goes right down Main Street. I called several places including the two hostels and no one answered the phone. Finally I got a text from someone named Frank saying how can I help you. It was the Creek Side Court. I reserved a room checked in. I immediately gathered all my clothes and headed to the laundromat next door. Did my laundry and the finally got to take a hot shower just because I could. Wow did that feel good. I then headed down Main Street to the diner and got cheese fries and Pizza for dinner. Relaxed for awhile at the diner then walked back to the motel. I washed all my dishes and laid them out to dry. I then lounged for a bit. At around 8:30 I walked across the street and got a hard cider at the bar across the way and passed out at around 9:30. The plan today is to grab my stuff at the post office, breakfast and then dollar general for resupply.

May 5, 2016

Tomorrow will be one month that I have been on the trail!

I got up about 7:30 showered and headed to breakfast at the diner in town. This morning was my 4th shower just because I could. After breakfast I went to the post office to pick up my packages. Unfortunately the package Jeff sent me is MIA. The biggest issue is my pills were in the package and we are not sure where they are. So Jeff is going to get the tracking number and see if he can find it. Meanwhile I headed over to Dollar General for resupply. Took my bags back to the motel room and repacked and organized. I mailed home a small box of stuff I don't need and got on trail.

The trail leads down Main Street and then follows the river. It made a sharp turn and went up steeply. It was actually very interesting trail design as it followed up and over rock cliffs. I went about three miles and the weather took a turn for the worse. It started to rain and the wind picked up. I suited up and trekked on. About an hour later the rain stopped the sun came out and it started to dry out. I went up and over three rises and was about a mile away from the shelter I was planning on staying at when it started to downpour sleet. It actually hurt it was coming down so hard.

I arrived at the shelter and the sleet had stopped. The shelter was full and there was no cover for me to put my pack down. I was wet and it was windy I decided to move on to keep warm. I started to dry out but of coarse the trail followed the ridge for several miles. No place to camp to be had. After another many miles I got to a road crossing hoping there was a place to camp and again none. I got to a dirt road which had a hostel on it. The book listed that they close at 7 and I had no phone reception. Figures! I kept walking and it started to rain again. After dragging myself up this very steep incline I came across a campsite. I frantically set up my tent as the rain started to get heavier. I threw all my gear in and am now trying to stay warm as the rain pours down. Hopefully it stops tonight and dries out. I just realized I did 17.3 miles today when I was only planning on doing 10. Jeez!!

May 6, 2016

Today marks the one month mark that I've been on the trail. It seems like I've been out here for months though. Not in a bad way but in a good way. Thinking about Trooper and I at Gooch Mountain shelter seems like months ago.

Anyways I don't think I mentioned yesterday I hiked 10 miles through the burned out section from the fire. It was still smoking in some parts but with the rain it smelled like wet campfire. It was almost nauseating at times. I woke up today around 6:30. Packed up the wet tent and my now wet sleeping pad.

Got on trail at 7:30 and pushed off. The weather wasn't too bad but as I made my way up camp creek bald mountain I walked into the clouds and it was foggy and wet. The wind picked up and made for a very wet day. I stopped at little laurel shelter for a snack and sign the log book. I went over the summit and did not bother to take the blue blaze trail to the fire tower because with all the fog I wasn't expecting to see much. I started my way down and came across a sign that read Greenville Tennesee Hiking Club 6th annual Trail Magic Friday May 6th from noon to 10am May 8th. I was like no way we are in the middle of nowhere. But I followed the sign on the side trail to Jones Meadow where 20 people had set up 4 tents and tarps and had all kinds of food. Hamburger, hot dogs, baked goods, chips, soda, homemade bread. The list goes on and on. The best part was today is my sisters birthday and I have been looking for a card for two weeks. No place had cards and I couldn't even find on in Hot Springs. The people at the trail magic had cards with pictures of the AT and already a stamp on the envelope. All I had to do was fill it out. I still can't get over the trail magic. It was wonderful and made for a much better afternoon than morning.

Next I climbed Firescalp Ridge which had a bad weather bypass. I wouldn't want to be caught up there in a thunderstorm but it was ok. Foggy but at points you could see into the valley. It started to sleet by the time I got to the end. I came down off the ridge and treked down to the next shelter Jerry's Cabin. It was a stone structure with a fireplace. It was different than most. After using the privy and signing the log I was back on my way. My next big climb was big butt mountain. I laughed at the name and thought of how did the mountain get its name. It started to sleet again but this time much harder then earlier. Big chunks of ice, it almost seemed like hail but we didn't have the right convection for hail nor a thunderstorm.

I climbed down off of big butt and descended for 4 miles and than had a steep climb up Flint Mountain where I stopped at Flint Mt Shelter to snack and than make my way down to Devils fork gap. There were 2 hostels there and I called the first, they were sold out. I called the second one when I got to the gap as they said in the guidebook they are open till 7 and will pick you up at the trail and return you. I called some man answered and said yeah that place closed in December and I'm the lucky person that got their old number. Now I was like crap I guess I'll hike on till the next place I can tent. Well that ended up being 4 miles and 2000 feet in elevation gain later. I got to camp at 8 tried to get a fire going, used my rope to make a clothes line to dry out my wet tent or try to. Finally crashing at 10:16 as this is a super late night for me. But I just figured out that this was my biggest day yet at 20.9 miles. I'm wiped!

May 7, 2016

I woke up in Sugarloaf Gap at around 7:30. I made breakfast, ate and packed up my tent. I got on trail around 8:30. My first big climb was to get over big lick. Then I had downhill to hog back shelter where I met "corn". I had a snack and filtered some water. I chatted with corn for awhile and then was back on trail. My next big climb was high rock. Then a steady down to Sam's gap. When I arrived to the gap and headed towards the parking area, BJ was setting up trail magic. She had bought a whole bunch of fried chicken from Bojangles and also has biscuits, mashed potatoes and macaroni. It was fantastic and two days in a row now.

