Green Rattlesnake near Nolichucky

Images from
this date

What You

Progress Map

Other Images

Contact Gonzo!


hanging an elephant erwin tennessee

June 4, 1983 Saturday (1812.2mtg) From Gonzo!s Appalachian Trail journal

Woke up in the middle of the night and scrambled to put my pack cover over my pack after heavy thunder and lightening rudely interrupted my slumber. I decided to cover my pack to keep any rain from soaking the pack hanging from one of the main beams like a decoration of some sort. With the large populations of mice that inhabit the shelters, most hikers hang their food bags from the beams with some sort of string to deter the mice from getting into their valuable cargo. The methods of determent are as numerous as the stars, but none are as effective as the one that I employ. Probably the most common method is stringing a cord over a beam and suspending the sack from it. Unfortunately there are mice that could outperform any circus high wire act, and the mice have learned to follow the cord down to the food sack. Other mice like the commacazi method. With this method, the mice follow the cord down to the side of the beam and then drop onto the bag for lunch. I carry a small screw-in cup hook that I screw into the underside of a main beam and suspend my entire pack from the hook by a thin nylon cord. With this method, the mice have no way of telling that there is anything hanging from the beam to follow or drop down upon. I also hang the pack as low as I can without leaving it accessible to larger rodents from the ground level. Works like a charm. Just as a precaution, I always leave all the zippers open in my pack so any mouse lucky enough to find my pack won't have to chew through the fabric to get at the food. They only eat a little bit anyway. It is the sound of the chewing that really gets to me. That gnawing sound will keep me from sleeping just as if I had drank loads of a caffeinated beverage. I think what really bothers me about it is wondering if they are destroying my pack … are they inside mine, or are they in someone elses? Occasionally, before I learned about the screw hook method, I would get up in the dark, listen close to my pack to determine where the noise was coming from, and then prepare for the attack. As I quickly turned the flashlight on, the mouse scurried out of the pack into my waiting hand poised there to grab it, squeeze it, and throw it to the ground before it knew what had happened and had a chance to bite me. If that didn't kill it, it sure would give 'em a good warning not to mess with the backpacker with no name.

The sky did open up last night and the rain came in torrents. Perhaps that is why we did not wake until 6:30 having missed the alarm once again. The beep, beep, beep of my wrist watch alarm was not very loud even when uncovered, so if my wrist were inside my sleeping bag I think it was probably muffled to undetectable levels, especially during a rainstorm playing a tune on the corrugated tin roof covering found over most of the shelters. One way to make up for lost time was to eat a cold breakfast. Not having to start up the stove can shave lots of time off your morning ritual. In this case we ate our instant oatmeal with cold water. It really gives the gruel a different flavor - in some ways better than when it is hot. So we were packed up and on the trail by 7:05 am. The morning hike started off with a few nice sprinkles, but soon ended. The beginning of the day featured a descent into the Nolichucky River valley near Erwin, Tennessee. There were some good views of Erwin and the river on the way down, but the dampness of the foliage and the occasional drizzle made it too wet and too much of a hassle to get the camera out.

The trail crosses the river via a highway bridge and turns right along a gravel road that leads to Nolichucky Expeditions, a whitewater rafting and canoeing outfitter on the banks of the Nolichucky River. From the bridge, it is about 2.3 miles of walk or hitch into the town of Erwin, Tennessee. Erwin is the resupply point before the next trail town 114 miles down the trail in Damascus, Virginia. I called home from the Nolichucky Expeditions payphone (16 minutes - Cost $8.62). Mom's notes indicated that I had asked certain items be included in a package sent to Adkins, Va. Those items included a couple of spoonfuls of alfalfa seeds, Ramen Noodles, Snickers bars, granola bars, and what seems to be a request for a large package of noodles - not including "soup". I think maybe I was asking for extra noodles to add to our dinners for extra bulk and calories. I was told there would be a package waiting at Damascus, Va for me. She hoped I liked the surprises inside. I guess Jim and I were also toying with the idea of growing sprouts along the way as I had learned about on my previous trip in 1981. In just a few days we could grow a handful of sprouts in a Nalgeen bottle with a cloth screen over the mouth of the bottle. Extra protein - that was all it was about. I really did not like eating them with my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches though. Taking a quick look around the Nolichucky Expeditions facilities, I noticed there was a new building since the last time I was there two years earlier.

Erwin has the unique distinction of being the only place in the world that has ever hung an elephant. Many years ago when there was a traveling circus passing through and while stopping for a performance, something startled the large elephant and caused it to trample a young boy. As a result the town lynched the pachyderm with a good stout rope, and considered this justice. Click here for details on this fascinating story. Fearing for our lives, we moved on to Curly Maple Shelter, about three miles up the trail. Part of the trail out of the river valley follows a smaller creek or stream bed called Jones Branch, which due to the recent heavy precipitation, was somewhat swollen from runoff. The trail crossed back and forth over the stream several times on the climb out of the valley. In the process we managed to get our boots totally soaked. About seven miles beyond the shelter we traversed the open grassy summit of Beauty Spot. It is a natural bald, but the clouds hung low in the sky. Although the sky was filled with ominous reminders of rain, the mountains were not covered and provided very nice views.

After dipping down into one of the many "Low Gaps" along the trail, we ascended Unaka Mountain. Unaka Mountain has a wooded summit as opposed to the natural bald that exists on Beauty Spot. The ascent was slow and we took a breather in the coniferous forest that existed at the top. We descended through mud and muck, ascended and descended, and ascended and finally descended into the shelter at Cherry Gap. Three other hikers were there already: the Mad Pollock (Marty Trepanowski), Greg, and another girl (probably Sally Gwinner who traveled with Marty, and eventually getting married). Marty was def and could not speak. (He has done 2000 miles of the PCT over the years in sections, and also returned to the AT in 2010 for a trip of 1300 miles) We had arrived between five and six in the evening, one of the latest arrivals that we had up to this time. The clouds obscured the sun until this time of the day, but magically appeared when we arrived at the shelter. Cherry Gap Lean-to had a very nice spring about 250 feet down a side trail. We gathered water, cooked our supper and relaxed as I wrote in my journal for a while. It had been a long day - 22 miles. We made good use of the partial tube of "Deep Heating Rub" that we found at Curley maple Gap shelter 12 miles back. It is amazing what can sometimes be found along the trail…. and what hikers will do with it once it is found. We met a guy from the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club somewhere along the trail today clearing trail today. There are volunteers out there, even though sometimes it seems as if there are sections that seem to go unnoticed.

Gonzo! Appalachian Trail Journals ©1983

Next From the Beginning