#30:Hot Springs,North Carolina

Lover’s Leap,Hot Springs, NC

Today marks one month on the trail. Jesse is staying in a nice hostel for the night. After all the rain and mud he needed to dry his pack and himself out. Jesse decided to eat out for the first time on the trail and he was super excited about that. He ate fried pickles, fish and chips and washed them down with a couple Coronas. It was a well earned treat. The folks at the hostel also gave the thru-hikers Easter candy. It was a good day!

#29:Walnut Mountain Shelter

not so swanky a shelter

Jesse finished this leg at mile 261.8 and at an elevation of 4252. He had considered stopping at Roaring Fork Shelter (257.0) but then decided it was early enough in the day and he was wet and miserable but just wanting to get to Hot Springs as soon as possible so he pushed on putting in a 13.1 mile day.

Jesse didn’t re-up on too many supplies in Gaitlinburg because he was sick and nothing was sounding good to him. He has 1 days worth of food on him which is cutting it pretty darn close but he’ll hit Hot Springs tomorrow. I (Momma) sent a package there but I’m worried with the holidays it may get delayed until Monday. There is definitely a learning curve to timing food packages. His money is limited so it’s very important that we get his food to him when needed. UPDATE: Grandma McLaughlin has a box waiting for him in Hot Springs. She has this box thing down pat!

On the bright side, I called ahead and found a great hostel in hot Springs. http://www.sunnybankretreatassociation.org/ Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn and Hostel is staffed by former thru-hikers and has been hosting AT hikers since 1948. Cost is just $25 a night for a semi-private room (2 beds per room). From their website this place looks pretty sweet. They have a library and dvd room; a music room filled with various instruments that hikers can play; vegetarian family style served meals; it has a work for stay option and it’s located across from a Dollar General and The Smoky Mountain Diner. If vegetarian isn’t his cup of tea he can grab himself a 20 ounce burger at the Diner. It sounds obnoxious but I imagine quite a few thru-hikers have conquered that burger.

After Gaitlinburg the trailmily split up a bit which happens from time to time….some going slower others going faster. Jesse is with Little Skunk today. Snunk’s Dad dropped him off at Fontana Dam. His Dad got home and started thinking and decided, “If my son can do this than darn it so can I!!” So,his Dad just hopped on the trail and will eventually catch up with them. You go Pops!!

#28: Groundhog Creek Shelter

tiny shelter

Jesse hopped a late morning shuttle back to the trail. He is rested, blisters have all healed and he is feeling much better. His day started back at mile 239.1 and an elevation of 1975. The weather while he was off trail was perfect so of course the weather was miserable when he got back on. Lots of rain and the temperatures have dipped. His day ended at mile 248.7 at an elevation of 2897. It was a short day and the shelter wasn’t ideal but it was dry and not horribly crowded. This was one of his very few bad days.

#26 and #27: A well earned rest

mountain loft resorts

Jesse, Batman, The Hiking Vikings, The Wizard and Little Skunk are spending 3 days at Mountain Loft Resorts in Gaitlinburg. A gift from a dear friend. They are “living like Kings” as Jesse put it. Jesse took the trolley into town yesterday and walked around a bit. After weeks on the trails the noise and crowds were quite a shock to his system.He went to the grocery and bought steak,shrimp and asparagus to cook himself for dinner. Cheaper than eating out and he is really enjoying a fully functioning kitchen again. Jesse facetimed me and gave me the tour of their townhouse. He got the upstairs master suite to himself and his own bathroom and balcony. He was especially stoked about the huge tub.

First day was a nero day meaning he walked a few miles and took the rest of the day off. Yesterday and today are zero days meaning they traveled zero miles on the trail. Jesse has been up most of the night on Sunday getting sick. When the sun came up he pushed himself to get hiking so he could get to the resort. At first I suspected it may be altitude sickness but it now seems that someone in the crowded shelters had cooties and shared them. Jesse seemed to perk up a bit after a good shower and a meal but he had issues again yesterday and a bit today. Little Skunk is feeling punny as well. Jesse went to the local pharmacy and got some medication and is drinking plenty of Gatorade.

The Wizard and the Vikings got a later start on Sunday and exited the Smokey’s after the last shuttle so they slept along the roadside and grabbed the morning shuttle to the resort. The boys are enjoying the pool and hot tub but mostly they are enjoying being dry and being lazy.

Jesse said , unlike most trail towns, Gaitlinburg doesn’t really notice hikers. Jesse reports that they were sitting in the hot tub talking to some other guests and they asked Jesse and crew if they knew any nice places to hike around the area. When Jesse told them they were walking the AT from Georgia to Maine they were dumbfounded. They were looking for more of a 2 or 3 mile hike. Adorable!

A couple of my (Momma) friends asked about bears. Although is he definitely walking through bear territory he had not seen a single bear. Scrawny deer, cool lizards but no bear……until Gaitlinburg. Apparently a mother bear and her cubs enjoy a daily dip in the resort’s pool. Jesse just watched and laughed as Momma climbed over the fence by the pool.

Jesse purchased a pair of injinji performance toesocks. He reports they feel wonderful on his feet and have helped tremendously in preventing blisters.

The crew will be heading out in the morning and are hoping to put a lot of miles in before the rains return.

#25: Davenport Gap

Jesse just checked in with us. He finished the Smokey’s at mile 239.1 and an altitude of 1975. There was a drastic change in weather as he hiked down the mountains. He went from wet and ice and cold to warm sun.

