Category Archives: Lao tsu

Erwin, TN, to US Route 17E- Chapter 9

I am walking from Uncle Johnny`s Hostel in Erwin, TN to US Route 17E.

The storm passed over Erwin. I need to be off the trail.

I see a stick bug (walking stick) in the shower room at the hostel.

Hurricane Nate has become a tropical storm and I stayed an extra night at Uncle Johnny’s place. In the morning, the river is high.

It continues to rain – sometimes heavy. I look at a shelter.

Rain ends. Coffee on the trail


I read chapter 9 from the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell.

“Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.”

“Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.”

If the wooly caterpillar is particularly wooly , it means a cold winter is coming. They all look the same to me.

Spruce forest

“Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.”

“Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.”

“Do your work, then step back.”


Eastern newt

Climbing Roan Mountain.

I pass over the top and fix lunch while drying my tarp and clothes in the sun.

“The only path to serenity.”

The sign reads “Round Bald.”

I walk over some sections that are probably the most magnificent set of balds on the Appalachian Trail– Round Bald, Jane Bald, past the Overmountain Shelter (I spent the night north of it), Little Hump Mountain, Bradley Gap, Hump Mountain, Doll Flats.

I met some hikers walking north. They spent the night on Jane Bald while I walked past Overmountain.

An astonishing day. Hard rain at night, fog in the morning.

No words – climbing Little Hump Mountain.

No talking

Path to serenity

The path at Bradley Gap

Path of the caterpillar

Continue reading Erwin, TN, to US Route 17E- Chapter 9

Hot Springs, NC, to Erwin, TN – Chapter 8

I am walking from Hot Springs, NC, to Erwin, TN, on the Appalachian Trail.

I leave Hot Springs early in the morning. I read Chapter 8 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell.

“The supreme good is like water,”

“which nourishes all things without trying to.

It is content with the low places that people distain.”

I was given some moonshine in Hot Springs. In the afternoon, I share it with south-bound hikers. This is “Papa.”

I offer moonshine to a father and son from Minnesota.

It feels warm in the belly.

The next day, I reach a specially constructed ridge line trail, completed in 2015. The graffiti reads, “unending rock scramble.”

The ridge line

“Thus it is like the Tao.”

View from the ridge


“In dwelling, live close to the ground.”

“In thinking, keep to the simple.”

“In conflict, be fair and generous.”

South-bound thru-hiker “Intrepid.” Each of us walked over the terrain that the other will encounter. We discuss which springs and rivers we found to be  dry.

Sign for the Sheldon graves.

Graves of two Union soldiers and their cousin. They were shot here by Confederate sympathizers during the Civil War (War Between the States),. The two brothers were coming home to visit their family. In these mountains,  some families and towns were for the Confederacy, others were for the Union.


“In governing, don’t try to control.”

“In work, do what you enjoy.”

“In family life, be completely present.”

“When you are content to be simply yourself”

I reach Bald Mountain.

“And don’t compare or compete,”

On Bald Mountain, I encounter a scientific group who are capturing birds in nets and banding them.

They place bands on the legs of the birds and release them.

They measure and weigh the birds before release.

This is  a scientific study.

“Everybody will respect you.”

I walk past a hawk decoy. They attempt to attract them and many other species for banding.

The decoy

No talking


Let’s do an experiment. I walk past a place where the chi energy is flowing up the hill. The water flows downhill and the chi flows up the ravine. I reach the place and face the energy.  Can you feel the chi?

First glimpse of Irwin, TN, after five days of walking.

Standing Bear to Hot Springs – Chapter 7

I am walking from Standing Bear Farm to Hot Springs on the Appalachian Trail.

I read Chapter 7 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell:

“The Tao is infinite, eternal.”

I reach the top of Snowbird Mountain.

“Why is it eternal?
It was never born;
thus it can never die.”

I meet a hiker “Deadpool.” She has run out of water and I give her half of what I have. The springs are dry in this area. She is dressed like a comic book character.

The top of Max Patch Bald.

“Why is it infinite?
It has no desires for itself;
thus it is present for all beings.”

Descending from Max Patch

“The Master stays behind;
that is why she is ahead.”

“She is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.”

“Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled.”

I camp on Deer Mountain.

I walk toward Hot Springs, NC. People ask, “Why do you walk in the woods?”

It it not unusual to hear rifle shots in the woods. Someone is engaging in target practice. It reminds me of my time in Vietnam during the war.

Meditation involves focusing on the breath and, when thoughts arise, letting them go.

Newfound Gap to Davenport Gap and Standing Bear – Chapter 6

I am walking on the Appalachian Trail from Newfound Gap to the northern end of the Great Smoky National Park and to Standing Bear Farm.

