Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hike #3 - Parting Thoughts and Observations

I have thoroughly enjoyed having Bruce by my side for this part of my hike.  Being friends over the past 25 years we have been with each other through highs and lows that make the Georgia mountains seem puny.  Its hard for me to imagine trying to tackle life without friends like him by my side.  Whether he was spotting a rattlesnake in the trial or giving me some sound Monkey Butt advice... he was there for me as always.  Lucky for me he has already said he wants to join me on another hike real soon.

Hard to believe that a full year has passed since I first stepped on the trail.  We hiked 32.4 miles this trip. I have completed a total of 83.3 miles of the AT with about 2,091.7 miles left to go.  It doesn't take a son of a math teacher to calculate that at this pace I will likely finish up around age 70.  Is that a long time? Yes.  Will I make it to the end?  I don't know... but I'm sure going to try.  One thing is for certain... no matter how far I get... the journey will be well worth it.

Saying Goodbye to Georgia

The next day comes fairly early for us as we try to pack everything we brought with us inside of our hydration packs... no chance of leaving anything behind today.  We arranged for a ride from a new shuttle driver, Joyce, to take us back to Dick's Creek Gap since Gene had some prior plans and couldn't take us that morning.  She shows up on time (and is sober) so off we go to start our 15.8 miles hike back to Deep Gap.

Saturday's hike will take us 15.8 miles from Dick's Creek Gap back to our car at Deep Gap.  The terrain is the same as yesterday... up and down and up and down... repeat.  I'm also feeling a slight bit of accomplishment since we will be leaving Georgia and entering N.C. at about the 9 mile mark near Bly Gap. Although I have about 2,100 miles left to hike at least I can say that I have hiked all of Georgia...only 13 more states to go.

Overall, the day's hike is not too bad.  The temperature is kind of cool under the forest tree tops and we have plenty of water for the trip.  Yes, we still ache with each passing step, but with the end in sight our motivation carries us forward.
The picture above is the sign letting you know that you are now entering N.C.  My cousin Garyson told me that the sign was kind of a let down and he wasn't kidding.  Not sure what I was expecting as I left Georgia behind, but that wasn't it.

Monkey Butt to the Rescue

To say my body was sore from the day's hike is a huge understatement.  I was limping along like Festus from Gunsmoke for most of the evening.  I can withstand your typical aches and pains, but after hiking 16.6 miles in the hot August heat my gluteus maximus was toast.  Luckily there was a CVS close by and Bruce told me about a wonderful new miracle drug for an occasion such as this... Monkey Butt!
Never heard of it, but if it helps ease the pain... I'll try anything.  Bruce and I grab a few other necessities and gingerly make our way to the check out counter.  I try my best not to make eye contact with the lady that is working behind the counter this evening... "Welcome to CVS...did you fellas find everything okay?"  Her questions abruptly stop as she proceeds to scan our purchases for the evening... six pack of beer, a bag of cheese doodles, some Vaseline and a big bottle of Monkey Butt.  I'm tempted to give the young lady an explanation but I'm sure she has heard it all before. 
We grabbed some Chinese takeout and headed back to the room to get rested up for the next day's hike... we were wore out.

Marshmellow Hands

Bruce and I continue to push through at a fairly descent pace for the remainder of the day.  Being low on water, we made a decision to ration our water as best we can and try to make it to Dick's Creek Gap as fast as possible.  Along the way we come across a couple of side trails that supposedly lead to water sources.  The only problem with some of these side trails is that they can easily add an extra mile to your already long hike and you aren't guaranteed that there will be water there this time of year.  I kept thinking that if the trail actually crosses over a stream or creek that I would be tempted to drink the untreated water.  I never got that chance since we didn't see any viable streams directly on the trail the entire day.  We also didn't see many other hikers.  I think we passed a young couple and their dog going in the other direction, but that was about it.  This time of year, there aren't too many folks on the trail in Georgia since most of the "through hikers" started their hikes in early April and they are long gone by now. 

