North Cackalacky & Tennessee

North Cackalacky & Tennessee

Hello friends! 

This post is coming to you from Damascus, VA. I’ve spent the last two days here at the annual Trail Days festival. It’s a huge celebration of former thru-hikers, aspiring thru-hikers, and all sorts of other A.T. enthusiasts. There’s been music, entertainment, a vendor village, free food, and even a thru-hiker parade through town. Good times for all!!

I crossed the Tennessee/Virginia state line on Friday, which makes it three states under my belt thus far. Virginia is by far the longest state on the trail, so I won’t be seeing another state line for at least a month. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve had a chance to post anything, so I’ll do my best to share the most memorable moments.

CARLOS EL BADIDO

Bebop at Uncle Johnny’s
While staying at Uncle Johnny’s hostel in Erwin, TN we were treated to a little complimentary entertainment by the boys in blue. To make a long story short-ish, a local gentlemen named Carlos showed up at the hostel one afternoon with a heavily intoxicated hiker. Apparently the two had linked up somehow a few days earlier, and had been cruising around the town on some sort of wild bender ever since. They had returned to the hostel to retrieve the belongings of the spun-out hiker, who had checked into the hostel 4 days earlier, before wandering off with Carlos. Somewhere in the process of packing up the hikers belongings, we all heard yelling coming from the driveway of the hostel. We spun around quickly to see Carlos held at gunpoint by an Erwin police officer. In Carlos’ hands were two trekking poles, which he had apparently picked up as the officer was approaching, in an effort to blend in. As fifteen or twenty of us thru-hikers watched in excitement from the front porch, the officer kept his gun pointed at Carlos and demanded that he get on the ground and don’t move until his backup arrived. It was at this point that the following exchange occurred: 

Officer: (holding Carlos at gunpoint) “God damnit Carlos, we been friends for too long, don’t make me do this!”

Carlos: “Well shoot me then damnit!”

Uncle Johnny: (hostel owner, walking up the front steps) “Entertainment is free here at Uncle Johnny’s!”

Four other police cars arrived shortly after, and detained both Carlos and the shit-faced hiker. It was at this time we learned that Carlos was being arrested for grand theft auto; it turns out that they had stolen the PT Cruiser that they had been whipping around town in for the past 3 days. It all made for a very exciting evening…

MURPHY THE A.T. PUP

Peabody & Murph Dogg
Just outside of Erwin, I had the great pleasure of meeting Murphy, the now famous thru-hiking Australian Shepherd puppy. A story about a hiker finding the 8 week old puppy and deciding to carry her with him to Maine had recently gone viral on social media, and my mom sent me a link to the story, asking if I had met the dog and its owner yet. As it turns out the story on social media wasn’t completely true, but Murphy is stupid cute, and she is indeed being carried to Maine. 

GOOD FOOD AND GREAT COMPANY

My wonderful parents came up one Sunday evening to treat us to a night off the trail in a cabin near Roan Mountain, Tennessee. They rented an awesome little house on a river right near the trail, and brought up tons of beer, food, and games to play. They picked up a few friends and I from the trail around 2 PM and shuttled us down to the cabin. We feasted on pasta and homemade meatballs with sauce, chips and guacamole, lemon pound cake, and many a Fat Tires. We watched a couple of movies and played some Catch Phrase before enjoying a warm bed for the night. We had a big breakfast in the morning and got back on the trail around 10:00 AM. It was awesome to see my parents, and a treat to have a hearty meal and a bed for the night.

Mom & Dad!
Bebop, Blue Indian, Peabody, Me
HIKING THE ROAN HIGHLANDS


The stretch of trail through the Roan Highlands was some of my favorite hiking on the trail so far. It crossed several wide open balds and offered dramatic views. We took our time crossing the balds, and stopped a few times to shoot the shit and enjoy a beer. The weather was great, and it made for one of my favorite days on trail thus far. 

Me, Peabody, Blue Indian

LOUNGING AT OVERMOUNAIN

Me, Bebop, Peabody
We took a short day to make sure we could spend a night at Overmountain Shelter. It’s one of the better known shelters on the trail, and for good reason. It’s a big red converted barn, which sleeps over twenty hikers. It has two stories, amazing views, and tons of flat grass for tenting. We showed up early and lounged around in the grass all afternoon, snacking and napping and talking about nonsense. A local couple even showed up with trail magic, laying out fresh fruit and cookies and nuts on a picnic blanket in front of the shelter. It was an awesome night, and we all took our time getting out the following morning. 

