The Trail Journal


"Full Moon" and "Celestial Spirit"

May ~ 1995

Spence Field Shelter (Smokies) to Elk Garden, VA

May 1 Derrick Knob to Double Spring Gap Shelter 7.2 miles

Had a nice fire in the fireplace in the shelter last night. Needed that! Rain and cold most of the night. Broke camp at 0900 after a breakfast of oatmeal and cream of wheat. Now up to 3 packets of oatmeal! Hiked most of the morning with "Bandit". Stopped for lunch at Silers Bald Shelter. Ran into "Wild Goose". "Mr. Procastinator" has been here for 5 days - swollen lower leg.

Finally figured out that I could put the camera body of my SLR into my Dana "wet rib" and thereby reach it quickly to take a picture. Moved the water bottle out of the wet rib and hooked it with a caribiner to the side of my pack. In its place, I put my 70-210 zoom. Will still have to figure out a place to put my 20-35 zoom.

May 2 Double Spring Gap to Mt.Collins Shelter 6.3 miles

It cold enough during the night to freeze the rain and as we headed towards Clingman's this morning, we had to watch for falling icicles.One of them about took off my ear. Bummed some oatmeal off of "Bandit" this a.m. in exchange for some of my Raisin Bran. Think I got the better deal. Easy hike over Clingman's. Couldn't see a thing at the summit due to fog. Nice hiking once the sun came out . Scenery quite different up here - older forest - lots of fir trees - smells a lot like Christmas. Janet takes nosedive #5 on the way down from Clingman's. Camped this night with Bandit, Two Cents, Amy, Bear, Sarge and Beetle Bailey.

May 3 Mt.Collins to Newfound Gap 4.5 miles

Beautiful morning. 55 degrees - sunny. Beautiful hike to Newfound Gap thru aromatic fir trees. Ice crashing on our ears from rain/ice last night. Reached the Gap around 12:30. On to Gatlinburg and a free stay at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, where Janet has done work/study many times. "Bandit" decided to stick with us - for good reason, obviously.

Took us a while to hitch out of the Gap - finally got a ride from a NY couple who were reading the National Geographic book about the Trail. 1st time we had seen it - cool! You're not missing much in Gatlinburg - tourist trap to the max. However, get your photo at the Happy Hiker if you stay in town. Also lots of places for eats. (Pancake Pantry for breakfast! - not cheap, but every kind of pancake known to man!)

May 4 Newfound Gap to Pecks Corner Shelter 10.4 miles

We bum a ride back to Newfound Gap aroun 0945 with the maintenance man from Arrowmont, a good friend of "Celestial Spirit". Hiking out of the Gap, "Hypo" and "Thermia" pass us, two girls, one of them who just finished their MBA and the other who works for a large accounting firm in Atlanta. Tough day in the rain. No views at Charlies Bunion. Trail is rough. Strange folks in the shelter tonight. Ran into a Ranger with a huge spotlight on his rifle - hunting wild boar at night.

May 5 Pecks Corner to Cosby Knob Shelter 12.9 miles

Another Day in the rain. Break camp around 0930. Stop at Tri-Corner Shelter for lunch.Trail rough - lots of rocks. I've been to the Smokies in prettier times, that's for sure! Hit Cosby Knob around 5:45. Almost out of the Smokies now - where are the bears?? Spent the night with "Dr. Bob". Interesting character - was eating the wierdest things due to some strange ideas on nutrition. No stove. Eating lots of semi-sweet dark chocolate due to high numbers of calories per gram - ugh.

May 6 Cosby Knob-Mountain Moma's 8.0 miles

Beautiful Day today - mid 50's to low 60's. Finally! Our last day in the Smokies and we awake to a sunrise! Yes! Windy, blue skies. Broke camp at 0930. Passed "Bear" and "Mr. Underhill" at Davenport Gap Shelter. They had just come back from a cheeseburger run to Mountain Moma's. They didn't care for the folks there - said they were cold.

