Tuesday, December 14, 2010

A.T.C. Flickr

The Appalachian Trail Conservancy has a flickr photostream, including a set of the southbound 2010 thru-hikers. But not us; Someday didn't get her picture taken, and I did but I may not have listed myself as 'thru-hiker', or maybe my picture just wasn't cool enough.

Monday, December 13, 2010


Jo asked, and now I have the answer: my gear featured 8.12m (26' 7.7") of zippers.

   Item                      Length:  metric    imperial   decimal percent of total

Total                                 8.12m     26' 7.7"   1.00***  
   Fleece Vest                        1.00m     3' 4.2"    0.13*    
      Front                           68.00cm   2' 2.8"    0.08*    
      2x Pockets                      34.00cm   1' 1.4"    0.04*    
   Sleeping Bag Liner Pouch           17.00cm   6.7"       0.02     
   Sleeping Bag                       1.00m     5' 7.3"    0.21**   
   REI eVent Rain Shell               1.00m     3' 3.6"    0.12*    
      2x Side                         17.50cm   6.9"       0.02     
      Front                           67.00cm   2' 2.4"    0.08*    
      Sternum                         16.00cm   6.3"       0.02     
   Lens Pouch (Tamrac)                23.00cm   9.1"       0.03     
   Sierra Designs Light Year 1 Tent   2.00m     7' 9.7"    0.29**   
      Rain Fly                        94.00cm   3' 1.0"    0.12*    
      Door                            1.00m     4' 8.7"    0.18*    
   REI Sahara Pants                   36.50cm   1' 2.4"    0.04*    
      Fly                             15.00cm   5.9"       0.02     
      Hip Pocket, Interior            7.50cm    3.0"       0.01     
      Back                            14.00cm   5.5"       0.02     
   Pack                               1.24m     4' 0.8"    0.15*    
      Side Pocket                     23.50cm   9.3"       0.03     
      Floating Top Pocket             25.00cm   9.8"       0.03     
         Outside                      25.00cm   9.8"       0.03     
      J-Zip                           56.50cm   1' 10.2"   0.07*    
      Hip Mesh Pocket                 19.00cm   7.5"       0.02

(The above is the output of a modification of the mass-computation script I threw together before leaving — feel free to play with zippers.py. If there's interest — mine or others' — I may even make it into a web page.)

(P.S. From the Wikipedia article on Inch, consulted for the ever-necessary 2.54: "Effective July 1, 1959, the United States and countries of the British Commonwealth defined the length of the international yard to be exactly 0.9144 meters.[1] Consequently, the international inch is defined to be equal to exactly 25.4 millimeters. This creates a slight difference between the international units and surveyor's units which are described in the article on the foot." Just in case it was too simple.)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Epilogue: Springer to Gainesville to Berwyn

From the summit, we walked back down the 0.9mi to the parking lot. There, my Uncle2 Bob and Aunt Pat picked us up and drove us back out along the forest roads to civilization. We stayed at a house they have and are working on remodeling, where their daughter Janet lives; we had a relaxing and fun evening there (Janet fixed us all dinner). The next day we visited Mark of the Potter (Uncle Bob and Aunt Pat are retired potters; I have done some pottery), and then stopped in at Uncle Bob and Aunt Pat's retirement community, Lanier Village, for tourism and dinner, before getting on the train.

Uncle Bob was telling us about a young woman who worked at Lanier Village, who we quickly realized was Flora — small world, still! Unfortunately she wasn't there (word on the street was: making up a hundred missed miles in New York — in December), so we couldn't surprise her by showing up, but we left a note.

Jo and I had the same train (overnight) from Gainesville to D.C., but then we parted ways: I had a couple more hours and then some commuter rail to home in Berwyn (at my mom's), whereas she had to wait out the balance of a 50-hour trip (including some visits with friends during layovers).

Despite being anti-plan most of the trip, we stuck to our end-of-journey plan pretty well — at least, we got to Springer on the 3rd (our projected later date), and stayed at a fair number of the places we'd mapped out. There were some alterations, and some varations considered.

And, I did put a little more wear on my Tevas (both pairs, but mostly the new ones). Above, at the N.O.C.; below, safely home in Berwyn.

Neel's Gap to Springer

The last stretch! (Or, the last half of the last stretch, going by resupplies.)

We had another frozen morning heading out from Neel's Gap; I think the thermometer read 24°F outside, at the hostel. Another day of rime ice and frost going over Blood Mountain — which is higher than Springer at 4,458ft (v. 3,780), and thus to me our last hurrah — stunningly gorgeous surroundings, if physically numbing.

Some of the water — at lower elevations — was not frozen.

(I had to remind myself to hike more and admire less when my fingers got too numb to work the camera buttons.)

No views — or, no views except of clouds. It did make me a little nervous to walk under that tree, coated so heavily in ice. (Surprisingly, despite seeing lots of downed trees from earlier rainstorms, I didn't notice any branches that the ice had felled.)

Despite my best efforts, minimal ice on the beard. (However, going over Blood Mountain was the only time my reservoir hose froze.)

Back in the sun and warm.

Blood Mountain, seen from south along the A.T.

Risking life and limb for photography.

At Woody Gap, we called Hiker Hostel (run by Josh and Lee). We had only done a half day (ten or eleven miles), but the shuttle from Woody Gap was free, as opposed to significant cost if we went a few more A.T. miles; and a warm night at a recommended hostel seemed like the way to go. (It still left us with a reasonable if long 17-miler the next day, and one last night out.)

