Mothers Day, 200 Miles, and a Bear

Happy Mother’s Day

Happy Mother’s Day! During our hike we have noticed that almost to a hiker, everyone contacts their mother at least twice a day. Once in the morning when leaving camp and once in the evening when arriving at camp. It has made us realize even more than we had, just how important mothers are. So to all you mothers, we hope you have enjoyed your day. This means you Dora!

When last we wrote we were in Franklin, North Carolina. Yolo celebrated her 53rd birthday!!!  Even the shuttle driver joined in the festivities by delivering a surprise birthday cake.

And of course there was pizza.

We decided to do some slack packing. To us, slack packing rules. A shuttle driver, in our case Bobby the Greek would drop us off at one location with a backpack just carrying food and then pick us up at a predetermined spot some miles down the trail. We did this for two days. We would do this for the entire AT but it’s not exactly a cheap way to go.

The Tramily

Along with the luxury of slack packing, we have formed a small tramily. A tramily is a group of hikers that hike about the same pace and distance and therefore seem to always be at the same spot each night. We have had the pleasure of hiking with ‘Patmos’ and ‘The Don’. It is nice to have a familiar face to share a drink of water, lunch, or story with. Thanks tramily for always having our back.

We bid our adieus to Bobby the Greek at Tellico Gap and with full packs started off to rendezvous with a cheeseburger at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC), some eight miles north.  Of course, as the trail often provides, we were greeted there by fellow hikers that we had meet along the way.  Special thanks to Lazy Log and Turbo for a great lunch!

One thing that a thru hiker has to be aware of is being sucked into the vortex of a town or in this case a place that just seems to perfect to not spend a lot of time in. With this on our minds we decided to leave after lunch and hike a few miles to eliminate that temptation. Trust us when we say, we could have spent a lot of time at the NOC.

God’s Handiwork

Continuing our trek North we spent a few days and nights getting to what, at that time was the most beautiful spot we had seen, Cheoah Bald.

The picture does not do the beauty of this justice.


Onward we go, next destination; Fontana Dam. Of course as often happens on the trail, there are obstacles that must be overcome. Having to climb Jacob’s ladder, one of the refuted 5 hardest sections of the AT is between us and Fontana.  We were not informed of this little tidbit of information until we reached the top and another hiker congratulated us for our accomplishments. Sometimes ignorance is bliss.   Reveling in our accomplishment, we press on and where quickly humbled  when out of no where we were passed by an older gentleman that floated up rock embankments that for us were an exercise in contortion. We finally catch up to him having his lunch at the next shelter.  This man, trail name Dinosaur,  was 75 years old and looked as if he were in his fifties.  Humbled and inspired yet again.

Where were you when the lights went out?

Finally we make it to Fontana where we had planned to spend the night at the Fontana Dam Lodge.  Walking the last mile to the Dam Road, we hear and see a tree fall in the forest. Little did we know that this one seeming small event would have repercussions for our night.  We arrive at the Lodge to discover that tree falling in the woods had managed to cut power to the lodge.  Oh well, when your handed lemons, hang out with fellow hikers, eat cold turkey sandwich’s provided by the Lodge as they felt sorry for you, and laugh.  The lights finally came on and its time to eat real food and resupply for the next few days adventures.

We are off to the Smoky Mountains.

Permits in hand we set out for the next milestone of the trip; hiking through the Smoky Mountains.  The Federal Government gives a thru hiker eight days to hike 73 miles though the park. So off we go.

We were soon met by a welcoming committee, a black bear.  While black bears are plentiful in the Smokys, few are seen.

Having been officially greeted, we press on. We had a long way to go and by federal mandate, a short time to get there.

Changes in Altitude, Changes in Attitude

Thus far a lot of parts of our adventure have been difficult. However, God always seems to put someone or something in our path to lighten the load.  For us this appeared in the form of a fellow hiker, ‘Pineapple Express’.  We met Pineapple at Birch Spring Gap where he was, as his name implies, blazing a path of his own. We fell in love with this young man.  His carefree attitude and love of life made him an absolute joy to hike with for some three days where he had to leave trail to return to the real <?> world.

There are all professions of people on the trail,  people who you think would never get along seem to form a bond that transcends any form of relationship they may have had in a different situation.  In this case a retired deputy sheriff now looks at Pineapple as an adopted son.  We miss you Pineapple!!!