Had to hoof it down the road about 1 1/2 miles to Mountain Moma's. We put a few smiles on our faces and warmed up the folks there pretty quickly! Had delicious cheeseburger and 2 slices of marionberry pie with ice cream. Yum!!!. Spent the night in Moma's little cabins with "Gasboy" and "Scout" - a very nice couple from Boston- washed our clothes in their outdoor washing machines.

May 7 Mountain Moma's to Groundhog Creek Shelter 9.6 miles

Overcast and cool today. Good day for hiking. Crossed the Pigeon River and I-40 today. Get our first glimpse of Mountain Laurel today. Met the "Old Farts" from Florida for the first time. Section hikers doing two weeks each year. Later met them in Florida for lunch while I was rehabbing my ankle. 3 really nice guys out section hiking. Dropped our packs and hoofed it up to FAA tower on top of Snowbird Mountain. Seeing lots of trilliums here. Also smelling sweet cicely, something akin to "licorice".

Had exciting experience in privy last night - had to go around 5 a.m. (must have been that Teriyaki chicken!) - went to privy - found toilet seat lying on floor (nice touch) - put it back on - sat down - had my little maglite in my mouth - huge moth descends on light - I and toilet seat almost fall to ground, but suddenly notice small mouse (rat?) running between my legs. Original mission quickly forgotten. Who needs Immodium AD?

May 8 Groundhog Creek to Roaring Fork Shelter 11.3 miles

Hot and in the 80's today. Blue skies and sunny. Crossed Max Patch today - beautiful day ,windy, but that helped keep the bugs away- great views. Shortly after crossing summit and hiking thru open area, we descended again into the woods and came upon a really nice stream, not mentioned in the Data Book. Had a chance to wash off and refill our water bottles. The "Old Farts" came by and decided a bath was the thing to do. We pushed on with "Invisible Woman". Seeing lots and lots of trilliums now.Whole bunch of folks up from the road taking over the shelter at Roaring Fork, as we arrive. Nice folks though and they have propane lanterns, so finally we get to cook a meal and see what we're doing!.

May 9 Roaring Fork to Deer Park Mountain Shelter 11.3 miles

Windy today. Hiked with "Invisible Woman", "Kathy", and "Bear" today. Stopped for lunch in a nice shaded area under the rhododendrons with "Bear" and "Winged Monkey". Stayed with them in shelter . Small shelter - "Kathy" tented it. Water source rather meager here. Rained softly during the night - awoke to everything glistening with the dew.

May 10 Deer Park Shelter to Hot Springs 3.2 miles

On our way towards Hot Springs, we run into day hikers from England and Boy Scouts as well. We must be psyched as we do the 3.2 miles into Hot Springs in just over an hour. Stopped at Elmer's for our 5th Mail Drop. That sort of assured us of getting a room for the evening. Elmer can be a bit cool at times and may decide not to let you stay. But he had been receiving our mail, so guess he was prepared for us. 4 letters for us! - nice surprise! Also staying there for 2 nights.Had our own private room with our own side porch!

Did our laundry - had a great dinner at Elmer's - vegetarian by candlelight!( broccoli and carrot soup, salad, brown rice and black beans with apple dessert and ice cream!) Elmer's place is an eclectic old Victorian, but worth the experience. The little diners in town serve good food, especially the Smokey Mtn. Diner across from Elmer's.

Met a number of new hikers in town, who knew of us from our entries in the shelter logs. We also ventured down to the mineral baths for a really nice soak out in the woods. These were originally built by German soldiers who were interred here during the war. But they have been modernized into jacuzzi's which is a shame - the original buildings still stand, but the baths, despite having mineral water, are a thing of modern times.

May 11 Hot Springs 0 miles

Our 2nd day of No Hiking! Went and visited Wingfoot. Talked on the porch for about 15 minutes, then another strange fellow ("Iron Will") we had been hiking with in the Smokies showed up and we decided it was time to leave. Went to the other diner in town. Janet eats the Hiker's Breakfast and so do I (2 eggs, hash browns, whole wheat toast, bacon, 3 pancakes,coffee - gotta get that grease!)

Ate at the Duckett House for dinner with "Buzz","Spazz","Gasboy","Scout" and others - Pizza - 5 varities- very tasty and salad, and apple dessert with butter pecan ice cream ! "Invisible Woman" showed up to help celebrate "Winged Monkey's" birthday, but he was out roaming around somewhere.

