Peter Kelchen's Appalachian Trail Hike
United States Georgia Atlanta
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I got the idea to do the Appalachian Trail about two years ago
when I was a Drill Sargent down at Ft Knox, KY. My buddy and fellow drill Gloviak did half of it and told me all about it. I ended up in Afghanistan the year after and all did was save for this trip and plan for this trip. Now it is a reality.
I would like to thank all my family and friends for the support on my descion to do this. I know mom enjoyed seeing the mess I made of the down stars back rooms while I was doing my finalizations on calling mail drops, packing boxes for mail drops and doing route adjustments.
I would say that my trip on Saturday, April 29th.. I was't hiking but it is what my mother would call the start of anther Peter Kelchen Farwell Tour. Had a nice little get together of friends where I talked and showed people my trail plans. We drank till the next morning and ended up smashing two chairs as what my friend, Gaul, called a korn party in the first stall of the garage. Was a great time. Plus I figured out why Molly and Michelle were gone for some time. I take it every resupply box that gets mailed has a little surprise in it for me. The rest of the week was just drinking more and hanging out with friends before I left on my beer free journy. Tuesday was Davenport with Hayes, Wednesday was Cedar Rapids with Michelle, Tony, and Sheryl, and Thursday was Cedar Falls with Glendo to finalize my Iowa stops. Friday my mom took me to Milwaukee Wisconsin were I was going to fly out of down to Atlanta Georgia. I met up with Subbee and Irish for drinks and to see the worst comedian ever. Once in Atlanta I ran some earns and drank with my brother Andy and his girlfriend Jessica in the pool of her apartment complex all day. I did receive a sunburn but it did not sting for the hike thank god. That night my fun level was running on low so I did turn in early to get a good nights rest before the start of my hike.
I was almost a two hour drive for Andy to take me up to the trail head of US Forest Rd at the southern most part of the trail. I would say 40 minutes of that trail was some serious gravel back roads through the mountains with twists and ups and downs. We got a late start so Jessica could bask in the suns rays one more time. If you ask me she is plenty dark already. Right before we left she fell ill and ended up staying back. Andy dropped me off around 5:30 PM. We chatted a bit and asked if I would run into any weirdo’s along the trail. I swear it was like money timing cause these two guys wearing kilts, old school roman looking sandals, no shirts, long hippie hair, with a blanked tied into a ball with a rope came cruising out to the woods from the Springer Mountain side. Andy Just started laughing. One of them just looked at me and grinned ear to ear.
May 6th to the 12th
After Andy left I hike to the top of Springer and camped there for the night. Hung my food using the bear cables provided. I met this guy Nick form Florida and his dad who I talked to till dark. Nick is planning on hiking thru to Maine just like me. When I set up my tent I noticed that my rain fly had a snag in zipper. Since I couldn't zip open the fly all I had to crawl in and out of my tent through what I would say decent opening but still annoying hole. I didn't want to try and muscle it in fear that I would tear it. That night it just poured rain but I stayed dry sleeping.
In the morning it wasn't raining, but I had to pack my tent away wet and headed off down the trail. this would be my first official day of my Appalachian Trail Thru Hike to Baxter State Park in northern Maine.
I planned my route to be safe to make sure I could make it to each shelter with minor strain on the body and enough food. First day was only eight miles. Four down and up at a grade that wasn't tortuous. Three miles in it poured down rain. I did happen to get some pictures of Long Creek Waterfall before it set in though. I made it to Hawk MT Shelter by 11:30 AM just soaked. I decided to stay ther because it was dry and my tent was wet. Every one that stopped through there was heading on to Gooch Shelter which sounded like was going to be overflowing with hikers. I made a good call too cause with me being there first guaranteed me a spot and ours too overflowed. Sitting at the shelter I met a 13 new people who I would see from time to time on the trail and from all over the place. I slept good that night.
In the morning there was a thick haze till noon with some rain here and there. I drank 9 liters of water it was so humid. luckily there was sun and wind that day by noon for a few hours. I took a long lunch break and got my tent dried out. Used my solar charger to charge up my phone some. That charger and lithium battery is great. I brought my Ipod and I rock to music all day rain or shine. It is great. On rainy days I have been listening to Jack Johnson and on sunny days I love some O.A.R..
Tuesday was just a 12 miler and I pushed it to Lance creek to make it 15. Everyone I talked to on the trail was saying that Blood MT was a killer. So I camped there at the base of it.
