Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Appalachian Trail - Only 2180.7 More Miles To Go!

In Africa I learned that I can eat an elephant - if I eat it one bite at a time!  The Appalachian Trail is like an elephant.  It is 2,184 miles of footpath, leading from Georgia to Maine.  I began this most exciting and chilling, awesome and aweful, wonderful and full of wonder walk on Wednesday, September 5, 2012.  The section we walked was the "100 mile wilderness" section.  There were 4 of us who entered the trailhead at 1:00pm that day with intentions to walk to the Hurd Shelter where we were camping for the first night of ten anticipated nights on this trail.

Just a month before (on August 2) I had a CT-Scan showing that there were no more signs of colon cancer.  Jesus had kept his promise which he spoke to me last fall before my surgery.  In that dream He said, "I'm healing you."   My great friend Jack L. Darnell and his dear wife Sherry invited me at some point to go with him for a hike of the "100 mile wilderness" section of the trail beginning at the base of Katahdin and walking south to Manson; something I have always wanted to do.

My grandparents on my Mother's side were an outdoors family.  They hunted in central Florida out of Yankeetown - mostly in a place called Gulf Hammock.  I always loved the time I spent with them: mostly Christmas and Spring, just at the time when school was out.  Sometimes I was also allowed to stay the whole summer with them until it was time for school to begin in the fall.  I have always been healthy and never was in the hospital except for a bout with malaria, sufferred after a mission trip to the Pomeroon district of Guyana, South America.  That was 1985.  I recovered quickly and went on to serve in Africa for 20 years without ever suffering with malaria symptons again.

For over 20 years I had been a pastor in the Southern USA.  My first church was at Tellico Plains, Tennessee.  There I learned many things about hunting and fishing in a mountain environment.  I was a scoutmaster for the Tellico Plains Kiwanis club.  I've hiked short distances in Alaska, carrying skis on my shoulder, never having skiied before.  It was "breath-taking" adventure to say the least.  That is all to say that I have had some experience in the outdoors before0 the beginning of this venture.   (Reflection:  I was younger then - and I had not had cancer surgery nor had my body been bombarded with chemical cocktails for a solid 6 months.  Haha.)

However - after all of my experiences with the few pieces of the trail I've been on, I had no way to anticipate the difficulties I encountered on this trail.  It was absolutely "R&R" as my good friend Jack Darnell said.  "Roots and Rocks"!  That's o.k.  Cause I'll be back, friends. 

So today I went out and bought a map of Springer Mountain to Bly Gap (the southernmost leg of the AT) and started my plans for another big adventure on the trail!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On The 100 Mile Wilderness In Maine

Your's Truly - Enjoying The Trail
But Can You See The Tiredness In My Eyes?
It's because I had to fight with my ENO Hammock Most of the night.  (Well, that plus the five hour hike I had into here to the shelter).  Man - was I tired?  I had stretched out the hammock and slept in it a couple of hours at home - but without the sleeping bag.  Now I had a wonderful sleeping bag that was toasty warm to my back - but it insisted on staying bunched up in the middle.  It was a "Mummy Style" bag, which requires putting one's feet into before zipping up from the bottom.  It was dark and this bag was so warm - but I could not pull enough of it up around my body to stay warm.  I pulled at the legs first - then I pulled at the edges of the bag behind my shoulders.  While doing this I could not, no matter how hard I tried, pull the bag out froim under my back.  I would lift my hips high and try to jump-pull and push at the same instant - all to no avail.  The more I worked the hotter I got.  Then I felt warm.  Warm, that is, until the sweat I had worked up began to turn to ice-water!  Ha.  So - I'll roll over, I thought.  When I did - OUT - onto the roots and rocks.  When my knee hit that root I called out, "OH!"  "Are you all righ down there, Fred?"  Mark called out.  "NO!"  I replied.  So at One o'clock A.M., Mark came down to help this old man get back into the hammock.  What a WONDERFUL NIGHT!
Sherry D And Her Two Sons, Mark and Jack, Jr.

Missionary Friend, Gordon B., President Of The Bible College
In Kenya For Fourteen Years

Everyone Needed To Rest On This Trail

Hurd Shelter
By the time I reached here my vision was blurred.  ☺

Inside The Shelter Where The Others Slept

The Trail of Roots And Rocks
Goes Right By The Base Of That Tree
Jack and Sherry D.



Inside The Shelter of My ENO
I fought all night with my Sleeping Bag
Which I could not get to cover my shoulders!

Climbing into the ENO Hammock
Thru The Bug-Net


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A Taste Of The Trail

Our Trail-Master and good friend, Jack D of Shipslog
Attempting to get a signal on his cell-phone

Mark, Jackie and Sherry the morning we began our hike


Jack, Gordon, Me, Mark at the beginning of our trek
The sign says
It's only 3.3 miles to the shelter where we will camp
the first night


Gordon getting settled into the shelter
 On Tuesday of last week my missionary friend (Gordon) and I boarded a plane and flew to Bangor, ME to begin our trek on the Appalachian Trail.  We were two kids again!  School was out.  And we were both excited about the adventure that lay before us.  Jack (of Shipslog) had invited us to join him and one of his sons for the "100 mile wilderness" section of the trail that begins at Abol bridge at the base of Mt. Katahdin and travels southwards to Manson. 

To sum it up, it took me 5 hours to lead the group in to the first shelter where we camped for the night.  I had begun to run out of steam by the time we got through the bog; the first hurdle along the trail, which took about an hour of walking.  Did I say walking?  It was more like slowly creeping as I tentatively sought for a solid place to plant my hiking stick without it sinking into the marsh from six inches up to two feet!  I would say hahaha - but it wasn't funny at that time.  Plenty funny now that I'm safely home anmd sitting in the comfort of my office. 

After reaching what I think was about the half-way point I became over-heated, so much so that my glasses had gone from fogging over to being wet and streaked completely with sweat.  When I stopped and took a drink from my canteen I decided to pour some water on my head and face.  Steam flew into the air like you had poured ice onto a hot Model A Ford engine. (Well, that's what it seemed like to me.)  I was nauseous.  I felt I would surely lose my lunch.  My  pack felt like it weighed 450 lbs instead of the 48.5 lbs that the airport scale had showed. 

At that point, my good friend Jack insisted that we swap packs.  I believe his pack weighed 30 lbs or less.  He carried my pack and I carried his for a couple of hours.  Then Jack's son, Mark sped on ahead to the shelter and hung his pack in a tree before returning to take the pack I was carrying on the rest of the journey.  I knew at that point that I was not ready yet to hike the entire trail on this trip so decided that if we could possibly get a cell-phone signal that I would do the smart thing and go back out in the morning. 

Sure - I struggled with my male ego before making this decision.  The "man" in me wanted to "do it or die" but I thought - I don't have to die from my an attack of over-grown ego.  Ha.  Common sense told me to let the others go on and for me to turn back.  I was to learn from Jackie (Jack's first-born son) that this was not "common sense" but rather "uncommon sense".  Just like his Dad!  Always trying to make others feel better about themselves. 

More to follow.  However, I can't wait to show you the Tee Shirt that Frances bought for me and presented to me when I reached home! 

I had seen this shirt in Gatlinburg, TN and remarked to
Frances over the phone that I wished I had bought it.
So appropriate for a beginning of an
Addicted Trail Hiker!
Don't you think?

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton