The Kushmans' Trip Reports

First Update: Equipment
Progress report from Neels Gap...3/8/1996
Update from Blueberry Patch...3/14
The Latest from Franklin, NC...3/21, 3/22
From Fontana Dam, the Start of the Smokies...3/29
From Unplanned Stop at Gatlinburg...4/5
Update from Hot Springs
Update from Erwin..4/22
News from Hampton...4/26
The Longest State has been Reached!!...4/29
Reports from Virginia

Download and Nexmo's Address A Photo of the Kushmans on top of Max Patch from Bronco's page.

Date: 07 Mar 96 11:21:02 EST
From: Richard Kushman (
Subject: first update

RE: 1996 Thru Hike of the Appalachian Trail
          Richard and Kathleen Kushman

Beginning of journey...

This is the first, I hope, of many updates from the Appalachian
trail.  Now while  flying to Georgia to begin our  hike  seems like
a good time to reflect on the last very hectic three months. Call
this a pre-hike equipment evaluation. We have read everything we
could find, talked to many other hikers and listened to the sales
people make their case for what they sell. We think we have chosen
our equipment wisely, time will tell.

Here is what we did ...

PACKS ...............    KK - Lowe sirocco
                    RK - Osprey Helix

We tried on many and with weight. We bought the packs that  felt
the most comfortable, period.
There are many high quality packs available both external and
internal frame we ended up picking internal because they simply
felt best. 

BOOTS........       KK - Vasque Super Hiker
                    RK - Raichle Mountain Guide

What's to say, both good quality and they felt best to us.

TENT......     Mountain Hardware
               Windlight III

We just liked it. Plenty of room, excellent quality, and not too
heavy for two people.

SLEEPING BAGS ..... KK - Cats Meow - NF
                         RK - Big Kazoo - NF

We pretty much followed the recommendations of others. Synthetic
fill (Polyguard) was thought best. Then why did I get a down filled
bag? I needed room and the Big Cat (NF) was very comfortable but
didn't compress nearly enough, unless we took no food. The Big
Kazoo offers the space and actually compresses smaller than the
Cats Meow. I will certainly have to keep it dry.

RAIN GEAR :..  KK - Mountain Hardware
                    RK - Mountain Hardware

Triple Gortex jackets, fit good and received good rating in
Backpacker. We opted for less expensive pants just to get us
through the first few weeks.


I read all the first hand reports and complaints I could find on
Compuserve, AOL, and the Net There were a few different filters
that some people thought excellent The only filter that had no
complaints about clogging was the Hiker. initially I was concerned
that the pore size (.5) would not be  small enough but several
hikers were not happy with clogging and stopped using a filter with
no side effects. The Hiker seemed a safe bet for this trail.

STOVE          Camping Gaz Tristar

This choice was interesting in that CW says a MSR Whisperlight. We
liked the ease of use and safety of the Gaz. Cartridges are much
more available now and some people have been known to mail drop
them, two of the 270 cartridges weigh one pound...we will see on
this choice.

FOOD      Alpine Aire 

We got a good bulk discount on backpacking meals. Really simplified
mail drops and planning. Good variety, dinners only, we purchased
approximately 130 and some deserts.

We are sending updates with a Sharp Zaurus, which is a small
computer like device. It weighs one pound, we plug into a phone and
link through Compuserve.

Our gear choices will have much less to do with our success than
the mental drive and spirit we need to accomplish an adventure like
The Appalachian Trail.

No trail names yet.

Progress Report from Neels Gap
Date: 08 Mar 1996

We shipped our packs by UPS to Wes Wesson, Kathleen's pack weighed 32# and mine weighed 39#, without water, Zaurus, and about 4# misc. items. Wes and his wife Dixie picked us up and brought us to Amicalola Falls Lodge for a $75.00 fee, which is very reasonable. We had originally wanted to be dropped off closer to the start and avoid a long approach hike, however, Wes was arrested by the Feds for providing a service without a permit on Federal Land and given a fine. Amicalola is state property and that's as far as he will go, who can blame him. We spent a very comfortable night at the lodge.

Day 1 - Saturday 3/2/96 - 7.1 miles

Filled up on a buffet breakfast, signed the register, and began approach hike to Springer Mt., saving just over a mile by not going back to the welcome center. Mostly uphill and the last mile was tough.
Took picture at plaque on top of Springer, cold and very windy so we didn't linger to enjoy to overlook, then continued to Springer Mt. Shelter. We've made it to the start.

Shelter was full - no one believed there would be this many thru hikers this early in the season. Mostly young college age people. We pitched our tent, ate dinner and went to bed at 4:30 - woke up 8:30 p.m. - this was a new experience. Cold and windy 25 degrees. Went back to sleep - nothing else to do. Stayed plenty warm in sleeping bags.

Day 2 - Sunday 3/3/96 7.6 miles

Water left outside of tent froze, (just right for a rum & coke) and Gaz canisters were not as efficient for breakfast. Water in tent was fine and canisters will stay in my sleeping bag.

There is no level ground in GA - up and down today to Hawks Mt. shelter. Couple of new members to group, "Cookie" (over 50), and Dusty with Kokomo a Golden Retriever. Dusty's partner already quit. Still cold but Kath & I built a camp fire and finally got everyone talking. Fifteen exhausted people do not make for a party. Whole camp awakened at midnight when Dusty's dog attacked Kath when she headed for privy - they only frightened each other. Only "Cookie" has a trail name so far.

Day 3 - Monday 3/4/96 9 miles

Gaz worked better this morning after I slept with canisters but did slow down for second boiling. It seems if I shake the canister it perks up some.

Killer day - up and over three mountains. No level ground.... no level level ground. Made it to Gooch Gap - steep hike up to shelter, found note from Ann Marie & Craig telling us everyone was down the trail at better level ground - we even carried extra water - tough at end of day. We at least got to sign the register.
Trail names are starting to develop Mike took "MacGuyver" , Paul took "QTip" three college girls Amie, Meg, and Lidi took "Turtle", "Yoda", and "ET". we decided on "Download" and "Nexmo" for ourselves.

RK = "Download" - how we send updates
KK = "Nexmo" - short term goal - next motel

We were visited by a 30ish man with a big knife on his belt and a mug of beer in his hand - he took up conversation with Nexmo then went across forest road and visited with 4 boys camped there. He said he lived nearby but had Florida plates on his car - some of the boys had just seen a rerun of Deliverance expressing mild concern, but all was well.
We helped Yoda, Turtle and ET hang their food, it took two lines and weighed at least 50 lb. (I am not kidding) they ate well . We bought some cheese and peanuts from the girls - our food was low, tasted wonderful. Warmer weather today feels good. We ate at a more normal dinner time and went to bed at 8:45, calm pleasant night.

Day 4 - Tuesday 3/5/96 9.2 miles

Pushing now for Neels Gap. We stayed at an area called Jarrard Gap - no shelter but a good camp site. Made camp, ate, and went to bed. Seven others camped there, the four boys only under tarps. Thunder and heavy rain all night, stayed dry and cozy. No sign of Dusty or Cookie, somewhere behind. Only 5.2 miles to Neels Gap and food and showers. To put it mildly, we stink. You don't notice others because your own fumes are so overpowering. The Gaz stove is easy, the Alpine Aire dinners are easy, just boil water. Some of the hikers are quite elaborate with their dinner preparation. Combining many ingredients and cooking for a long time, these hikers do need white gas in cold weather.

Day 5 - Wednesday 3/6/96 5.2 miles

We had 'fun' breaking camp in the rain.... off by 8:33. This was the day for Blood Mt. which is the highest peak in GA. on the AT. The rain was very heavy and the decent would be very steep. We thought it prudent to take a blue blaze trail around Blood Mt. to avoid terrain above our capabilities. We saved .2 of a mile distance and as it turned out we each fell once anyway, no injuries. Water was cascading down the mountain at many places creating good size gushing streams to cross, very pretty, very wet, very muddy, lots of rocks to cross.
Yahoo ..... Neels Gap !!
A beautiful store ... Walasi-Yi Center, great backpacking supplies. The hostel was overflowing, loaded with young people hiking the trail. More due in with nowhere to stay unless they spend for a cabin. Dorothy was very kind and let us download our mail at the store even though she was extremely busy. Chet picked us up for a dry warm night in our "Rustic" Goose Creek Cabin. They will do our laundry and we can take a shower ... close to heaven.

