Thursday, April 21, 2011

Erwin, TN

Quick update here, only have a minute on the computer. We're in Erwin, TN, spent the night @ Uncle Johnny's hostel after hiking in the rain yesterday.  We're taking the pace down for the next few days and should be at Kincora hiking hostel by next Tuesday. We've had a great last few days of hiking-weather's been wonderful- no rain until yesterday. We did some longer mileage days which was great. We should be in Virginia in a little over a week, will have lots of updates by then and will probably be staying in Damascus for a night.  Eat's shin has been bothering him, so we're taking the mileage down and hoping it will heal quickly!
  Packing up here in a minute and will be headed back onto the trail in a little while!
Happy hiking!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Hello from Hot Springs!

Hello everyone!  So much has happened in the last few weeks since we've posted here. We have been so lucky with great weather recently and we've kicked up our mileage the last week doing 17-20 mile days the last four or five days.
   A few days after leaving Franklin we arrived at the Nantahala Outdoor Center which the AT goes right through.  There is an outfitter, a white water rafting, kayaking/ outdoor center as well as a few restaurants.  We made it there just in time to skip out one of the worst storms we've encountered on the trail.  There was a hostel there for hikers so we stayed for the night and ate a delicious dinner and huge breakfast the next morning before hitting the trail again.  As we left the next morning it started to hail as we were hiking out of the gorge.  That night was one of the coldest on the trail and we could see the Smokies (which were a few days out), covered in snow.  Luckily by the time we arrived it was hot and sunny and the snow had melted.
  So the Smokies! We headed into the park on a hot and humid Thursday afternoon and camped for the first night, and the rest of the nights we stayed  in the shelters.  Our first full day there we did 17 miles and sadly didn't get many views due to fog and clouds, but we stayed dry and the sun was out that evening by the time we got to the shelter.  The next day, our longest yet (20.3 miles) we hit the highest point along the trail: Clingman's Dome in TN at 6,643 ft.  There is a lookout tower on the top that is a half mile walk from a parking lot near the top of the mountain that anyone can drive to.  One of the funniest parts of the day was the reaction we got from the people who had driven to the top.  About half of them looked terrified when they saw us and clearly knew nothing about thru hikers, while the rest were completely in shock that we had in fact come all the way from Georgia and were headed to Maine.  We spent over an hour on the top talking with people and answering their questions- which ended up being the routine questions we've come to expect: "Where are you hiking from? How long will it take? How much does your pack weigh? How do you get food? How long have you been planning this?"  It was pretty entertaining to see everyones reactions to us, some people thought we were crazy, but most seemed impressed.  That day we also passed the 200 mile mark which was pretty neat!  Here is a picture from the next day taken from Charlie's Bunion in the Smokies:

  The Smokies were a great part with a very different feel than the trail up to that point.  There were tons of wild flowers, most of the forest floor was covered in green plants and the area surrounding Clingman's Dome reminded us of the White Mountains in NH, very green, lots of pines and tons of moss, which all made for lovely hiking.  We had to go into town one day to get our mail drop which happened to be in the town of Gatlinburg, TN.  For those of you lucky enough  to not be familiar with Gatlinburg, this is how I'd sum it up: White trash south meets Disney World, meets Hampton Beach, meets Walmart on crack.  It was literally the most over whelming town we could have been in with thousands of people, shops etc.  Of course the one good part was the wide variety of food options there which we took full advantage of.  Our best meal in town was definitely breakfast at the Pancake pantry- thanks to Jesse for breakfast, best trail magic we've had!!

  Two nights ago we camped in one of the best spots on the trail- Max Patch Bald.  There is a two to three hundred acre bald, basically an open field on the top of the mountain with 360 degree views.  Needless to say,  we enjoyed one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen, in the company of good friends.  That was followed by star gazing before getting into our tent.  Here's a picture of the sunset:

North Carolina has been beautiful and we are now in the lovely town of Hot Springs having our first zero  day!  We had a huge breakfast at the local diner this morning and are hoping to soak in the hot springs in town later this afternoon.  Eat's knee is feeling much better and my blisters are almost completely gone which makes hiking a lot more fun and much easier! We've met so many great people on the trail and have had a great time with our new friends as we've all been hiking at about the same pace for the last week or so.  It's great to arrive at camp in the evenings and enjoy a camp fire and food in the company of great people.
Off to eat some more food and check out the hot springs!

Playing Catch Up on Here!

