A MINI NOVEL ABOUT A GREAT MISADVENTURE

A Walk in the Appalachian Woods

The adventure started out as simply reading “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson. A Walk in the Woods completely immersed my sense of adventure and I mistakenly told Mike Kidd about the book. He subsequently read my copy of the book and was hooked also. The domino effect was already at work when he lent the book to Bill Knittle(Mike’s farm neighbor in Seton (close to Rolla). John Wiethop was going to be the fourth member of the expedition until he read the passage about snakes. In the meantime another friend of Mike’s from Seton, Bob, became interested in the expedition.

Now we had to decide where this grand adventure would take us. Dave Volk had hiked the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park with 3 other friends, so I relied on his trail experience. Dave stated that the Shenandoah Park area was picturesque and he recommended the Loft Mountain to Thornton Gap stretch of about 54 miles. He hiked this section in May with three other friends. The place was set and the date was decided upon as Labor Day Weekend.

Being a novice at hiking, I read several backpacking magazines, inquired at the different sporting goods stores, checked the Internet, for equipment for this daring undertaking. Subsequently bought a backpack, tent, sleeping bag, mess gear, hiking socks, and food. Everything necessary to be an experienced hiker.....well I looked like an experienced hiker. Mike and Bill were even practicing by hiking with backpacks beforehand. I was way too busy at the time and why should I use all my energy up beforehand, I was going to save it for the hike.

My intentions were to back light. Right. Forty-two pounds of equipment and food, I thought it was a good weight but I didn’t include the drinking water in this calculation. I had no intentions to be Stephen Katz on Springier Mountain. This refers to Bill Bryson’s hiking partner who threw away quite a bit of his hiking equipment on the first day of their hike due to the weight factor. Bryson jokingly stated, “a person could completely outfit themselves from the equipment abandoned on Springer Mountain” (the southern starting point of the Appalachian Trail).

Well the grand adventure started with the guys picking me up Saturday at six in the morning for our drive along Interstate 64 through Illinois, Kentucky, West Virginia and finally to a motel at Waynesboro, Virginia. The entrance to Shenandoah National Park was less than ten miles away at Rockfish Gap which is the southern end of Shenandoah. After riding in a car all day and the anticipation of what laid ahead, I found it difficult to fall asleep.

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2000

A great day to start hiking the Appalachian Trail. Got up before dawn, actually the sun must have had second thoughts about rising. We never did see the sun since the fog limited visibility to less than fifty feet. But nothing gets you going better than the wonders which we were going to experience, actually it was the Krispy Kreme donuts and chocolate milk which got me going. As we entered Shenandoah National Park the fog completely enveloped us and reduced our pace to less than 20 miles an hour. The fog (actually cloud cover) would open occasionally and reveal the majestic woods all around us. We barely entered the park when we spotted a black bear scrambling across the road in front of the van. The wildlife was plentiful and if the fog was not so thick, we would have seen countless wildlife along the road at this early time of the day. Rockfish Gap to Loft Mountain was only 27 miles but it took forever because of the fog.

Upon reaching Loft Mountain, we took all the backpacking equipment out of the van. I had made plans to meet a local guide (Bob Jenkins 540-743-3214) at our northern terminus at 8. Less than one mile after leaving Loft Mountain it started raining which cleared the fog away. I preceded on Skyline Drive to Highway 33 and went north to Luray and met Jenkins at Panorama Parking Lot at Thornton Gap. I left Bill’s van at the parking lot next to the maintenance garage where Jenkins said it would be okay.

How do you describe a character? Two words.....Bob Jenkins. He lived his entire life in the Appalachian’s except for military service. This mountain gentleman talked non-stop, he seldom came up for air between sentences. He spoke of the mountain folklore, the town of Luray (his birthplace and home), the National Parks Service, but mainly about his love for the mountains and its people. During the course of (his) conversation, he stated that his predecessors had lived in the Shenandoah’s and a landmark is Jenkins Gap his great grandfathers homestead. When a person speaks nonstop the time flies and before I knew it we were back at Loft Mountain. I introduced everyone to Jenkins in the rain and he soon departed.