At one point during the hike Bruce told me his hands were swollen.  I was about to make a wise crack about his "marshmallow hands" when he told me to look at my own hands.  We both had marshmallow hands.  This was not a good sign...it was then that I realized this was likely a symptom of dehydration.  With less than an hour left to hike we both ran out of water.  I felt a since of relief once we finally came across the stake marker that Gene had told us about.  I barely had a phone signal, but was able to get Gene on the phone to let him know he can start making his way to Dick's Creek Gap to pick us up... and oh yeah, please bring some water!

We finally arrive at Dick's Creek Gap and Gene arrives shortly thereafter.  He hands each of us a huge cold bottle of Gatorade...it was good... real good.  Bruce and I are both relieved that the first day is finally behind us.  We had a hunch that this section of the trail was rather tough and it surely didn't let us down. 

Clarence and the Rattlesnake

There are a lot of God's creatures that call the Georgia mountains home and I hope to see most of them... next time I visit the zoo.  Meeting up with them in their natural habitat sure sounds thrilling, but I can now honestly say that coming face to face with a creature that can kill you isn't my idea of fun... and I love animals.  The trail is usually very narrow so you have to follow behind one another and I had been leading the way for most of the day.  Around the 7 mile point in our hike, Bruce asked if he could lead the way for awhile and I gladly obliged.  Heck, I had been getting hit with all kinds of webs that spiders had made across the trail the night before, so why should I have all the fun.  Less than one minute after Bruce takes the trail lead from me he jumps back knocking me backwards in the process.  Stretched across the trial in front of us is a 5 foot long Timber Rattlesnake. 

It isn't moving and its so long we can't even see its head that is covered by the brush on the right side of the trail.  It is the biggest snake I have ever seen.  Not really wanting to walk around it by going through the thick brush that surrounded both sides of the trail (it might have friends out there), I decided to grab a very long branch and see if I could get it to move along.  Apparently he wasn't ready to move and it proceeded to curl up into the strike position and sounded off with a rather loud and continuous rattle.  I grabbed my camera for a few pictures and even caught a little of it on video.  Eventually we were able to jump around the left side of the trail and keep hiking... with all eyes wide open.

Some of you reading this may already know this about me, but I am red-green color blind.  Its hard to explain but the best I can tell you is that sometimes I have trouble distinguishing between certain colors or shades of colors.  Usually the worst case situation for a disadvantaged guy like me is getting laughed at for wearing two different colors of socks.  I was about to see that wasn't the worst thing that can happen...with the heavily shaded forest floor, that Timber Rattler looked just like a log in the trail to me.  I even had a difficult time finding it as I looked through my camera to take a picture.  I have no doubt that if I had been leading the way when we met that snake, I would have either stepped on or directly over it and our hike could have turned out differently than it did.  Do I have a guardian angel or was it just random luck that Bruce took the trail lead when he did?  In the famous movie, It's a Wonderful Life, George Bailey had Clarence looking after him... so why not me? All I know is I am enjoying my own "Wonderful Life" and I'm thankful I get to experience a little more of it.

The Mistake

I've learned that there are lots of things that can harm you while out on the AT and at the top of that list is stupidity.  Let me explain... when hiking the AT in the middle of August your top priority is staying hydrated and having access to fresh water.  This is why I carefully plan out each trip to make sure I don't forget anything important.  After hiking about 5.6 miles we finally stop for a short break at the Tray Mountain Shelter. 

I have always heard that this time of year you need to fill up on water any chance you get since many of the water sources that are listed in the guide books may be dry.  I unzip my pack to get my water filter out and my heart skips a beat... it's not there.  I had inadvertently left it back at the hotel room.  I break the news to Bruce and he reassures me that we will be fine.  We each only had about half of our water left in our hydration packs and 11 miles left to hike.  I really felt like I had let us down big time by endangering us to dehydration... a bad thing to encounter in the middle of nowhere.  Bruce, always the optimist, insisted we would be okay and I decided to take his advice... what other option did we have?  If we get desperate we could always drink directly from a water source along the trail and just risk all of the bad stuff that can happen by drinking unfiltered stream water.  It was my mistake... one that I will never let happen again.

