“I Came Out of the Woods by Choice…”

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What started out as an adventure, ended in retreat…

Last Tuesday I left work with a smile. I had big plans for the weekend, however, those plans actually kicked off on the following day. Before the real plans could take way though, I had a long drive ahead of me, so I had requested to leave work early on Wednesday in order to get on the road at a reasonable hour. As I walked out of work that day though, things looked even better than expected! It looked like instead of just getting off of work early the next day, I would be off for the entire day! This was music to my ears as it meant that I could get on the road much earlier than anticipated…

I eagerly drove home and went through all of my gear one more time (as if I hadn’t done it a number of times already), although I still managed to find some little things to change anyway. I moved some things around on my pack, and then after re-checking the weather forecast, I decided to add in my umbrella for a bit more rain protection. I also threw in an extra breakfast since it looked like I would actually be there earlier than I had anticipated. After going through my gear list (again), I then began to check and make sure I had locations loaded into my GPS, as well as any other miscellaneous items I would need en route…. Then I waited some more…

Sure enough, by 9 am on Wednesday morning, I had finished loading everything into my car and was setting my destination on the GPS. I had already filled my belly with breakfast, dropped the kids off at school and exchanged hugs and kisses with my wife. Now it was time to get going…

I had approximately 360 miles to cover along the winding, paved roads before reaching my end destination. I listened to a couple of CD’s and then realized that I had not downloaded the most recent podcast from The Trail Show (which is what I usually listen to while making these long drives). So, I pulled up the site on my phone and thanks to a series of mobile network services, I was able to download it while cruising down the road. About 20 minutes later, I began listening to Episode 10 of The Trail Show.

The next few hours were pretty much just a blur. I drove, listened to music and the latest Trail Show podcast, and then realized I still had quite a way to go… so I drove some more. Of course, I also stopped a couple of times to grab a quick lunch, and to fill up on gas. Finally, around 3:30 pm I was getting pretty close, so I stopped by an Arby’s in the last little town I was driving through to pick up a sandwich for dinner that night.

At 4:30 I was driving over Wayah Gap and looking for the parking area! Once I figured out where it was, I quickly parked my car next to only other car in the lot, located just below a small picnic area. Once parked, I jumped out of my car, glad to be done driving and full of excitement… I was finally here!

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My plan at this point was to start hiking that afternoon, just to get a bit of a head start on the hike (for no other reason that to just be on the trail). But first, I planned to eat my Arby’s sandwich, and needed to change into my hiking clothes. So, I decided to take advantage of the picnic tables I saw just up the hill from the parking area. After all, it was a nice day and I didn’t feel like being crammed in the car any longer… I wanted to be outdoors, and to be free! So, I grabbed my Arby’s bag and headed up towards the picnic tables.

As I began climbing the little hill, I noticed the top of a tent, then as I got farther up the hill I also noticed a young guy and a girl sitting at one of the other picnic tables. At first I thought that these were the owners of the car I parked next too, but then I saw their packs sitting next to them and I thought not. I waved to them and they returned the wave. I asked them if the were thru-hiking, and they replied “Yep.”

We briefly spoke a bit more, and then I sat at one of the tables to eat my sandwich. At this point the young guy asked me how far down the road Arby’s was. I told him it was about 30 miles or a little more, at which he sighed at… While finishing my sandwich I noticed that there was another person inside the tent I first saw when walking towards the picnic tables. Another thru hiker!

After I finished eating I talked with the hikers a little more and had decided that instead of starting my hike that night, I would just pitch my tent here and stay the night. I didn’t need to start hiking early since the first day was short at only 10 miles. Plus my belly was full again, and I liked being here with the other hikers. So, I pulled my pack from the car, found a spot of somewhat level ground and pitched my tent.

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Once I got everything all situated in my “home” for the night, I headed up the side trail which led from the Appalachian Trail (AT) down towards the picnic area. I was finally back on the trail… I breathed in… and it was good!

I turned left on the AT and walked north the short distance back towards the road. The next morning I would be heading south, so I needed to make sure that my feet also touched the trail on this small section. It was a short walk, but it was nice. Once I got to the road I pulled out my camera and began to shoot the first part of my video.

After shooting some video, I returned to my camp. I spoke with the young guy and the girl for another few minutes. As we were talking, about 4 or 5 other hikers hike past used along the AT, heading north to the next shelter up for the night. After a bit I retreated into my tent for a little bit of a nap. After driving into the sun all morning I had a bit of a headache, so I decided to pop 2 Vitamin I’s, and lie down for a while.

An hour later I was feeling a little relief so I got back up. I had already ate my dinner for the night, but I also packed up stuff for an extra hot tea that night. So, I grabbed my Jetboil Sol Ti, my MLD mug (complete with a set of Hot Lips and a DY reflectix cozy) some water and my tea bag, then began to (quickly) boil water for a nice, relaxing, cup of hot tea.

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After I finished my tea I cleaned everything up and then packed away all of my food inside my car. I could have thrown my bear line, but with my car only a couple hundred feet away, I figured why not take advantage of it. Also, the rain was supposed to start sometime in the early morning, so it would be one less wet thing to start my hike with.

After I got everything all squared away, I walked around the area a little more, waiting on the sun to fall out of the sky completely before crawling into my own bed. I noticed that the young couple that I was talking with earlier had set up their tent inside a little cove, somewhat protected from the rain that we expected that night, and that they had already retreated into their own tent for the night. As I walked around and waited for my own time to take shelter, I was entertained by the sound of a song bird, which made the night that much better. The sky was still barely lit, the trees were more of a silhouette against the fading sky, and this bird sang beautifully!

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The sun did eventually fade and gave way to the night. As the hour grew later, the night grew darker due to the clouds rolling in. There were no stars to lay back and gaze at tonight. The temperature slowly dropped, and I snuggled deeper under my quilt. I pulled out my Kindle and picked up where I left off in the book “The Last Englishman” by Keith Foskett (AKA” Fozzie) and began reading. And of course, it just so happened that the chapter I started out with was entitled “Chapter 10: Ghosts on the trail.”

After my little nap earlier, I was actually quite refreshed. I laid there and read for about an hour, and then after realizing that it was getting late but I wasn’t getting sleepy, I decided to pop a couple of Tylenol PM’s. After this, I read for about another 30 minutes and then turned out the lights

Around 1 am I woke up from a series of strange dreams and the sound of rain on my tent. Thanks to Fozzie’s book and the pills, I had dreamed that a bear was sniffing around my tent, and then another dream in which some cats had torn holes in my tent with their little, tiny, razor-sharp claws, which left me somewhat exposed to the rain that happened to be falling. After realizing it was all just dreams, I quickly crawled out of my tent and took off to relieve myself.