Day 6 - Thursday 3/7/96 Layover Day No Miles

Continued heavy thunder showers all last night and rain continuing most of today. What radio I could hear made it clear weather was going downhill ...They are calling for possible snow and freezing rain.

Cookie and the three girls were at Goose Creek last night as well, no sign of Dusty and Kokomo, Dusty's knee was very sore and we think he has left the trail. Everyone except some of the young strong boys are laying low. Expected low tonight 5 degrees. We are not fools ... it is bitter cold outside with a -22 degree wind chill.

We have moved to a lovely cabin (Blood Mt. Cabins) no phone but George Case, the proprietor, is very generous, he gave us 3 beers (it's a dry county), a TV, and movies to watch. The wind is howling and the temperature is dropping, weather is getting worse. Rumor has it a woman was taken off the trail yesterday because of hypothermia.

We are really praying for those young men and women still on the trail. Robin is a young woman hiking alone, she's out there ... MacGuyver and QTip are out there and their gear was wet.

George came by with some candles, that's right the power is out. A true winter storm ... at least we are safe. George says it should be fixed tonight, down here in sunny GA.

George was right the power was only off a little over an hour. We have a fire going but the wind is creating a backdraft ... the smoke alarm works fine.

Day 7 - Friday 3/8/96 Layover Day No Miles The ground is white...

We put our thermometer outside ... it says 8 degrees (single digit) ... and still plenty of wind. Atlanta is reporting 20 degrees & -10 wind chill ... much lower here in the mountains.

The hospitality we have received from everyone during our layover is outstanding !!!
George let us use a car so we went into Blairsville for groceries. We then stopped at the Walasi-Yi Center (backpacking store etc.) and had our packs checked and fitted properly by a pro ... Jeff Hansen. Jeff and his wife Dorothy run the business and are a backpackers best friend.
THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT..... We never received sound advice from any sales person during our search for packs. Until Jeff, we never found anyone who really new how to fit packs ... just vertically measuring your back doesn't do it. If you can find someone that fits your pack properly (with weight 40-50 lb. for the AT), buy from that person. Oh yes, and stop and see Jeff Hansen at Neels Gap anyway .....

It seems to us now that Dana and Osprey have the best suspension systems on the market. Check these brands out, but remember, regardless of brand name, proper fit will lessen the pain.
We met another couple closer to our age. Kate & Reilly from New Jersey. They sold their Cape May Bed & Breakfast and are hiking the trail. We look forward to seeing them along the way...

Talk about hospitality, Rubin from another cabin, gave us a T-Bone steak, said he had extra Maybe the Clearinghouse Sweepstakes will visit us here....... .

Day 8 - Saturday 3/9/96 Layover Day No Miles

Temperature this morning 5 degrees, the trees on top of the mountain still covered with ice ... less wind though. Forecast looks better, expected low of 23 but a high of 43 on Sunday, and getting better all next week. We will be setting out early Sunday morning. This has been a long layover and we have miles to make up ..... maybe in June ...
Trimmed our gear ... mailing home about 4 lb.
Next download point, and our first mail drop, will be The Blueberry Patch Hostel.

"Download" & "Nexmo"
AT - 1996 GA to ME

Date: 14 Mar 96 21:37:35 EST
From: Richard Kushman <>


Day 9  -  Sunday  3/10/96  10.6 miles

Left Neels Gap about 10 a.m., feels good to be making progress again. The first shelter, Whitley Gap, is 1.2 miles off the trail. This makes for a 2.4 mile round trip just to stay at that shelter. Low Gap shelter is only 4.4 miles further, let's see, (4.4-2.4= 2 mile hike to Low Gap). How do you like my NEW Math? Hiking can be like driving a car. I was driving with Nexmo close behind. We arrived at Cow Rock so I, like a man, pushed on to the nearest trail, ignored the data book and dismissed the fact that white blazes were missing. I descended for about .2 of a mile looking hopefully for the next white rectangle. Well, Nexmo prevailed, we climbed back to the top of Cowrock, followed the instructions in the book and continued on the AT. Unfortunately I will be reminded of this for at least a month but there is a bright side, Nexmo had no weapon. This was a long day for us and we had to make camp and eat dinner after dark, this will not become a habit. We were alone at this shelter with a pleasant babbling brook but it was a very cold night, even the water bottles in our tent were filled with crushed ice in the morning. Notes in the register by Tim indicate that the house mouse gave birth in his pack, but no mention of adoption, also noted was that a ranger came by during the cold spell to check on the hikers ... they all made it. ***** BLUE BLAZE ABOUT DOWNLOADS **** We are using a Zaurus ZR-5800FX by Sharp to up/dn load our e-mail. It has 2M of memory and I have added a 2M flash card for backup. Compuserve Companion is a built-in feature and works like a charm. The screen is backlit if needed and the keyboard is large enough to be usable. There are many other good features as well and so far it has proven to be a good choice. Total weight 1 lb. ****************************************** Day 10 - Monday 3/11/96 7.2 miles

The profile for this day was somewhat promising, no big ups. Still, we were certainly ready to stop at Blue Mountain shelter by 3:00 p.m. Sunday had taken its toll. We met a very interesting group. Hannibal, Pappy, Weightless, and Cyclops all fast and apparently professional hikers. Hannibal, a very engaging Brit, said he had started the trail in January, got to Pennsylvania, turned around and has now started over because there were no other hikers and he missed people. Pappy, a trail hardened 60ish Lithuanian took delight in demonstrating, with a walking stick, the killing techniques the U.S. Army taught him during the Korean War. Weightless and his dog Barney arrived about 4:00 p.m. after doing 20 miles from Neels Gap (fast hiking), Barney though looked exhausted. Cyclops said he had thru hiked in 1993 and was just doing a section for fun. Hanibal claimed in some areas he had done 30-35 miles a day, traveling light - except for the camcorder and battery charger he carries. Pleasant night, starting to get warmer but still to cold to linger outside after dark. The sun's going down, time for the sleeping bag. I tried leaving my pack in the tent vestibule for the night. The mice thought it was a carnival ride and made such a racket exploring every pocket they kept me awake. Bringing it into the tent helped quiet the night. Day 11 - Tuesday 3/12/96 7.7 miles

Two big ups today, Rocky and Tray Mountains. We headed for Tray Mt. Shelter, and the pros headed for Deep Gap shelter, which is twice as far, so we don't plan on seeing them again. Arrived at Tray Mt. Shelter about 4:00 p.m. and had our choice of several pretty overlooks. The Georgia hills are spread out below us for miles but, it is still too cold to enjoy the view after sunset. So it's into our bags as the lights below twinkle on. The immediate shelter area here is strewn with trash, there is no register and the privy seat has been broken. Conditions like this have not been typical and certainly are not the results of thru hikers The trail is quite muddy in places and sliding is very easy. We will continue to take it slow, like we have a choice, until our mountain legs arrive. ******** BLUE BLAZE ABOUT FEET ******* Looks like we chose boots wisely. No blisters, no black toes. DOWNLOAD - I use Thorlo trekking socks and Vaseline all over my toes. When I tried a thin liner sock it really raised havoc, probably too much heat. NEXMO uses Thorlo light trekking socks and a thin liner sock, also a few patches of moleskin. The secret, I think, is to stop as soon as you feel any twinge and fix the problem. Don't wait until after the next hill. ********************************************* Day 12 - Wednesday 3/13/96 10.6 miles

