Friday, May 30, 2014

4/30-5/6 Roan Mountain, TN to Damascus, VA

4/30 We all woke up to the most glorious breakfast I have had on the trail. I had homemade monkey bread, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls with peppermint icing, french toast, and so much more. After we got back on trail we came upon Jones Falls. It was so beautiful here and we ended up screwing around here for a bit before moving on to Mountaineer Shelter for the night.

Breakfast Spread at Mountain Harbour

Jones Falls
Some of the crew at Jones Falls

5/1 We woke up and got on the trail at a good time. It was resupply day so we headed towards Black Bear Hostel. Our Plans were not to stay but we ended up staying there anyway. that night we watched Eurotrip in the common room. Big Spoon enjoyed it the most because he got to learn about all the stereotypes of what America thinks of other countries.

5/2 Such an easy day today besides Mount freaking pointless. I mean there was literally no point to it at all. I  don't know what the trail maintainers were thinking when the made this part of the trail. When we got down the pointless mountain we came up on Watauga Lake. The lake was so beautiful that we had to take a nap on the picnic benches there. We found a campsite right on the lake about half a mile up on the trail. As more people arrived at the campsite we found out that one of the hikers had the dreaded norovirus. He pretty much quarantined himself after he found out he was sick.

Laurel Falls

Family of ducks on Watauga Lake
Watuaga Lake

5/3 Today pretty much sucked. I was barely moving at all. Today wore me out. That is all.

5/4  The plan for the day was to camp 4miles before the town of Damascus. As the day went on we kept pushing out destination further and further. As we crossed the Tennessee/Virginia Border we decided to just hike the extra 1.8 miles into Damascus. That would make it a 27 mile day and I had only a package of pop tarts and nutella to eat today. We arrived in Damascus at about 8 pm. We went straight to the Blue Blaze Cafe. All 5 of us racked up a tab of $125, which is pretty damn ridiculous. We then hiked back out of the town to the trail north. Here we were being followed by a vicious predator. This predator ended up being a kitten. We named him AT cat and he watched over us as we cowboy camped 100ft up the trail.
State Line

AT cat in action

5/5 AT cat woke us all up, we packed up and headed back into town. We had breakfast at cowboys and the cashier there offered to do all of our laundry for free! It was a really hot day out so we headed down to the local swimming hole. We swam, did some bouldering, had some beer, it was pretty great. For lunch I had an entire pizza and walked up to The Place Hostel to set up my sleeping pad for the night. In celebration of Cinco de Mayo Southbound and I celebrated by drinking some lime-ritas and then going on a drunken resupply adventure at the local Food City. I also received my new debit card today!

Blu at the swimming hole

5/6 We woke up and went to the Dairy King for breakfast. We decided that we would hike 15 miles today. Well noon came around and we still hadn't left town. We went to the local coffee shop for lunch and decided that we were probably only gonna make it 8 miles today. 3 hours later we were still sitting outside the closed coffee shop not doing anything at all. Big Spoon stopped by and said he was on his way to get ice cream. We all followed. We got there 10 min before closing time. 2 hours later we were still sitting outside the ice cream shop goofing off. Soon we decided that it was dinner time. I suggested that we go to the BBQ place across the street. We had dinner there and by the time we left it was dark outside. We ended up hiking 1/2 mile to a campsite and stayed the night there.

Southbound and I at dinner

So far Damascus has been my favorite town I have stayed in. Everyone is so friendly and the community is just fantastic. I am really looking forward to coming back here in about a week for Trail Days!!

Happy Trails!!!

Lucas "Smokie" Varnadore

4/25-4/29 Erwin, TN to Roan Mountain, TN

4/25  The Mountain Inn had their own breakfast buffet, so I hit that up as soon as I woke up. It started raining so I just screwed around for several hours doing absolutely nothing at all. As soon as the rain stopped I decided to hike to the nest shelter 4 miles away. I have been feeling really shitty all day and I'm pretty sure I'm getting sick...