It was getting close to 10 am and the rain was really coming down. The spigot was turned wide open without any chance of letting up. We all saddled up however and the park ranger was kind enough to take our picture in front of the ranger station. Let the great adventure begin. After a thorough examination of the map we took off for the Appalachian Trail via the Frazier Discovery Trail. Our second mistake, (the first mistake was starting in the rain), we actually should have gone a little past Loft Mountain campground to start the Appalachian Trail. Frazier Discovery Trail went straight uphill, steeper than a mountain goat would have attempted and then it backtracked on us. In spite of the fact I was wearing rain gear, I was thoroughly soaked within fifteen minutes of starting. The perspiration and the deluge of rainfall instantly soaked my clothing plus the backpack immediately weighed an additional five or ten pounds.

The serenity of the woods was overwhelming. The rain was even more overwhelming. The trail was well marked with white blazes on trees, boulders, and rock outcrops. The Potomac Appalachian Trail Conference (PATC) maintains the trail through Shenandoah National Park and this group does an extraordinary service. Progress was slow, since the trail was slippery and I’m not as young as I used to be. Deer were abundant but the only sound was the rain and then the sound got louder and even louder. It sounded like a waterfall was nearby. Wrong tenderfoot. It was Ivy Creek and the water was about knee deep and no bridge. After some procrastination (actually I was trying to get a breather)I took off my wet boots and socks (so they wouldn’t get wetter) and proceeded across the 10 feet wide (usually dry) creek. The rest of the guys followed in similar fashion. The rain was finally starting to subside a bit, now it was simply a slow drizzle. The woods became alive with more deer. Bob and Bill stretched it out and got to our first nights stop at Pinefield Hut. We had hiked what had seemed all day and accomplished a whooping 5 miles!!!

I prefer to think that I’m in halfway decent shape but I was tired. The site of that rest stop looked extremely pleasing even though the accommodations were not even Motel 6 but my leg and back muscles were shot. Pinefield Hut was maintained by PATC and it basically consisted of a roof over a 3 sided enclosure. A picnic table and fireplace was in front of the hut. The sleeping configuration consisted of a raise platform and a bunk area for placing your sleeping bag. A bear pole was placed about 30 feet away from the hut to secure your food overnight. A latrine was across a small creek about 100 feet away. The Ritz it wasn’t. We all were famished and quickly devoured our trail food.

We were just finishing eating when a young hiker, Corn Dog came striding into the campground. Corn Dog was 18, about 6’2” and possessed a quiet demeanor. He graduated from high school in Late May and started hiking from Maine on June 1st. This kid had a stride which was twice my pace. He implemented hiking sticks and averaged 20+ miles daily. He was the first hiker we had an opportunity to talk with and we grilled him with a million questions. Corn Dog was a thru hiker meaning he was hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. Katahdin, Maine to Springer Mountain Georgia which is 2,160 miles. We also received our introduction to Yogiing which is the fine art of food panhandling. Its derived from Yogi Bear always begging for food handouts. He consumed close to ten pounds of our food because he had eyes which looked hungry. We later found that he had lost over 50 pounds of weight hiking the Trail. The other indoctrination was body odor.....he majorily reeked. Bob offered to let Corn Dog use his solar water shower but Corn Dog replied, “I’ll just stink again tomorrow, thanks anyway!” Bob made the offer for our benefit not Corn Dog’s. We were all impressed with Corn Dog and he autographed my Walk in the Woods with this quotation: “There’s a top to every mountain. They don’t last forever. Corn Dog ME to GA

An hour later, two guys from Washington D.C. with their Dalmatian Dogs came into camp. They ate with us but elected to put up their tents up the draw from the campsite. The next morning the D.C. guys said we had company last night, they saw a bear behind the hut but the dogs chased it away. Even though the accommodations were not Five Stars, I slept contently under thousands of stars that night.

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2000

Awakening at dawn is like second nature to me and nothing is more rewarding than the great outdoors. The air was distinctly fresh, the small creek rippled a faint good morning call. What a day to take a walk in the woods!! The only problem was,...... everything was still soaking wet since it rained again during the night.

Nothing like a power bar and a granola bar to give you a rush to wander along the Appalachian Trail. Our destination today was to parts unknown (to us). Lewis and Clark would have been proud of our explorer instincts. Actually Meriwether Lewis was born and raised less than 15 miles from the Appalachian Trail in Charlottesville, Virginia.

