Hiawassee


Before I start a post, I need everyone to think/pray for my friend Connie. We went to college together and were roomates for a year before she graduated. She was pregnant with triplets. Just about the time that Ashleigh was born I found out she was having triplets and that it had been touch and go and she could deliver early like Asheligh was. I just read her blog post and she has lost all three of the babies, two born alive to later pass and another stillborn. All with names and teeny tiny weights. She has a nearly six year old son who was desperately wanting a brother (all three were boys). Please, please, think of them. I am incredibly sad for her right now. Connie, if you are reading, I am thinking of you a lot, ok? *hugs* my friend.

From the title of the post we are in Hiawassee, near the border of North Carolina. Tomorrow we shall cross into North Carolina…whew! What a trip this has been.

Since I last wrote, the weather has gotten better. In fact, today is the most beautiful day. We left Neel’s Gap (or is it Neel Gap like the sign says at at Mountain Crossings?) and went for Cowrock which had a nice campsite to watch our first sunset on the trail. It was a beautiful spot and we had it to ourselves (and kinda warded off 12 college age hikers who came up when they realized there wasn’t room for that many tents).

We’ve been leap frogging a guy name Cob, aka: Crazy Old Bastard (name his daughter gave him) real name: Joe from Maryland. He’s probably in his early 60’s, nice guy and we’re apparently on the same pace. He stayed at Wolf Laural Top just about a mile south of where we did. We climbed out of Cowrock and made our way for Blue Mtn for the night, stopping in Low Gap shelter for lunch. We ran into Llano (on Trailjournals) who had started a week ago this past Wednesday and was taking her time as were a few others.

We by far aren’t the fastest nor the slowest, we’re somewhere in the middle, there’s a guy named Jackal from England (maybe Ireland…?) who has been blowing everyone out of the water, doing nearly 20 mile days already. Then of course there are the 8-miler folks, who go shelter to shelter. We left the big group we had been with at Neel’s Gap where they stayed at a hostel so now we are somewhere in the middle and picking up the slower people who were ahead of us. Of course, now that we are taking a half day, they will all catch up.

My left ankle has started hurting. We came down a fairly flat/downhill trail for a good distance but it was sloped a bit and well, for some reason my left foot likes to take the brunt of things, like stepping on rocks the wrong way or happening to be the first foot to come down off of a step. I’m going to keep popping the Vitamin I until it feels better.

The downhills are sometimes almost as bad as the uphills. And body pains switch all the time. Sometimes you want a slight uphill to give a respite for one bodypart and then you will want a downhill to give respite for the other. My biggest thing is to get better “Trail Lungs”. I am slowly not stopping as much on an uphill and not huffing and puffing as much, but it still hurts a bit. I’m hoping by the time the Smokies roll around it will be better.

Which the Smokies….the trail rumors are that the Smokies are still inpenetrable. Someone said there was 30″ of snow with more on the way….who knows. I’ll have to investigate soon.

Foodwise…we had a good amount from leaving Springer, but our box from Neels Gap was a bit much. The junk food is gone, the cookies and fruitroll ups and almonds have been great, but the real food has been more than we needed. Last night we made mac and cheese and then some potatoes and tuna. Mmmmm…! hah! Actually the mac wasn’t too bad. Anything is good if you are hungry. I’ve got to start eating more before bed because my stomach is what wakes me up in the morning and sometimes I’m a little barfy from being hungry.

What else….oh there is a lot I suppose. I can’t write worth a crap in my journal. I think in my head all day long and the last thing I want to think about when I sit down at night is to write more. I had a slight mental cry out yesterday. We’d just climbed Rocky Mtn right past Unicoi Gap and it hit me that I had six more months. Not that I didn’t know this but it was homesickness I guess. And I think the difference is that even when we lived in Florida we had internet and phone all the time and everyone was accessible. (btw we are doing Trailphone.net look for Ridley and Panther for our updates. We do this most every night if we have a signal).

I guess that is about it for ramblings. Oh…we are in Hiawassee…right…today was our first day for a hitch. We came into Dicks Creek Gap and there was Cob who had been ahead of us this morning and he’d been waiting awhile (while eating an apple…um, yeah, I wanted an apple!). A couple of cars came by and we decided we’d try to dig out the number for the shuttle we saw in the Deep Gap shelter book when we realized we didn’t have service, but then another car came out and we stuck our thumbs out and they stopped! It was a older man and woman from NC who were out driving for the day and they were very friendly and dropped us off at the Blueberry Patch Hostel. The BPH is pretty nice, very friendly and they even do your laundry for you! Hello…awesome! Our box was there when we got there. Got a nice shower and Gary even drove us into town to get Mexican food for lunch. That was good. We are going to wander around town for a few more hours, eat dinner and hitch a ride back to the hostel.

