Amicola Falls

Risk's TrailJournal

Amicola to Cold Spring

Week One:

May 15 - 22 2004



16 May, Sunday Morning

In the last 15 minutes of the drive yesterday, I lost a bolt in the right front brake, that I must not have tightened enough. I limped a couple miles into Fontana Village, and immediately found a garage where there is a mechanic who may be able to fix the thing come Monday. Anyway, I left the truck there and it is not part of my concern for the next 10 days. 

I called Jeff and Nancy at the Hike Inn, and they told me that Beverly, their neighbor would be by shortly to pick me up. 

It turned, during our 2 1/2 hour trip that Beverly is out of a mold now broken. We talked about her upbringing in an AF colonel's family, her first marriage to a Brooks AFB primate researcher, her long period as a single person, then her terrible auto accident, and subsequent marriage to her loving husband. 

I learned that she was Seminary trained, had been a Unitarian minister, had lost the skills to be a platform speaker, had needed to learn how to write again, and now is spending much of her time helping neighbors learn how to grow, market, and sell native species of plants. Notably the Ramp, which I also learned a great deal about. 

The time passed swiftly, and before I knew it, We were at Amacolola falls.

On the approach trail last evening began at 530 PM) I met a couple of high school buddies, now two years out of high school, just beginning a long hike.

John wants to get all the way to Katadin, but knows it is late to be getting started. His brother, Corduroy, started the trail earlier in the spring but dropped out with foot problems. John had planned to start with him, but had problems with appendicitis and had to delay to now. 

His friend Adam, was having a bit harder time, and plans to go all the way to Damascus. He was desirous to find a trail name, and asked me how Packman sounds since he hates packs. I will be interested to see how the two do. They are starting out with 40 pound packs. 

I spent the night at Black mountain shelter by myself. Well, it was me and a mouse. For a change, I slept in the shelter. Not a bad night's rest. I got up at 530 and hiked to Springer, where I now sit. 


First White Blaze of the AT

In the last week, it looks like about 15 thru hikers have started. From talking to several of them, they do plan to hike the whole thing.

I walked to the Springer shelter to go to the privy and to check the log, but it turns out that the shelter register there had been replaced since my December visit.

One valuable change since this winter, is that the parking at forest road 42 is now free.

I walked 16 miles today, stopping at Springer, Stover Creek, Hawk Mt, and then I stopped at the Gooch Mt. shelter. It was built last October.

Gooch Mountain Shelter from the loft

Lots of hikers taking refuge from the rain. 
-Flail and Cardy who are thru hiking.
-Mooch a section hiker who is doing sections and trying not too hard to study for grad school
-Doc is the son of a FP physician in Lexington Kentucky
-Sassy and Ron section hiking to Standing Indian
-Father and son Rick and Matt. Matt is thru hiking, and Rick is hiking until Friday.
-Jeff and Josh thru hiking. Jeff is trying to figure out how to use a new alcohol stove. I was able to help him find 3 rocks to support his pot.

It was discouraging to find out today, that my shoes somehow leak water in the rain, even when wearing my OR gaiters. The Frogg Toggs worked very well. The OR Sahale sombrero worked perfectly. 

Walk Well!




First night spent on hard wood floor

Monday, 17 May

The night was quiet after the rain. I enjoyed spending the night in the shelter, though I am nor used to the hard bed. 

On the way out, I found Charles and his wife camped where the old Gooch gap shelter had been. 

I met the ridge Runner, Mike, who wanted to know what I had heard about bear sightings. He was also interested in my hammock set-up and the weight of my pack. (It is running about 18 lbs right now.)

At 1000 I came out on Woody gap about the same time the sun did. I was able to get a couple journal entries off, and to do some drying of the gear.

Flame Azalea

Discovery of the day: when the top of my socks is rolled down over the top of my shoes, it acts as a little gaiter and keeps grit and small stones out of the shoes. It works best if I tie the shoelace over the top of the sock.

This song was invented somewhere just before Blood Mountain. It is a cadence to music which gave me encouragement while poling my way to the top. 

Sometimes, in the mountains, I feel a kinship with all nature around me, and other times I feel challenged by the trail set before me. This song is a chant of victory for the second set of feelings. Well, here is the verse... 

This mountain tried to beat me
This mountain did its best
This mountain did not defeat me
I walked to the top and suckled its breast
I walked to the top to take a rest
I walked to the top to breathe a breath
I walked to the top to shout from its crest.

I summited Blood Mountain with Jeff and Josh. They left the shelter almost two hours after me and caught up by mile 11 for the day.

Summiting Blood Mountain with Josh and Jeff

Blood Mountain Shelter

Tired at the top of Blood Mountain

I arrived at Walasiyi-Inn about 5 PM. I was able to buy a couple more days of food. Next phone is at the Blueberry Patch at Hiawasse, Dick's creek Gap. (I later found out, and confirmed by phone, that the Blueberry Patch closed 1 May until next year.) 

I will be celebrating my 51st birthday tomorrow. I will be doing just what I want, except that I will miss the family. 

Walk Well!




Journal 18 May

Happy birthday to me!

