Editor’s note: This is an abridged reprint (with Jim’s permission) of an email from Jim Heaney sent during his “through-hike” of the Appalachian Trail.
Kind of hard to say exactly where I am right now; I’ve wandered into Sleeping Bear Hostel, somewhere in Haywood County, and Waterville seems to be the closest town. Hikers everywhere. You find that at the hostels. Internet PC situated between the washer/drier and a tiki torch.
Well, I’m officially “trail hardened” now. This is a state that one achieves after exiting the Great Smokey Mountain National Park. For half of my six day stay there, it was foggy and raining. For the second half, beautiful. We in fact crushed out a 17 mile day to get out before the weather had a chance to turn again.
Highlights since I last wrote:
- Crossed my first state border, from Georgia and the Chattahoochee National Forest, to North Carolina and the Nantahala National Forest.
- Crossed my second state border, to Tennessee and the GSMNP.
- Crossed under my first highway, I-40.
- Enjoyed the guilty pleasure of “slackpacking,” where Crazy Jim, who was driving from trailhead to trailhead for Constant Motion and Slowpoke, carried my and 10 others’ packs the 15 miles between, two days in a row. I carried water, a snack and a camera, weighing considerably less that my pack, which surely is 50ish pounds with the food I am now consuming in mass, mass quantities. Two of the happiest days of my life. Shoutout to Crazy Jim.
- Enjoyed the guilty pleasure of “taking a zero,” where four of us stayed at a camp trying to outsmart the weather (it would wind up outsmarting us), played spades and built a fire in the shelter. Boy, was it hard to hike the next day.
- Been running with a new posse. We’ve been as many as 15, including such people as Kilroy, Chilly Willie, Hoops, Loa, Muktuk, No Pepsi, Stonehenge, Pappilon, Pebbles, Bamm-Bamm, Captain America… surely a couple of others. Joe Hiker is going to college this fall, and Grandpa Bear just retired. We dispersed in the Smokeys and plan to meet back up again in Hot Springs, NC, which is known as a hiker’s paradise.
- Saw a rattlesnake—2 or 3 feet long, and really angry—yesterday just to the side of the Trail. No other notable wildlife.
- Hiked 16, 17, 17 and 18 over a few days. And…
- Officially completed 10% of the 2,171 miles of the AT somewhere in the gap between Mt. Sequoiah and Mt. Chapman. That was a big day.
The scenery is fantastic, and the weather has been much more agreeable than the first week’s. I really can’t complain: the groups who left a week or two before I did have hiked through snow; I only had one day of sleet. Better yet, the people I’ve met have been wonderful.
Thanks to all for your notes, which I plan to read the next time I’m not on a dial-up connection. I’m planning to stumble into Hot Springs on Friday (on schedule, amazingly!), and, well, stumble out on Sunday morning.
Next update maybe at Trail Days in Damascus, VA. Hope all are well.