TRAIL DAYS!


Trail Days has been a really good time. Some of the highlights for me were strolling the vendor village and picking up a couple of new pieces of gear, walking in the parade, and being invited for cheeseburgers and moonshine in the backyard of some Damascus residents. That white lightning is the real deal! We also met triple crowner Chimp and his wife Tipsy at a pub yesterday. They bought us beers and hung out to talk trails for a while. Awesome folks. 

Blue Indian, Tipsy, Peabody, Me, Chimp
I’ll be packing up and walking back to the trail this afternoon. The couple of days off have been really great, but I’m ready to cover some more ground. I’ll be walking through the Grayson Highlands in the next couple of days, so you can expect some wild pony pics in my next post. The 1/4 way mark is within sight! 

Cheers, 

McLovin

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N.C. Border to Fontana Dam

N.C. Border to Fontana Dam

This week I hiked from the GA/N.C. border to Fontana Dam, N.C., miles 78- 165. I’m writing this post from the front porch of the general store here. I just had a bacon cheeseburger and fries at the restaurant, and now I’m waiting for a package to arrive while doing some laundry.

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I’ve been pretty lucky and have had great weather thus far; I haven’t even gotten wet. We are definitely due for some rain though, as some of the water sources have already dried up and fires have already forced trail closures in some sections. A small section of trail in North Georgia was just closed, a couple of days after I passed through. Unfortunately, it sounds like that fire may have been caused by hikers. There is rain in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, so that should help the situation.

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So far the trail in North Carolina has been a bit tougher than Georgia. The climbs have been really rewarding though, with lots of views and some beautiful campsites. Now that I have a couple of weeks under my legs, I’m trying to increase my mileage a bit and shooting for about 15 miles each day. It’s obvious that spring is approaching quickly; some small flowers are beginning to poke through the ground, and the trees are just starting to show their leaves. It’s also getting hot, FAST. Just last week the night time lows were below freezing. Now the lows are around 55, and daytime highs have been in the low 80s. I’ve been getting pretty hot in the days, and I know things are only getting hotter.
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Since my last post I’ve taken two half days off to rest my legs and enjoy my surroundings a bit. The first was in Franklin, North Carolina. It’s a really nice little town, which caters to hikers. We got a $40 room at a hiker hotel, and spent most of night at a party at the nearby hostel. They had a ton of free food, and a keg of beer from the nearby Lazy Hiker Brewery. The next morning I resupplied at Ingles grocery store and then hopped on a shuttle back to the trail.
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Two days later I was at the Nantahala Outdoor Center, where I took another half day off. The NOC gets a lot of hate from hikers, but personally I had a pretty great day there. I rolled in just in time for a big breakfast at the restaurant, and shortly after I rented a raft to take down the Nantahala River. After a couple of beautiful hours on the river, we got burgers at the restaurant for lunch, and spent rest of the afternoon drinking beers by the river. I cowboy camped by some railroad tracks about and 8th of a mile from the NOC, and got back on the trail early the next day. Sure, their prices on food and lodging may be a little steep, but I enjoyed my twenty or so hours there.
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Tonight I’ll stay at the famous “Fontana Hilton” shelter. It’s one of the nicest on the whole trail, and it even has a shower and toilet! Tomorrow morning I’ll start hiking into Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The stoke is high!
More to come…
Cheers,
McLovin

One Down, Thirteen to go.

One Down, Thirteen to go.
     Only 15 or so miles left until North Carolina! I’ll be finishing off my first state tomorrow morning. I’m writing this post from Top of Georgia Hostel in Hiawassee, GA. It’s a really nice hostel, and last night was the best night’s sleep I’ve gotten since starting the trail. It’s funny how luxurious a rock hard hostel bunk feels after a week on the tail. I got to take a shower, they did my laundry, and shuttled us all into town for beer, food, and supplies.
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     Several new friends from the trail are staying here as well, so it’s been pretty fun. Last night we had a little hiker pot luck in the hostel. I made guacamole, and there was also pizza, tacos, mashed potatoes, steak, salad, and cake. We had a fire outside after dinner, and enjoyed a couple of growlers of local beers from the beer store in downtown Hiawassee.
     My first week on the trail has been great. I’ve met some awesome people, and hiked some really beautiful trail. The trees are still bare, which allows for really great views along the trail. The weather seems to be warming up quickly though, and I’m excited to start seeing things turn green. Some highlights from the week include: a hiker feed at Unicoi Gap, meeting trail angels Onesimus & Trixie and hitching a ride from town in their RV, catching views of the Atlanta city skyline from several points around Blood Mountain, and of course stuffing my face with food here at the hostel last night.
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     I’ll hike out of here around 10 or 11 this morning, and I’m thinking I’ll just do a few easy miles before setting up camp. My legs feel great, but I’m trying to pace myself as much as possible to avoid any unnecessary injuries. Also I still have another frozen pizza here which I’ll cook for breakfast. Mmm.
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     People have been calling me McLovin, so I guess that’s my trail name. I’m not sure that I see the connection myself, but several people around camp one night agreed that the way I talk reminds them of the character from the movie Superbad. He’s a goofy character but I don’t really mind the name, so I’ll roll with it.
     The next town I plan to stop in and resupply is Franklin, North Carolina. It’s about 40 miles from here, and I’m expecting to get there in 3 days. I’ll post another update sometime next week, whenever I can get in front of a computer. If anyone has questions about my first week or the Georgia section of the A.T., feel free to drop a comment below.
Cheers,
Ben

