Ok, we had some technical issues at our last stop in Helen, Ga so we were not able to make a post. With that said, a lot has happened since our last entry. I will just start from where we left off...
So our first night in a hostel was interesting none the less. Between fight off rabid bats flying at our heads outside the hostel, bunking with 20 or so other very smelly thru-hikers, and one guy that snores so loud it made our bed shake, we had a great time! The pork dinner Pirate make for us was great and we found out that we actually can pack our packs well last minute while heading to the airport. My pack was 28 lbs. and Candice was at 18 lbs. Shortly after I made sure to even them out a little. We had a great nights sleep due to the advice I received online about bringing earplugs. The other hikers were not so lucky. Half the hikers slept on the floor in the common area and one guy even went as far as sleeping outside. He told us that during the night he had a bear walk up about 20 ft. from where he was sleeping and just sit down like a dog would until he attempted to take out his camera, then it ran off. I don't know what this guy was thinking but taking a picture would be the last thing I would have done in that situation. While walking up the hill right past the hostel we came across a bear bag that had most likely fallen victim to the same bear. While talking to the group that did not hang the bag far enough a way from the tree trunk, we could see where the bears claws had dug into the tree and the spot where it actually leaped off of the tree and snatched the bag in midair. I guess the ranger wasn't kidding when they said the bears are becoming better at stealing food. Later in the week we found out that there was another group the following night that sat and watched the bear steal their food out of a tree from their tents. They said it was at least a 500 pound bear. No wonder with all the high calorie hiker food he has been enjoying lately. Even better is the other story we heard from a fellow hiker we befriended named "Buddha". He was told by the gear techs at the hostel that when sleeping in his tent, he should use his food as a pillow so the bears would not mess with it. He is from Florida so he did what they said and his first night out, he had a bear pacing around his tent for an hour or so. I don't think he will do that again and he will probably be a little less gullible next time. It made for a funny story around the campfire though.
So after Neels Gap and the bear bag incident we had planned for our longest day so far, 12 miles. Partway through our day we got word from other hikers that there was some trail magic up the trail. That helped us get up and down the large hills until we got to the gap where the gifts were. There was an Atlanta based church group that had soda, snacks, water, and lawn chairs for us all. They were very nice people but it was a long day so we kept moving after a short break. Just like every gap in the mountains, there was a steep uphill climb right after and this one was the worst yet. It zig-zagged all the way up of a 1000 ft mountain and unlike most, there was no rewarding view from the top. It was ok though, because we both know that there are many views to come. We ended the night around a campfire with other hikers and lots of laughs.
We woke up to some fog on the mountain. It made for a easy cool weather hike the first part of the day. We met Warren Doyle on the trail and had a conversation with him. He is a old man that has thru-hiked many times and we have read about him in backpacker magazine. He is an odd old man but it was still cool to meet him. The rest of the day was harder due to the rock slides we had to cross on the side of the mountains. It made for slow hiking. When we got to Blue Mountain shelter, we met some really cool people and just sat around talking most of the day. It was one hikers birthday and he had brought some whisky with him so we celebrated with a birthday shot... then he had to move on. We started a campfire right before dark and another hiker had a little Jim Beam so we all sipped on that. The group we had that night were all new to one another but I have to say we all had a great time and lots of laughs.
At one of the trail magic events we got word that there was a free breakfast in Helen, GA. We told everyone at the shelter about it and they all wanted to go. We had one hiker set his alarm on his watch to make sure we could make it to the gap on time as we had to hike a couple miles to get there. We all woke up around 7 and headed out ASAP. We were all rushing and excited about the breakfast as it was an all you can eat pancake, bacon, and eggs breakfast. When we got to the free shuttle, there were a couple of old ladies driving a short church bus. They took off down the mountain quickly and raced the whole way down the winding narrow roads of backwoods Georgia. We were all very impressed and a couple of people had to check there pants by the end of the ride. Boy was it worth it! I ate 4 eggs, 3 pancakes, 6 strips of bacon, an apple, banana, grapes, milk, coffee, orange juice, and they were still trying to feed me more. They didn't even ask of a donation or anything. They just ask that we spread the generosity. It was southern hospitality at its finest. Candice and I decided to stay in town at the Helendorf Inn. Now just to inform you of Helen. This is a town like Frankenmuth, MI but bigger and better. They took the Alpine Bavarian theme to the next level. EVERYTHING in this town was German themed, it was impressive. Lucky for us, it is the off season so everything was cheaper and less crowds. We also got a thru-hiker discount... nice! We spent most of the day cleaning ourselves and our gear. Later we went to dinner with two other hikers "Buddha" (from South Florida) and Peter (from Nova Scotia). We had some great food, beer, and conversation. Then when we were done, Peter was nice enough to pick up the tab for all of us. Candice and I went back to our rooms and watched MSU lose and drank a couple of beers to drown our sorrows.
