2013 Appalachian Trip: Extras (video/pics) and…Now what?

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First off, thank you for reading the posts of trail life over this section hike from the GA/NC border to Hot Springs, NC. I meant a lot to me to know I can share a bit of the adventure through the daily journaling, pictures, videos and paintings. I didn’t have much time for making the posts and uploading them, so here’s some extra pics/video’s I wanted to add:

6-8: 

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the Cold Springs Shelter

6-9: 

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We stopped at the Nanthala Outdoor Center (NOC) in the morning.

6-12: At Fontana Dam, here’s a quick clip of the lake for a painting session.

http://youtu.be/AtDvP9c1Ax4
6-13:

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Hiking across the Fontana Dam, Littlefoot sets his pack for the priorities, dry the plaid boxers and house the leftover Pringles for quick snacking.

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The “rock throne” others mentioned just passed the Dam:

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Later, at the shelter just after the storm calmed down, I painted a scene of the thick, foggy forest.

6-19:

The laundering facilities were right in line with the old timely feel of the Standing Bear Hostel. Here’s Berg washing and squeezing his socks: http://youtu.be/bfvcJGgXK5g

The view from Cammerer Fire Tower: http://youtu.be/FaI7pcF4kUk

6-20: video clip from an air control tower just shy of reaching Max Patch Bald. http://youtu.be/rhHWxXMeKZ4

So, What Now?
Now, I go back over my notes and color sketches to do larger paintings. After the trail, I went directly to Asheville to visit family, and Montreat, NC where I have sweet memories of summers as a kid. I hope to produce an entire series of paintings to present in a show and possibly begin a short journal-book about the “AT Experience”. A show needs about 20-50 paintings, which may be biting off a bit more than a can chew, but I’ll try! As noted in the posts this hike, the people are a vital part of the experience, so I’ll learn portraiture and then continue the trail where I left off at Hot Springs in the future. Can’t wait!

I’ll provide a post later on this blog with pictures of the paintings, or if you’d like to see them as I go, it’ll be posted on the “En Plein Air” blog.

Until the next time, bye for now and thanks again for reading these posts!!

6-21-13

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Condition: Sunny

B & L: Power bar, trail mix, Albacore steak D: Catfish Tacos in Hot Springs! (plus Caramel Bugels and almost a quart of chocolate milk)

There’s two senses that changed after the brain surgery, I can smell like a hound and any peep in the night wakes me up, no matter how asleep I am (I think). At Roaring Fork Shelter last night, I heard what sounded like hound dogs all over the mountain side along with owls and mice in every direction. Interestingly, we met Mica in Hot Springs later and she said a man hunting bears lost a lot of his dogs a few days ago. Sir, you have a ton of dogs.

It’s National Hike Naked Day today and as I prepare to leave the shelter, there stands Berg and Littlefoot with their pack on, trek pole in hand and nothing else but underwear, socks and shoes. Awesome. At first I was a bit uneasy, but about ten minutes later hiking down the trail, I find myself shirtless, with an arrangement of huge leaves resembling the biblical Adam hiding his twigs and berries.(video: http://youtu.be/NFUYUjmBr20 ). The first person we pass in our 3man parade was an elderly gentleman (60’s). Rounding the corner feeling a bit uneasy, I said “How’s it going?”. He glanced at me and the poof of leaves, and replied w a bewildered look, “Okay?”. He then passed Berg and by the time got to Litlefoot, he asked,”Is this hike naked day?”. About 4 mi later after hiking over “Buff Mountain” (ironic), Berg and I pass a wife & husband in their 60’s and their daughter (30’s)?) admiring the flowers in the field. As they looked up, the father daughter laughed, and the mother stared in disbelief. She said,”I don’t even want to know what’s under those leaves!”. As I write this it so happens that we pass a group of 30 in a young scout troop. “HIKERS COMING THROUGH!”, the scout leader at the tail end shouts. All 30 file the side Ike a crowd viewing our parade. As I pass, I say,” Did you know it’s Hike Naked Day?” They cheered on Berg, in only his athletic briefs, as he passed. Looking back,Ii see a slightly embarrased and dismayed look on his face. He says in his Carolina accent “Figures. todau would be the day we see 30 people.”. I now hear the fading cadence troop songs going into the distance as we charge stead with renewed vigor. I can only image the reception Littlefoot will get in only his plaid boxers. Good times. About 6mi left till Hot Speinfs. I can taste the catfish taco from Clear Springs Tavern already. Update: Correction, it’s the new place NEXT to the tavern! It has the tan/red wood with a large outdoor area to eat.

In Hot Springs now. Showered at the campgrounds, Berg and Littlefoot did some laundry, and we’re devouring the catfish tacos. So good!

