Yesterday, Saturday, I took a zero day. Many people would have no idea what a zero day is. When you are thru hiking the Appalachian Trail your body occasionally needs a break. You cannot go day after day week after week without taking a break. So after a week in the snow and rain I decided yesterday would be a perfect day for a zero day. During these first two weeks while I am so close to home it is easy for someone to come pick me up and take me home for my zero days. That way I can sleep in my own bed and, in yesterday’s case, I was able to help my daughter who was moving into her new home. So today I’m back on the trail and I can definitely tell that my body needed a break. When hiking the Appalachian Trail you have to listen to your body. I had knee surgery the last part of November this past year and also suffer from Neuropathy. During these first two or three weeks I am going to have to take it easy to make certain my body can hold up hiking 2,200 miles. I am out on the trail again today beginning at Dick’s Creek Gap. I am skipping the first shelter and trying to make it to Muskrat Creek Shelter. I will cross over from Georgia into North Carolina in only about one more mile. I will be climbing standing Indian mountain tomorrow which stands over 5,000 feet high.
I am trying to post videos as well as photos on my Facebook page so that anyone can watch them and follow me as I hike the trail. I want my friends to be able to see, to smell and to feel what I am feeling along my journey. Just search my name, Steve Claxton on Facebook and you should be able to watch them. I certainly appreciate everyone’s comments and encouragement as I hike along the trail. I also appreciate the financial support that so many people have contributed along my journey. The Big Brother/Big Sister program means a lot to me and this is the purpose of hiking the trail from Georgia to Maine. If you have not contributed please consider helping to change a child’s life by giving them “HOPE!!!” You may do so by sending a check to the address listed on my homepage of my website, through GoFundMe or through the WNC BBBS Facebook page through pay pal.
What a beautiful day to be out in God’s beautiful land!!! This is the most beautiful weather I have had since beginning my hike last Sunday! The warmth of the sun feels good on the back of my neck. As you walk along the trail on a beautiful day like today it allows your mind to wander. It causes you to suddenly realize the simplicity of the trail as well as the journey. You realize that upon the decision to thru hike the trail, you begin by placing one foot in front of the other one step at a time, for 2,200 miles. You then realize how our lives are filled with material things, with so much “stuff!” But once you embark upon the trail you realize that you are carrying all of your essentials, your home, your bed, your food and your clothing all in just one bag on your back over the course of 5-6 months for 2,200 miles! You become a part of the elements, the snow, the rain and the sun, and learn to appreciate each one of them in their own unique form. You learn to appreciate and enjoy all that surrounds you, and smile at the most simplistic occurrences. You then know that “YOU, HAVE BECOME PART OF THE JOURNEY AND THE TRAIL HAS BECOME A PART OF YOU!”
Today began with a blanket of snow carpeting the trail. For the most part of the day the snow didn’t cause a lot of problems in hiking the trail. It did provide an opportunity to witness some of God’s beautiful artwork, such as this waterfall on the side of the trail.
It is so amazing how quiet the forrest is after a snow and how every bird and critter stands out against the snowy background. It was a very peaceful day as snow fell throughout the day and no one was on the trail. Most hikers got off the trail yesterday and held up in nearby towns. I saw it as an opportunity to take advantage of the solitude so I just kept hiking. The last part of the day was much more difficult as the trail became much more rocky with ice and snow. After three hours of hiking in theye conditions my legs started growing weary. I finally could see the shelter and it couldn’t have come at a better time as it was only 45 minutes before nightfall.
If you are unfamiliar with the trail about every eight miles or so there are shelters along the trail. They are three sided structures with an open front and a wooden floor elevated a couple feet off the ground. You place your pad and sleeping bag on the floor. The front is open so that any creatures such as raccoons, bears or field mice can join you if they get cold! I have never seen a shelter without mice, scurrying overtop your sleeping bag or around your head all night. You get use to them, well, until they want to get warm and crawl into your sleeping bag with you! At that point you reconsider sleeping in shelters and set up your tent somewhere outside the shelter, which is what I normally do. However, tonight I am sleeping in the shelter just to remind myself why I USUALLY don’t sleep in them. Shelters are much colder than tents as tents will capture some of your body heat and tends to keep you a little warmer. There are bear cables at most shelters to store your food and a table for preparing meals.
