Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Father/Son Hike 2008

Over the last few years, this has been our trail of attempt. The first year we couldn't get reservations. One year it was closed because of bear activity. One year it was closed because of snow. One year it was closed due to lack of water. This year we made it happen. We hiked the Appalachian Trail from Davenport Gap to Newfound Gap. Hiking 32.8 miles over three days. I know that most people would hike the other direction going down hill, but I have a story to go along with that as well.

Planning for this trip started a few weeks in advance with food, stoves, water filters, and shelter reservations. The week before the hike, with all of the above handled, I get a call from Dad asking what day I was to arrive. Well, I picked my vacation day last December and everyone was sent the dates. I was working Saturday and would be arriving Sunday with the hike being Monday through Wednesday. So much for the shelter reservations, Dad called to reschedule the reservations and couldn’t get them for the days we were hiking. The answer was schedule the hike backwards and we got reservations that way. So what if it meant more uphill, we like challenges.

Well Steve and Kathy arrived on Saturday with Steve thinking that he was hiking on Sunday as well. I got in Sunday afternoon after running fire calls all night and Jim arrived Sunday night or early Monday morning. I was sleeping by then.

After a good breakfast at the ponderosa, we headed to the trailhead around 7:20am and arrived around 9:40. Mom and Kathy were heading out to hurt some stores in North Carolina so they dropped the van off at Newfound Gap. Due to parking hazards at Davenport Gap, we parked and hiked up Chestnut Branch trail to the AT. If anyone has hiked this way, and we have talked to a few, it is very challenging. We hiked up to the Mount Cammerer watchtower and ate lunch there while we enjoyed the scenery. This is a very popular day hike destination by the way of Low Gap trail and we saw many people at the tower.

After lunch we hiked on to the Cosby Knob shelter for the night. On this section we saw a Black racer about three feet long. Dad about stepped on it and I brought this to his attention. We got to the shelter around 4:30pm. This is where we met Kaitlyn. She is a young lady new to the area and working at the Knoxville school for the death. She is a Yankee from Massachusetts, but we didn’t hold that against her.

After we set up camp we got ready to make dinner. Jim gave us a long lecture about taking the desiccant package out of our meals. It was only fitting that when the dinners were done, Jim was fishing his desiccant out of his dinner. Right after dinner a guy walks into camp without any pack and asks how everyone is doing. Kinda like a Wal-Mart greeter. He had a bag full of chicken and noodles that he offered to us for dinner. There was a trail maintenance group that camped just down the trail from us. They had about ten volunteers that were doing trail work and five that didn’t show. He hung out and visited for quite some time. Finding that Kaitlyn was new to the area, he spent some time trying to recruit her.

After our visitor left, I wanted a fire, so Jim and I had to do some climbing to get it. There was no wood on the ground anywhere. There was a dead tree that someone had sawed off the branches about head high. With a little teamwork, we managed to get enough wood for the night. Jim actually brought his phat wood with him this year, as last time he left it in the van. It worked and he had a fire in the fireplace going in no time. We sat around and had a nice visit with Kaitlyn until it was time to sleep.

We hit the trail around 8:40. Kaitlyn was staying at Pecks Corner with us tonight, but she hit the trail earlier. Shortly after we passed Snake Den Ridge Trail we came across the wreckage of an old Air force F4 fighter. We scared off some deer at the site. It was pretty cool and we got some pictures of the aircraft parts. We stopped at Tricorner Knob shelter for lunch. Kaitlyn was there and had just finished her lunch. She headed out and we took us a break. Good time for a short nap. After lunch, the clouds came in and we lost our scenic sights. It was cool watching the clouds come across the trail. We were hoping it would clear up by morning.

We got to Pecks Corner at 4:30 and found quite a crowd. There was one couple, two men hikers, and another guy hiking alone along with Kaitlyn. It was going to be a cozy night. This was also the first water source that we came across with only a drip going on. It took quite a while for everyone to get his or her water. After dinner, Jim and I again did some searching for firewood. This site had an outdoor pit so Jim made the fire out there. We had a good visit with everyone that night. The highlight was when Kaitlyn checked her map and pointed out to Dad that tomorrow's hike was over ten miles when he had said it was seven. There goes another map reading mishap.

The good thing about shelter life is you never have to get up by yourself. Everyone gets woke up about the same time as the first person gets packing. The sky had cleared up last night and we had a frost on the ground. After breakfast we packed up and hit the trail about 8:50. Kaitlyn joined us today on the hike.

We got some good pictures today. The weather was wonderful and we had a lot of beautiful sites. We took one picture next to a cliff. After the picture was taken, I turned around and my hiking pole missed the trail so we had to do a little touchy retrieving to get it back. Our big stop today was Charlies Bunion, A wonderful rock formation on the top of a mountain. We ended up taking a lot of pictures for other people as well. They climbed out on the bunion and needed some help. Some needed help getting up as well as down. It was steep and the drop was a long way down if you messed up.

After Charlies Bunion, we hiked on to Icewater Spring shelter for lunch. Along with a good spring, this shelter also offers a wonderful view. After lunch we set up our hammocks for Kaitlyn to check out. She had not heard of hammock camping and was interested. The rest of the hike to Newfound Gap was pretty uneventful. We did see a lot of hikers being as Charlies Bunion is a very popular hike. Kaitlyn did drop her hiking pole off the side of the trail once to make me feel better. We got to Newfound Gap around 3:30 and were instant celebrities. Everyone wants to know if we came from Maine and how long we had been on the trail. There were a lot of everyones too as this is a popular stop. You would make around two steps before the next person asked the same questions. We were happy to see the van and once the packs were off, no one asked any more questions.

We had to drive back and pick up my truck at the trailhead. After dropping Kaitlyn off in Maryville with her boyfriend, we headed back to the ponderosa for pizza and beer. When Mom brought up the subject of cutting a tree down in the morning, Jim immediately said that he would have to leave before everyone got up in the morning to head home.

We spent the day cleaning up brush from three trees that Dad had cut down by the pros, and then we cut down an 80 foot oak tree just for practice. During the clean up, Steve pointed out the poison ivy that was all over the area we had worked. Luckily with washing in Lye soap and wiping down with alcohol, I didn’t have any breakouts.


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