After crawling back into my tent, I then decided to change into my down clothes. The temps had continued to drop and now the rain was really driving it down. After changing, I snuggled up deep under my quilt again and made myself comfortable. It wasn’t long before I was out again… however, this time, I didn’t have any strange dreams…

I woke up again around 7:30 am the next morning. The darkness had started to lift and a little bit of gray light was coming into the tent. However, the rain was still falling, and it was cold. My watch told me it was 36 F inside my tent. I laid there for a while, just listening to the rain fall, wondering if it would break so that I could break camp and get started hiking.

30 minutes later, I realized that I was just going to have to make a run for it in the rain, or at least a short run. Since my food and stove was in the car, I again decided to make the most out of it by deciding to boil my water for my coffee and to eat my breakfast muffins in the car. So, I changed out of my warm down layers, put on my cold (but clean at this point) hiking clothes, slipped on my Inov-8’s, grabbed my water and my umbrella and made a dash for the car.

Once I was in my car, I took full advantage of it by cranking it up and kicking the heater to high. Next, I pulled out the Jetboil, screwed the fuel canister to the stove, poured a little water into the pot and fired it up.** Then just a couple of minutes later I had a nice, warm cup of coffee in one hand, and some blueberry muffins in the other! I consumed my breakfast inside a warm car, watching the rain hitting the windshield. (Yeah, I cheated, but it was my hike…)

By the time I finished eating and cleaning up inside the car, the rain had slowed some. I grabbed my umbrella and my water bottle and walked a little ways past where I had parked my car to a water source I had found the night before. I refilled my water bottle and then headed back towards camp. I stopped back by at my car and grabbed my food bag and my stove and mug, then made my way back to my tent.

Back inside the tent, I started packing everything up and then loading it all back into my pack. But, by the time I had it all just about packed away, the rain picked back up! So, I finished up and then decided to sit there and wait it out some more… Finally, around 9 am I decided it just wasn’t going to let up so I again slipped my shoes on, grabbed my pack and my umbrella and made a dash for the car. I slung my pack inside the car and then went back up the hill to take my tent down.

After I got the tent down I went back to the car for the last time (or so I thought). I jumped inside and packed away my wet tent inside my pack. Made final adjustments on everything, then threw my pack cover over my pack. I finally stepped outside my car, strapped my multipack (with my camera gear inside) around my waist, threw my pack on, flipped open my umbrella, locked the doors on my car (first making sure that the car key was inside my pocket), grabbed my poles and began hiking!

I hiked back up the hill toward the picnic area and then up the little side trail until I reached the AT. When I came to the cairn that marked the trail, I made a right and started my hike heading south…

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So, the big picture was for me to begin my hike at Wayah Gap and finish a few days later at Deep Gap. This is a 30 mile stretch which, for me, was meant to connect 2 longer pieces of the Appalachian Trail that I had already hiked. I would begin my hike on Thursday morning headed south. One of my buddies had talked about possibly meeting me on Thursday night at Rock Gap Shelter and then hiking with me the rest of the way, although he was not sure he would be able to make it. Then, another buddy was going to meet us both at Deep Gap, where we would stay Saturday night, and then he would shuttle us to our cars the next morning.

It did not go this way…

When I began hiking Thursday morning, it was cold, and it was still raining. The trail had already turned into a mess. The flat spots were either standing pools of water, or mushy muddy messes that were slippery. When heading either up or down the mountain, the trails were running streams of water and mud. I also noticed that all the branches on the trees were actually covered in ice, which weighted them down into the trail.

The hike out of Wayah Gap and up to Siler’s Bald was a pretty easy hike though. The incline was pretty gradual, which made it an easy hike. However, I noticed that as my elevation increased, so did the wind. As a result, I was walking though a lot of falling ice, however, I started my hike with my umbrella deployed, which made me realize that it didn’t just protect me from rain, but also from the falling clumps of ice. As well, as I gained elevation and the winds picked up, I could also turn the umbrella into the wind a bit to help block some of it, although, at times the wind actually contorted my umbrella a good bit and I found myself wondering if the little umbrella was going to hold up.

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I met a number of other thru hikers headed north that morning, most of which decided that it was too cold, wet and windy to stand around and chat, so we passed with a quick hello or a word of encouragement. However, a few did compliment me on the umbrella for the simple fact that they were tired of getting hit in the head with the ice falling from the trees… This actually made me appreciate the umbrella even more…

As a side note, before I left home, I had strapped my pack on and tinkered around with a hands free set-up for the umbrella, and of course it all worked quite well. I was quite sure it would work on the trail. However, I quickly found that it just didn’t feel like working out quite like it had at home, on the trail. So, I ended up having to hold the umbrella with one hand, which only left me one other hand to use a trekking pole. I hiked the rest of the day with one hand on the umbrella and one on a trekking pole. As for the second pole, I collapsed it as short as it would go and slipped the handle under my sternum strap. Since the poles collapsed rather short, this worked out fine.

I began hiking quite slowly for the simple fact that I didn’t have far to hike that day, and that the elevation change was actually in my favor, not to mention the foul weather. I took the time to take care to place my feet in the driest, least muddy spot I could along-side the trail. Then of course I had to duck and dodge, or just push my way through all the drooping ice branches with my umbrella as my shield.

I soon came out to the large bald which marked the end of the only real climb I had for the day. However, on this open, exposed bald, the wind was blowing more and due to all the fog I couldn’t see much. So, I quickly walked across it and to the wooded area on the opposite side. Once I got there, I noticed a sign for the Siler’s Bald Shelter. The sign was actually leaning against a post (likely the one it was at one point attached to). The arrow pointing the way was pointed in the direction of an old road that led off from the AT. Despite that it was listed at being 0.5 miles off the AT, I had planned to stop here for a quick bite since it would actually give me some shelter from the rain and wind.

I started hiking down the side trail/road. It quickly started heading down… and continued heading down. I started thinking if it was worth it to hike so far down for half a mile, but I wanted to shoot some more video, and of course to eat some food without having to stand in the rain to do so. So, I hiked on… and on… about 10 minutes later I started having second thoughts. I slowed my hike and then decided to just turn back around.

Once I made it back up to the bald, I turned back south along the AT and told myself that once I came to a spot that was either somewhat sheltered, or the rain stopped, I would then stop and have a snack.

The trail began heading down for the next 4 miles (didn’t I say that the elevation change was in my favor?). After hiking about 15 minutes down hill, I came to an intersection. The AT went to the right, and straight ahead was a blue-blazed trail. The sign at the trail head stated that the blue-blazed trail led to Siler’s Bald Shelter! Wait, what?! I stood there for a bit and processed this. I wasn’t sure if I should slap myself on the head for taking the trail earlier, or if I should have patted myself on the back for deciding to turn around when on the side trail. I then wondered if it was just a big loop… The only way for me to figure it out was for me to head to the shelter…

However, I decided against it. I knew that all the downhill hiking I had to do would be rather easy, and I could just find a spot to stop somewhere farther down the trail for a bite to eat. Nevermind the fact that the weather had not gotten any better than earlier, and in fact, maybe a little worse, although, this could have also been due to the higher elevation I was currently at.