We are on our way by 9: a.m., which is a new record. Breaking camp each morning starts off with the most difficult task of the day, simply standing. My goal, if not Nexmo's, is to reach Deep Gap Shelter by 2:00 p.m. This would give us a choice of staying there or continuing on to Dick's Creek Gap, another 3.5 miles. We reached the Shelter area at 2:03 p.m. and the profile showed no big ups. Reaching Dick's Creek means a motel room, shower, regular food, and calling home, we pushed on. There we are, standing next to Rt. 76 with our thumbs out and trucks and cars whizzing by. Now, here is where luck enters the picture. Gary Poteat decided to put his van back on the road. Naturally he wanted to take a test drive and, God bless him, he turns right out of his driveway. Might as well see if any hikers are up by the trail. Well, we were, and the angel with the ATC patch on his cap brought us to his home, The Blueberry Patch. Gary and his wife Lennie are just wonderful people. Providing a friendly place to stay, a great breakfast, and a ride back to the trail. The Blueberry Patch Hostel is well known among hikers. Remember the three girls? Yoda, Turtle, and ET, affectionately known as the "Cheese Girls" (they carried a 5 lb. block of mozzarella We caught them at the Blueberry Patch. Meg (Yoda) had a garden of blisters on her feet so they stayed an extra day. Hopefully she used the prescription antibiotic ointment we gave her and is on the mend. *** FOR RELATIVES OF THE CHEESE GIRLS *** We know you are watching ... They are delightful, courageous young women doing just fine. ********************************************* The Patch was our first mail drop and it was great to receive other mail as well, including goodies from Eleanor (Nexmo's sister). We did not sleep at the Patch but only because we wanted the privacy of our own motel room. David Shakespeare (Shakespeares' Taxi) brought us to Lake Chatuge Lodge. Very nice modern accommodations about a mile walk to town. The lodge is new and not listed in any hiker guides we saw. A washer and dryer are also on premises All the people at the lodge have been very helpful They picked up a pizza for our dinner. Day 13 - Thursday 3/14/96 layover no miles

We got a ride into town, mailed a package of extras to Franklin NC, and shopped for supplies. Now we have to stop at Franklin and check out the motels. The taxi is picking us up at 7:30 a.m. Friday and bringing us to the Blueberry Patch for breakfast. Gary and Lennie have only three hikers staying the night and have made room for us to join them. Next update from North Carolina - Goodbye to Georgia. "Download" & "Nexmo" AT - 1996 GA to ME

Date: 21 Mar 96 11:57:56 EST
From: Richard Kushman
Subject: Franklin Update

Day 14  - Friday  3/15/96  10.5 miles

What a wonderful start. David picked us up promptly at 7:30 a.m. and whisked us to the Blueberry Patch. We formed a small "Trail Family" with Stomper, Artemis, and Nattygann, as we held hands around the table while Lennie asked for God's blessing. A splendid breakfast of Lennie's very light pancakes, sausage, biscuits, coffee, juice, and blueberry syrup (ala Blueberry Patch) was enjoyed by all. Nexmo tried on a knee brace she found in the grab box at the Patch (we left food). It was left by a friend of Stomper's and it fit perfectly. Apparently her knee was bothering her more than she let on and the brace may help. Stomper and Artemis are a young couple hiking together and Artemis had good EMT advise for Yoda about those blisters. The contribution for lodging and, in our case, breakfast, included a ride back to the trail. When Lennie drove Nattygann (a woman about our age hiking alone) and us back there were at least 8 or 10 hikers waiting to catch a ride to the Patch. It was going to be a busy day for Gary and Lennie. We also saw two of the Cheese Girls, Turtle and ET heading back to the Patch. Where was Yoda and her blistered feet? Our goal today would be Bly Gap, North Carolina. There was a light rain with thunder in the distance. We found ourselves putting rain gear on and off. All you veteran backpackers know how to make the rain stop ... put your rain gear on. Unfortunately the reverse is also true. We stopped for lunch at Plumorchard Shelter just as a T-storm hit, complete with hail. We shared this refuge with Icicle and his dog Angus who were doing a section. As the sky brightened, we continued and bumped into Stomper and Artemis who had news of the Cheese Girls. Yoda would go to Rainbow Springs Campground to recover and await Turtle and ET hiking the trail. That sounded reassuring to us. Friday was a long day for us, but we made it to North Carolina. We settled in for a chilly night alone at Bly Gap. Day 15 - Saturday 3/16/96 7.7 miles

Weather seemed better, faint sun, we took the mandatory pictures at the gnarled tree and began to curse whoever it was that designed the immediate trail North from Bly Gap. B-a-a-a-d up. We stopped at Muskrat Shelter for lunch and checked the register. Two more hail storms hit before we arrived at Standing Indian Shelter. Mark (no trail name yet) an engineering graduate thru hiking, was at the shelter, as well as Ed Brown, and Lee Tade who were just out for a one nighter. Ed looked at us in a peculiar way, like he knew us. After some idle chit chat he asked, "Are you the Kushmans"? Ed and Lee are from Chattanooga, and we have never been there. Well then, Ed pulls out a print out of the Appalachian Home Page Trip Report..... What are the chances? Our tent kept us warm and cozy during a pretty cold and windy night. Ed jealously mentioned our log sawing during the night making me wonder about our noise pollution Day 16 - Sunday 3/17/96 11.5 miles

Standing Indian Mountain was before us. I never thought I would use the words (good) and (up) together. We are either starting to get in shape or this was simply a good up. The rest of the day was very pleasant as well, sunny, and very reasonable terrain. We only met one other hiker all day, Iz-R and his dog Chance, going South, looking for the Blue Grass Boys. Very clever name, reminding me of Johnny Mathis. Camped alone at Betty Creek Gap. A warm evening turned into a cold night with crystallized condensation. Day 17 - Monday 3/18/96 9.1 MILES

Only 10.1 miles to a shower, laundry, and homemade chili. Rainbow Springs Campground lies only one mile off the trail and because God loves Nexmo, it is down hill. We played leap frog with four college boys. Coffeebean, Captain Chaos, Plamona, and It's All Good who luckily had picked up a shirt that I dropped the day before. "Trail magic." Yoda was in fact at Rainbow Springs and bored to death waiting for ET and Turtle. She visited a doctor in Franklin and he gave her a brush for foot torture. Believe it or not her spirits were high and she was anxious to get back on the trail. But ... PLEASE YODA ... not with those boots. We rented "Rustic Cabin #4", showered, and did laundry. The chili was very good and, in my opinion, the highlight of Rainbow Springs. Box Car (a large 60ish man) was talking a mile a minute about loosing 45 lbs. since Springer. With no obvious limbs cut off, that seemed a little much. He brought news about Cookie being a day or two ahead and Thunder & Lightening a day behind. We met Sharon and Bronco, a young couple cursed with the flu since starting. Sharon is resisting a trail name on principle, we'll call her "No Name". Yoda, No Name and Bronco joined us at #4 for a warm evening social. Staying up late and sharing our trail experiences was very enjoyable. Day 18 - Tuesday 3/19/96 3.1 MILES

Cold day. The forecasters called for snow in the mountains and they hit the bullseye. Interesting and delightful would describe our hike from Wallace Gap to Winding Stair Gap. Interesting because of the hauntingly beautiful blizzard like conditions. Delightful because we were slack packing and had arranged for a warm car ride to the Franklin Motel. Buddy, from Rainbow Springs Campground, provided this wonderful service. Snow continued all day and into the night. The mountain regions were reporting very high winds as well, making the decision to stay put very easy. Day 19 - Wednesday 3/20/96 No Miles Snowflakes sprinkling down, windy and cold. Was this really the first day of Spring? Good day for napping, shopping, and eating. Reports are coming in about 18 in. of snow in the mountains. The trail is really not passable at any reasonable speed. We had hoped to continue by Thursday but as more and more hikers came off the mountain we realized that conditions were pretty bad. Duffbuster, Blister Sister, Artemis, Stomper, The Cheese Girls, Zak Going North, Coffeebean, Ralph and Alice (the Honeymooners), Thunder, Lightning, The Quiet Man, and Homebrew have all come off the mountain and taken refuge here in Franklin. Sharon and Bronco are at Rainbow Springs along with at least six others including a free lancer for National Geographic taking pictures and writing a story. Coffeebean headed North and got to the first shelter but decided to return. He left extra food for those still at the shelter. Ralph, had 18 inches of snow bury their Mountain Hardware tent Tuesday night, but it held up fine. He had to periodically clear snow away for venting. Several of the hikers met Doctor Green and Johnny Quest at Rainbow Springs Tuesday. They were dubbed "The Clean Team" because of their starched and pressed appearance after fifteen trail miles. No one knew how they did it but all were a little jealous. ********* PARENTS AND FRIENDS ********* We are aware that many are watching this page for updates and news of loved ones on the trail. We will try our best to mention all the hikers we meet and relay any grapevine tidbits. We have heard of no one in danger. The brave souls that have remained in shelters are hunkered down and waiting it out. Probably quite bored. ******************************************* Snow continued to fall into the night. I thought the white mountains were in New England. Next Update - From Franklin before we leave. "Download" & "Nexmo" AT - 1996 GA to ME

