Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 15

19 May 2010

Yin:  So... today was...  interesting.  We awoke and left the shelter at around 7:00 a.m. heading for Siler Bald shelter about five miles away.  We arrived there at around 10:30 and had a good lunch.  After looking at our maps and talking it out, we decided that we simply can't survive another cold night like last night.  So we made the professional, or crazy stupid, decision to head to Gatlinburg, TN and in doing so trek over Clingman's Dome (the highest point on the A.T.) altogether making for a 12 mile day.  We could see our destination the entire day looming in the distance.  It was a tough climb but we had higher spirits now that we had a newly found destination.  Yang assured me that we could hitch a ride from the tourist attraction/watch tower on top of the mountain.  However, when we arrived the entire area was closed due to construction!  We were able to talk one of the workers there to give us a ride to Gatlinburg but we would have to wait until his shift was over.  Not a problem.  Yang and I took some awesome photos from the watch tower (despite the clouds/fog/mist/stuff).  Before we knew it we were in town and getting a hotel for the night.  Right now we are talking of steak and beer so I am going to wrap this so I can fill my stomach for the first time in what seems a long time, knowing that our adventures on the Appalachian Trail have come to a close... for now!  Until tomorrow, Peace!

Yang:  No Entry

Sunday, June 20, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 14

18 May 2010

Yin:  Remember how I said yesterday that those maps are horribly off?  Well, we were let down by them yet again today.  We figured we had a pretty easy day ahead of us today at around 8 to 10 miles.  Definitely not the case!  Yang and I know that we have a consistent three to four mph pace.  Given that we left Molly's Ridge at eight and didn't arrive here at Derrick's Knob until 1:30 PM (no lunch break).  It is safe to evaluate we did anywhere from 18 to 24 miles today when our map read at 8 to 10.   From here on out, we are not using the map.  It is more trouble than the amount it weighs.  About halfway through the day today, Yang and I had immense delirium and were suffering from heat exhaustion.  I about fell down a mountainside when thought I saw a cluster of white tree mushrooms attack me.  The only upside to today was the awesome view of the entire Smoky Mountains from Thunderhead.  We got a bunch of nice photos all in all.  We just finished supper and I am about to crawl into my sleeping bag early today because I am expecting another day of absolute uphill hell.  And I thought yesterday was bad!

Yang:  Feeling much better now that earlier today!  We broke camp at Molly's Ridge today at around eight.  Before we left, I noticed that the bear was still walking around the site, checking us out.  Anyway, we figured on an eight or so mile day.  All was going well when we passed Russell's Field (yay, 3.2 miles down!).  There were some horse campers there that were just leaving as we were passing by.  The sign there said it was another three or so miles till Spence Field.  It was a lot of up, but we knew that by the time we got to Spence Field, we were over halfway to our shelter, right?  Wrong!  After several more miles, we decided to check our map.  I'll spare the rest of the details, but the point is that the map is all kinds of wrong!  It felt to me that we did around twenty miles today.  We were both in pretty bad shape by the time we made it to Derrick's Knob.  Somewhere between Thunderhead and Rocky Top, we had both fallen.  When I fell, I twisted my leg on a rock (no real damage) and another rock sliced my left ring finger pretty badly.  Like I said before, we're feeling much better now after eating a decent supper.  So now for the good parts of the day.  After Spence Field shelter and most of the way to Thunderhead, there are some fantastic views.  Mountain range as far as you can see.  We took some pictures here.  We also got a couple pictures of a pretty big tom turkey in one of the fields.  Earlier today, here at the shelter, there was a decent sized doe across the grass.  I was too slow to get a picture though.  The map says seven miles tomorrow, so we're counting on fourteen. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 13

17 May 2010

Yin:  We thought we were good to go today...  Yang and I hit the trail this morning at around 8 or so with high spirits because we were going to experience the Great Smokey Mountains.  First things first.  It was an entire day of uphill.  I hurt more today than when we first went up Springer Mountain on day one.  Second: it rained on and off the entire day so our clothes and gear are soaked!  Thirdly, the maps we have for this area are completely off when it comes to mileage between points of interest.  What we calculated to be an eight mile day turned out to be closer to twelve.  How can a map be that off!!??!?  Lastly, it is COLD... really cold.  We hardly have the clothes to keep our core temperature maintained.  On an up note, once we got to the shelter we snapped a couple good shots of a 4-600lb black bear!  She left us alone for the most part.  Just kept getting close to us to check us out.  We are staying at Mollies Ridge shelter and all is well.  I am tired and going to bed.  I hope tomorrow is better because I don't think I could quite handle another day like today.