Friday's Hike

After a very restless night, we wake up around 7:00 a.m., take a couple of Advil and wait for Gene to take us to Unicoi.  In preparing for Friday's 16.6 mile hike we actually don't have to take everything with us since we will be returning to the hotel that evening.  Our main gear for the day is our hydration packs filled with cool water and some energy bars.  Gene arrives right on time and we take off for Unicoi Gap.  Having walked these local trails many times before, Gene tells us that he has actually placed a stake in the ground about 30 minutes before our exit point letting hikers know that spot is the last place you can pick up a mobile phone signal before getting to Dick's Creek Gap.  We tell him that we plan on arriving at Dick's Creek Gap by about 4:00 p.m. but we will call him from that marker so he will know exactly when to pick us up for the day.  It's around 8:30 a.m. and we finally head out for the day's hike.
This section of the trail actually contains some of the longest climbs and highest peaks of the AT in Georgia.  We climbed up to 4,430 feet in elevation on top of Tray Mountain and as low as 3,113 feet at Indian Grave Gap.  Pretty much we went up and down fairly steep mountains for the entire day.  We both quickly realized how glad we were that we didn't have to do this section with 35 lb. packs on our backs. 

Sir Mix-A-Lot and Senior Night at the Bear Meadows Grill

If the title of this entry doesn't grab your attention... nothing will.  After getting settled into our room, we decide to walk about a mile into town and eat at a Mexican Restaurant that Gene had recommended to us.  It was an okay place to eat but Bruce and I were mainly interested in sitting in a sports bar, watching highlights of the PGA Championship and catching up over a cold beer.  After a quick Google search on my phone, I find a place called the Bear Meadows Grill located down the street from where we are and they are still open.  Not having many options, we head over to check it out. 

Timing is everything as we arrive just as Karaoke Night is kicking off.  The place is packed with the exception of a small table in the back.  Bruce and I realize that the sports bar thing isn't going to happen for us so we decide to grab our table in the back and make the most of it.  A quick scan of the crowd gave me another realization... it must be "Bring Someone on Medicare" night at the Bear Meadows Grill!  Just then a nice older gentleman named Russell scooted by our table with his oxygen tank in tow.  He was making his way up to the microphone... he was up next.  What could his karaoke selection possibly be?  A little Sinatra perhaps... Jack the Knife?... I Did It My Way?... no, he proceeds to belt out a Barry White song. 

You can't buy this kind of entertainment so Bruce and I order a bucket of beers and watch the show.  After our second bucket, our judgement was getting lax as we jokingly promised our waitress that we will most definitely get up there to help her sing a song before the night is done.  It was almost closing time when we heard those dreaded words from the Karaoke DJ... next up...Bruce and Mike. Being put on the spot, we followed some of the wait staff up to the stage curious about what song we would be singing.  My guess was something country... maybe a little old school Hank Williams or Garth Brooks.  Our carefree attitudes quickly turned to embarrassment when we saw the song on the screen we were about to sing... Sir Mix-a-Lot's Baby Got Back.  Of all the MTV videos I watched as a youth... that was not one of them.  What occurs next can only be imagined... there are no words that can describe the debacle that unfolded on that stage.  As we began to struggle through the words to Baby Got Back and settle into our more appropriate role of back up singers, an older lady that was out celebrating her birthday was coerced by her husband and friends to get up there with us and dance around.  I was thinking... why should we be embarrassed.... no one here knows us...what happens in Hiawassee stays in Hiawassee...right?  Just then I realized that one of her friends was video taping the entire event on her mobile phone.  Perfect...knowing my luck we will be a You Tube viral hit by morning time and booked on the Today Show by Labor Day.  As you can tell, not all of the interesting stuff happens while on the trail.  The towns I visit and the characters that call those towns home are a welcome part of my AT adventure.

The Hiawassee "Budget" Inn

As we drove through town on our way to the Hiawassee Inn, we passed a nice Holiday Inn Express as well as a Ramada Inn.  They look nice, but the Hiawassee Inn got several "thumbs up" from other AT hikers so I figured it was the place to stay if hiking the trail.  As we turn into the entrance of the Hiawassee Inn, this was probably the first point of the trip that Bruce finally began to quietly question my superb planning abilities.  Why again are we not staying at the Holiday Inn Express?... Well, this place only charges $40 per night for hikers and my shuttle driver knows where it is... it has met all of my requirements.

