About the Appalachian Trail

Someone shared this REI blog link with me at dinner last night.

21 Appalachian Trail Statistics That Will Surprise, Entertain and Inform You

Junco

Not all hard work

On my day off in Hot Springs, formerly Warm Springs, I visited the spa – for $20 you spend an hour in a conventional hot tub filled with fresh “hot spring” curative water, looking over the French Broad  River. This place has been  in use since the Cherokee people recognized its unique value. I threw in a chocolate milkshake and I think I may have found a cure for shin splints 

  
Each little wooden structure has s private tub overlooking the river

  
  
The internment camp story is fascinating…

I’d love to come back here some time. Next town is Erwin, TN in 5 days or so – hope to get a few blog posts out between now and then.

Junco

Appalachian Balds

 Some of the mountains here have peaks with no trees, covered by natural grasses/shrubs. They are called “Balds”. I’ve seen several of them  recently. On an average day, I’ll reach 2-5 small mountin peaks and 1-2 of them offer beautiful 360 degree views because of the bald summits. There are several theories as to why some are bald and others nearby are covered with tall trees. All I can say is that I’m glad are bald.The one below is called Max Patch:

  

  

 

Just rolled in to Hot Springs, NC

I’m in a small town in NC that is right on the AT – I actually walked from the trail right into the town – most trail towns are 5-10 miles from a spot where the AT crosses a road and to get to town you can hitchhike or look for a shuttle. 

What a luxury to walk into town!!

Staying at a historic home that is a hiker friendly B&B – the Sunnybank Inn. 

    

Made it

Just got thru the Smokies – that was a serious challenge – 8 days and 70 miles. Much of it was at high elevation and quite cold – some nights in the low twenties – having cellphone service problems and cell phone charging challenges so might not be posting for a couple days. I just offered two  of my hiking buddies my favorite salamander trail names – Hellbender and Mudpuppy. They are considering this thoughtful offer.

  

Resting up

After 21 days of hiking about 10 miles a day, I limped into Gatlinburg two days ago with some form of shin splints – did some conservative treatments and feel quite a bit better today so I plan to get back to it . I can’t quite describe Gatlinburg but I’ll let some of these photos do the talking.

  
  
  
  
  
A strange mix of natural beauty and very unnatural tourism.

Hog control team

Another very true but hard to believe story:
http://www.knoxnews.com/news/local/smokies-park-struggling-to-clamp-down-on-hog-infestation-ep-409059522-358959981.html?d=mobile

I saw a small herd of them two days ago – apparently seeing them up close is rare – they root up everything and the make the place look like a bull dozer just came through. Amazing how things can get out of control so quickly. 

On a brighter note, high elevation wildflowers are in abundance bluets, spring beauty, and yellow violets

  
  
  
  
Gotta say the flowers seem to be faring better than the trees…

Clingman’s dome and struggling forests

  • Just passed over clingman’s dome today – highest point on the AT and third highest peak east of the Mississipi @ 6600 feet. It was wildly windy and rainy. There is an amazing observation tower that involves walking up a long spiral ramp, which I did. See the view I had.
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  • Also of note is the fact that many majestic hemlock trees and Fraser fir trees have died in recent years in Georgia and NC as the result of an introduced insect pest. This has dramatically changed the nature of the forest by taking out large stands of conifers which provided shade and a “dark forest” environment.
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  • Now many many large trees are dying and falling across the trail. See this huge root system of a Fraser fir tree at 6000 feet that succumbed and tipped over. I saw hundreds of these today. Now the forest is becoming increasingly deciduous with less shade (especially now in winter).
  • Something very sad about the whole thing. Seems like the east coast gets more than its share of tree tragedies – chestnut, elm, hemlock, fir. At least one knowledgeable man I met felt that the real culprit was coal burning electric plants producing pollutants toxic to trees and the insects just finished the job on highly stressed trees. I think there is some hope that these coal plants are now burning cleaner. All for now…Junco