Cosmic Interference

Just when I thought I was going to have to go home to Raleigh to heal my sliced toe and knee, I got a phone call. On the other end of the line was my mothers cousin, Charlie. Charlie had been reading my blog, and just finished the latest one; which outlined my poor luck. After a short conversation, he offered for me to hole up with him in Waynesville, just a short 45 miles from the NOC. I graciously accepted and was on my way to his mountain retreat.

What made the offer even more significant and special, was the fact he had recently lost his wife, Emily, to a short battle with Pancreatic Cancer. Charlie and his children were planning a celebration of Emily’s life at weeks end, and he was loving enough to have this smelly hiker invade his space. When I was younger, I had only met Charlie a few times, so I was excited to be able to spend time with, and get to know a man whom my family had always adored. 

For an entire week, Charlie and I spent every day together. He took me to the small town of, what used to be, Hazelwood; where his princess Emily was raised. He took me to all of his favorite dinner spots in Waynesville, of which none of them dissapointed. (Especially Frogs Leap Public House – a must stop if you’re ever in Waynesville). He always had some sort of dessert ready to tide us over ’til morning. He chauffeured me when neccasery, showed me his old stomping grounds at Western Carolina. He found, contacted and drove me to an orthopedic surgeon whom is possibly the best in the business, and he even let me borrow the car to have some alone time. 


Mountain Home

We spoke about things we enjoyed and hated…about politics, technology, cuisine, books, our pasts and our futures. He is as well rounded and kind hearted a man as I have ever known.

When reading about, and talking with friends about their experiences on the trail, one thing was always constant; community and magic. Even though Charlie may not know it, this experience was yet another example. This past week was a tough time for both Charlie and I, albeit in vastly different ways. I am grateful to have had him help me through mine, and hope I was able to help him through his. 

If you’re reading this Charlie, thank you again for your time, effort, hospitality, and love this past week. It meant more to me than you know. I wish you, Bonnie, Scott and the rest of the family all the best. I look forward to seeing you again, friend. 

Myself (“Law”) and Charlie (honorary trail name “Steve Jobs”)

Injuries and Timeline Update:

Orthopedic doc said my knee pain comes from something called Plica Syndrome. Although I had no clue there was anything called a Plica in your knee…apparently it is an oyster like membrane that connects your patella to your thigh bone. That oyster is now chronically inflamed and will continue to cause pain until it is either removed or I stop hiking. Neither of which will be happening. I will continue to hike until I reach Big K, at which time I will further pursue pain relieving therapy. 

For my toe sliceration…it is healing. The pain has mostly subsided and has only a small portion of open wound left to heal. I tested it with my shoes and full pressure today, and it feels good enough for me to make the hike out of the NOC tomorrow. Although I am a week behind my itinerary, I still plan on making the miles I have listed. So, if you’re following along, disregard the dates and follow the miles. Next destination, the myrtle beach of the mountains, Gatlinburg, TN. 

Cheers to all and happy hiking, 



The Law

Day 12 (Thurs 4/23) – after an easy re-supply and good meal in Franklin, I caught a ride at 730am with Ms Beverley, a Franklin resident who shuttles hikers to and from Winding Stair Gap. It was a cold morning and I started off the day fairly slow and stiff. Knee pain still strong throughout the day. After about 7 miles, I caught up to Boogie, Whoopie, and Snoopy; three hikers about my age whom I’ve been leapfrogging for the past few days. We hiked the rest of the day together and ended our 16 mile day with a mile ascent up Copper Ridge Bald to Cold Spring Shelter. We packed the shelter full and got a fire going, temperatures were to reach 33 that night. 


Wayah Bald Stone Tower

Day 13 (Fri 4/24) – We awoke to another cold morning, but a mile or so into the hike, and about 1000 ft below the shelter, temperatures quickly rose. This would be the third consecutive blue bird, full sunshine day of hiking. Beautiful. The next obstacle was Wesser Bald, which was a long hike up, but not too grueling. We all stopped at the tower on Wesser for a little sunbathing and lunch. Next on the docket was a steep, grueling and technical climb down into the N.O.C. That descent has been the worst so far. Rocky, rooty, and quickly descending. Not good for a hobbled left knee. Regardless of the pain and first sunburn of the hike, I made it to NOC by 3pm. 

