Sunday, May 5, 2013

Seems like only a short while but ...

Since my last writing, I have traveled a long ways, visited with friends and even taken a trip out of the country, but still, it seems like only a short time has passed.

Danny continues to do very well on the trail. From our start on top of Springer Mountain, our vistas have changed daily. And how different from what we were seeing farther up north. 
We have gone from naked trees to budding trees,   to a full complement of foliage: from wide open vistas 
to the renown green tunnel. We have followed the blooming of the spring flowers and the blossoming of the rhododendrons. And through it all the people ... even though I am dropping off and picking up, I too have become known on the AT and I, in turn, have made friends, even if superficially.

While in the northern part of Georgia we stayed with friends who welcomed us into their home, put up with the comings and goings, and accompanied us on our daily outings. Due to distance constraints we missed being able to visit with some very good friends in Blue Ridge. To them I say, "we will be back!"
 Danny and friends in N George heading out for the day's hiking

At many of the put-in and pick-up points, we came across Trail Angels. These are people who go out of their way to help the hikers on the AT. At this particular point, way up in the mountains, on roads that required 1st gear and 5mph speeds,
 are you sure that you are going the right way?????
 this man and his friend (ex-marines) had set up a grill and were serving all who came grilled hot dogs, sodas, snacks, fruit, dog food (I think), and cigarettes. As I was waiting across the road, he was heavily visited and he made a point of talking with each and every one of the hikers individually. Amazing...
 I sent Danny over rather than coming to the car after making plans for our next meet up point.

One of the stops was an outfitters/hostel, the first major one on the NOBO trail. Here the trail actually goes right through the building.  Man, are the birds abundant here?  - guess they are used to getting lots of things to eat...  but wait, not birds, but  yes, people change them out here after walking for _____ miles since the start. What to do with the old ones, well, this is one thing that can be done.
Another day on the trail...  

The AT does not follow the valleys much, but rather the ridges, going up and down the mountains. 
Unfortunately the end point is always a downhill hike and the beginning a long uphill hill. 

One day was scheduled for heavy rains so we took a day and visited the John C Campbell Folk School where we wandered in and out of classes that were in session while exploring the campus. Of course no visit is complete until one visits the gift shop where the class-produced items are sold. All manner of classes are offered in weekly sessions.
...blacksmithing had it's own building, designated by the heat radiating from the building and the hanging hammer over the door.
 where whimsical yet useful to some, items were produced 

 ... a cooking school where basics to gourmet classes were scheduled.
oven for baking a very heavy but tasty bread made by another of the many classes

Areas for parking were found after miles and miles of uphill forest service roads, on top of a mountain with which the AT intersected ... A good pick up and drop off place ...
 the roads are pretty good for early spring although the rains leave deep ruts from water run off and 4WDs that have to test their mettle in and after the rains.  
 ... because of the many days of heavy rainfall, there are often impromptu waterfalls above the deeply rutted roads...

Soon we are out reasonable range for driving back and forth and we once again start our life on the road. Although it is many days hiking from where we were, the drive is probably only 40-50 miles north. We find a wonderful rejuvenated motel in a small town without offered breakfast. It overlooks a lake with quietening views. And then there is a wonderful deli that serves a breakfast buffet that would rival any in a larger city.

Day by day we delve deeper north. This end of the AT is very mountainous although not the highest by far. Each day brings hiking of major up and downs with very few level walking spots. The trail silhouette can seem daunting when viewing but Danny says it isn't that bad. He has been averaging 10-16 miles per day. When driving that doesn't seem like a lot but hiking it will take all day. What an opportunity this is.

 This may be so, but in fact, Danny has walked a total of ~420 miles to date and I have driven, including the trip out to Pennsylvania, the  return trip back to Dallas, to all the auxiliary site seeing sites, and the return trip to Charlotte NC's airport, a total of 8200 miles. 

And so we continue, enjoying the many opportunities afforded us and the chance to be surrounded by the quiet, peaceful beauty of this great land. The Great Smokey Mountain NP is our next big hurtle, stayed tuned as it will be Danny's turn to write - I will be in Canada.