After leaving Sam's gap I had my next big task of climbing up and over Big Bald. The summit was incredible and crystal clear panoramic views. Besides corn I had not seen another hiker today. Corn caught up to me on Big Bald but quickly disappeared. That guy can hike, he's a machine. I climbed down to big bald shelter where corn and his dad were. I stopped in to filter water and to sign the log book. I pushed on and had to climb over little bald and then all downhill to a campsite. When I arrived some familiar faces were there. Set up my tent, ate dinner and relaxed. The wind is crazy tonight. Holy crap. Squall line moving through with some rain. It was windy in the afternoon but this is crazy. I would guess gusting 50-60 as you can hear branches breaking in the forest. Please nothing fall on me. I met thistle and holy diver as well as 5 others who I did not catch their trail names. All were from my third night on the trail. It was nice to catch up to them.

May 8, 2016

After our harrowing night of screaming winds, they calmed and I finally fell asleep. I woke up to winds again but this time not as bad. As we all were packing up everyone was talking about thinking of having trees falling on them. A few people commented that when the wind blew hard they could feel the earth move as the roots were moving under ground. Kinda of a scary feeling I'm sure. I ate a cold breakfast and got on trail by 8:30.

There were only 3 climbs today. The first was immediately after camp and was called big rocks. Fairly easy climb and there was a blue blaze side trail to a pile of rocks on the knob summit. Then I had a gradual descent down to Spivey Gap where there was a cooler of trail magic. The cooler was full of trash but there was still a bottle of ginger ale and orange Fanta left. I opted for the orange Fanta.

Next I had the steepest climb of the day up to no business knob. The climb first followed at creek which was fairly steep then leveled off again before rising sharply to no business knob shelter. This shelter was the first on the trail which was made out of cinder blocks. There was one more climb and then all downhill to Erwin. I came to the top of the last knob but wait it went down and then another rise. Oh come on don't do that to me, but there were 4 more like that. The trail loves to trick you like ha ha your not yet done. I finally got to the outlook and could see Erwin. After what seemed like 50 switchbacks the town finally got closer and there was Uncle Johnny's. The bunk house and cabins were full but you could tent for 11 dollars. Sold!! It included a shower and towel.

I jumped in the shower first thing as this leg of the hike I was super dirty. I then out my rain pants on and threw all my clothes in the wash. At 5:30 the hostel does a free shuttle into town for free. My laundry wasn't done yet but I said screw it. To town I go in just blue rain pants and a down coat. We all ended up mostly eating at a Mexican Restaurant. I got burritos which I've been thinking about for three days. We also had time to run into Walmart before the shuttle picked us up at 7:30. I got back to Uncle Johnny's and put my clothes in the dryer. Now just sitting and charging my phone. Tomorrow I'm headed into town on the free morning shuttle to get breakfast and pick my package up at the post office. Then back on trail. I'm gonna try and run and get to Damascus Virginia for trail days. This is the 30th anniversary and 30k are expected to be there. Holy Diver, Ghost, Thistle, Karma and little John are all here at the hostel as well as the rest of the crew from last night.

May 9, 2016

Woke up at Uncle Johnny's around 7am. I wanted to make sure I got up in time to get the free shuttle to town. I got up and took a shower and packed up the stuff inside my tent. I then got dressed and sat on the porch area and charged my phone and other electronics while waiting for the shuttle.

We loaded in and got driven to the front of huddle house. The post office was just down the street and I walked to it to pick up my package from a fellow Lyndon State College Alumni. Then I walked back to McDonald's and had breakfast. I started with chicken biscuit meal with an iced coffee and 2 burritos. Then I went back up and ordered a large iced coffee. Then I went back up and ordered a sausage egg mcmuffin.

I got back on the shuttle at 10 and it drove us back to Uncle Johnny's. I packed up my tent and all my food and my pack and put on my pack. I was like good grief didn't I learn my lesson in Franklin. Ugh heavy,heavy pack again. I'm stronger this time and can handle it. The climb coming out of Erwin was actually almost pleasant I thought to myself. Then I turned the corner and it was straight up. Damn I jinxed myself. I got to the first shelter curly maple gap and had a snack and dried out my feet. The biggest difference today since the beginning of the trail was humidity. The dew point in Erwin when I left at 11 was 63. I was sweating buckets coming up the first climb. With the sun out it was hot. The climb leveled off and followed a ridge for awhile doing small ups and downs. I climbed down to Indian Grave Gap and then started back up the climb to Beaty spot bald. This climb albeit not horribly difficult was in a straight line so you could see all the way to where the top was which was a bit discouraging.

Finally I made it to beauty gap and it was 360 panoramic views again. Wow. I pushed on after filling my water in the gap nearby. I then decided to climb up and over Unaka Mt then make camp in the gap below. The climb up Unaka was steep and rocky. Much steeper than what the guide book indicated. I made it almost to the summit and found a good stealth camp spot. Otter was there camping as well and we chatted while I set up my tent. Finally got situated and made a big batch of chicken flavored rice. Sat and talked with other while I made dinner and ate. Great spot under a bunch of pine trees with a nice fire spot. The wind is lightly rustling through the trees which is very soothing. The rain has held off thus far.

May 10, 2016

The morning started out partly sunny and dry even though it did rain lightly during the night. I got up about 7 and Otter was up as well. We chatted while eating a cold breakfast and packing up. We got on trail at about 8:30 am.

We had a short climb up to the summit of Unaka Mt as I didn't quite make it last night. Then a rather big descent downhill to low gap. Then the ups and downs began. My pack on the first hill felt like 80 pounds. In Erwin I tried to gauge how much food I would need based on how hungry I have been. Well I guess I overdid it because I was struggling. Otter was in a similar boat. Leaving town seems to suck as you do this again and again. What I need to remember is that now I am hiking 17+ mile days I'm gonna get to towns earlier so I really only need 2 or 3 days of food.

