A return to Panthertown

This weekend I returned to Panthertown, a place I haven’t been in about 2 years. Between AT hikes and work, I haven’t been able to get back. But this weekend I agreed to help out with my friend’s Backpacking 101 trip. There were 11 of us signed up for a nice easy hike over two days, with temperatures  in the 60s and 50s. There was a chance of rain, but nothing terrible.

We met in the parking lot where we usually carpool from, and there were only 9 at the time. By 7:15 we needed to go, and headed out. After a wrong turn or two we found the trailhead and got the packs on, and tromped off into the woods. Our first stop was Schoolhouse falls, a nice low falls about 20 feet off the water, with a hollowed out section that you can walk on, behind the falls. It’s always a fun trip, especially when there’s a bit of ice on the rocks. The water was quite high this time, but thankfully there was no ice.

We left the falls and headed up. There is only about 600 feet of elevation gain for the whole hike, but its all at once, 300 feet the first day and 300 feet the second day, in one swoop. It really lets you know how far out of shape you are. We reached the top of the hill and looked out over the valley. By now it was time for a snack, so we sat on the rocks in the sun and talked about things. About the time we were about to leave, a woman walked out of the woods. She asked if we were a meetup group.

It turns out she was one of our group members that missed the carpool group, and tried to keep up with us after a traffic light caught her. She took an entirely different direction and was able to find us based on the map she picked up in class. We were very impressed with both her road navigation and her map-reading ability, as Panthertown is a tough place to navigate if you’ve never been to it.

With our new hiker, we headed down the hill and found the next set of falls at Granny Burrell. The water was high enough there wasn’t much rock to stand on without getting wet, and the beach was totally washed out. We headed on up to the shelter to set up camp. When we arrived, we found the camping area mostly deserted except for a single tent and bear bag, with a fire smoldering in the fire ring. No one was home. The camping area has grown up a lot since I last stayed there, the briars have taken over several good tent sites. Someone needs to come in with a machete and clean it out a bit.

It was short work for everyone to pick a site and set up. About the time most of the tents went up a group of about 20 hikers came through and looked forlornly at the shelter, as it had started to rain. They kept on walking north, which was a good direction to go since across the creek there is a great open camping site, just without the tin-roofed building. We ate snacks, sat around and talked, and then some went ahead and cooked dinner. At first it looked like the night hike was going to be a no-go, but the rain quit before sunset and I asked if anyone wanted to night-hike.

Five of us headed down the trail, with one giving up before we reached the turn to go up the cliff face. She turned back and the rest of us made the 200 foot switchbacking trail hike up to the top of Big Green, where we watched the last of the sun’s rays dip behind the mountain. A cold mist rolled in and we headed back down about 10 minutes later. By the time we got back to the twisting, turning, wet path leading off the top of the outcropping, it was fully dark. Coming off a mountain in the dark is always a fun challenge, especially with mud and standing water in spots. We walked into camp, talked a little while, and then headed off to our tents.

Overnight was no big deal. The temperatures never got very bad, and the rain didn’t return in force. It either misted or condensed on leaves, to be shaken loose by the wind, but either way it was just enough to let you know it was wet outside, and to disguise the noise of anything wandering through the woods. The next day everyone was alive and no food had been molested by critters, so all in all it was a good night.

After breakfast, we slowly packed up in the morning wetness, made breakfast, and then a group of us faster camp-breakers yet slower walkers decided to head out and up. The slower-packers yet faster walkers stayed behind. About 5 of us headed down the trail and up the now much more challenging Big Green trek. At the top we debated sticking around and waiting on the slower packing people, but knowing the the other guide probably knew the way out, we laid out an arrow in limbs and kept walking. After a ridge line hike the rest of the trip was downhill to two water crossings. The last stop before the end of the day was a little campsite at Greenland Creek Falls trail.

While we were putting on our shoes after a water crossing, the second group showed up at the campsite. All but three of us headed off to see Greenland Creek Falls, which is quite impressive. Three  of us stayed behind to watch the packs and rest. When the group was reunited (with one being slightly wet after falling in the creek), we headed up the gentle climb out to the parking lot. The weather the second day stayed overcast and just cool enough to hike in and be comfortable, without freezing us when we stopped.