Date: 22 Mar 96 12:02:23 EST From: Richard Kushman <> Day 20 - Thursday 3/21/96 No Miles

The weather is slowly improving, if it is snowing in the mountains it can only be flurries. Sharon and Bronco moved into Franklin along with six others. Rainbow Springs Campground was not a favorite with any hiker we spoke with. The shower was described as a meat locker. Soap and towels were only available for an additional charge. The bunkhouse and hospitality were not to the level normally found on the trail. Our own stay was in their best cabin which was tolerable for one night. You will find Franklin much more comfortable but you really have to get to Winding Stair Gap and catch a ride. We all pitched in and Zak Going North rented a van. This gave us wheels to the West Gate Shopping area. Fourteen climbed in for the first load. After the second load of hikers arrived the Three Eagles Outfitter store was full to the brim. YODA BOUGHT NEW BOOTS. This layover has been great for her feet and a new pair of Asolo 530 boots should solve the blister problem. The Hiking Mob ate at Western Sizzlin this night and only Coffee Bean was talking about hitting the trail on Friday. We all thought he should take a snow blower and blaze away. Sharon has reluctantly taken the trail name "Puddin", but she is still kicking and screaming about it. Chest high drifts are being reported on the trail. Looks like Saturday may be the next day of hiking. This layover carries only one advantage for us. We are from Connecticut and the UCONN Huskies are in the sweet sixteen and play Friday night. GO UCONN. "Download" & "Nexmo" _________________________________________________________________________ Date: 22 Mar 96 22:32:27 EST From: Richard Kushman Subject: Last Franklin Update Day 21 - Friday 3/22/96 No Miles

The morning was still chilly but the sun was shining and the temperature was expected to rise. We met Kurt who came back to Franklin after trudging through deep snow. He decided to wait until Sunday to continue and allow for the sun to work. Thunder and Lightning left to hike from Wallace Gap and returned after getting to Winding Stair. The night promised 18 to 22 degree temperatures which was not inviting. We understand Dr. Green and Johnny Quest have skipped ahead closer to Wesser. Most of the other hikers as well as ourselves were planning to leave Saturday. The forecast looked good and we might have to pay property tax in Franklin if we stay longer. Dinner this evening for thirteen at the Hickory Ranch. Suddenly a distinguished looking gentleman is shaking my hand and introducing himself as John Newman "Oliver Twist", husband of "Possum Poop Patty". John has followed our updates and knew where to find us. He is an avid hiker and trail angel.....What are the chances. We heard a rumor that the Smokies were closed but a call to the park proved otherwise. The ranger did say many hikers had left the park because of snow. *** BLUE BLAZE ABOUT TRAIL MAINTENANCE ** Considering the storm damage we have seen, especially in Georgia, the amount of work extended by all the men and women of all the trail clubs is outstanding. They keep people like ourselves safely hiking The Appalachian Trail. Thank you ... one and all. ***************************************** Tomorrow we go hiking. "Download" & "Nexmo"

From: Richard Kushman
Date: 29 Mar 96 23:31:10 EST
Subject: Fontana Update

Day 22 3/23/96  8.2 miles 

Finally back on the trail. We were shuttled to Winding Stair Gap and began our first snow hike. Most of the Franklin group had to return to Wallace Gap but Thunder and Lightning had also slack packed Wallace to Winding Stair and we started together. Our goal today was Wine Spring campsites. Thank God a few strong hikers had blazed the trail leaving their footsteps and walking stick tracks for us to follow. We experienced everything from ankle deep slush to two or three foot drifts. Slow and very unfriendly would certainly describe the conditions. The profile from here to Fontana Dam looks hard enough, the snow just adds another demanding AT experience. We reached Wine Spring and set up camp on the only piece of bare ground available. Someone had clearly suffered the storm at Wine Spring. Thunder and Lightning soon arrived and we all stomped down the snow forming a new tent sight, ate dinner, and called it a day.. Day 23 3/24/96 7.6 miles Another day of mostly snow hiking but some improvement. Mud is the replacement in many sections but just as slippery. Early in the day with the trail still frozen the footing is somewhat better but wet and slick soon follow the afternoon thaw. We met Mike "Sasquatch" today as he was trying to catch his friends. Sasquatch's knee was slowing him down possibly meaning some time off at Wesser. We found a semi clear tent sight on the ridge above the Cold Spring Shelter and settled in. Thunder and Lightning arrived later and along with Sasquatch stayed in the shelter. Day 24 3/25/96 11.5 miles Rain started about 7:30 a.m. and continued until noon. Slogging along the muddy trails was very tedious but at least the snow was being washed away. Waiting for us at Wesser was the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) and a motel room (our natural habitat). This along with a 4.5 mile down hill section to end the day pushed us along. Hiker panic - no hot water - the gas heater had failed. We called for help, went to dinner with Thunder and Lightning, and by the time we returned all was well. A good meal, a hot shower, and time to dry out, these simple pleasures would almost make the next day palatable. ****** NOTHING IS WATERPROOF ******** I did my own informal survey regarding boots and their ability to keep one's feet dry. Given the conditions that we experienced on the AT-Trail during this period and the fact that our feet were quite wet and every hiker we met had wet feet, regardless of brand of boot, regardless of leather or Gortex or Shmortex, I will quote Lightning - " NO HIKING BOOTS ARE WATERPROOF UNLESS MADE OF STAINLESS STEEL" - period. ***************************************** Day 25 3/26/96 6.9 miles The outfitting store at NOC is quite nice. Geared mostly for Kayaking, the facility and the river training course are quite impressive. Artemis was checking into the bunk room as we were leaving. She needed to recover from the flu and jumped ahead of Stomper, this would give her some much needed rest. She reported the Cheese Girls and Honeymooners about a day behind. With some food items replenished we headed out for a day of pain. Sassafras Gap Shelter was 6.9 miles ahead and 99% uphill, however, most of the snow was gone and the trail improving. The shelter was down in a hollow and fully populated with five college boys, two from our home state, Connecticut. We stayed on the ridge above the shelter near the trail, Thunder and Lightning joined us and we all had a calm night. Day 26 3/27/96 9.1 miles This was a day of on and off sprinkles and thick fog. Brown Fork Gap Shelter was the target and as it turned out all we could handle. Entries in the trail register properly mirrored our opinion of the climb out of Sweetwater Gap. Obviously this must be an old section of trail put in before switch backs were invented - pure hell. We arrived at the shelter by 3:00 p.m. and by 4:30 p.m. began to wonder about Thunder and Lightning. Where were they? Another "Man at the wheel" story explains it all. Riley (Lightning), was driving and found some orange tape on several trees one of them marked - AT Relocation - he took that route thinking a problem existed along the white blazed trail. After stumbling, falling and pushing through unblazed forest they finally arrived back on the proper trail. Kate (Thunder) exhibited saintly understanding and control regarding this little detour. This shelter was clean and comfortable and the four of us slept well during a night of continuous rain. Day 27 3/28/96 13.4 miles Longest day so far. Fontana Dam seemed like a milestone. Next would be the Smokies, but first a little R&R at the Fontana Inn. Rain continued most of the day with heavy fog draped over all the vistas. We just continued slogging through the mud up and down, up and down. We stopped for lunch near a road at Yellow Creek Gap and a produce truck pulled over for a brief stop. Lightning quickly shmoosed two pints of fresh strawberries and two tomatoes from the generous driver. Fresh fruit fuel for the final leg - Trail Magic. Both T&L and us had stray dogs follow us for two miles to RT28. They were looking for food and attention and following hikers for both. What a great sight when we rounded a corner and there was Fontana Lake, our goal was reachable. Anxious fear left my mouth dry, my feet were screaming and daylight was waning as I picked up the receiver on the pay phone behind the Fontana Dam Visitor Center - YES ! - there was a dial tone. The Fontana Inn sent a shuttle and Thunder, Lightning, Download and Nexmo were all saved. Day 28 3/29/96 no miles Mail drop day. We got four boxes and envelopes. How can we possibly carry all this. Turtle's Mom, Susan, sent us some chocolate covered cherries. We will carry those deep inside. We also received surprise packages from Rande and Bill and Nexmo's fellow teachers, making our resupply quite simple. Tomorrow the Smokies. We plan on going straight through in five or six days. Next report from Hot Springs, NC in about nine days. ***** THANK YOU - THANK YOU ******* Many thanks to everyone expressing their good wishes and interest in our little adventure. If you have sent e-mail and we haven't replied personally, lack of time is the only reason. *************************************** "Download" & "Nexmo" AT - 1996 GA to ME

