Hallo from Standing Bear Farm

We made it through the Smokies, not only unscathed but with amazing good weather and unusually haze-free views. Friday may be the finest day of hiking yet (from Charlie's Bunion to the Peck's Corner Shelter, there's a lot of ridgeline trail and the sky was crystal-clear).

We're off to Hot Springs, NC, hopefully within 2-3 days. More detailed updates, as well as more pics, will be posted from there.


Photographic Memories

Many thanks to the resort at Fontana Dam for their public computer access, and unrestricted Admin rights (so I can upload from the Camera Card...)

Check out our pics so far at http://picasaweb.google.com/mark.t.frey/ATComplete

We'll get around to organizing and captioning at the next town... today we're off into the smokies as soon as the upload completes, and it's 11 miles uphill with fully laden packs (7 days food is HEAVY!). Enjoy!


Hello everybody! It seems as if M and K are having some internet problems, so they enlisted us, (M and S) to post some pictures and other things that they will send to us via snail mail. So, if you see me posting things, ya'll know it's all good!

Robbinsville, NC

Almost to the Smokeys! We walked up to Fontana Dam today, and then got a ride from the nice people at the Hike Inn, where we will stay tonight. They drove us in to Robbinsville, NC, for some resupply and dinner at a restaurant. We are at the public library right now, but not having so much luck with our pictures...M is trying to play around with it, so we'll see what happens.

We are trying to figure out a better system for updating this blog...hopefully, you should start to see more regular updates within the next couple of weeks.

M and I are doing well and have acquired some trail names (Monkey and Coco), and have not suffered any injuries or illness so far. We are still traveling with Flick and hoping Michael and Craig and Lindsey will catch up with us in the next day or so. The next town stop will be Hot Springs, NC in about a week to 10 days, depending on weather. We miss everybody at home, and can't wait to share more stories of our adventures.


I can't believe we walked that far...

19 miles. Holy cow. We planned to stop at Wayah Bald, but the camping wasn't excellent, and for some reason, we felt like moving. We linked up with a guy known as Flick a few days ago, and have been hiking and camping together. His hiking partner went into town to rest a sore knee. We had already eaten dinner from the fire tower at the top of the Bald, and had plenty of energy. Rain was supposed to come in, but the skies were still clear. We strapped on our headlamps and did the first night hiking of the trip.

It was about 5 miles to the next shelter, which we thought we would hit by 11:00 pm at the latest. The air temperature was pretty warm, and the trail turned out to be soft and easy to follow. At one point, after the forest had gotten completely dark, we all turned off our headlamps and looked up to gaze at the stars. We instinctively reached for our cameras, but put them away....this is just one of those things that you actually have to come into the forest at night to see, a photo doesn't do it justice.

One cool thing we walked through was a section of burned out forest. They had just finished a controlled burn the day before, and while we didn't see anything smoldering, the smell of smoke was strong in the air.

We heard coyotes and owls, and saw the distance lights of Franklin, NC from the top of a ridge. Time passed quickly, and I didn't even feel like I had been walking all day. To keep the scary critters away, we chatted while we walked. It was a great chance to get to know Flick and to share some of our past adventures and misadventures.

Then, suddenly, in the distance, I saw an orange glow. This is sort of creepy in the woods in the middle of the night. As we got closer, we passed a sign that said Trail Magic ahead. And so it was. Apple, a guy who camps out in this spot for about a month every spring, had not gone to bed yet and he invited us into his giant orange dome tent for some coke and oreos and hot dogs for Flick. Since it was so late, he also invited us to sleep there, and in the morning, he cooked us cinnamon rolls in a small propane oven. Talk about Magic! Surprisingly, we all felt pretty good the next day, despite the high miles.
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We are still alive and well...

... after a week on the trail, and about 75 miles under our belts. We're camped out at the Cloud 9 hostel near Hiawassee, GA (Dick's Creek Gap is where the trail crosses) and it's great to be showered, full, and walk around a bit without a pack on. Not to mention that being in Northern Georgia, I was able to procure a giant bag of luscious Bolld P-Nuts. Mmmm.

We've got lots of pics to share, and more thoughts, too, but web access has been a little tough to come by and we don't want to hog it. keep checking back, and we'll have the link up soon (next town stop is in about a week).

