Thursday, May 30, 2013

Northampton Bench Protest

Last weekend we went to visit Northampton.  The mayor of Northampton had recently removed the benches because people had been complaining about the number of pan-handlers and homeless people that occupied them.   In response the people of Northampton had a protest.  
I've linked a short explanation video as well as the and article talk about the Mayor's recent letter saying that the benches will be returned.  I miss living in NoHo. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

AT Day 8, The Last Day. Mollies Ridge to The Fontana Hilton

5 Lizards, 2 deer and 1 lady's slipper.  Not to shabby for our last day on the trail.  Also, we stopped at a the Shuckstack fire tower on the day down for the most impressive views we've had on the trip.   It was gorgeous to see the layers of mountains. We counted 7 at one point.  And the ridges that we've been walking look even more impressive when seen laid out across the range.  Overall, a great last day to our 68 miles through the smokies and a nice finish to our thru-hike.
The shelter we are at tonight is packed with thru-hikers.   Very fun.  They've got a fire going and everyone is in good spirits.   This shelter is called the "hilton" because it's the best shelter in the part of the trail but more because there are flush toilets and hot (hot!)  Showers.   Pretty awesome.   Also, there's a little resort village nearby so we sent Jon, Jamie and Laurens ahead to go into town and bring up back pizza and beer.   Great celebratory night!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

AT Day 5 Gatlinburg to Double Spring Shelter

After our fun-filled evening of whiskey tasting and sightseeing we got to bed around 11pm for our few hours of sleep before the 7:30 shuttle pick-up to take us back to the trail.  Let me tell you, sleeping in a bed is luxurious! What a great (but short) sleep we had. 
Also, I GOT DONUTS!  Laurens ran (literally) to the Donut Friar to bring donuts back for everyone. I was so happy. It was a 2 mile round trip!  What a great guy!
The hike to this shelter was intense!  We hiked over Clingman's dome, the highest point on the AT, in rainy, misty and cloudy weather.  It also happened to be the rockiest and most arduous climb we've had yet.   Unfortunately as it was (and still is) raining we got absolutely no view for our troubles.   However since Jon Jamie and I got there before Laurens and Rachel we walked down to the Visitors Center to warm up.  While there was no seating, food or general amenities there we did have a nice time talking with all the rangers and volunteers there.  I looked up (and promptly forgot) the names of all the flowers we've been seeing,  chatted with a woman who is obsessed with the AT and wants to thru-hike next year when she is 64, and chatted extensively with a ranger about traveling abroad.
The shelter tonight is pretty fun.  There's 5 thru-hikers here, two other section hikers and us.  Very fun group. One woman, upon hearing that Jamie and I were finishing our Thru-hike, toasted up 2 of her five marshmallows to share with us!  Her name is Fiddlehead, she started in Georgia May3rd, she's finishing her Anthropology Degree and we really hope she has an excellent hike on the AT!  Everyone at the shelter loves the Ukulele and lots of people have been playing it tonight. I've enjoyed hearing the musical ministrations.   Overall, despite the rain, fog and cold it's been a great day.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 4. Kephart Shelter to Gatlinburg TN

