Brian's Hike on the Appalachian Trail(5)
February 20, 2000 until ????

brianshike4 : Mar 4 to Mar 8
Mileage: 150 to 150 miles

Brian's Journal

Saturday, March 4, 2000 ~~16 long miles today and 150 miles from Springer What a day. It more than met my fears and expectations as one of the hardest sections on the AT. I woke up at 7, packed, ate a great breakfast (French toast and bacon), sent out some mail, and hit the trail at 9:30. It was a long, 7 miles uphill from Nantahala Gorge to Sassafras Gap Shelter. It rained all morning, but sometimes I was above the rain clouds, and other times I was right in them. Some parts were absolutely amazing though. Real pretty trail.

I ate lunch at Sassafras Gap with Raphael and Shaman, then decided to move on to here. All ups and downs with few switchbacks. Around 2pm the sun burned through the clouds, and we ended up with a nice afternoon. Around that time, I started fantasizing about the tuna-cheese bagel sandwich I would have for dinner. Fortunately, it lived up to my daydreams. The Ramen (soup) did not. We ended the day with a strenuous track from Stecoah Gap to here. You could see how well the controlled fires clean up the forest floor.

After all is said and done, I feel good now, regardless of the ass licking I got today. I guess it's part of the pure masochistic pleasure of hiking---looking pain in the eye and saying "!" I think a lot of the enjoyment of hiking comes from that, pushing your body to the limit, then letting your mind overpower your body. I love it, I love it, I love it! BREAKDOWN!

Huh....Hard to believe I'll be at Fontana tomorrow night. I'll even burst into a new section in the Data Book. I think I'll sleep through most of the morning, so I hope tomorrow's 12 miles aren't as tough as today's 16. I don't think anything could be as tough as today's 16. I'll sure get a good night's sleep. Time to hit the sack. BG

The Fontana Hilton
Sunday, March 5, 2000 ~~13 today and 162.8 from Springer and 290 to Damascus Well now it's a late night after a long day. The walk down to Fontana was a painful, steep down, but we got here. This shelter is incredible, definitely Hilton material. After we got in we called up a Public Safety Shuttle, and got a ride to Fontana Village. It was kind of like the hotel in "The Shining", weird place. Ate $8.00 worth of buffet, then watched "Absolute Power" and "A Bronx Tale." Both are great, great movies. Anyway, being the hotel was deserted, we could have slept there tonight, but since it was as sketchy as it was empty, we got another ride back. It's 10:30 PM now, latest night on the trail. Baso and Terrapin are here, but I haven't really talked with them yet. They seem like nice guys though. Anyway, time for bed before the Smokies tomorrow--Yea Baby!!! Saw a top-map, and it looks like some nice ridge walking, should be great. OK, goodnight. BG

Monday March 6, 2000 16.1 miles today and 275 till Damascus, Virginia GAWD DAM! I LUVthe Smoky's!!! The trail is like a foot massage after the past 2 days. I'm writing from the Spence Field Shelter, where we're pretty much all filled up with me, Terrapin, Basco, and 8 spring breakers. You can definitely see the difference in mentality between the thru-hikers and college kids having fun. I like hikers better. We had a good fire tonight, and good talk about the trail, movies, politics, and candy bars. I actually enjoyed the company. It's a nice change of pace, but I'm sure I'll be ready to be alone again by the time I get through the Smokies.

But anyway....Tom stopped by the Fontana Hilton this morning before talking off for Virginia. It was nice to say good-bye to him, I learned a lot from him, and he'll definitely be in my memories from this whole adventure. I got on the trail around 9:30, after wandering around the dam for a little bit. "Dam politicians, not rivers!" I wonder what that area would look like without that massive, monstrous creation. The hike up from the dam was great though. Nice, gradual incline, loads of switchbacks, wide, clean trail, everything I could ever have asked for. I got to a huge fire tower after 4 miles, and walked up to the top. A little scary cause I say "huge" as in high, not solid. Great views though. Fontana Lake with a morning haze slowly burning off, and the Smokies on the other side. They look like great mountains.