50 Liters To Freedom; A.T. Gear List

50 Liters To Freedom; A.T. Gear List

Tomorrow is the day I start my thru-hike, so naturally today is the day I finally gathered all of my gear and put a list in writing.  I’ve accumulated much of this stuff over the years, but have added a few new pieces for this season.  It’s not quite ultralight, but I’m happy to be toting the extra ounces for the few luxuries I’m bringing along.  I’m sure that some of my needs will change and parts of this will get sent home or swapped out, but here’s what I’ll be starting out with:

Pack, Sleep System, Shelter

  • Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 3400 Pack (32 oz.)
  • Marmot Plasma 30 Sleeping Bag (23 oz.)
  • Exped Synmat UL 7 (16 oz.)
  • Exped Shnozzle UL Pump (2 oz.)
  • HMG 8.5″ x 8.5′ Flat Tarp (13.8 oz.)
  • Polycro Ground Sheet (1.2 ox.)

Clothing

  • Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodie (12.2 oz.)
  • OR Helium II Rain Jacket (6.5 oz.)
  • Exofficio Boxer Brief (2.5 oz.)
  • Marmot Long Underwear (6 oz.)
  • Exofficio Long Sleeve Shirt (7 oz.)
  • Ibex Wool Hiking Socks (1.75 oz.)
  • Smartwool Camp Socks (3 oz.)
  • Northface Fleece Gloves (2.2 oz.)
  • Buff (1.2 oz.)
  • Salomon Running Shorts (4.2 oz.)
  • SS Button-down town shirt (5.5 oz.)
  • Arc’teryx Rampart Pants (worn)
  • Ibex Wool Shirt (worn)
  • Altra Lone Peak 2.5 Trail Runners (worn)
  • Dirty Girl Gaiters (worn)

Miscellaneous 

  • Smartwater Bottles (3.2 oz.)
  • Sawyer Squeeze Filter (3.5 oz.)
  • Iphone Chargers (2.2 oz.)
  • Bic Mini Lighters (2.8 oz.)
  • Headlamp (3.2 oz.)
  • 1/4 AWOL Guidebook (2.5 oz.)
  • Pocket Knife (1.7 oz.)
  • Dry Bag/ Stuff Sacks (8 oz.)

Kitchen

  • Ti Spoon (0.8 oz.)
  • SnowPeak Cookpot (4.7 oz.)
  • Snowpeak Gigapower Stove (3.75 oz.)
  • IsoPro Fuel Canister (7.2 oz.)

Luxuries

  • Crocs (10.5 oz.)
  • Platypus Big Zip 2L Hydration Bladder (5.6 oz.)
  • Ipod Mini & Headphones (1.85 oz.)
  • Paperback Novel (8 oz.)
  • Journal & Pen (9 oz.)
  • Leki Corklite Trekking Poles

First Aid/Toiletries

  • TP
  • Toothbrush & Toothpaste
  • Mini Comb
  • Gold Bond
  • Advil
  • Bandaids
  • Earplugs                                  (4.2 oz.)

And that’s all for now!  My base weight is right around seventeen pounds, but I’ll trim it back to fifteen or so as the weather warms up and I can ditch a few layers of clothing. If you have any questions or see any glaring gaps in my list, please drop a comment below!

Now that the bag is packed, all that’s left for me to do is enjoy one last meal with some friends and family.  Time to put some beers on ice and fire up the smoker.  Next post will be from the trail. =)

Cheers,

Ben