Update from Gatlinburg
Date: 05 Apr 96 08:31:51 EST From: Richard Kushman

Day 29 3/30/96 Saturday 6.2 miles

Partial sun made the early part of this day seem unusually pleasant. The
trail was drying up and footing more reliable. We had planned to reach
Mollies Ridge Shelter but just could not find the energy. The uphill
climb, food laden packs, and the lack of mountain legs were contributing
factors. This made Birch Spring Shelter our first taste of the Smoky
Mountain hovels. 

Clouds soon covered the sky and the mountain chill descended upon us.
Thunder and Lightning were also present and just as impressed with the
night's accommodations as we were. Sasquatch had left with us but twisted
his sore knee and turned back to Fontana and a two week rest. A fire was
started and provided some warmth as the night got colder and rain began to
fall. The rules in the Smokies require hikers to sleep in the shelter
unless it is full. This shelter was nestled on a good size patch of mud
making even tenting here unattractive. Sleep did come as rain fell through
the night.

Day 30  3/31/96  Sunday  9.7  miles 

We expected rain today. The forecast had warned us but also promised
clearing on Monday and continued improvement. We slogged on through heavy
fog and intermittent rain and mist. The temperature was going down and we
thought some flakes were visible, but certainly no vistas were. Everywhere
the trail guide said "splendid views", there were none. The trail was
again turned to mud. The grab your boot and yank it off kind in many
places and the slick go for a ride kind in others. 

We were passed by four young women, we called them the "Power Hikers",
and another young lady named "Swan", all headed for Spence Field
Shelter, our destination as well.

The shelter was full and with mostly women. The area was grassy and a
night in the tent would be pleasant, after all, clearing weather was
expected. Thunder and Lightning are about our age and speed and we have
pleasantly found ourselves together at the end of each day. This was
no exception and they were soon nearby nestled in their tent. Our food
was hung in the shelter and our cold bodies wrapped in sleeping bags.
Knoxville radio suggested tomorrow in the sixties and clearing. Things
were looking up.

Day 31  4/1/96  Monday  6.3 miles

Funny - still raining in the morning. This of course means a wet tent
and more weight to carry. We were sure things would get better. Silers
Bald Shelter would be 11.8 miles and reachable. Guess again.....

We began the hike in the rain but as the temperature fell ice pellets and
snow began to appear. The wind became quite strong and I would use the
term blizzard to describe our little Smokies Hell. The ice and snow
covered the trail, our packs, and our bodies adding even more weight.
Stopping for a break was out of the question, it was simply too cold.
Luckily Derrick Knob Shelter was only 6.3 miles and when it came into view
we felt saved. "Q", a charming young man thru hiking, was there and a
young couple on spring break. We quickly arranged our gear and climbed 
into the sack hoping the shivering would stop.

More hikers began to arrive. Three South bounders, two high school boys
going North, Thunder and Lightning, and the Cheese Girls with their
friends Cracklin Rosie and Walking Otter. That gave us seventeen hikers
in a shelter made for twelve. Next came Larry and Keith a father and
son from Orlando, just out for some fun in the Smokies. Nineteen
people, with more hiking gear than found in most EMS stores, were all
huddled from the storm.

Outside the howling wind and low temperature were background for this
amazing scene as a space was found for each sardine. All arrived
covered with ice. Boots, socks, zippers, everything was frozen. Hung
clothing was frozen stiff. Nineteen backpacks covered the mud floor.
Countless food bags hung above like pendulums. No wood for a fire and
no chance to find any. Cooking dinner, changing clothes and settling
down for the night all accomplished in some unplanned, unspoken  magic
rotation. Calmly, with high spirits and good humor, thanks in part to 
Liddy (ET) - (Liddy is a real trip).

Everyone was safe and getting warm. Tomorrow would be better, after all
the forecast said so.

Day 32  4/2/96  Tuesday  7.2 miles

We lay in our spaces and watched the morning unfold. Nineteen people
would have to cook breakfast, put on frozen boots, change into hiking
clothes, repack all their gear and begin the icy trail. This all taking
place in a space smaller than an average motel room. We waited as each
group left and finally hit the trail at 11:00 a.m. just after the
Cheese Girls.

The sun was shining and blue sky was a reality. "Q" had blazed the
trail so we slushed our way toward Double Spring Gap Shelter as the day
got warmer..

********** COMMENT - PROFILE MAP ******** 
When you get the Smoky Mountain Map first take red enamel paint and 
obliterate the profile section.  You will save yourself much grief. Just 
know you will be going up and down, up and down, regardless of what the 
profile implies.  

The shelter was not fit for habitation. The gate was broken, the floor
was half water and half mud, and trash was liberally strewn about.
Pretty much average. Not all, but most tented out for the night.

"Q", The Cheese Girls, Thunder & Lightning and some overnight hikers
were all mingling around the grass area. One gentleman with his son was
having a great time watching the Cheese Girls cook dinner. He said it
was better than television.

Cracklin Rosie thought catching the sunrise on Clingman's Dome would be
a great idea. Very much to my surprise at 3:30 a.m. Wednesday morning,
they along with "Q" filed past our tent with the bright moon above and
Nexmo waving goodbye. Hopefully we will catch them again, we miss them

Day 33  4/3/96  Wednesday  10.8  miles

Our tent was finally dry and lighter. The sun was shining and vistas
were possible. The climb to Clingman's Dome was gradual enough and the
views splendid. The trail was frozen at first, then muddy, and higher
up still covered with snow and ice. We had reached the highest point
on the Appalachian Trail.

Clingman's Dome did not offer that private view for hikers gained
through personal sweat. The view needed to be shared by all. Thru
hikers and tourists climbed to the tower and could see for miles.
Tourists were clearly interested and enthralled with us thru hikers.
They watched and commented. One gentleman offered us orange juice - it
was delicious. As Nexmo was putting on her pack to continue, we clearly
heard from a nearby group - "Oh look, there' s a real hiker".

We arrived at Newfound Gap at 4:30 p.m. and our choice was an
unscheduled stop at Gatlinburg or continue to the next shelter. Nexmo's
and Lightning's stomachs had been queasy, we were all out of toilet
paper, and  a kind gentleman with a pickup truck was willing to bring
these four weary hikers into town. What choice did we have?

The truth is the Smokies had been tiring. Monday's storm had taken a
toll. The trails were a sea of mud and that made for very tedious
hiking. A day off would replenish our spirits and brighten our moods.

********** BLUE BLAZE - SPEED ********** 
You do not have to be a Rocket Scientists to figure out our mileage per
day is low. We are over 50 and physically not in shape for the trail. The
first time we carried full packs was the approach hike. Honestly, if we
had practiced, we may have never begun. 

I was 40 pounds overweight and Nexmo smoked. We did nothing to prepare
for the trail physically but each day now we grow stronger.  We are
amazed by the mileage some of the young athletes can attain. Most of
the hikers we have met are twenty to thirty years younger. Being aware
of your own limits is most important. Pushing beyond your bodies
abilities, especially at first, will damage
the experience. 

Young hikers like Sasquatch, Dusty, and Blister Sister have already left
the trail. Their AT experience over for now. Our goal is to continue and
enjoy the whole experience. The love/hate of the trail, the rest and
relaxation of each new town, and most importantly the wonderful people we
have met and will meet. 


Next update Hot Springs ...