Yang:  First hiking day of the Smokies!  It was rough.  We figured on an eight or so mile day that turned out to be twelve or so miles.  The maps we have for the smokies are way off.  We did manage to get several good pictures of Fontana Dam this morning and some awesome photos of a 4-600lb black bear tonight.  This bear is REALLY BIG!!  He/she pretty has pretty much left us alone though.  It's just stalking around the edge of the site waiting for us to leave so it can see if we left it any food.  Not gonna happen!  We met a ridge-runner coming up the hill today that told us about the bear.  He said that it was the biggest bear he had ever seen!  I figure when a ridge-runner says it's the biggest he's ever seen.. it's probably a really big bear!  He was right!  Anyway, it's time now for bed.  I'm exhausted from today's hike.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 12

16 May 2010

Yin:  Today was a good day to do much of nothing!  By the time I woke up this morning "Cowboy" and Lithuanian guy we on the trail and Yang was straightening up the shelter as well as figuring out breakfast.  The rain clouds were already on the horizon as we enjoyed SPAM on toast with cheese.  Very good!  We then decided to stroll through town again to kill some time and we found ourselves at the general store with a root beer in our hands yet again.  For lunch we went to a place outside the resort area called "Pit stop".  It was a combination garage/biker bar.  After a light lunch and two pitchers of beer we made our way up the hill towards our supper restaurant called "the Bistro".  It started to pour almost immediately and a nice couple gave us a lift to the top of the hill.  At "the Bistro" we had a Merlot and I had a turkey Reuben that was very well made.  After supper we headed back to the shelter to get our packs ready for tomorrow.  Just before I turned in for the night, another north-bounder from FL showed up.  After getting to know each other a little bit, I'm ready for bed!  Smokey Mountains tomorrow!

Yang:  We took the zero day today.  After a late breakfast of some delicious SPAM burgers we got bored and went back into the "village".  We did the general store thing and picked up a few meals for down the trail.  Yin had a root beer and I had a grape NEHI.  Yum!  From there we thought it would be a good idea to eat nachos and drink two pitchers of beer for lunch at the "Pit stop".  Needless to say, we were feeling no pain as we headed back up the hill in the driving rain.  A nice young couple gave us a lift to the resort inn/restaurant.  Survived the rain!  We had sandwiches at the restaurant which were very good.  I had a turkey club and Yin had a Reuben.  When we left the restaurant we got some coffee from the inn's lobby area and had the desk call the shuttle for us.  While we were waiting for the shuttle I decided to walk around the gift shop.  I found a nice piece of American Indian pottery I had to pick up for the wife.  We also picked up a jar of apple preserves to spice up our oatmeal.  When we got back to the shelter we met a fireman from Florida (originally from Boston).  He seems like a pretty cool guy to hike with tomorrow.  G'night for now!

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 11

15 May 2010

Yin:  This morning, coming out of Cable Gap, was pretty tough.  There seemingly was a lot of up and the humidity was so high that we were soaked with sweat within the first hour.  After about two miles of up we were presented with a very nice section of easy going downhills.  Towards the end of the trail we started seeing and hearing signs of civilization.  Within the hour we were met with the Fontana Marina.  We noticed however that this was not the location of the shelter, so we continued through the marina and straight up on the trail again for another couple of miles.  The last part of today's hike really wore on my mind because the trail was doing some weird direction changes that made no sense to me.  Eventually we made it to the very nice Fontana Dam "Hilton".  We took some much needed showers and washed our clothes in the bathroom sinks.  Once we were cleaned up a bit we made our way into town.  We noticed a shuttle for A.T. hikers at the Marina and thought it best to hitch the road back there.  We soon found out that the place was full of tourists, none of which wanted to stop and help out hikers.  We never had a problem getting a ride up to this point.  Very surprising to us.  We still met the Marina by road in about 10 minutes.  It had taken us an hour by trail!  We caught the shuttle into Fontana Village.  We had lunch at a restaurant on a hill and dropped way too much money on a mediocre sandwich.  Shortly thereafter we went to the general store and then killed some time sipping root beer while sitting in rocking chairs on the porch.  After we had our fill of the village, we headed back to the shelter for supper.  At the shelter we met a gentleman from Lithuania and a former boy scout that went by the trail name "Cowboy".  We are probably going to take an off day here as well because we caught wind of a horrible thunderstorm heading our way.  We plan to ride it out here.  I can hear the rain starting to hit the gravel outside the shelter now...