So it's been quite a while since we have been in a town with legitimate computer access. So here is the nutshell version:

Franklin, NC was such a cute town but Ron Haven, who owns 3 of the lodging businesses there, is a total slime-ball and charged us $10 per person on our room rates for the "free" Friday night dinner. I have other reasons as well, but that is not the point of this blog, but if you make it to Franklin, DO NOT stay at Budgett Inn, Sapphire Inn, or Franklin Motel. If I forgot to mention it in the last post, we hitched rides a couple of times in town, once in the back of a pickup truck (not sure why that is legal) and once in the back of the Macon County Sherrif's car. We love hitching! we headed out of Franklin Saturday night and missed the flop of a Hiker Bash (drinking party) by retreating into the woods. A few glorious days later brought us through the Nantahala Outdoor Center where we stayed in a bunkhouse during the most intense lightning storm I have ever witnessed. We also got a mail drop from Gram Cracker with all sorts of fun goodies, as well as home-made cookies from my mom! THANK YOU! More hiking brought us to Fontana Dam where we did a quick resupply, hiked over the Dam (second largest to Hoover!) and entered the Great Smoky Mountain National Park!

The Smokies are an incredibly gorgeous place with wonderfully diverse terrain. Most of the elevations are between 5 and 6,000 feet, affording excellent views of western NC and eastern TN. Terrains varied from White Mountain-style spruce forests, to grassy balds, to beautifully unique deciduous forests with lush undergrowth. It is also the home to Clingman's Dome, the highest point on the AT at 6,643 feet! A road leads to within a half mile of the summit, to which we arrived on a Saturday afternoon...tourist central. We sat on a stone bench as people passes, offering us strange looks as we devoured our lunches. This was also where we had our first taste of socially-acceptable-vagrant celebrity attack. We spent at least an hour talking to different groups of people about our hike, answering the standard questions with excitement and some amusement: "When did you start?; How much does your pack weigh?; How long will it take you?; Have you seen any bears yet (sadly, we have not), etc. etc". We met a great family up on the lookout tower who are hoping to hike at least 30 days or so of the trail within the next few years. We shared our stories, advice, and words of encouragement with them. They parted with the promise to buy our pancakes in Gatlinburg, TN if we should run into them down there at the Pancake Pantry. Later that day we hitched a ride into town with a couple around 60 in their red Mustang convertable. It was a tight squeeze but I'm sure it helped keep our smell at bay! Sure enough the next morning in town at the Pancake Pantry, we ran into the family from Clingman's who held true to their promise and provided us with excellent Trail Magic by buying us our amazing breakfasts! Thanks Jesse and family!!!

So more on the Smokies, if you don't know, the Smokies are infamous for crazy weather, especially this time of year...rain, cold, and snow. Somehow we had perfect weather every day until our last day in the park where we spent it freezing in a shelter, cowering from the rain. Otherwise, quite a lucky streak!

After the cold, rainy day, we have had great weather again so far. We made it here to town yesterday, in Hot Spring, NC for our first zero day. We hiked 19 miles from Max Patch, a bald (grass covered mountain) with an elevation of 4,629.

We had camped on the bald, which is one of the most coveted camping spots on the whole trail, conditional on Mother Nature's current mood. We totally lucked out and just had some cold winds at night, but were able to enjoy 360-degree views and an inredible sunset with our dear trail friends Who Knows and Lady Pants.

Now we are in Hot Springs enjoying our first ZERO DAY!!!! YESSSS! We stayed at Iron Horse Station on a whim last night...$45/room for the best beds and showers we have had yet. Thanks Iron Horse for the AMAZING stay. Tonight we are in some cute cottages down the street. Of course we (w/ Lady Pants and Who Knows) stuffed our faces with a total of 7 appetizers and 4 entrees. This morning we had some big breakfasts at the Smoky Mt Diner w/ Red Squirrel and Hatchet


Injuries: Joints are feeling much better after changing shoes in Franklin and getting some inserts with mega arch support. Knee is better with the help of the brace sent from Cap! Thanks Cap! We both are just struggling with blisters, but whatever, it's what we signed up for!

Weather: Amazing. We have only had a few total days of rain so far and the hotter days usually bring some nice breezes.

Mileage: Oh man, we are at 271.8. So crazy, over 10% done.

Things we are looking foreward to: Teri, Jetpack's mom, will be coming down to visit us in a month!!!! Courtney, Jetpack's lovely little sister, may be accompanying her!