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Update from Hot Springs
Date: 12 Apr 96 16:16:05 EDT
From: Richard Kushman

Day 34 4/4/96 Thursday no miles

Warm and sunny weather made this day seem like a typical Gatlinburg vacation. All our equipment was again dry, our stomachs full off burgers and shakes, and our resolve to finish the Smokies renewed.

We visited the Happy Hiker outfitter and purchased a set of Leki Trekking poles for Nexmo. Many hikers use them and love them and consider them knee savers, which is exactly what Nexmo needs. Tomorrow back to the Smokies.

Day 35 4/5/96 Friday 10.4 miles

Lightning was under the weather, so T&L decided to stay in Gatlinburg. We had arranged for a taxi and by 9:40 a.m. we were back in the wind, cold, and fog of Newfound Gap. Beginning again was hard, but as we climbed above the clouds we were treated to partial sunlight providing us with some hope that Winter would soon end. Icewater Spring Shelter provided a sunny spot for a short morning break. This shelter is closed to all except thru hikers and is by far the cleanest in the Smokies.

We were treated to several excellent and unique views. The mountains seemed to rise up out of an endless carpet of cotton candy. Nexmo fell, the bad weather tension literally exploded from her lips and thankfully the distance back to Newfound Gap was too great for the option she was considering. Bravely, she pushed even harder through the mud and snow to Pecks Corner Shelter. Plenty of room - the bottom rack held four weekend hikers, Swing Right, and Indiana Bob. The top rack supported eleven. Three women, Stinky, Interplanet, and Marmot. Six men, Bearfoot, Brush, Maple Leaf, Big Dipper, Allgood, Bird, and of course ourselves. The young men and women took great pains not to crowd this older couple.

The cold evening was saved with a great blazing fire and guitar music provided by Maple Leaf. Oh, how that music helped.

Day 36 4/6/96 Saturday 12.9 miles

Big Dipper, the wonderful gentleman he is, filled our water bag and saved me a tough morning chore. None the less, we were the last to depart for Cosby Knob Shelter, which would be our final night in the Smokies. Cold misty fog again kept any vistas at bay. We just kept slogging through the miles of mud. The eerie gray ice covered trees providing their own type of beauty.

Overcrowding was avoided because the girls and some of the young men continued on to Davenport Gap Shelter. Godfather and Turtle (not the cheese girl) a retired couple joined Bird, Big Dipper, Robert, two Spring breakers, and us for another cold night in a shelter.

Tomorrow we looked forward to down and out at Davenport Gap.

Day 37 4/7/96 Sunday 8 miles

Exiting the Smokies helped bring out the sun and the down hill hike was quite pleasant. A warm sunny afternoon was quite a luxury. Anticipating the traditional Easter Sunday cheeseburger at Mountain Mama's Kuntry Store spurred us on. The cheeseburger was good and after the Smoky Shelters our bunkbox accommodations seemed pretty elegant. We had mattresses and a light bulb, all for just $10.00 each which also included a shower.

We slept quite well, no mice, no wind, no bitter cold.

Day 38 4/8/96 Monday 9.6 miles

Eight of us thru hikers piled into a pickup truck and were shuttled back to Davenport Gap by Mr. Mountain Mama ($1.00 ea). Snowbird Mountain was waiting for us and presented what seemed like, no, what was, an endless climb. By mid day a light rain was fall ing which turned to snow above 3000 feet, but at least it wasn't heavy snow or bitter cold. The trail conditions were a great improvement over the mud of the Smokies. We especially liked the pine needle sections. We descended to Groundhog Creek Shelter below the snow line. Light rain continued but we managed a roaring fire to ward off the cold. Godfather and Turtle, Big Dipper, Chameleon, and October Dawn shared the shelter with us. M&M, Sightseer, Lobo's Pet, and March Hare with his dog Fool were all tenting. Sleeping was easy and peaceful.

Day 39 4/9/96 Tuesday 13.1 miles

More snow had fallen during the night leaving one inch at this elevation and certainly more above. Today we had to ascend and cross Max Patch Mountain. Worse than the snow was the return of windy bitter cold temperatures. When would Spring hiking begin?

The sun would wink at us from behind the passing clouds only tantalizing us with a moment of warmth. The long climb helped keep us warm but stopping for any lengthy break just brought on the shivers.

The summit of Max Patch was dramatic. We had a clear 3608 view for miles. The wind howled almost pushing us off balance and brought on an intolerable face tightening eye numbing cold. We quickly exchanged pictures with Chameleon and October Dawn and descended into the protective Laurel.

A long down hill and short up brought us to the new and nicely done Roaring Fork Shelter. After a short break and considering the next day would bring us to Hot Springs we decided to push on. Our Trail Guide did not list Walnut Mountain Shelter but Wingfoot's Handbook claimed it still existed. Staying there would save 1.8 miles of uphill climb in the morning and bring us to Hot Springs sooner. Wingfoot was correct and although Walnut Mountain Shelter was old, it was clean and usable. Considering the number of hikers using the trail I certainly hope this shelter avoids demolition. Two section hikers from Atlanta, Phyllis and Jina with their dog Chestnut joined us for another bitter cold mountain night.

Day 40 4/10/96 Wednesday 13.2 miles

All our water bottles were rattling with ice as we began the up and over of Bluff Mountain. The thermometer said 208 at 8:45 in the morning with plenty of breeze. Bluff Mountain reaches higher than Max Patch but is not a bald, regardless, it was cold and snowy. The mud sections of trail were frozen stiff so at least the traveling was easier.

Finally below 2800 ft. the light at the end of the tunnel became visible. Green ferns, small white flowers, buds on all the trees welcomed us into another world. The sun's warmth allowed for relaxing breaks as the occasional smell of Spring welcomed us to Hot Springs North Carolina.

The Cheese Girls were still in town and ET and Yoda joined our group of twenty hikers for dinner at the Smoky Mountain Diner. ET insisted we tour their rooms at the Hot Springs Inn (Elmer's) which had the look and feel of a stately old home. Yoda played piano and ET played guitar and sang for us. Turtle raved about the Inn's famous dinner while Cracklin Rosy looked jealous. They were heading out in the morning and hopefully we will catch them again.

Day 41 4/11/96 Thursday no miles

R&R at the Alpine Court Motel. This Hot Springs break is the best yet. Thru hikers everywhere. Even Weightless, whose dog Barney is now off the trail, has had an extended stay in Hot Springs. We have run into Wingfoot several times and his words regarding mileage are very encouraging. - "Don't worry, the miles will come."

Nexmo treated herself to a full hour massage. Then another wonderful hour with Download and a bottle of wine in the Hot Springs Spa. Need I say more?

A large group for dinner again where we met Guinness, a charming Irish hiker. Hot Springs seems to collect hikers and we are no exception. Another full warm day of rest before hitting the trail would be absolutely wonderful. The decision is made - we stay until Saturday.

Next Update - from up the trail.

"Download" & "Nexmo"

Update from Erwin
Date: 22 Apr 96 08:55:52 EDT
From: Richard Kushman

Day 42 4/12/96 Friday no miles

Bronco, Puddin, Artemis, Stomper have all come into town. Blister Sister, who is currently off the trail, greeted North Going Zak with shrimp, fresh strawberries, and Guiness Beer. This certainly sounds like a trail romance!

Hot Springs is warm and sunny and a wonderful place for any hiker. We spent the afternoon sharing wine and conversation with Godfather and Turtle. Dinner again at the diner while trying to get psyched for hiking the trail. Tomorrow we leave.

Day 43 4/13/96 Saturday 11 miles

One last plate of pancakes at the diner, a stop at the Post Office, and a long freight train through town across the trail contributed to our late (11:00 a.m.) departure. The sky was overcast with scattered showers predicted. The climb out seemed steep after two days off but the trail was dry - no more mud. Rhododendren bushes provided a dry haven during a short shower but rain held off for most of the day.

Just as we reached Spring Mountain Shelter the flood gates opened. Everyone huddled inside waiting for a lull in the storm. March Hare with his dog Fool, Dre, Turbo Ted, Slider, and Scarecrow had claimed their bunks. We along with Godfather and Turtle, Chameleon and October Dawn, and Bronco and Puddin all tented on the ridge above. The temperature provided our newest experience, it wasn't freezing cold and tomorrow was going to be warmer. Spring time camping, had possibly arrived. Scattered showers continued through the night.