I hitch-hike from Gatlinburg, TN, to get back to the Appalachian Trail at Newfound Gap.

I start hiking north at Newfound Gap.

I read Chapter 6 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell:

“The Tao is called the Great Mother:
empty yet inexhaustible,”

“it gives birth to infinite worlds.”

“It is always present within you.”

“You can use it any way you want.”

How would you use the Tao?


Come into harmony with it.

Let it be.

I saw a bear cross the trail. I look for him with the camera.

There are things that cannot be seen.

Walking without words

Bears are a problem in this area. The Cosby Knob Shelter is closed. A bear terrorized the campers and they drove him off by throwing rocks. He circled around and destroyed their tents. The rangers closed the shelter.

Morning at Davenort Gap


I see a poster warning about bears. Someone took a photo of a bear immediately before it bit his leg.

I arrive at Standing Bear Farm and take a photo of some guys there. On the right is the hiker “Left Field.” The other two guys are workers at the farm — which is actually a hiker hostil.


Fantana Dam to Newfound Gap – Chapter 5

I walk from Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap on the Appalachian Trail  where I will hitch-hike into Gatlinburg, shower, eat, sleep, and return.

I walk over the Fontana Dam.

I enter the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and begin a 2700 foot climb.

I reach a boulder jumble, a throne shaped rock.

This is the Russel Field Shelter. Hikers are required to stay in shelters because of bears. I read Chapter 5 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell:

“The Tao doesn’t take sides;
it gives birth to both good and evil.”

“The Master doesn’t take sides;”

“She welcomes both saints and sinners.”

I approach Rocky Top.

“The Tao is like a bellows:
it is empty yet infinitely capable.”

“The more you use it, the more it produces;”

“The more you talk of it, the less you understand.”

“Hold on to the center.”

Sunset at Silers Bald Shelter.


A guy from Florida who had moved to Tennessee.

The next day, I walk to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smokies.

The observation tower is closed for repairs – elevation 6867 feet.



Magical forest

Magical forest



No talk

I reach Newfound Gap. I have walked 206.8 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia.

Nantahala Gorge to Fontana Dam – Chapter 4

I leave the gorge early in the morning and read Chapter4 of the Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell):

“Tao is like a well:
used but never used up.”

I pass a monument to a firefighter who lost his life to a wildfire. I am climbing to Cheoah Bald (5000 feet elevation),

“It is like the eternal void:
filled with infinite possibilities.”

I met Barefoot Dan (who walks without shoes) and another hiker, close to the “jump up” before Swim Bald.

The girls are walking to Damascus, Virginia.

“It is hidden but always present.”

“I don’t know who gave birth to it.”

“It is older than God.”

This huge toad is not afraid.

Hard hiking.

This terrain was some of the hardest on the Appalachian Trail. I spent the night partway up Jacobs Ladder.

High up.

I pass a small stream and the Cable Gap Shelter. The day finishes with a 2000 foot descent – hard on the knees. I must recover before going into the Great Smoky Mountains.

Winding Stair Gap to Nantahala Gorge – Chapter 3

In Franklin, I look at the Cherokee mound, one of the largest religious structures of this type.

It was the religious and political center of a huge system (Nikwasi).

Unfortunately for the Cherokee, gold was discovered in North Carolina and the Cherokee were forced off their land. Franklin was the origin of the infamous “Trail of Tears.” President Andrew Jackson ignored the ruling of the Supreme Court and the Army followed his orders to commit a crime against humanity.

I read Chapter 3 of the Tao te Ching translated by Steven Mitchell.

“If you overesteem great men,
people become powerless.”

I am hikingto the Nantahala Outdoor Center on the Appalachian Trail. Just past Winding Stair Gap, I pass a waterfall.

“If you overvalue possessions,
people begin to steal.”

“The Master leads
by emptying people’s minds.”

“and filling their cores,
by weakening their ambition
and toughening their resolve.”

“He helps people lose everything
they know, everything they desire,
and creates confusion
in those who think that they know.”

The terrain is difficult.

I cook lunch in an area where there was a fire last year.

I walk along a ridge.

There is a ridge and then a long steep  descent.

“Practice not-doing,
and everything will fall into place.”

I arrive at the NOC Center, where people do kayaking and white water rafting.

I see a guy named Blue who I met on the trail the day before.

Practice non-doing.

Dicks Creek Gap to Winding Stair Gap – Chapter 2

I stay at Top of Georgia Hostel close to Dicks Creek Gap.

Bob runs the hostile. I am walking to Winding Stair Gap, in North Carolina on the Appalachian Trail.

Dr. Two Shoes at the border into North Carolina – she is an emergency room veterinarian close to finishing her planned section of the Appalachian Trail. Hikers talk about Hurricane Irma, approaching Florida. It might go over us.

