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”!

5 Responses to “Trail Report – April 8 (271 miles)”

  1. Kayla Says:

    That is the greatest song ever! I just came across your blog today and followed up on it, I plan to hike a week of the AT in mid May, starting at Springer Mtn. I wish you the best of luck, and it’s awesome that you’ve already experienced trail magic! Good luck Braid!

  2. Sue Anne Says:

    Hi Joe,
    So glad to hear you’re doing well and enjoying your hike! I’ve been enjoying your blog, though it was really weird for me to read “Elizabeth and her husband, Matthew”, as I’m sure it was just as weird for you to type it. Glad you were able to see them and enjoy some good food. Good luck with the rest of your hike!
    Sue Anne

  3. Nick Lehman Says:

    Hey Joe! Apparently I just missed you on the Trail. I spent a few days of spring break hiking from Hot Springs to Sam’s Gap (I-26). I looked for Braid in the shelter journals and saw that you had stayed at Jerry Cabin and Hogback Ridge just two days before me. I hope your shins feel better! If you need some expert advice on them, I’m sure Thomas Michell would be happy to hear from you :)
    Happy Trails!
    Nick

  4. meadow [colajar5@gmail.com] Says:

    My husband and I live less than an hour from hot springs and run away there often. That little magical place is what turned us on to the AT. I am so jealous to see hikers come thru,all dirty and with a sweaty smile…when I have to return to reality. We hope to return soon and offer a bit of trail magic to the hikers.

  5. meadow [colajar5@gmail.com] Says:

    Oh yes,and the view from lovers leap was amazing. We renewed our vowes there.

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