A week on the Appalachian Trail

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There is nothing that can put into context my experience over the last week of being on the AT. Hopefully with a few photos at least you can see a few things I did, however keep in mind photos NEVER do it justice of the places we really visit. And they never can encompass the emotions you feel when you take them.

The idea sparked two days before we started our Blackberry Farm trip outside of Knoxville, TN when Michael and I were doing some research for the trip. I bought a $1 park trail map and did a small hike that was to eventually be part of the trip. As I opened the map I quickly noticed the AT goes smack dab right through the middle of the park! Hmmm national park close + having most my gear with me = random adventure?! That day I went to Little River Trading Company which is an adorable outdoor outfitters in Maryville and asked a guy named Matt if I was crazy to just go hide out in the woods solo for a week. His answer couldn’t have been any better…”not at all”, as he just did the entire AT on a complete whim.

So it was set and I called my mom to break the news to her and ask her to ship a few gear items. Now I just have to figure out how to pull a backcountry permit, ditch the TT van in a safe spot for a week, get a ride to the trail head, figure out a ride after I finished close into Gatlinburg, a ride from Gatlinburg back to Walland where the van was, and how the hell to pack for 8 days of food needs…all with less than 12 hours on my hands before starting a trip. Simple, wing it! Basically everything fell into place and people I met along the way were generous. The outdoor world is amazing and paying it forward is so important. The day before we finished our TT trip (2 days before trail time), I went back to Little River Trading Company and asked if anyone would be interested in giving me a ride. Mike, an older gentlemen who helped me decide on a hydration system stepped up to the plate since he had that morning off. He also ended up being such a great help while I was out there since I could text in a few of the areas. He also let me know it was a win win situation as being able to hear about someone’s first experience on the AT was fun for him.

Our TT trip finished at noon and by 3 PM I was dropping Michael off at the airport to get back home to Portland. It was odd, I didn’t get nervous about the whole backcountry idea until I dropped him off and left the airport. It must have been the realization that I was now completely alone, the status I’d keep for the next week+ and hadn’t had since June. It all set in, but I didn’t have much time to deal with nerves as I had to grocery shop, buy last gear items, pack, and finish some paperwork all before 7:30 AM the next morning when Mike and I would meet up for the ride to the trailhead.

Food for 8 days...some of this I later regretted weight-wise :)
Food for 8 days…some of this I later regretted weight-wise :)

 

Mike dropped me right at the trail head and took the token picture of day one...so fresh and so clean!
Mike dropped me right at the trail head and took the token picture of day one…so fresh and so clean!

 

Leafs
All the colors!

 

The first few miles killed me. I don't know if it was the season of TT catching up, but I was so tired I saw a small patch of grass and seized the moment for a nap trail side.
The first few miles killed me. I don’t know if it was the season of TT catching up, but I was so tired I saw a small patch of grass and seized the moment for a nap trail side. And yes those are bagels hanging from my bag… I need to give the bears something to chase! 

 

After the first night in the shelter, this was my sunrise from my sleep bag. I loved the light behind the hanging backpacks.
After the first night in the Mollies Ridge shelter, this was the sunrise from my sleep bag. I loved the light behind the hanging packs.

 

sleeping bag
My lovely little snuggle nest!

 

A pic of the first shelter of the trip and the most active with little mice running around at night :) To the left you can see the nice food prep benches. The shelters typically house up to 12.
A pic of the Mollies Ridge Shelter, first of the trip and the most active with little mice running around at night :) To the left you can see the nice food prep benches. The shelters typically house up to 12.

 

Off I went with the Blue Devil. We had a love/hate relationship. Love when it came to warmth and food and tolerating each other the rest of the time :)
Off I went with the Blue Devil. My shelter friend, Warren, had to take a pic of how large my pack was. The Blue Devil and I had a love/hate relationship. Love when it came to warmth and food and toleration of each other the rest of the time :)

 

Day 3 at Rocky Top with a few other hikers coming from the North going south. It was beautiful up there and I have a perfect day to see it.
Day 3 at Rocky Top with a few other hikers coming from the north going south in the distance. It was beautiful and I have a perfect day to see the view.

 

One of the water sources along the way. Pretty typical and easy. You still needed to filter it, but the trailer is really well marked.
One of the water sources along the way. Pretty typical and easy. You still needed to filter it, but the trail is really well marked.