As I began hiking down again, I started meeting a number of other hikers, both weekend hikers (like myself) as well as thru hikers. Some stopped and talked with me for a bit while others were simply trudging on (rightfully so considering the weather). Despite the fact that I never got any views, and the fact that the trail and the weather was nasty, there was also a  magical feel. The ice in the trees and the fog actually made things look like something that I would see in the movies. As well, I came across a number of small streams and briefly watched the water rolling around and over all the moss-covered rocks. I really wanted to stop and take out my camera and shoot some pictures, however, the blowing rain kept me from it.

The temperature also felt like it was still dropping, which was evidenced by all the ice build-up on my umbrella and my multipack. The edges of my umbrella were iced over, as well as the top of the umbrella, however, as I barged through low-hanging branches, this ice would recycle. Even the straps that hung from my backpack were turning into frozen, dangling popsicle’s! Between the added weight of my wet tent from the night before, and all the ice hanging off of my gear, I am sure my total pack weight went up by a few pounds! Heck, one hiker even told me I had something under my nose, and then I realized it was frozen snot!

The hike down from Siler’s Bald to Winding Stair Gap was all pretty much the same. Cold, wet, muddy, and windy with falling rain and ice. I came across about 20 hikers headed north, and even a couple of tents still pitched at Panther Gap. Then, about an hour and a half later I crossed over a wooden bridge next to a beautiful waterfall that begged for me to take a photo, and regretfully, I did not. The weather was still bad, and at this spot, the mist from the falls only added to the water in the air. So I trudged on…

Shortly after, I was standing at the stairs leading up to US64 at Winding Stair Gap. Before crossing over the road though, I stayed under the trees and pulled out my phone. I did not get to call my wife the night before, and was still unsure if my buddy was going to be meeting me that night at Rock Gap Shelter. So, I turned my phone off of airplane mode and luckily picked up a piece of a signal! I then called my wife and left her a message to let her know that everything was going well and where I planned to be that night. As I was making the call to my wife, a text message came in that my buddy had sent earlier that sounded encouraging. I tried to call him, but after no answer I replied via text and told him I would for sure be at Rock Gap Shelter and that I hoped he would make it.

Now, I should add here that this was going to possibly be my second solo hike (attempt), and that my first one did not turn out too well. After my first solo attempt, I realized that I did not like sleeping in the woods by myself, and that once faced with this I also found myself quite a bit homesick, missing my wife and kids and longing to be back with them. However, I have also found that as long as I have a buddy along with me on a hike, I am ok. I still find myself missing my family, and it seems to worsen at night for some reason, but at least I have a friend to share my experience with. When I planned this hike, I did so with the understanding that there was a good chance my buddy may not be able to meet me on that second night, which would mean that nights 2 & 3 would definitely be on my own. However, I crossed my fingers, hoping that he would be able to make it, and if not, then I could give solo camping a try again…

After successfully sending the text to my buddy, I powered my phone back down and out it safely away. Then I crossed over US64… and then wasn’t sure which way to go!

I looked left and didn’t see anything that looked promising. I looked right and finally made out what looked like a parking area (remember, it was a bit foggy…) So, I started walking towards what I thought was the parking area, and it turned out to be just that. As I was walking into the parking area, a semi also pulled in, letting the cars behind him go around. I walked along side the truck (and the driver made sure to keep his head down as if studying something until I passed). As the truck pulled away, I saw the trail!

Before hiking up the trail, I noticed an old iron pipe sticking out of the side of the mountain which had water coming out of it. It is actually a great spot for a refill, and had it not been raining quite so hard, I would have happily went back over and refilled. However, I was still able to draw water from my bladder when drinking from the tube, and I knew that despite the next section was a little bit of a climb, it was a short climb and then it was downhill to Rock Gap Shelter! So, I climbed out of Winding Stair Gap.

Shortly after I realized that I was out of water… or at least I thought I was.

The last 3.8 miles was relatively easy, although the weather was still the same. As well, I only met 2 other hikers along this stretch, one on the trail and another at the shelter. The hiker on the trail told me that he was heading to Franklin for the night to get out of the weather and get a good meal and a warm, dry bed for the night. Shortly after meeting him, I came out at Wallace Gap, the last road crossing for the day, Old US64 at the entrance to Standing Indian Campgrounds. It was only 0.7 more miles to the shelter.

Once I got to the shelter, I found another hiker standing at the shelter. He was still wearing his pack and appeared to just be checking the shelter out. I asked him if he was staying there for the night, and he confirmed that he was just checking it out. He said that there was a group of people still up on the trail, but they were all heading to Franklin for the night. I asked him if there were others behind them and he told me that as far as he knew, everyone was going to Franklin. To be honest, this made me nervous…

After he left, I shrugged off my pack and began unpacking. It was just after 3 pm, and I knew that I had a long time to sit around before it was dark, and even longer before I would fall asleep. I hung my umbrella and my pack cover from nails in the shelter, and began setting up my spot inside the shelter. I decided that I wasn’t going to pitch my tent in the rain again, not to mention all of the huge branches that have been falling out of trees due to the weight of all the ice attached to them. I wasn’t interested in waking up to one of those laying on top of me in the middle of the night. So, I picked a spot in the tiny little shelter and made my nest…

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After I got everything sorted out, I grabbed my food bag and took it to the side of the shelter and sat at the picnic table. At this point, all I had eaten that day was the 2 packages of blueberry muffins and coffee I had for breakfast, and a Fuel ProBar that I had quickly dug out of my pack on the trail just below Panther Gap. So, I ripped it open and grabbed a bag of dried apples with cinnamon sprinkled over them. They were good…

After eating them, I walked around the shelter. I checked out the bear cables, the privy (which was very nasty) and found the water source. After walking around a bit I decided to shoot some more video. I did not get to shoot much video at all while on the trail, or even take pictures, so I wanted to be sure I got some done here. As well, talking to the camera made me feel like I wasn’t so alone…

After finishing the video, I walked around a little more, and then decided to try my phone again. I walked back up to the AT and then north a little ways and finally got a piece of signal again. I checked my phone for messages from either my wife or my buddy, but didn’t see one from either. So, I called my wife again and this time she answered. I spoke with here for a few minutes and then told her I had better let her go and try to get in touch with my buddy while I still had signal. After hanging up with her, I tried calling him, but again got no answer, so I text that I was there and would be there and hoped he could make it. I then walked back to the shelter for a bit.