All in all, a very fine hike.

 

 

 

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Radio Shack: You’ve got questions, we’ve got blank stares

It’s been almost a month since my last post. I’ve been very busy but I haven’t done any hiking stuff. I was planning to help with a newbie backpacking class, but some stuff happened and I couldn’t go. I will NOT let that happen to me again. It’s sometimes very depressing when you look forward to an event for a month and then you get screwed out of it. BUT – I’m going hiking again the first of November, and it will be cool again so it should be fun.

In other news, I PASSED my amateur radio tests. I studied for about 3 weeks, using two books by Gordon West, Hamstudy dot org online, and two ARRL iPhone apps. I read every flash card, wrote down the stuff that gave me problems, and took a Technician and General test every day. By the end of the second week I was taking at least two practice tests a day, and the final week I was taking upward of 6 practice tests a day, three for each class. It got to where I didn’t even need to do the math any more. I could pick out key words in a few seconds and say, “Yep, that’s 112 inches”.

I went to take the exam, and it was only me and one other person in the room. They let us start a few minutes early, and in about 15 minutes I had knocked out the first test. They graded it and handed me the second one. I missed 0 on the first test, and 1 on the second test. I REALLY hate the parts of the radio. I don’t need to know that a balanced modulator does something to the audio and something intermediate frequency something. Do you need to know what a magnetron is to nuke a potato? I don’t think so, Tim. But, I got by. They handed me my test slip and by Monday afternoon I had my call sign. The FCC may be the most efficient branch of the Federal Government.

The first thing I did after building a little shelf and putting in my radio, was spending several days fixing up a decent antenna. After fretting and spending more time on the ladder and drilling more holes than I wanted into brick, I had an off-center fed dipole, which I can raise and lower using two trees as anchors.

My first contact was to Virginia, and my farthest (I think) is Massachusetts. It’s a bit weird, I’m sort of an introvert by nature. Sure, I can type on here but I don’t have to carry on a conversation. It’s mostly one-sided. On the radio, everyone can hear and usually there are several people talking and you have to wait for someone to shut up long enough to say something. I feel like I’m just walking up to someone’s table at a restaurant and sitting down for dinner.

I have been playing with digital modes a little. Those are fun, because you can communicate with people but you don’t have to talk on the microphone, and you can get people farther away with less power. My first digital contact was to Venezuela on 25 watts. 25 watts! That’s like less than most of my light bulbs in the house, and I talked to someone in Venezuela, using a piece of old speaker wire in a tree 132 feet long. I spent this afternoon building a cable, so I don’t have to hold the microphone up to my computer speakers. The internet is pretty bad ass when it comes to cheap and easy radio stuff.


I intend to get a little handheld sooner or later for hiking. It won’t be able to reach as far, but it’s getting to be winter time, and the thing that sucks about winter hiking is laying in the hammock for 11 hours, when you only are sleeping about 7 of them.

Hamming it up

In the late 80s/Early 90s I bought my first shortwave radio. I don’t remember what got me into it, probably just an extension of the CB Obsession at the time. This was of course before the internet, facebook, world wide web, and in some places, cable TV. So people would get on the radio and talk to other people. Mostly it was so-called “rednecks” in their pickups, hunters, and over the road truckers, but it was something to do. I had my own radio of course, but I enjoyed talking to places far away more so than trying to talk to the locals. I had a map on the wall and I would stick a pin in it when I made a contact in another state.

Shortwave was different. I could listen to stations from all over the world, and hear Amateurs (or Hams) talking about stuff. Mostly what it seemed like they talked about was what radios they were using. Amateur radio in the time was an elite group, people that studied hard and learned morse code, in addition to everything else.

It turns out that several years ago, the FCC dropped the Morse Code requirement. There’s still a use for it, but for whatever reason they dropped the code test. I’m guessing it was to keep Ham Radio alive, under pressure from radio manufacturers. Radios are expensive and good for the economy.