The day began well with a birthday breakfast of two micro-waved cheeseburgers. This complemented the pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream and full bag of nacho flavored Combos I had the night before. 

miles the first day: 9
miles Sunday: 16
miles Monday: 16
miles today: 11 

Started the morning at the Walasiyi-Inn, the only place where the AT goes through a building.  The shop is well supplied with camping and food supplies.

The Inn 

I learned my lesson last year not to walk too far on my birthday. This year my knees are doing well.

Health is holding up. Knees great, one blister (left little toe). Otherwise a little sore, but feeling good.

Camping again tonight with Jeff and Josh at the Low Gap shelter, hidden an a little valley with the sound of trickling water in the front yard. 

First Hammock Camp of the trip

Two other couples are camped in the tent areas up the valley. Steve and Amy, and George and Cherryl, "Snowbirds."

Enough for this evening.

Wildlife seen so far:
- groundhog at Amacola Falls
- chipmunk
- shelter mouse
- timber rattler
- garter snake
- lizards
- turkey

Sounds like rain tonight.
Walk Well!




Journal 19 May

Starting:Low Gap Shelter
Ending:Tray Shelter
Miles:15  Total Miles:66
Wildlife:Wild turkey and Pilliated Woodpecker
Hikers met: Joy and Josh (TeamRocket)
Overnight section hiker Ken from Georgia
Arnie - section hiker with a bunch of miles 
Views and peaks: Rocky Mountain and Tray Mt. 
Climbs: 500 up over 7 miles then in 8 miles: 1000 down, 1000 up, 1000 down, 1500 up, 500 down.
Photos:Tray Mt shelter

Tray Mountain Shelter

Arnie in Tray Mt Shelter

I have been experimenting today with opening several inches of the bottom of my gaiters to be able to wear them and not have moisture condense. So far, so good. By the end of the day, I am convinced! 

The paths are lined with grass and poison ivy.  Gaiters are useful. Photo at foot level.

Body glide seems to work well on hot spots on my feet to prevent blisters. I wish I would have figured that out before the blister formed on my left little toe. The good news is that blister is responding well to the application of the Glide to prevent it from breaking prematurely.

Had another gully washer today, and was able to keep my feet dry. I wore the hiking kilt full down and took my shirt off. When the trail turned into a series of deep puddles, I waited 10 minutes before proceeding. I think this allowed me to not splash water up under my gaiters and then shoes did as advertised keeping my feet dry.

In the shelter tonight (so far) are Ken, Arnie, Josh (Mutt) and Jeff (Rawhide). I took a picture of the reason for Rawhide's name, his waist wounds.

Also took a picture of the hammock with the fly high and spread out.

Hammock shelter spread out on Tray Mountain

Walk Well!


Journal 20 May

Began the day with wake up in the clouds at Tray Mountain. Up at 545 and packed up and out of the campsite by 630. I walked and climbed, cresting an 800 foot hill just after Addis Gap. The highlight of the day was reaching Dick's Creek Gap. While there I dried out my shoes and socks that got wet in the dew (from the clouds) from all morning.

At Dick's Creek, the van from Hiawasse Inn was just pulling up and 
Evan and Larisa, brother and sister, from New Jersey, were getting out.

I took a picture of them at the Plum Orchard Shelter. 

I was expecting Rawhide and Mutt to come to this shelter this afternoon, but it is 2 hours after I pulled in, and they are not to be seen. They may have gone in to Hiawasse. 

Starting: Tray Mountain Shelter
Ending: Plum Orchard Shelter
Miles:15 Total Miles:80
Wildlife: frog
Hikers met: Evan (Mousetrap) and Larisa
Views and peaks: nice view from a nameless peak of a beautiful valley.

Walk Well!




Journal 21 May, Friday  

Starting: Plum Orchard Shelter
Ending: Campsite 1 mile past Winding Stair Gap 
Miles:16 Total Miles:
Wildlife: Squirrel
Hikers met: Absolutely no one
Views and peaks: none
Photos: NC/GA border

The night was quiet. I had a few leg cramps in the middle of the night. I got up and the sky was completely clear. There was a large hole in the trees above the shelter and I was able to see many of the stars just toward the zenith from the north star.

The hike was a dry one, with few water sources. I did run into a nice stream just before the shelter and took the opportunity to take a bath using the pocket bucket. 

I just washed my shirt with a few drops of soap, twice, and then used the shirt to take a very wet sponge bath using the shirt as the sponge. It was refreshing and made me smell a lot better too.

Right after the state border, there is a tree many have called the Octopus Tree. It is a narled old tree bent over at the roots. The sun was not in a good position for me to take a picture. The tree commands a view from a little meadow, and is sentinal to the first climbs of North Carolina. 

There are many hard climbs in the state with good switchbacks. The first one of the state is not one of them. The initial climb of several hundred feet is straight up a 50 degree slope. What a welcome!

The next several miles led to the Muskrat Creek Shelter. Here I signed the very small shelter register timed 1045, and had first lunch, consisting of several handfuls of GORP. It was then 4 more pretty but otherwise not memorable miles to Deep Gap.

