March 27, 2018…Day 22 Cody Gap to Fontana Dam

Tented at Cody Gap last night, at around 4:00 am it started to rain. I Laid in my tent listening to the rain hitting my rain fly. Sometime during the next couple hours the rain stopped.

The weather forecast called for thunder storms to arrive about noon. Even though it was still dark, I used my light to pack up and started hiking while it was still dark, hopping to beat the storm. It was about 7:00 am when I left and I had 8 miles to cover before the storm hit.

Well around 9:00 am the rain cut loose. The weather man was wrong, can you believe that!

Nothing to do but hike. But a March rain is cold and miserable. Finally made it to Fontana Dam and got a room at the Lodge. Resupplied for the next five days through the Smoky’s, did laundry, got a shower and ate a big meal at the restaurant.

Now kicked back in my room watching the Buckeyes.

Life is good


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March 26, 2018…Day 21 Sassafras Gap Shelter to Cody Gap

Well it started out just me and another hiker at Sassafras Gap Shelter yesterday evening, but 18 more hikers showed up, filling the shelter and there were a half dozen tents set up.

Hiked 13 miles today and set up my tent at a camp site called Cody Gap. It’s supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow but I’m only 8 miles from Fontana Dam where I can get a room to dry out and resupply for the Smoky’s.

Today’s hike wasn’t to bad except for a section call Jacob’s Ladder. It kicked but butt last time and it did it again this time.


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March 25, 2018…Day 20 Nantahala Outdoor Center to Sassafras Gap Shelter

Was dropped off at the Nantahala Outdoor Center at 9:00 am and after purchasing some fuel for my alcohol stove I started hiking north again, this time with my full pack.

My destination today was the Sassafras Gap Shelter, eight miles up the trail.

This was an all day up hill hike. The mountain seemed to go on and on. Every time I thought I was almost at the top, it would be a false summit and I’d find myself climbing higher. Finally after five hours of hiking I made it to the shelter.

Going to sleep in the shelter tonight to stay out of the wind which is blowing pretty hard. The good news is the low is only supposed to go down to 38 degrees.

Another reason I didn’t want to put up my tent is their calling for rain maybe tonight, and I didn’t want to mess with packing up a wet tent.

So far only me and one other hiker at the shelter.

Should be entering the Smoky Mountains in two day.


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March 14, 2018…Day 19 Burningtown Gap to Nantahala Outdoor Center

Was dropped off at Burningtown Gap about 10:00 am and climbed up to Copper Ridge Bald. I hiked on top of a ridge for a couple miles before dropping down to Tellico Gap.

At the Gap I was met by two Trail angels who completed their thru-hike last year. The young mans Trail name is Bismarck, and I’m sorry to say I can’t remember his girlfriends Trail name. They met on the Trail last year and have been together ever since.

They had donuts, pop, beer, coffee and fresh fruit.

I had a beer and a glazed donut, needed the sugar boost for the next climb. Lol

There were three hikers already there when I arrived, and two more popped out of the woods while I was there. I hiked several hours without seeing another hiker, thinking I was the only one for miles. Turns out the woods was full of hikers, we were just spread out hiking the same pace.

Upon talking to a couple of the hikers who had stayed at the shelter over night. They advised the temps got down in the single digits and the wind chill factor brought the temps down to -4. They said nobody got any sleep.

I’m soooo glad I slack packed these last couple day, getting in miles but sleeping in the Hostel at night.

Tomorrow I start carting my full pack again, but the temps are reported to be warmer.

My shuttle was arranged to pick me up at the Nantahala Outdoor Center at 3:30.

I arrived at 3:40 after a 13 mile hike. Not bad timing.


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March 13, 2018…Day 18 Wayah Gap to Burningtown Gap

Started my hike from Wayah Gap and had a immediate climb.

Except for the trail itself, the ground was covered in a light snow. The snow was also sticking to the tree branch’s and made for a pretty hike.

After about four miles I reached The Top Of Wayah Bald and the stone tower that sits on top.

A fire had burned most of this area and the stone tower was in the process of being repaired.

I remember five years ago standing in front of this tower with a thru hiker called bubblegum, someone was snapping a photo of us.

All the trail I’ve hiked so far this year, I hiked back in 2013. But even though I’ve hiked over this same ground, the experiences each day are so different.

A thru-hiker named “Baltimore Jack Tarlin” had thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail nine tines. He’s quoted as say that thru-hiking the trail is like going to your favorite movie theater and watching a different movie each time.

I whole heartily agree.


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March 12, 2018…Day 17 Rock Gap to Wayah Gap

Caught the 11:00 am shuttle to Rock Gap and started hiking north again in a light snow. The trail today was mostly free of roots and rock which made for a pleasant day of hiking.