Yang:  It stormed last night at Cable Gap.  Luckily we were already settled in by that time.  It left the trail damp this morning but not too bad.  It was another humid day though.  No fun.  After several hours of walking we found our way to Fontana Marina.  We assumed at this point that we were nearly to the shelter.  Wrong.  It was another mile+ down the trail.  We did make it eventually though.  The Fontana Dam shelter (the Fontana "Hilton", as it is affectionately called) is easily the nicest shelter on the trail.  It sleeps about 20-25 and has a bath house a few hundred yards away.  The first thing on the agenda, after we arrived, was a shower!  We took turns bathing and washing clothes in the sink.  We put our now semi-clean wet clothes in the sun to dry.  Then it was off to town.  We took the road from the dam to the Marina.  It was MUCH easier than the trail.  From the Marina we caught a shuttle to Fontana Village.  The "village" turned out to be a resort.  It was over-priced and since it wasn't really a town there were not many options as to what to do.  We had an okay burger for lunch that was way over-priced.  Lame.  After that we hit up the general store in the "village"  and picked up some "supplies".  Two bottles of root beer and twelve cans of real beer.  We enjoyed the two bottles at the general store and (ignored the signs at the shelter about alcohol being prohibited) enjoyed the twelve cans at the shelter with "Cowboy" and a man from Lithuania who had through hiked in 2006.  We also hear that the weather is supposed to be bad for the next several days.  It's raining already tonight.  We may take another zero day tomorrow and wait out the weather.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 10

14 May 2010

Yin:  Today was another planned easy day.  We went to the next shelter , about six miles down the trail, called Cable Gap.  Even though the day was short it was made rough by a passing storm we had last night.  There were bugs everywhere!  We got through it though and made it to the shelter by about noon.  This place also had no bear cables.  After about an hour of trial and error (I got the chord tangled in the tree several times) we had a working pulley.  A few people passed through for lunch and put our fire out accidentally when they spilled their boiling water in it, so I had to reconstruct it.  I took the Sven saw and cut down a standing dead pine, and burned most of it.  There are two others staying at the Cable Gap shelter with Yang and I tonight.  One north and one south bounder.  Looking forward to reaching Fontana Dam tomorrow and the famous Fontana Dam "Hilton" shelter.  Early to bed, early to rise.

Yang:  Today was not a great day for hiking.  We think that the cold spell last week may have prevented insects from hatching for several days.  When it warmed back up, we think, they all hatched at once.  Add that to today's swampy muddy trail and ... well... it sucked.  Aside from that the past couple days have been very humid here.  Oh well.  When we arrived at the shelter we noticed that it (Cable Gap) also did not have bear cables.  Yin rigged up our pulley system and we were in business.  I cut up some logs and Yin built a very nice fire.  It was pretty much "by the book" perfect in construction so I took a picture of it.  A little bit later I noticed that Yin had dissapeared.  Soon after I noticed that, I heard a large crash down the hill.  Upon investigation I found that he had cut down a large dead pine.  It took a while to get cut up but we did it.  Staying with us tonight are a south-bound section hiker and a north-bound through hiker.  We've had fire and good conversation.  Now is time for bed.  Fontana here we come.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 9

13 May 2010

Yin:  Yang and I woke up pretty early today to make sure our packs were set to go.  Renee was already up and out the door before we were even out of bed.  Soon we were on our way in a personally owned taxi service.  Our drivers name was Sally and she was a hoot!  She was a world traveler also and told us many stories of "her day".  About an hour later we were at our destination.  Tonight we are staying at Brown Fork shelter which was about only five miles of up.  In comparison to "the Jump Up"  today's journey was considerably easier.  This shelter was the first so far that did not have bear cables, so we had to fashion our own.  Between Yang and I, we rigged a block and tackle pulley device which worked very well.  I also found some sassafras root and we made tea and just relaxed all afternoon because this was also the first time that we had the entire shelter to ourselves.  To conclude:  I think I may have just found a walking stick and I am going to go cut it down!  Goodnight!