4/26 I woke up feeling 1000x better. I got on the trail around 10 am. A short while after I ran into some trail magic at Indian Grave Gap. After that I started my ascent of Unaka Mountain.At the top of the mountain is a dense spruce forest. It was by far one of the most serene places on the trail. It was all shaded, you could smell the spruce. I wandered off the trail for a bit and just sat down to take it all in. I really wanted to camp up here but I was low on water and the next water source is several miles north, so I moved on. I strolled into Cherry Gap Shelter where I met some former thru hikers who hiked the trail last year. After talking to them for awhile I decided I would stay here for the night.

Spruce forest on Unaka Mountain

4/27 After about 3 miles of hiking I ran into some trail magic. I sat there and was talking to the guy for awhile when a big van pulled up. A trail angel named Rob Bird was dropping off a bunch of hikers from a blue grass festival that was going on in Erwin the previous 2 days. Here is where I met the Pinata Party Posse. I had met them before but this was my first time actually hiking with them. They ended up hiking on further while I decided to stealth camp with a fellow hiker that goes by Merman.

4/28 Merman and I woke up early to try to beat the rain that we are supposed to be getting today. We hiked up Roan Mountain and it was super cloudy. You couldn't see shit. The spruce forest at the top was great. I hiked over some very scenic spots but all the views were obscured by the clouds. I hiked on to Overmountain Shelter and arrived a couple of ours before the rain started. The clouds were fewer in number here so there was some views that were spectacular. Now for all you who don't know this, Overmountain Shelter is a big giant red barn that can hold about 50 hikers. It has been my favorite shelter on the trail. At the shelter was the Pinata Party Posse, which consists of Southbound, Big Spoon, Sprinkle Burst, Cupcake, Sloth, Marathon, and Big Sexy.

Looking South at Roan Mountain

Overmountain Shelter

View from the shelter
Sprinkleburst serenading the view

4/29 It stormed all last night, the wind was howling, it was raining, but all was good he old raggedy barn held up.I woke up around 7 am and decided I was gonna hike with the Pinata Party Posse. We got on the trail when the rain let up a bit. As we started hiking up the balds we were met with 50mph sustained winds and about 70mph gusts. Hiking was a challenge we had to lean into the wind to keep from getting blown over and we had to yell at the top of our lungs to just her each from about 10 feet away. We couldn't see all but 10feet in front of us, it was quite exhilarating. Hump Mountain was the worst, it was about 3miles of just open meadow. Absolutely no trees at all. We officially crossed into Tennessee after we descended down Hump Mountain. As we made it down to the gap we headed toward Mountain Harbour Bed and Breakfast. Due to the nasty weather they allowed all 8 of us to cram into one room. We got a shuttle into the town with to eat and resupply. Later on that night we celebrated Marathons birthday by playing some English drinking games taught to us by Big Spoon who is from England.

The Holy Cow Burger in Roan Mountain, TN

Big Spoon in our crammed room at the BnB

The weather for this section was kind of shitty, but it is still one of my favorite sections of the trail so far. I met up with some of the most amazing people I've had the pleasure of hiking with and I am truly enjoying the trail more than ever right now.

Happy Trails!!!

Lucas " Smokie" Varnadore

4/20-4/24 Hot Springs,NC to Erwin,TN

4/20 I camped out along the French Broad River last night, just outside of town. I went back into town this morning to get me a fresh resupply of food so I can finally get out of this town. Now don't get me wrong Hot Springs is a great town, it's just that I didn't have such a great time here due to my financial struggles of losing my debit card. I finally got back on the trail and hiked 11 miles to Spring Mountain Shelter. During my hike I met some fellows that went by the name of Mud and Neck Bone. They were extremely cool dudes and it was a great day hiking with them, especially because it was probably the hottest day on the trail yet. About halfway through the day I came across Rich Mountain Fire tower. There was some pretty awesome views from the top which helped make my first day back on trail a spectacular one!!

