Friday, July 29, 2016

Miles and Smiles

People always ask me how I do all this.  I take advantage of opportunities.  I went to the Trail Dames Summit and had a day before a conference in Atlanta, so I hiked up Springer Mountain and explored Amicalola Falls.  On the way home, I took the Blue Ridge Parkway to Mt. Mitchell.  It’s about taking opportunities and taking chances.  I mean, have you seen some of those Georgia back roads.  Banjos aren’t your real enemy.  Try blind curves near steep drop offs.  Our potholes have nothing over some I saw on those forest roads.  But I would not trade any of it.  OK, the damn traffic on the way home could have not existed, but I lay here jonesing for another opportunity.  Camping with friends helps, but I need to conquer some mountains.  As summer winds down, let me focus on a few gems.

Baxter #1
AH.  3 fantastic days in Baxter.  Just wonderful.  Unless you are recovering from the flu.  It is still wonderful, but be ready for lots of watching stuff.  Like overfriendly chipmunks, clouds, and moose.  OK, the moose were cool except for the one who was in the middle of the road.  Yeah, speed limit is a very good idea up here.  I completely took care of myself.  Cooked for myself, made my own fires.  I just need to learn to pick dryer wood.  Set up my tarp.  I loved it.  There is something very special about being out in the wilderness.  By yourself, and a few other people.  I met some awesome people.  I had a good time.  I did climb a mountain.  And yes, it was hard.  I am going to have to go back at least 2 more times, so I can enjoy it more.  I hated leaving.  I met some thru hikers and section hikers at the AT Lodge and AT Deli.  Such awesome people way up near Canada.  Reality became too much to bear once I left, which leads to…

If you could have seen those moths, you would put up your tent too.

The final set up.  Last time with respectful wildlife.

Katahdin from Kidney Pond 

Snowshoe Hare

20 is not a suggestion.  This road is rough and like a roller coaster in some places.
Oh deer.  Sorry to bother you.
And this is how you moose. 

Go Bratwurst.  Go Bratwurst.  In a Hershey s'mores basket.
Get the Katahdin fries.

I will conquer you.
Baxter #2
Too much crap went on in the week and a half that I left Baxter, I had to go back.  I got a season pass because, well, I may need to escape a few more times.  This time no leanto, but a spot in the bunkhouse.  $11 versus $30.  Kinda easy choice.  Met a flip flopper who was also completing her NE67.  I might finish that before March.  Who am I kidding.  Did I make it to any of the mountains I needed.  Of course not.  You really thought I would say yes?  It was HOT, and I developed foot issues, but I know part of the route now, so there is that.  I sat by Roaring Brook for an hour and had lunch.  It was just awesome.  Good news, foot is not as messed up as I though, even after twisting it trying to get the cat carriers from the basement.

Last chance to Tweet

From outlook
Basin Pond

Where you go when you do not follow the rules of Baxter

Got Lobstah?  Well step by the 95 rest area if you forgot.

Southern Road Trip Part 1
So with enough time for oil change, laundry, vet, etc., I got ready to head to Cullowhee, NC.  This was in jeopardy as it was also REI inventorypaloza.  But I was able to make it.  Yup.  A whole 36 hours before I was off again.  Willy to kennel, lots of food for Raven, and I was off.  I always worry about travelling at night, but after the drive back, I might just go ahead and embrace it. I did stop for a nap or two.  And believe it or not when I got to the rest area in PA, I found one of the last spots.  Man, it was packed.  Didn’t use the bed setup, but I got some good ZZZ.  Woke up, made breakfast and coffee, brushed my teeth, and off I went.  Tried to shower at a hostel, but no one was there, but I know where it is now.  Another nap in VA and I was almost there.  Just tip...if you are taking 26, make sure you get gas in Erwin or you may not make it to NC.  I was lucky to make it to the other TN welcome center and get directions to a gas station.  You will climb.  Add in torrential rain and it gets more interesting.  

Good Morning from Hershey maybe.

I love the Smokies.  Such beauty.  Such heat.  I was slated to give a presentation on hiking the 48 at the Trail Dames Summit. I wondered why they were so worried about me not being there.  I mean, it was just an hour presentation and they could have easily found someone to replace me.  I did get to see friends, hear inspiring stories, and learn good exercises.  It was so much fun.  I got to meet Stacey Kozel.  Who is she you ask?  Just a woman with an advanced form of Lupus which left her paralyzed.  And guess what?  She is hiking the AT.  She just made it to NJ.  I was content just to see friends, have fun, make new friends.  It was great.  Then, I found out why they were so anxious to have me there.  I got an award.  Trail Dames Adventurer of the Year.  Me?  Well, my name is on the plaque.  WOW.  Here I am thinking that I need to be doing so much more, lamenting that I am not and others are inspired by me.  They could have chosen so many women, but I made the cut.  You can’t imagine how grateful I am to be recognized for once.  I am so used to being demonized and told that I am not of value unless I change to make someone else happy.  I guess I can do something right.  