This is the iconic tree on the North Carolina side. We hikers from Springer Mountain have reached our first new state.

I read Chapter 2 of the Tao te Ching, translated by Steven Mitchell.

“When people see some things as beautiful,
other things become ugly.”

I show two ways to get water from a spring – using a leaf or digging a hole. My water filter is on the ground.

“When people see some things as good,
other things become bad.”

I meet a couple of hikers at a viewpoint.

“Being and non-being create each other.
Difficult and easy support each other.”

“Long and short define each other.
High and low depend on each other.
Before and after follow each other.”

Someone has set up toys beside this spring – a gnome and owl in canoes, an Indian with teepee and campfire.

Each evening, I sleep in my hammock – which is hidden by the tarp.

“Therefore the Master
acts without doing anything
and teaches without saying anything.”

I fix supper – Mexican rice.

“Things arise and she lets them come;
things disappear and she lets them go.”

This is the steepest part of the entire Appalachian Trail – the climb up Albert Mountain.

“She has but doesn’t possess,
acts but doesn’t expect.”

On top of Albert Mountain.

“When her work is done, she forgets it.
That is why it lasts forever.”

I climb the firepower on Albert Mountain.

Hurricane Erma is coming to Florida and may pass over the Appalachian Trail. At Winding Stair Gap, I hitch-hike into Franklin to wait it out.


I stay in this room as the tropical storm goes past.

Springer Mountain -Chapter 1

I fly to Atlanta to begin my adventure. I will walk on the Appalachian Trail from Springer Mountain, Georgia to central Virginia.

Landing in Atlanta.

I read Chapter 1 of the Tao te Ching:

“The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.”

The next day, I take a shuttle to the trail – Springer Mountain, GA. It rains.

The beginning of the Appalachian Trail. I continue reading from the Tao te Ching (translated by Steven Mitchell).

“The unnamable is the eternally real.
Naming is the origin
of all particular things.”

“Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.”

“Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.
This source is called darkness.”

“Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.”

I walk for three days toward Neals Gap. It is Labor Day weekend — many people are out for the day.

“The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao”

“The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.”



Blood Mountain Shelter – close to Neals Gap.

Inside the Blood Mountain Shelter.


My hammock – the hostile was not open due to drainage problems.

“The unnamable is the eternally real.”

Sunrise- I walk on toward Dicks Creek Gap.

“Naming is the origin
of all particular things.”

“Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.”

“Yet mystery and manifestations
arise from the same source.”

“This source is called darkness.”

“Darkness within darkness.
The gateway to all understanding.”


Protective posture

“The tao that can be told
is not the eternal Tao”

Barry and Becky from central Pennsylvania

Three Indian guys


“The name that can be named
is not the eternal Name.”



Walking toward Dicks Creek Gap

I saw many Korean people.

I make coffee.

The gateway to all understanding.

Oviedo Cathedral

We visit the Oviedo Cathedral — a remarkable place. This was a truly sacred place.

I read from chapter 41 of the Tao te Ching.

“When a superior man hears of the Tao,
he immediately begins to embody it.”

The main alter is the heart. It has with silver scenes from the life of Jesus. I walk to see it.

“When an average man hears of the Tao,
he half believes it, half doubts it.”

What do you know about Jesus?

The Christ child – taken to Egypt.
Center right  – crucifixion. Bottom left — healing (I think)

In the museum are two famous crosses

The victory cross, the symbol of Oviedo, was carryied into battle (against the Moor during a very difficult time) and brought victory.


This is the real thing — they fixed it up a bit and put some jewels on it but this is the battle cross.

This cross was brought by angels.

The cross of the angels — It dates back to the 800’s and they found it to be beautiful. The guy who made it disappeared so he must have been an angel.




There is more. They have the shroud that covered Jesus in the tomb.


What do you think?


There is more — so much. This pot held wine at the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned the water into wine — his first miracle.



St. James appeared in the sky and led the Christian army against the Moors. The historians say that this did not actually happen — that the battle is actually a myth — but many men during centuries afterward went into battle with this story in their minds and the battle cry “Santiago” on their lips.


This is the way to the toilets.

“When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
he laughs out loud.
If he didn’t laugh,
it wouldn’t be the Tao.”


“Thus it is said:
The path into the light seems dark,
the path forward seems to go back,”



“the direct path seems long,
true power seems weak,
true purity seems tarnished,
true steadfastness seems changeable,”


“”true clarity seems obscure,
the greatest are seems unsophisticated,
the greatest love seems indifferent,
the greatest wisdom seems childish.”


“The Tao is nowhere to be found.
Yet it nourishes and completes all things.”