Morale: Way high. This trip has been everything I have dreamed that it would be, and more. The people with whom we have become good friends are just fantastic and keep us laughing and enjoying every night at camp. The views are incredible and it is such a gift to be able to see sunrises and sunsets, babbling brooks, mountain range views, wildlife, and various little train towns as part of our everyday life. I have trulylearned to appreciate some really little things like properly rinsing my toothbrush, chairs, clean clothes, and washing my hands, among other things. It makes me so happy to know that I still am just warming up to this trip and finally feel like a thru hiker. We have increased our average mileage to 15+ per day and although it is a struggle sometimes, we can do it, and feel like champions at the end of the day. Trail Magic is always a great boost and I am hoping to create a page soon that lists some of the random kindness of others that we run into along our journey! I wish I could capture more of this journey in my posts, but time is always limited and there I don't want to write 20 page long posts. If you every have questions or want to know more, feel free to email me or us or shoot me a message on Facebook! I will be posting more videos soon along with the fun stories behind them so you will get some more details soon!

Stay tuned and be well,

I'll-Eat-It "Eats"

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Next Mail Drop!

Hey everyone,
I know many of you have been asking about our mail drops so you can send something.  We will be in Hot Springs, NC around April 14th, so if you'd like to send us something, here's the address:
            Kaitlin Allen & Dan Roach
            C/O Elmer's Sunnybank Inn, ETA 4/14
            26 Walnut St.
P.O. Box 233
Hot Springs, NC 28743

(On outside of package write 'Hold for AT thru hiker' )

Remember, less is better- we have to carry everything you send, or share w/ other hikers! Also, it can take a while for things to get here, so send it early!

 We will post other mail drops as they get closer!
Happy trails!

Friday, April 1, 2011

The Beginning of the Video Diary

The Video Diary started the morning at Low Gap Shelter where we woke up to constant rain, thunder, and lightning and were trapped in our cozy pseudo-abode. We were quite bored and decided that it was time to start filming portions of our adventure. I'm sure you will enjoy...

Later that evening, after hiking 10 miles in non-stop, cold rain and being offered a ride into the town of Helen, we decided that we would make the most out of the money we had paid for the room...

And then our first AYCE buffet in Hiawassee with Spider Legs and Lady Pants...yummmm. They were too hungry to talk!

One State Down...

So we made it to North Carolina! It feels so weird and great to know that we have completed the GA section of the AT, and what a section it is! We had some really great views, the winding trails through the hills are great, but man, is it rugged! So much up and down! Besides the first few miles into North Carolina (as anyone who has done it knows, it's NOT an easy welcome to the state), the terrain has been SO nice. Many miles of the days so far include leisurely strolls through valleys and around mountainsides. So much of this includes gorgeous walks through tunnels formed by rhodedendrons and/or mountain laurel. At some points it feels like walking through a rainforest, especially with the damp weather we have been having.

Yesterday we passed the 100-mile mark. WOO HOO! Today we got up at 6am, before the sun, at Rock Gap Shelter and hiked 4 miles to the road to get a ride into Franklin, NC. Last night and into this morning the temperature was probably around 30 degrees and we had to wait an hour for the "9am" shuttle, brrrrrr! Tonight is the kickoff for the annual April Fool's Hiker Bash/Trail Days in Franklin. We are staying at the Budget Inn to do laundry, etc. The shower was moderately warm, but I have learned to not even care, a shower is a shower. The sun is finally out too!

Injuries: Jetpack is still battling blisters while my joins are failing me! It all started last week with my left hip getting some dull, deep pains in the joint. Once that started to wear off, my right knee really started to hurt a couple of days ago on downhills, causing me to wince at every step. I have been taking it easy and babying it and it is slowly getting better, only to cause my right achille's tendon to flare up. Oh well! Vitamin I (ibuprofin) to the rescue! I'm sure this time off in Franklin will help immensely. I am definitely learning the truth behind former thru-hikers' comments along the lines of "every day, something hurts" and "if it's not one thing, it's another". It feels good to push through it and build some endurance, like I said before, learning what I'm really made of.

The trail community is like nothing else I have experienced. Everyone out here gets to know one another so quickly and every lunch stop or night at camp brings laughs and stories around dinner circles and campfires. We have a great crew heading north, always providing plenty of entertainment. Pictures are finally going to be added today!!! Thanks Budget Inn for a computer that can handle image uploads!!! We need to head out and stuff our faces though, the appetite is growing!!

Happy Trails,
I'll-Eat-It "Eats"

Oh yea, make sure to check out our links up top under the header.
Also, read about the charity that we are hiking to support, it's such a great cause and ANY donation will help