After eight miles I climb to the top of Siler Bald. The views were great, but the cold and wind made my visit on the top a short one!

There is a lot of history in this area, part of that being the Cherokee Indian tribe who lived here. I wish I had more time to visit some of the museums. Perhaps if I make it back this way again.

I can feel myself getting stronger each day now. I’m starting to get my routine down and feel myself slipping back into that Trail life. Spring will be here soon, things will be blooming. I keep looking forward to each new day.


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March 11, 2018…Day 16 Franklin NC

Zero day in Franklin NC.

Walked to the Currahee Brewing Company and ordered a greasy cheese burger smothered in mushrooms and onions. Along with the cheese burger I had fries and one of the house beers. Was fabulous!

Caught a 4:00 pm shuttle to the Wal-Mart and resupplied for the next days. I was also able to purchase a new battery pack to replace the one that went bad. Should have plenty of power out in the woods.

Hope to be slackpacking these next three days.


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March 10, 2018…Day 15 Franklin, NC

Rain, snow and cold weather is predicted for the next four days so I’ve decided to stay in Franklin NC at Baltimore Jacks Hostel and arrange to slack pack until Wednesday.

A shuttle driver will drop me off at a road crossing and I’ll hike approximately 10 miles to a trail head and the shuttle will pick me up and bring me back to the Hostel. Next day will do it again, moving further up the trail each day. Will do this for three days.

This will let me keep hiking up the AT with out being out in the extreme weather.

Going to catch a 4 o’clock shuttle to the Wal-Mart and see is I can purchase a new battery bank. The one I have now bit the dust.

Buckeye out.

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March 9, 2018…Day 14 Carter Gap Shelter to Rock Gap mile 105.5

Woke to another cold morning and got started about 8:00 am. After about 20 minutes of hiking the toes and fingers warmed up.

It snowed the first several hours today. I kind of enjoy hiking while it’s snowing, the woods is quite and peaceful. The only downside is the snow makes the rocks slick.

My hike today led me up Alberts Mountain which has a fire tower on top and great views of the whole mountain range.

The top of Alberts Mountain also marks the 100 mile mark of my hike.

I finished my 12 mile hike today at Rock Gap and for $3.00, garbed a transit bus into Franklin, North Carolina.

Rented a room at the Safire Inn, and plan to wait out a storm coming through.


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March 8, 2018…Day 13 Muskrat Creek Shelter to Carter Gap Shelter

Made it to Carter Gap Shelter a 13 mile day.

Will write more on this day when I get to Franklin in two days. Batteries are all low on charge from the cold.

The temps got down to the teens overnight, but I slept nice and warm.

The first thing I do when I get to camp is set up my tent. I then blow up my sleep pad and lay out my 20 degree down mummy sleeping bag. Inside my sleeping bag I put in a sea-to-summit liner, this adds 5 to 10 degrees to my sleeping bag.

I wear some merino wool leggings with my rain pants over these. I also wear a merino wool long sleeve shirt with a goose down jacket over the shirt and my rain jacket over these. Next I cover my feet with a thick pair of wool socks and my head with a beanie.

This sleep system keeps me warm and toasty. It’s only in the early morning when it’s time to start packing up that is the most miserable part of the whole day.

It takes a lot of effort to climb out of the warm sleeping bag!

Although I have gloves, it’s hard to handle the small buckles and strings with them on. So I work for 20 or 30 seconds tearing down and packing up, then I have to blow on the fingers and place them under my arm pits until I get feeling back, then work for another 20 or 30 seconds, and repeat.

All the while it looks like I’m sort of doing jumping jacks trying to get feeling back into my toes.

Once I get to hiking it doesn’t take long before everything warms up and the day begins.

Sleeping at night is warm and cozy and hiking through the day is fun. It’s just that 30 to 45 minutes in the early morning that pure misery!

Doing great and loving the hike!


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March 7, 2018..Day 12 Dicks Creek Gap to Muskrat Creek Shelter

After breakfast took the 8:00 am shuttle from Top Of Georgia Hostel back to the Trail head.

My goal today was to hike 11 miles to Muskrat Creek Shelter. On the way I leafy the state of Georgia and entered North Carolina.

One state down, 13 to go.

Made it to Muskrat Creek Shelter and set up my tent. Going to wear everything I have in my backpack tonight, the temps are going down to 18 degrees tonight.

Going to sleep with my water filter and batteries tonight to keep them from freezing.


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March 6, 2018…Day 11 Top Of Georgia Hostel

Took a zero day at the Top Of Georgia Hostel.