We pushed on to Cherry Gap Shelter to have a snack and use the privy. But surprise no privy at this shelter so I took the shovel provided and off I went. We turn had to go up and over Little Bald knob which had a series of 6 ups and downs to get to the summit, even though the guidebook shows it as 1 climb. We came down off of that and got to Iron Mountain Gap crossing Route 107 in TN and NC 226. I guess the same road but the crossing was right at the border again. The coming out of the gap we had to climb up rock pillar. It had a very cool rock outcrop on top. Then there were a series of 8 ups and downs which weren't long but steep. Through the coarse of the day my feet started to hurt. Very similar to what happened to me climbing out of Franklin.

Otter and I talked about trail days as he wanted to go as well as me. I originally had thought I was gonna be able to make it to Damascus where trail days takes place by walking. But as I got closer to the actual date I would of had to walk 21 miles a day which seemed excessive. I didn't want to over due it. So we talked about different options. We were hearing that this being the 30th anniversary of trail days and 100 anniversary of the Appalachian Trail they were expecting big crowds. So the recommendation for thru hikers was to get there Thursday morning to buy your wrist band and get into the area to set up camp.

So where it was Tuesday we were trying to figure out our options. One was to hike through and over Roan Mt which is over 6000 feet and the last big climb until Vermont. Then get off trail and see about hitching or getting a shuttle. The other option was to go to Greasy Gap Hostel and see if they would do slack packing or a shuttle to Damascus and that would leave the big climb of Roan Mt until after we got back. This seemed like a good idea as both of our feet were killing us.

Then otter had an idea. He has a summer house in Hot Springs with a car at it. If we could get a shuttle from the hostel to Hot Springs we could grab coolers and buy food and drinks (thus avoiding all the food vendors) and take his car to Damascus getting us there early to camp. It's only 5 dollars to tent in tent city. CHEAP! So we said lets do it. We got to Greasy Creek Gap and took the side trail .6 to the hostel. We had only gone 10 miles but it felt like 30. We got to the hostel and bought some sodas and the nice lady who owns the hostel gave us a guys number who would shuttle us. We called and he said he woukd be there in 45 minutes. We took our sodas and our boots off and sat in the grass. The shuttle driver showed up and we headed back to hot springs. Thursday morning me,Otter, Little Foot, OSHA, and free fall are gonna head to Damascus. I had the best chicken fingers at Ironside bar and grill last night. We got back to Otter's house and crashed.


Storm is posting regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal (where much of this content is being developed from)

You can also follow him on his Facebook Page, Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Storm is also working to raise money for charity as he hikes the Appalachian Trail. He currently has a GoFundMe campaign that is supporting the work of the Catskill Center to protect and preserve the Catskills and the Catskill Park, where Storm lives, enjoys the outdoors and volunteers!

Help Moe Hike for the Catskills!

Read all of Storm's posts on Adventures in the Outdoors.

For more information about the Appalachian Trail

You can visit the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Page, which features a link to the AT brochure and map.  Guides and maps are produced and sold for the AT as it passes through each State between Georgia and Maine.  There are several books including the Thru-Hike Planner, the AT Guidebook, the AT Thru Hiker Companion and the Data Book to name just a few that can help hikers who are planning on hiking the entire AT or sections of it. We also maintain a section for Appalachian Trail Guides, Maps and Books at on Adventures in the Outdoors Online Shop.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

News: Taking Flight: Birding in the Catskills Conference, June 10-12 at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, NY

Taking Flight, presented by the Catskill Center, has combined the best of a birding conference with a birding festival, and have invented a new event for the Catskills that is rich with presenters you will want to hear, speaking on topics you will want to learn about. Taking Flight runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 10th, 11th and 12th at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, NY. Register for a workshop, a day or for all three days of birding adventures in the Catskills!

Some of the birding trips will be held on-site, including the birding before breakfast hikes and moonlit owl walks. All meals will be included in the registration fee, and on-site lodging will be available, as well as the opportunity for you to bring a tent and camp out if you like your adventures a bit more rustic! Throughout the weekend are workshops with experts and opportunities for off-site birding with area guides, knowledgeable in local birds and the best birding spots in the Catskills.

The keynote speaker for Friday, June 10th is Chris Rimmer, Executive Director of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. Chris’ talk is titled “Bicknell’s Thrush: Conserving a Bird of Two Worlds.” Chris will lead an early Saturday morning hike up Slide Mountain in search of both Bicknell's and Swainson's thrushes, as well as other mountaintop breeding birds like Blackpoll and Magnolia Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, and Yellow-belled Flycatcher.

The keynote speakers for Saturday, June 11th are Chris Wood and Jesse Barry of Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They will talk about e-Bird.

Visit catskillcenter.org/taking-flight for a complete schedule, information and registration.


Since 1969, the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development has led the effort to protect the more than 700,000 acres of the Catskill Park and Catskill Forest Preserve and are the major force advocating for the Catskill region. The Mission of the Catskill Center is to protect and foster the environmental, cultural and economic well-being of the Catskill region.


Read up on the Catskill Park at our Catskill Mountains Information Page for hikes, advice, travel and planning information.   We have a Guide to Hiking in the Catskills available and on our sister site, ReviewThis is a Guide to visiting the Catskill Park.

Need a hiking map for your hikes in the Catskills?  We recommend the Trail Conference's Catskills Trails 6-Map Set.  These maps are the best available for hiking and outdoor adventures in the Catskills and the Catskill Park. The Catskill Center offers a regional map of the Catskills that provides an excellent overview of the region, it's roadways, attractions and trails.  National Geographic Trails Illustrated also produces a map for the region that is useful for trip planning and road navigation. 

How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish trail guides to the Catskill Region and thAdventures in the Outdoors Bookstore carries many more books and maps that will help you as you hike and explore the Catskill Mountains region. 

If you are looking for more information about the extensive history of the Catskill Mountains and the Catskill Park, we would suggest reading The Catskills, From Wilderness to Woodstock and The Catskill Park, Inside the Blue Line. For the most comprehensive natural history of the Catskill Park and the Forests of the Catskill region, we recommend reading The Catskill Forest, a History by Michael Kudish.