I like listening to shortwave, and I even bought a little receiver to use for hiking. Hearing that they dropped the code test inspired me to look into getting my own license. There are lots of books and apps to use to study, even some online study guides sponsored by Icom, a rather well-known radio manufacturer.

I dug out my old DX440 recently, because it has the best collection of receive modes, and I strung up a long wire antenna I can put up and take down quickly. The radio still has a cheat sheet for ham frequencies on the bottom that I made 25 years ago. I’ve listened to a lot of stations lately doing emergency check-ins from Florida and Puerto Rico. It has been rather interesting and fun, and I look forward to being on the air myself, provided I pass the test.

The: It’s (Censored) hot Summer Hike.

I finally plugged a hole in my AT Journeys this weekend. It was long, arduous, and somewhat painful, but I did it.

My original goal was Sam’s Gap (off I-26 at the TN/NC border) to Spivey Gap, which was only 13.5 miles. But that left 11 miles from Spivey Gap to Erwin, TN. So either I would have to come back for a long day hike or two short days to finish the other half. Then there was the shuttle – paying for two shuttles and using two weekends. The Hobbit said we could probably do the whole thing in two long days.

I usually shun summer hikes for a good reason: I hate bugs and heat. But – I figured the bugs could be dealt with permethrin and when I looked up the shelter weather it was supposed to be high in the 70s and overcast with possible thunderstorms.

I set off at 4am to go hiking, met with 2 others and we all headed to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel in Erwin, TN. The shuttle drivers are nice people, but the staff at the place rubs me the wrong way. After this trip, I was glad to put Uncle Johnny’s behind me.

The shuttle driver arrived and took us over to Sam’s Gap. It was the work of a few minutes to get suited up and ready to go. We had a heck of a thing ahead of us.

Our hike was to be 24.5 miles, total Ascents of 5374 feet, and total Descents of 7373 feet.

Right out of Sam’s Gap there are a series of upward climbs that really make you reconsider your pack weight and whether you brought too much stuff. From 3700 feet all the way to 5500 feet, there are several up and down stairsteps. But finally you reach Big Bald, which has some great views and wild blueberries.

Big Bald – Lunchtime

By the time we reached Big Bald, my hiking friends were out in front of me. About the time I reached the post in the picture above, I was starving and out of gas. I plopped my pack down against the pole, leaned back and ate lunch. I was exhausted and hot, and couldn’t eat much. A woman and a much younger man came through, I assume mother and son. She asked me “Where does this trail go?”, pointing north. Confused, I replied, “Maine.”

I know it sounded like I was being a smartass, but it was true. I didn’t know what she meant. Who puts on a day pack and just wanders onto a trail? She then asked, “No, I mean, where does it go short term? Like, what’s that way?” So I pulled out my map and said there was another bald and then some woods, and eventually Erwin, TN. They walked off to the North. I finished what “lunch” I could eat – half a Bagel with some Nutella on it, and a few pieces of Jerky, along with a propel drink powder in water.

The rest of the afternoon I was on my own. It was some steep downs punctuated by steep ups, with more downs than ups. I have said it before – but down isn’t always better. Give me a gentle uphill slope over a steep downhill slope. Steep downs are hell on the knees and leave your thighs shaking and burning.

Striking out barefoot, the Hobbit moves on.

The last steep up of the day was High Rocks. It was a steep 250 foot route to a little peak with a side trail and some clifftop views. I skipped it. No, I don’t hate myself, despite what the graffiti on the sign said. I was hot, tired, and at the peak I was sucking on my water tube when I hit air bubbles. Oh crap.

Over the course of the day I thought I consumed plenty of water. I started the day with 2.5 liters in my pack. At each water source we came to, I drank some water and added to my pack. But, after Big Bald there were no more water sources, except for one which was a mosquito-laden patch of stagnant water. So now I had nothing, and I remember the shuttle lady saying that there might not be anything at Spivey  Gap. I was hurting, out of water, with a mile to go.

