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Day 12-15: Slipping and Sliding

Day 12: South of Powell Mountain on Blue-blaze Trail (Mile 67)-Dicks Creek Gap (Mile 69.5); 2.5 miles

It rained cats and dogs overnight. The rain was so violent that raindrops splashed mud a few inches up the tent walls. We stayed cuddled in our sleeping bags longer than usual and eventually the rain began to slow. While packing up we managed to stay mostly dry.

The trail didn’t fare so well. The downpour overnight had turned the trail into a sloppy and slippery muddy mess.

We hiked slowly but the shifting muddy trail was aggravating Shutterbug’s knee. One slip in particular caused his knee pain to flare up. It was frustrating.

We made it to Dicks Creek Gap where we had previously planned to resupply quickly. Given Shutterbug’s knee situation, we modified our plans and spent the remainder of the day resting and icing in town.

Day 13: Zero at Blueberry Patch Hostel

Today we hung out at the Blueberry Patch Hostel run by trail angels Gary and Lennie. Gary tended the wood stove in the bunkhouse throughout the day, keeping us warm and cozy. Their little farm was nestled near the mountains, complete with goats. It was quite picturesque.

We picked up several boxes: our resupply food box, some warmer clothing sent from home, and a pair of new shoes for Shutterbug. He’s switching to Hoka One One trail runners, which have almost twice the amount of foam and shock absorption as normal shoes. We met runners on the PCT who swore that these shoes fixed their foot and knee pain. We sure hope they work for Shutterbug too.

We shared the bunkhouse at Blueberry Patch with thru hikers Stan, Dennis, and Jesse. We chatted as we did chores and iced. Shutterbug’s knee felt better after some rest. The pain diminished to a dull ache.

Day 14: Dicks Creek Gap (Mile 69.5)-Whiteoak Stamp (Mile 82); 12.5 miles

After a breakfast of blueberry pancakes, Gary drove us back to the trailhead. Another shuttle full of hikers arrived shortly afterward and we were happy to see Doc, Burrito, and his dog Salsa climb out.

We were off hiking again. Snow covered the ground and more snow fell softly through the branches. In a few miles, we crossed the border from Georgia into North Carolina. Our pet bird Cheep Cheep made a little snowman and celebrated our first state border with us!

After the border we continued to climb and the snow got deeper and deeper. It was beautiful.

The rhododendrons were so heavy with snow and ice that we had to duck under their branches.

We camped in a spot well protected from the wind. The ground was covered in 3 to 6 inches of snow and it was quite cold once we stopped moving.

Day 15: Whiteoak Stamp (Mile 82)- Deep Gap (mile 85.5); 3.5 miles

Once again it was cold, cold, cold. We could hear the wind gusting in the distance but our sheltered campsite remained calm.

When we started walking we realized that the strong wind overnight had created deep snow drifts. Shutterbug walked first and broke the trail.

North Star walked in his footsteps but it was still difficult and slow going because the snow sometimes came up past her knees.

The real issue was the icy sections. Shutterbug’s knee was not happy with the inevitable slipping and sliding that happens on rocky ice-covered trails. Though the snow was beautiful, the return of Shutterbug’s knee pain was a real hit to our morale.

When we reached a US Forest Service road we decided it would be smartest to take more time off to rest Shutterbug’s knee and let the snow melt. A former AT thru hiker named Hometown gave us a lift into Franklin, NC.

North Star’s aunt Cindy lives in North Carolina and has been in touch with us throughout the hike. When she heard about our current situation she enthusiastically offered to be a long term trail angel for us. In the evening she picked us up and brought us back to her home. Since we won’t have the financial strain which usually accompanies a long town rest, our goal is to be extra patient with the healing process. We’ll wait here until Shutterbug’s knee is completely pain free. We still have plenty of time to make it to Maine by fall.

39 Comments Post a comment
  1. John Williams #

    Wanted to say that we are reading and pulling for ya’ll. My wife and I thru hiked in ’06 (gumby and coyotebec). Becky had knee trouble around the Blueberry patch. You are so right to take a lot of time and let the knee get pain free…. After our days off her knee did great all the way to Maine. Good Luck!

    April 1, 2013
  2. Patricia Rice #

    Wow… have a good rest-up. At least you crossed the border!

    April 1, 2013
  3. Michael Poirier #

    found your blog via PTC website. Thru-hiked the AT in ’96 and hoping for a PCT thru in ’14 !
    Live near the trail in Western Maine – not far from Gorham NH…would love to chat about PCT and buy you two a meal when you get up here! Was out last week near the Whites and there is still 2-3 ft of snow !

    Get that knee healed up and take it slow !

    April 1, 2013
    • Thanks Michael, would be fun to chat about the PCT when we get to Gorham. We are seeing signs of spring at lower elevation in NC. I’m guessing that won’t be the case in the Whites for a while. Must be beautiful though.

      April 3, 2013
  4. Quite the mood in that first one.