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hiking: Updates from Storm's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike (4/23/16 thru 4/29/16)

Thru-Hiker Storm (Moe) is making his way through North Carolina on the Appalachian Trail and is now most of the way through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Here's a look back at his last several days of hiking in his own words:

April 23, 2016

So I woke up at Nantahala log cabin lodge about a mile up the street from the NOC. I showered lounged and got packed and on my way by 9:30. I walked the mile back to the NOC to see how the feet would do. They feel better than they did the day before but still were tender. When I arrived at the NOC I stopped at the river view restaurant to get breakfast.

Afterwards I headed over to the outfitter to print my Smokey Mountain permit. While I was there I looked at insoles for my boots to see if they would help with my feet. After trying on a pair I was sold my feet felt fantastic. I had about three hours to kill while waiting to check in so I wandered the campus exploring it. At 2 I was able to check into my room or should I say closet. Lol. Hey I was happy. There was a bed and a lofted bed, fan and a air conditioning unit in the wall and the door locked and you needed a key card to get in. I left my gear and walked down to the water relaxing my feet and putting them in the very cold river water. Around 3 I headed back to base camp as they call it here and took a nap.

Around 4 I got up and headed back over to the general store when Luigi texted me she could see the NOC through the trees. She popped out of the woods around 4:30 and we were gonna split the room cause I had a whole other bed I wasn't gonna be using. We dropped of her stuff then went and ate dinner and did our laundry. We were offered beer by a couple of thru hikers who had bought a case. We thanked them and took one and drank beer while waiting for the laundry to finish. Once we got the laundry done I took a hot shower and am about to crash. Back on trail bright and early tomorrow. Fontana Dam is in my sight and then onto the smokey mountains. My feet seem better, still not perfect but they are healing. The insoles should make a huge difference.

April 24, 2016

Slept in this morning and didn't get up until about 8am. Luigi and I packed up out gear and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast. We had little foot and keg legs join us. Great breakfast again. Afterwards we headed into the outfitter and checked out the hiker box to see if we can score anything good. Then went to the general store as I needed snacks.

We got on trail at about 11:40. The climb was not as bad as I originally thought it was going to be. We went 4 miles slowly. My hips were killing me as my body got used to not carrying a backpack the last two days. As for my feet the right one is ok and back to normal. The insoles are awesome and are very helpful. As for my left foot the deep blister has surfaced and though it doesn't hurt the puffy fluid part is heading north toward my toes. I haven't pooped it and really don't want to. Will see how it does in the morning.

The last mile to the shelter was rough and straight up. 800 feet in about a mile in elevation gain. There were fantastic views down to the NOC and we had bluebird skies again. We arrived at camp at 5 and set up our tents. Then we filtered water and made dinner. Now we are relaxing by the fire. Only did 6.6 miles today but it was 4000 foot gains. Tomorrow we are shooting to either do 9.1 to the next shelter or 15.1 to the next, next shelter or split the difference and stay at the campsite at 12. Gonna crash soon.

April 25, 2016

Woke up late for me at Sassafras Shelter. Filtered more water, packed up and packed the tent. Started making my breakfast when Luigi came down to join me. We talked about our plan for the day. Ompi, the royal couple and Sarah headed out and said goodbye. I finished up with my breakfast and headed out. Luigi said she sound be along.

The first thing of the morning was a climb up a bald to 5080 feet. Cheopac Bald I believe was the name. I burned that page from the guide book so I'm not sure anymore. There was a great view from the top. I took a break and the started down the big descent. I used my trekking poles and smitty (the walking stick) was in my pack. The way down had a lot of low branches and smitty kept getting tied up. I learned to go backwards to avoid being tangled up. A group of senior guys were doing a hike and asked me what the walking stick was for. I told them and they each thanked me and shook my hand. I continued on and came across a bunch of flowers and took pictures. Suddenly I looked up and there was Luigi. That girl moves especially on the downhill.

We stopped at a gap to eat a snack and rest our feet. T-mobile showed up. This isn't his trail name it's just what the crew calls him. He is always on his phone and claims he is CIA or something. We've overheard all very strange conversations. Some of us don't even think there is anyone on the other end of the head phones. He is nice enough to me so I don't worry to much about it.

We had one last climb and then a good descent to another gap with a major road across it. Luigi and I just missed trail magic but the rest of the crew were there. Ompi, Sarah, the royal couple, inferno, trail name, t-mobile. A group of about 25 of us. We ate lunch and I was the first to kick off. I don't like sitting around too long. I lose my energy and then don't want to start walking again.

The next climb we had was Jacobs ladder. Now this wasn't the biggest elevation of the day but it was straight up lose dirt in a single line. It really felt like you were climbing a ladder. I was spent. My pack is still to heavy. Can't wait to get to Fontana Dam as I am sending a whole bunch of stuff home. I took my time and gave myself goals to get to, that tree, that log etc. Once on top we rested then followed the ridge line for a bit and the descended to brown fork gap shelter. We stopped to use the privy, filter water and air out our feet. Luigi and I then pushed on.

At the top of the trail from the shelter we came across little-foot who was sitting with two others. We said hi and continued to move on. We had a few more ups and downs but nothing too terrible. My feet at this point are doing ok. My right foot is fantastic and the insoles are awesome. My left foot is kinda doing so, so. The insoles are helping but the deep blister came to the surface. Now it doesn't feel sore or anything and I did not pop it. So while I'm walking the bubble of fluid is moving up my foot and by the end of the day was between my toes. Now it doesn't hurt but it just feels so damn funny.

We came to the camping area we were gonna stop at which would of been 12 miles or so. We saw the Royal couple and told them we were gonna continue on. We said tell Ompi as we are gonna share a room in Fontana Dam and don't want him to think we ditched him. We pushed on and we came across a bunch of pink lady slippers. I was so excited to see them in the wild. No white ones just pink. I took pictures of them. After pushing we finally arrived at cable gap shelter at about 7. A late night for us so we rushed to set up our tents and filter water. Where we pushed on doing 15 miles today we caught up to the next group. The plant lady was here, as well as chef, Mark and Matt as well as a few others who stayed at the same shelter we were at last night. We made dinner and hung out bear bags. We did 15.2 miles today and are going to sleep well. Tomorrow we have an easy 6.6 miles into Fontana Village to do resupply, relax and get ready for the smokies. In two days we will be in the park on our way through North Carolina to Tennessee.