Woke up at 7:00 am and walked from the bunkhouse to the main office for breakfast of cereal and coffee.

After breakfast I went on line and printed out my permit for the Smoky Mountains.

Then relaxed and visited with other hikers. One thru-hiker named Romin has a service dog named Harley. Harley is hiking the Trail also and took a well deserved nap on his owners lap.

At 1:00 pm I took the shuttle into Hiawassee Ga., were I got something to eat, then walked over to Ingles and resupplied for the next four days. This should get me to my next resupply in Franklin NC.

Tomorrow I head back out to the trail. No rain forecasted for the next couple days, but it is supposed to get down into the teens the next few nights. I guess I’ll be testing out my cold weather gear.


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March 5, 2018..Day 10 Tray Mountain Shelter to Dicks Creek Gap.

Woke up to a beautiful sunrise this morning and after packing up got started around 8:00 am.

My plan for today was to hike 11 miles to Dicks Creek Gap and try to get a bunk at the Top Of Georgia Hostel.

The weather report is calling for rain starting tonight, and continuing through tomorrow. If I can snag a bunk, I might take a zero day and let the rain pass.

Hiked off and on today with Bacon, Chick-A-Pea, Sunshine, Big Bunny, and Autumn.

Made it to Dicks Creek Gap and then only had a 1/2 mile road walk to the Top Of Georgia Hostel.

As soon as I walked in they asked if I cared for a coffee or coke? This was on the House, nice.

I was able to secure a bunk, $30.00 each night, and for five more dollars they did my laundry.

They have a shuttle service the takes hikers into town and then picks them up in a couple hours. I was planning on taking advantage of this until the lady said a church group that had done Trail magic at Unicoi Gap fixing hamburgers dropped off all the extra for any hikers who wanted them. This was the same Trail angels the I ran into yesterday.

What a score!! I fixed myself three hamburgers with onion, ketchup and mustard. They also left a apple pie for dessert.

Tomorrow I’ll take the shuttle to town to resupply for the next four days and maybe hit the Mexican restaurant.

Buckeye signing out.

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March 4, 2018…Day 9 Blue Mountain Shelter to Tray Mountain Shelter

Vapor and his wife Boss made it to Blue Mountain Shelter last night. I mentioned this thru-hiking couple before, Vapor is blind and they gave me my Trail name of Buckeye.

So I guess it’s official, I’m keeping pace with a blind guy.

Joking aside, this couple is an inspiration to all the hikers out here.

Packed up and was out of camp around 8:30 am. Today I hiked down from the top of Blue Mountain to Unicoi Gap which is a Trail head.

A group of Trail angels were fixing hamburgers for all the hikers passing through. While I was there at lest 20 hikers were enjoying the feast.

I myself had two hamburgers with all the fixings the bun would hold.

I also met a thru-hiker wearing a Michigan hat, and of course I was wearing my Buckeye hat.

Turns out he is a retired State Police officer from Michigan. His wife gave him the Trail name “Bacon” lol.

I then start talking to another thru-hiker who was enjoying a burger and he’s retired FBI, stationed 7 years out of the Cleveland office.

Now we know where old retired cops go.

The hamburgers helped power me up Stone Mountain which was a slog! Then I hiked down Stone Mountain and up Tray Mountain, which was a slog!

Although the hiking was a lot harder today then it was yesterday, the weather was just as beautiful.

There is nothing blocking your views into the woods, no leaves, no underbrush, you see deep into the forest down the mountain side, just the giant trees casting their shadows across the brown carpet of leaves.

It was another wonderful day.

I’m camped on top of Tray Mountain in my tent. Had a mountain house meal of sweet and sour pork, and ready for bed.

Buckeye signing off.

Sun rise on top of Tray Mountain

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March 3, 2018..Day 8 Low Gap Shelter to Blue Mountain Shelter

Packed up and left Low Gap Shelter around 8:30 am.

It was cold starting off, 29 degrees, but it soon warmed up into the low 50’s.

Sun was shining again today and not a cloud in the sky. The hike to the next shelter was only seven miles with no big ups or downs. It was one of those hikes you wish you could hit the rewind button and do it all over again.

About half way through my hike today I was met by a dog. It was a real friendly hound and had some type of electronic collar around its neck.

He walked down the Trail with me and in about a hundred yards met his owner who had two other hounds. I learned that these were hunting hounds being trained to hunt wild hogs. Apparently the season came in two weeks ago. I guess I’ll need to keep my eyes open for wild hogs along with bear.

Made it to Blue Mountain Shelter around 1:30 pm. , set up my tent and fixed some instant potato’s with tuna, and snickers candy bar for dessert.