I had been here before with PapaJohn Kennedy. I am glad he showed this one to me. It would not be very easy to work my way through the trail without the introduction. 

Taking the Kimsey Creek shortcut I cut off the Standing Indian-Albert loop and walked into the Standing Indian Campground. From there I walked up to the AT crossing of the road a mile up the road and met a section hiker named Tom, who was just finishing the Albert loop. He gave me a ride down the mountain to Franklin. 

I went shopping at the grocery store in Franklin and ate at Fat Buddy's BBQ. 

I called the cab company, City Cab, to ask about a ride back to Winding Stair Gap. They wanted $22 for the ride which I thought to be a bit steep. So did the wait staff at Fat Buddy's. They were not able to find any of their friends free at the moment to earn $10, so I ended up walking out toward the road.

In the parking lot, a group of older fellers were showing off their classic cars. I mentioned my problem, and they suggested just going out to State 64 and beginning to walk. They were pretty sure that someone would pick me up. 

So it was that Jeb Tole stopped in his pick-up and offered me a ride. He was headed up to the gap on his way to his folk's place to do some fishing for the weekend. 

>From there it was a mile hike up to the first campground north of Winding Stair. The campsite is beautiful, if a tad lonely. There is a burbling brook in the front yard, ad songbirds are singing their evening songs. 
Makes me sleepy. 

Walk Well!




Journal 22 May, Saturday

Starting: campsite north of Winding Stair Gap
Ending: Cold Spring Shelter
Miles:14.8 Total Miles:113.6
Wildlife: Small auburn red squirrel
Hikers met: Crank and Jeeves, southbound from Damascus
Views and peaks: Siler's Bald, Wayah Bald
Photos: Wayah and Siler's and a photo of the way I cool my feet each hour.

Siler Bald

Wayah Bald

Cooling feet, hourly stop, using inside of gaiters as a surface to keep socks clean

Last night, well after dark, I woke and took a look outside the hammock, around the dark, still camping spot. The air was ashimer with fireflies! They seemed to be attracted to each other's blinking, sometimes flying toward each other. Once or twice, one flew toward my hammock, lights on coming in for a landing. But at the last moment, they recognized that the airfield was not a friendly one. 

I tried blinking my watch, which seemed to be about the same color, but when I did, all lights went off for 10-15 seconds. They were not going to be fooled.

The blazes on the trees in Georgia were much more sparse than here in NC. I read a note at Deep Gap shelter in Georgia, which described the program they are involved in. They are limiting white blazes to immediately around confusing intersections and then only putting a blaze every 1000 feet or so. Each blaze that is maintained, has straight clear borders and is designed to be very easy to see. Extra old blazes are being systematically removed by scraping the paint from the tree trunk and then rubbing that scraped area with dirt. No doubt this will decrease the workload for the trail maintainers, but it also helps to preserve the wilderness aspect of the trail a bit better. 

After leaving the Mt Albert area, I have seen absolutely no poison ivy along the trail or anywhere else. I wonder if it has something to do with the chemical make-up of the soil. Altitudes are similar and habitat seems a lot the same. I also note that the lemon tasting clover like weed is also absent. (I later ran into poison ivy again near Fontana and in the Smoky Mountains.)

I arrived at the shelter a little early, at 245 PM. Maybe I was walking too fast. But the creaking my knees were making on the last mile of uphill trail told me that rest and glucosamine were indicated, not pressing on to another shelter 5.8 miles away. Besides I am in no hurry to end my vacation. I am going to run out of miles before time anyway, if the schedule of about 15 miles a day holds up.

Since I was hot, and the afternoon sunny, I took a bit of a bath as soon as I arrived. Now, at 530 PM, no one else has arrived. Alone again. 

Thunder boomers are making themselves heard, and I am thinking of sleeping in the shelter instead of putting the hammock up in a thunderstorm.

Things are quieting down, and I am thinking of pre-bed chores. 


Rumbling across the valley below, the deep bass roll foretells what may be in store. Many times, the rumble comes, and all I feel is a sprinkle, or even nothing at all. This evening is not to be that way.

Fortunately, I am ensconced in a weather tight shelter. I am ever so glad for that as the downpour hits and a small flood forms in the dirt and rocks just in front of my shelter. 

The rain drops look like they are the size of lima beans. They make bubbles in the puddles in front of me, and the bubbles flow downstream from one puddle to another. Eventually, the bubble either bursts because of some obstruction, or when a raindrop hits the bubble and destroys it in an instant. 

Lightning begins to strike nearby. The flashes and the crack of the thunder are hardly separated by more than a few tenths of a second. This storm center is close by. 

The sound on the roof changes from the splashy sound of raindrops to the twanging of hail. I look outside, the hail is not even the size of peas, but it sure makes a racket. 

Later, when the cacophony has subsided, my mesmerized mood is changed when a wet hiker straggles in, chilled and very glad to see there is room in the shelter. Before long, his supper is steaming and he is in dry clothes, a much happier camper than when he came in. 

And I think, to myself, save for the grace of God, that could have been me. But instead, I was given the privilege to enjoy the rain as heavenly fireworks and a play after dinner.


Walk Well!




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