May 12 Hot Springs to Spring Mountain Shelter 11.0 miles

Hit the trail at 0945. Had the blues hiking out of town today. Miss all of our friends. "Bear" is getting off the trail to return to England. We will miss him for sure - a truly nice guy. Hope all goes well for him with his bodyguard duties in South Africa! Many of our friends are off to enjoy Trail Days in Damascus, but we have elected to keep hiking. The Trail will be quiet for a few days!

Nice views of Hot Springs as you head up the mountain. We spot some lilies of the valley today - Janet says she hasn't seen these since she was a kid. Stayed the evening in the shelter with "PA Pervert" and "Mimo". "PA Pervert" was an apt name for this older southbound section hiker. Glad to see he was heading south. "Mimo" is resident expert on everything - just ask him. The "Old Farts" camped on the ridge - smart move. Ate spicy ramen noodles and mac and cheese for dinner and oreo cookies w/ coffee for dessert.

May 13 Spring Mountain to Little Laurel Shelter 8.6 miles

Broke camp at 0830. Had plans to hit Jerry's Cabin Shelter, but Janet's stomach upset (must have been that Hiker breakfast!), so we decide to stop when we hit Little Laurel shelter.We stop at the little store at Allen Gap with the "Old Farts". Strange little place - hotter than hell in there - got a Mountain Dew and a Nutter Budder ice cream cone and a little pecan pie and then went back in and had a double Moon Pie. Janet has the same - god, love that nutrition!

Run into "Highlander" near Allen Gap. Big guy, a bit slow - comes bursting out of the woods near a house, wearing a big gold dagger - wants to know if I can spare some water. Sure thing buddy! He hikes with us a while - wants to know if he can hike to Maine with us! Yikes! At the shelter, he tries to make a fire without much luck, then starts eating his Treet (something like Spam) - that's all he is carrying. He tells us he is upset that in the last shelter, the other Thru-hikers wouldn't share their food with him. Claims he has been hiking for 4 days without food. I try to explain that food is his responsibility.

The "Old Farts" are at the shelter tonight which is nice - diverts the attention of "Highlander" onto someone else! "Buzz" and "Spazz" stop in - after a long discussion and some arm twisting by Buzz, they decide to hike on despite oncoming storm. Shortly after they leave, all hell breaks loose. Bet they're drowning.

May 14 Little Laurel Shelter to Flint Mountain Shelter 12.6 miles

Incredible rain storm heading out of Little Laurel - practically drowned by the time we hit Jerry's Cabin. Trail was swamped. Boots, socks swimming in water. Wind blowing about 40 mph - practically blew us off the trail. Celestial Spirit finds her shorts so wet than when she goes to the bathroom, she can't even pull them back on ! Was wondering why she was walking along holding her shorts! (She had a rain jacket on - sorry folks - you couldn't see a thing!)

But then the sun comes out! Hit Jerry's Cabin by 2 p.m. (Asked two southbounders how far it was to Jerry's Cabin - they said 1/2 mile - turned out to be more like 2 miles - never trust someone coming from the opposite direction!) Ate some ramen noodles and a Lipton's rice dinner while we tried to dry a few things out. Make sure you use your calling card from the Cabin - don't wanna ring up any long distance charges for the caretaker! (You'll understand when you get there!)

Pass the Shelton graves (two Union soldiers who were ambushed by Confederates as they returned home to visit their Tennessee families). Gnats, bugs, fierce - don't stay long. Hit Flint Mountain around 7:30 p.m. Cleaned some clothes near the stream - stayed the night in the shelter with "Invisible Woman" and "Will". Blueberry pancakes for dinner!

May 15 Flint Mountain Shelter to Hogback Ridge Shelter 8.7 miles

Must have been a hot, tough day today. Neither of us record any notes.