Tomorrow we’ll be heading for NC. We will get two nights (one day) at Fontana Dam when Chris’ mom and step-dad meet up with us so I can do more blogging then. Not sure if I will have a chance between now and then or not so I am going to schedule a few posts ahead of time so you will be entertained. 🙂

Oh, and there is such a thing as hiking sickness. It’s very similar to sea sickness. I keep feeling like I am walking up a hill while I am sitting here. Kinda unpleasant.

🙂 Love to you all.

Neels Gap


Well, we have made the first 30 miles. I’ll be semi-brief.

The Approach Trail kinda sucked. The last mile it started sleeting hard up to Springer. We stayed for about 15 minutes on the top where a ridge runner was taking a poll of hikers and he told us we could make it to Stover Creek about 2.5 miles downhill..WOO! The downhill was nice.

We stayed there that night with a bunch of other hikers and a group of Scouts who were too prepared and carried too much weight. It snowed a little bit while making dinner.

We headed out of Stover Creek the next morning and walked a nice couple of miles in flat/downhill terrain, through a nice rainforest-esque type climate. Hit a hard uphill to Hawk Mtn shelter where we had lunch. Then hoofed it to Horse Gap and up a then unknown mountain named Sassafrass Mtn which was a complete beyotch. It doesn’t help that we still have a runny nose from the wind and have obtained a slight cough. After all of that we made it to Gooch Mtn Shelter for the second night. Same folks there and a few others as well. Nice areas with privies and water sources.

Yesterday we woke up to finally a break in the clouds! Sunshine! Well, for most of the day. Near Woody Gap there was a rough wind blowing through the gaps and it was pretty brutal. We weren’t sure if we’d make it to Woods Hole or Blood Mountain Shelter. Blood Mountain is the highest point south of Clingmans Dome. We had a dinner break before the hike up the mountain because I was zapped of energy and then we hit the mountain. The wind was howling and there was a combination of snow/sleet/ice on the mountain. Most people stayed at a campsite down below but we were the only nuts who kept on going. It was pretty rough up there, no one else at the shelter, a stone building erected eons ago. Had a few snacks, put up the tent and got in. Surprisingly we got pretty warm in the tent, though we were on a slight hill and I kept falling into Chris.

Oh, the only other person to come up was a guy bagging all the 4K peaks on the AT. This morning a few people made it to the top just as we were leaving and the clouds began to break for a nice sunny walk down the hill. The south face is pretty easy compared to the north face…it would have been brutal. We missed a blaze and ended up going down a rock face we didn’t have to…oh well. Climbed back up and found the trail again.

Rolled into Mountain Crossing before lunch to burgers *MMMM* and got a nice shower (hot/cold…aka very short) and now will do a small load of laundry and pick up a few essentials. Got our food drop, too.

So far all is well. Hips hurt on the downhills, calves ache on the uphills. *no blister yet* Keep those fingers crossed. Feeling good…four days or so and we’ll be in Hiawassee.

Georgia


So, here we are in Georgia. I didn’t think I’d post again but Chris grabbed the laptop at the last minute this morning so he could download more maps tonight. We’ll send it back with my dad tomorrow.

We left Texas at 5am and I slept through East Texas and Louisiana. It was smooth sailing the majority of the way until my dad decided he needed a Starbucks fix in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and when we turned off onto the road we realized the entire Crimson Tide was leaving for Spring Break to Panama City. Then, that same Crimson Tide decided to have about five wrecks on I-20 backing us up for miles. There was a wreck at the Georgia border, too, which leads me to believe that drivers east of the Mississippi are plain bad.

Rain in Atlanta, lightning in the distance, which makes me think that it was a stormy night on the trail tonight for everyone out there.

Last night in a bed. We got our last ‘good’ meal for awhile.

Excitement abounds!!!

No Pain, No Rain, No Maine


Today is the last day at home. We’re both feeling better and have decided to keep our start date for Saturday, though it appears it’ll be dreary with some rain. We’re heading out tomorrow to drive to Georgia; my dad and uncle are driving us out. They will drop us off sometime on Saturday morning and we’ll make our way up the 8 mile Approach Trail to the start of the Appalachian Trail on top of Springer Mountain.

I started dreaming about the trail the other night. Somehow it involved a sister species to the roseate spoonbill, a darker red bird that only lived in Maine and along a few other Great Lakes states. Too bad it wasn’t real!

So, there are only a few things that concern me: blisters (though that will work itself out after awhile), my ankle hurting, my knee hurting (both on the same leg! Thanks softball…), rain day in and day out (inevitable at some point), and being snowed in. I think the snowed in part is not very likely to happen, but still, it’s out there looming in my brain.

I am going to have make myself take it day by day, mile by mile and state by state, not jumping ahead and wishing to hurry up to some other state. Just make it from one town to the next and keep on moving.

I’m wondering how crowded it will be this weekend. Some people are writing 20-30 people at the first couple of shelters. Ick. Fun for socializing, not fun for sleeping—too loud.