Wesser Bald Obs. Tower

Day 13 Cont. – We did some AT recon and found that there was some free campsites down by the river about a half mile from the NOC complex. We set up camp, jumped in the 42 degree water for a quick bath, and then set off for food and beer. While headed back to the complex for dinner, I decided to wear my crocs to air the feet out, unfortunately this would be a bad decision, and lead to my trail name. 

While ascending the rocky shoreline of our campsite, my foot slipped out of my croc and sliced right onto the sharp edge of a rock below. This caused a one inch incision from the joint of my right big toe to the middle of the toe. It took a few minutes, but the blood ran copiously…after having hiked 12 miles, I nearly passed out. Luckily Snoopy was close behind me, saw my face turn white and was quick with water and some beef jerky. 

A previous thru hiker, Josh, was also at camp and had a bandage and duct tape to wrap it and stop the bleeding. Once I gained full awareness of the situation, I headed back to the NOC complex to find a shower. While stumbling around, I ran into another hiker, EZ, who I’d passed a few times on the trail. He told me this was his zero day and he’d treated himself to a nice cabin. Once he noticed my discomfort, he offered a shower and roof for the night. I readily agreed.

With EZ’s hospitality, I was able to get myself and my wound clean and dry for the night. EZ and I went down to Wesser BBq for an early dinner and beers; for which I payed in hopes to compensate him for his generous hospitality. Hopefully I will catch up with him soon to further repay the debt.

Day 14 (Sat 4/25) – I woke up completely refreshed in a warm bed. EZ departed around 8am, and I headed down to NOC for breakfast to await the arrival of Warpzilla, Footlocker and Hazel Mae. The crew I’d been hiking with was already there and greeted my arrival with enthusiasm. After some talk about the climb up to Cheoah Bald out of here, and the past days descent; the conversation quickly turned to my ailing knee and sliced toe. It was decided that my trail name would now be The Law…as in Murphy’s Law…anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. 


Boogie, Fox, Snoopy, Casper, Whoopie and Myself

Now, Warp, Footlocker, Hazel and myself are having a few coldbeers at the Nantahala Brewing Co. Although I’ve had some injuries and tough times, spirits are high and I’m ready to get back on the trail. Just have a few days of recovery to get through before I can get moving again. 


two week reunion with hazel


The Law, Warpzilla, Footlocker

 Cheers and happy zero day from Bryson City, 

The Law

Sweet Caroline!

What a drastic change 12 hours can have. Over the past three days I’ve seen nothing but sun and bluebird skies. It’s been a more than welcomed change to the first seven days of flood like rain and horrible trail conditions. 

Day 9 (Monday 4/20) – Although I awoke to fairly awful pain in my left knee again, I decided to move on with the gorgeous weather. Once I got the blood flowing, the knee pain dwindled and I pushed on to make 16.7 miles. Finally made it to good ole NC!! I started further back than most, so when I got to Standing Indian shelter, there was no room left. I decided to camp at the base of the mountain with some section hikers from FL. This turned out to be a good decision as they had a raging fire, whiskey, homeade deer jerky, and reminded me a good bit of friends back home. The only downfall to the night was that temps reached 35 degrees and my summer bag was ill equipped for the night. It was a cold and restless nights sleep.

NC/GA Border – Day 9

Day 10 (Tuesday 4/21) – Once I got up and running, day 10 was an easy hike. A fairly gradual climb up Standing Indian Mountain was the only really cumbersome task due to cold temps and the aching knee. I was definitely sore from my biggest miles yet the day prior, but I made 11.3 miles in relative ease to Betty Creek Gap. The gap was situated amongst mountain laurel and a creek that was now a class 3 because of the recent rain. There were about 15 other hikers set up in this version of tent city. Dinner was a buzz with the pains of the previous wet seven days and the beauty of the past two. I set up camp early and got to bed around 8. It was cold again, but not as bad as the previous night.