It was hard to get out of the comfortable bed but it was a little easier because we were invited to another free breakfast and shuttle back to the trail. Once again I ate a lot! When we got to the trail it started to downpour HARD! We hiked to the first shelter and slept in our damp clothes. It was a hard nights sleep as it rained and thunderstormed most of the night. Not to mention the mice were making lots of noise. I woke up in the morning to find that the damn things ate a hole through my shirt I had hanging on the wall. They must have like the salt from my sweat. We pulled another 16 mile day and we felt pretty good most of the day. Our feet started to hurt near the end. The shelter we stayed at was huge with three levels and completely full with at least 15 hikers. I found a guy from Ohio and we taught a couple southerners how to play Euchre.
We were one of the first ones out of camp the next morning and were quickly greeted by two giant mountains and high winds. It took a lot out of us but nothing that 2 packets of ramen noodle couldn't fix. It was another 16 mile day. We climbed the largest peak yet... Standing Indian Mountain at 5500 ft. It was an awesome view. We also hiked out of our first state and into North Carolina! We tented under a rhododendron canopy in the N.C. bear sanctuary. We made sure to keep an ear out for bear all night.
The next day we hit another milestone by hiking 100 miles. Our feet are feeling every bit of it. So, we decided when we get to Franklin, N.C. we are going to take our first zero day or day without hiking. We went through the best climbing section of the trail so far at Mt. Albert. We were both bouldering our way to the top and were rewarded with a beautiful 360 degree view on top of a fire tower. We just barely made it to the shelter our feet were hurting so much. We both were able to push on knowing that tomorrow we would be eating pizza in Franklin. Once again, our earplugs saved us as we could hear one guy snoring all the way from his tent through the shelter walls.
We all woke up eager to get into town. Candice and I decided to walk the 4 miles to Winding Stair Gap so we could get a shuttle to town. Ron Haven, the shuttle driver, also owned the hotel that we were staying at. He is a deep Southern politician with lots of personality. We were spoiled from the Helendorf so this hotel seemed sub-par and smelled of stale smoke. We got used to it after awhile but decided the next night we would get something better... like a jacuzzi suite. We went to the Outdoor 76 store and talked to the owner for an hour about every aspect of our feet. He knew more about feet than we ever knew possible. We were both fitted with new insoles or as we like to refer to them as our new "hiking souls". They make us both feel much more supported and comfortable. The owner Rob was awesome! He called around to hotels and offered us a place to keep our packs while we wandered around town between hotels the next day. Later that evening, we went out to dinner with a group of fellow hikers at Mi Casa, an authentic Mexican joint. Food was great. When we were on the trail, I came up with the trail name "Sporty Spice" for Candice because of her ex-love and exceptional trivia ability with anything to do with the Spice Girls. She had mentioned that she should be called "Spicy" for short. I came up with a way for her to earn the name in front of the whole group by downing a shot of tequila mixed with habanero sauce. She took it like a champ and thus earned the trail name "Spicy". To less excitement, Candice came up with the name "Rocky" for me. I like to punch and yell every now and then when I get to the top of a mountain and because she thinks I'm persistent and don't stop climbing until I reach the top. Kind of like Rocky running up the steps. Fellow thru-hikers agreed. So from now on to everyone on the trail, we are known as "Rocky" and "Spicy".
Oh yeah, we also have the pictures up and running now. You can view them on the right side of the home screen under Picasa. Next stop for us, the Smokies!
Hello. We are Robert and Candice Fox. We created this blog for people who want to follow us as we thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. If you don't know what the Appalachian Trail is, we will let our favorite online resources tell you most anything you need to know. Just click on the blue stuff.