Days 109, 110 and 111 (Winding Stair Gap to the Nantahala Outdoor Center)

This section was completed Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 1-3, 2015.

Winding Stair Gap to the Nantahala Outdoor Center. First BPing for Laura and last shake-down hike for me. Excellent weekend fun!

Yummy breakfast to celebrate the end to our fun weekend. — with Laura Pound and Martha Johnson at Rivers End Restaurant On The Nantahala River.

Yummy breakfast to celebrate the end to our fun weekend. — with Laura Pound and Martha Johnson at Rivers End Restaurant On The Nantahala River.

Day 103 (Fontana Dam to the Nantahala Outdoor Center)

With tired legs and determined souls, Laura and I started south from Fontana Dam for our 3rd long mileage day in a row. My knee was still bothering me from Saturday’s fall so we decided to do more hiking and less running. It was the first day in four days that I didn’t get rained on.

Most of the day was a perfect temperature with a nice breeze. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been trying to catch up with another female flip flop thru hiker named Dropknife. She is also a PhD chemist. I keep catching up to her when she is in town and then I get ahead. I go back to work and she gets ahead. So this time she had signed the register at the Cable Gap Shelter that indicated she had been there this morning. Chances are I will finally meet her since there are no towns nearby and it is unlikely she is hiking to the NOC in one day.

This is a really pretty section that includes a couple really steep climbs. The view from Cheoah Bald was very nice. When we got to Sassafras Gap Shelter, I went down to get some water and finally met Dropknife. She was very nice. We busted for a few minutes and then I had to head on down the trail to catch up with Laura.

Dropknife....fellow female flip flop thru hiker and PhD chemist from Munich, Germany.

Dropknife….fellow female flip flop thru hiker and PhD chemist from Munich, Germany.

We finished the last few miles in the dark again today. Once we arrived at the NOC, we found my car where Laura S. and Susan K. had left it on Sunday morning. Thank you again! We drove back to get Laura’s car at Fontana Dam and then headed home. At this point, I have hiked all of the trail north of Hogpen Gap this year. I will share the posts from April going from Hogpen to the NOC. Only 38.6 miles to go!!!! I’m looking forward to friends joining me next weekend for the end of my thru hike.

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Day 102 (Clingman’s Dome to Fontana Dam)

After breakfast, Susan K. and Laura S. drove Laura P., Molly F. and me up to Clingman’s Dome. It was in the clouds again this morning. We headed off down the 0.6 mile trail that intersects with the AT.

My knee was pretty sore from my fall yesterday. Amazingly enough, this is the first day in 102 days that I’ve been in any kind of pain other than a little tired feet discomfort. I’ve been very lucky. My knee functions fine, it is just bruised. It was good on the flats and up hills but wasn’t happy on the descents. Since we were losing around 5000 ft on elevation through out the day, this was a challenge.

It rained a lot of the morning but the temperatures were warm so it was kind of pleasant. It stopped raining in the afternoon and we were able to enjoy some views. I’m so glad that Molly and Laura could join me for this section. Molly made some yummy treats for us to eat. 🙂

We saw 2 bears in the afternoon. These were the first bears Molly had seen. Cool! My thru hike bear count is now up to 24. It was a long day and we ended up needing to use our headlamps for the last couple of miles. When we arrived at Fontana Dam, we found Laura P’s car that Susan K. and Laura S. had shuttled for us. They also drove my car to the Nantahala Outdoor Center where we will end tomorrow. They were awesome Trail Angels!!!! Thank you bunches Susan K. and Laura S.!

Laura, Molly and I drove back to the Waffle House in Cherokee for dinner. The waitress and cook recognized us from the night before and were happy to see us again. Haha. Thank you Molly and Laura P. for a fun day in the Smokies.

Day 101 (Newfound Gap to Pigeon River Bridge)

My sister Laura arrived last night after dinner. We woke up early and met Susan K. and Laura S. at the continental breakfast. Yes, it is Susan, Susan, Laura and Laura today. Good thing I go by the name Cashmere these days or it could get confusing. 🙂

After breakfast, Susan K. and Laura S. took us up to Newfound Gap to start our hike northbound. After completing this section I will have hiked the whole AT but will still have 100 miles to hike to be a thru hiker (all in one year).

I was so happy that the clouds receded so that we could enjoy the view at Charlie’s Bunion. Mid day, we were going down a rocky descent and I caught my toe on a rock. I’ve only had three other hard falls this summer but was lucky enough not to be injured. This one could have been much worse but I still managed to bang up one of my knees pretty good. After a break, we continued down the trail. My knee didn’t feel too bad but I’m wondering how it will be tomorrow.

Susan K. and Laura S. shuttled my car to the Pigeon River Bridge. It took us a little bit to find the parking lot. I really appreciate their help and glad they had a fun day horseback riding. By the time we drove back to the hotel in Cherokee, Molly was there. The three of us enjoyed dinner at the Waffle House nearby. Yum! smile emoticon Got to fuel up for tomorrow.

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Day 94 (The Beauty Spot to Erwin, TN)

We woke up around 6:00 in the morning. It hadn’t rained during the night but our tents were covered in dew. I was glad I would be slack packing today and not carrying that heavy wet tent.


The 9.7 miles down into Erwin were pretty easy with some nice scenery. Laura parked in Erwin near Uncle Johnny’s Hostel and ran out to meet me.