We hit the trail by eight, said our good-byes to Corn Dog who planned on hiking 32 miles. We immediately crossed Skyline Drive which was 200 yards removed from Pinefield Hut. Although we were that close to the roadway, I never heard any road traffic during our overnight stay. The dew was extremely heavy and the trail was still dangerously slick but that never stopped seasoned hikers like us. We had 5 miles of experience under our belts now. Once again the wildlife (deer) was everywhere but any panoramic views of the landscape was extremely limited, actually it didn’t exist because we were hiking in a “green tunnel”. We were completely enveloped in a tree canopy. The woods completely surrounded you. You could only see maybe 100 feet to your left and right but in front of you.....lots of footsteps. During one stretch that morning we had a large doe pace us for approximately 15 minutes about 50 feet in front. The PATC volunteers maintain the trail with diligence and the second best worker along the trail is probably the deer. The deer heavily browse the underbrush along the trail keeping the vegetation in check except for the briar patches.

Once again Bill and Bob stretched it out and were ahead of Mike and myself. There is a strong tendency to keep your eyes riveted approximately five paces in front of you. I constantly reminded myself to soak in the surrounding nature and was justly rewarded with countless deer sightings, and small clearings where you could envision settlers 200 years ago living in the wilds. These small clearings indicated earlier dwellings because the old narly apple trees. How could a family ever eeck an existence on top of these mountains is impossible to comprehend. About a mile past Pinefield Hut, we had our first panoramic view of the mountains. A large outcropping facing the east revealed a never ending series of valleys below. Weaver Mountain was definitely a Kodak moment. But the most exhilarating feeling was heaving a rain soaked pair of shorts down the mountainside. Further revelations proved I wasn’t the first and definitely not the last to discard an unwanted item in this fashion. The granite outcropping absorbed the sun and became nature’s clothing dryer. I scattered several items in hopes of reducing some of the wet weight. Bill and Bob were anxious to move on but Mike and I elected to soak in the sights a few minutes longer.

After a thirty minute rest, we reassembled our backpacks and continued our grand adventure. Bill inquired our whereabouts on the two way radio, soon after we got going. Mike replied, “Sorry Bill, but we’re still at the overlook sunning ourselves, 2 gorgeous blondes are rubbing suntan lotion on us”. An immediate response shot back over the radio from an unknown person, “Where are you?”.

After the lookout, we descended to Simmons Gap and immediately ascended another 1000 feet of another unnamed mountain. Two miles up and just when you get to the top you descend another 1.5 miles to Powell Gap. We already had accumulated six miles for the day and it was only eleven. What laid ahead was Hightop Mountain. A climb of approximately 1500 feet to an elevation of 3500 feet. Now this mountain was nonstop uphill. Numerous switchbacks reduced the severe steepness in areas. I felt like “The Little Engine that Could”, but the damn mountain wouldn’t stop. The rest stops were numerous, yet never long enough. The insides of my legs were getting chaffed from the constant friction of endless hiking and the heavy moisture accumulation didn’t help. I felt miserable but being macho you can’t let the others see the fatigue. Bull. Wimp.

Mike must have felt the same way. Mike was definitely feeling like Katz at the moment. He removed his tent from his backpack and threw it 30 feet into the woods. Anything to reduce the damn weight factor. Later he remarked he should have put a note on the tent stating, “If found please return to Mike Kidd at............”

Even though my legs were galled raw, the final galling was when we encountered two PATC volunteers who were maintaining the trail. These two gentlemen were in their eighties. They each had a day pack on. They had hiked to the summit of Hightop and were proceeding back to their car at Smith Roach Gap. I was winded, dead tired, galled and here are two spry men twice my age, appearing as if they were teenagers. We inquired as to the whereabouts of Hightop Hut and they said it was less than a half mile. It was the longest half mile I ever encountered. During this half mile trek, Mike lightened his load numerous times. Throwing seemingly useless items into the woods including water. Finally he sat down exhausted. Mike said, “I’m sorry but I can’t go any farther”. I was bone tired also, but the thought of the hut just ahead was paramount on achieving. I took a small tote bag of Mike’s to lighten his load and told him to follow when he was ready. Oh what a site when the Hightop Hut came into sight. Relieve. I had just accomplished a blistering, whooping 8 miles. In perspective, Corn Dog was going to hike 32 miles in the opposite direction. Okay he was more than half my age. About 15 minutes, Mike came wandering into camp.

