Blog section changes

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To make room for new sections of the blog, I have combined the Trail Map and the Interactive Trail Map tabs into a single Trail Maps tab. In this new MAPS section of the blog you’ll find both the full trail map and the interactive Google maps, accessible from the Subpages links in the sidebar of the page.

- Colin

new iPhone webclip icon

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joeliles-blog-icon-sample.jpgFor you iPhone users out there, I’ve created a webclip icon for bookmarking this page to your home screen. Just navigate to the blog from your iPhone using Safari, and click the “+” to “Add to Home Screen”. The icon should be automagically pulled from the site.

Trail Report – April 8 (271 miles)

Trail Report
trail map


elevation map


Dear friends,

Yep, you may have guessed it if you have been following the regional weather reports. I just experienced and survived a snow storm in the high Appalachians. More on that in just a bit. I continue to find myself in pressurized situations in trying to use computers with people lined up behind me. This causes me to rush and forget things I want to tell you. Last time, I meant to tell you about the feeling of hiking down from winter to spring all in one day when I came into Fontana. As I descended the mountain, wildflowers started appearing, including the one I was most looking forward to, the trillium. When I got down to Fontana Lake, I had to walk across the huge dam in order to enter the Smokies. Up in the Smokies, I told you about all the rainy weather, but I wanted to tell you about the day the weather broke and turned gorgeous for two days. On that first morning after eating my granola breakfast at sunrise, I hiked out of the shelter site to experience rime frost on all the trees. This happens when moisture from the clouds freezes on the trees. It was like walking in a crystal wonderland!

When I hiked down into Davenport Gap in leaving the Smokies, it was a repeat of the walking from winter to spring all over again. The wildflowers were beautiful. A strange thing though, I hiked under Interstate 40! That was a strange experience after all that wilderness. I hiked to a hostel for hikers called Standing Bear Farm. It struck me as kind of like a hippie commune for hikers. I took an ice cold shower, washed my clothes on an old timey washboard, and wrung the water out of the them with a ringer washer. I slept in a bunk house with 14 other hikers. This place had a great feeling of community to it.

That night in Standing Bear, we heard the weather report: 4 to 8 inches of snow in the higher elevations. My group of four hikers had a group meeting and decided to hike into winter once again. We hiked up to Max Patch Bald and endured blowing snow and 80 mile an hour winds levitra over the counter. Then, we hiked down to the Roaring Fork shelter. By then, the snow was really coming down. The shelter was so full of hikers that I pitched my tent. The next morning, I woke up to two feet of snow drifted around my tent. the temperature was 21 degrees F. The landscape was covered with at least 9 inches of snow every where. It was a little scarey to see this, but it was absolutely beautiful. Our entire camp hiked out together so as to not lose the trail. I brought up the rear so I could take photographs without slowing up the others. That day I did my longest hike, eighteen miles into Hot Springs, NC. I am now enjoying myself very much thanks to NCSSM alumnus Tyler Buckner who is from Madison County. I checked into the Iron Horse Inn, checked my cell phone for reception, and noticed I had a voice mail message. I checked it, and it was from Tyler telling me to go downstairs at the Iron Horse and ask the people down there to give me the envelope in the cash register drawer. I did this. The envelope had a gift certificate in it for dinner at the Iron Horse Restaurant and a soak in the mineral springs along with a foot treatment at the Hot Springs Spa. How did Tyler know I was upstairs? Strange things happen on the Appalachian Trail.

I am taking what is called a “zero day” today in Hot Springs. I am doing laundry. I switched my residence to the famous Sunnybank Inn run by Elmer Hall, an Appalachian Trail legend. I have been eating in the down home Smoky Mountain Restaurant. Tonight, I will be joined by my daughter, Elizabeth, and her husband Matthew for dinner at Elmer’s. This dinner will start off with a Passover Feast followed by one of Elmer’s famous vegetarian meals. Am I in heaven or what?

This may lead to two zero days! I am now at the 271.7 mile mark of my journey. I’ll let you know what happens in my next email. I’ll be hiking up into the high mountains again and headed toward the Nolichucky River.

I am finding the computer situations so stressful that I cannot deal with photos, but I have a solution! I am mailing another NCSSM alum, Colin Law, Class of 86, in Atlanta, a couple of CD’s with all my photos on them. Colin has volunteered to send out some of the best ones. I can’t wait for you to see the beautiful wildflowers and snow pictures.