Fontana Lake and Mountains
I'm basically up on a ridge all the way thru them, with just little ups and downs to get from peak to gap to peak. Today was cake though, and the map looks like this is the toughest part of the ridge. With so many shelters, I probably will get ahead of Raphael and Nate and Shaman. I kept waiting for Raphael to walk in, and I was a little sad when he didn't. I guess that's all a part of hiking, hiking your own hike, and enjoying the present with the people you're with.

I like Terrapin and Basco. They're both funny guys, and good company. So far it seems like most thru-hikers are fairly well educated college dropouts. It's odd that we're ALL white though. I haven't seen a single minority the whole time I've been out here. And only one girl. It is funny, my standards of beauty have all but hit the floor. I thought our waitress last night was beautiful, even though she wasn't attractive. She did smell nice though. I'm excited to meet up with Jaimie in 10 days or so. The Smoky shelters are ghettos! Nothing like the luxury of the Nantahala Shelters. They're dirty, old stone structures with mice nests and huge fencing across the front. Then there's tarp and bits of garbage bags to act as a windshield, so the end result is a dark, sketchy dwelling. With way too many people and packs for the space. I do like the bear food hanging pulley systems. It wold be nice to have them at all shelters, even if just for the mice. OK. Time for bed. Adios. BG

A Painful Sunset
Tuesday, March 7, 2000 13.5 miles today and 261.9 till Damascus Tough day today. I noticed I had trouble breathing today, and at lunch talking with Terrapin and Basco, I was reminded that air pollution is a huge problem here. Ironically, I'm looking at one of the best sunsets of the trip, enhanced by the same pollutants that junked up my lungs today. Some parts of the park have 80% dead standing trees. It's a classic example of loving a place to death. I heard that this place gets more visitors than Disney World each year. Nine million each year. Then add the industry from cities to the west, and you get some pretty poor air.

The Effects of Pollution
The last couple of miles from Siler Bald Shelter to here were incredible. The vegetation turned from deciduous to coniferous forest in like 5 minutes of walking. (Unfortunately the bad air is killing off the firs, making them extremely vulnerable to pests.) But the trail was on a ridge about 6 feet wide with great views to each side. I'm a mile from Clingman's Dome and the highest point on the trail. I'm here at Double Spring Shelter with a nice couple on a spring break hike, and four buddies from Tulane. They're a bit obnoxious, but I'm enjoying their guitar playing. (Listening to drug stories at the present). I'm getting a bit tired of these full shelters, but only two days left in the Smokies. I really like the park. I didn't expect it to be any different than the past weeks, but it has been a pleasant surprise. I'm going to try a 20 miler tomorrow, but I'll see how that goes. Raphael didn't show up tonight, but maybe I'll catch him later. OK goodnight. BG

Wednesday, March 8, 2000 21.1 miles today and 240.7 till Damascus Well, today was the day for the 20-miler, great terrain, better views. I woke up at 6 and headed out for Clingman's Dome by headlight. I probably missed it by 30 minutes, but it was a great way to start the day, watching the sunlight up ridge after ridge of Smoky Mountains. It was also nice to be up there by myself, without old women and tourists. It was incredible. Even with the wheelchair accessible observation deck, it still felt like a sacred spot. It was good to be able to see where I came from and where I'm headed from the same spot.

While I was eating my breakfast, three spring breakers emerged from their tent, and after a nice conversation, they gave me some power bars and nutra-grains. They were put to good use. I passed dozens of day-hikers on my way to Newfound Gap, and 30 or so when I got there. I felt like a celebrity, explaining my hike to 3,4, at a time. And these were the classic obese, elderly American tourists, driving thru all the nice spots in this God-fearing country, pulling their Airstream trailers behind them. Priceless. God bless America (we really need it.)

I talked with "Candyman" who thru-hiked in '95 (He knew Bloodroot.) He has since done the PLT, and hikes whenever he can. I had lunch with a group of older day-hikers at Charlio's Bunion, and they did their best to inflate my ego some more. I'm here with some dreadfully obnoxious and immature spring-breakers from Michigan State. They make me feel wise in comparison. WOW! My first journal section is full. I guess this adventure is off and running!! No worries--Billy Goat

One of Brian's Smoky Mtn. Shelters

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