Trail Report – April 5 (214 miles)

Trail Report
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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.

10 Responses to “Trail Report – April 5 (214 miles)”

  1. Rob Caldwell [caldwell@ncssm.edu] Says:

    Best wishes pushing on in those extreme weather conditions. I hope the weather turns warmer/more pleasant for you. I hiked up Clingman’s Dome once as a boy scout and thought I would be blown off the side of the mountain, pack and all. It was rainy, foggy, snowy, cold. I have faith that if anyone can keep hiking in conditions like that, you can. I’ve enjoyed reading about your adventures. Thanks for posting.

  2. Chris Hibbard [chris@yoursmokies.com] Says:

    Just got quite a bit colder here in the Great Smoky Mountains National park since you passed through here. Was hiking in the Snow at Clingmans Dome today.

    We have about 2 bear per square mile here in the park and we do have problems with them at times (read about them here: http://www.yoursmokies.com/blackbearsinsmokies.html).

    All of the shelters in the GSMNP are gradually having the fencing removed in order to make campers more responsible by not feeding the bear through the chain link fence.

    Nothing changes ones outlook on life and the world such as what you are doing now. Just don’t get hooked like me!

    The SmokiesHiker for YourSmokies.com

  3. Liz & Spence McCachren [elizmccac@aol.com] Says:

    Joe, we live 10 minutes (by bike)from the Smokies, in Maryville. Hope you are now in Hot Springs, not on the summit: today was bitterly cold & wet. We wish you a wonderful continuation of your hike and look for more great stories & photos–thanks!

  4. Linda Koch [Linda.Koch@osumc.edu] Says:

    Discovered your blog just this evening. What a wonderful surprise! Joe, I wish you the best. Am drinking a wonderful cabernet this evening (even though it is a school night, so to speak, since it’s Monday) and am toasting to your continued success. I hope to be hitting the trail in 2015. I thought about St. Patrick’s day for a start, more for good luck than anything else. Your blog has made me reconsider an earlier starting date. I’ll be 56 and retired then. It’s cold here in Ohio (Columbus) today with a wind that demands notice. I’ve started paying close attention to the weather – different temperatures and moisture combinations. My thoughts are with you with this cold snap. I hope you are out of the worst of it soon. Colin – love the enhancements you’ve made to the blog! Joe – look forward to hearing more from you. This is one great blog.

  5. Dan Skotnicki [Subvet654b@aol.com] Says:

    Joe, I’m walking the trail along with many others who are unable to at this time,through you!!Thank You,God Bless!!I look forward to your trail reports.Dan

  6. Nancy Smith, NCSSM '86 Says:

    What perseverance! I am sending warmer springtime thoughts your way and can’t wait to see your photos. All the best, Joe!!

  7. Erika Fisher Lietzan Says:

    Joe, best wishes, I am enjoying reading the blog. — Erika (NCSSM ’85)

  8. Rita Sallee [rita.sallee@centre.edu] Says:

    Joe, hearing your stories of your hike through the Appalachians is awesome. I live in Kentucky and have wanted to go to the Appalachians my whole life! Although, I have been to Clingmans Dome and it is absolutely breathtaking. Safe journey to you.

  9. Janneke [parrishj@ncssm.edu] Says:

    The snow sounds absolutely gorgeous, but I’m glad you didn’t freeze to death in the snow. May your trail days be even happier and more beautiful!

  10. biggest country [slader@gmail.com] Says:

    I think walk the line is an awesome movie, it shows the great work of jonny cash in a great way and is an adequate way to pay him tribute.

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