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.