Bill and Bob arrived at the campsite probably an hour before my arrival. They had already cleaned up and ate. I immediately realized that the best measure of relief would be a hot shower. Okay I was brain dead at the time, the facilities were identical to Pinefield except that the water (spring) was 200 yards down a hill. With soap and a towel, I immediately trudged to the spring. Talk about invigorating. A cold spring water wash off stood my hair at attention. I never felt anything as cold as this, a quick brisk splash down brought monstrous goosebumps to my skin. But the feeling of elation on being fresh was overwhelming.

The campsite quickly filled up for the evening. The majority being thru hikers. A journal of the hikers is in the hut and made for interesting reading. I even spied Corn Dog’s entry from the previous day when he stopped here for lunch. It appeared that two different age groups were thru hikers. Young hikers (18 - 24 years of age) and seniors (60+). The D.C. hikers with the Dalmatians pulled into camp about three hours after our arrival. They were approximately 40 years of age and were section hiking the trail. Section hiking is when you segment the trail, hiking 3 days to a week. In comparison to a day hiker, who walks one day at a time with limited backpack provisions. At sunset a thru hiker, Can Do, a cranky 65 year old man started complaining about the Dalmatians. The D.C. guys promptly set up their tent behind the Hut.

Eleven people would be staying overnight in the hut. Overcrowded but livable by my tired standards. I decided to take the high bunk for the night (less crowded). As the sun was setting, it started to rain again. Tin roofs and rain create an intolerable racket, the only saving grace was I was completely exhausted and quickly zonked out. In the middle of the night, Mother Nature beckoned, my bladder was swollen. But how do you get down with eight sleeping people directly below you. Thank God, Mike’s bladder was awakened at the same time. I instantly sprung down into his vacated sleeping area. Mike queried me about all the racket, and I said the rain on the roof was quite noisy. Mike immediately replied, “That’s not rain, that’s rats!”

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 5TH, 2000

The next morning everyone was stirring at sunrise. Bill awoke with a 6 inch diameter hole in his pants where the critters had rummaged for and evidently retrieved some morsels of food. Thank God, he wasn’t wearing the pants at the time. Bob remarked that he was batting them away all night. Bob was reading A Walk in the Woods and spied the passage when Katz and Bryson stayed overnight at Hightop, one of the hikers killed 32 critters. Evidently their off spring have been fruitful and multiplied. Once again breakfast consisted of a couple of power bars and a granola bar. A quick walk down to the spring to replenish our water supply for the day was in order. Everything back into the backpacks and off for another exciting day in the woods.

Upon resuming our hike we traversed about a half mile to the crest of Hightop Mountain at an elevation of 3,587 feet. The view was outstanding. This was only the second vista after hiking for over two days. The trek down Hightop was treacherous since it was strewn with slick granite rocks and countless tree roots. A small stream meandered alongside the trail in sections. This section was rather steep and the deer were sparse. We came out of the woods at Swift Run Gap and crossed Highway 33.

The Saddleback Mountains with an elevation of 3,375 feet was our next objective. The hike from Hightop Hut, through the Saddleback Mountains and to South River area was uneventful. Once again the vistas were nonexistent. We were completely engulfed within the “Green Tunnel”. This section was exceptionally level, instead of going over the mountains we were traversing the valleys between the mountains. Clearings and apple tree grooves reminded me of the early settlers of the 1700’s who originally inhabited these mountains.

I was actually getting my hiking legs and we hiked together for the eight miles from Hightop. No one really said anything during these eight miles until we stopped for a break. The accommodations from the previous night was on everyone’s mind and another night of rain and rats was inconceivable. We realized if we maintained this pace we would be getting to the next hut around noon time. We decided that a hot shower, a dry bed and a warm meal would be the best. Only 12 miles ahead was the comfort of Big Meadows Lodge. Our pace became youthful with the tangling of this reward ahead.

We also made an adjustment in our hiking logic, when we inadvertently misread one of the trail blazes and intersected Skyline Drive just North of the South River Picnic Grounds. Twelve miles of Appalachian Trail going up and down steep embankments without any scenery or the Skyline Drive with magnificent vistas. It was unanimous. We’ll “white line” it. Hiking jargon for walking the road. We were making some incredible time on the road. Clocking in at over 3 miles per hour. But the hard surface started taking its toll on the others in the form of blisters. I was lucky, somehow my $25 work boots with Dr. Schole inserts were better than the expensive hiking boots of my friends.