May 16 Hogback Ridge Shelter to Whistling Gap Campsite 12.9 miles

Hit the trail at 0830. Heading for Big Bald. Passed thru Sam's Gap - lots of road construction going on here. Stop to scope out an abandoned house with "Invisible Woman" and "Will" . We all agree it would make a great Hiker Hostel. Hiked on - heat and humidity starting to hurt. "Full Moon" is starting to wilt. "Celestial Spirit" views cow patty for the first time up close ! The climb up Big Bald is tough (elevation 5516') , but the views of Mt. Mitchell are well worth it .

Passing thru great fields of "summer snow" (white fringed phacelia) - god it's gorgeous! Bees everywhere doing their thing, most of them drunk out of their minds on pollen. Gnats and bugs driving us nuts. Stopped at Bald Mtn. shelter for 1/2 hour - nice shelter - two story - not so nice privy.. We decide to go a bit further. After another 3.5 miles we meet the "Checkmates" in a clearing (An older couple from Czechoslovakia. Hiking hard before their visas ran out. They had just moved back from England after 20 years to their homeland after the Iron Curtain went down) and decide to camp. We sit around the fire trading trail stories till 9 p.m.and then "Invisible Woman" and "Will" show up. They are going to try some night hiking and continue on.

May 17 Whistling Gap Campsite to Erwin 13.8 miles

Broke camp at 0745 this a.m. Our earliest time yet! Long Day into Erwin. Tough climb up a Forest Service road to Temple Hill Gap. Had to navigate our way around two major blowdowns. Hiked with "Will" and "Invisible Woman" down into Erwin. This was before they switchbacked the trail. Hello knees! Great views of the Nolichucky river and a train going along it . Got a great picture of "Will" striding along with all his underwear hanging off the back of his pack and with a black trash bag draped over the pack to keep it dry. Is this guy "styling" or what? Got a yogi (a Trail word - when you get something without asking - a special moment!) at the bridge - Grady Edwards of Erwin, gave us a ride to the PO (6th Mail Drop and where we mailed part of our mail drop on to Elk Park to cut down on the weight) took us to get dinner and drove us to the Campsite. Still owe him a lobster from Maine for that! Found Erwin to be a very friendly town. Easy Hitching.

May 18 Erwin to Curley Maple Gap Shelter 2.9 miles

Big Mileages today! Left late - 3 p.m., high humidity, just needed more rest. Also hitched into town for breakfast and laundry and then hitched back. All the folks here in Erwin have been so nice and hitching has been a breeze. Enjoyed the camping alongside the river at the campground in Erwin. "Highlander" here as well - has gotten a haircut and has bought some food! He decides to stay on here and work for the campground for a while. The last time we will see him.

Lot of bees at Curley Maple Gap Shelter, so we decide to tent it. "Winged Monkey" here. We consume Peanut Butter sandwiches, apples, cookies and decaf for dinner - delicious! During the night, the rain comes again - all night. Janet's pack gets soaked outside. Hiked out with our rain jackets on, which is a drag, cause it is hard to keep your pack adjusted with a jacket on.

May 19 Curley Maple Gap to Cherry Gap Shelter 12.2 miles

Tough hiking in the rain this a.m. Celestial Spirit can't get her pack adjusted right, gets mad and throws her pack to the ground - we are fighting colds and our moods are turning a tad sour. Climbed over "Beauty Spot", but it was so cold and windy, didn't stay long - a quick glance at the view (which was spectacular) and onward. Hiked over Unaka Mtn in the fog- really erie red spruce forest up there - like something out of Hansel and Gretel. Made grill cheese sandwiches on our teflon pan tonight - yes!

May 20 Cherry Gap to Ash Gap (campsite) 12.6 miles

Perfect day for hiking, - cold,breezy,sunny. We're both fighting colds. Bad enough that in the real world I'd probably be staying home from work! Can't do that here, that's for sure! Stopped at Clyde Smith for water - water way down the trail and a mere trickle. Long tough day - glad to see a campsite area to pitch our tent. Nice grassy area here in Ash Gap - good place to camp. Ran into "Winged Monkey" again.