Bluebird Skies on Day 10


Day 11 (Wed 4/22 – Today) – Another gorgeous day to hike. I woke up early this morning raring to go. It was another easy day, minus the brief but steep incline over Albert Mountain. It was a tough climb, but the most fun and rewarding one yet. The view was expansive and showed a glimpse of some of the fun I’ll be having over the next few weeks. It was an easy 12.2 miles to Winding Stair Gap. When I showed up, a guy named Butcher I’d been leapfrogging the past few days was hitching a ride to Frankin, NC. I happily jumped in for the ride. 

View from Albert Mtn – 5250ft


Butcher and I ran around town re-supplying food, drinking and eating at Motor Co. and doing laundry. Now, I’m sitting on yet another Budget Inn motel bed about to call it a night. We’re headed out on a 7:30 shuttle tomorrow. I’ve got two and a half days to make it to the N.O.C to meet Warpzilla and Hazel Mae for a zero day. Looking forward to seeing them both. 

P.S. – All photos are from phone, my real camera cannot be uploaded until I’ve got a computer, which should happen this weekend when Warp comes to visit. 

Cheers for now,

Murph (trail name stil TBD)

Day 6/7/8

Unfortunately, the pain in my injured knee didn’t allow me to slack pack with Kirk on Friday (day 6). So, I took the day off at the Budget Inn in Hiawassee. Jack and I just hung out and napped all day. 

Rocky Mountain – my first sun filled day


On Saturday morning (day 7) the sun was shining and my knee was feeling much better, so I set off back to Unicoi Gap with intention to hike to Deep Gap. A day of sunshine was renewing for my emotional state, as well as for my knee. The trail was still sludgy, but the sun dried enough of it to make hiking an easier feat. I summited Rocky Mountain and Tray Mountain with relative ease. At the end of the day, the mile climb up  Kelly knob was a bit of a challenge. 


Tray Mountain

Deep Gap Shelter was just at the bottom of Kelly Knob, and I hit said shelter at 430pm; 13.1 miles completed in 6.5 hours. I met a few new hikers who started a day after I did at Springer. Since I took a zero day, I was a day behind all of the people I started with, and right on schedule with the others. We talked, laughed, and got ready to call it a night. 

During the night, we all had our first encounters with shelter Mice and Rats.  One tried to climb in the bag with me for warmth, I suppose, to which I replied him with a hefty toss across the shelter. About an hour later the rain started again, and they decided to call it a night as well. 

Sunday (today – day 8), everyone is up at 7am; except for the mice, who I assume are still tired from a long nights work of terrorism. The torrential rain continues as I ready to hit the trail. I make it about a mile into the hike and then the real rain (add lightening and thunder) begins. It’s slow, arduous, and painful hiking today. The knee is feeling worse with every downhill, muddy puddle. I make it nearly 4 miles to Dicks Creek and decide I’ve had enough.

I’m now holed up at Top of Georgia Hostel about a half mile from the trail. It’s nearly at capacity with hikers waiting out the storm. I plan on getting dry here for the night and hopefully my knee pain will subside enough for me to make it to North Carolina tomorrow. Here’s hoping the knee returns to full strength and I can get back on schedule. 

“No rain, no pain, no Maine”

Day 5 – More wetness, less magic 

camp at Neels Gap

What started as a dry evening in camp, day 3 at Neels Gap, turned into further onslaught of mother natures abundant rain supply. On day 4, once again, Kirk, Jack and I woke up with all of our possessions drenched. Kirk and Jack are hiking companions that have been with me since I camped next to them at Hawk Mountain. Kirk is a charlotte native and is friends with many of the people I became friends with when in school there. Small world. 

We were making great time, again in unrelenting rain, after breaking camp with plans to hit Low Gap shelter. That all until we decided to make an impromptu stop at Whitley Gap Shelter to make a hot lunch and revive our wet bones. The hot lunch was nice,  but the extra 2.4 miles of hiking was not. Unfortunately that morale booster turned into morale killer very quickly. Rookie mistake #1. 

eerie tree amongst the mist

Coming out of Whitley gap, I somehow twisted my knee. The next 5 miles in rain and mud would prove difficult. My pace was severely slowed by the sharp stabbing pain in the top of my knee; I limped into Low Gap about 45 minutes after Kirk, Jack, and everyone else. There was no way I was making camp in the downfall and with a gimpy leg; my sights were on the shelter.