I hiked several miles with Bob along the road and we conversed at length. I realized that this man was ten years older than me but was in excellent shape in spite of a near death illness less than two years ago. He had just completed a thousand mile bike ride along the eastern seaboard. He biked about 75 miles daily on this trip. He gave of his time in numerous community programs since his early retirement from Bussman. Plus he built his own home of 6,000 sq. ft. in Seton since his retirement. He and his wife had lived in a tent during the winter since they sold their home in St. Louis. An amazing individual.

The miles really started to click off, the traffic on the road was light and the views were incredible. The overlooks were all facing to the West and your vision was unimpeded for 50 miles. The haze had lifted and the temperatures were in the low 70’s. Just perfect. We made brief stops at several of the overlooks. Mike and Bill stopped at one overlook to adjust their backpacks but I kept on walking, simply remarking, “I’ve got the pace, can’t stop now”. Bob was about 100 yards in front of me and I was determined to maintain his pace the rest of the trek. My resolve was impossible to keep, Bob kept getting further and further ahead plus Mike and Bill were nowhere to be seen. The miles kept racking up, Big Meadows was definitely achievable. Except for one small problem, I was completely out of water and felt terrible dehydrated, no problemo!

The Appalachian Trail crosses at Miriam Gap and Bill (who had my maps) previously stated that the AT would be a short cut to Big Meadows, less than 2 miles. Off Skyline Drive and back on the Appalachian Trail, once again a true AT hiker. The area was heavily wooded with abundant undergrowth. I surmise that this valley was once an early homestead fields since there was few mature trees. Grooves of apple trees were plentiful but the deer had harvested all the apples within their extended grasps. The backpack kept getting heavier and my mouth was dryer than cotton. Two elderly women approached from the opposite direction and I inquired about the distance to Big Meadows and they said it was less than a mile (liars). Puddles of water were everywhere, but not a drop in my water bottles. Imagine spotting a lunatic heaving a water bottle at an apple tree in the middle of nowhere. Well that lunatic was me and I needed some moisture relief desperately. Finally after countless attempts, two worm infested apples lost their grip and fell by my feet. Adam would not have been tempted in the Garden of Eden if these apples had fallen at his feet but I was desperate.

A well maintained gravel road intersected the trail and the trail immediately traversed through an old cemetery but several recent burials were evident. Another mile brought me to Lewis Spring where I immediately quenched my thirst with fresh (unfiltered) water.

Another trail bisected the AT and for a brief moment I became disoriented and walked the wrong trail for several hundred yards before I realized there were blue blazes marking the trail instead of the AT white blazes. Double back to the AT and started a strenuous uphill section of the trail. Traffic and voices could be heard in the distance but I started doubting myself when the noises ceased and I was going deeper into the woods. Then to my right, I barely glimpsed site of a building. It had to be the Lodge, so I trailblazed a new path towards the building which turns out to be the Waste Water Treatment Plant for Big Meadows. The building was locked and no one was around, but a paved road was a welcome site. Unknown to me at the time, if I would have kept on the Appalachian Trail another 400 yards, I would have been at the Lodge.

The paved roadway intersected with a main roadway and I decided to go to my right and within 800 yards or approximately 2400 little steps, I was at the Big Meadows Wayside which conveniently closed 15 minutes earlier. I removed my backpack for the first time in six hours and almost fell flat on my face. The unexpected weight off my back threw me off balance. I realized, if I would have gone to the left I would have been at Big Meadows Lodge, now it was one mile in the opposite direction. Seriously thought about just dropping my backpack behind the Wayside and crawl to the Lodge. After several attempts, I finally was able to procure a ride with a lady who was returning to the campground. She was kind enough to take me to the Lodge. Total mileage for the day was twenty something miles. Its hard to being certain with all the backtracking.

As the jeep pulled up to the Lodge, Mike came out the door. Oh what a site. He immediately snapped up the backpack for me. He said that they were worried about me since it was getting dark. Then he told the story of how Bob had waved a $20 bill in the Lodge’s parking lot in an attempt to attract a ride. A waitress from the Lodge obliged and drove about 3 miles from the Lodge on Skyline Drive before spotting Mike and Bill.

Mike said he thought it was an illusion when he saw Bob yelling from the back of the pickup truck to get in. When Bob said “Get in, Damn it”, he realized it wasn’t a mirage. They figured I had taken the shortcut on the Appalachian Trail. Some shortcut that was.