May 21 Ash Gap to Bradley Gap 9.9miles

Left out late this a.m. Tired from yesterday. Hit the trail around 0950. Coffee and cold cereal for breakfast. After a .9 mile hike we reached the parking lot on Roan Mtn. Janet used the bathrooms there to wash her hair, while I cursed at my water filter, whose cartridge life had expired. Fortunately, I had a spare. Crossed Roan Mtn. Noticed on the way down to Carvers Gap a junco fly out from the bank alongside the trail. Remembering that we had read in Wingfoot's book that if you went back to the place you saw them fly out of, you might find their nest. So I did and voila! - there lie 3-4 junco eggs, white with rust colored spots. A neat experience!

At Carvers Gap, a ranger takes our picture and then we begin the ascent towards Roan Highlands Shelter. Beautiful views from the Bald - the trail is deep and rutted - too many folks climbing this hill. Shortly the trail split off to the left taking us through brambles and a few minutes later we stumble onto "Winged Monkey" taking a lunch break. We stop for about 10 minutes, but it is getting cold, so we continue on. Pass two creepy looking characters at Roan Highlands Shelter so we keep moving. They mention,however, that it is worth taking a look at Overmountain Shelter.

On the way to Overmountain, we come across a sign depicting the winter travails of Revolutionary war soldiers doing battle in this area - I can handle backpacking - fighting wars in the snow here would not be my idea of a fun time! Detoured off the trail .3 to Overmountain Shelter - worth the side trek - huge loft - could hold 40 hikers. Great views of the valley.

Hit the trail around 4:30 again - hiked another 2.4 to Bradley Gap campsite. Had to hoof further north for water. Visited during night by a giant Dog tearing up something in the brush outside of our tent - spooky looking dog - what is he doing out here? Looks like a cross between a St. Bernard and an Elephant!! Maybe he smelled the Red Beans and Rice we had for dinner?

May 22 Bradley Gap to Elk Park,NC 5.9

Hit the trail at 8:05. Beautiful climb over Hump Mtn. this morning. Blue skies, sunny - trail very rutted going up, but views were awesome. Passed a hiker in his tent at the bottom of the ascent. You can see Grandfather Mtn in the distance. Got to the road past the Apple House shelter and caught a ride with a former thruhiker from Ottawa ('94) to the Dairyland in Roan Mtn. for lunch, then he took us to Elk Park to stay in the campground. We were the only ones there! Picked up our 7th Mail Drop there. We weren't planning to stay, but decided to since we were tired and trying to get over our colds.

May 23 Elk Park to Campsite before Moreland Gap 12.2 miles

Hit the trail around 0930. Headed thru pasture area after steep climb - cows mooing at us. "Taipei","Stubb" and "Boone" pass us. Ran into Warren Doyle today as we came off a road walk. (Warren has hiked the trail about 10 times and is known for bringing groups on the trail that hike some 25 miles a day with daypacks and have support vehicles at trail crossings - he teaches Appalachian Studies at George Mason) Stopped for lunch along a stream with him and a few others. Told Warren I had hiked the trail 15 times, just never bothered to tell anyone. :)

Long tough day today - up one hill and down the next. Thought we would make it to Moreland Gap Shelter, but never seemed to reach it. (Warren had said the mileage was off by a mile to Moreland Gap - guess he was right) Was dying when we finally found a water source and crashed. "Celestial Spirit" was a trooper and fetched the water and set everything up. Barely had the energy to cook.

May 24 Campsite to Laurel Falls 8.4 miles

Hit the trail at 0920. Discovered this a.m. that we were only 1 mile from the shelter. Figures. Reached Laurel Falls around 3:30. Very steep climb down into the gorge over large rocks - not fun. This is the scene of "One Wing's" tragic accident. While camping in the gorge, a large boulder rolled down the hillside landing on his tent and crushing his head. Ends up in a coma, but survives and despite memory loss today, wants to hike again .(One Wing has 1 arm and is in his 70's - God Bless Him!) Soaked our feet in the falls and then decided to head on.

After softening my feet in the stream, I discover I have a pebble in the heel of my boot - instant blister. We decide to camp by the falls with some concern about falling boulders, but we figure it would be 1 in a billion to happen again. "Celestial Spirit" freaked in the middle of the night - thought she saw flashlights and that we were being surrounded - only fireflies. We had a good laugh.