Walasi-Yi (Neel's Gap) to Hiawassee (Dick's Creek Gap)

We felt pretty refreshed after Walasi-Yi, and a little more confident in our backpacking skills (well, we hadn't frozen in our sleep or blown up our stove or anything), and the weather continued to be pleasant. I'll let the pictures tell the story of what we saw on the way (if we are ever able to upload them). Our next "town" stop was

the Cloud 9 Trout Farm and Hiker Hostel. I really can't begin to describe this place, but it definitely had a lot of AT culture at it - by which I mean some people who live for the trail (and some on the trail) year round. They had a hot tub, which was very exciting, and a trout farm, where you could catch, clean and cook your own dinner, if you were so inclined, which we were not. Instead we ate an entire 1 pound bag of broccoli with our pesto pasta dinner, and stuffed ourselves on a salad that the Magi (three young hikers from the western pennsylvania area) mixed up. I'm trying not to make posts that are all about food, but it is rather difficult, since we are hungry all the time. I thought it would take longer to cultivate this kind of appetite, but it really only takes a week or two.
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Amicalola Falls to Walasi-Yi (Neel's Gap)

After Heather, Kyle and their dog, Denali, left us at the foot of the approach trail to the AT in Amicalola State Park, GA, we started up some very steep stairs up the side of the mountain. I have to admit that my first thought was

what the heck are we doing???!!! My pack felt incredibly heavy, my calves and thighs were burning with fatigue, and I was panting so loud I couldn't even hear Mark behind me. But within a mile or so the trail leveled out, somewhat - at least it wasn't straight up after that. The approach trail is 8.8 miles, and the weather was pleasant... we quickly found something of a hiking rhythm. Then, almost before I knew it, we were in a small clearing at the top of Springer Mountain, where a man named Roger took down our names and had us sign in the register. The view was spectacular, since there are no leaves on the trees yet, but the wind was intense, so we lingered just a moment. After the perfunctory photos of us grinning, trying not to look so tired, we headed to the shelter, where we ate some trail mix and pondered our next move. A section hiker who knew the area, recommended some campsites further down the trail, and theoretically, out of the wind, so we found some renewed energy and headed down hill, another 2.5 miles.

When we got to the next shelter site, we met Bonnie and Tambourine, also on their first day. We set up camp and cooked some dinner, exchanging the usual getting-to-know-you banter. As it was getting dark (and very cold), we mentioned something about the plaque at the top of Springer Mountain, at which time Bonnie discovered that she had not, in fact, started at the beginning of the trail, but at the forest service road crossing. Bonnie had done about 1500 miles of the trail in the late eighties and early nineties, but this was her first thru-hike attempt, and she was bound and determined to make it a valid one. She bundled up, put on a headlamp and strapped on her knife and did the first, of what would be several night hikes. At first, we tried to talk her out of it, or at least to do it in the morning, but she could not be swayed. Bonnie's sense of adventure continues to amaze and inspire us. Unfortunately, her hiking partner, Tambourine, dropped out the very next morning, but Bonnie is still going strong, as far as we know.

When we woke up the next morning, to very light snowfall and ice on our tent, the real hike began.

Over the next couple of days we experienced cold temperatures at night, but sun during the day, incredible views from mountain tops, lots of introductions with other hopeful thru-hikers, and sore legs. By the time we reached Blood Mountain, we were definitely ready for a rest (and a shower), which we found right down in the next gap, at Walasi-Yi hostel and outfitter.

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The Real Chowbaby

Last night we had dinner with one of my favorite people, Erin, who I worked for at the Teach For America Institute in Atlanta last summer. Erin is passionately dedicated to educational opportunity for all children, especially her own first graders. I would call her leadership style "inspirational" - that is to say, I would work harder than I thought possible, and do it happily...basically following her lead. We dined at...

Chowbaby, which is a buffet-style stir-fry restaurant. Slightly pricey at around $12 a person, it is also all-you-can eat, so it is definitely possible to get your money's worth. Basically, you fill up a bowl with rice or noodles, any combination of vegetable you desire, sauces and spices, and what they call "protein" - which looks like chicken, beef, pork, or fish....although M and I, of course, stuck to the tofu. You drop off your raw ingredients at the griddle and stick a little wooden paddle in your bowl with your name and table on it, and they bring it to you a few minutes later.

They call it "American stir-fry", which is accurate - the sauces are certainly not on par with Fate, but they are decent enough. If you don't know how to combine the sauces and seasonings, their "menu" has some suggestions. And if you mess up, and make something nasty, you can always start over with a new bowl. Definitely a fun dining experience.
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Finally Done!

OK, So I just finished my first non-scarf knitting project - a double-knit, reversible hat - and I think it turned out pretty well (although a little too tall). The sense of accomplishment is overwhelming. Go Pitt!