 

A trail picture. At moments I'd stop and realize just how cool it was being on the trail and it's simple beauty.
A trail picture. At moments I’d stop and realize just how cool it was being on the trail and its simple beauty.

 

It's hard to grasp elevation in photos, but the AT through the Smokies is challenging...up and down almost constantly.
It’s hard to grasp elevation in photos, but the AT through the Smokies is challenging…up and down almost constantly.

 

The day I did 12 miles I woke and was out of camp before sunrise. As a reward I got to see the sunrise hit the mountains along my way.
Day 3: The day I did 12 miles I woke and was out of camp before sunrise. As a reward I got to see the sunrise hit the mountains along my way.

 

Correct, that's a bear paw imprint. After consulting a handful of locals I decided not to waste my money (or the pack weight) on bear spray. And guess what?? I was incredibly lucky to get to see a black bear for myself on the trail. It was 11.5 miles into my 12 mile day and there he was 30 ft away crossing the trail. It's amazing how your brain works when you on the alert for something constantly and then when it really happens you wonder if it's real momentarily. Well...he was real and I did exactly as I'd been instructed. I yelled "HEY!" and reached for my whistle. I was so proud of us, we both carried out our roles perfectly. I made noise, he ran. Afterwards you may think you'd be scared, not me, it was the highlight of my hike. My adrenaline was up and I was so stoke I got to see one. About 30 minutes later I rolled into a shelter and had to tell all my follow hiker strangers what just happened with a big dorky smile on my face.
Correct, that’s a bear paw imprint. After consulting a handful of locals I decided not to waste my money (or the pack weight) on bear spray. And guess what?? I was incredibly lucky to get to see a black bear for myself on the trail. It was 11.5 miles into my 12 mile day and there he was 30 ft away crossing the trail. It’s amazing how your brain works when you’re on alert for something constantly and then when it really happens you wonder if it’s real momentarily or if your brain is playing tricks. Well…he was real and I did exactly as I’d been instructed. I yelled “HEY!” and reached for my whistle. I was so proud of us, we both carried out our respective roles perfectly. I made noise, he ran. Afterwards you may think you’d be scared, not me, it was the highlight of my hike. My adrenaline was up and I was so stoke I got to see one. About 30 minutes later I rolled into a shelter and had to tell all my follow hiker strangers what just happened with a big dorky smile on my face.

 

This is Neon (trail name) and she's 65 year young doing the trail in 10 day increments. She's a semi retired orthodontist and this was her last leg for the season, which she'll continue in the spring when it warms up. Pretty inspiring as a few years ago she didn't have the ability to hike even a mile, now she rocks out multi-mile days with 28 lbs on her back.
This is Neon (trail name) and she’s 65 years young doing the entire trail in 10 day increments. She’s a semi retired orthodontist and this was her last leg for the season, which she’ll continue in the spring when it warms up. Pretty inspiring as a few years ago she didn’t have the ability to hike even a mile, now she rocks out multi-mile days with 28 lbs on her back. We had a great time talking about travel, she’s been to every continent!

 

Here you will think that the trail is straight ahead and slightly to the right. NOPE! That's another trail coming into the AT. The AT is that slated rock to the left and you are going up!
Here you will think that the trail is straight ahead and slightly to the right. NOPE! That’s another trail coming into the AT. The AT is that slated rock to the left and you are going up!

 

The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail, so amazingly put together.

 

I wish I had taken a better photo than this, but here is one of the many tree down along the trail. However the interesting thing about this one is the rock that it loved so much, it won't let go. The rock is about 4' in diameter and huge! It's amazing it's still holds on with very little contact around the edge of the rock. I wonder if it will ever let go...
I wish I had taken a better photo than this, but here is one of the many tree down along the trail. However the interesting thing about this one is the rock that the tree loved so much, it won’t let go. The rock is about 4′ in diameter and huge! It’s amazing it’s still holds on with very little contact around the edge of the rock. I wonder if it will ever let go…

 