About 20 minutes later, I went back to the spot with reception and tried to get in touch with my buddy again. By this time, the loneliness had started to creep in and I suddenly decided that I didn’t want to spend the night out by myself. The words of the last hiker I met resounded through my head… “As far as I know, everyone is going into Franklin.” and to be honest, I got a little afraid. Then, as usual, I started thinking about my wife and kids…

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I finally got a text from my buddy saying that he was not going to make it. This decided it for me. I went back to the shelter, repacked my gear and headed back down the trail, this time in the northward direction.

I was trying to decide if I wanted to follow the lead of the other hikers and try to hitch a ride into Franklin from Winding Stair Gap, or just trudge the entire way back to where my car was parked, at Wayah Gap. Either way, it was just after 4 pm, the weather was still wet and windy,ice and rain still fell from the skies, the trail seemed to be even messier than before, and the temperature was now at 33 F. I had to decide something, and do it soon. And to be honest, toughing it out and staying at the shelter (very likely by myself) was no longer an option.

I decided to let me feet make the decision. I told myself that if I could make it to Winding Stair Gap by 5 then I would push on, all the way back to Wayah Gap, however, if it was later than that, I would try to hitch a ride to Franklin. At this point, I was not terribly tired or sore so I knew I could still crank out the miles. As I said, I took it easy hiking in, however, my body was a bit lacking in both water and food. In retrospect, I should have refilled my water before leaving the shelter, and I should have eaten more, but at that point, my mind was filled with thoughts of hiking another 10 miles back to my car, in crappy weather and possibly in the night. As well, as easy as the hike to the shelter was, it was that much harder hiking back in that direction… I had my work cut out for me.

I flew. That morning, I took care to place my footsteps in areas so that my feet stayed dry, but now I stormed right through the middle of it all. The puddles splashed up and the mud caked up the sides of my pants. I still used the umbrella though to keep the top portion of my body dry, although, considering that I needed to make trail now, I found myself wishing that I could use both of my poles. This would have allowed me to travel faster, safer and with less impact on my body. As much as I enjoyed having my umbrella, I missed not having both hands for my poles.

As I said, I decided that I would let my feet decided my end goal for the night, and they decided to go all the way. I strolled back into Winding Stair Gap right at 5 pm, which meant I covered those 3.8 miles in just under an hour. However, this was also the easiest part of the hike back. The next 4 miles were pretty much all uphill and my body was now starting to get tired. I decided that I would now fill up my water bottle since I thought I was still out, however, when I pulled the water bottle out, I found that it was still a third full! For some reason though, I could not draw any water through the tube. My first thought was that the tube was kinked, it wasn’t. Then I started wondering about my filter… did it freeze? So, I refilled my water bladder, hooked everything back up and took a drew hard from the tube… it worked.

So, I slung my pack back on and crossed back over US64 for the real test of the day…

At this point, I had only hiked 14 miles, still had 6 to go (4 of which would be the hardest of the day in both, actual elevation, as well as considering my body’s tiring condition), the day was starting to darken a little and it was still cold and wet. I have hiked other 20+ mile days before, and was fine afterwards, but this one was different…

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I did ok for the first mile up, but then my body said hang on. It needed fuel, so I stopped and pulled off my pack and dug through to find some more food. I pulled out a pack of Honey Stinger Fruit Chews and a pack of Ritz crackers. I ate the Fruit Chews and stuffed the crackers inside my multipack. I simply did not want to stand around eating but rather to be hiking. I did not particularly want to be hiking in these conditions and at night.

The fruit chews helped a little. But I soon needed more, so I stopped near Panther Gap again and began to eat the crackers. Being dry, I needed to wash them down with water, however, I quickly came to the same point as I was at before when I thought I was out. I drew on the hose but got very little out. I felt the bladder and found that it was again about a third of the way full… So, I put the crackers away and continued on.

I only had 1.7 more miles to get to blue-blazed trail that led off towards Siler’s Bald Shelter, and then only about another 0.5 miles to go to the top of the bald. Once I made it here, I knew that the hard part of my hike would be done, and that the last 1.8 miles would all be pretty easy downhill hiking. However, I found myself struggling quite a bit over these next 2.2 miles. My legs began cramping, especially when I stepped up. If I stopped I had to be careful with my legs otherwise they would cramp up. I was pushing myself hard and my body was pushing back…

By the time I came to the blue-blazed trail leading towards the shelter, my spirits lifted. I knew I was closer to the top, and I decided to finish my crackers. I even managed to get a little more water to flow through the tube connected to my bladder, but not much. That was ok though, I only needed enough to get me to the top.

As I was making my way back I was surprised at the trail. The trail of course looks different when headed in the opposite direction, however, the trail also looked different due to all the blow downs that I came across which were not there when I came through earlier that day. I had to climb up, over, and around 4 or 5 large blow downs on the way back, and the small trees that were hanging low earlier in the day now seemed to be hanging even lower. The trail in places looked like a huge ice chest had been dumped due to all the ice that had fallen (and still were) from the trees.

I finally made it to the top of the bald! It was my moment of victory, however, I dared not to stand around and celebrate for long, but just long enough to catch my breath and to massage my legs for a moment. I again drew hard from my drinking tube, but with little results. That was ok though, my hike was almost done!

As I hiked down the last stretch, I realized that I was going to make it back before the moon would push the sun from the sky, and this gave me some relief. My legs ached and my feet hurt with each step, but I kept going.

At this point, I also decided to shoot one more bit of video, however, it was cut short due to another blow down that I had to have both hands free to maneuver around…

I made it back to my car by 7:10 pm that night. It took me almost 6 hours to hike the trail southbound, in which the elevation was more of a loss than a gain, but it only took me 3 hours to hike it north. And my body knew it… I knew it…

When I got to the car, I took off my hiking clothes and put my clean clothes back on. Then I put everything away in the car, pulled out my GPS and set my new destination, home.

This hike was tough for me. I wanted to complete this section pretty bad, and despite me bailing, I really enjoy hiking, and love the backpacking part of it. However, this is the second trip I have now bailed on for the simple fact that I don’t want to be alone in the woods for more than one reason. With this in mind, I won’t be scheduling any more solo hikes, or even possible solo hikes in the future. This very well may limit my ability to get out and hike, but considering that this is only the second hike in over 3 years of hiking that this has happened, I don’t feel like it will limit my hikes that drastically. As well, thanks to my blog, along with my other social networking sites, I have made a few friends that I can hike with, while others have also extended their invitations.

So, this is my hike, and this is how I have to do it… This hike was actually a very fulfilling hike, just not in the ways that I had hoped for when I set out last Wednesday morning. I still got out there, I pushed myself, I saw new trail, and with a different backdrop. I used new gear, I met a number of people (27 I think) have ultimately broadened my hiking experience. Of course I did not complete the section as I had intended, but the trail will (hopefully) be there for a long time to come, and I have all intentions to getting back out…

Thanks for stopping by everyone!