Yang:  Finally made it back to the trail today.  Was starting to get cabin fever!  We had a pretty good car ride this morning with the shuttle service.  I think our drivers name was Joyce, and Yin thinks it was Sally, we may never know for sure.  Our shelter tonight is "Brown Fork".  We could tell we had taken a break the last couple of days because the five miles of up was pretty rough.  The very first thing I noticed about the site was that there were no bear cables.  We managed to throw together para cord/carabiner pulley system that worked out well enough.  We met Cricket, Blue, and a few others who stopped in for lunch.  Other than that we had the shelter to ourselves the rest of the night.  A very nice change!  We chilled and made some sassafras tea.  I found a walking stick here and it looks like Yin has too. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 8

12 May 2010

Yin:  So here we are this morning with splitting headaches.  Good thing we decided to hang out another day, because my body couldn't handle the trail in this state!  Today's goal was trying to do a small section of trail (about three miles) late this afternoon.  However, nothing quite went according to plan as the only shuttle service, that could take us to our next desired entry point, was booked for the rest of the day.  I wasn't looking forward to paying for another nights stay, but we have no choice.  We set up our shuttle ride for 8am and decided to grab a quick lunch.  Upon returning to the Hiawassee Inn, I ran into Renee who just walked in off the trail.  We decided to let her stay with us for the night to spare her the cost of a room (she's a through-hiker and has a LONG way to go!).

Yang:  Well... It's probably a good thing we couldn't get a shuttle today.  We definably destroyed both bottles of wine last night.  It was a lot of fun though!  We did manage to schedule a shuttle ride for tomorrow though.  YAY!  We went down the road for a hangover brunch.  I had a very tasty omelet.  When we payed for our meal the woman behind the counter, after finding out we were hikers, told us to "hold on" as she dashed to the back of the restaurant.  When she came back to the counter she said "you boys need these" as she handed us two very large peanut butter cookies!  Pretty cool town!  A while later (back at the inn) Yin came back with Renee.  Pretty cool surprise!  She's trying to get up to trail days in Damascus, VA right now so she can catch up with the rest of the through-hikers.  Looks like she's going to stay with us tonight.  Now I think we may go find some supper and probably call it an early night.  Looking forward to getting back on the trail in the morning.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 7

11 May 2010

Yin:  What a day!  Everything a rest day should consist of!  Yang and I slept in until about nine or so.  Then, we took a morning stroll for about a mile to the closest McDonald's for breakfast.  It was awesome!  After that, we went to the general store for forks (to replace our chopsticks which replaces our sporks) and some ice cream.  After that, we went past a pawn shop we saw earlier on our walk and Yang bought a new harp and I played an acoustic Gibson.  They also had an electric Hondo, bet she had seen better days.  On our way back to the hotel, we stopped past a local store named "Bacchus".  It ended up being an intricate wine shop/good import beer store.  After some good conversation with owner we were off again, this time with two bottles of wine and one import beer each.  I got a dark lager named "Hob Goblin".  It was very good.  Shortly thereafter, we found ourselves in the Inn again and are about to wrap up our off day with some wine.  Yep, smells good, a nice dark Merlot. 

Yang:  Woo hoo!  What a good day!  We started off with a McDonald's breakfast which was pretty awesome.  After that, we found our way to a Bob's or Steve's or some random name's general store and picked up a couple forks (heavy!) and a one pound brick of fudge.  We then hit up a pawn shop and messed with some guitars and I picked up an F harp.  From there, we found a really neat wine shop.  The woman/owner working there was sort of a hippie and was really awesome.  She knew a lot about the different wines and import beers she carried.  Yin got a bottle of "Hob Goblin" and I got a bottle of "1554".  We also picked up two bottles of very decent wine.  We're back at the Inn now watching South Park and Tosh.0.  The beer is gone.  Looks like a bottle of Merlot is being poured... g'night!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 6

10 May 2010

Yin:  I would have never guessed where Yang and I ended up tonight!  Last night at Low Gap shelter, another hiker, Renee,  told us of a re-stock point about three days away called Hiawassee.  And here we are the next day!  Yang and I originally planned to skip visiting the town altogether because we had only just come from Neels and we felt spoiled stepping off the trail.  However, while having lunch at the Blue Mountain shelter we realized we could see our breath at noon!  It was a gorgeous view though.  That shelter was located on one of the highest points of the ridge, so when we got there it felt pretty cool being one of the highest things as far as one could see.  After lunch Yang and I attempted to innovate various ways of keeping warm.  Our best idea was to build a lean-to inside the shelter and then put boiling water in the lean-to to optimize heat retention.  After pouring myself over the maps though, we eventually decided to hike the 3-5 mile downhill to the nearest road and hitch a ride into town.  So here we are, in Hiawassee Inn, ran by a Vietnam vet, a full two days ahead of schedule!  For supper we went to Subway where we quickly found out how much the locals like hikers.  We got a massive amount of food and drinks and cookies all for seven bucks!  I have a feeling we will be staying here another day.