I had lots of mixed emotions today. I knew my goal of finishing the trail in 100 days was a bit extreme but it was a good goal to aim for. I’m not sad about not finishing in that time. In a way, finishing on weekends will allow me to soften the transition period back to real life. I’m really looking forward to getting back out on the trail. It will be good to get home and see friends and family. It has been an awesome summer adventure. I will have weekend posts so there will be a few more posts with stories and pictures to come.

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Day 93 (Carver Gap to the Beauty Spot)

We woke up around 6:00 to clear skies but wet tents. We ate breakfast and packed up. We left all the camping stuff in Laura’s car and both started out south. Laura stayed with me for 3.6 miles and then returned to her car to shuttle it south.

This part of the trail is very pretty and the trails are very runnable. So nice to see the sunshine through the trees. Laura parked the car on the other side of Iron Mountain and ran up to meet me. When we got back to the car at Iron Mountain Gap, we drove down the mountain to the Mountain Grill for lunch.

In the afternoon I ran from Iron Mountain Gap to the Beauty Spot. Laura parked at the Beauty Spot and ran out to meet me. She met me on Unaka Mountain. Unaka Mountain has a dense fir tree forest on top. It would have been a neat place to camp but it was only mid afternoon. We got to the Beauty Spot early enough to set up our tents and have everything dry out. Awesome views from there.

It is my last night in my tent before I go back home for a bit. One more half day into Erwin, TN and then back to the city.

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Day 92 (Stealth site near a bush to Carvers Gap)

I got moving early this morning. I’m excited because my sister Laura will be joining me on the trail this evening. This means I have to make it to Carvers Gap.

There was some rain but luckily no thunderstorms. I met a really nice young woman, Brave, who was hiking north bound. I wish we would have been hiking the same direction. I really enjoyed meeting her and visiting for a few minutes. The morning was mostly rolling hills but the afternoon had three good climbs including an 8 mile 2500 ft elevation climb up Hump Mountain. The views reminded me of some of the views in the north east. Then the clouds and rain moved in so I didn’t get to enjoy the views from Roan Mountain.

I got to Carver Gap just about the same time Laura arrived. It was getting late so we camped near the gap. So awesome to see her. It was raining so we got in our tents and talked through the walls until way past hiker midnight. 🙂

What is hiker midnight?

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Day 75 (VA 60 to Marble Springs Campsite)

Mom, Laura, and I enjoyed breakfast at the Hampton Inn again this morning. Then we loaded up the car and headed toward the trail. I said goodbye to them at the trailhead and started hiking with a full pack again. I enjoyed their visit immensely.

I’m feeling well rested after a few shorter mileage days and lots of town food. I started hiking at 8:00 AM. It didn’t take long before the rain started to fall. It was warm so I didn’t bother with a rain coat. The rain stopped around 3:00 and the rest of the day I enjoyed the sunshine.

There were not as many raspberries on the trail today but there were a lot of blueberries. Yum!

My son Russ gave me a small mp3 player loaded with music for my birthday. Today was the first day I had a chance to listen to a lot of the songs. I loved the songs he chose. Some were songs we used to sing in the car on longer trips, some were his current favorites, some had an encouraging message about meeting challenges (etc.) but one song brought happy tears to my eyes and a huge smile to my face: Kanye West – Hey Mama.

The song fit so well it was like Russ was saying those things to me. Like the song says, he even went back to school this summer and he had an awesome semester. 🙂

I saw a bear a couple miles before I set up camp this evening. I made sure to do an extra food job hanging my food. I hope it is there when I get up in the morning.

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Day 74 (VA 56 to VA 60)

We got up at 6:00 and enjoyed the breakfast at the Hampton Inn. We decided the shuttle would be easier for mom if we ran NOBO instead of SOBO and the level of difficulty of the climbs and descents would be about the same.

Today’s section included a well known climb up a mountain called The Priest. The weather was cool and breezy for the first part of the day. After the initial 2000 ft. climb, we were on a ridge with fields of wildflowers and old apple trees. We enjoyed the views of the surrounding mountains. We climbed up The Priest near the end of the day. We took in the views for a bit and then descended 3000 ft. to find mom waiting on us again. 🙂

She was hanging out talking to some section hikers while she waited for us. We ate Mexican food on our way back to the Hampton Inn. I spent the rest of the evening getting my pack ready for tomorrow.

No more slack packing for a bit. Laura is taking my 20 degree sleeping quilt and my stove home with her. I’ll be sleeping with a sleeping bag liner since it is so warm. I’ve not used my stove since I started SOBO because I have found that I can rehydrate my meals with cold water and they still taste very good. So my pack will be 3 pounds lighter starting tomorrow. Yay!

Day 73 (Dripping Rock Overlook to VA 56)

Laura and I decided to run a shorter section today so we could spend more time with mom in the morning and afternoon. We had breakfast at Weasie’s again and headed to the trail. We started running around 9:00.

This section included the “Three Ridges” which required some climbing but offered up some nice views. It was hotter today than it has been. We had another fun day of running and chatting. 🙂

Mom was waiting for us when we arrived at VA 56. We went to the Crabtree Falls Campground to change clothes, get a snack, and meet the owner Sue. Mom visited with her while we ran.

Next we drove to Lexington and found a really cool Hampton Inn. The main building and a couple others are historic buildings. We got a room for two nights. It is almost as nice as my tent. 😉

After resting in the room, we went to Walmart for me to buy supplies and then enjoyed some Italian food.