April 26, 2016

Woke up at Cable Shelter at about 6:30. Packed up, collapsed the tent and started breakfast. I've just noticed that every day seems to be the same routine. By the time I was eating Luigi was getting up and packing. I forgot to mention that the plant lady is also here at the camp sites. Her and I have been comparing plant pictures from the first 167 miles. I've been identifying the ones she doesn't know through Leslie and Brenda from Lowes. I pushed off at about 8 onto the trail.

We only had one big climb today up to black gum gap. The hill did not have a name but it was about 600 foot climb. Once to the summit I had cell service again and could update my journals. Then all we had was the climb down to Fontana. We arrived at the marina at about noon. They had a soda machine and I bought, well attempted to buy a soda. All were sold out except for Diet Coke, which was fine I do drink diet. All that mattered to me was it was cold. We hiked on from the marina 1.2 miles to the Fontana Hilton. Which is a shelter on the trail which holds 20 people and has a shower and bathrooms nearby with running water. We set up our tents on the pads nearby and got the shuttle into town.

I stopped at the post office and picked up my package from Chris Lovell in Massachusetts. Then Luigi and I did our laundry and resupplied at the general store. Afterwards a bunch of us walked down to the gas station where they had chili dogs and nachos. We gorged ourselves. We then proceeded to take the shuttle back to the Fontana Hilton where we organized our food bags for our 5 day trek into the Smokies. Just for the record we set the record for most people in the shuttle. 13 people and 2 dogs!!! We sat around and chatted. I got up at 9 to head to bed, hiker midnight. Need a lot of rest as tomorrow we begin our climb into the smokies.

April 27, 2016

The morning started about 6:30. The thunderstorms split and did not hit us during the night. We lucked out and stayed dry. I packed up my tent and stuff and made breakfast. A group of us, Luigi included began the trek to Fontana Dam which was about .75 miles from the shelter. We arrived, took pictures.. Luigi charged her phone. I had a cold soda. Cherry flavor coke.!! First soda in months.

The main group took off and we wandered looking around the visitor center. Around 10 Luigi and I shoved off and crossed the dam taking pictures. Fontana Dam was so cool to cross over. After seeing it in movies and hearing about it from trail stories to be there was a milestone in my book. We went a mile and got to the drop box and filed out our permits and dropped them in. We both had a snack and I pushed off before Luigi. She was going to listen to podcasts and wanted to eat some more food. Our packs are heavy as we are planning on going straight through the smokies and not going to Gatlinburg for resupply. We have 6 days of food.

I met up with Luigi and the Royal couple caught up with me just below the blue blaze to the a fire tower. I had gone up to the fire tower and took pictures. I was only able to go up 1/2 way as the heights got to me. I took pictures and went back down to have lunch. The gang caught up and went up the side trail to check out the tower. I finished and pushed on while the 3 had their lunch. The trail in the smokies is remarkably nicer than further south. I don't know if it's because it's not a heavily used but the trail in the smokies seems more user friendly. It doesn't go straight up and down and a more enjoyable trail to walk. I arrived at the birch camp area and filtered water and pooped in the woods for the first time this trip. Yay me!! Ha ha. Moved on and the day got hot and humid. I went about an hour and checked radar and saw a rain shower headed toward me. I put all my gear on and it poured for 4 minutes and then was like just kidding. I laughed. This was my first time in 22 days walking in the rain and it only lasted 4 minutes. At this point I'm not sure what state we are in. We are walking the border. I did not see any signs saying we are in Tennessee so I'm still stating I'm in North Carolina. The last .50 miles to the shelter was rough. A steep climb in a straight line. Got to the shelter and most people had hiked on another 3 miles to the next shelter. I didn't have the energy to. Luigi and the Royal couple showed and we cooked and made diner. Ompi and the others are 3 miles further north. They started earlier so had more daylight. Three section hikers are here and are very friendly. We are about to crash. We all will be sleeping in the shelters through the smokies as its required.

April 28, 2016

Boy did it pour last night. I'm glad I didn't have to pack up a wet tent. We all woke up around 7:30 packed up and ate breakfast. When you don't have a tent to put away that process goes much better. There is no cell service at the shelter tonight so I will post this as soon as I can. We got on trail about 8:30. It was Luigi, myself and the Royal couple.

The layout of the trail here in the Smokies is laid out amazingly well. It's actually enjoyable to walk it. I stopped 3 miles in at Russell Field Shelter and had my second breakfast. After breakfast we had a gradual climb up to Spencer Field Shelter where I filtered water and had a snack. I had about 6 miles in and began the climb up Thunderhead Mountain. The views at the top were spectacular. I must say the weather has been fantastic. (Knock on wood). I've only had to walk in the rain for 4 minutes my whole trip so far. I caught up to Luigi on the summit as her and the Royal couple had passed me while I was filtering water at Spencer Field. We met up with the Royal couple a mile down from the summit where they were filtering water at the stream. They are going into Gatlinburg on Saturday to stay overnight. Luigi and I are debating if we should go in for pancakes, take a shower at the NOC there and do laundry and then get a ride back to Newfound Gap and hike the 3 miles to Icewater Spring Shelter. We are thinking that's what we will do.

I moved on from our snack and we only had 3 miles to go. It was the longest and toughest 3 miles of the trip. My energy got zapped from the sun, big climbs already and the 3 more climbs we had I was practically crawling. When I got to the shelter I collapsed and actually fell asleep for 20 minutes. When I woke up everyone was in a holding pattern. There were 7 people set up in the shelter and the ridge runner was there saying that 5 more people had a reservation. We couldn't set up tents until they showed. We all made dinner, filtered water. At 7pm she said ok I need 5 people to volunteer to go into the shelter to fill it to 12 and then the rest can tent. I volunteered, the Royal couple did and 2 others did. Luigi was able to set up her tent. Let's just hope these people don't show in the middle of the night. I'm spent. Tomorrow we have Clingmans Dome which is 10 miles from here. Bed soon big day tomorrow.