Rich Mountain Fire Tower

View from the fire tower

4/21 I got a nice early start on the day. My destination for the night is Jerry's Cabin Shelter. It's such a beautiful day out. The highlight of today was without a doubt the exposed ridge line that lasted for about 5 miles! Also today is my Dad's Birthday, although I had cell service I wasn't able to talk to him to wish him a Happy Birthday!

4/22 As usual I am one of the last to leave in the shelter in the morning. I hiked on a bit until I came across Flint Mountain Shelter. Here I had lunch and took a quite enjoyable nap. After leaving, I shortly came across Devils Fork Gap. There was a hiker here that goes by the name of Bear who was trying to find a hitch into Erwin, Tn due  to a hurt knee. It is always a sad moment on the trail when someone has to get off the trail for a couple of days due to an injury. I have experienced this and I know what it's like. It just flat out sucks.No one wants to end their hike because of an injury. I hiked on some more until I made it to Hogback Ridge Shelter. When I arrived I was thrilled to see that I had caught up with El Borrego!!! With another 15 mile day in the books I feel as if I'm starting to hit a stride. Hiking longer miles is getting easier and easier.

4/23 Borrego and I woke up super late and didn't get on the trail until about noon.We hiked to Sams Gap 2.5 miles away and ran into some trail magic! Now this just wasn't some ordinary trail magic, this was trail magic with grilled chicken, barbecue beans, chips, sodas, Gatorade, beer, some sort of veggies, and tons of other stuff. The great thing about this trail magic was that everyone who stayed at the shelter we were at last night missed it because they got up and started hiking to early. Laziness for once has paid off in my case. After stuffing ourselves we trudged up Big Bald and made it to Big Bald Shelter for the night.
The wonderful Trail Magic at Sams Gap

The trail heading up Big Bald

View From Big Blad

4/24 Borrego and I woke up early today, for we planned on pushing 16 miles to Erwin, Tn. Everything went as planned and we arrived in town around 4 pm. We teamed up with Easy Rider and Snickers and got a room at the Mountain Inn. We got checked in and all 4 of us decided to go to the AYCE KFC buffet. We called up the most infamous trail angel on the trail, Miss Janet, and she took us to the KFC. I ate about the equivalent amount of 2 whole chickens, a bunch of veggies, and 2 slices of cake. When we finished eating Miss Janet picked us back up and took us to Walmart to resupply. She took us back to our hotel room where I watched the Yankees smash the Red Sox  12-5, so it was a great night!

Miss Janet's Van

Miss Janet 

Thank you everyone for bearing with me. It has been awhile since I've updated due to being so busy pushing miles and just having a great time. Don't worry  there is plenty more to come!!

Happy Trails!!!

Lucas "Smokie" Varnadore

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

4/15-4/19 Snowbird Mountain to Hot Springs, NC

4/15 Since I stayed underneath a canopy last night, I was awoken by a man named Apple. It was his canopy I slept under. Apple was here from Ohio to give trail magic. I had some doughnuts as I helped him put on the walls of the canopy to keep the rain out. I finally left and only hiked 2 miles to Groundhog Creek Shelter. As I got there it started to snow, so I snuggled up in my sleeping bag. Now this shelter has a max capacity of 6 people. We had 10 in there already and it was really cramped. Then the French couple arrived..... Now this couple didn't speak a lick of English and they wanted to get in the shelter. I kept telling them there was no room. Their response was to put their sleeping pads right on top of me. I had enough space to curl up in the fetal position and that's it I couldn't move. I got absolutely no sleep at all having 12 people in a 6 person shelter in no bueno.

4/16 Today I hiked with Longstride and Green Lantern all day. The highlight of the day was Max Patch. Max Patch is a giant grassy bald and there were 360* views. It was phenomenal. When we left there we went down to lemon gap to camp.
Longstride and El Borrego on Max patch

             Blue and Green Lantern

                       Max patch

4/17 Today I hiked 15 miles into Hot Springs, North Carolina. It was a nice hike. I got to the Hostel of the Laughing Heart. Here I realized I lost my debit card. The hostel owner Chuck Norris let me stay the night and helped me out a lot.
                  Inside the hostel

4/18 Chuck took me to Weaverville to get cash from the credit union. When I got back I paid him and tried to go enjoy the town.

