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  1. #1
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    Default The LAST White Blaze

    We're done.
    As of 10:15 am Tuesday, November 3, 2020 we have hiked all of the Appalachian Trail.
    It took us 10 years.
    We started on our 20th anniversary and we finished on our 30th.
    Our first section was 25-30 miles in Shenandoah and took us about 5 days.
    Our longest section was 103 miles in New York.
    Our final section was 21 miles in Tennessee from Hughes Gap to Indian Grave Gap, but we added to that by starting at Elk Park and re-hiking over the Roan Highlands, one of our favorite areas.
    This last trip took a little more than 4 days.

    Why don't you stop what you're doing, put your boots on and take a walk with me....

  2. #2
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    Sideways picture of a little bridge as we climb up the hill. It's chilly today, so you better keep moving if you don't wanna get cold.
    IMG_3416.jpg

    Some of the last blooms of the season. Isn't it amazing how resilient these "fragile" flowers are?
    IMG_3417r.JPG


    Hey, look at the cool lichens on this tree! If we were in charging of naming such things, I'm pretty sure we'd call it Oak Leaf Lichen. I'm intrigued by the sheer variety of mosses and lichens you can find, often growing together in their own tiny community.
    IMG_3418.JPG

  3. #3
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    Hah! A tree with a square hole in it!
    IMG_3419.JPG

    Elevations in this section: 4000 ft, 5000 ft, 6000 ft. Looks like it'll be fun.
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    A feast for the soul. Makes you want to spread your wings and lift off.
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    What a lovely view we have going over Hump Mountain! The cold wind keeps us moving!
    We thought we were going to camp on the balds, but nope, we head for the shelter of the trees!
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    Crab apples! Lots and lots of crab apples cover the ground near our first campsite.
    IMG_3438.JPG

  4. #4

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    Congratulations!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by perrymk View Post
    Congratulations!
    Thank you sir, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

  6. #6
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    The Barn, beloved by many, still stands in its little valley. Condemned as structurally unsound, how long before it disappears from the landscape?
    I so hope that the materials are used to build a new structure in this location. The materials are already there, after all.
    IMG_3439.JPG

    A piped spring near the Grassy Ridge side trail. Guess who installed that pipe 5-6 years ago? My husband!
    IMG_3449.JPG

    As we climb Roan Mountain the next evening, we see this: I just love the arching of the trees over the trail, creating a "doorway" beckoning us into another world.
    Always walk through the door!
    IMG_3459.JPG
    That night we share Roan High Knob Shelter with a thru-hiker "Wawa" while the wind and rain rage outside.
    One of the few shelters with a door, we are grateful to be inside.

    Total wildlife for the trip: a handful of birds, 2 spiders, and this cold newt, moving very slowly across the trail.
    IMG_3462r.JPG

    Our LAST summit, Unaka Mountain, 5200 feet. Compared to all the other mountains we've climbed, this is nothing - nope, not intimidating at all.
    The summit is a grove of trees, with sunlight pouring through all the gaps. The ground and lowest parts of each tree are covered in thick moss, in some cases growing 3' up the tree trunks.
    IMG_3470.JPG

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by illabelle View Post
    The Barn, beloved by many, still stands in its little valley. Condemned as structurally unsound, how long before it disappears from the landscape?
    There's no hurry, that's for sure. Looked the same this November as last December.
    It's a strange spot for me. I normally don't care to see manmade anything when hiking, but somehow it just looks "right" there.

  8. #8
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    After the descent from Unaka, we camp near the Beauty Spot parking lot.
    I learned that Unaka is a Cherokee word referring to the color white. Back before the chestnut blight, it is estimated that 25% of the trees in this area were American Chestnuts, which have a white bloom.
    IMG_3494.JPG
    Our LAST sunrise. The same sun seen all around the world, but it seems like it belongs to us. So beautiful! So warm!
    Michael and Heather, who generously responded to a Facebook inquiry, bring us breakfast on the trail for our LAST meal.
    It's a special day, after all!

    IMG_3501.JPG
    "Onesimus" has his camper parked at Beauty Spot. Some of you probably know him. He said he's been camping up and down the Trail for several years.
    A few weeks prior to this he was in the 100-Mile Wilderness. And by the way, he personally knows General Michael Flynn.
    He takes our picture as we begin the LAST few miles. We hit the trail at 9:00 am.

    What will it be like to finish? We're not thru-hikers touching that weathered sign on Katahdin, but we've walked just as far.
    This Trail has consumed all of our vacation time for ten years. It has filled our house with gear, our pantry with freeze-dried meals, our conversations, our cameras.
    Trail maps lie around like magazines. The Trail is our Life, and it's about to end.

    IMG_3254.JPG
    FLASHBACK: We finished the Mahoosucs, our LAST northern section, in September hiking with two others, Ironheart and Cap.
    As we descended into Grafton Notch I felt the weight of it, the long difficult journey coming to an end - but I pushed the emotion to the side.
    We were getting close, but we weren't done with the whole Trail just yet. The tears could wait...


    IMG_3506.JPG
    Back to Tennessee: It's not far, just 2 or 3 miles, but they fly by! So much for savoring the moment. As we round the bend, we see our vehicle.
    That's it - the end is just right there in view! Our time left on the Appalachian Trail isn't measured in miles, it's now seconds, perhaps a minute.