The only place in town left to stay was “Elmer’s place”, the Sunnybank Inn. Turns out its an outstanding two story historical house that caters to hikers $20 per person and includes a healthy organic breakfast ($6 extra, worth it). The antique smell of the wooden house lined with books in shelves fills the air with an old-time feeling; a stark contrast to a modern digital world where a computer or TV is the center of attention.

I got a call from my cousin, Ellen, through Littlefoot’s phone at dinner and will stay with them tomorrow night. This will let me buy supplies for several big paintings and head up to Montreat on Sunday. I do want to return home, but feel this is a great chance to paint sweet, memorable spots from Montreat as well as revisit a couple of places along the AT that are within 2-3 miles from a trailhead.

Good day and a great way to finish the hike.

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6-20-13

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Conditions: sunny

B: Power bar & PayDay L: trail mix and raw ramen noodles crunched into “chips” w the roasted chicken seasoning plus some butter-cheese Idahoan instant mash potato powder. No lie, it’s good! D: Ramen x 2 with a dash of Idahoan instant potato powder and two SPAM singles.

Great rest at Standing Bear and I’m ready to tackle the last big hill towards Hot Springs.

10:30, late start. First 4miles was straight up 3500 ft up, then we have been going on a roller coaster of up/downs. I wouldn’t be surprised if we walked a total of 5000+ ft up all together. We found a weird structure at the top of one mountain that was a white cone-shaped building that made me think of Area 51. Turned out it was an airline beacon and we couldn’t use our cell phones in the area! Fat chance AT&T would work there anyways. About 3 miles later (or 6?) we reached Max Patch Summit. I was thinking, “Can’t we skip this one?”, but this was awesome! We all took off our packs to take time to look. 360 view video:
 . I’ll probably be painting that later since three is a parking area that’d give me access to this spot later.

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6-19-13

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Conditions: 70’s-80’s, sunny

B & L: power bar, trail mix D: Albacore Salmon Steak in 2 Ramens (very good, but pour out the water and rinse the “steak” to reduce “fishiness”)

Despite a symphony of snores, farts and waves of rusting on sleeping pads among the twelve others in the Crosby Shelter last night, we slept hard and late. Much deserved. Around 3am I woke up realizing just how much of the “AT Experience” was about people; not the place. I came thinking I could capture the landscapes in paintings and provide a sense of the trail for others, but its actually the people that give the purpose and sense of community of the trail. The midlife art framer/drifter figuring out a new job, the young MIT theoretical physicist from Budapest, Hungary searching for a way to apply his thoughts and be happy, those awaiting deployment into the military in anticipation … they have one thing in common, they’re in some transition in life. They have a question; going deep into nature has an answer. Together in nature (and of nature), the trail is a living story of commonality and community truly making this “The People Trail”. So, if I really want to capture the essence of the trail, I need to able to capture the portraits of individuals and their story along with the landscape to make it complete. Especially Dee, who looked like a thin Gandolf from Lord of the Rings with his white beard and walking stick, but with an Indiana Jones hat, the epitome of a mountain man.

It was a short day (11mi) today leaving the Smokey Mountain’s northern edge and stopping at Standing Bear Hostel. That being said, we descended from 5000+ ft to 1900 ft, so we can feel our knees. We passed Charlie’s Bunion and Littlefoot posed for what I hope will be a great painting (pic).
Green Corner Road is a very beautiful area with rolling brooks alongside the road very much like Montreat, NC and the Standing Bear Hostel is a great hiker hostel. The people who own and manage it are right out of the “Duck Dynasty” show. The man who showed us around was shirtless, long haired and had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, but he’s honest and treats us with respect as if we are welcomed into his home. I think there’s two “owners” and a lady that keeps the place up. The lady is likewise a very free spirit, announcing that she’s lost everything because she failed the last three drug tests (it could be the “bowls” she smokes). But she’s hilarious and not ashamed to be herself one bit, working a minimum wage job and enjoying being part of this little Standing Bear community. Rocket Man says,”If she gets too many beers in her, we’re likely to see her streaking acrost the place.”. Less beer, please. Seriously, a TV show producer could just record their conversations and they’d be an instant hit. It would be easy to write off these people as “weird” or label them as “hillbillies”, but the fact is they are just different (not a lesser part of society), and they aren’t labeling or judging us. We “AT Hikers” are definitely “weird” as well, often attracting clouds of flies, unshaven, and walking the roads to town hoping to hitch a ride. It’s easy to see those who looks down at us, dismissing us as repulsive as well as those with gentler eyes who show compassion and acceptance. They don’t judge, and that says something about their true character. Funny thing, Rocket Man walked by yawning in the morning while we were eating some breakfast and said,”I shore was surprised to see you left the doors open to the bunkhouse (where we stayed). Two big bears and a cub show up almost every night and I have to scare them off the porch.”. We had our food bags right next our beds. He then told us about the bear cub trying to get in his window one night and his lady friend insisted on him closing the window even though he was just trying to get the cat food. Gotta love how much character he has. I’d go back there easily just for the amusement even if I’m not hiking. I left one of my paintings tacked to the kitchen wall as a form of gratitude. Rocket Man, if you read this, thanks man!