4/19 I stayed at the hostel again last night. When I woke up I found out I had $60 stolen from me. I was in a bad mood all day. I had lunch at the Smokey Mountain Dinner. I ended up staying up all night watching the surfing contest on my phone until my phone charger broke..

Well after a good time in the Smoky's, my hike turned into shit. It was probably my worst couple of days on the trail but I know it will get better. 

So I've been really busy lately and haven't had much time to update. I'm a little behind in my posts and I'll catch up soon.

Happy trails!!!!

Lucas "Smokie" Varnadore  

Friday, April 25, 2014

4/8-4/14 The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

4/5-4/7 I stayed in Fontana Village these days to heal up my injury on my heel. Pretty much nothing happened these days

4/8  After 5 days of not hiking I finally got back on the trail. As I walked accross the dam, looking at the great mountain range in front of me, I knew the next several days were going to be great. I hiked 13 today and my heel felt great. I met up with Jahmonji, Blazing Sandals, Hamster, and Redwood.
Fontana Dam
The Smoky's
Shuckstack Firetower

4/9 Today was such a gorgeous day. I walked along the ridgeline all day. There was so many views. Also, on a side note my hiker appetite had hit me... I am eating 3x the food I was eating when I started and I am hungry nearly 24/7.
Shelter Life

4/10 When I woke up this morning someone already had a fire going. I quickly moved In front of it when I noticed something moving in the ashes. It was a baby mouse. Redwood scooped it up in his mug and tried to help it. Several minutes later it started squeaking. Mama mouse came out and Redwood set the baby on the rock. Mama picked the baby up and left. It was a pretty good start to the morning. I finally got on the trail about noon. I walked only 7.2 miles to Double Spring Gap Shelter.
Clingmans Dome if you look closely you can see the tower

4/11 For some odd reason I found myself waking up at 3:30am. I decided to get ready and got on the trail at 4am. After only 3 miles I ended up at this place called Clingmans Dome. This is only the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail. When I walked up the tower it was still pitch black out. I crawled into my sleeping bag since it was 30 degrees out with a 30mph wind. I sat there and waited for the sun to come out and when it did, it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced. After the sun rose I decided to get back on trail because I was so cold and hiking would warm me up. After only a mile I hit the 200 mile marker! I walked 6 more miles to Newfound Gap. When I arrived, I was treated  with some wonderful trail magic from Godspeed and Mountain Momma. They also gave a bunch of us a ride into Gatlinburg. Now when I got to Gatlinburg I was not impressed. After being outside of society for a month I absolutely despised everything about this town.
Sunrise on the tower
Spruce Forrest
Newfound Gap

4/12 I stayed at the Econolodge with The Baron, Shorts, El Borrego, and Tortoise. We ended up having to hitch out. Since Gatlinburg is a tourist town we didn't find a hitch. We were actually picked up from the trail angel Godspeed. Once I got back to the trail I continued on hiking. I got to Charlie's Bunion with Blue, The Stowaways( Galen and Liam), and Green Lantern. It was Green Lanterns 19th birthday so we celebrated and then went to bed.
Tortoise trying to hitch
Charlie's Bunion

4/13 Today was pretty uneventful. I hiked 13 miles to Cosby Knob Shelter.

4/14 I left the shelter in the morning and headed toward the Mount Cammerer Firetower. I left my pack at the head of the side trail and literally jogged .6 miles to the tower. After I enjoyed the tower I headed back out on the trail and a couple of miles later I was out of the Smoky's!!! I made it to Standing Bear Farm and had a pizza. When I left I headed up Snowbird Mountain. When I got there, there was a canopy set up. I was exhausted so I set up my hammock underneath and went to bed. It rained all night.
View from Mount Cammerer
Mount Cammerer Firetower
Kitchen In Standing Bear Farm
Hammock Setup