Bunks — with not just pillows, but curtains. We stayed in the Colorodo Trail room, featuring the owners' photography from the same.

Downstairs, we raided the movie collection, and ate popcorn and (ordered in) pizza. (Runaway Bride and Shakespeare In Love, interspersed with intelligence from an A.T. names book about why it's called "Dismal" and who Mr. Suffered Alone was anyway.)

In the morning, we breakfasted in the main dining area (waffles! grits! eggs!) before heading out.

I made a side trip, on Josh's recommendation, to one last fire tower.

Again, the upper deck was locked (and full of equipment), but the stairs afforded a nice view.

Most of the rest of the trail was fairly flat — a few bumps to climb over, but nothing taxing compared to previous terrain — and we criss-crossed forest roads. (This is the only traffic I saw.)

Seepage and temperature, finely balanced.

I found Jo's bandana on the sign to Long Creek Falls; she was hiking ahead and, in keeping with tradition, had left it as a sign that she was stopping there (at least temporarily).

We decided to camp nearby. We weren't too far from the shelter, but wanted the evening to ourselves, and didn't mind the extra warmth our tents would provide. (It turned out to be very cold indeed — an all-layers night.) Another everyday occurence: Jo had eaten and was in her sleeping bag by the time I started cooking — helped in this case that she'd mailed her stove and pot home in Hiawassee, and had minimal preparation needed for dinner.

Breakfast, summit morning. (I think this is the last of the squished donuts being eaten.)

The A.T. crossed and sometimes shared tread with the Benton MacKaye trail (blazed with white diamonds). Not necessarily coincidentally, it also was ridiculously wide some of the way (but did not seem to be a troad, as it narrowed going, for example, around corners.).

The note on the sign post echoes a sentiment we frequently felt: "Give Proper Directions South So People Don't Walk In A Circle." (Nearby there was a branch in the trail with nary a southbound blaze visible; at the Blood Mountain shelter, the A.T. (southbound from the shelter) followed the privy's blue-blaze — without, of course, a matching white blaze. Ed, with whom we shared Low Gap Shelter, told us that on the IAT they're referred to as "reassurance markers", which seems like a perfectly apt name.)

Closing in! (This is just past the parking area where we later met my relations.)

I took another mini detour (up along the Benton MacKaye trail) to a memorial for its creator.

...and there we were! My reaction was 'oh wait, is this The Rock With The Plaque?' It is not a summit to impress, but it does fine as a journey's end.

There is a bit of a view (as well as a register in a little metal cabinet under the rock).

We hung about and took a plethora of victory photos. Eventually — we had passed an empty parking lot on the way up — day hikers arrived, too.

The symbolic end of any great journey needs bubbles.

Hiawassee to Neel's Gap

We had two unplanned hostel stays in the last stretch — three nights, since the first, at Neel's Gap turned into a rainy-day zero.

Apparently there is lots of real estate to be purchased in Hiawassee: lots of people who had a cabin, but can't afford it any more.

Another new form of ice, for me: ice curls in the ground.

It was cold, but not without sun — frozen on one side of a ridge, and comfortable to sit and snack and take one's gloves off on the other.

Of the various things they look like, rice noodles is my favorite association. That, or alien sprouts. (That might be hiker-stomach talking.)

Jo thought it was very cold.

The view from Tray Mountain:

The Tray Mountain shelter already had one occupant when we got there — he had set up his tent for extra warmth, and was gathering fire wood. We considered being done and staying there, but decided to hike on down.

On the way down, we passed a bunch of day hikers (ten-ish), all headed for Tray Mountain shelter, which (along with the prospect of a cold and windy night there) made us glad not to have stayed.

We camped at the Cheese Factory site — apparently there was one, once, though no ruins or other signs of build-up any longer.

The first night out from resupply, we both fill our 20L food bags. (It takes a bit of heaving and pulling to hang them.)

In the morning, we found that another southbounder, Low Step, had camped near us later in the night; he said hello before heading out, but then stayed ahead of us.

A significant portion of the day's hiking was on a troad — that is (although The Internet doesn't recognize the word) the trail's tread following an old logging road. (Ed, who we shared the shelter with that night, gave us the vocab. word.)

We stayed at Low Gap Shelter.

Along the trail occasionally, in much of Georgia, there is evidence of wild hogs. We didn't see any, but saw some register entries mentioning them.

Photo Op.: Mark with the Mark Trail.

It drizzled and rained most of the day.

Neel's Gap — a welcome sight as the rain picked up — is the only place the trail goes through a building. (There is an outfitter store to the left, uphill; and to the right, the downstairs is the hostel, and the upstairs is — we think — employee housing.)

Shower, cats, old registers.

Jo's pack — when new, as was the one in the store — used to be more vibrantly colored.



In the store, there are 500-mile shoes hanging along the ceiling — including a few sandals.

As the first day finished and then the zero day passed, the hostel filled up a bit: another southbounder (Sweet Talk), a pair of northbounders (Mama Bear and Papa Bear, embarking on a fresh attempt), and a section hiker (I guess we see where my name-storage space is allocated).

I have mixed feelings about Pirate's Hostel. It had an undercurrent of bitterness and ambivalence: the fridge in the hostel area had locks on it; the computer had no internet because in the past hikers couldn't learn to share; the usual complement of snoring; DVDs available only to borrow one at a time due to people stealing them. But it also had what we needed — showers, a place to stay during a day of torrential rain, frozen food from the store — and good things like cats, and sloppy joes for dinner compliments of Pirate, and breakfast (but don't miss it). It was the right decision, but not entirely warm and fuzzy.