Yang:  Last night was very cold.  Yin and I learned that our sleeping bags were not heavy enough for a cold night on a mountain!  We were eager to pack up and get away from the killjoy called "Razor" (who waited for everyone to leave).  We made really good time today, and were at our next shelter in about 2 1/2 hours (Yikes!).  We had a decent lunch of fried spam and crackers and began to realize it was going to be another cold night.  It had just turned twelve and we could see our breath.  We toyed around with some ideas to stay warm, including building a second lean-to inside of the shelter and putting hot water in our canteens inside of our sleeping bags.  Over the next hour though, it just kept getting colder.  We decided we should try to get to town.  We found a road about 1 1/2 miles down the trail (much closer than the 3 or 4 days Renee had told us about last night) and found a ride to the Hiawassee Inn.  We got a room with two beds, a bathroom, and a television.  After a refreshing shower, we walked up to Subway for a quick dinner.  We noticed the employee was being generous with our toppings, but I was still surprised by the following:  overall, we got two footlong subs (overstuffed), drinks, chips, and four cookies for around seven dollars!  Awesome!  They seemed to like hikers in this town.  We got our subs to go, walked to the nearby Marathon gas station, and picked up a six pack of beer.  When we got back to the room, we enjoyed our goodies and our good fortune (it started to rain).  After some television, it's time for bed. 

Friday, June 4, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 5

9 May 2010

Yin: Today was a great day for hiking.  We left Neels Gap this morning after most everyone else.  We had to check out of the hostel and Yang picked up some drink mix and a sleeping pad from the store.  It was a bit of a struggle in the beginning hours however our pace quickened by the hour.  There was even one point that I was running down the mountain side!  Towards the end of that run I was met with what appeared to be a wolf, but it was only someones dog... Phew!  We soon found ourselves in Low Gap making lunch when we realized that we left our titanium sporks at Neels Gap!  Very lame!  No problem though, we just made chopsticks and made do.  At this shelter we met two fellow Boy Scouts.  When they found out we had a saw they went and cut firewood for the night.  They didn't seem to mind.  We also ran into a ridge runner called " Razor".  He reminded us a retired Navy chief (not in a good way).  We decided to call it an early night so we didn't have to be reminded of what we came out here to forget.

Yang:  The day started off pretty well even though we couldn't hit the trail right away.  We had to to wait for the Neels Gap store to open up so we could check out of the hostel.  Once inside the store I decided I needed a sleeping pad, and we picked up some Camelbak tablets (electrolyte booster) which proved to be much nicer than drinking plain water.  After that we hit the trail.  We had a pretty good hike and flew past most of the other Neels Gap hikers.  There was one really amazing lookout on the mountain just north of Testnatee Gap.  In the gap we took a little break for some GORP and to cool off.  We watched several cars turn around due to the road being closed.  Motorcycles just ignored the signs.  The rest of the hike today was mostly uneventful.  At some point we made it to the Low Gap shelter.  There already were two guys.  I recognized them to be Boy Scouts by the Philmont brand on one of their hats.  More and more people arrived as the day went on.  They were all just fine minus one.  "Razor", a southbound ridge runner, showed up and the night got worse.  Within 5-10 minutes of arriving he had all of the wood for the night on our fire and was a real "one-upper" the entire evening.  Yin and I decided it was best to spend the rest of the night catching up and avoiding "Razor".  Time now for sleep.  Tomorrow will be a good day for hiking north. 

Thursday, June 3, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 4

8 May 2010

Yin:  Last night was peaceful.  Probably the best night of sleep so far on the trail.  Today consisted of a lot of "leap-frogging" as we passed many hikers and a few of them passed us only to be passed by us again!  We are making excellent time, and it seems our bodies are acclimating well to the environment we have submersed ourselves in.  About mid-day today as I was looking at the map during lunch, I noticed a tiny short-cut on the trail that Yang and I could use to put time in our favor.  This short-cut worked more in our advantage than I could have hoped.  We were walking along this road when a guy in a truck offered to take us into town where we had a nice sit-down lunch #2.  Then , the cashier told us of a shuttle to Neels Gap which was about two days away yet!  We took the shuttle to buy time, not to mention skip Blood Mountain, and were in Neels Gap by supper.  Neels is your typical hostel set up and we enjoyed good trail conversation with the other hikers staying there that night.  Everyone there thought Yang and I were nuts for carrying a months worth of food with us.  Seems to be a growing trend out here.