~Stick~

P.S: I apologize for any grammatical errors that may be in this write-up. I have spell checked it, but to be honest, I have not proofread it all due to the length. (At almost 7,000 words, this is my longest entry so far.) I will go through it more, but am comfortable enough with it at this point to share it. If I catch things at a later time, I will be sure to correct it. If you have any questions though, feel free to ask. Thanks again!

Disclaimer: The title of this post is a line from the song Hopeless Wanderer by Mumford & Sons. No affiliation (obviously), just wanted to throw that out there though…

**I do not recommend using a stove system inside a car for more reasons than one, however, it is what I did. I accept no responsibility should you decide to do the same and end up with any sort of injuries, to yourself, or your vehicle.

 

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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62 Responses to “I Came Out of the Woods by Choice…”

  1. Martin says:

    I have come to find, I prefer to hike alone.
    I cover more ground, without waiting on others. Do what I want, when I want.
    I do like sharing an awesome view with someone else, especially my son though.

    Nights, I just put in earplugs and go to sleep.
    The worst thing in the woods, is really a tiny tick.

    Like

  2. imeugeneius says:

    To be quite honest, sounds to me like you had a serious case of analysis paralysis. Throw that saddle back up on the horse and get on down the trail. Sometimes it’s better to just stop worrying and just keep hiking.

    Like

  3. Roger M says:

    Stick,

    Very nice, detailed and honest read. I appreciate those willing to take the time to help out others with our equipment decisions.
    As for missing family, that ALWAYS gets me. Sometimes even to the point of not going, or at least not going as often as I would like. Once I am away though I prefer being alone, even to the point of wanting to move camp if company arrives. It is part of the magic and experience for me to spend the night completely away from others. I pull off the loner trips enough though that when I do camp with others, I can enjoy it.
    Thankful we all have the choice to be different!

    Roger

    Like

  4. Kevin says:

    Stick, I completely understand not wanting to do an overnight alone. Hiking down here in Big Cypress it’s never a good idea and I just plain can’t do it. I love hiking by myself but, can’t do the overnights alone.

    As for the length of your report. I personally enjoy the detail. I use these to gain mental experience and tips. You can never be too experienced! I hope to one day do the AT and when I do I will have a wealth of knowledge from many others.

    Thanks and safe travels!

    Like

  5. Linda says:

    A very good, honest report Stick. There is no shame in turning back Your
    situation changed (weather, mood, etc) and always better to err on the side of safety for whatever the reason:) One thought re: your loneliness. Maybe plan for just a few overnighters, then increase them by one day, then another etc.. build up to longer trips to get used to them.
    Do hope you have the chance to hike in the High Sierras of California some day…
    LV

    Like

  6. John C says:

    Stick, unlike James up above, I didn’t find your article boring and I don’t think the AT “seriously sucks.” In fact judging from this article and some of your other articles, I would like to hike the AT some day. I live in Northern California and hike the Sierra Nevada range and the California Coast frequently, but to say there is no point in hiking the AT…well, that is just rude. I hope you get to do the Wonderland Trail this summer, although that is in the Cascade range, not the Sierra Nevada. But regardless of where a person hikes, the whole point is to get out in the “piny woods” and enjoy the great outdoors as Shug would say.

    Like

  7. Black Foot says:

    Stick,

    Thanks for writing this up – I always enjoy your videos and blog entries. I think Herb nailed it: the fact that you stopped fairly early in the day didn’t help. If you are alone there isn’t a ton of stuff to do after you set up and eat and I agree that it’s better to roll in late and tired. This can be especially tough to do in the winter months or when the weather is bad as was the case for you. Although I understand the appeal of hiking solo for many, I find that I enjoy hiking more when I do it with others personally, and it may be the same for you.

    See you on the trail…

    Like

  8. KristalB says:

    Honest and informational – I always enjoy your posts, Stick. Thank you for always reviewing products and sharing helpful hiking tips. Blessings!! ~ Cornfield
    P.S. – LOL’d at Abraham Lincoln’s words. 🙂

    Like

  9. roberta4949 says:

    wow detailed story, don’t beat yourself up for not being able to go through with your plans, (I kept saying what a buddy he left you in a lurch) but maybe you canlook at it this way, you don’t want to be alone in the woods at night that is dreary cold and miserable, your survival instincts are telling you this is not a good place to be, some men and some woman do not have this survival instincts and these are the ones that get into serious trouble such as getting lost, injuried on trails or adventures they go on that sorta thing. you hear it all the time on the news and such where people dissapear when they go alone to some destination whether mountain climbing, or hiking, or horseback riding or swimming alone or some other activity, and is never heard from again, survival instincts are there for a reason. second you made it back faster because you were running in adrenalin, don’t knock it these hormones are our survival chemicals, get us through tough times, otherwise you might have had to transverse at night and then gotten injuried if you slipped or didn’t see a dangerous situation. so don’t hate on yourself (your survival instincts) but be thankful for them. my motto is always travel in dangerous situations in a group or at least with one other person, but it is safer with a group. never go alone to dark and dreary and too quiet situations.

    Like

  10. james says:

    Boooooorrrriiiiiiing!!!

    Thank God I have the Sierras so close by and deserts and the coast. The AT SERIOUSLY SUCKS and it’s so not interesting. There’s like no point of doing it…

    Like

    • Stick says:

      James,

      I have heard lots of wonderful things about the Sierra’s, and look forward to one day hiking in them, and I agree, there is probably a very large difference in the Sierra’s and the AT, however, you are seriously mistaken about the AT being boring… Although, we are all welcome to our own opinion…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  11. You sure that was “only” 7000 words? It was a long read but a good read. You didn’t get to have several nights outside, but you did get in a 20 mile day even after a late start. Kudos for expressing that you get afraid when camping solo. I know I’ve been there, and I’m sure most other people have been too.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Andy,

      Haha… well I didn’t actually count them, but the counter on the bottom of my page when typing it all in was just over 6,900… 🙂

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and reading, I appreciate the support!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  12. David Sullivan says:

    Stick – Meant to comment on your observations in the video about trail etiquette … From a very young age I was taught that downhill hikers yield (step off the trail) to uphill hikers; that day hikers yield to backpackers; that single hikers yield to groups together; that slow hikers yield (step aside) for faster hikers; and that all hikers always speak (or at least nod) to passing hikers. Obviously, times have changed. Some people either don’t know the rules of trail etiquette or are just plain rude. I enjoyed your little video rant, but you were probably preaching to the choir. – David

    Like

    • Stick says:

      David,

      I agree with you that I am preaching to the choir… however, maybe it will hit some that are not familiar with it… Also, this isn’t the first time that I have had a right-of-way rant in one of my videos… I personally don’t mind pulling off for other hikers regardless of who is heading which way… so long as they either stop and talk or move on by… don’t hole me up though… 🙂

      Anyway, I think I’m doing it again… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