Blue Mountain Shelter sets up on a mountain. From my tent I can see out over the whole mountain range, this is so far the most beautiful spot I’ve camped at. Think I’ll stay up tonight and watch the sunset.

Buckeye signing off.

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March 2, 2018..Day 7 Neels Gap to Low Gap Shelter

Left the hostel at around 7:30 am and hiked in blue sky’s with the sun shining down.

Along the trail I found somebody’s water filter bag. The owner probably doesn’t know he lost it. I placed it in my pack in hopes of returning it to the owner.

After hiking 7 miles I came to Hogpen Gap, and at the trailhead was a guy named Mark who was giving out Trail magic.

Mark had hiked the AT back in 2013 and made it as far as Vermont before leaving the trail to go back to collage.

While I was enjoying a coke, gummy bears, and a oatmeal cream cookie, three other young thru-hikers arrived. I overheard them telling Mark they were from Cincinnati Ohio. The three are all brothers, Zac, Ben and Jeremy.

We had a good time visiting and all though one of them was a graduate from the University of Cincinnati, I turned on the charm and had them spell out O. H. I. O. with me.

When I later checked the photo I discovered the the two guys in the center both formed the letter H. I’m wondering if they did that on purpose? Lol

I continued hiking and arrived at Low Gap Shelter around 3:00 pm. An 11 1/2 mike day.

There are a lot of hikers here. The shelter is full, and about a dozen tents pitched. I’m sleeping in my tent tonight.

Sure enough I was able to find the guy who dropped his water filter bladder. He was glad to get it back, said he didn’t know what he was going to do for water with out it.

The only hiker I recognized was the young man named Jess who was at Woods Hole Shelter with me and Heart Burn. He said his new Trail name was “Nooner” because he’s always that last to leave the shelters.

That’s all for now.


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March 1, 2018…Day 6 Neels Gap

Another stormy day so I decided to secure me a bunk at the hostel and wait out the storm.

Purchased four days worth of food which should get me to Hiawasse Georgia when I hike out tomorrow. When I get there I’ll plan on staying at the Top Of Georgia Hostel where I can purchase and print out my permit for the Smoky Mountains.

Meeting a lot of nice hikers. Everybody in high sprits and excited to be getting their hikes started.

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February 28, 2018..Day 5. Neels Gap

Woke this morning to a cold rainy day and decided to take the day off from hiking

The weather forecast for today and tomorrow calls for rain and thunderstorms with winds up to 30 mph., and temps in the 40’s.

After this storm system pass’s through, it looks like nice weather for the next four days.

Right now everything I have is dry and clean, I my stay put again tomorrow and start hiking again after this storm front pass through.

This lay over also gives my left knee a chance to rest up, it was sore coming down from Blood Mountain.

Sometimes you need to be able to adjust your hike on the fly and not get tunnel vision on cranking out miles every day.

Met a thru-hiking couple from Jackson County, Ohio today, “Vapor and Boss”.

Whats amazing is the husband is blind. He will be the ninth blind person to every complete the Trail.

They gave me the Trail name “Buckeye”, this was the Trail name I had on my last hike. I guess it was just meant to be.

Hart Burn and I took a shuttle into Blairsville Georgia to a restaurant called Hole In The Wall and had supper.

That’s all I got for now.

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Johns Hollow Shelter to Brown Mountain Creek Shelter

Slept really well last night in my tent. Although its nice to get into a shelter during bad weather, I’d rather sleep in my tent when the weather is nice. There tends to be snorers in the shelters which interrupt your sleep.

Left John Hollow Shelter and started my climb up Big Rocky Row. Up on top I could look back down on the James River and the footbridge I had crosses just yesterday.

As I sat looking out over the mountains, taking in the vastness and there beauty, I wonder how anybody could possibly see in one life time all of this magnificent country of ours. I’m just thankful I’ve been blessed with this chance to see this part here and now.

At the top of Bluff Mountain is a monument to Ottie Cline Powell. On November 9, 1890, little Ottie Powell strayed away from Tower Hill School House. Ottie was 4 years 11 months old and monument was place exactly where the body was found a distance of 7 miles from the school.

Met several trail maintainer today. Volunteer groups clear blow downs, (trees blocking the trail), maintain the shelters and build bridges along with many other activities. Today they were cutting down the weeds next to the trail. Talked to them for awhile and let them know how much I appreciated all the fine work they did.

After a 18 mile day arrived at Brown Mountain Creek Shelter. Here tonight is Caboose and his 13 year old daughter, Sassafras. Sassafras is thru-hiking with her dad to raise money for their local food bank back home in Maine. I think that’s just amazing.

Ronnie B. heading north.

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