After high rocks, I started down a steep place, and seeing the lush green vegetation in the valley, I started getting hopeful I would see a creek. I kept hearing what I thought was water but it was only the wind in the trees and the sloshing of my fuel bottle. The ATHiker App showed a water source ahead, and the first place was dry, a small place crossing the trail about 2 feet wide. The next spot farther down was dry as well, although I looked good in the stream bed for anything. The third spot was damp, but no running water. Finally I heard something for real, and found a place where a little trickling stream crossed the trail. It was about 5 feet wide but only 1/2″ deep across most of the trail, and it merged together on the downhill side. I sat on a wet rock on the uphill side of the trail, mouth dry and heart pounding.

It was all I could do not to put the first bowl directly into my mouth, but I knew I would have to wait just a few minutes. I use my dinner bowl, a squishy silicone bowl, to dip water out of a tiny pool about the size of a salad bowl, and poured it in my water bag. When I had about half a liter, I screwed the filter on and squeezed/sucked the water through. It tasted so good. I leaned back against my pack and let the water settle, because I felt nauseous. After a few minutes, I repeated the procedure. The water was flowing good enough that any sediment I stirred up was washed out of the way, so I had a nice clear pool to dip from. I did collect what looked like a shrimp, but I poured him out.

After I had two liters in my pack, filtered, and had filled myself up to as much as I could without puking, I walked on. I had to pee not long after, and what little there was, was orange. Definitely underhydrated. I started thinking I missed the campsite, as I was almost to the road crossing at Spivey Gap and hadn’t seen my friends. I started thinking about catching a ride to town. Screw this whole hiking thing. I was thirsty and nauseous, exhausted and smelled like roadkill. I could catch a ride, find a hotel, take a bath, order a pizza, maybe have a drink, and get a ride or even walk to Uncle Johnny’s tomorrow, and meet my friends there. Just when I had the plan in mind and could hear a car going by on the road ahead, I saw a familiar hat and bandanna on a tree next to the trail.

Damn. Hotel plans, ruined. No shower and pizza delivery for me.

I panted and huffed into camp, and waved at Praveen. I staggered around and found two good trees, and strung up the hammock. After laying in it for several minutes resting, I got up and finished setting up the tarp in porch mode, my underquilt to one side, and stripped most of my clothes off. I carry a “sleeping shirt” so I don’t stink myself out of the hammock, but I still smelled like a yak. My face was greasy and I was covered in dirt and leaf litter from sitting on the ground. I thought about eating, but it turned my stomach. I knew I would throw up if I ate, so I kept drinking water. I figured I would lay down and rest, and maybe eat later. It was 8:30 after all. It would cool off soon. The last thing I heard was the Hobbit saying, “I’m getting worried about Taco, I wonder where he is?” and Praveen saying, “He showed up, his hammock is over there.”

I woke up at midnight. Great, its pitch dark, I have to pee, and I haven’t even hung my bear bag. Getting out and hanging the bag was easy, and I was relieved I had to pee. It meant I wasn’t still bad off, although my mouth seemed always dry. I fell back asleep, intending on getting up at 6.

At 5:00 I woke up with a slight chill on my butt, reached under me and pulled the underquilt into place. I was almost instantly warm. The summer underquilt was a good choice for this trip, as was my fleece bag liner. I didn’t even bring a sleeping bag, just the liner and an emergency Costco down throw, in case it did get abnormally cold. The down throw wasn’t needed. I turned my alarm on for 7 and went back to sleep.

Day 2:

Sunday we woke up with 11 miles to go before getting a shower and food. As I was putting away stuff, we started hearing rumbles of thunder in the distance. I had just put my cappucino on when it started raining, of course AFTER i put my rainfly away. I threw the rainfly back up, and then my hiking partners were spontaneously ready to leave. I tossed most of my cappucino into the woods, chewed and swallowed half my bagel and jammed everything into the pack. 