Oh, when I got to the Sunnybank Inn this morning, I found two packages waiting for me. One was from Amy Sheck, biology teacher at NCSSM, and it was full of the food supplies I’ll need for the next 5 days in the wilderness. The other was from Dalton and Senora Lynch, Haliwa-Saponi Indian friends of mine. This package contained a pack of matches, a wad of lint from a clothes dryer, and several sticks of litard (sp.) wood. If you are not familiar with litard, it is the sap impregnated wood of the roots of the pine tree. It burns like it is soaked in gasoline! I am certain to have some nice campfires in my future.

All my best,

Braid, AKA Joe Liles

PS. Last night, there was an open mike at the Iron Horse Restaurant. I worked up my courage and took the stage, sharing a harmonica song first. Then I sang a song I composed on the Trail: The Appalachain Trail Thru-hikers’ National Anthem (with apologies to Francis Scott Key).

Oh-o say can you see
By the dawn’s early light
That our bear bags were still hanging
And so galantly streaming.

As my stove went whoosh, whoosh,
And I scratched my sore toosh
It gave me proof throught the night
That I hiked 18 miles.

In my headlamps bright glare
I could see it right there
That the shelter was full
of thru-hikers all snoring.

As we hike everyday
To the north we all say!
Our pain is forgotten
By the call of Katahdin.

The place was full of thru-hikers. They all cheered wildly. I am becoming an extrovert!

NOTE FROM COLIN: Amusingly, if you check the interactive map and zoom in a bit where Joe is now in Hot Springs…he’s just a short walk south to the tiny town of “Joe”!

Trail Report – April 5 (214 miles)

Trail Report
trail map


elevation map


Dear Friends,

I just climbed down out of the Smoky Mountains! My first three days were very challenging. I have determined that the Smokies are a formidable force! They make their own weather! Towns just below these magnificent mountains can be having fair weather with balmy temperatures, and at the higher elevations it can be snowing. My Smoky experience started out with three days of rain and spotty snow, roaring winds, and temperatures down to the high twenties. My last two days were absolutely gorgeous. So, the upshot is that all I could see was white for three days. Nevertheless, I got some dramatic photos. Finally, when the weather cleared I could see fabulous views in the distance. When I can find a computer in a non pressurized situation, I will share some of these photos with you.

In the Smokies, AT thru-hikers have to file a theoretical plan of which shelters they are going to stay in. And we have to stay in the shelters. This is because of bears. Some of the shelters even have chain link fences across the front to keep the bears out! I did not see any bears, although some of my hiker friends did. No one was ever threatened by a bear.

There’s an old Johnny Cash song, “I Walk the Line.” Well, for much of the last four days, I have been walking the line: the line between North Carolina and Tennessee. No kidding, sometimes the trail was like the edge of a knife with sheer drops to the left and right. If I looked to my left, I saw Tennessee, to the right North Carolina. That was when I could see something other than white. Even then, I often felt that I was in another world, a place high above the rest of the world.

The Smokies are different from the other mountains I have experienced. The mountains are bigger. The valleys are deeper. The weather is more extreme. And the elevation . . . far greater than anything else I will experience on the entire Appalachian Trail. Three days ago, I climbed Clingmans Dome at 6643 feet in altitude. It is the highest mountain on the Trail. It even has a space age observation tower on top. Of course, this was one of the days I was totally surrounded by clouds, so I could not see a thing. But it was still beautiful. The fir and hemlock forests in these high elevations are amazing. And when trees get blown over by high winds, they are soon taken over by various mosses. It is an environment of life, death, and renewal.

I will have to relate an amazing encounter that I had with my sister Rosalind’s son Jack. Jack is a graduate student in biomedical engineering at the University of Tennessee. Jack was to meet me at Newfound Gap, a highway crossing of the Trail, last Friday. He was to bring me a box of supplies to support the next part of my hike. We planned on him hiking with me a ways. When I hiked into the gap, the wind was blowing so hard I could hardly stand up. The fog was so thick, you could not see fifty feet. Even though I was only fifteen minutes past the time I told Jack I would be there, there was no sign of him anywhere indian generic propecia. I sought shelter in a heated men’s room. I tried leaving cell phone messages for Jack to tell him not to come, but I could not get through to him. An hour later when I was preparing to brave the weather and hit the trail, the door of the men’s room opened and in came Jack. He was as amazed as I was that we connected. I got my supplies, but we called off hiking together. I headed out and hiked ten miles to the next shelter. It was very challenging, but it proved to me that I can do more than I think I can sometimes. It also proved to me that someone is looking after me.

Tomorrow, I head toward Hot Springs, NC where I hope to rest for two days. But tomorrow the temperature is supposed to plummet and bring snow. Well, I need to have faith and push on.

All my best,

Braid, AKA Joe Liles

PS. My constant companion in the Smokies through rain and shine has been the Junko, a small gray colored bird, that gives me encouragement every day. It is out there in all conditions, just like me.