My last night on the trail I stayed at Icewater Spring Shelter. I was SO excited when I was the first one there for the night. It had been raining for 2 days and being able to run your own set timeline without anyone around was great. I even had time to put my jammies on a make some tea. This picture is great, because even though we have a "better" perfectly posed one, this one captures the moment way better. This is Xiaoyue, sounds like (Shou(t at) you) and her mom. She lives in Chicago and her mother is visiting from China (where she is also from). After a long rainy day, they were brightness in the air. Her mom was so excited to see an AT hiker (even though I explained I wasn't worthy of that title).
My last night on the trail I stayed at Icewater Spring Shelter. I was SO excited when I was the first one there for the night. It had been raining for 2 days and being able to run your own set timeline without anyone around was great. I even had time to put my jammies on and make some tea.
This picture is great, because even though we have a “better” perfectly posed one, this one captures the moment way better. This is Xiaoyue, sounds like (Shou(t at) you) and her mom. She lives in Chicago and her mother is visiting from China (where she is also from). After a long rainy day, they were brightness in the air. Her mom was so excited to see an AT hiker (even though I explained I wasn’t worthy of that title).  Xiaoyue had taken her mom from Chicago up to the NE to see Niagara Falls, down to day hike in the Appalachian Mountains and I just received an email saying she brought her all the way to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley. And I thought I got around!! They were adorable and I hope that photo gives you that sense.

 

Haha okay so my last night was by far a pretty fun one. We had a solid group of young'ns in the shelter. Two of them are Cotton (Aaron) and his GF Rachel. I love this photo because this is the next morning when it was windy as shit (up to 60 mph) and raining (again) and everyone's gear is EVERYWHERE. No one wanted to leave their sleep bags! I can't wait to see where I meet up again with Cotton and Rachel, they are solid people!
Haha okay so my last night was by far a pretty fun one. We had a solid group of young’ns in the shelter. Two of them are Cotton (Aaron) and his GF Rachel. I love this photo because this is the next morning when it was windy as shit (up to 60 mph) and raining (again) and everyone’s gear was EVERYWHERE. No one wanted to leave their sleep bags! I can’t wait to see where I meet up again with Cotton and Rachel, they are such solid people!

 

The final night pose! Good times!
The final night posse! Good times and the givers of my trail name, Crazy Legs :)

 

My favorite sign on the trail. So simple, just like being on the trail. Just like life if you approach it in the right manner. Getting out and experiencing this trail was a big step for me. It was a test to see how comfortable I could be solo in the woods. Part of me knew it was a trail run for what may lay ahead, but never did I under value it. There's certainly more to my hours of walking and wonderful people I met, even the ones for just a few minutes, but this is what I wanted to at least post and share. Happy to help anyone that decides to play in the Smokies, it's worth your while and I know I couldn't have done it without the people that helped me. Until the next time, live well and be happy.
My favorite sign on the trail. So simple, just like being on the trail. Just like life if you approach it in the right manner. Getting out and experiencing this trail was a big step for me as it was my longest backcountry outing. It was a test to see how comfortable I could be solo in the woods in addition to think time. Part of me knew it was a trial run for what may lay ahead, but never did I under value it. There’s certainly more to my hours of walking and wonderful people I met, even the ones I met for just a few minutes, but this is what I wanted to at least post and share. I am happy to help anyone that decides to play in the Smokies, it’s worth your while and I know I couldn’t have done it without the people that helped me.

Until the next time, live well and be happy,

~Crazy Legs

5 thoughts on “A week on the Appalachian Trail

  1. Thank you Tera for letting me live vicariously on all your travels. The Smokies are just so beautiful! I need to start hiking with Cathy.

  2. Amazing story! Completely inspiring! I’ve always dreamt a hike through, either in the AT or the PCT. I guess I should stop thinking of how I am going to make the time, all the details and just go! Life is short, rock on Crazy Legs!!!

  3. My immediate question would be, “who are you calling an older gentleman?” People here at the store got a big laugh with that one.
    Was very happy to be able to help you out. It’s one of the things that we pride ourselves in, here at Little River, helping people to get the best that they can possibly experience on their trip through the Smokies.

    Awesome photos. Seen all those places many, many times over the years, (as an older gentleman, have been backpacking since 1967).
    Looking forward to hearing about your trip to South America.

  4. Hey Terra … Crazy Legs! Great blog! We enjoyed our time together with you at Siler’s Bald and on the hike back to Newfound Gap. Looking forward to reading about your many adventures (could there be a thru hike in the works?)!!!

    Bulldog & Loonie

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