Of course, the shelter was already full with wet hikers as I arrived, but I kindly told them there would need to be room made for myself. When I unpacked and laid down in my bag, there were 10 hikers, and hour later, we maxed out at 14…the shelter was only built for 7. Suck it fire Marshall. 

A decent nights sleep sleep was rejuvenating, but waking up to more rain and sub 45 degree temps quickly put a halt to positive vibes. We had 10 miles to Unicoi Gap and a hitch into Hiawassee on plan today. The knee pain held off for about a mile, then flared up again, and this time worse. Kirk and Jack motored on, I stopped to summon my soul. 

9 miles, and more than an hour later than Kirk and Jack, I arrive at Unicoi Gap. I’d been hobbling like a peg legged sailor all day, but my spirits were as high as the sun; which had finally re-appeared after two days of hiding. Now, after an “add two dollars to make it a large” meal at Zaxby’s, I’ve got a bag of ice on my knee, a full belly, a warm fly infested hotel room, motivation from friends and family, and my mind set on slack packing from Unicoi to Dicks Creek tomorrow. 

Budget Inn

“I know that pain is the most important thing in the universes. Greater than survival, greater than love, greater even than the beauty it brings about. For without pain, there can be no pleasure. Without sadness, there can be no happiness. Without misery there can be no beauty. And without these, life is endless, hopeless, doomed and damned. “

Day Three – Wetness, Karma, and the 10%

Yesterday, I received a text message from our Appalachian journeyman stating all of his belongings were soaked.  Sunday night at Hawk Mountain Shelter proved to be a wet one.  There was no room at the inn as some forty hikers filled the interior and surrounding area. Each of them soaked to the bone and having just started their thru hike within the last couple of days or even hours.  The trail has a special humbling power that knows no favorites.  A single shelter could house a vast spectrum of demographics night in and night out; from college dropouts to millionaire retirees.(“Shelter” meaning a three-sided hut with a roof in the middle of the woods, for those unfamiliar with the trail).

Despite the low clouds his spirits seemed high. Monday night he got off the trail at Woody Gap and headed into Suches, GA (about a mile from the trail).  It is not uncommon for hikers to get off and back on the trail, as long as they get back on where they left off of course.  In fact, this is how Murph will resupply many times along his way to Maine.  Andrew spent the night at a local country store that offers rooms, showers, and most importantly somewhere dry. Many small towns offer services of the like, with hikers mental stability and the small towns economies each benefiting.

Still gray and wet this morning, Murph’s willpower was tested as I’m sure the dry lodging he acquired Monday evening was just as enticing at daybreak today.  But Murph didn’t set off on this journey to sit in Suches, GA.  He sloshed back to the trail and ascended to the tallest point in Georgia on the Appalachian Trail, Blood Mountain. The descent of Blood Mountain poses more difficulty than the ascent in my opinion.  It is steep and i’m sure slick as Andrew walked down this afternoon.

Now i’m a firm believer in Karma and what goes around comes around, and the trail has a special way of exemplifying this.  In Murph’s first post on the blog titled “The Beginning” he speaks about a “Trail Magic” trip he and some friends (myself included) went on.  Trail Magic is more or less glorified random acts of kindness with the flow of kindness going from complete strangers to the thru-hiker beneficiaries.  There was a fellow trail enthusiast posted-up off the same forest service road as our group to enjoy the company of hikers and trail community.  He went by the name of Onisimus and his four-legged friend by the name of Super Sergaent Spencer (no relation).

Trail Magic 2014 Onsimius on Far Left

Trail Magic 2014
Onsimius on Far Left

And they were the exact ones who took Murph into town for some man sodas from Neels Gap, a small outfitter at a highway crossing at the bottom of Blood Mountain, this afternoon.  Being part of the trail community is most certainly an experience unlike any other.  Hey Real World, take some notes.  Andrew ought to settling into his tent right about now. The onset of nighttime is known as “hiker midnight” on the trail. Early to bed and early to rise.