This is the point of the trail he has been looking forward to all week. He and his traimily have been gifted a 3 day stay at MountainLoft resorts from a very sweet friend of mine. At this writing Jesse is just waiting for their unit to be cleaned. He was up most of the night getting sick and although he is fine today he is in need of a good nap. The other members of his trailmily are behind him but will be joining him soon. Batman rented a car for a couple of days so Jesse didn’t have to worry about paying for a shuttle from the trail to the resort. After 3 1/2 weeks of hiking up and down mountains a 3 day rest is going to feel like heaven. A time to rest,heal and rejuvenate. The hot tub will get plenty of use.

Jesse has had horrible phone reception this past week. He will be making phone calls to friends and family at some point during this down time. I’m sure he’ll be sending me lots of video.

#24: Tri-Corner Knob Shelter

The Wizard, Tree Man and The Hiking Vikings

Jesse ended his day at 223.4 miles and at an elevation of 5895. The weather on the mountain is miserable. Jesse reports that it was very cold and everything this morning was covered in a thin layer of ice. He also got up multiple times in the middle of the night to throw up. It is likely a bit of altitude sickness. One more day and goodbye Smokey Mountains!

#23: Pecks Corner Shelter

fire tower

Another shorter hike today. He ended the day at mile 218.2 at an elevation of 5556. He is running into a lot of section hikers in this area. So many people to maneuver around and the shelters are filling up fast. The section hikers are taking up spots in shelters so the thru-hikers are being pushed out. The privies at the shelters are also being redone but not expected to be completed until next month so they are having to dig their own. From the little bit of communication we had today it sounds like he will be exiting the Smokey’s Sunday evening or Monday morning. The group is looking forward to a nice break in Gaitlinburg and that day has been extended a day. They have the resort from the 15th-17th now. (thank you…you know who you are!) A wonderful break before heading across Virginia which is the state with the most miles to cross on the AT at 550.3.

#22: Icewater Spring Shelter

shelter living

Jesse had a shorter day today. In the Smokey’s the shelters are spread out a bit different so you either have a shorter day or a longer day. This shelter is at mile 210.8 and is at an elevation of 5935. He got to this shelter early so he was guaranteed a spot. He is really enjoying the social aspect of the evening campfire. His trailmily has added Batman (guys name is really Bruce Wayne) and sassafras to the fold. Communication is very sketchy today. Took a number of calls to get 2 minutes in. His spirits are high and his legs and feet are doing really well.

#21:Clingmans Dome

view from Clingmans Dome

Jesse hit another 2 milestones today: He hit the 200 mile mark and he reached the top of Clingman Dome, the highest point on this trek with an elevation of 6658. These past 3 days have been challenging and not without pain. He is having some real issues with rubbing of his toes which are causing blisters. He went into Gaitlinburg this morning and purchased a pair of socks that fit around each individual toe. He and several other hikers are splitting a room at a Motel 6 for the night in order to rest and heal a bit.

Jesse said after 3 days of pain and struggle they finally reached the top of the mountain and…..tourists. Tour busses are driving people up to Clingman and they hike a half mile from the bus to the lookout. He said it was funny seeing people dressed up and with cameras and they are complaining about how tough that 1/2 mile hike was for them. He also said there is a building of some kind there on top who would make BANK if they sold snacks. He is so hungry! A pizza doesn’t have a chance today. Jesse is ordering a pizza and a bunch of food off the McDonald’s Dollar menu and headed to the hotel to prop up his feet.

We are hoping he can finally get enough service to send pictures and video but we’ve been here before with only a small amount of success. One downer…Jesse’s phone was dead when he reached the peak so no pictures. The picture for this post was uploaded from another site.

The stay in Gatlinburg that a friend generously donated for him on the 16th and 17th is the biggest motivator for Jesse and his traimily right now. Hot tub is a magical word to them all. It will definitely provide some well earned R and R after the toughest days so far on the AT.

Despite some aches and blisters Jesse is staying positive. He is definitely proving to himself that he can conquer any goal he faces. And in 3 weeks he’s only had 2 bad days so he’s in great shape. He’s setting a slower pace for himself in the Smokey’s. Smaller steps seems to be helping him avoid any serious injuries. And,despite the odds Jesse’s traimily is all still hanging in there. Only 25% of all attempted thru-hikes are successful with the largest number having dropped out by this point. This group Jesse is connected with are very supportive of each other. I think this support is going to be key in them all reaching Mt. Katahdin.

#20: Derrick Knob Shelter

creepy crawlers abound

Jesse ended his day at mile 189.8 and at an elevation of 4884. He sounded exhausted which is a first but understandable. The huge trek up the mountain is tough enough without mud added to it. He reports several blisters have formed. He is planning on making the 200 mile marker by day 21 and then taking an easy day the next day. He hits the highest point of the AT, Clingmans Dome at 200.1 mile marker (6658 in elevation). He is needing to go into town for more supplies soon. Hiker hunger has hit him hard and he is eating everything in site. For his height and weight he is burning an average of 689 calories per hour. Sounds like I need to get a box full of jerky and snickers sent out to him. He is eating oatmeal in the morning (I don’t think he’ll ever eat oatmeal again after this) and his prepped food at dinner. Jerky and Snickers seem to be his daytime staples.It took us several attempts to get a couple minutes of conversation in so I’m not counting on hearing from him until he starts a descent but we shall see. He is aware of all the new followers and is pretty excited about that. He so appreciates all the support back home.