At that point, it began raining in earnest. It was okay, because we had an 800 foot climb in front of us, and the rain helped cool everything off. It rained for a good hour, soaking everything. A few miles on, it slowed and then finally stopped. Thankfully for the most part it stayed overcast, so the humidity wasn’t bad. Our last hill of the day was a 400 foot drop into Temple Hill Gap, then 400 feet right back up As we reached the bottom of the steep descent, Praveen and I stopped to check the map and have a snack. Hobbit had wandered off ahead, and we wouldn’t see him until the end of the day.

Praveen headed up while I finished my snacks, and then I started out. About 100 yards up the hill It started thundering and got windy again. within half a mile the rain started coming down HARD and blowing sideways. I didn’t care, it was washing the grime and grease off of me, and keeping me cool. There were a few more ups and downs, with a final push to the top, 100 feet up a steep grade. The rain stopped right around there, before I started down the other side.

Surprisingly, I caught up with Praveen on the down slope. He hates downs as much as I hate ups, and is even more cautious than I am. We had 1800 feet to go down before hitting the road. About 1/3 of the way down everything seemed to dry out, like the rain didn’t even hit that side of the mountain. A view opened up on the side, with a gorgeous post-rain view of Erwin.

Looking towards the Nolichucky.

I had to stop and get the phone out for a picture. Unfortunately this trip I didn’t get many pictures. at the last minute I ditched absolutely everything I didn’t think I would need. This included my waterproof camera and GPS. I saved over a pound, but when the rains came I had no camera, and the phone is sort of inconvenient anyway. So, there were nowhere near enough pictures for a video.

Once back at the Hostel, I paid for the second best $5 shower  I’ve ever had. My legs were shaking so much I could barely stand up, after pounding down 1800 feet. I didn’t dare sit in the shower, and wind up with athlete’s ass, so I struggled through it and put on clothes that were fresh and dry. The staff at Johnny’s redeemed themselves, being friendly to grimy hikers buying showers.

I was still feeling sick when we reached Los Jalapenos, but I tried to eat the fajitas I ordered. I ate about half the meat, some of the chips and a little rice, and drank both sweet teas I asked for. I was really hoping for a pitcher and a straw.

What I learned on this hike:

Summer hiking is still not my favorite. Did I have a good time overall? Yes. I saw some nice stuff and had a good time with friends, but it was a bipolar trip. Either I was really enjoying it, or it sucked ass. There wasn’t much in between. On the good side, I slept in the hammock almost as well as the time I ended the night with a half percocet and a shot of rum. Exhaustion is great for sleep.

Lighter, lighter, lighter. I was 27 pounds out the door this time. Praveen was 19. I don’t know what 8 pounds I was carrying more than him, but I need to lighten my stuff. I could have gone stoveless. After all, I only heated up cappucino in the morning. I was too sick to eat anything else. I could have left my fleece shirt at home, it wasn’t cold enough and I had my down thing. I didn’t use my Grizz Beak because it wasn’t raining at night. So, I probably could have saved a pound or so.

Oh- I did pour out my stove fuel in the morning. It evaporates really fast, so I wasn’t concerned about it. I also poured out the 2 ounces of coconut rum I brought, since I didn’t drink it the night before, and every little bit helps when you’re trudging up a mountain dehydrated with no breakfast to speak of.

But that was my trip. 23.5 miles in two days was tough, but I’m glad I closed up that hole in my trail trips. Onward to Georgia and Virginia.

 

Don’t forget – I’m on amazon now.

My Book

or Kindle

Mr. Data, make it Sew!

Way back when I was in college and most of the monitors were either amber or green text on a plain background (we’re talking windows 3.0 was new and the world wide web wasn’t invented yet), there were Bulletin Board Systems you could sign onto if you had the right phone number for your 4800baud modem. This was one of the first pictures I ever downloaded, and it took probably 30 minutes to get it.