I woke up early that morning knowing I had a short 7 mile day to Neels Gap. I ate some breakfast and thought about tearing down camp, which I didn't, and it poured rain again. So once again I packed the tent away wet. lets just say I am learning some lessons. Blood MT wasn't so bad but it wasn't easy either. I think my five weeks of training prior paid off as well infantry road marched in the army. At the top of the mountain there is a nice stone shelter where I ate a hot lunch instead of trail mix. The rain and fog made it impossible to see 50ft out. I reached Neels Gap around 1:00 PM. I saw the two kilted out weirdo’s again and wanted to get there story so bad but by the time I took a picture of the over look view at Mountain Crossings Outfitters, they moved on. I stayed in the hostel that at Mountain Crossings since I needed to dry my tent, again, and thought I was goanna have to wait till the next day for the mail to come cause my box that my brother Andy mailed from Atlanta had not come yet. it only cost $16.05 for a bunk and a hot shower. After three days of rain it sounded like a steel. Since it was a outfitter too I had them look at my rain fly. They called Big Anges and they gave me a new one free. So my ultra light Fly Creek 2 tent was as in mint condition again. I called Andy later on and he told me they never sent my box, which was good cause I got to take off early the next day and not wait for the mail.
I was out drying my tent that afternoon cause the rain was gone and the wind out. Joe Augustine helped me dry out my tent. He was a nice guy from Florida that had an Switzerland accent. When I found that out we talked about my time in Interlaken skiing the Alps. That night the owner and trail enthusiast, Lumpy, gave us beer and whiskey as he talked to us about our hike so far gave advice on what’s to come. Most the people I met and passed along the way showed up as the night went on.
I slept great that night and woke up early and hit the trail by 7:00AM The sun was out and was for the next two days. I hiked 25 miles on Thursday, did two days in one. The sun, the music, and the scenic mountain views kept me rolling. At Blue Mountain Shelter I got and update on the kilted kids and someone said they were from Florida. The one lady thinks there righting a book or something. I made it to the site of what used to be an old cheese factory that is now a campsite on the trail. Joe Augustine said it was so nice. it was but I was hoping to find ruins of the old factory or something.
Friday I slept in till almost 8:00 AM and got on my way by 9:30 AM. This girl named Cloud gave me a great idea for my next hiking adventure. It was mixing protein powder with oatmeal for breakfast. I had an easy day of 12 miles to bring me in Hiawassee, GA. I say one of the greatest vista views I have seen yet. plus I got to hitch my first hike into town. I was gonna get a shuttle since it was 11 miles from the trail head. Every one on the trail sad it is so easy to hitch a rid along the trail. Some one told me it works even better to have your pack on and walking that direction. Said if you just sit and wait people and less likely to pick you up. So I did. I hit the road and headed right towards Hiawassee. Not more then 50 steps down the road a older gentlemen in a red pickup picked me up. I opted to ride in the back since I was pretty sweaty. He gave me a ride all the way to the Budget Inn were, I was staying. I called and made the reservation from Neels Gap. As I road in the in the bed of that truck looking at all the beautiful mountain scenery I laughed. I wonder if this is the same enjoyment a dog gets when he sticks his head out the window. I got dropped off, checked in, picked up my resupply box, showered and did not but eat and watch TV till I fell asleep around 8:30PM. in 5 hours I managed to destroy a foot long sub, a can of pringles, and a large deluxe pizza. I was starved.
Today is Saturday my zero mile day. A recovery and earn day. I mailed a box forward since my box from Andy never got sent since the Budget Inn wont accept packages on the weekends. Its fine cause I wont have to wait a day. Hope it makes it to Fontana Dam, NC by this coming Friday though. I did my launder and have done nothing but eat. I sit here and update this at 2:00 PM. I have destroyed 5 full plates at a breakfast buffet, a foot long sub, chips, and a candy bar and I am already thinking about what to have for dinner.
So far every one I run into is nice and friendly, The town of Hiawassee is a great place with nice people. Most of it is made of people that hike. It sits nestled here north of Atlanta and just sound of the North Carolina boarder by a handful of lakes. I realized in terms of backpacking I was light-years ahead of most thanks to research and my time in the army being and infantry soldier. So thank god for that. What I do find amusing is the different hiker types. The chubby over weight weekender, the old retired week long site seers, and yes even the kilted hippie weirdo’s.
