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Jim "" Potts
City: New York
State: New York
Begins: Mar 26, 2012
Date: Wed, Apr 18th, 2012
Start: Gatlinburg, TN
End: Gatlinburg, TN
Daily Distance: 0
Trip Distance: 46.4
Entry Visits: 391
Journal Visits: 1,317
Guestbook Views: 76
Guestbook Entrys: 4
Appalachian Trail Map
I had the awesome pleasure of visiting with Jim for approximately 18 hours yesterday! I flew into Knoxville, TN very late on Monday (16th) evening and got to spend all of the 17th with him before flying back to NYC. So now I can update his trail journal instead of posting an e-mail excerpt this time :)
Jim is doing GREAT! I know I am biased but he is pretty amazing -- he has hiked straight for almost one month and is looking and feeling really good. Eyeballing him, I would say he's about 10 pounds lighter but super strong! We joked that I should have him take my clients on AT hikes as they are all looking for the magic key to weight loss :) He is carrying a pack that weighs about 40 pounds -- can you imagine carrying something that heavy (like a 4 year old??) around all day for 14 miles??? I think he's amazing.
I got the chance to meet some of his trail friends: Cory, his friend from the start...McCamie, a VERY fast and sweet female hiker (averaging 20 miles per day)...and Ryan, an ex-military guy hiking in a kilt! Basically, they were some of the nicest people I've ever met. That seems to be the theme on the trail; everyone is awesome. Jim has had some pretty wonderful stories about a few crazies but I will let him post those later! The 5 of us had buffet breakfast and man, I have never seen people go back more times! I thought I ate a lot! It was neat to see how much all of these people took nothing for granted, even things like the little buffet. I personally thought it was limited in its selections but these 4 thought it was the best thing ever! I am learning that there is so much deprivation on the trail (Jim only asked me to send him some oatmeal, a few breakfast bars and some instant rice) that a buffet with something as hot as a sausage link is enough to make these hikers feel like they are eating like kings!
We drove two of Jim's hiking buddies up to the trail and said goodbye to them. We were unable to go to Clingman's Dome (the highest point on the AT that Jim hiked the day before because it was too cloudy) but still saw some amazing views.
And then some not-so-amazing but hysterical views as Jim drove me through the town we'd be staying in...Gatlingburg, TN...it is CRAZY! There is one main street that is just PACKED full of touristy stuff...everything from fried oreos huts to Ripley's Believe-It-Or-Not...it was like Atlantic City on speed. But Jim LOVED it! He told me that he was so happy when he and his hiking buddies arrived because there was so much food, haha. Normally, Jim doesn't like that type of a town but after hiking for a long time, Gatlinburg, in all of it's uber-commercial glory, was exactly what Jim needed to fulfill his every craving from custard to buffet dining. We decided to do a "bad food crawl" and went to quite a few different stores, eating donuts, ice cream, corn dogs (they didn't have fried pickles, unfortunately...or fortunately), and fudge. We opted to ride the ski lift, which took us to the top of a small mountain facing Clingman's Dome with just an awesome view of everything Jim had hiked (and places he'd eaten!).
We needed to head to the airport for my flight so Jim drove me through Pigeon Forge, TN...the home of Dollywood...it was crazier than Gatlinburg, with everything from a to scale Titanic ship (museum) and an upside-down building called Wonder World. These are only two of the thousand larger-than-life buildings/restaurants/museums we passed on the way to the airport. It was hysterical and awesome at the same time. I have never seen anything like it...please go there!!! I think everyone should experience it once! Jim and I half-joked that we'd come back to vacation there. To give the city its due credit, the people were SO NICE!! Everyone we met seemed enthused to talk to Jim about his thru-hiking experiences.
At the small but beautiful Knoxville airport, I said goodbye to Jim after a whirlwhind trip! It was very hard to leave him, knowing he has about 4 or 5 more months of this lifestyle ahead of him. But he does really enjoy what he is doing! I hope there are a lot more Gatlinburgs in his future.
Basically, the impression I got from him is that this is both a miserable and painful experience, yet amazing and adventurous at the same time. It was wonderful to get an in-person idea of what he is doing. Maybe next time I will actually hike instead of gorge myself in town. :) Visiting him made me wish that we had planned to do this together because it is truly the coolest thing in the world and makes me want to quit my job and go camping for a few months! I am both in awe of and jealous of Jim because he is doing something he has always wanted to do. I hope I am brave enough some day to make a decision (like he has) to do something this difficult/awesome!
The Appalachian Trail (A.T.) is more than 2,175-mile long footpath stretching through 14 eastern states from Maine to Georgia. Conceived in 1921 and first completed in 1937, it traverses the wild, scenic, wooded, pastoral, and culturally significant lands of the Appalachian Mountains. Learn more: www.appalachiantrail.org