Okay, that was a little off tangent, but true, and leads into what I really came to talk about. Seeing as how this is sort of my “off season” and I won’t be hiking much because:

  1. Heat
  2. Itching and stinging plants
  3. stinging and biting insects
  4. heat
  5. thru-hikers

I have decided to turn my attention to other pursuits that may involve hiking later on. We are going to the beach in a few weeks, and one of the problems with the beach is the sun. It is relentless and hot, and so we take a pop-up tent, of the kind usually reserved for tailgating and the like, and which Myrtle Beach banned because they’d rather you rent their umbrellas. That’s one reason why Florida is better than Myrtle Beach. Also thong bikinis are legal in Florida and not at Myrtle Beach… but that’s off topic again.

Anyhow, the problem with the tent is: The SUN MOVES. It is unfortunate, but whether you’re a round-earther or a flat-earther, the incontrovertible truth is, the Sun moves around quite a bit. Thus you’re all the time having to adjust where you’re sitting under the tent. SO – I decided to make a zip-on set of walls for the tent, which should cover two sides. I’m never out there long enough to need to cover three sides, and if you need to cover FOUR sides, well then you might as well stay inside, right?

As Captain Picard would say: There. Are. Four. Sides!

No Captain, there are only two.

So I’m zipping along sewing my zipper to the tent top and my piece of fabric and thinking, “Jeez it would sure be nice to be making something to hike with!” And I got to thinking about my ultimate project, something that would require all my skills with needle, thread, and construction, and started musing about making my own backpack.

My first backpack was way too large and heavy, see. I got into the whole hiking thing rather uninformed. When I started shopping around for a second one, I almost bought this one: 

The videos made it look really nice, with easy-to-use pockets and all that. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure if I could fit all my crap into it, and I went with the 65 Liter Deuter ACT Lite. It’s a great pack, and it’s taken me on great journeys and has a LOT of life left in it. BUT! It suffers from an issue that the Gregory above looks to have solved.

It appears to have side pockets that are actually useful. See, most backpacks have side pockets, but they’re pretty useless. By the time you fill the pack and put it on, getting a water bottle out and back in becomes a struggle, so you either don’t’ drink enough OR you resort to a bladder, and the side pockets are only used when you stop for some reason. So why have them at all, other than for additional space?

The pack above was only sold for a short while, and it must not have worked out well for Gregory, because it was discontinued. Strange, because I looked up why it was discontinued and saw nothing but positives about it.

So, in addition to side pockets that are actually useful, and plenty of space, what am I seeking from a backpack?

  1. A challenge. I’ve made hammock chairs, hammocks, even a complete hammock and bug net. I made a rain fly (which we will NOT discuss). I’ve yet to try to make clothes other than a rain kilt.
  2. A lighter pack. By making it myself I may be able to shave some weight here and there, by leaving off some things.
  3. A pack that fits my particular set of needs.

What are my particular needs?

  1. Pockets that work, damn it! My Deuter has hip belt pockets that are too small for most anything. Sure you can store a wadded map, a bottle of eye drops and a 2 inch knife in there, but that’s about all. Forget an iphone 6 or a point and shoot camera. As for water bottles, forget that, too. The mesh pockets are nice but they are too far back and too high to be useful for water bottles.
  2. A built in holster. Right now if I carry my gun it’s over my head in the top section. I have to reach way over my head and hope I can get the zipper open and the gun hasn’t shifted all the way to the back. How about a nice space between the padded back and the interior of the pack for a small automatic? pull the zipper down, reach in and there it is.
  3. Built in raincover holder. My first pack had that, a little double layer of fabric on the bottom with a slot for holding the raincover. Pull it out to use it and stuff it back when you’re done. It made life simple.
  4. Tie-Dye. Let’s face it, everything else I make is Tie-Dyed, why shouldn’t my pack be that way? I’m thinking red and black, but a purple and black mix might be nice too.
  5. Expansion and shrinkage areas that really work. On my deuter pack pulling in the side straps to change the shape of the pack don’t really seem to do anything. So whether you are carrying a full load or a light summer load, the pack seems to always be the same shape.
  6. Drain holes under the bladder area. Why has no one thought of this? My pack has a separate sleeve area inside for the water bladder. Its all good until the bladder breaks, then where is the water going? Yeah, into your pack. What about a water bag sleeve area made of water repellant fabric, with a series of narrow slots at the bottom of the pack. If the bladder breaks, sure your ass is wet, but you know it immediately and your sleeping bag stays dry.
  7. Loops, loops everywhere. Deuter had a great series of daisy chains on the ACT pack. They don’t have them on the ACT lite but they have a few paracord loops in strategic places. I’m thinking if they had a few more of those, the pack would be even more useful for holding stuff on the outside. Say, a rainfly that got soaked and you don’t want it inside the pack.