Yang:  Got out of Hawk Mountain shelter pretty early today.  We had two options;  Blood Mountain (it's as bad as it sounds) or Suchess.  We chose the latter and decided to hitch-hike into town.  Town consisted of a T.W.O. (two wheels only) biker hotel, a gas station, and a high school.  No hostel, no restaurant.  We were told of a shuttle service that could take us to Neels Gap.  Neels had everything a weary hiker needs.  We got to take a shower and sleep in a real bed (bunk style).  Did dishes in a sink and even did a load of laundry.  At one point the nice folks who run the store/hostel went into town and brought back pizza for everyone.  At the hostel are Renee(crazy hippie chick), The Grock(cool through-hiker hippie guy), Josh & Jason(saw them a couple days ago), and a few older gentlemen, one of whom is named David.  All in all a pretty good group.  Time now for sleep.  P.S. - Made friends with one of the hostel's cats.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 3

7 May 2010

Yin:  Last night was rough.  I heard a large animal breaking branches behind the shelter.  I hardly got any sleep.  The trail today though was pretty easy going.  It was mostly down hill and the weather was very cool and misty which made for breathtaking scenery.  We made for the Hawk Mountain shelter tonight, only to be very disappointed at the condition it was left in.  Yang and I spent about an hour cleaning all the trash left behind by previous "hikers".  Later in the afternoon, Auz, Megan, Adalay, and Doc showed up and we spent the rest of the evening spinning tales.

Yang:  Today was not as bad as yesterday!  The trail had some level spots and downs instead of the straight ups of yesterday.  We were still glad to see the sign which simply read "shelter" though.  When we got to the shelter we were less jovial.  We managed to fill the fire ring to over-flowing with all of the garbage we collected in and around the shelter.  The entire area looked much better by the time Auz, Megan, Adalay, and Doc showed up.  After a quick supper and light conversation, it is time for sleep.  Everyone is still pretty exhausted from yesterday.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

An Appalachian Tale: Part 2

6 May 2010

Yin:  What can I say?  Today was very rough and painful!  Let me start at the beginning though.  This morning it became obvious that over the next month I wouldn't get much peaceful sleep.  Every hour or so I would have to re-position myself to keep my limbs from falling asleep due to the lack of blood flow.  After a quick breakfast consisting of GORP we were on our way.  We were immediately introduced to a mountain of stairs leading to a beautiful waterfall cascading over at least 10 stories of sharp, ragged rocks.  There were approximately 600 steps in total... yes, There were signs saying how many there were, and I counted them.  Yang didn't share my optimism as far as I could tell.  After the stairs, we had an entire day (7-8 miles as the crow flies) of inclined mountain to traverse.  I didn't prepare for this and it was a long day for me.  Yang thoughtfully led me up the mountain and never complained about how many breaks I took.  Today's climb is called Springer Mountain and we stayed in the shelter on top.  Very sore.  After a satisfying lunch a few more people showed up.  There are two women by the names of  "Auz" and Megan, and they have a guard dog named Adalay.  Adalay carried all their water and it reminded me of cat companion "Doc" had mentioned before.  We also met a guy from Germany who must have been well off because he says he leaves Germany many times a year to hike the many trails of the world.  He was very cool and Yang and I got along with him very well.  We also made a fire tonight and played harmonica to entertain our "guests" (because we got to the shelter first).

Yang:  Today was not an easy day!  This morning "Doc" told us about an amazing breakfast at the Amicalola Lodge.  We went on a several mile "goose chase" looking for the lodge only to give up and start hiking the trail with an open bag of GORP.  The first part of the trail was absolutely beautiful yet absolutely horrible.  The beautiful part was the 6-700 ft. waterfall.  The horrible part was the staircase that went the same distance nearly straight up.  Good Times.  When we finally made it to the top, who else would be waiting for us but "Doc"!?!  After a short chat with him, we started up the mountain.  Approximately 6-7 hours later we arrived at the Springer Mountain shelter and were officially on the Appalachian Trail.  At the shelter we met a really neat guy from Germany as well as two girls from Georgia.  There was fire and good conversation most of the evening.  We even shared our Makers Mark with everyone.  Now time for rest.  If today was any indication of how the trail will be, we'll need all the rest we can get.