April 29, 2016

The shelter all woke up at around 7:15. I apparently was snoring in the shelter last night.. Whoops. I packed up from the shelter, filtered water, and made breakfast. I got on trail by 8:30. We had to climb up and over Cold Spring Knob, Silers Bald, Mt. Buckley and then onto Clingmans Dome.

On my first climb I came across two turkeys fighting it out with their feathers flared. It was fun to watch until they started running towards me. I then had to climb Silers Bald where I stopped for a snack. I carried on and at the top of Silers Bald you could see Clingmans Dome. The weather again today was fantastic, blue skies again. It's been a great run with the weather and we will see if this continues.

After going 2 miles from Silers Bald I came up to Double Spring Gap Shelter where I stopped for lunch. There were two springs at this shelter. One was in North Carolina and the other was in Tennessee. The trail at this point follows directly the state line. After leaving Double Springs Shelter I came into a spruce forest. This was my first on the AT and it was most likely due to the increase in elevation. I got up onto the ridge and followed it the whole way to Clingmans Dome. There were many vistas along the way which made for a very nice hike. I came across a couple who were out birding and they were just fascinated about my journey. I told 5 other day hikers about the walking stick when they inquired about it.

Finally I got to the side trail which went to the summit. It brought you out to a paved walkway which brings you up a spiral to an observation tower. Fantastic views from the top. The ranger at the bottom asked me if I was a thru hiker. I said yes and he tossed me a bag of Oreos. He said go ahead and leave your pack here while you go up to the summit. Got some great shots at the top. I headed back down and thanked the ranger for the cookies and got back to where the connector trail for the AT is. I say in the grass for about 20 minutes and Luigi popped out of the woods. She decided to rest and wait for the Royal couple. This gave me a chance to run the 1/2 mile down the trail to the parking area and to see what snacks the gift shop had.

The gift shop only had bottle water and there was no place to charge your phone. So I walked the 1/2 mile up the big hill back to the group. They were disappointed like me that there wasn't anything good in the gift shop. We mushed on. The trail dropped down off the mountain at a decent grade. We then got to the gap where the climb for Mt Collins would begin.

At this point we had gone 12 miles for the day and I was pretty spent. I ate a protein bar and Luigi and I pushed up the mountain. We made it to the top and started coming down the other side. We got to the sign that read Collins Shelter .50 miles off trail. Ugh are you kidding. We tromped on. Finally reaching the shelter which was full. It was a Friday night and we got a good tenting spot. Hopefully there is no rain tonight. I have not been able to check the weather due to poor service so I'm going in blind. Our plan is to get out of camp by 7am tomorrow. We want to get to Newfound Gap to catch the shuttle into town. Also to note I surpassed the 200 mile mark today.

Help Moe Hike for the Catskills - He's raising funds through his thru-hike to support the protection and preservation of the Catskill Mountains through the work of the Catskill Center


Storm is posting regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal (where much of this content is being developed from)

You can also follow him on his Facebook Page, Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Storm is also working to raise money for charity as he hikes the Appalachian Trail. He currently has a GoFundMe campaign that is supporting the work of the Catskill Center to protect and preserve the Catskills and the Catskill Park, where Storm lives, enjoys the outdoors and volunteers!

Help Moe Hike for the Catskills!

For more information about the Appalachian Trail

You can visit the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Page, which features a link to the AT brochure and map.  Guides and maps are produced and sold for the AT as it passes through each State between Georgia and Maine.  There are several books including the Thru-Hike Planner, the AT Guidebook, the AT Thru Hiker Companion and the Data Book to name just a few that can help hikers who are planning on hiking the entire AT or sections of it. We also maintain a section for Appalachian Trail Guides, Maps and Books at on Adventures in the Outdoors Online Shop.

News: American Hiking Society Updates

Our main contributor Jeff Senterman is in Seattle this weekend attending the spring board meeting of the American Hiking Society. Jeff has been a board member since 2015 and takes part in the discussions, planning and implementation of programs for this national hiking organization.

Founded in 1976, American Hiking Society is the only national organization that promotes and protects foot trails, their surrounding natural areas, and the hiking experience. As the national voice for hikers, American Hiking Society recognizes that foot trails and hiking are essential to connect people with nature, conserve open space, provide biological corridors for diverse plants and wildlife, and for the health of Americans and our natural environment. They represent millions of hikers who are committed to beautiful places to hike and believe that the preservation of hiking trails and their environments is important and a worthwhile legacy to leave future generations.

The American Hiking Society champions conservation issues, builds public and private partnerships, supports volunteer stewardship, and provides critical resources to help plan, fund, and develop trails. They also provide resources to the public about how and where to hike and are committed to increasing the participation and enjoyment of hiking by everyone.

What does the American Hiking Society do?

Policy and Advocacy

The American Hiking Society works with Congress and federal agencies to shape public policy and legislation affecting hiking. Their efforts ensure funding for hiking trails, the preservation of natural areas and the protection of hiking experiences. Through their national advocacy/Hike the Hill® and regional initiatives American Hiking protects trails and the hiking experience in areas of the country where specific and urgent needs exist.

Volunteerism and Stewardship

The American Hiking Society organizes and coordinates Volunteer Vacations and National Trails Day® – nationally recognized programs that help keep our trails open, safe, and enjoyable. Their National Trails Fund is the only national private grants program for hiking trails across the United States.

Outreach and Education

The American Hiking Society is committed to increasing Americans’ participation in and enjoyment of hiking and conducts outreach through events, educational materials and partnerships with other recreation and conservation organizations.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Hiking: Updates from Storm's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike (4/17/16 thru 4/22/16)

Storm (Moe) is making his way through North Carolina on the Appalachian Trail. Here's a look back at his last few days of hiking in his own words:

April 17, 2016

Day 12: We woke up at Top of Georgia Hostel. Bob and his staff were amazing and every thru hiker should stay here. He did a talk at 8:30 about tips to successfully thru hiking. It was really good. We were offered free coffee/tea and homemade muffins in the morning. They were yummy. I took the 8:30 shuttle to Dick's Gap. It was nice to be with the crew again last night. They really are a great group of people.