And that’s about all of that for now. Incidentally I priced a few backpack parts like fabric and tubing, and it seems you can buy a pack cheaper than you can buy parts. I guess that’s why all the companies shifted production to Asia: Buying in bulk saves lots of money, and 12 year olds sew pretty cheaply.

Short post…buy my book.

So If you have liked my page and followed me and enjoyed all my time making videos and doing hiker write-ups. Do me a favor: Go buy my book!

Me on AMAZON

This is the dead tree version. If you’d rather have the cheaper Kindle version, that’s great. It’s weird but I make more off the cheaper version, so either one is fine with me.

But you can write in this one and make notes and circle my grammar errors since I didn’t pay the $200 to have Amazon edit the thing for me. But – the book is available. Oh, and they are still building my page, so I had to search for it by ISBNumber.

Either way, enjoy reading about my adventures while I take the summer off. Bug, Heat, and the Sun sucks. See you on the trails in September.

I’m on Amazon! Kindle Version, at least…

For some reason the Amazon store takes forever, but if you want to read me on Kindle, here I am:

Yes, that’s me on the cover. You may recognize the picture if you have been a long term follower of me. That was one of my favorite hikes, the one Uncle Johnny (Of Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky Hostel, Erwin TN fame) called the most beautiful section of the Appalachian Trail. Its taken from Big Hump Mountain, near Roan High Knob I think, and we spent the night at Doll Flats. I wasn’t prepared to spend most of the day in the sun and wound up a little red, but it was still a gorgeous hike.

I made it free on “Kindle Unlimited” so it won’t cost you anything if you are part of that service, and I turned on the “lend” mode so you can lend to your friends for two weeks. I figured that’s the least I could do, after all with paper versions you can pass them around.

So far it’s only available on Kindle, but they tell me next week some time the “Dead tree” version will be out. I was happy with it when I finished it, but I keep thinking of little things I should have added here and there. Maybe I’ll do a volume 2 a few years from now… Also, the Kindle Store tells me I made a few spelling errors (which Pages didn’t catch while I was writing. Seriously?) so you’ll have to watch out for those. I didn’t pay the $200 for professional design and editing. I’ll only make about 30 cents off each Kindle book, and slightly more than that on each paper one, so I figured $200 was pushing the budget.

But: maybe if they send me a tax form for my income at the end of the year, I can claim some hiking food and a new kilt as a “business expense” and come out negative? So, help a fellow hiker at least get a tax break and buy a copy. I know what my family will be getting for Christmas – autographed copies!

In the meantime I’m pretty much done for the summer for hiking. I might try to squeeze in a day hike here and there. I REALLY wanted to close the Sams Gap to Erwin TN hole that I have left, before fall. When that’s done I’ll have an unbroken line from Davenport Gap NC to Damascus, VA. Otherwise I’m taking a hiking Hiatus while the bugs and plants are at their worst.

I recently had a terrible allergic rash to something. I think I accidentally weed-whacked some poison ivy near the tree line in the back yard, and it played havoc with me for weeks. Three doctor visits and enough antihistamines and prednisone to choke a horse, and it’s mostly gone. I’m really surprised I haven’t contracted it in the woods. Generally when I’m hiking I do a good job of pushing anything green out of the way, with the exception of the odd Stinging Nettles which tend to pop me in the legs. But at least Nettles are over with in around 30 minutes. Poison Ivy (if that’s what it was) goes on forever.

The rash and it’s accompanying itch and general malaise from all the meds made me miss two hiking days. So, now I’m considering other avenues of outdoor expression. Maybe it’s time to consider building that backpack I’ve wanted to design.