Day 44 4/14/96 Sunday 15.3 miles

Nexmo thought she bit off more than she could chew but she toughed out a long day, in fact our longest so far. After a foggy morning, bright sun and temperatures in the seventies made for an enjoyable day. The first few miles to Allen Gap were a pleasure until we found March Hare and his dog Fool at the roadside quitting the trail. A slight cold but mostly a twisted ankle had convinced him to take a rest.

The Climb up Camp Creek Bald at mid-day was hot, long, and had us guzzling water. Then the rocky terrain around Blackstack Cliffs kept us going slow. Finally at 7:30 p.m. we arrived at Jerry Cabin Shelter.

Everyone had decided to put on the miles, so the shelter was full with last night's crew as well as the Irish hiker Guinness. Chameleon and October Dawn were the only ones missing. Our tent was up just before dark and a fireside dinner finished the day. God bless warmer weather.

Day 45 4/15/96 Monday 5.9 miles

After making our morning calls from the Jerry Mountain Shelter phone we turned off the light and went for a walk in the park. The trail was easy and pleasant. We met Sam Waddle and two other gentlemen on their way to cut down a threatening tree near the shelter. Sam has been taking care of this shelter for twenty three years and his hard work and sense of humor have made it a favorite stop. Flint Mountain Shelter was really too close but the next shelter was another 8.5 miles. The wind was howling and the forecast called for thunder showers and heavy rain. Puddin and Bronco were at the shelter deciding whether to go on or spend the night. Godfather and Turtle arrived and after a long discussion regarding the weather and wet tents, we all chose to stay. Chameleon and October Dawn arrived as did Slider. To justify such a short day we needed a good storm and in fact we got it - heavy rain, strong winds, sleet, and yes, more snow.

Godfather and Bronco had rigged tarps over the shelter entrance and this helped keep us all dry considering the wind. Unfortunately the temperature was dropping, and we were back to Winter camping.

Trail magic arrived in the form of Spud Boy. He poked his head through the tarps and offered us delicious bread and fruit. He had been out hiking for for a day looking for Zamboni and was camped near the shelter. Chameleon and October Dawn brought a homey end to the night with fresh popcorn, but I can't remember which movie we watched.

Day 46 4/16/96 Tuesday 12.9 miles

We woke to a freezing cold day with snow falling. Slider decided to leave with Spud Boy and take a early break in Erwin. He was having trouble holding down food and perhaps a doctor's visit was in order.

Only about an inch collected but it remained cold and windy so leisurely breaks were again difficult. We quickly arrived at Devil Fork Gap where again Spud Boy had dispensed his magic. Near the road on a set of steps he had left bags of nuts and candy bars. We, along with Bronco, Puddin, Godfather and Turtle, shared the booty.

We began the long climb up Frozen Knob. True to its name we were treated to wind blown ice dropping from the covered trees. Our own localized ice storm. We lunched at Hogback Ridge Shelter and discussed campsites with Godfather and Turtle. The trail guide listed a meadow two miles after Sam's Gap which became our goal.

We stopped at a small stream for water and found the meadow sunny and protected from the heavy winds. The view was pleasant and although still cold, the night was peaceful.

Day 47 4/17/96 Wednesday 11.6 miles

Big Bald Mountain constituted our long morning uphill climb. The continuing cold, along with plenty of wind chased us off the summit after ten minutes of picture taking. After lunch at Bald Mountain Shelter with Godfather and Turtle, and Chameleon and October Dawn the remaining hike to Spivey Gap had only two annoying ups. There was a pleasant camp sight just before the gap but Turtle and Nexmo decided we would walk another half mile off the trail to a USFS picnic area that promised luxuries such as a privy, fresh water piped spring, and picnic tables. We enjoyed a sit down dinner as the night turned calm and clear skies promised a sunny next day.

Day 48 4/18/96 Thursday 11.7 miles

Erwin, Tennessee has a motel. Nexmo, Download, Godfather, and Turtle all agreed after six days in the mountains that visiting that motel, eating real food, and taking a shower was, well - ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

We began early, before 8:00 a.m., the sooner we got there the better. The trail was not bad, no serious ups, beautiful warm weather, and eventually glimpses of Erwin in the distance. The temperature off the mountain in Erwin was 80, needless to say, quite pleasant.

The item foremost in my mind as we entered Nolichucky Campground was a cold can of soda. This shortly became the item foremost in my hand as we began looking for a shuttle into town. Bronco, Puddin, Chameleon, and October Dawn were staying at the Nolichucky Hostel and were considering a swim in the cold river. Godfather and Turtle along with us were fortunate that Tom Hensley had the time and truck for hiker errands. Post Office, ATM, pharmacy, Taco Bell and the Erwin Motel. Thanks, Tom.

We had finished this section with absolutely no food remaining. Without the magic of Spud Boy and Granola bars from Slider we might have been very cranky.

*** NOTE *** Jenny's Olde Towne Inn is apparently only renting to long term guests. The hostel, campground, or the Erwin Motel are a hikers best bet. *************************************

Next Update - Down The Trail "Download" & "Nexmo"

Update from Hampton
Date: 26 Apr 96 07:16:49 EDT
From: Richard Kushman

Day 49 4/19/96 Friday no miles

Today we met Harvey. He is the unofficial hiker shuttle. He drives his Honda Civic and patrols the Erwin area looking for needy hikers and supplies them with rides. Harvey does not charge a fee, but only an unthinking hiker would refuse an appropriate tip.

When contacting Harvey you just have to get lucky, he does not have a phone. We arranged a trip to town along with Godfather and Turtle. The previous day we had not received our package sent first class from Hot Springs several days earlier. Thankfully I was allowed into the back room of the Post Office to check the boxes. There it was, addressed to Richard & Kathleen - General Delivery - and no last name. The postal worker's smile said it all regarding fault. Next time, Nexmo will take care of addressing any package. Lunch at the Elms, into the Honda, and back to the motel. Arrangements were made with Harvey for our morning shuttle back to the trail.

Day 50 4/20/96 Saturday 9.3 miles

Harvey was right on time and four packs and four hikers completely jammed his car. Rain was clearly coming soon so pack covers were on and we were ready. The warmer weather made rain less threatening. The plan was to reach Deep Gap and good campsites which would be 10.8 miles and a pretty good start for this section. After trekking six miles the the skies roared with thunder and heavy rains reminded us who controls the heavens. While the storm was directly overhead we huddled under some Rhododendron and ate Snickers bars.

We plodded on, all the while thinking about tenting in the rain. After reaching Beauty Spot, which is a natural grassy bald with normally great views, Nexmo was about to take my picture when a car interrupted her view as it climbed to the overlook. She looked at me, I looked at her and within minutes we were in the back seat of a Grand Cherokee headed back to Erwin for the night. We had still done 9.3 miles and Harvey would bring us back in the morning. We also began to think more about slack packing.

Day 51 4/21/96 Sunday 21.2 miles

Harvey was at the motel bright and early for another shuttle so we discussed our slack packing plan and the die was cast. His Honda only just made it up the mountain to Beauty Spot. Several stops were needed to cool the overheating engine. We were let loose with no heavy packs at 9:15 a.m. and the pick up planned for 6:30 p.m. on top of Roan Mountain. Over nineteen miles and back to the motel for another comfy night.

Push, push, push would describe hiking with a deadline. So we pushed. One advantage, of course, we were making up lost time. The terrain was beautiful but unforgiving. Emerald green Unaka Mountain, Little Bald Knob, Bear Town Mountain, and the best for last, Roan High Knob. The never ending climb of Roan High Knob after already doing 18 miles was simply painful. Nexmo arrived on the summit at 7:00 p.m. but Harvey was nowhere to be found. Fifteen minutes later I found Nexmo sitting with two of the Cheese Girls, ET and Turtle, - Yoda was missing.

At approximately 4:00 p.m., while ET cooked dinner and Turtle mused about saying hi to Tom, Yoda left for the privy. She had been gone almost four hours with no explanation. After rechecking the shelter we headed for Carvers Gap hoping to find Harvey. He in fact had been there but a gate prevented his coming to the top parking area and by the time we reached the bottom he had gone home for dinner.