May 12th to the 18th
That last night in Hiawassee was relaxing. Most the people that I passed caught up that night. Like Jerry and Chris from Michigan. JR and Radar. JR is retired army and Radar was a German Shepard service dog. I met them at Blue Mountain Shelter and by the time we got to the gap Radar was just all tuckered out. Reminded me of that time I took my sister’s dog, Blue, for an eight-mile run when I was marathon training. Blue quit and just laid down. I met this guy Matt Campbell, an OIF veteran who was walking for charity for active heroes. Later, Cloud showed up and she was hatting life. Had a bum knee and blistered feet. I met her the night before at the Cheese Factory Campsite. We sat around that night drinking a few beers and talking about our time so far on the trail. The owner of the Budget Inn, Ron, showed up and was welcoming us to the Appalachian Trail. As we talked to Ron we found out he used to be a professional wrestler. His names were Mr. X number 2 and the Grand Apollo. He owned a couple of low rate hotels along the trail was a great end to a week.
Sunday I hit the trail by 8:30 AM. I take it that hiking on mothers day was a total violation of the days sacred rights. It rain all dam day and night. Hiked 17 miles in the cold rain with a 3500-foot gain in elevation, by three in the afternoon I needed hot food and warm dry clothes. The shelter I stayed in that night hat two father and son combos, one from Louisiana and the other from Florida. The Louisiana two made it one mile in the rain and sad they were done. The Florida two were older, his son was in his twenties. Both were in new to hiking the AT. His dad gave him self the trail name, Old Man Baby. He complained and bitched about everything. It was hilarious. Most of the week I would climb back and forth between four and five thousand feet.
Monday I combined two days into one hike. I made it 22 miles to Franklin, NC. Thus putting me three days ahead of schedule. I reached the top of Albert Mountain in a foggy rain cloud. I took a picture at the base of the fire tower. I couldn’t see anything. I hitched to town and got picked up by two dads and their Junior High daughters who drove up from Florida. They were so impressed that what I did in one day they were going to do in four.
Tuesday and Wednesday the sun was out and that meant great hiking weather. I had amazing views and camped at the top of a mountain. I sat on a rock, ate my dinner, and just started out over hundreds of mountain to tops covered with trees as far as the eye could see. The next day was an easy hike down to the Nantahala River. At the river there is an outdoor center that offers tower climbs, rafting, canoeing, kayaking, and lodging. I took a half-day there to enjoy a beer and restaurant food. Also to get a shower and watch the rafters come down the river. I see myself coming back to for a vacation sometime.
Thursday was anther 22-mile day in the books. I would of made is 28 miles but my Inn reservation wasn’t till Friday. That night I met two interesting gentleman, both were British. Shane was in what I think was late 30’s or early 40’ from a British colony in South Africa who was here just to hike the trail. He also is planning to go to Maine. The other was, Quinton, an older man with a gray beard. He was born in England and moved to a small Island in the Caribbean. He has lived on the Island of Nevis for 25 years. It’s a small island of 28 square miles and a population of around 7,000. I told him I was from Iowa and he totally knew were that was. He dated some girl from Des Moines who was located on that island when she was in the peace core. Shane and Quinton told me I was the second person from Iowa they have met in two days. They couldn’t remember his name but he kept calling himself Iowa. Quinton asked me if I knew what that stood for and I told him “yeah, idiots out wondering around”. They both laughed and told me that he told them it stood for Iowans out walking Appalachia. Quinton also told me he was here to walk the trail for charity and he could only do it for 90 days cause he had to leave the country for visa reasons. He did give me a website for me two visit though. It is www.beeman-walks.org.
Friday I walked down to Fontana Dam. It’s a nice little resort village that is now a recreation hot spot. The dam was built during the great during the great depression in the 1940’s under The New Deal by president Roosevelt. The Tennessee Valley lacked electricity from the rest of the country and had floods and droughts through out the year. So Fontana Dam and a series of other dams were built during this time to create electricity for the areas and regulate the river flow. This way during the rainy months there is no floods and no droughts during the dry season. The dam is spectacular with great views and a huge lake for recreation.
This weeks zero day is at the Hike Inn. It is a cozy little place owned by two retires not far from the dam. It offers free shuttles to town, laundry, and mail. I checked in and they had my mail sitting in my room for me. My room has a small kitchenette with bathroom and table. It is perfect.
I had a good hiking this week with the sun being out the last three days. For being from Iowa I have been given some pretty good recognition, I have been given nicknames by various people I pass such as mega miles, speedy, and bear on the count of my bear bell. I guess I was in better shape then I though. This week I averaged 17 miles a day over 6 days. I want to keep going but I feel I need to take these zero miles days early in may trip to get my trail legs set in. I figure after Damascus, VA I will stop taking zero days since the terrain levels off. I figure if I can do twenties in this terrain and get ahead. I should be able to do twenty plus everyday by then. Plus by eliminating zero days I should be able to get far enough ahead that coming home those two times I should be able to make it to Maine for that big epic finish. This way I shouldn’t have to flip-flop hike and come from the north on the count of Baxter State Park closing the 15th of October.