The body odor stench was overwhelming, I doubt that Corn Dog smelled as bad as I did at the time. A warm shower was the first matter of business. The muscles cried with exaltation as the warm water cascaded and the soap cut through 20 miles of perspiration. After coming out of the shower, the stench returned. No its impossible, more deodorant, no thankfully it was the days clothing which was immediately escorted outside. Another fatality in the sake of excessive weight reduction was the removal of my mustache which I had come accustomed to for over 25 years. A person can do extreme measures.

The guys were in the restaurant at the Lodge and I consumed the greatest Fried Chicken in my life that night. Actually, anything would have been the greatest meal of my life even liver and onions. Our waitress was Mike and Bill’s savior, she saved them a couple hours earlier on Skyline Drive. Called home that evening to say HI to the family and then I don’t even recall hitting the pillow because I was totally exhausted.

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6TH, 2000

My body was coming back to life, awoke in the morning but had no intention to continue on the Appalachian Trail. The sites along Skyline Drive far exceeded anything on the AT. Breakfast at the Lodge brought additional fluids and substience to me. The truly rude awakening was the weather. The temperatures had plummeted to 38 that evening. Now last night’s bed and shower was truly appreciated. I hadn’t prepared for the cold, imagine being in a hut awakening to that chill and no additional warm clothing. In my case the gift’s shop warm apparel was quickly acquired. Our only problem was we still had 20 miles between us and Bill’s van patiently waiting at Panorama. Bill contemplated hiking along Skyline with a daypack and retrieve the van but without wheels and no ambition to hike anymore, we would have lost a day of potential sightseeing.

Mike and I inquired about anyone going north and fortunately the stone mason who was doing some minor masonry repairs at the Lodge was leaving early since the cold weather inhibited his mortar from drying. Once again we were in luck, this Englishman lived in Elkton at the base of the Shenandoah Mountain Range. We didn’t realize it at the time but he normally went the opposite direction to go home, he actually went an hour out of his way to take us to Panorama. The mountains must bring out the best in these people. We brought the van back to Big Meadows Lodge.

We lunched at Big Meadows Wayside. Burgers and frys. Three thru hikers were sunning/relaxing just outside the store. We struck up a conversation with the guys, who were southbounders. We mentioned Corn Dog and they saw him at Harpers Ferry the previous week. He was a walking legend amongst the thru hikers. We conversed about our little adventures and some of the stories we had heard. Mike was spinning the tale that we heard at Hightop how numerous and tame the deer were along the AT. How one guy had his socks stolen off the clothes line and he ran after the deer attempting to retrieve his socks but that the deer only would turn around and mock the hiker. The thru hikers said it was a great story, one of the hikers was strumming a trail guitar started laughing out load. They were the victims of the incident.

That afternoon we traveled over 60 miles of Skyline Drive and marveled at the truly incredible views. We picked up a “white lining” hiker and he rode with us from just north of Rockfish Gap to Big Meadows. The young man’s trail name was Locomotion. He had graduated from college the previous year and had thru hiked from Georgia to Maine, losing 35 pounds in the endeavor. Now he had a job and was attempting some section hikes of the Trail. The most upsetting view is the massive tree destruction in the Shenandoah’s. Gypsy moth ravished the area and the final blow was a severe winter ice storm several years ago which snapped and uprooted mature pines and hardwoods. That evening we walked down to Dark Hollow Falls just outside Big Meadows. The falls were approximately 100 to 150 feet high but the fallen trees obliterated the once majestic falls. Once again dinner at Big Meadows Lodge.

THURDSAY, SEPTEMBER 7TH, 2000

Time to think about getting back home. We visited the Byrd Visitor Center which chronicled Shenandoah National Park. I personally found it appalling the way the Federal Government evicted the landowners in the early 1920/30’s to create the park. The National Park Service should be good stewards of this magnificent area but they have stumbled in their programs and resolves. The deer population is overwhelming and numerous deer/vehicle accidents occur. Trees are dead throughout but NPS prohibits cutting or removing as firewood. All firewood is brought in from outside the park. Bureaucrats.

I have never created a journal anytime in my life. Evidently the Appalachian Trail hit a nerve. Note: Meriwether Lewis never compiled his journals upon completion of the Lewis and Clark expedition. I did.

Covering a whopping distance of 33 miles in three days, I classify myself as an Appalachian Thru hiker, actually I’m all through hiking.

January 5, 2001

Editors note: If you are interested in undertaking this incredible experience contact me at johnloyet@yahoo.com

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