Luckily there were three young men picking up their camping gear and one of them gave us a ride to a gas station in the town of Roan Mt. (Trail Magic). We called 911 immediately and were soon picked up by the EMS Crew #2 from Carter County Tennessee We were brought to their headquarters where they debriefed us and assembled a search and rescue squad, including dogs. They asked us to stay until their command truck was in place and said they would help us return to the Erwin Motel. By 11:00 p.m. the television news was already reporting a lost hiker. Then a local house fire put more strain on their manpower. We called a cab service and were finally back in our motel by 2:30 a.m.. Yoda was still missing. Sleep came only because we had hiked over twenty-one miles. Packs or no packs, we were exhausted.

Day 52 4/22/96 Monday no miles

The local morning news was still reporting a missing hiker. Our minds created scenarios, none of which made sense or were pleasant. Getting back to Carvers Gap to be with ET and Turtle was the only option we felt comfortable with and with almost no sleep hiking was the last thing on our minds.

Good news greeted Nexmo's call to the Rescue Station about 9:00 a.m., all the girls were there and safe. Yoda had gotten sick and disoriented and spent the night huddled in the forest. The girls were all exhausted but otherwise fine and had called Sutton Brown for a ride to Hampton and his hostel.

We arranged a shuttle with Tom Hensley to Elk Park Campground, which was our next mail drop. There were no other hikers or campers there and the rest rooms and showers did not invite. That, along with Nexmo really wanting to see the Cheese Girls, brought us to the hostel in Hampton as well. The afternoon was spent reviewing Yoda's previous adventure.

Our room was lovely and we felt very comfortable in Hampton especially after a AYCE Chinese dinner with ET, Turtle, and Yoda.

Day 53 4/23/96 Tuesday 15.7 miles

Sutton drove ET, Turtle, Nexmo and myself to Walnut Mountain Road where we began slack packing back to Hampton. We began to make up some lost miles. Yoda stayed at the hostel for a days rest.

The skies threatened rain and delivered but waiting for us was a hot shower and dry clothes. Clearly, occasional slack packing could help us make up for those lost bad weather days.

Most memorable was the climb down and around Laurel Falls. We were doing some actual rock climbing, going slow because of the rain. We reached Laurel Fork Shelter after 4:00 p.m. so we took the blue blaze trail back to town avoiding Pond Flats.

Day 54 4/24/96 Wednesday 20.5 miles

Another slack packing day, making up some miles. Shuttled out to Rt. 91 and the AT with the Cheese Girls and Guiness we headed home to Hampton. The weather could not be better and the terrain more forgiving. This was our first experience of going South. We met Maple Leaf, Dre, Turbo, Entrophy, and Lobo's Pet all going the right way. It did seem strange but we were cutting the distance to Damascus in half and making up time.

The terrain was again very pleasant and the view from Vanderventer Shelter a warm pleasant experience. Many delightful camp sights were available around Watauga Lake and had we not had a room at the hostel, would have been very tempting.

Twenty miles of slack packing is just as tiring as a normal day with full pack, at least for us. Making up the miles and time is the one advantage.

******* BLUE BLAZE - SLACK PACKING *******
Some hikers clearly believe slack packing is cheating. You must carry a full pack, (whatever that means), the full distance. Others say it absolutely doesn't matter how you do the miles.

There are no referees, coaches, umpires, or judges on the Appalachian Trail. The trail is not a contest or a game about hiking fast or hiking far. The trail is a life experience, the meaning of which, differs with every single person on the path. Any healthy life experience should be enjoyable and rewarding and that constitutes a meaningful goal.

So - slack pack - flip flop - skip sections - section hike - power hike - car hike - blue blaze - what does it matter. Are you having a rewarding, meaningful and enjoyable time? You have only to ask yourself.

Next Update - Down The Trail
"Download" & "Nexmo"

Date: 29 Apr 96 09:44:40 EDT
From: Richard Kushman
Update from Damascus

Day 55 4/25/96 Thursday no miles

The plan this day was to be dropped off at Carvers Gap and slack pack to Walnut Mountain Road. Sutton could not put together the necessary drop off and pick up shuttle connections so he suggested we take the day off. I must admit to being easily persuaded but this leaves a section incomplete for the time being.

The Cheese Girls, and Guiness left for Damascus this morning and Sightseer, Billy Goat, Godfather and Turtle came into Hampton by late afternoon. We met Freddy, he is eighty two years old and doing a section hike. Freddy swears his smoking will kill him some day. Speaking of smoking, I am truly amazed at the number of hikers that smoke. I expected some of course, after all Nexmo smokes, but I had hoped for positive reinforcement for her quitting and just the opposite has occurred.

This will be our last night in Hampton, which has proven to be a good place to plan a break from the trail. Avoid Elk Park, come to Hampton, and enjoy the Hampton "Castle" Hostel, that is our recommendation

Day 56 4/26/96 Friday 21.8 miles

Brian dropped Godfather, Turtle and us off at RT91 and the AT about 8:30 a.m. for another slack packing trip. Godfather and Turtle would head back to Hampton and we would continue to Damascus. Morning rain slowly gave way to a partly sunny enjoyable day.

The section from RT91 to Damascus is probably the easiest we have encountered as yet. We caught up to ET and Turtle who were being entertained by a self professed drifter. Though he was not headed for Damascus he and his dog decided to hike with the girls, in fact he claimed no destination. We stayed with the girls and the strange but apparently harmless drifter eventually went his own way.

Damascus is delightful and clearly a friendly home for all hikers. "The Place", a hostel, was overflowing with hikers, many tents were pitched on the lawn and all the bunks were full. We stayed at the Appalachian Inn, which is two doors away, and had the entire place to ourselves. Pretty luxurious camping I must admit.

My entrance to town gave birth to a new phenomena. Not my actual arrival but my manner of walking after over twenty one miles on the trail. The Download Shuffle......

There's a new craze in Damascus and
Everyone's doing it, doing it, doing it
It starts with knee pain, a wince and a groan
It's an aging disease down deep to the bones
Lasting twenty-four hours even the young get down
Just walk twenty miles to the nearest town
Big miles ... big pain
It's the Download Shuffle ...
Ouch ... Ouch ... Ouch

Authored by:
Bronco, Puddin, October Dawn, Chameleon, ET, Godfather and Turtle

Perhaps I should mention that the above creativity was accomplished at Quincy's over Calzones and ice cold beer.

Day 57 4/27/96 Saturday no miles

Day off in Damascus. Take care of mail. New cartridge for water filter. Bronco and Puddin purchased a new tent and joined us for a seam seal party.

Bill Mashburn paid us a visit. Bill has been following our hike on the internet and sent us e-mail offering any help needed while we were in the Damascus area. He very generously offered shuttles to Abingdon or would arrange slack packing if we desired. We decided to stay in Damascus and not slack pack again right now, but thank you Bill for the "Trail Magic".

Gutsy arrived today, also known as Wrong Way Johnson. She is incredibly fast having left Springer on March 27th but her claim to fame is a wrong turn at Brown Fork Shelter where she mistakenly headed South. She is intimately familiar with Stecoah Gap having had more than one visit that day. Gives me chills to think of that climb again.

Godfather and Turtle arrived and stayed with us at the inn. Big hiker dinner at Quincy's. Discussed plans to leave Damascus ... some day.

Day 58 4/28/96 Sunday no miles

General lazy day. Yoda left for trail today but ET and Turtle stayed. Cheese Girls are not all together now.

More hikers in to replace those back on the trail. We are leaving in the morning for sure, staying any longer would be harmful to our hiking rhythm.


The PUR-HIKER filter has been flawless. We have not suffered any illness. It has never clogged. We use it regularly and probably do not have to replace the filter cartridge as yet, but just to be safe, have done so in Damascus. Only one time, after a very cold night, did it fail to pump. Simply a small amount of water put into the pump for priming solved the problem. The water is clear and enjoyable with no chemical taste or odor.

Some hikers, not wanting to take the time for filtering, elect to use iodine tablets. We like the pure taste of filtered water. We think the PUR Hiker has been a good choice.


Into Virginia...The Reports Continue.
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