Today we’re wrapping everything up. The health insurance is still up in the air; they’ve called us twice asking for more information on a few health issues but I think we’ll be approved soon. Our phones are taken care of. If you have our #’s, call Chris’ number (email if you need it) and leave a message. I’ll check my messages some, but we’re taking Chris’. Going through our packs for a shakedown. Mailing another maildrop. (oh, the maildrops are updated and are listed on the top left here on the blog). Giving Samson a bath for his fleas. Go see my grandmother. Upload our mp3’s with cds’. Just make sure it is all done.

zoe 2
I’ve become “T” to this kid since she can’t say Aunt Misti. Sometimes it comes out Aunt T, which I have a feeling is going to be morphed into Auntie one day and that is what I shall be called. I will miss the heck out of her. Ashleigh is gaining weight, 2lb 8oz; saw her last night where she cried (non vocally because of the tubes) while her diaper was changed. It was heartbreaking to see her cry like that. She’ll be home next time I see her. YAY!

Next time I write I will be somewhere up the trail. It might be awhile between posts. I’m hoping to write in Neels Gap or in Hiawassee.

Thanks for reading and keep us in your thoughts!

On the mend


hellebore

Last Thursday we went to the Ft. Worth Botanic Garden for a walk about the garden. I love this garden because it is free to get into and it has a lot of open space for picnicking and lazing about if that is what you are into. Many of the spring bulbs were up and in bloom and I loved these hellebore’s. See–I am trying to learn other plants!

I ended up getting over the sinus infection crap for the most part, but Chris came down with it bad over the weekend. As of now we are still on for the weekend, but we’re taking it day by day to see how Chris feels—we don’t want to start off hiking while sick. I think he’s on the mend and the worst part is over, but it will be two weeks at the end of the week for me being sick and it seems like that is how long it is taking to get over it completely.

Also, we’re reading online to stay up to date on trail conditions and it seems many people who started in February or late January are either getting off the trail for awhile or are stuck just south of the Smokies due to the inclement trail conditions. If we keep our pace up we should be reaching the Smokies at the very end of March and first of April, which I would hope puts the trail conditions to be better. Someone had frost bite and got off the trail and I read at least two people made it halfway through the Smokies only to get off the trail. I just can’t imagine pushing myself like that when there isn’t really a reason to do so. It isn’t Everest, so why make it be like that?

We set up a Trail Phone account so we can call in from time to time with updates instead of blogging if we can’t blog. Look for Ridley & Panther on that page when the time comes.

Also, if you are someone who was interested in sending something to us on the trail these are the stipulations: tell us in advance so we know to pick up a package, make it something small that we can either eat right away or that we can carry, and make it in a smaller section like a 3 or 4 day section, not a longer one. The thing is, we will either have to throw it out or carry it and most likely if it is heavy or bothersome, it will be thrown our or sent home. So, small, edible, and tasty. We have our gear already, so please don’t send any gear unless we specifically ask for something.

I think I am going to set up Wordless Wednesday posts for the next few months—you know, so you have something to look at here. So, comment on them, k? Tell me something awesome about your day or how the weather is, or what you ate for lunch. Give me something to read when I have a minute.

Epiphanie Bags


Ok, so normally I hate doing these kind of posts, but I really want a chance to win a Canon 5D camera.

I actually started reading Maile’s blog long before she became part of the Shutter Sisters. She had great blog entries and amazing photos and I’d comment occasionally.

Then she came out with a camera bag line that was to die for. I have a big backpack camera bag that is waterproof on the bottom and is great for hiking but I really wish I had something better for just taking my camera around town. And then Maile came out with Epiphanie bags. And they are beautiful! They aren’t in my budget at the moment but I’m thinking they would make an excellent Christmas present.

Anyway, this whole blog post is because Epiphanie is having a giveaway, a Canon 5d camera or $2500 on Southwest Airlines.

And a Canon 5D is right up my alley.

Trout Lilies at Tandy Hills


When we came back to town I asked my brother and dad where some good places to hike were and one place they mentioned was Tandy Hills. This park is very close to where my parents grew up in E. Ft. Worth and where my grandad still lives and I had no idea this park even existed. It is tucked away in the Meadowbrook subdivision, which is a nicer, historic part of the area (go a few blocks and it might not be so great of an area) and once you get in to the park you don’t realize you are surrounded by the city. Well, except from some trash that you come across.

I went to their website to scout the park out and found out they had trout lilies and the nodding ladies tresses orchid. Very cool! So, yesterday we went off to find the trout lilies since Chris hadn’t gotten to see them fully open. After doing some research the ones we found appear to be Erythronium albidum.

Trout Lily

tl 5
There were hundreds of them in the area we found them in.

tl 3

tl 4

tl 2

Rare prairie in the middle of east ft. worth
This is what the park area looks like…

Ft. Worth from Tandy Hills
and then to the west is downtown Fort Worth.

red berries
Not sure what these red berries are, but they were very pretty.

We went to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden on Thursday…those photos are to come.

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