Week 2 on the AT and the Story of the Bear
Hello Friends! What a time we have been having out here on the Appalachian Trail! The weather has been friendly, as has the terrain…mostly. It is absolutely challenging but Paul and I feel quite at home hiking the ever enlarging mountains by day and sleeping in our tent at night.
Enjoy the journal, story and pictures at the bottom!
We woke up very early in our bunkhouse bed at Hostel Around the Bend. We did our best not to disturb anyone else as we gathered up our things, and took them outside to a picnic table to repack our bags.
It was raining and we enjoyed the continental breakfast and coffee provided by the hostel. Master Splinter (trail names are great fun and we have yet to acquire ours) gave us a solar powered battery charger after overhearing us talk about possibly getting one at breakfast. The trail is filled with generous and kind people.
By the time we got on trail around 8 AM the rain had subsided and we stayed dry until about 1 o’clock when showers begin to roll in.
Throughout the day we hiked along with some people that we had met while staying at the hostel, which was very nice. We saw a variety of interesting, looking trees, rock formations and a new type of centipede that was black with neon green striping. Then we passed into North Carolina! The second state on our 14 state adventure.
North Carolina welcomed us with a very steep climb right off the bat. The rain encouraged us to go a little bit slower as well.
We ended the day with 12.1 miles and pitched our tent in a rhododendron grove right before the rain picked up again. We noticed that the trees are covered in all sorts of variety of mosses. Indeed at over 4000 feet elevation this seems like a fragile environment.
Wowza! 16 mile day! Thanks to the beautiful weather and the relatively gentle terrain we were able to hike our longest day so far. We started early and took three one-hour long breaks.
We have been hearing ruffed grouse, beating their wings against the ground lately.
A woman we have seen hiking before suggested that we take the blue blaze up to the summit of standing Indian, and we did, and it was worthwhile.
We found a stealth site to camp at this evening, and it is very nice and soft.
North Carolina is a beautiful state and has a generally gentle grade for its trails with just a few exceptions. It’s almost like NC teases us every now and then with a huge ascent then says, “I was just messing with you”.
The promise of rain held out for us all day and we took our time and were able to wash up a bit and take a little bit of a break here in there, setting up camp early on a mountain top as the wind is quite windy.
Everywhere we turn there is a new view of this endless ocean of mountains. They are so beautiful and we feel very happy to be here.
It was a very cold morning, and we packed up as fast as we could, and headed down to Winding Stair Gap.
We arrived just in time to see some friends getting dropped off and we were able to take their shuttle for $10 into Franklin.
The shuttle driver suggested we go to the Ingles that was closest to town so we did and we went nuts. We purchased way too much food and it was a lot of fun to try to eat it and walk around town.
Franklin is a beautiful town that caters to hikers. We got a coffee and we stopped by outdoor 76 where they gave us each a free colorful buff that makes us both look really cool. They also have a hiker lounge where hikers can hang out and do their laundry.
We took a shuttle back to winding stair and resumed our hike around 1:30 PM.
Our pace was good because we had eaten so much nourishing food, and we made it all the way to the top of Siler balled, which was beautiful and very windy. It was so windy that we had to move further down the bald to take our break.
Tonight we are camping at wine Springs campsite.
We had a 10 mile day, even after spending a few hours in Franklin.
No owls today. The owl streak is over.
Last night the wind was really intense.
13.4 mile day! Beautiful breakfast feast at Wayah Bald. 360 views. We think we might have seen Clingman’s Dome! Smoky Mountains here we come!
Big day with very warm sun.
Wise Acres met us with trail magic in Tellico Gap. Moon pies, chips, candy and drinks. Really nice guy, thru-hiked last year.
We have been working diligently on eating as much of the food we acquired in Franklin and our bags get progressively lighter.
Piped springs are great and very different from the streams we are used to gather water from in PA. We love the taste of the cold water that comes directly from the earth.
Paul found a good tree to do some pull ups and thoroughly enjoyed it despite being tired from climbing up the giant mountain from the NOC.
North Carolina has changed her tune from being gentle and now takes us straight up mountains to false summits and then up further. She says, “You have to climb to the very top to get the best view.”
Met up with Master Splinter again and he said he calls us the Love Birds. We still need individual trail names.
12.8 mile day with a 4 hour break at the NOC. It was a pretty cool place and we found a shady picnic area to camp out at. Got a coffee from the general store, we are as much as we could and shared a half pint of ice cream.
Our past selves did a good job on the resupply box we picked up at the front desk.
The climb up to Sassafras Gap Shelter was pretty intense at times.
We are prepping for what is to come!
We rolled in late to the campground and it can be challenging to perform all the camp chores including pitching the tent, filtering water, eating dinner, brushing teeth and hanging the bear bag. Paul saved a nearly lost bear bag line as it got tangled in a tree.
Today is Thursday, April 20 and it is day 13 of our adventure! It was beautiful and pretty warm out.
I utilized my umbrella for the hot sunshine, which was very helpful.
There were several large ups and some downs, and we ended up stopping after 12 miles at Cody gap.
It was nice to stop early and relax in our tent a little bit.
Hiking every day for 13 days is a lot on your body and your mind but it has also been very rewarding. When I start to feel negative or tired we take a break, drink some water and have a snack. The trail is becoming more social for us as well and nothing lifts my spirits like a little friendly conversation with a fellow hiker.
The weather is supposed to turn cold Friday night but for now it’s quite summer like.
Tons of Trillium in bloom today.
All of the water sources required to walk down the hill today.
Now I will tell you the story of “The Bear”
First I must state that any bear problem is really a people problem. When we come to enjoy the forest it is important to properly store food so that wildlife, including bears do not get into it. Bears who eat human food can associate humans with food. This can lead to dangerous interactions and the relocation or even the destruction of “problem bears.”
Over the course of our first 100 miles we heard many tales of “The Bear.” Especially in certain areas, where it is also advised to keep your food in a bear canister as opposed to hanging a bear bag.
The Bear has figured out how to tear down PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) style hung bags. A line is thrown over a high branch 6 feet from the trunk. Instead of tying the line to a tree a stick is inserted that holds the bag 12 feet high and the rest of the line dangles onto the ground.
The Bear has also has torn up ursaks. These are made from a strong material that is often hung off a lower branch.
The Bear has also chewed a bear canister (made to be left on the ground) so that it could not be opened.
The Bear has no fear. It sat and watched a man eat his lunch. Someone shot their gun into the ground three times, and The Bear didn’t move.
We came across a day-hiking couple who asked us if we had hear about The Bear. The man proceeded to suggest that maybe it’s like the story of the fish where it just gets bigger and bigger each time someone tells it. Then he proceeded to tell us a story from the Smoky Mountains where he and a group watched a bear climb a tree like a squirrel and chew off a limb to drop the PCT hung bags onto the ground.
So we hiked past the bear problem area and Paul hung our bear bag as prescribed. All we could do is to hope it wasn’t in The Bear’s path to the Appalachian Trail.
The views keep coming!
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