  13. Herb says:

    Stick,

    Enjoyed your writeup. I can’t help but think that the short hiking day was part of the reason you ended up bailing. Being by yourself on a dreary day with nothing to do b/w 3pm and bedtime is a recipe for failure. Things might have worked out fine if you’d done a relaxed 20 hike and reached your destination at nightfall. First, bailing at that point isn’t really an option. Second, and more importantly, you’re more tired and ready for bed, so no time to sit and twiddle your thumbs and have your mind wander. Works even better in the summer, when you can walk a couple hours longer in daylight — till 9pm or so — and get even more tired. Just a thought, and again, thanks, enjoyed your writeup and enjoy your blog. Cheers.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Herb,

      That is very likely true, and is one reason why I like to hike all day long (other than the fact that by hiking from before sunup to after or near sunset is a great way to rack up on miles). However, for this trip, I had made plans to stop to meet my buddy at this shelter, so that kind of changed that option. Once he finally told me he wasn’t going to make it, I could have continued hiking farther south, however, I was afraid that I would have came to a full shelter and been forced to set up my tent under the falling trees, plus it would have cut my next day short, which would have presented me with the same issue… But, I really do agree with you. Hiking all day long will exhaust me more, and then once I rolled into camp my mind would then be on getting camp set-up and eating, then very likely bed….

      Of course too, this is a perfect example of why solo hiking would be better, or at least hiking with partners that are more closely matched to my speed. Then again, I don’t mind hiking with slower hikers since we will then still all hang out at camp together each night… so long as the hikers make it…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  14. j. says:

    to follow up on the coyote thing. One night hammocking in the forest of the Arizona Rim Country, my dog woke me up growling. In the glow of my headlamp were the eyes of a small coyote about 20 yards away. I yelled at it, and it quickly bailed. About 40 seconds later the forest around me (it sounded like 360 degrees) resounded with the insane yelping of a full coyote pack. I leashed my dog and went back to sleep, knowing that coyotes really are big fat wussies, and are mostly curious about you. They rarely mess with people. Honestly, I am more nervous about creepy members of my own species lurking in the backcountry.

    Like

  15. Robin says:

    Hell of a story, Stick. I appreciate both the detail and the honesty–writing might help work through those feelings, too. I camped in VA once, a solo trip–basically car camping, but I was in a tent. I woke at 10:30 to the yipping of coyotes around my tent, seemingly everywhere. I’d been told they change pitch to mask their numbers, but it was unsettling nevertheless. And they didn’t seem to want to leave. The fact that my light never caught them was disconcerting, too. No one knew where I was–well, only generally–and I had no phone signal. I bailed and spent a restless night in my truck. It wasn’t rational: I know coyotes don’t usually mess with people, but solo nights in the wilderness aren’t always about rationality. I, too, thought of my wife and kids, wondering how they’d be if something did happen to me. I suppose humans have fears for good reason; it makes us consider our risks.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Robin,

      I have also had a similar experience with coyotes one night when I was camping alone… I also decided to bail that night, but at least that was more back yard camping since it was in the woods behind my dads house….

      ~Stick~

      Like

  16. Keith says:

    Sometimes turning around is just part of the adventure. You made the most of it. Glad to hear you returned safely. Few people around me want to camp, much less hike. Most of what I have had to do has been alone. For the most part, I like my own company. On the other hand, I know what you mean about getting the spooks camping alone. I don’t mind the animals bumping around. I get antsy about the two-leggers that might be able to get to where I’m settled. Deserted campgrounds are the worst. I joined the local hiking club this year and hope to get out and see what hiking in a group is like. It’s been a long while.

    Did you figure out why your water tube wouldn’t draw?

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Keith,

      I agree, there have been a few times I have camped near roads and I have been a bit concerned each time about people coming up and messing with me. I now try not to do that unless there are others camped there too…

      I haven’t messed with the filter since I have been back, so not sure what was going on with it. However, the filter works just fine, so I don’t know… maybe it has something to do with the pressure in the bag and in the filter? I dunno… Either way, I believe I will be going back to my water bottles on the shoulder straps…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  17. Snow says:

    Hi Stick,
    I’ve never posted before, but love your blog. Thanks for all your writing. You’re honest and self-reflective in a way most people can’t be or won’t share, and this makes your reportage real and wonderful. Don’t stop!
    …and thanks for talking about your umbrella. They seem so useful for a ton of reasons that I’m looking forward to hiking with one this year. Protection from falling ice gives a brolly another +1 for me.
    I think a light-weight, hands-free, pack-attached umbrella holder could be a breakthrough piece of gear for hiking. We could go from relatively few brolleys on the trail to ubiquity if someone could invent the right piece of gear. Please inventive types… go for it!
    Snow

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Snow,

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, and I appreciate your continued support and glad to hear that you have enjoyed my site.

      As far as the umbrella, it was definitely my star piece of gear on this hike, although, at a cost… I will tinker around with my hand’s free set-up some more though, however, in my opinion, I don’t think any hands rig free would have been 100% effective on this hike, especially on my way back out… it was rough!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  18. Hiking Home says:

    Sorry your trip did not go as planned. Weather conditions this year have been awful. Thanks for sharing your experience, but also for sharing your thoughts with us. I think most people can relate to your misgivings, and it keeps lots of people from ever venturing out on this type of journey. So, learn what you can from this, grow, adapt and try again another day 🙂
    Don’t second guess your choices. Happy trails!

    Like

    • Stick says:

      That is exactly my plans… learn, grow, adapt and try again! However, my remaining planned trips are with groups… but maybe they will also help…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  19. Richard(UK) says:

    HI STICK
    that was a gripping account of your trip. You seem to lack the self confidence in your ability.Its when you are tired cold and hungry and the weather turns against you,that morale disappears, your friends and buddy’s would have changed that .if you were to sit in the middle of a wood alone one night and listen and observe everything around you,eventually you will get more and more confident.keep up the good work, I would hike with you any time.
    RICH(UK)

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Richard,

      I wouldn’t say it is so much lack of confidence in my abilities… at least not in my hiking/camping abilities. I do agree though that if I were able to do it more often then I would likely get more used to it… Maybe one day… 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  20. j. says:

    Stick, Great report. You were incredibly honest about your fear of sleeping out alone. I do most of my walking here in Arizona alone. My girlfriend comes on occasion, but my friends simply are not interested. The places I choose to explore are, by virtue of their wilderness designation, usually empty of others. I am familiar with the despair and loneliness that creeps in once it gets late and you are all alone in the wilderness. On nearly every solo trip I get to the moment where I ask myself, “why am I all alone out here”? Then the morning comes, caffeine is ingested, and the despair melts away. I have to admit that I cheat though : I always have my dog with me. Nevertheless, this emotional ride is an important part of the experience. Backpacking keeps me sane enough to face the madness back in civilization. I hope you can find away to continue and possibly get beyond this barrier, as you have a great thing going with this blog. Thanks.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks J. I have often thought about getting a dog to carry with me on hikes, and I feel like it would make a difference, however, I don’t want to jump into anything… Maybe one day in the future we will get another dog… right now we have our Yorkie, but I don’t think that she would do very well on hikes…

      Anyway, I will continue to hike, as well as keep my blog up, or at least I plan to…

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  21. ramblinghiker says:

    Thanks for the great post and for your honesty. I travel solo and am fine with it most of the time. But sometimes I get creeped out camping alone if the conditions and circumstances are right. My guess is most solo hikers have these moments but most won’t admit it!

