One month ago today I walked away from Linda, Lisa, and Scotty to begin my thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. Today after a 13.0 mile hike, I have now covered 429.3 miles, or just under 20% of the trail. As I reflect on the first month, I continue to be humbled by the number of people who are reading my journal. I greatly appreciate all the comments, emails, and text messages, and hope that they will continue. I wish I could respond to each; however, little time is available during my very structured day. On most mornings I’m up by 6:00, hiking by at least 8:00, and too tired to do much in the evening other than write, call family, and rest. Still, all is well.
Molar Man and I hit the trail this morning at a little after 7:00. From the outset, many large rocks, including several rock stair steps, forced us to be careful and hike a little more slowly. The cascading waters of Laurel Falls highlighted the early morning. The rocky trail literally almost touched the fast moving stream. The sounds of the falls could be heard far up the trail. Past the falls the trail began to ascend. We hiked steadily up for over two miles with an elevation gain of over 1700 feet.
The ascent was followed by a descent all the way to US 321 where Diane was waiting with Molar Man’s lunch and a cold drink for me. The park adjacent to the Shook Branch Recreation Area still revealed signs of recent flooding. Partially submerged picnic tables dotted the area. Signs had been posted indicating a 0.3 mile detour since water covered portions of the trail around the Lake Watauga. I wondered what fish might be in the beautifully blue lake as I thought about my brother. Don would have liked Lake Watauga.
After making our way around the lake, Molar Man and I hiked on to where a dam crossed the water. The trail followed a paved road for almost half a mile. When we finally returned to the woods, the terrain was relativity flat for the remainder of the hike. Due to the shorter distance, we finished today’s walk at around 2:00. We had seen only three other hikers all day. Two were out for the day, and the other was a southbound section hiker. It has seemed rather odd that we have seen so few hikers the past three days.
When we arrived at the Wilbur Dam Rd., Diane was waiting. Since I would be departing from Molar Man and Diane today, they offered to drive me to the Appalachian Folk School, where I will be staying the next two nights. Warren Doyle, an author and the record holder for the most thru hikes of the Appalachian Trail, welcomes hikers into his home on a work for stay basis only. When Molar Man, Diane, and I arrived, we found a note on bis back door indicating that he was out for a short hike, but that I could make myself at home and look around the house. After a brief walk through the house, my two friends of a week drove away. It’s been great getting to meet and hike with Molar Man. I hope to see him again on up the trail.
Since when I spoke with Warren on the phone yesterday he had told me I could pick up sticks in his yard, I went ahead and began. About an hour later Warren returned and gave me a tour of the premises. In addition to his residence, the Old Donnely House, there are cabins, the school, a dance pavilion, and a red barn. Warren also showed me where his new dance facility is being erected. After the tour I spent about another hour and a half moving some lumber. Needless to say, the hike and the manual labor made for a tiring day. Bed time came early for the weary hiker after another rewarding day on the Appalachian Trail.