I boogied again today and made it to plum orchard shelter at a about 11:00 and guess who was there. Timber and Dexter... Yay!!! I haven't seen them since Sucches. I had an early lunch and dried out my feet. Then filtered some water and jumped back on the trail. Then we climbed and boy did we climb. Finally reached the GA/NC border took some pictures and made it to Bly gap. Had to filter water again and stopped at the funky tree and took a picture. Then North Carolina showed what she's made up with a steep horrendous climb over a knob.

Welcome to North Carolina! Ugh. Then another and then another. Finally arriving to the shelter at about 4pm. I practically crawled on my hands and knees to get up the last knob. At the shelter I set up my pad and bag. I was so spent I was so not looking forward to setting up a tent. So I still have yet to be in my tent. Once summer comes I'm sure I'll be in it more often. I walked up to Raven Cliffs and there was an old plane crash. The cliffs offered a fantastic view. Got back to the shelter and ate cold dinner as I didn't wanna cook. The rest of the crew from the hostel are here... Luigi, Tranquility, Timber, Ompi, and Tune up from Gooch shelter. It's nice to be with all the people I have met from the beginning.

April 18, 2016

Woke up at 7am at Muskrat Creek Shelter. Made breakfast and packed up and hit the trail. I was the first one out. The crew left showtime after me. The morning was bluebird skies again and not a cloud in the sky. The weather has been perfect and no rain. Knock on wood that it stays. The trail was good to us today. She gave us a gift after yesterday's horrendous climbs. One slight climb and then a steady downhill to low gap. I shedded all of my layers at low gap to begin the climb up Standing Indian Mt.

The climb followed and all road and very much resembled a climb up Hunter Mt in the Catskills following the old road out of Spructon Valley. Made for an easy climb and I reached the summit at just about 12. No really good views from the summit but you could see nice views through the leaf less trees. The summit stands at 5435 feet. The climb down from Standing Indian was awesome.

Bright sunshine and temps in the 80's it was almost hot. I was just in my running shorts still ahead of the pack. The temp increased as I dropped lower in elevation. The trail was through a tunnel of Rhodendron in an archway. Suddenly a stream popped out of nowhere with a huge pool of cold water. I was in heaven and soaked my head and soaked a bandanna which I wrapped around my head. I continued on my way with just one more climb to end out the day.

I arrived to the shelter at 3:15 and was the first person there out of the group from camp. I set up my tent, filtered water, and got organized and soaked in the sun. The crew started filtering in at about 4:15 so I guess I was about an hour ahead of them. I cooked dinner and at, then relaxed around the fire. Went to bed about 9:30. Tomorrow we have several big climbs including Albert Mt where the 100 mile mark is. Holy crap I've almost walked 100 miles. We all are shooting to get to rock gap shelter and get a ride into town. The 8 of us are going to try and split a suite at comfort inn. Today was a great day.

April 19, 2016

Woke up early at around 6:30 this morning. Packed up my tent, gear and made breakfast. I was just about ready to go when the rest of the crew started waking up. I said see you all this afternoon and was off. Well between camp and 15 minutes later down the trail I must of stepped in dog poop, animal poop or quite possibly human poop. How did I discover this, well I looked down and at the bottom of both pant legs on the inside there be "poop" Well I laughed cause what else are you gonna do in the middle of the woods. I hiked on.

Apparently I broke trail because for the first 4 miles I was covered in cow webs from head to toe. Your welcome all behind me!! I stopped for a snack at about mile 4 and unzipped off my pants and pulled them inside out and tucked them in my bag. I hiked on.

Stopping to filter water at Betty's Creek. I arrived at Mooney Gap and met another hiker Chris who just got back from a tour in the Middle East in the army. He arrived just as I was to trail magic by Rodney who was just setting up. He had coffee, OJ, bananas, oranges, pineapple, cookies... I was so surprised as I didn't even know there was a dirt road there. He was awesome and had time today as all he had to do was dismantle a piano. What?!?? Lol!! He said he has two pianos in his house and no one plays it so he was gonna dismantle one. I thanked Rodney took a picture and moved on.

The trail than followed a cliff with great views between the bushes. I was kinda glad the bushes were there as it was a woooooaash moment. That was for about a mile. Then in the distance you could see Albert Mt. with the fire tower in top. So cool to see. The climb up was very similar to something you would see in the White Mountains. Bedrock ledge scrambles. When I arrived at the top I took pictures and the fire tower was the 100 mile mark... Woooooooooo.

I hiked on after having my lunch on the summit. I stopped at long branch shelter and Rock gap shelter on the way and even with the stops I arrived at Rock Gap at 2:30. Did 12.2 miles in about 6 hours. I was pumped.. Now just had to wait till 6 for our ride into town. We all were supposed to split a room at the Hampton Inn. I was waiting for someone from the crew to catch up and Keg Leg showed. I asked her if she has anyone's number and she said her phone was dead. Well we waited and Kid and his dad showed up and another guy. We all sat and someone said hey there is one more shuttle at 3:45. So when it showed I wrote a note and stuck it to the trash barrel. Jumped on the shuttle and headed into town.

Got here and tried to get a room at Havens Budget Inn but they were sold out. So I grabbed a bunk in the bunk house. Did my laundry. Was sitting on a plastic chair in the parking lot in just rain pants, flip flops and no shirt watching the traffic go by. That's an image. Laundry finished, jumped in the shower then went and grabbed food at Hardee's and an Iced Coffee from Mcd's and resupply at Dollar General. Got back to the bunk house and now relaxing. Miles came in another bunk mate and he said he got a ride at 6pm from Rock Gap. I asked him if he saw a dog Dexter, Timber, Luigi. He said yes they got the same ride and got my note on the trash barrel. Excellent! I didn't want them to think I ditched them, but hike your own hike. Bed soon.

