Monday, April 23, 2012

Changes in store and some soul searching

After the unscheduled stop in Robinsville, I had a pretty strong day - did my first 14 mile day.  It started with a climb up Jacob's Ladder and ended with dinner at the Fontana Dam Village.  That took a while and ended with setting up camp at the 'Fontana Hilton' - the big shelter on the trail south of the Fontana Dam.  The next morning started with a walk across the dam itself and then the climb up Shuckstack Mtn.  It's the same trail my son Jonathan and I had done southbound a coule of years ago.  So up I went and it started to rain.  Then it didn't and then it did.  It was another day of putting the pack cover on and the rainsuit on only to get overheated and take it off.  Stopped at a beautiful campsite at Birch Spring Gap.  Got to know some other hikers and caught up with some others that I thought were way ahead.  It really rained that night as we all packed up to head for the next shelters.  The rain turned to sleet and then snow as the wind howled all day.  Now everything is wet and I am freezing.  I stopped at Mollie's Ridge Shelter at mile marker 176.8 nearly frozen.  I was really concerned about hypothermia.  I immediately got out of my wet clothes, but had no dry ones to put on (big mistake).  So, the next best thing - get into the sleeping bag in the shelter.  That was the second problem of the day:  In the smokies, you have to stay in the shelter instead of camping ouside.  My hammock and sleep system work great when doing what they are supposed to do.  But they suck when used on a hard plank floor in a wooden shelter.  I never could get warm and barely got any sleep at all.  There was a Ridge Runner (employee of the ATC) at the shelter that night.  He advised everyone that the nasty weather would continue for a couple of days - to make sure we all slept warm and had dry clothes for the days ahead.  Two strikes right there.  So I had to do some real soul searching.  Do I stay another night just to try to dry my clothes in a wet cold environment.....or try something else.  The quick way down off the freezing mountain was a side trail to Cades Cove, Tn - and close to where Jonathan lives in Knoxville.  A text, a phone call, and he agreed to pick me up and take me to Gatlinburg for some gear changes and then home for dinner and ice cream.  The trail down was nice once I was off the ridge and out of the wind.  Cades Cove is a beautiful place that I visited only a couple of times before.  I must go back again soon - there's some great trout water in there. 

Jon picked me up at the park entrance.  We stopped at the NOC in Gatlinburg to see about so new gear changes and clothing.  Bill, one of the elder-statesmen in the hiking department had a few gear suggestions but also a big job of counseling a fellow elder-stateman.  He basically told me to act my age - and enjoy the ride - that I am doing just fine - and not to try to compare myself to others.  And there's some stuff I am leaving behind.

So here I am at Jon's house - showered clean again, clothes are in the washer and some new gear is going in the bag.  Tomorrow I catch a hiker shuttle back to the trail.  It will cause me to miss a short section of the trail, but most of which I have already hiked.  I wanted to be a purist and do the whole trail without skipping anything, but this is just the way it's working out.

Now for the changes.

I have spent too much time trying to keep up with hikers that are younger or already more physically fit than I am.  Yesterday that kind of thinking cost me a day of hiking and might have been much more serious.  So, from now on I am really going to simply hike my own hike.  If I lose contact with my trail friends, so be it.  No more trying to keep up and no more comparing my hiking skills and styles and pace to anyone else - that's stinkin' thinkin'.  I have cautioned others against being a slave to the 'mileage monster' and now in my own way I have to follow my own advice.  Besides - if someone else speeds ahead and finished in 125 days and I take 165 days, that only means that I get to spend 40 more days hiking and camping on the trail than those speed demons.  I will no longer worry about the low miles and the huffing and puffing up the hills.  I will hike my own hike and take it as it comes at my own pace and my own time - after all, this is my hike and it belongs to me.

12 comments:

Margaret Erga said...

You are getting into the flow of the hike now Bob. Remember, you are now hiking almost 3000 higher then here in the Point. No wonder your lungs hurt for now. In time you will adapt.

Anonymous said...

Kim and I think this was a very good update. Thank you for sharing. I'm glad to hear that you are starting to follow your own advice now. Hike your own Hike as you say!
Christy

Jenna and Max said...

Hey Bob -
Glad to hear you are now warm and dry --- you had us worried. Especially Max - I guess mom told you he was ready to pick you up himself! An undertaking like this can't be done without a few hiccups so don't let this slight change in plans get to you. If nothing else this experience and short break allowed you to gain some perspective - that's never a bad thing. Now you can get back to what you set out to do. Happy hiking from here on out - we are all looking forward to catching up with you somewhere down the trail.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the posts bob. I feel like im reading an autobiography. Excellent job and we are rooting and praying for you!!
Matt Adkins

Anonymous said...

Hi.

A link to your blog has been posted on AppalachianTrail.com:

http://appalachiantrail.com/content/attractions/hikers-tales/links-to-hikers-tales/

Don't give up!


RJ Sutherland

CCF said...

very good idea, 66. had i done this, i wouldn't be home nursing a bad knee. the knee IS getting better though. hope to pick up again in harpers ferry northbound beginning of june. maybe our paths will cross again.

keep going and hike YOUR hike!

- pages

Sarah Franklin said...

There is nothing wrong with slow and steady. Keep going...

Anonymous said...

Bob, glad to read you're learning to hike your own hike. The Great Outdoor Provision shop in Greensboro, NC is rooting for you buddy. Keep it up! -Zach

Anonymous said...

You are one smart fella. I bet you have some great days ahead of you and I look forward to hearing about them.
Terri Kane

Lee said...

Hi Bob! Just spent a week in a knee immobilizer because I forgot to "adjust for age." :-) Us old guys can go all the way...but it has to be at our own pace. I think you've made a wonderful change...enjoy YOUR journey. We're all pulling for you! Lee Jessup

Scott said...

Keep it up Bob!!!

Anonymous said...

Your Red Cross colleagues wish you much success on your journey. We did miss you at the Red Cross golf tournament in Winston Salem.
Ken