We’ll take off tomorrow heading toward Hot Springs, making it there in a couple of days. “Once you get over the hill, it’s not bad”, says another hiker here at the hostel. It’ll be hard to leave Littlefoot and Berg, my trail family this year. I hope we can stay I touch. No doubt I’ll always wonder how they are, as I do with my trail family from 2011 (Lala, Tall Tmbers and Firewalker).

This year’s adventure had impacted me with a fresh perspective and appreciation of what is necessary for me to be happy. There are those things you need (shelter, food, water …), and things you can live without (luxuries). It’s amazing how many luxuries we have in our normal lives, how much energy we spend maintaining them and how much fear we have in losing them. We need so little to be happy, however, I’ve learned that walking “alone” in life is not an option for me. I need the companionship to have meaning and purpose. I’m not as independent as I thought. I need a trail family like Berg and Littlefoot. Without them, the trail seems empty. I also need to surround myself with others who aren’t judgmental, so I can feel free to become myself. Until now, I’d mistaken them for luxuries. Welding should be a great field to enter, as they aren’t the judging type. Priceless wisdom from the AT experience.

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6-17,18-13

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Conditions: rainy in the morning, drizzling in the afternoon

B: probar L: Flapjacks (Gatlinburg) D: Ramen? (probably)

We’re slowly working our way out of Gatlinburg, sort of dragging our feet. It’s hard to leave the luxuries of cell phone reception and everything we need right there on Main Street (especially the outfitters). Eric, you and Lynnea would love this place for a quick, quaint get-away spot! It’s about 6 days until we get to Hot Springs, and I doubt we’ll stop until then. Groceries, laundry and a ridiculously overpriced taxi (15mi for $50) is the “to do list”, then we’re trail bound.

After going to the outfitters and leaving our bags there for the day while out, we went to Flapjacks (like a local IHOP). I reached into my pocket … the credit card/money/ID/truck key packet was gone. Panic. I backtracked to the outfitters trying to conceive of how I’d possibly find it when the money was exposed on the heavy foot traffic Main Street. No luck. I had left it in my bag at the outfitters. Phew. That was a mega-dose of adrenaline! We trolley’d to finish stuff up in town, and decided we’d have to cough up $50 to a taxi. Just after I called them, a woman and her father showed up to the outfitters and offered us a ride! Sorry taxi, thank you Mica & her Dad!!). We hit the first shelter 3 miles in ~7pm and the rain started.

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This was a wet, wet day. It rained and drizzled all day leaving the trails so muddy in places that the shoes made a sucking sound as they lifted out. In other places, the water ran down the rocky paths like a creek. Water everywhere, including us and our packs. Besides a few windy areas, the umbrella again rocked because the canopy kept the winds down and reduced the rain to the occasional huge drops.
We walked 20 miles and finally got to Cosby Knob Shelter. Going to my bag to get out the food for dinner, I realized I left my entire cook system at the last shelter! The titanium cup, DIY alchohol stove … everything. Aaarg!! I got out my sleeping bag and realized I left my silk liner! Ouch! I can only blame it on being so tired. It stinks, but it happens. All I know is I’m in warm, dry clothes in a dry sleeping bag, and these eyes are closing fast! Tomorrow we’ll exit the Smokey Mountains and stay at a hostel near Davenport. It’s hard to believe I’ll be getting back to Hot Springs in three days.

6-16-13

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Overcast, chilly w cloud cover, hot w/out

B: Protein Bar L: someplace in Gatlinburg?