The plan tomorrow is to get up early, pack up grab breakfast nearby and get to the post office when they open to get my three packages. Then back to the Budget Inn to grab the 11am shuttle back to Rock Gap

April 20, 2016

I woke up early today at 6:30am in the bunkhouse. I packed up my gear and walked down town to get breakfast. After breakfast I headed back to the bunkhouse grabbed my gear and walked to the post office to pick up my 3 packages. I had to stuff it all in and boogie back for the free shuttle. Jumped on the shuttle and got dropped off at Rock Gap. I dumped everything out and repackaged it and realized shit I have so much weight in my pack. I didn't realize Jeff had sent some of the things I had bought last night.

I began the days hike and felt pretty good till I got to the ups. My feet instantly responded to the weight and were sore. I kicked off my boots and bandaged up my feet and duct taped them. I hiked on. Climbing out of winding stair gap I came across Little-foot who I had heard was sick. She said she thinks she had heat exhaustion and was taking it easy. I carried on and suffered up the climb to 5010 feet. I stopped a bit from the top to have lunch.

After lunch I came across a blue blaze to the top of the bald I was climbing. I dropped my pack and hiked up in the blazing sun. The view was phenomenal. I carried on cringing at my feet. I got to the fire tower for another fantastic view. I finally arrived at the shelter to full full.. Not a lot of places to camp normally so I'm set up on a hill. Hopefully I don't role downhill in the middle of the night. I did 14.7 miles today, my biggest day yet. I'm beat and gonna crash. The crew I was with were going to take a zero today and I wasn't wanting to do that so I moved on. They will catch up.

April 21, 2016

Another tough day on the feet today. Woke up in my tent with my head facing downhill. Never have slept that way but I slept super well. Got up packed up and got on the trail at 9. My feet hurt before I even started so I taped them, and put on 2 pairs of socks for added padding. I took my time as the climbing was not terrible but it was up. At the first shelter I came across I stopped and had s snack. Then continued on for more slow walking. I'm not sure if I have blisters under the skin, or bruised bottoms of my feet or what. All I know is each step was pain.

At Tellico Gap I stooped for lunch and took off my boots and socks to let everything dry. I had one more big climb of the day then it was all downhill to the NOC. At the top of the last climb was a tower with an observation deck. Granted there were clouds at this point but still great views and great pics. I contained on the climb downward. Taking my time to go the miles. When I arrived at the Morgan Shelter I had not realized I had just walked 15.5 miles my longest day yet. Tomorrow only 1 mile to the outdoor center and hopefully able to get a bunk in the bunkhouse. My feet need a zero and this will be my first one.

April 22, 2016

Woke up early at the shelter and packed up my gear after a quick breakfast. Got on the trail by 7:30 so I could get into the N.O.C. before they opened up. Made the easy mile walk on super sore feet. Luckily I did this in between rain and I have still yet walked in the rain. I got to the outdoor center by 8:15 and dropped my gear off outside the restaurant. Went in and had the best breakfast ever. While inside at breakfast I tried to book a room on the N.O.C. website. They had nothing available for Friday night but did have a room for 2 in the bunkhouse for Saturday so I grabbed it.

After breakfast I sat and relaxed outside on the benches outside the restaurant under the pavilion. I called the reservation line at 9 just to confirm that there was nothing available or any cancellations. She told me the only thing they had available was a cabin for 549.99 which I said "NO THANK YOU". At this point the outfitter was open and I decided to wander around. I scored body glide and wet wipes in the hiker box. I bought a few post cards and mailed them and signed the log book. When the general store opened at 10 I walked over and bought a drink and went back and sat on the bench by the restaurant.

My best friend David and his family had left Disney World that morning and were planning on stoping to visit on their way back to Massachusets. They said they would take me into town to a motel when they got here at 6. So I plugged my phone in to charge and decided to relax. I googled places to stay and the Nantahala Lodge which showed a mile down the road. I called the number and Cindy answered saying yes they did have rooms available. She said they are only a mile west. I started walking in the rain and she called me back to say her husband was at the NOC and he would give me a ride. I turned around and found Chad and he brought me down to the motel. It was in a great location and very neat and clean.

I got there about 10:45 and unpacked all my gear. I took a bath and just lounged for the rest of the day. I jumped on a conference call at 5 for the Catskill regional chairs meeting which I am a volunteer for and was actually in a position to call in.

David and his family arrived at 6:30 and I was so excited to see them. We hung for a bit in the room and then drove into Bryson City to get dinner. They drove me back to the motel and we said our goodbyes. I got inside and was in bed by 9:30. I rested my feet and they are feeling better. It appears I have two blisters under the skin deep and not on the surface.

The plan tomorrow is to get dropped off at the NOC and take a zero and let them heal further. I won't make it to Maine without good feet. Luigi texted me yesterday to ask if I was hiking in this Monsoon of rain. I lucked out that I got into the NOC before it poured and boy did it pour. She was held up in her tent and the rest of the crew has taken another day off. They should of been dropped back off at Rock gap. I told Luigi if she could get to the NOC she could split the room with me. I have two beds and only need 1. She said she is gonna push to do 15 miles on Saturday to get to the NOC. It will be nice to have her catch back up to me.


Storm is posting regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal (where much of this content is being developed from)

You can also follow him on his Facebook Page, Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Storm is also working to raise money for charity as he hikes the Appalachian Trail. He currently has a GoFundMe campaign that is supporting the work of the Catskill Center to protect and preserve the Catskills and the Catskill Park, where Storm lives, enjoys the outdoors and volunteers!

Help Moe Hike for the Catskills!

For more information about the Appalachian Trail

You can visit the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Page, which features a link to the AT brochure and map.  Guides and maps are produced and sold for the AT as it passes through each State between Georgia and Maine.  There are several books including the Thru-Hike Planner, the AT Guidebook, the AT Thru Hiker Companion and the Data Book to name just a few that can help hikers who are planning on hiking the entire AT or sections of it. We also maintain a section for Appalachian Trail Guides, Maps and Books at on Adventures in the Outdoors Online Shop.