    Like

  22. John says:

    Hey its cool man, not everyone is cut out for the outdoors…

    Like

  23. Steve says:

    Stick…wonderful write-up of your adventure. I loved the details. I started reading and was so enthralled I couldn’t quit reading. I deeply respect your honesty. You have honor man and that is so lacking nowadays. I often hike alone and think of having an accident and being by myself…not a great idea. Considering the weather conditions I am surprised you held up so well. Imagine how our forefathers were miserable out on the trail with not much gear and no built shelters. I have hiked, fished and rode a motorcycle for days in like conditions and it is no fun. Thanks for the article…my hat is off to you…Steve

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Steve, that means a lot. I appreciate it.

      And I agree about our forefathers… they were definitely tougher than me at least! 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

  24. Jason Alford says:

    Hi Stick…I’m the guy who recognized you north of Panther Gap. We were in the thick of the crappy weather after we parted ways. We counted over 200 trees and widow makers falling that we could see. I got hit by 3 falling limbs on the trail (couldn’t jump out of the way quick enough) and there were some really close calls with some big ones. I watched my wife come within about 5 feet of being taken out by a falling tree and a thru-hiker by another one. We got to Wayah Bald shelter and people were crammed in tight. They made room, but we decided to tent. I found an area with minimal tree overhang. The limbs hanging over the area were about to come crashing down, so I used my bear bag to speed up the process. Just a light touch was all it took. A couple at the shelter had 2 limbs fall on their tent while they were at the shelter eating. One bent the tent poles and one ripped right through the tent. After that, they slept outside the shelter under the overhang of the roof for protection.

    We were set up right off the trail by Wayah Bald Shelter, so you passed right by us on your way out. About midnight, the temp warmed up and that’s when the ice really started falling. We got hammered for hours from falling ice. There was no sleep to be found that night. It was too dangerous to do anything but cover your head and hang on for the ride.

    The next day we hiked on north and someone at Tellico Gap said they counted over 100 new blow-downs!

    Friday afternoon turned out to be beautiful. Saturday was even better.

    It sucks you had to bail, but I totally understand. We went from backpacking mode to survival mode with not only the falling trees, but also had the risk of hypothermia from being wet all day. For those wondering, yes the conditions were as bad as he says (and worse later). If we could have bailed, we would have.

    I still have that section from Bly Gap to Winding Stair Gap to do, so maybe I’ll see you out there again.

    When I finish my write-up I’ll send the link. At least these types of trips make for good stories.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Jason,

      Hi, and great to hear from you! It was great getting to meet you and your wife while on the trail, and good to hear that ya’ll ended up having a safe and good hike, despite getting hit by a few branches. I will admit, the umbrella saved me from a number of fall downs… so I was grateful for it. It was definitely a good last minute decision to throw it in!

      On my way back out, I also noticed a few blowdowns, and not small trees either. I actually remember seeing a particular tree that was shaped funny I first saw in someones video I watched before heading out on the hike. I noticed it when I hiked south, and then hiking north almost missed it because it was one of the blow downs. There were some good sized blow downs though. I knew for sure that if I had’ve stayed, I would have definitely stayed inside the shelter.

      That is crazy to hear that the couple’s tent ended up with a tree through it. Do you know the couple’s name, or what sort of tent it was? Anyway, glad to hear that no one was hurt, but I am sure that sucked sleeping around the perimeter of the shelter… or trying to…

      That is good to hear that Friday and Saturday cleared up. I was curious how the weather went after I left. I debated driving back to my Standing Indian and leaving my car there and carrying on the next day as planned, but by the time I got to the car, I was done.

      Anyway, again, it was great to meet you, and maybe I will meet you again on the trail! Also, I will look forward to checking out your post once you get it up!

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Jason Alford says:

      Just realized you parked at Wayah Gap, so you didn’t pass us on the way out. Duh! We stopped for lunch and saw your car. Stopping for lunch there was a decision we later regretted big time. We should have kept going, because when we stopped we got cold. The trail from Wayah Gap to Wayah Bald Shelter was the worst section for us and we never were able to really get warm again (had to go really slow due to all the blow-downs).

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Jason,

      Yeah, I didn’t go as far as Wayah Bald Shelter, at least not on this hike. I did that section sometime last year… I have got to admit though, that is the craziest weather that I have been in along the AT though…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  25. John says:

    Love your post. As it is often said, “the devil is in the details.” If I always wanted to read a story with a predictable happy story line I guess I would just read Dr. Seuss. Thanks for your honesty it really showcased your humanity. As long as we learn it is never a failure. Keep posting.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks John for stopping by and commenting! I appreciate your support and am glad to hear that you enjoyed my story. And yes, I did learn a few things on this trip… so I don’t chalk it up as a failure, but as an accomplishment… just not the one I set out to achieve… 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

  26. Excellent post! Very well written, a good read. It is too bad you had to bail, but it is understandable. Better to live to hike another day than to trudge on if you aren’t going to love it. Reading this brought back so many good memories from my thru, I remember those mountains, and recognized the shelters. In fact, that one you stopped at, with the bulletin board that kids use to communicate with the hikers, I recall had nice trail magic nearby when I got there. I would love to go back and hike some of those southern portions of the trail again..

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Ray,

      Thanks for the kind words, and glad to hear that it helped to bring back some old memories. I will admit, the section of trail I did hike was a nice area, and I would love to come back and repeat it when the weather is a bit nicer…

      And I definitely look up to all of you who have thru hiked, huge congrats on that! Despite my inability to camp alone, one day I would still love to thru hike one (or more) of the long trails…

      ~Stick~

      Like

  27. Darren Shideler says:

    Stick,
    I just wanted to say that I really appreciate your blog and your youtube videos. All of them. You’ve been a very big source of inspiration and information for me on going lighter and considering new gear. The first backpacking trip I ever attempted was two years ago in the smokies. Because of my inexperience and unwise gear choices my pack was way too heavy and my back just couldn’t take it after just a few miles down the trail. That’s when I started looking everywhere for more information about backpacking. With the information you have put on the Internet along with others like Mike Cleland ( I love his book ultralight backpacking tips) and tons of others I was able to pare my gear down to the essentials to a level that my back was able to stand. Thanks for providing a very informative and important service for the hiking community.