Adventurer of the Year.  Thanks to Tina Tasso for the picture. :)

The one and only Pilgrim

New hardware

Nathahala National Forest view
So with that and a small hike done, what do I do?  Head to Springer Mountain of course.  It was already planned, but some piece were missing.  Missed another hostel, but found a nice hotel with a mediocre Chinese food place next door.  Only an hour from Springer.  So, I could do a sunrise summit and get a shower before heading to Atlanta.  Except I was too tired to get gas the night before and could not find any stations, so I headed back, got gas (it was after 7) and went back out.  Let’s talk forest roads.  They are rough in NH, but DAMN, let me repeat that, DAMN, they are crazy in GA.  Winding, graded, steep drop offs, rutted.  It was an adventure to say the least.  But I made it.  And before I knew it, I was at the start of the AT.  Awesome sauce.  I wanted sunrise because it was HOT, but I met a kid from MS who informed me that it was, in fact, not even hot.  So back to the hotel, met another section hiker, and off I go.  I decided to check out Amicalola Falls and that was cool.  Might go back to do the Approach Trail, which I did part of.   The lodge at the top of the falls is very nice.  Very Nice.  Awesome views and a 12.95 lunch buffet that included pie.  The coconut creme was awesome as was the Boston creme.  Some Target/Walmart stops, a pisspoor car wash, and off to Hotlanta.


Southern Road Trip Part 2
Did I mention it was HOT?  And the AC was pumping.  I was in Atlanta for a teacher conference on Professional Learning Communities.  It was a good conference and I think I can take a lot from it.  Everything was paid for, including the hotel, but our school was scattered among the two towers.  So when we said met at the lobby, we had to make sure we knew which one.  I did not have anyone on my floor and well, I had some Aflac people.  MAN, can they party.  All night.  But I can say that the food situation was nuts.  The CNN food court could not handle a few thousand teachers.  Lesson learned.  Order food, then pick up.  We Ubered to Fox’s BBQ.  Pretty good, but I am not a BBQ gal.  The wings were good, no sauce.  Cornbread awesome.  We had fun, we learned, we strategized.  We also learned a senior was murdered right before we left.  I did not know him, but man, way to end such a good trip.  I had til 6 to pick up my car, so I went to Coke World, but they wanted $35 for on 8 x10 and 45 for flash drive.  WHAAAAAAA!  Experienced Atlanta traffic in the middle of an Atlanta storm complete with flooding rain, hail, and that lightning.  Stopped by REI to meet a guy who worked at  the Framingham store with some of my managers.  Then I ended up in South Carolina.

LIES.  It took 5%.

Wanna know a secret?

So I guess refreshment is only 9-5.
Maybe in daylight.
A note on using Google maps for driving directions.  It has hiccups.  You might find yourself on one way roads going the wrong way.  Or a private road.  And it seems to like to avoid major intersections, taking you on god forsaken back roads only to have to take a left on a busy 4 lane highways.  Yeah, that actually wasted 5 minutes.  This is why we can never, ever, rely on GPS.  Have a map or atlas.  Make comparisons.  Check with friends if you can.  Compare different routes.  Don’t just blindly follow it.  A few times it got mixed signals and I ended up in a school parking lot.  Luckily I found a map and was able to go where I wanted.  Mount Mitchell.

Mount Mitchell is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi.  6684ft above sea level.  There are several ways up, but I chose the shortest after checking the weather with a few rangers.  Saw several of the storms coming in and heard lots of thunder, but I was good.  Next time I will take the longer route.  You know, when I have more sleep and energy.  It was cool up there.  I took the Blue Ridge Parkway up and leap frogged with a couple from Cambridge.  They had a cool van.  Met lots of hikers too.  Not everyone parked at the upper lot.  Not sure where the other trailheads are though.  Might need a map.  The Balsam Nature Trail is so awesome.  Green, lush, lots of cool features.  I loved it.  You met the nicest people hiking.  OK, sometimes not, but 95% or more of the time.  And the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Yeah, killed what little data I had just renewed with all the pictures.  Another reason I took the short route.  I stopped at almost every stop to the Mineral Museum.  Wandered back into TN, thought about a trip to Roan Mountain, but it was late.  Also, get gas in TN, it is cheaper.  VA can go from 1.79 to 2.29 in just a few exits.  And PA is expensive.

The LONG ASS road home
If I did not stop much, maybe had a nap, I could have picked up Wiily before being charged for another day.  Yeah, with trip fatigue, that did not happen.  Hey, I am getting used to quick washes and brushing my teeth in rest area bathrooms.  And the tailgate coffee is pretty good.  So into NJ and NY I go, wondering what road to take home.  Tolls are covered in my expenses.  I took the usual route.  The old Tappan Zee (new one is being built right next to it) to 95.  I mean, it was 9:30 am.  OH MY GOD.  Every damn road was backed up.  EVERY DAMN ROAD.  95 = cluster.  8 = cluster.  Merritt/Wilber Cross = cluster.  84 was not bad to MA, but there was a bad accident blocking all but one lane the other way.  MassPike = cluster.  128 = surprisingly good.  Raven had some “let me scream you a song of my people” private mommy time.  Picked up Willy who the kennel LOVED.  Raven just stopped hissing at him.  

Another PA sunrise
10am somewhere in CT

Welcome Home
So there you have it. A few weeks of adventure.  Some surprises tossed in.  New hardware too.  I hate post vacation fatigue and depression.  It is hard to restrain myself from just getting in the car and just going.  It really is.  Less than a month before school begins, so I have to spend some time on that too.  I will go to Maine with friends in a few weeks.  Maybe another Baxter attempt next week.  Camping tomorrow night I hope.  Now, if they could shut this damn heat off.

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