Today was a day that happens without explanation. This is living:
We woke up at Collins Shelter and hiked 4 miles to Newfound Gap. This stretch has fir and pines with damp soil yielding huge ferns and mossy logs. it looked like something from an animated film. Occasionally, the fallen trees exposed huge root system, often lifting up entire boulders with it that it grew around (pic).
All plan went awry from the point of getting to Gatlinburg. We went down to the bathroom to “clean up” and hitch a ride or catch the scheduled shuttle from Gatlinburg. With reception at one ten ft area (AT&T hates the AT here), I called and reserved a Motel 6, but found that all the shuttles were either broken down or not answering. Hitching a ride to town is “a sure thing” according to the guide book, the Parks and Wildlife worker, and the shuttle person from Gatlinburg. 2 hours later w easily a hundred people at Newfound Gap, nobody picked us up, even w a “AT Hikers, to Gatlinburg $20″ sign. So, we set out to walk 15 miles into town. Not more a quarter mile later, a Volkwagon station wagon passed us, pulled off, looped around and picked us up. Five guys and a girl, all in their 20’s, piled out in an awkward disarray of tie-die shirts and long hair and beards. It was hard to tell what to think, but hey, it’s a ride. Everyone seemed to be in a great mood. So, two guys contort themselves behind the back seat, we cram four people and me and Berg’s two packs in the back seat, and Littlefoot and his pack in the front seat. 8 people and a low riding suspension. The driver said they were river raging guides from Wild Water out of South Carolina with free passes to “DollyWood”, a theme park owned by Dolly Parton. “Hey, want to go to DollyWood? We can get you in as ‘plus ones'”, Keith, the driver said. Trying to assess if this was a good choice, I hear myself say, “Sure!”. As the road sign point to Gatlinburg one way, we go the other. So we’re coasting down the road to DollyWood through Pigeon Forge and a random pigeon flies down from the hillside right in the middle of the road under the car. Smack! There was absolutely no time to even think. The guys contorted facing the back widow shout, “Oooh, DUDE! Feathers just flew up covering the entire lane!”. Keith, Littlefoot, Chloe and I were caught between feeling bad for the bird and laughing so hard we couldn’t speak. By the time we got to DollyWood, we were a group in every sense of the word. Keith said, “I’m a guide, so I tend to make sure everyone is safe and together”. That reassured me a lot that we were not going to get stranded there. These guys were leaders by trade. Opening the door and hatchback, we sort of exploded outward a like a coiled spring released. They got us into this theme park (normally $57 per adult) and we spent the day, from 2pm to 7pm riding every ride we could. Free. Around 4 we piled into an all-you-can-eat buffet at the park. It was amazing. We stuffed our stomached until they were so full it hurt to stand up. By 7, we re-crammed into the car, tired, satisfied and we stunk. Cooper, a kid with long hair, fishnet hat and dark rimmed glasses, said, “Oh, man it’s my socks.” and hung them out of the window as we drove. The faces of people as they passed us by were hilarious. After some time, we arrived in Gatlinburg at the Motel 6, and asked the desk clerk lady to take a pic to prove that a day like this actually happened. We parted ways still bewildered how this was possible. It follows the theme of the trail, take a step and follow your feet. You know you’re living when life happens to you.
Now in a bed, making plans for tomorrow to resupply at the grocery store, outfitters, and possibly launder clothes, I await another day. Another adventure to get back to the AT.
Berg, Littlefoot and I all agree, this day will never be forgotten.

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(From left to right: Cody, Littlefoot, Michael, Chloe, Keith, me, Berg, and Cooper). This group was from Wild Water Outdoor Adventures.

6-15-13

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B+L: Power Bar,trail mix, jelly beans, Spam single, D: 2 Ramens + 2 Spam singles.

Sunny, north breeze 60’s

Derrick knob – (clingmon dome) – mt Collins shelter

Cold last night, w silk liner and drive- clime windshirt.

9am: We took off from Derrick Knob Shelter towards the famous Clingman’s Dome, the highest point on the AT, planning to stop just past that at Collin’s Shelter.

10am: Berg and I saw wild turkey on the trail. I used my iBird app’s turkey call to try and draw it in for a photo shot. No soap.

Silmple pleasures, peeing while traversing the mountain ridge, no aim, just free pee with a breeze, view of mountains, sound of mountain stream below. Yes, I really do text while I’m walking. At some point, face down in the mud or sliding off the trail side, I’ll regret this.

3pm: Berg and I are walking along the ridge line, one side NC the other TN, and Clingman’s Dome is near. You can see the dying trees from pollution, especially on the TN side. Sad. Despite this, it’s a spectacular view. I did a quick video noting colors for the view, took a reference pic and sketched it later at Collin’s Gap Shelter.

Met ranger just down from Clingman’s Dome. He checked park passes, talked gear, then we headed up to the tower. There were people everywhere following a paved trail up to the tower! Strange. I’ve experienced the feel of going to a city park and getting “lost in the woods”, but never being at home in the woods, then colliding with civilization so drastically. It was amazing how much I could smell the perfumes, colognes, even deodorants from all the line of people. I felt very aware of my excessive trail funk, so I walked up the spiral, round the circle and down in one swift, lingering move. Berg and I stopped to eat and wait for Littlefoot at base of tower. Unlnowingly, we sat right by “Active bears in area” sign. That was a mistake. “Oh my, active bears”, seeing us “Did you see any bears??”, or “…I’m safe as long as I’m faster than you (the overused joke)..”. I think I heard that joke in three different languages.

5pm: We’re at Collin’s Shelter, 4 miles from Newfound Gap. We’re going to catch a shuttle to Gatlinburg from there and split the cost of a Motel for tomorrow night. Shower, laundry … gonna be nice.

It’s hard to believe we’re half way through the Smokey Mountains already! I wish had phone reception! I’ll look forward to updating the blog tomorrow.

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