Good Ole Rocky Top

One of our best memories of Pineapple, was climbing up to the top of Rocky Top mountain. Upon reaching the summit and us breaking out in song, Pineapple, who had never heard the lyrics, finds the song on the internet and proceeds to play it to all those who summit while we sat there catching our breath.

Clingmans Dome

At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point on the AT.  At this height weather changes and changes quickly. At one moment its sunny and in the next its raining with a 50 mph wind blowing.  After a few windy, rainy nights getting to the base of Clingmans, we set out on a drizzly day to climb to the top.  The climb albeit wet was beautiful.  We climbed through a spruce and fir forest where the only thing missing was a fairy to jump out.  Just when it seems that things were going well, the temperature, as one would expect as your climbing elevations starts, to drop.  After a quick discussion, a decision was made to make it to the top of Clingmans and drop into Gatlinburg, TN and dry out.  Upon reaching the summit, we immediately find the visitor’s center, drop our packs and inquire about a shuttle to town.  As luck would have it, there were no shuttles available.  However, as often happens, the trail provides. When we asked a random couple if we could get a ride into town this couple from Whitehouse, OH, Mike and Kathy tells us to jump in the car with them and they would gladly take us to town.  Woo-Hoo! Thanks Mike and Kathy!

Our Current Situation

The road back up to Clingmans Dome is going to be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  So what does one do? Improvise.  One of the many trail angels we have met, ‘Stripper’ is going to take us 40 miles north on Tuesday where we will walk Southbound back to Clingmans Dome. She will then pick us back up and deliver us back into Gatlinburg. Things always work out. Usually not in the way we would like it, but one of the biggest lesson the trail teaches is flexibility.


  • A hole, now fixed, in Santa’s air mattress.
  • A rattlesnake on the trail deciding that the trail was his and his alone.
  • Thunderstorms and very cold temperatures.
  • Falls. We have had so many while walking through the mud that we have lost count.


  • Our Tramily.
  • Running into hikers we had not seen in a while.
  • Pineapple Express.
  • A trail angel bringing us much needed candy.
  • A trash can at Stecoah Gap.
  • Fall down seven, get up eight.
  • Yolo communing with nature. Touching and talking to trees, birds and anything living.

Random Photos

Thanks again for reading and keeping us in your prayers.

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Comments 12

  • Dora Filimon : May 8th

    I absolutely can’t wait to read Pat and Paula’s next blog! I feel like I’m with them on the AT!

    • Pat & Paula : May 20th

      Thanks Dora,
      We are posting one tonight 🙂

  • Michael Flaherty : May 9th

    Yolo and Santa,you seem like a great couple.This trip will bring you even closer.Congratulations on your accomplishments thus far.I am proud of you.Hope you stay in touch with Pineapple.Be safe…

    • Pat & Paula : May 20th

      Thanks Michael! If we were any closer, we would be indistinguishable. 🙂
      We just text Pineapple the other day. He has started a new job and has school so its catch as catch can.

  • Alexandra : May 9th

    Way to go Yolo and Santa! You are both an inspiration. Keep the trail life and humor coming…WALK ON!

    • Pat & Paula : May 20th

      Thanks Alexandra!

  • Peggy Moran : May 10th

    You two are amazing. Glad to hear you are safe. Think of you often when I look at the weather map. Keep the news coming. Happy belated birthday Yolo.

    • Pat & Paula : May 20th

      Thanks Peggy!
      You and Tom are amazing!!!!!
      We keep one eye on the trail and one on the weather. Thanks for following, it means the world to us!

  • Suzie : May 10th

    You two are trekking along! I keep watching weather and wondering where you are in it. Springtime should be showing out on trail. What an adventure you are having!

    • Pat & Paula : May 20th

      Hey Suzie!
      Spring has defiantly hit the trail. All the different shades of green are just amazing. Don’t get me started on all the different flowers. Every day brings something else sprouting or showing color.

  • lynda motyka : May 11th

    Happy belated Birthday Paula. Hang in there miss you guys

    • Pat & Paula : May 20th

      Thanks Lynda! We miss you and John too!!!!! Please have John start preparing lessons for teaching Santa how to be retired once we get back. Thanks for following 🙂


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