<p>We probably should have taken more pictures of the strange destination of Gatlinburg TN but you'll have to do your own google search to see the marvel.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; There are a million gimmicky shops and touristy entertainment options.&nbsp; Indoor mini-golf through a "circus", mini-golf on the side of the mountain,&nbsp; ripley's believe-it-or-not museum, ripley's aquarium, Guinness Book of World Records Museum,&nbsp; a shop consisting only of "smokey mountain trolls", another one for "knives, rifles, and airsoft guns, dune buggy rentals and on and on.&nbsp; And it's crowded!&nbsp; People everywhere wandering around with cars and motorcycles crusing back and forth.&nbsp;&nbsp; We were/are on sensory overload!&nbsp;&nbsp; </p>
<p>Back to the trail tomorrow and thankfully so!&nbsp; There's so many options to spend money in Gatlinburg.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Aside from our wanderings through town we had a great (short) day hiking.&nbsp; We split up this morning with Jon and Jamie opting to walk the 3.5 miles back directly back up the mountain on the "Sweat Heifer Trail".&nbsp; Laurens, Rachel and I took the more leisurely and moderately graded "Grassy Branch Trail" to rt 441.&nbsp;&nbsp; We waited barely 10 minutes for a hitch and they drove us the 25 miles into Gatlinburg.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; We hopped on the road about 10 miles before Jamie and Jon were going to get there but as we were driving by we spotted them emerging from the trailhead and hollered at them as we cruised by.&nbsp; Unfortunately, our little car was full with 5 people and we couldn't fit anymore.&nbsp;&nbsp; Upon arrival in Gatlinburg we got sucked into the outfitters and Jamie and Jon ended up beating us to the Grand Prix Motel.&nbsp; We got a cozy little apartment for the night,&nbsp;&nbsp; bought some beers and did laundry.&nbsp;&nbsp; Our day would have been perfect if we had thought to ask about the best way to get to the grocery store.&nbsp; The AWOL guide had misinformation about a a store having resupply foods so after walking for 2 miles we gave up and stopped in a little roadside convenient store to resupply.&nbsp;&nbsp; Not the best options or prices and an unfortunate waste of our time and energy but all was made better with mexican food and margarita's.&nbsp;&nbsp; <br>
We're back at the hotel WAY past hiker midnight and we've got to meet our shuttle at 7:30am.&nbsp; Tomorrow we are hiking over Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the AT. We wanted to make sure we had some time to hang out there and take in the view so we are skipping the all-you-can-eat  breakfast buffet so as to get on the trail early.  I did, for a few minutes, contemplate going down the street at 5am to the Donut Friar (, but the chances of that are slim.  I might even say non-existent.  Yet again I will not get my donut!   Some day I will get Donuts on the trail.    I'll go to sleep tonight dreaming of warm donuts with honey glaze.   Mmmm.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day 3 - Tricorner Shelter to Kephart Shelter

<p>Today was/is/will be the longest day of our Smokies trip at about 15 miles.&nbsp; To get a start on the day we managed to get out of camp pretty early, with Rachel even hitting the trail by 7 to get a jump on the day and the rest of us jumping on around 8.&nbsp; We found the first five miles to be pretty mild.&nbsp; The only water source today was, unfortunately, half a mile off the trail at a shelter at about the five mile point.&nbsp; To save time, Jamie and Jonable ran down the hill with empty bottles to fill them up while Shannon brewed up some coffee.&nbsp; Mid-morning coffee!</p>
<p>We split up for most of the day, with Jamie and Jonable hiking ahead.&nbsp; They visited Charlie's Bunion which was a pretty neat jutting rock off of some schist cliffs. We all met up again for a late lunch at the junction of the AT and Grassy Branch Trail.&nbsp; Since we couldn't book one of our nights at a shelter on the AT we had to re-route off of the trail for the night and ended up hiking down (way down...) a beautiful valley.&nbsp; It was exciting to see lots of running water again and we were glad that Rachel, Laurens, and Jon all had a chance to see some different terrain (although the Smokies thus far have been quite beautiful, with lots of great ridge walks).</p>
<p>We were all super pumped when we got down here to the shelter, set in a great little spot a hundred feet or so from a bend in the river.&nbsp; And we have the place to ourselves!&nbsp; It is also the cleanest shelter we've been to, which makes since as it must be much less frequented.&nbsp; We're pretty happy to be able to just relax together.&nbsp; The temperature is also way higher down here, so we should be in for some pretty comfortable sleeping.&nbsp; OH, we've also had a pretty nice fire going all night, Jonable and Jamie found a good deal of driftwood in the river.</p>
<p>Overall a great day on the AT!!