  9. #9
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    IMG_3508.JPG
    The LAST White Blaze, appropriately a double blaze since there's two of us. So many of them, and this is our LAST.

    IMG_3514.jpg
    Matching shirts I ordered with the date 11-3-2020 (easy to find because it was also Election Day!) Why can't I get this photo flipped over?????

    IMG_3515r.jpg
    We make our own mileage sign with gravel from the parking lot and three rocks that will come home with me, one from Unaka, our LAST summit, one from Beauty Spot,
    our LAST campsite, and one from Indian Grave Gap, our Terminus. They'll go in my collection, labeled with the date and location.

    Funny how each rock I have brings up fond memories, some of them clear, others fuzzy, but always with a love and longing for the Trail.

    A thru-hiker "Milkbone" comes along to witness our completion and takes a few pictures for us.

    IMG_3540.JPG
    It's our anniversary, so you can take your boots off and go back home now. We'll take it from here.
    We went to Mt Airy, NC (Mayberry) and spent the night at a place in Mount Pilot.
    We were going to climb Pilot Mountain the next day, but my husband got sick overnight, so that didn't happen. Still looks cool. Reminds me of Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

    IMG_3553.JPG
    1990 - the year we were married.

    IMG_3576.JPG
    I made our own completion certificates. Bob Peoples kindly signed them for us.
    Bob was one of the first shuttlers we used, and I still have a pink ribbon on my pack that he tied there several years ago because it was hunting season and he wanted us to be visible.
    Kincora was the first hostel we used. Thank you, Bob, for all you do for the Trail and the hiking community!



  10. #10

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    Heck of an accomplishment, good job!

  11. #11
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    Default

    Awesome! It's quite the accomplishment
    Thanks for sharing nice report and great pics.
    What's next? (Is Otis still hanging around that jail )?

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    Default

    Congratulations from a fellow section hiker! Cherish the memories and keep on hiking!

  13. #13

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    Illabelle, what a great accomplishment! I know you will treasure this time for the rest of your life.

    Congratulations


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro

  14. #14
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Default

    Wonderful!

    Even more so to have your Anniversary bookend all the many hikes.

    Best wishes for a health and hike-full next decade (and well beyond).

  15. #15

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    Congratulations! Enjoyed the AT progress reports over the years. I could identify with them, as they sounded like it came from real people. This is quite an accomplishment. After all the dust settles, hope the hiking adventures do not end here.

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    Default

    Congratulations to you all! I've been section hiking since 2007, and I'm 1500 miles behind you!

    The blue flower is gentian.

    I think the "oak leaf lichen" is actually a bunch of oak leaves. The tree probably suffered some kind of wound or disease that triggered the odd display of leaves, a type of epicormic branching. (That's my guess as an old forestry major, but I can't tell for sure without walking up to it, touching it, smelling it, sensing it.)

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roper View Post
    Congratulations to you all! I've been section hiking since 2007, and I'm 1500 miles behind you!

    The blue flower is gentian.

    I think the "oak leaf lichen" is actually a bunch of oak leaves. The tree probably suffered some kind of wound or disease that triggered the odd display of leaves, a type of epicormic branching. (That's my guess as an old forestry major, but I can't tell for sure without walking up to it, touching it, smelling it, sensing it.)
    Thank you Dan. I wish I knew more about the various flora and fauna we encounter on the trail. I sometimes tell people who are afraid to go out in the "scary" woods that if they knew the names of the things out there, it would help. So now I know the name of the flower gentian.

    As to the lichen, I googled it and wikipedia says it's called Lobaria pulmonaria, or tree lungwort, oak lungwort, lung moss, and a few other names. So it really is a lichen after all. Cool stuff!

  18. #18
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    Thanks, Illabelle, for giving the information about the oakleaf lungwort. I looked it up and learned something delightfully new.

    By the way, I've been section hiking since 2007, have accumulated 600 miles, have missed one year (2018), and my longest section to date is 75 miles (Uncle Johnny's to Dennis Cove Road).

    Take care.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dan Roper View Post
    Thanks, Illabelle, for giving the information about the oakleaf lungwort. I looked it up and learned something delightfully new.

    By the way, I've been section hiking since 2007, have accumulated 600 miles, have missed one year (2018), and my longest section to date is 75 miles (Uncle Johnny's to Dennis Cove Road).

    Take care.
    Well Dan, it sounds like you might snatch that shortest-longest title from me!

    Seems like most people put a lot of value in the Big View - from a mountaintop looking out into the far reaches of forever. I don't disagree; that's a marvelous view.
    But I also enjoy the Little View - like a closeup of the small world at the base of a tree, or on the side of a rock. I get excited about damp rocks/logs that have an abundance of mosses, lichens, liverworts, hornworts, and other vegetative forms. Their variety, and the areas where the different species overlap are mesmerizing. These small places are foreign to us, in the sense that we live among larger things: trees, shrubs, grass, flowers. Kinda makes you wonder about the creatures that may be lurking in the world of small things.

    One time I was occupied ... um ... over a cathole ...... and I watched a tiny living fiber moving around in the moss of a tree nearby. It was probably a parasitic worm of some kind, much smaller than a piece of spaghetti and probably at least a foot long. That thing tied itself up in a knot then untied and stretched out. It was very squirmy. I left it alone!

  20. #20

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    Congratulations! Love the Certificates as well. Glad you didn't let a little ATC dereliction of duty stop you from celebrating your accomplishment.

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