Posts Tagged With: appalachian trail


Excerpts from Bill Dryson’s Walk In The Woods as he prepares for walking the Appalachian Trail after he discovers a good back pack costs $250, it isn’t water proof, sleeping bags require a stuff sack, straps to strap things to the back pack are extra, plus he needs a ground cloth and a raincover.

“I ended up with enough equipment to bring full employment to a vale of sherpas-a three seasons tent, self-inflating sleeping pad, nested pots and pans, collapsible eating utensils, plastic dish, cup and complicated pump-action water purifier, seam sealer, stuff sacks, patching kit, bungee cords, water bottles poncho, waterproof matches, compass/thermometer key ring, a little collapsible stove, gas bottle, hands free flashlight, long johns, undershirts, bandannas, snake bite kit, sewing kit, a small orange shovel for burying your poop, and a big knife for killing bears and hillbillies. The orange plastic spade seemed to shout:  “Greenhorn! Sissy! Make way for Mr. Buttercup!”

Thus committed, he repaired to a book store and bought hikers handbooks, books on wildlife and natural history, and a series of 11 paperbacks with fifty-nine maps covering the trail, for $233.45 for the set. Then, he spotted a book called Bear Attacks: Their causes and Avoidance. 

After he got home with his booty, he began to tremble and told himself this wouldn’t be so bad, but secretly, he thought otherwise.

Hmmm! Expensive, yes. But, carrying all that stuff while walking? Well, certainly I would have to have my new hip, and get myself into shape again, and do some practicing with a heavy pack. Hey, if Hilda can do it, and others like her, surely this isn’t an impossible goal  for me. Let’s see what happens as Dryson hits the trail. And, I have to contact Hilda. I know her email address is on my other machine. Gotta find Hilda.

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Goals come and go or  they change with the passing years. When I was a kid, I wanted hair as long as this woman.  Now I’m quite happy with short hair. At one time it was my goal to parachute from an airplane and try hang gliding. My husband convinced me it was unfair to risk leaving my children without a mother if something went wrong. I never regretted rearranging my goals over the years because life was so full of wondrous things.

I first considered walking  the Appalachian Trail about  25 years ago, but it wasn’t a fire-breathing dragon goal, just a simmer at the back of the brain.  The length of the trail, which stretches from Maine to Georgia, is about 2,150 miles. Pretty daunting when you realize you have to carry everything with you, cooking utensils, tent, emergency medical kit, food, water. Adventurists who have done it term it a  life changing experience.

That goal re-emerged when I met a friend of Jim’s who is walking the Appalachian Trail in pieces.  Hilda is in her late 70’s, a former marine and in good health. She walks with two other women bit, by bit, mile by mile, each year. There are others who tackle the entire length, which takes around 5 months.  Jim and I have entered small areas of the trail while traveling the East Coast. Once in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, and again at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and several places on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The urge began to stir anew. Good health is key to a 2,000 mile hike no matter how you do it.

Last night, we went to a seminar on hip, knee and shoulder replacements. I’m a candidate for hip replacement. I know I can’t walk the trail without doing something about an arthritic hip. I was amazed at what I learned about hip replacement, including an opinion from one participating surgeon that surgically replacing hips will be a thing of the past in possibly 20 years. I can’t wait that long for new technology. Now, is the time.

Pain is a motivator. For me, a greater motivator to consider hip replacement  surgery, is the current book I’m reading, Bill Bryson’s, A Walk In The Woods. Bryson walked the  Appalachian Trail in a five month stretch. I’m hoping that someone out there has walked the trail and will message me about their experience.  And, I will post some of Bryson’s  observations as I read. I’m also looking for a walking companion because this is not on Jim’s agenda.

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From Mary’s Desk”

Someone may quarrel about what road is America’s best road, but for Jim and I,  its the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Dr.  Despite the rain and the mists and the haze (partly from air pollution), we hated to descend into the land of stoplights, sirens, traffic and, well, life in the fast lane.

Our last night, at Big Meadows Campground was bathed in light after the rain of the previous day. Wooded campsites, knee deep in wildflowers, spacious and comfortable. Our lovely temporary yard.

On the road, bicyclers and motor cycle enthusiasts were out in numbers. We never heard loud motor cycles. Its as though their machines recognize the wonder of this peaceful drive.

We stopped at the Big Meadow Visitors Center. The Big Meadow is visible outside the window where 11 deer were grazing. When the Shenandoah National Park was under construction, the construction crews and one  CCC Camp set up in this big meadow. This park had five CCC Camps working here. The first CCC Camp was nearby, as an experiment, to see how the project would work. It worked very well and gave some of the mountain people that lived in the park, employment as well. It was a time when hog cholera, the depression, and a horrible drought hit the area and many mountain people appreciated the work though not the eminent domain that eventually took their lands.

Shenandoah was built with more private funds from the states than government funds. A government parks commission, made up of movers and shakers, along with Virginia’s Governor Byrd, got the project moving when they invited President Hoover to visit the area. He was “hooked”. An avid trout fisherman, he loved the area and bought 165 acres and built a cabin on it. The cabin was a four mile hike in and we didn’t visit it although its available to visitors and is part of the park system now.

