Day 3 Hiking the AT in Tennessee

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Profile from Huthook’s AT Hiker Guide, for iPhone (and Android), on the APP store.

The thermometer hit 87 degrees today. All the climbs, jumping off ledges, stepping up and over downed trees, black fly devils, andy sweat -drenched shirt were intensified by the heat of the sun.
In the forest, the deciduous trees up over 3,500 feet still have little damp, light green leaves, which do nothing to create shade below. The only respite from the brutal heat were the frequent groves of rhododendron, with their long, thick , dark green leaves. The ground below them was damp, too, further lowering the temps.
I had a bad night of sleep. My upper spine was aching all night long. I forgot to pack ibuprofen.
I left the Mountaineer shelter at 6:20 this morning. Ken, the richly tattooed hiker, was out first at 6. I passed 16 hikers and was passed by two today.
At the end of the day, at the Dennis Cove parking lot, I ran into Hippie Kippy, a fellow thru-hiker and friend that I met a few times while hiking around New England in 2011. Kippy asked me to bring Bob Peoples a big tray of trail magic enchiladas.

20140513-192607.jpg It was just a .3 mile hike up Dennis Cove Road to Bob’s place. The frozen casserole felt great pressed against my chest.
I completed the 16 miles by 2 PM, and arrived at Kincora Hostel in time to snag a spot in the upstairs bunkhouse. A number of the other folks that I’ve been staying the night with came by later. Squirrel, a petite young lady organized a group supper, and I volunteered to organize a breakfast for the eight of us. Bob drove us to Hampton for resupply for the next 50 mile segment to Damascus. I bought three and a half days worth of food.
I hung out with Bear and his wife, Honey, a couple from Andover, Maine, who have run the Bear’s Den Hostel there for the past 20 years. They were staying with Bob in their pickup/ camper combo. They are vacationing before the hiking season starts in Maine. They had been out to the PCT Kickoff in California and were winding their way back to Maine.
I’m thinking of hiking the 50 mile Maine section from Gorham, NH to The Height of Land just south of Rangely. Bear told me he is able to slack hikers through that whole section. He said he would give me a great time stay at the Bear’s Den.
Great communal feed of spaghetti, salad, watermelon, and ice cream tonight. I very much appreciated the hikers including me in their group, and plan to repay them tomorrow morning when it will be my turn to cook.
The hiking was difficult and relentlessly hilly for most of the day , but the hot shower and warm welcome at Kincora made all the hard-earned sweat go right down the drain with a pile of my fretting and cares.

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ALMOST HIKING

Sometimes traveling is a bitch. Like right now. I staggered into what I thought was Tricities airport in Tennessee at midnight last night after two flight delays of 5 hours total and a reroute. I called the motel shuttle and was looking forward to complete collapse when I learned that I was at the wrong airport- Knoxville, TN. There are no direct flights from here up to Tricities. Being fried, I had no clue how to deal with anything.
I was one lonely ranger after 14 hours of riding, sitting, but mostly waiting. I spotted the glow of a Hilton sign in walkable distance and scored a room for 6 hours of rumpling the duvet that cost me $130.
The next morning I walked back to the United counter only to learn that a flight up the Tricities would cost me 9 more hours of waiting and another $730. Nope.
Enter Bob Peoples, from Kincora hostel. He called me back after I cancelled the shuttle I was to take from Tricities over to Carver’s Gap, where I had hoped to walk north on the Appalachain Trail for some 100 miles this week.
“I’ll come and get you, be right there, hold tight, ” he said. The man is an angel.
It’s a shaky start that may still see more changes in plans, with 70% chance of thunderstorms today. I was to start walking between 4,000 and 5,000 feet in elevation- a poor situation to deal with up there, with exposure, wind, rain, and lightening strikes adding to the zings I’m dancing around right now.
But the faintest glimmer in my heart rests on an image of Mr. Calm and Capable, heading my way right now.

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AT – Day 5

AT – Day 5
Bob Peoples’ Kincora hostel is the only place in town now. Braemar down in Hampton is closed this season as is the Dennis Cove hostel/ camping on Dennis Cove Road. Bob still tries to accommodate all hikers who come up his driveway- he may not have enough bed space for 40 people, but continues to allow folks to shower, shuttle into town, and use the land line here ( with a credit card). I gave Bob extra cash for my donation here. $4 per night is just not enough. He told me he had just served the 17,000th backpacker.
Crazy comings and goings- Pebbles and Chris, still sleeping beside me this morning are strapping on day packs and just have sleeping bags and food for two 25 mile running segments into Damascus from here. I plan to walk it in three nights, coming into Trail Days on Thursday.
I was out first at 7:30 AM today. Cool, clear morning. After Laurel Falls I decided to take the 1 mile blue blazed trail into Hampton and bypass the 2,000 foot ascent and the 2,000 descent up to Pond Flats. Downside is that I couldn’t get a hitchhike out of town to get back to the AT, so I ended up walking two plus miles to do that. I ran into two groups of guys that I had met in the last few days, and hiked with them. I also bypassed a meaningless 300 foot climb after walking over Watuga Dam, all it took was staying on the road. I LOVE the fact that I can walk where I want on this trip. Of course, I could always walk wherever I wanted to but on the 2007 hike I walked every inch of the AT. If I see some meaningless re-route up to a viewless landing I may avoid it. I spent the rest of the day humping 1,600 feet to this Vandventer Shelter, where I snagged a bed space before the shelter filled up. There are 7 tents here as well, most everyone here is section hiking.
This hiking is tough. The uphills are really taxing. This is one of the aspects of hiking the AT that differs from hiking the PCTA, where it would be switchbacked to the extreme. The shelter experience is another novelty for me. Clearly there is much more of an instant social interaction every 8 miles or so with the placement of these simple enclosed three-sided shelters.
So far, so good.

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AT- Day 4

Appalachian Trail- Day 4
Short 3 hour, 6 mile descent this morning into the cabled hostel- Kincora, manned by former New Englander Bob Peoples. I estimated that I’d hit Dennis Cove Road at 10:30 PM and that’s what happened. I feel how much more relaxed I am out here living the trail life compared to the nervousness I know I experienced back walking into here in 2007. Then, I was worrried about finding the place, worried about having a bed, about going into town, about how many days it takes to hike into Damascus, all worried up. This time, I walked onto the porch, slipped out of my clothes, showered and shaved, and scored an empty bunk, lower half even- up in the sleeping room. About 10 people here so far, although there have been 40 here several of the last few nights. It’s peak season, heading towards Trail Days coming right up. I may even have time to wash out some clothes today. I don’t carry spares any more, but change into my rain suit when I do wash what few clothes I do have.
I have 50 more miles to make in the next four days. There looks like a purposeless hill to go up and over just before Watuga Dam that I’m debating blue blazing, if nothing more than just to exercise the option to do that. That means skipping a section of the AT, which I feel that I can do now after walking every step of the thing in 2007.
But this afternoon, there’s going to be some reading, some napping, some socializing and then a 4:30 PM shuttle into town to buy groceries, find some place to eat, and stock up on whatever else I think I’ve got to have to walk out the next 50 miles of AT.