AT again: Cosby Knob Shelter to Tricorner Knob Shelter

Things I forgot about hiking the trail: 
When starting out again, your shoulders and hips hurt from the straps.  My hips feel permanently bruised.
The smell of the trees and flowers is intoxicating, refreshing and invigorating.
Climbing out of a sleeping bag twice a night is like trying to get out of a spiders web.
I love ramen noodles and instant potatoes mixed together and with onion, cheese and taco bell hot sauce as added flavoring.
Being so tired you fall right asleep regardless of any lingering pain.
Walking on the side of a mountain with gorgeous vista's stretching out on the other side.
Hearing the various birds, bugs, frogs and other living things.
How fun it is to find a place to poop in the woods where you can relax and watch the scenery.
Today's walk was pretty great.  We took 7 hours to walk 7.7 miles.   Relaxing and joyful.  The first half of the hike was a slow climb and then a slow decent to a nice level walk when the trail skirted the summit of Mt Guyot.  We sang songs, retold stories, drank coffee, stopped to look at flowers and even saw an old plane wreck.  Overall, a great day.
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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

AT again! Standing Bear Hostel to Cosby Knob Shelter

Today was absolutely fabulous!  It felt so good to be back on the trail today.  We started at Standing Bear Hostel where we parked the car and walked down to the trail. Unfortunately, people told us the wrong way to walk and we started up the trail with a light step but soon something felt wrong.  Jamie and I stopped the group and as we were panicking about going in the wrong direction some Northbounders came up behind us to confirm that fact.  SO!  After our little warm up, we walked back down the hill and started off again going south.  
It was so great to be on the trail and be feeling fit.  I walked with Rachel today and we went at a leisurely pace, stopping periodically to smell the flowers-literally.   We started at 8:30 and arrived at the shelter 10 miles on around 6:30.  It was a great day.   We saw a skink, a salamander and (thanks to Laurens) two bears!   I forgot how glorious walking in the woods can be.  Quiet, peaceful, it smells good, the views are spectacular and your endorphins are pretty high from the exercise. 
Jamie, Jon and Laurens got to the shelter before us so dinner was just about ready as we arrived and after chatting with the other shelter residents for a few minutes and sharing tips from our thru-hike last year we gave our hiking friends their ration of whiskey for the trip and now we are snug in our sleeping bags.
Weather wise today was absolutely perfect and we hear that the weather for the rest of the week should be equally splendid.   We've only got 7.7 miles to hike tomorrow and that on flat (ish) ground.  (Today we hiked 10 miles up 5000feet). 
Anyway, life is good.  The smokey's have been lovely so far but to be honest, no more beautiful than any other bit of the trail.  We'll see what tomorrow holds.  The other hikers have told us that the ridges will be spectacular.
Happy Trails!

Monday, May 13, 2013

On the Trail again!

Going places that I've never been! Seein' things that I might never see again,  I can't wait to get on the trail again.  Thanks Willie, for such great lyrics.  I was singing that when we hiked the trail the first time.  Every time we'd get back on the trail after a day in town we'd sing our modified Willie Nelson song but this time it's so much more exciting.
Currently, we're sitting in a hotel room in TN settling in before we finish off our AT thru-hike.  You may remember that we couldn't hike the Smokey's last year because of Hurricane Sandy so we are finally getting back down here to do it.  Its doubly exciting because Friday was the one year anniversary of our starting the trail.  It's like we are celebrating and hiking all at the same time.
I'm really curious how hiking is going to feel after taking all this time off.  We've both done a really good job of staying healthy, but since we finished up in November, we have done absolutely NO hiking.   Tomorrow is 10 miles straight up!  I can't wait to get back to it!  I'm looking forward to the challenge.  Our very first day hiking one year ago we hiked 7 miles with a tiny little hill.  We had to stop halfway up the hill to catch our breath and stretch.  The 3/4s of the way up we had to stop to fix a blister. Finally at the top we took our packs off for yet another break.  Tomorrow is going to be a much bigger challenge but at least we know what we'll be getting into. 
We're also really thrilled about these 70 miles through the smokey's because we are bringing friends with us!  Rachel, Laurens and Jonable are all going to be finishing our thru-hike with us.    
Well friends, after 16 hours of driving I should be getting to sleep.
We are both so pumped to be back on the trail in the morning!