Ridge Runner

I’m at a loss. I thought that it would be another few days until I would receive info, but it keeps coming in. I think having spent a week on the trail with Jack helps me to understand his tone and feelings a little better, but can’t you feel the emotion in how he misses his wife out there? I think it’s touching. 

March 9, 2008–New Found Gap (US 441) to Pack’s Corner Shelter (10.4 miles)
I had a late start today with US 441 closed due to yesterday’s snow storm. I did find someone to shuttle me out to the trail after the highway opened at 9:00am. It was a scary start with 20 degree weather and ice and snow on the trail. I would have fallen many times without my trekking poles. Beautiful, clear blue skies with gorgeous views! The Shelter is crowded tonight and a “Ridge Runner” is with us checking backwoods permits. — A Ridge runner is someone from the Forestry Service that makes sure the “rules” in the Smoky Mtns. are followed. He tells me I may have to tent tomorrow night because the shelter I want to stop at is full of “reserved” spots for spring break hikers. That’s OK – I may be warmer in the tent and I’m sure I’ll have more privacy.
March 10, 2008–Peck’s corner Shelter to Cosby Knob Shelter (12.9 miles)
I will remember today’s hike mainly for the ice and snow on the trail. The ice was the worst with ¼ mile segments of trail covered by ice requiring us to hike beside the trail. These icy segments reoccurred many times during the day. On the good side, there were many high mountain views. Also, a young college couple asked to hike with me today. They were Tyler and Lee. Tyler is in business school at Wake Forest and Lee is studying ecology at U.N.C. They were good companions. I reached Elaine by cell phone tonight to tell her I’m OK. Hope to see her in Hot Springs, N.C. this week-end.
March 11, 2008–Cosby Knob Shelter to Standing Bear Farm (10.4 miles)
I tented out last night. The privacy was nice. It took about 15 minutes to set up and take down everything. Today’s hike took me out of the Smokies! It was a generally pleasant mostly downhill day for a change. I forgot to mention that I met “Skipper” a southbound thru-hiker last night. He started in the summer of 2007, but interrupted his hike because of his wife’s illness. She’s OK now so he’s hoping to reach Springer Mountain in early April.
Standing Bear Farm, where I’m staying tonight, is a rustic hiker hostel, but has hot water and a bed which sound good to me. I made photos of my cabin and the bunk house. Hope to get an early start tomorrow.
March 12, 2008–Standing Bear Farm to Roaring Fork Shelter (14.6 Miles)
Got an early start to put some miles behind me. The day began with a 3 ½ hour climb to the top of Snowbird Mountain where I made a photo of a conical white structure I believe is used in aircraft navigation. The day was sunny, but a cold wind was blowing. By mid-afternoon I had reached the summit of Max Patch, a former logging camp and farm for grazing cattle. It’s unique in that about 400 acres of high mountain top is cleared of trees and the 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains is spectacular. I’m in camp tonight with 3 nice young men from Charlotte, N.C. (Brandon, Blake, and Ben – I made their photo). They were full of questions about hiking the A.T. I plan another long day tomorrow. [Below is a view from Max Patch courtesy of images.google.com]

Max Patch view
March 13, 2008–Roaring Fork Shelter to Hot Springs, N.C./Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn (18.8 miles)
Today was a good hiking day. The weather was warmer. I knew this because I was not shivering when I changed from my sleeping clothes to my hiking clothes. It’s important to keep my sleeping (camp) clothes dry to avoid being cold in camp at night. With an early start the miles fell away. No spectacular views today, certainly nothing to compare with Max Patch yesterday. I intended to camp at the last shelter before Hot Springs, but the shelter was old (vintage 1939) and in poor repair, so I hiked another 4 miles to town and am staying at a local hiker spot tonight. “Elmer” is a local character who is into organic vegetarian meal. I arrived too late for dinner, but look forward to his special breakfast! I will try to do some hiker shopping for provisions tomorrow morning. Elaine is to arrive after lunch. I’ve missed her a lot. Cell phone calls can only do so much.
Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn

Picture is of the Sunnybank Inn. Well, we’re officially out of the Smokies and on to Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests until Damascus and Virginia. Currently running about a week behind him update-wise, but at the rate they’re coming in, we might catch-up soon.


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