Mile 109.8 Winding Stair Gap – Franklin, NC

I’m taking a nero (near-zero) day today to recover after some tough hiking. Whenever someone on the trail says “nero day” I think “Wow, I didn’t know anyone celebrated the life of Caesar Nero.” But I refrain from saying this out loud and thus outing myself as a “smart person.”
I meant to post in Hiawasee where I last stopped a week ago, but I got busy with everything going on and forgot to find a computer. At Hiawasee I stayed at the Blueberry Patch hostel which is run as a donation-based Christian ministry by a former thru-hiker Gary Poteat and his wife Lennie. They grow blueberries on site and make a fabulous blueberry syrup for the pancakes they serve each morning. They even do the hiker’s laundry for them which is quite amazing considering how badly we smell.
Prior to Hiawasee I left Neel’s Gap as the first hiker out in the morning and made fast time. Partially I think I wanted to get away from the group I had been hiking with and find another group. After a 19.3 mile day (my then record mileage day) I made it to Blue Mountain Shelter and found a new group of people. Some of them I have continued on with.
The hikers I know out here are as follows:
Grin from North Dakota
Sherwin from Pennsylvania
Lizzy from Austin, TX
David from Houston, TX
Roadrunner from Coventry, UK
Honey Badger
Uke (Who carries a ukulele)
Low Rider (from Estonia)
Patchouli from Wisconsin
Jedidiah (Jedi) from Florida (who carries a guitar)
Miles from Nowhere
Starman from Vermont (a 1985 thru hiker)
First Gear from Vermont
Hawaii from Connecticut
So’m Peach from Alabama
Trailmaster from Tulsa, OK
Dirt Nap
There are also numerous section hikers and locals I’ve seen hiking. (Even a UofMichigan grad I met yesterday at the fire tower on top of Mt. Albert). He planned on getting back to town to watch the Final Four. I’m sorry to say I missed it. But, GO BLUE! Michigan wins and is in the final game tomorrow against Louisville. I will unfortunately miss this game as well as the trail beckons me back to the wilderness.
After Hiawasee the worst-case conditions occurred. 37F and rain. Ice came falling from the trees as a dozen of us made haste to Tray Mountain Shelter. The falling ice became known as “Ice Monkeys” and made conditions quite challenging. The pants I was wearing aren’t really rain pants and got soaked. The expensive Arc’Teryx coat held up well. I didn’t even use my umbrella as I may have slowed me down to carry it in those conditions. Fortunately the shelter was a 3-level design and 8 of us hunkered down on the top attic level and got warm while listening to made-up songs about out condition by Jedidiah. I have these songs on audio recording. Low Rider from Estonia came to the shelter just after the bulk of the group and found that his water bladder had exploded in his back soaking his sleeping bag. He used some amazing survival skills and toughness to set up a fire despite the freezing rain. Many were impressed that he got a fire lit as all. He was hoping his sleeping bag would dry out but it never did. He used an emergency foil blanket but to little avail. Seeing Low Rider shivering at night Jedidiah offered up his sleeping bag and came up to the attic with just his clothing on to lay between two other sleepers and get warm.
From there it’s been quite a few miles. I have had only minor blisters, minor knee pain, and some chafing on my legs. I’m taking good care of each of these situations to prevent them from worsening. Yesterday was my new record distance of 19.7 miles and over the imposing Mt. Albert with a difficult steep climb to the summit. The big miles this early in the trail have made it so that I’ve outrun most of the people I know. I plan to ease down a bit on the miles for a while. I met the trail-famous Miss Janet (who formerly owned a hostel in Erwin TN) in Neel’s gap and she recommended never to walk more than 20 miles a day. Well, I did 19.7 in rough terrain. I think she’d probably say that’s a bad idea. Miss Janet (who was with another legend, Baltimore Jack) said hi to my friend and former thru-hiker Sal Paradise and mentioned that she just say him recently in a picture of hers. Just yesterday I met my third trail legend, Warren Doyle, but didn’t realize who I had been talking to until a mile later when another hiker informed me.
I haven’t received a lot o trail-magic (free food) yet. I got a chocolate bar from a nice older local guy yesterday on the trail. I missed by a few hours a huge free breakfast back with Warren Doyle.
I’ve got a bunch of pictures I’ll try to upload to this post, but I’m only given 30 minutes on the computer here at the motel in Franklin.
Blueberry Patch Hostel
This Too Shall Pass
Jedidiah Singing "Hakuna Matata"
Tray Mountain Shelter after Cold Rain Storm.
View from Standing Indian
Down the Path
Sioux City Sarsparilla