The milestone of reaching Neels Gap is a major benchmark for a lot of hikers.  Per some online data of hikers between the years of 2005 and 2011, a dropout rate of 10% happens by the time hikers get just 30 miles into their hike at Neels Gap.  It is the first place hikers have the opportunity to send home all of the items they thought they needed but did not.  There has been talk about everything from full-on kitchen pots and pans, to machetes, axes, and samurai swords being sent home.  I think Murph is so well prepared gear wise, that if he sent anything home it would be foolish to do so, at least until he gets a few more miles under his belt.



Springer Mt. Sendoff

We all had an incredible last weekend with Andrew aka Murph in Georgia.  The Murphy clan headed to Amicalola State Park on Saturday Morning caravanning alongside Jim McKay, Brandon Moore, Linwood Strickland and yours truly, Warpzilla.  Lodging was taken at a cabin inside the state park where we were met by Raleigh native and current resident of Atlanta Tyler Gillespie.  The evening was spent grilling burgers and dogs, listening to music, and a “shakedown” of everything Murph was going to be carrying with him on his journey from Georgia to Maine (GA>ME).

Brandon (who goes by the trail name El Perro) and myself have thru-hiked the trail already,  El Perro in 2011 and I in 2007.  We are partially to blame for Murph’s undertaking and accept full responsibility.  Murph is our prodigy.  His pack and gear proved to be one of the most well prepared and thought out collections of equipment either of us had ever seen.  As we patted ourselves on the back there was no mistaking   Andrew was ready.  You could tell he was anxious and primed for walking.

After staying up later than we probably should have, Andrew awoke to the last breakfast of bacon and eggs he could have for sometime.  We then packed the wagons back up and headed around the mountain to the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, Springer Mountain.  Overcast clouds hindered the unimpressive view from the top.  A much more rewarding landscape awaits Murph at the Northern Terminus in Maine.  There were a number of hikers starting the trail, including some coeds, which delighted our young journeyman.  Strolling back down to the Parking lot from where Andrew would carry on solo, we joked and laughed the entire way down.

It was heartbreaking to say the least to see Murph say goodbye to his four legged mate Hazel Mae.  I don’t know who will miss who more.  I remember taking those first strides out of site of my loved ones when I hit the trail eight years ago.  El Perro and I wanted to run off with him.  What I think everyone can be envious of is the time Andrew is able to take away from it all and do something so incredible.  Stay tuned for more updates, it could be a rainy week for Murph, so do your sunshine dances people.



The Beginning

A little bit of trail magic can do wonders for the psyche, and overall well-being of a hiker. In 2014, a small group of friends, and I, decided to head up to the Appalachian Trail to provide some trail magic. We arrived with the cover of darkness and set up camp on a forest service road, not far from Blacksburg, VA. As usual, the following ensues. Whiskey. Beer. Music. Laughter. Camaraderie.

Two of my friends, Warpzilla and El Perro, had previously thru-hiked in 2007 and 2011, respectively. There were many late nights/early mornings spent discussing each of their hikes. Each one having a different motivation, timetable and experience, but both always ending with the same phrase…”best decision I’ve ever made,” to which I always followed with “I’m doing it one day.” Those words have always been uttered with serious intent, but never followed through upon.

For two days we sat in the blazing sun cooking hamburgers and hotdogs, handing out beer and water. Each hiker we met, like my friends, had a different story. Each was from a different geographic/economic/cultural background. Each with their own motivations. Each inspiring me further. I never imagined that our own trail magic would be working on me.

That night, with drunken eyes and a full heart, I looked at Warp and Perro and proclaimed my intent of thru-hiking the following year. We talked about it over the next week and decided on a date. I was finally able to change my phrase from “I am doing it one day” to “I am leaving on April 12th.” Now, 32 days away from taking the first steps of my journey, I am anxious and utterly ecstatic.

“The true measure of a man is not what he dreams, but what he aspires to be; a dream is nothing without action. Whether one fails or succeeds is irrelevant; all that matters is that there was motion in his life. That alone affects the world.” – Mike Norton

It’s time to wander north.