There is a raccoon out front on our table now. The cables could also be considered raccoon cables. Oh, he has decided to come in out of the wind and join us in the shelter. Oh well, they don’t take up too much room! There are only two of us at the shelter tonight, which is extremely rare. Most nights all of the shelters have been full, even this early in the season. The two movies, “Wild” and “A Walk In The Woods” by Bill Bryson has caused an explosion of through hikers this year, and like me, many are trying to beat the crowds. I began posting some videos on Facebook yesterday of my experiences out here on the trail if you would like to check those out. I sincerely appreciate the encouraging comments so many people are sending. They mean alot. And I also appreciate the continued financial support of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program which is one of the purposes of my hike. The program has meant a lot to me over the past twelve years serving as a big brother to a young man who is a senior in high school this year, as an advisory council member and as a local coordinator for the program. I have witnessed life changing moments in kid’s lives that really needed a mentor and a friend. If you have not contributed please consider doing so as it takes resources to keep this worthwhile program going!
It has been a very long rainy, snowy, extremely windy, cold & most of all BLESSED DAY!!! I actually was able to hike portions of the day without rain! I look forward to more days without rain in the near future. I was able to get in 18 miles today to Hogpen Gap with some breaks in the weather. As I hiked through Neel Gap the wind was fierce. The wind there was gusting up towards 40 mph and as I climbed the mountain to Bull Gap I am sure it was approaching 55-60 mph gusts! Neel Gap has a wonderful outfitter store where I stopped in to weigh my pack once again. It weighed 36 pounds including food and water. I feel like when spring approaches I can get it down to around 29 or 30 pounds when I can get rid of some of my winter gear. Neels Gap is also the only place on the trail where the trail goes through a building. I took a few more pictures today just so you could see the condition of parts of the trail that I’m hiking. There were a lot of sections of the trail today that were solid rock, which made for some slippery and tricky hiking with all the rain. I am hoping that the rocks will not be iced over tomorrow with temperatures in the mid to low twenties when I start out tomorrow. I actually had a brief moment where I had my first view!
I have had so many wonderful encouraging messages sent to me along the trail. One that REALLY stuck with me today was from my friend Paul Young which read: Mustard Seed – Saw this quote today and thought of you … “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.” ~ Edmund Hillary
Good night from the Appalachian Trail & stay warm!
Today has been filled with much of the same as yesterday, RAIN! The day started off wet as I tried breaking camp at Hawk Mountain in the rain. Much of my gear got wet as I tried to pack it and the rest became wet throughout the day in the driving rain while hiking. I did manage to cover a few more miles today even though today’s hike was much tougher than yesterday’s, starting off with some really tough climbs. And the rain makes for some dangerous footing, especially on the downhills trying to navigate down slippery rocks, roots and red Georgia clay! The uphill sometimes consisted of taking one step forward and sliding two steps back. But I would make up for it on the downhills taking one step forward and sliding two steps forward. Those were really dangerous! I am trying to be extra careful with my knee as I just had surgery on it in late November from an accident sustained from a client falling on me while in a stream guiding them fly fishing back in June. So far so good!
I met some wonderful people along the trail including a father/son from Mississippi. The son was hiking to Maine and the father was joining him for his first two days from Springer. I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to any of the many hikers camped at Hawk Mountain last night. I was surprised by the number of campers there both in the shelter as well as at least a dozen tents scattered around the shelter. The father/son was camped there last night as well and I asked them if they knew how many of the hikers camped there were thru-hikers? I loved his comment as the father said that most of them were thru-hikers, “FOR NOW”!!! I know that he is so right as on average only about 10% of those planning on hiking to Maine actually make it. My hopes are that I will be included in that 10%!!! I do realize that so many things can prevent someone from finishing the trail such as injury, illness, a death in the family, etc. I also realize that more than half of succeeding in making it to Katadin in Maine is mental. I realized this when I did a cross country bicycle trip from the coast of Oregon back to Bryson City seven years ago.
So after getting in thirteen miles today in less than favorable conditions toward the end of the day I came to a road crossing of a gravel road at Woody Gap. I got out my book and made the decision to contact Wolfpen Country Store in Suches, Ga. where they operate a hostel for AT hikers. Most everything I owned was wet and I felt this would be the best $20 I could spend to dry out my gear. The lady who owns the store drove up and introduced herself as Becky. I introduced myself and told her my wife’s name is Becky. She said that was funny because her husband’s name was Steve!!! We travelled only a few miles before arriving at their store. Their hostel is located above their store and consists of three rooms with homemade wooden bunkbeds with a piece of carpet on each bunkbed in each room. So you still use your camping pad and sleeping bag on the woodend bed. The carpet is so you won’the get a splinter in your air mattress. There are only three hikers here tonight therefore we each have our own room and have all of our gear scattered over the empty bunk beds drying it out. They even washed and dried our clothes for us in the store. And having a hot Pizza for supper really topped it off. So as I close for the night and prepare for another wet day of hiking tomorrow I am grateful for people like Becky and Steve who are so gracious in taking in wet thru-hikers! I am also thankful as I lay here in the dry, not hearing the rain against my tent as I did last night, but listening to the pouring rain as it lands on the metal roof over my head!!! I thank God for keeping me safe another day along my journey!!! Until tomorrow, good night from Mustard Seed.