May 25 Laurel Falls to Vandeventer Shelter 15.5 miles

Hit the trail at 0730. Glad we got out early. Long climb up to Pond Flats. (A lot of people blue blaze here into Hampton - halfway up Pond Flats, I understood why) On the way down, a 5' black snake crosses our path. We lay on the grass at Watauga Lake for about an hour and enjoyed the beautiful day. Hotter than the hinges of you know what crossing over Watauga Dam. Had to get a lot of water a 1/2 mile before the hike up to Vandeventer as there is no water at the shelter. Not fun carrying it up there. "Amblin" and "Vortex" there. Had trouble falling asleep due to aching knees and feet.

May 26 Vandeventer Shelter to Double Springs Shelter 14.7 miles

Starting to pick up the pace now. Must be thinking about Damascus! Knees still hurting though and are a concern. Stopped for lunch at Iron Mtn. shelter. Wash our hair and get water (.2 mile before this shelter). "Meterman" showed up - was doing a 40 miler into Damascus to celebrate his sister's 40th birthday. Sure hope his sister appreciates that! She'll probably have him committed. Met two really nice guys (Orthodontist and Dist.Sales Manager) out section hiking from Damascus at Double Springs.

May 27 Double Springs Shelter to Damascus 18.2 miles

Here we go baby! Down the runway to Damascus! Lots of little ups and downs the whole way. Met a guy who had got his MBA from Indiana University in 1972 (same year I graduated from there! - also was a Foreign Language Teacher!)Stopped at Abingdon Gap shelter to get water. Whoa! Long long, way down for that water! Left there around 1 p.m. Running ahead of a fierce storm in the p.m. - just missed getting drowned. Got to town around 5 - feet woofing big time! - p/u'd our 8th Mail Drop from the outfitters and hit Quincy's for calzones and beer. Hostel is hopping - lots of hikers in town. We are happy - 1/4 of the Trail completed!

May 28 Damascus 0 miles

Went to TC's for breakfast. Excellent!! Got our laundry done by the Laundry lady. Chowed down at the Dairy King for lunch. Peanut butter and banana shakes - yeh! Crashed out in the lawn on our Crazy Creek chairs (one of those little luxuries bought back in Wesser). Cleaned the fungus out of my boots with vinegar and water - made the mistake of putting newspaper in them in a dark place in a vain attempt to dry them out. Nice little green carpet.

May 29 Damascus 0 miles

Memorial Day! Who can hike on Memorial Day? Ah, another day of rest! Met some new friends today - "Mayfly",S.Dakota Kid,"Trux","Stepping Stone", "Hooper","Cheshire Moon". "Winged Monkey" decides to go all out and buy a new Gregory pack at the outfitters. (If you want to see an image of our Trail Names painted on a brick which now has it's place in the sidewalk of Damascus, click here (78K pic). This was designed by "Celestial Spirit".)

May 30 Damascus to Saunders Shelter 9.4 miles

Sunny, beautiful day to hike. We leave late (1045) We decide to forgo the Creeper Trail and seek the shade of the trail. Wise choice - great, easy switchbacked hike up to Saunders. Temps in the 80's, but nice breeze. Saunders is a nice shelter. Saw a phoebe nest in the rafters. Tented under the trees with "CR" (a young Captain just out of the army with plans to get an MBA at Georgetown - very positive, pleasant upbeat guy), "Vortex", and "Whistler". It was good to get back on the trail again. 2 days off was plenty.

May 31 Saunders to just past Elk Garden 15.0 miles

Left out around 8. Stopped for lunch at Lost Mtn. shelter - brand new. "Scavenger" was there. Name fits him. Comes out every year on the trail and has been for the last 13. Don't think he hikes a lot. Reached the ascent to Buzzard Rocks around 4. Long tough climb up - getting cold and windy. Gravel road walk off the top - almost missed the trail. Down to Elk Garden. Getting late - saw a salamander while getting water! Cross the road at Elk Garden - too dark to climb Mt. Rogers - misty and cold. Scout the bluff area for campsites, finally head further into the woods and camp just past a cow pasture.

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