REI

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Appalachian Trail - Newfound Gap - TN - 6/13/2017

Appalachian Trail - Newfound Gap - TN - 6/13/2017

(My 31st Birthday)


Today we decided to get a little more difficult style hiking by attempting to hike on the Appalachian Trail from the Newfound Gap parking lot to The Jump Off. The Appalachian Trail is very special to me because my cousin, Rod Harter aka Slow Rod (that was his trail name, hiked the trail a few years ago. He was legally disabled after being involved in a severe car accident when he was a teen. They told him he may never walk again, and his response was, "I will, and I'm going to hike the Appalachian trail". He had permanent injuries to his eyes which impaired his vision and had issues with partial paralysis on one side of his body. Yet he learned to walk and then started hiking the trail having never done any kind of hiking other than a few overnight stays at the local state park in Florida. Recently he was involved in another accident but this time he didn't make it. So in honor of him we are trying to hike sections of the trail, the trail that he loved so much.
So here's to you "Slow Rod" Harter!

We took the 45 minutes drive up the mountain to the Newfound Gap parking area. This is an extremely popular place to stop and take panoramic photos of the Great Smokey Mountains. It also has BATHROOMS!!!!! We were excited about this because most of the trail heads don't have these. So after a quick bathroom break we headed onto the trail with our goal to get to what they call "The Jump Off". This would be a round trip of between 9-10 miles. On the hike in we started to understand why they say "moderate". If you are not used to basically stepping up onto rocks and ledges for most of the trail in then you may want to only hike part of it and not the entire thing. I was grateful for my new hiking pole as well. It came in handy when we were walking around big rocks and over ledges.

The path was like something out of a movie. My husband said it looked like Twilight was filmed there, lol. I referred more to the Lord of the Rings movies. The way the moss covered the rocks, the moisture in the air that covered all the leaves and ground, and the hillsides in the forest. It was something magical, something that was very dream like. We definitely took many moments to stop and just look out into the wilderness and appreciate what great beauty this world has to offer. What great beauty God has made for us.

Walking along, every now and again, an opening would appear and you'd get a wonderful scenic view of the mountains. There were clouds rolling in over the mountains and it was truly an amazing site to see. Along the way we say centipedes and lots of flowers hidden in the forest. Along with massive boulders that could provide some coverage in inclement weather.

we came across many interesting people on the trail (which is always my favorite art of hiking). two families we ran into were from Florida too! One was from Jacksonville, and they took one of the great photos of us below! The couple had their kids with them and were day hiking just like we were for their vacation. We loved chit chatting for a few minutes with them before both their kids and our daughter were like, "Hey, guys, I'm bored" (they didn't actually say that but that's what my daughter would have been saying if she could talk, lol).

At about 2-3 miles in it started to sprinkle and we could hear thunder in the distance. My husband and I had a moment of debating one another if we should turn around or continue on. I park volunteer came down the trail and informed us that the rain was coming and it was going to get worse. So at that point we put on our ponchos that we bought the night before (This is a must have in your pack), covered our daughter with her rain shields and headed back to the parking lot. We never go to the jump off... *sad face*.

As we walked back it was pouring down rain. Thankfully the trees were filtering some of the down poor, but with the rain came the cooler air which we were not prepared for. We learned that we need to have pants and long sleeves for our daughter at all time. We found some small towels in our packs and covered her arms to keep her warm. We tried to not take too many small breaks and to just keep walking. The rain would let up and them come back, so in those breaks we tried to push as hard as we could to get back to the truck for our daughter.

On our way back we ran into another hiker that was going or direction. He had a bigger pack on and we asked him how long he'd been on the trail. He had been hiking for 8 weeks so far, and was headed south. I forgot his name (sir, I do apologize, I'm the worst with names), but he told us that he was retired and now is on a constant vacation. He said he hike the north half of the Appalachian Trail last year and this year he started in West Virginia and planned on hiking to the bottom in Georgia. For about 20 minutes we hiked together and talked to him about his adventure so far. he told us that he usually only goes to town every 5-7 days for supplies, hitch hikes to get to place to place in town (which would scare me, but good for him), and that he is hiking alone. He said he's met many awesome people along the way, but said that he didn't get a chance to talk to too many this year because he's going in the opposite direction as most of the hikers. He gave me a tip on my hiking pole on how to use it, and told me to take the rubber tip off the bottom so that the metal end could grip onto the rocks. We said goodbye to him about 15 minutes from the aprking lot and wished him well.

At this point we had taken our ponchos off, beasue the rain had let up some and continued hiking. We ran into people coming into the trail and we would tell them that it was raining. All while there was thunder and lightening in the distance. Towards the end it started to rain once more, but we were able to make it to the parking lot and the truck before the rain got too hard.

It was a fantastic hike, and even though we didn't get to finish what we wanted to, it was special to me because i was hiking on the same path that my cousin had crossed years ago. I felt almost connected to him in some way at that moment. It was such an amazing and spiritual experience that I will never forget. 





























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UNTIL NEXT TIME, KEEP ON HIKING!