The Massanutten Resort, built in the late 1800’s, was one of the most popular places for the affluent people to escape the nearby cities where population was swelling and automobiles were everywhere. The first national parks were in the west, where nature was preserved and population was thin. It was a new concept to make a park so near the heavily  populated city areas. The ridge line road  was carved out of these Eastern mountain ranges, yet still preserves nature in all of its glory, quite a feat. The Appalachian Trail was realigned in some places to make way for the motor cars, and what we have is a grand place with over 500 miles in hiking trails, campgrounds, beautiful rivers, waterfalls, overlooks to horizon to horizon mountain views, and peace-giving nature not far from the cities.

We saw part of the Appalachian Trail and many backpack laden walkers using this great resource. The beauty of it is that you can walk it all or just a short part of it on a weekend.

We were saddened to see it come to an end. Back to the world of traffic and noise and all those things we can’t do without. A laundromat, a wonderful Martin’s Grocery Store in Front Royal where you can buy already prepared foods, and good bread. And, best of all, a visit with Glen and Karen Littlefield, with new grandbabies, I’ve never met.

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From Mary’s desk:
The Great Smoky Mountains is an old place of rounded, worn peaks. The slow moving glaciers that flattened and scraped the areas of North America above this range, forced wildlife, plants and seeds south where they settled and adapted into this temperate climate. I recognized  trees, bushes, and wild flowers from my native Michigan, considered a cold climate, next to magnolias, tulip trees, spice bush, (below) and orchids typical of southern climes.

The Last of The Mohicans was filmed in the Great Smoky Mountains. Grandfather rock formations, giant waterfalls, rippling streams, miles of hovering smoky vistas, the stunning scenery from that movie hung in my dreams for many years. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park was NOT that place, however.  It was filmed in these mountains far south of where we are parked. Rent the movie if you can’t go. We are going to watch it again.

You can have one foot in North Carolina and the the other in Tennessee at the New Found Gap Dedication Center at the summit.
A surprise for me was that the Appalachian Trail goes right through the park. I have a friend who is walking the trail in segments, a little bit each year, and she is in her 80’s.  What a legacy we have in this park. Jim and I walked the trail into each state for a short distance and happened upon John Reingold from Georgia hiking up from Fontana Dam, about halfway through the park.

Young and strong, he carries his pack with everything to eat, sleep, and drink. It took him four days to get this far. On this morning, he had already walked for over 4 hours.

The trail is rough and tumble, steep and narrow in places, trees fall on the trail. Its closed in two spots during the winter. We were pleased to find it alive with wildflowers as we wandered deeper and deeper into the canyon.

This park happened because people with foresight were alarmed at the fast disappearing landscape as commercial loggers stripped millions of miles clean of everything in sight. Congress authorized the park in 1926 and established it in 1934 after donations,  private groups, and the States of Tennessee and North Carolina raised enough funds to buy the lands needed to make it possible.

The wonder of science… In 1983 the Great Smoky National Park was recognized as a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve because of its amazing diversity. The park visitors center museum  at the Sugarland entrance has stunning portraits of insects, butterflies, and flowers. The diverse animal life, birds and plants are showcased as “live” specimens in dioramas.

To see all 45 pictures you can see my album at the link below:

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Jim says:

Size-wise, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is quite small in comparison to other National Parks I have visited in my years of travel. More or less, it’s about 30 miles wide and 60 miles long. Nonetheless it has more than 1,500 different flowering pants, dozens of native fish, over 200 species of birds and 60 of mammals. According to the brochure, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the nation.

Our day began at the southern entrance to the park, at the Oconaluftee Visitor Center where we obtained a map and got some road information.

No commercial vehicles are allowed in the park.

A steep climb brought us to the summit at Newfound Gap, elevation 5,046 feet where the states line of North Carolina and Tennessee meet.

North Carolina is on the right and Tennessee is on the left.

The 2,174 mile Appalachian Trail passes through Newfound Gap.

We walked it for about 500 feet and now we can proudly say “we walked the Appalachian Trail!”

The best views were at Newfound Gap.

The Cherokee Indians described these mountains as shaconage meaning “blue, like smoke.”

A steep descent brought us to the northern entrance Sugarland Visitor Center. It’s somewhat larger than the southern entrance visitor center.

We watched a 20 minute film about the Smokies then went through their great museum where they present information about many of the animals and plants found in the park.

We strolled along a one-mile nature trail to a small waterfall. The afternoon became quite hot.

Mary cools her feet.

To see the other 34 photos I took, click this link…

Here’s the officaial government website link…

Here’s a Wikipedia informational link…

We left the park and passed through the touristy town of Gatilnburg, Tennessee. About 20 miles to the northeast we re-entered the park and spent the night at the Cosby Campground where it was really hot. “YUK” said the weather wimp…that’s me! A cold front weather system is supposed to arrive this area today and I’m ready for a little bit cooler weather!

All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2010
For more information about my three books, click this link:

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