View Full Version : The Good The Bad The Ugly... Fall section hike

The Phoenix
11-28-2015, 11:34
My faith in humanity has been restored... as it always is following a walk in the woods! I wrapped up a 30-something day southern AT section hike a few weeks back and am just now slowing down...

I did Rockfish Gap to Harper's Ferry & TN/NC down to Springer... I didn't calculate the mileage to a t... but it was somewhere between 400-500 total miles. This trip put me over 4,500 total Appalachian Trail miles (excluding day hikes).

Here are some highlights (THE GOOD):

1) It's hard to start talking about a backpacking trip without hat tipping the people of the trail. Per usual, I met dozens upon dozens of folks that were kind, genuine, interesting, and on the whole, so much different than the "real world". To name a few... Good Times (2014 thru-hiker from MS), Trooper (MS), Hitchhiker (France), Strings (2009/WV) Wolverine (MI), Rock Fish (MI), Gladiator (IN), Croc Man(ME?), Splinter(FL), Gandalf The Brown (TX), Smokesignal (CT), and about a dozen other 2015 SOBO thru-hikers... There are too many people to name, but I always find that I jive better with folks on the AT than anywhere else on the planet of Earth!

2) SNP & GSMNP walking in the heart of Autumn... I went NOBO thru SNP & SOBO thru GSMNP and they were both stunning! The leaves, the weather, the views... it was really hard to beat. Mt. Cammerer really stood out to me. That has got to be one of the best views 360 degree views on the AT

3) The animals... I'm a sucker for animals. I grew up idolizing the Crocodile hunter and that passion for creatures of all shapes and sizes has really not faded. In total, I saw 15 bear (8 in SNP, 3 in the Smokies, 3 in GA, and 1 just north of Front Royal)... they were all stunningly beautiful, with their thick winter coats coming in... Also, I stumbled across a bobcat in the most northern part of Shenandoah, which is only the second cat I've seen on the AT. Truth be told, that cat brought tears to my eyes... I'm soft, I know. I saw a few dozen deer, a few owl, hawks, and one pissed off copperhead on Skyline Drive that I moved off the road.

4) The solitude... Yes it's the AT... not the CDT, but I managed to have plenty of time alone. I went a 4 day stretch in Northern GA without seeing a single soul. I hiked for 10 days in a constant fog (with periods of moderate to heavy rain), which really kept day hikers and weekend hikers off the trail... I like people, but sometimes it's nice to have that alone time. I got in some great thinking, reading, and hiking in complete quiet... hard to beat it.


1) The Shelters... I don't want to beat a dead horse or rehash a topic that gets a lot of negative energy on a regular basis among AT hikers, but the shelters seem to be in the worst shape that I've ever seen em... more trash, rodents, and graffiti than ever before. Maybe they've always been that way, but I am just more aware of it now? It was hard to want to hang around a few of them... trash everywhere, nasty things tagged on the walls, and a circus of mice... fortunately, I had plenty of other real estate to choose from.

2) Hunters & guns... I don't know if I am a "show me your gun" magnet... but a lot of section/day hikers felt the urge to show me their hand guns. I kept a tally and 5 different hikers I met felt the need to show me their pistols... it was bizarre. I didn't see a single gun (on a hiker) throughout my entire 09 thru-hike, but in a few weeks of sectioning this year, I nearly saw a half dozen? Also, I had a hunter take a shot in my direction (while wearing two pieces of orange clothing)... I screamed at him & when I crossed him on a forest road, he looked at me and said nothing. I found it creepy and strange. A few other hikers had weird interactions with this man.

Note^^^ I'm not anti-gun at all, I'm just not sure what their place is on the Appalachian Trail. Also, I'm not sure why hikers feel the urge to take them out at a shelter...?


1) Clingmans Trash Pit... maybe I hit Clingmans dome at the wrong time, but it was crawling with garbage, toilet paper, and other things that made my blood boil. It's such a beautiful area, but for whatever reason, folks feel the need to litter & trash that section of the trail. I know it gets a ton of traffic, is road accessible, and I hit it when a bunch of leaf folks were out & about... but it was really disheartening.

While up on Clingmans Dome, I heard a mother tell her daughter that the "Appalachian Trail was just a few feet away from them and Reese Witherspoon hiked the entire trail a few years ago"... I figured maybe she was the type that was throwing crap everywhere... !?

I will write about my experiences at a few hostels, trail towns, restaurants, etc in a different forum... but all in all... the trip was exactly what I needed. Already planning the next hike/adventure...

11-28-2015, 23:41
Your "good" is awesome!

Your "bad" is sad... I am thinking the time of year is what made many people have to show their "guns."... guessing that involved the sort of people who feel the need to show their stuff when others might have the bigger stuff (read: "small man syndrome"!!!) - which might, possibly, be a bigger deal during hunting season.

The "Ugly" - that is just darn UGLY! I challenge EVERYONE to pack out 5 pieces of trash EVERY day.... Seriously, we can all do that. Yes, I realize we should not have to do that - unfortunately, because too many @$$#07les leave their stuff, we have to suffer. PLEASE, make it a point to jump all over the $#I! of those you see leave stuff. Otherwise, help pick up what you see and make it a point to talk leave no trace to others. This is the way to educate.... and make it better for us all!

12-01-2015, 15:45
Last year when I hiked TN I had several experiences when locals came to camp at shelters (sometimes riding 4 wheelers).

One mother, kids and dogs in tow, took one look at us when we arrived at sunset in the rain needing space, and grumbled "I though you people were done for the year". So watch out, the trailer trash locals generally try to take over in October.

12-01-2015, 16:18
I plan on bringing a cloth grocery bag filling it and hauling it out. Everyone should do something about the same.
Please & Thank you!

The Phoenix
12-01-2015, 18:10
I ended up doing this in both National Parks, there are a few places where there were garbage cans at the gaps, frequently only a few miles from where the trash was. It's not hard to do. I'm sure on occasion, it is a genuine accident. If you had a wrapper in your pocket and it somehow fell out while hiking and you didn't notice... but it was often intentional. Pure laziness and lack of care... the concept of packing out what you pack in is so simple, yet some folks seem to have a complete disregard.

Hopefully there is a major shift in consciousness, but the difference I saw between 2009 & 2015 made me think it was going in the opposite direction.

12-01-2015, 20:12
good report!

where did you run into Rockfish (MI)? I hiked the northern part of the LT with him on our e2e hike in Sept-2013, been following his progress on his SoBo this year, had not heard from him since Waynesboro

The Phoenix
12-01-2015, 23:55
I met him right outside of one of the Waysides in SNP... we chatted for what seemed to be 2 hours on the side of the trail. Great guy... ending up interviewing me, which was a unique experience. When I ran into him, he was probably 2 days out from Waynesboro... hopefully Mings didn't slow him up!