Tonight I am camping at the Hawk Mountain Shelter, elevation 3,220 feet. Today has been filled with lots of rain which made for a slow day hiking. I only had 20 minutes where it did not rain. There will be days when I do not have an Internet connection and won’t be able to post on my blog. Tonight is one of those nights, but I have enough service to text so that someone else back at home can post it for me.
Yesterday (Sunday) was a very touching day as we travelled to Newnan, GA to attend one of the last church services of our close friend Joel Richardson who has served as pastor of Central Baptist Church in Newnan for the past 37 years. He is retiring next month. After the service Joel along with 6 others asked a blessing for me and my pack for safe travels along my 2,200 mile journey.
Saturday was spent visiting one of our favorite families, Paul, Sandra and their daughters Jenni and Katie. The girls play travel volleyball all over the country and we got to watch them play in a tournament in Atlanta. What a great day it was spending time with such a wonderful family.
So many people have supported the cause of my hike which is the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program. I am very grateful for the outpouring of support for this wonderful program. I have witnessed local children’s lives’ completely turned around by this program and the wonderful “Bigs” who give of their times as well as their hearts to make a difference in the lives of these young people. If you would like to make a contribution to this wonderful organization pleas visit my website www.Steveclaxton.com for more details.
It is supposed to rain for 2 more days but that is just part of it. You have to make the best of each day regardless of the weather. What a comforting feeling it is to lay here warm and dry in my sleeping bag while listening to the rain fall on my tent.
Goodnight from the Appalachian Trail!
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step” Lao-Tzu
Every journey has a beginning and today Steve starts his 5 month (hopefully…) thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. What seems like months of preparation in purchasing, researching, daydreaming, and training all came to an end today, Sunday, February 22, 2016 at 1:48 p.m. when I watched him disappear into the woods at Amicalola Falls, Georgia. The weather was foggy and rainy but nothing could damper his spirits and he could hardly contain his excitement. But he was not alone, there were a few others starting with him and you sense all their excitement and see each have the same look of resolve with a tinged with apprehension of the coming days, weeks, month ahead.
With this new journey comes a new name, a tradition on the A.T. since there will be a community of about 2,000 people traveling north and probably more than one of them are named Steve. You need to pick a name before you leave before someone on the trail picks one for you and you are forever known as “Verizon” or “Dragon Breath”. Steve chose “Mustard Seed” as it reminds him of one of his favorite verses in the Bible.
…if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
I am the “Outfitters Wife” and I will also post to this blog occasionally when Mustard Seed can’t access Verizon Good night from the Smokey’s!.
As I prepare for my 2,200 mile journey, I have come to realize that it takes much more than just training each day to take such a trip. Preparing to be away from home for five months is quiet a effort in itself! I have never been away for such an extended period of time and making certain that everything is in order takes several weeks of work in itself. I worry that I am forgetting something that will either come back to haunt me or that will cause hardships for my family. However, the positive aspect of this dilemma is that in 150 miles after beginning my hike at Springer Mountain, Georgia, the trail crosses Yellow Creek Road only one mile from my house. So I will be back in my hometown only a couple of weeks after my start date. Hopefully I have taken care of most everything I needed to, but in the event that I forgot something I will be able to check in on my way through. I will even get to take advantage of sleeping in my own bed for a night or two! My goal is to be back in Robbinsville by March 5th as that is when my close friend Case Hooper is putting on his first fundraiser to help me get the Big Brother Big Sister Program started in Graham County. He has decided to take on this challenge as his senior project in high school. In getting to know Case over the past three years I have come to realize just what a remarkable young man this junior in high school actually is! He is very determined to help me in making this dream of getting BBBS started in Graham County a reality, because he sees young people within this community who could truly benefit from having a big brother or big sister. I am so proud of Case not only for deciding to take on such a worthwhile cause for his senior project, but also for the effort he is putting forth in his school work, athletics and the goal that he has set for himself to graduate from high school and obtain a College education. If you live in the area please consider supporting Case’s senior project by attending his talent show and BBQ dinner at Robbinsville High School on March 5th. Springer bound and the beginning of my journey in only four more days!