    April 1, 2013
  5. Darlene Scheer #

    I agree with a recuperation period. Maybe by the time you start back Spring will have arrived and the snow will be a thing of the past. Just think how lovely the hiking will be with the redbud and dogwood and various wildflowers. Stay well.

    April 1, 2013
  6. Tressa McAndrew #

    The snow looks beautiful and COLD!!! Stay warm and get some rest!!!

    April 1, 2013
  7. Sabrina #

    Wishing you the best! How fortunate to have the rest stop that you do – less stress = more healing! Take care! Congrats on making it to NC!!!

    April 1, 2013
  8. Barb #

    I hope the new shoes make a difference, along with a real rest. That mud and icy snow looked like way too much of a challenge!

    April 1, 2013
  9. Elif #

    Rest well Chris. Pictures look beautiful — and challenging!

    April 1, 2013
  10. margaret alexander #

    Ah, how frustrating for you!! So glad you have a widely spread out family, coast to coast! You two always find interesting things to do, although with J & G you were doing book work & prep more than full time. What are plans for this rest period?

    April 1, 2013
    • We’re using this time mostly to replace a couple items that were wearing out, and to work on book publicity. There are always lots of little things to take care of on a thru hike!

      April 3, 2013
  11. I hope the rest does the knee good! Follow the RICE advice – rest, ice, compression & elevation. But # 1 is rest! Best wishes…

    April 1, 2013
  12. Rex #

    I wondered why you started so early, This cold spring doesn’t help. I guess early starts give you time to attend things like this nagging ingury.

    April 1, 2013
  13. suzanne in berkeley #

    Yay Aunt Cindy! the Aunt Angel! North Star and Shutterbug – hope you get all the time you need to rest up. Shutterbug, dont forget to stretch those quads, if it helps (Yeah. I know… free advice and all … but it helps when my knee gets wonky). Perhaps there is a good massage therapist in town who is als an angel. We are all thinking of you and hope for the best. Nice to see cheep cheep is building snowmen. Next .. a snow angel!

    April 1, 2013
    • Aunt Cindy is an amazing trail angel indeed! She’s helping us out in all kinds of ways. Shutterbug has been stretching in addition to resting, elevation and icing. Thanks for the good wishes!

      April 4, 2013
  14. Anthony aka Gold Strike #

    Enjoy reading your blog and sending positive vibes ya’lls way. Good decision in letting the knee rest a bit. Let us know when you start back on the trail.

    April 1, 2013
  15. jen #

    I’m glad you guys can get rest and stay with family for a while. I hope it is just what Shutterbug’s knee needs to recover! By the time you all hit the trail again hopefully spring will be in full force and the hiking will be more enjoyable and easier on the joints! you do have plenty of time to get to Maine :) cheers and best of luck!

    April 1, 2013
  16. Following your hike with interest and envy from australia.
    Hope rest cures your knee, but it sounds mighty like my own knee problem, and it is worth an xray. I got to be unable to walk because of the pain. Turned out to be a tiny bit of broken cartilage which gets caught. Key hole surgery or not? The specialist decided against operation. Instead, complete rest and voltaren or feldene (strong prescription anti inflammatories) to bring down the inflammation, then slowly bring the knee back to strength. The only times now when I might have trouble are if I kneel (hard not to when you are camping) and I always carry feldene (less side effects than voltaren) in my first aid kit just in case. What you are experiencing seems to be what I had.
    Keep smiling!
    Your pics are lovely. And the snow reminds me of cross country skiing in northern MN. only there the snow was always dry powder.
    Barrie

    April 1, 2013
    • Thanks for relating your experience, Barrie. Caution is definitely required with knee pain. We’ll do our best to head off any future problems. Glad you like the photographs!

      April 4, 2013
  17. Don #

    Where IS that global warming when you need it?

    April 1, 2013
  18. Mary Goodkind #

    I’m glad you have family who can offer you shelter and time to heal. At our altitude in Asheville we’ve had more rain than is normal this year but less snow. Warmer weather is coming & trees/plants are budding. Sending Chris healing thoughts and sending you both all good wishes for better weather and great hiking.

    April 2, 2013
  19. Max Mitchell #

    Nice tent.
    I am sorry to hear about your knee pain, Chris.
    God bless your hike with perfect health.
    Sandalwood
    In Ontario, Canada

    April 5, 2013
  20. Hey guys…google “McConnell taping” for your knee. Don’t use kinesiotape (no matter what anyone else says…it’s honestly all placebo effect) but use athletic or leukotape. It’s a simple piece of tape across the kneecap that distributes force more evenly and can help it heal. If the first physio you saw did it and you felt better, keep going with it. It’s not a cure but can certainly help in the short term. See a good PT in town if you get a chance…

    Good luck, and love the blog. You guys have inspired me to do the PCT next year!!

    Jen
    backpackerPT.com

    April 6, 2013
  21. Dana #

    as for the knee, have you considered an eval by a physical therapist? seems to be a chronic issue, that may need more than ice. wish you both the best!

    April 10, 2013

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