    Darren

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Darren,

      Thanks for the kind words, and glad to hear that my blog & videos have been able to help you lighten your load. And I was, and still am, the same way. I scour the web for sites to find out about new gear and techniques, as well as interesting trip reports. There are definitely a number of good quality sites out there, and I am glad to hear that you consider my site one of those!

      Thanks again!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  28. davidbyrge says:

    Stick,

    Enjoyed reading your post and watching your video (actually watching your video on my second monitor as I post this. Totally disagree with Bloozz. Haters gonna hate.

    Like

  29. David Sullivan says:

    BTW, Chad, if you want to hike with your family to a wonderful spot that your kids will enjoy, try Hike Inn from Amicalola Falls. I know you’ve been to the park and hiked the Approach Trail. It’s an easy five up to the Inn and the food is wonderful. http://www.hike-inn.com. Do it! – David

    Like

    • Stick says:

      David,

      We actually had plans to stop at the Inn and have breakfast when my wife and I hiked through there, but we somehow missed it. I blame it on the fatigue from all those steps…

      I would like to take the family for some more hiking in the Smokies too. That is a pretty area too. I told my daughter for my birthday, I want us all to stay at Kephart shelter in the Smokies one night. It’s an easy hike in, and the shelter is nice. I think they would also enjoy that…

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  30. David Sullivan says:

    Chad – Enjoyed the post … haven’t watched the video, but probably will. I am pretty much of an introvert who hikes by myself a lot and enjoys it; however, my belief is that all of your 7,000 or so words came precisely because you hiked it alone. In my experience, hiking alone make me hyper aware of what’s happening around me, where I’m putting my feet, who (or what) I pass on the trail, where I might stop for the night, and what I had to eat, etc. I think a person hiking alone is retains a lot more details about the trip. I’m sure there is a psychological reason for that, but it’s not important. When I hike alone and write about the trip, I always have twice the verbiage as I do when I hike with a buddy or buddies. On my son’s first hike alone (in Oregon), he hiked 16 miles out, couldn’t find a place to camp, and hiked 16 miles back to his car, arriving wet and very tired. He hasn’t tried it again. Me? I love to lie in my tent and listen to the rain in the woods. Since I don’t have to hook up with anyone, I will pretty much just throw down on a level spot and wait it out. I’ve read most of a novel that way. I love to hear the night sounds … but maybe that’s just me. Try it again some time …

    Like

    • Stick says:

      David,

      That is a very good point, and I agree with you. I did take notice of my surroundings much more, and that in itself was interesting. For this same reason, even when hiking with a group, I don’t mind hiking along. I actually try to get some alone time in each time I go. It is fun. I just gotta get the whole camping at night alone down…

      Anyway, I am sure that sometime down the road, I will try it again, however, it will be a while. I have to more bigger trips planned this year, and they will consume all of my time off from work. These trips will also be with groups… Maybe one day I will grow into it a bit more though…

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

      Like

  31. Len says:

    Stick,
    New to your blog and often find your frequently longwinded discourses intriguing and informative. Our situations are very different – I am old, you are young. You live in the East, I in the Colorado Rockies. I’m impressed w/ the evident honesty of your expressed feelings in this piece. I too, have wrestled w/ loneliness and fear on solo hikes. That you would so nakedly express these feelings in such a forum speaks well of you. I look forward to your “personal” accounts as well as gear reviews in the future.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Len,

      Thanks for stopping by and admitting to finding my longwinded entries informative! I appreciate that. I will admit, I do try to keep things short when doing them, but that just doesn’t happen for me. These entries & videos are actually my shortened version… 🙂

      Anyway, as far as the loneliness and fear, it is something that I have struggled with on each hike, but so long as I do have friends along, it is easier to deal with. But I love getting out so much… When I read of others that solo hike great distances, that truly amazes me… I read of their accounts and find myself dreaming of the same things… but then I get out there and lock up! It’s crazy, but it’s the way it goes. I hope that one day I can overcome it though…

      Anyway, thanks again,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  32. milligan308 says:

    Chad,
    Wow….. Very well written, I very much disagree with Bloozz. I like to read the details as I hope that i can gather some insight from them. lmao as I was reading about the Jetboil in your car I thought to myself surely he didn’t do that inside the car, it was refreshing to see you fess up.
    I realise that you will have more posting from this trip, I am really hoping to hear about the new hiking pole(s).

    btw, I also wanted to note that your posting (story) has a nice flow to it and I look forward to reading more.

    Don

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Milligan,

      Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate you stopping by to check out my post and commenting. And I agree with you about the details, I enjoy reading/hearing the details of others hikes because for me, they make things interesting, as well as teach me things.

      As far as the Jetboil… yep, I did that, and while I don’t recommend it, I will say to made very certain that everything was as it should have been and watched the stove at all times. Good thing though, with the Jetboil and only about 12 oz of water, that was less than 2 minutes! 🙂

      I would like to do a gear video from the hike, although, it will just depend on what work allows me to do next week…

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  33. Michael Sweet says:

    Stick,
    I enjoyed the whole read. Thanks for sharing.
    Mike

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read through it. Glad to hear that you enjoyed it and I appreciate you taking the time to comment!

      Thanks,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  34. Bloozz says:

    Way, way too much detail here dude. I thoughtmthere was going to be some point to the extraordinary amount of detail you were giving – but no, there was just more and more insignificant detail. I wish you’d put your videos at the beginning of your post – I always forget that it says exactly the same as your written description. I could have saved my self having to wade through all of the useless detail

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Bloozz,

      I appreciate you taking your time to stop by and read, however, I am going to have to disagree with you on your analysis. I didn’t find any of it to be “useless detail,” however, I understand that others may feel that way.

      I would like to add though, my blog is as much for me as it is for the public, maybe even moreso for me. So when I do trip reports, I like to include as much about the trip as I can remember so that I will have it for later. Again, I understand that this may not appeal to the public, and I am fine with that.

      As far as the video, I felt that where it is, is a more appropriate place, as it fits in the story better.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      ~Stick~

      Like

  35. Duane Hall says:

    An interesting and honest article – I enjoyed reading it. How did you like your new Yama shelter?

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Thanks Duane, I appreciate it and glad to hear you enjoyed it. As far as the shelter, since I only used it the one night, it is hard to really say a lot. As well, the ground was not quite level, so that made the pitch a bit wonky. So far though, I like the tent, but I think that I will start pitching it a couple of inches taller, just to get a bit more head room. I have just enough when pitched on level ground, but this pitch was not on level ground, and made the head end feel a little shorter. I am probably just spoiled with all the room I had inside my Hexamid… 🙂

      Anyway, I look forward to using it some more!

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to read this long post! 🙂

      ~Stick~

      Like

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