We unload our gear and remind Gene to pick us back up in the morning around 8:00 a.m. for the 8 mile ride over to the beginning of our hike, Unicoi Gap.  Bruce and I make our way into the "office" of the hotel which at first seemed rather deserted.  After a minute, out comes the "manager de jour" in charge of the Hiawassee Inn.  I tell the manager that I called a couple of days ago and made a reservation for two nights.  This is usually the point that most front desk clerks begin frantically typing on their keyboards for 5 minutes before eventually handing over the swipe key cards to the room... that didn't happen.  He simply said, "uh...okay, are you paying with cash or credit card"?  Although I typically use a credit card in these situations, I suddenly had an eerie thought of spending several hours on the phone with American Express trying to identify all of the extra charges that were on my bill. It only took me two seconds to respond... "Oh, I'll be paying cash for both nights... it's $40 per night, right?"  Here is where he really got me thinking...  The manager responds, "Yeah, but I tell you what... since you are paying cash, I'll take $100 total for both nights".  I then proceed to stare at the manager for about 7 seconds while I wait for him to figure out that $40 x 2 nights = $80.  If you have never stared at someone for 7 seconds in complete silence... try it sometime... its longer than you think.  After all, he obviously doesn't realize who he is dealing with... I'm the son of a math teacher and the proud recipient of a solid "C" average in every math course I ever took.  I then calmly respond, "I think $80 is better".  As I hand over my $80, he mumbles something about the lady that took my reservation must have given me the "winter" hiker rates so he will honor what she told me.  Easy mistake... after all it is August.  We collect our key and head over to our "Presidential Suite".
Here is a helpful tip for any of you that research the internet looking for that perfect hotel... if "private bathroom" and "hot water" are listed as amenities... keep looking.  I'm surprised they didn't go ahead and list "beds" and "electricity" as some of the other amenities.  Oh well, we are only staying two nights... how bad can it be.

Welcome to Hiawassee

After a nice drive through Franklin, NC, Bruce and I finally located the turn off for Forest Service Road 71 that would take us to the area of the trail known as Deep Gap.  The map indicated that FSR71 was a small gravel road that would eventually end up at a small parking area at Deep Gap.  It didn't say exactly how long the gravel road was which had us questioning ourselves after the first 3 miles or so.  Turns out is was a little over 5 miles which on a small, twisting, gravel mountain road seems like 20 miles.

As soon as we get there we see our shuttle driver, Gene, waiting already for us.  He was on time, sober and didn't appear to be a serial killer... all of the qualities I typically look for in an AT shuttle driver.We quickly put everything we need for our two day hike into Gene's car and head out.  Gene was a semi-retired older gentleman and he was very receptive to us asking him lots of questions about the area.  It was actually Gene's idea for us to stay in Hiawassee, GA on Friday night instead of going all the way into Helen, GA as originally planned.  Not only was Hiawassee closer to the beginning of our Friday hike, but I figured that by staying in the sleepy little town of Hiawassee instead of staying in the bustling town of Helen, I would greatly reduce the probability of me having to hike with a hangover the next day.  As I would find out later, being in Haiwassee apparently only reduced those chances by about 1%... hanging out with Bruce regardless of the location still left my "hiking with a hangover" chances at well over 90%.  Bruce and I don't get to hang out that often so when given the chance to catch up over a beer (or twelve) we usually take it.  Anyway, after a nice scenic 30 minute drive, we finally arrive at our glorious accommodations for the night, The Haiwassee "Budget" Inn... emphasis on "budget".

Hike #3 - Unicoi Gap to Deep Gap

Thursday, August 4, 2011 - I made a strategic and wise decision for this particular hike.  Rather than lug a 35 lb. pack up and down tremendously steep mountains in the hot August heat, I decided to "slackpack" the two-day 32 mile hike that would take me from where I last left the trail at Unicoi Gap all the way into North Carolina to an area known as Deep Gap.   What made my anticipation for this hike even greater is that my good friend, Bruce Bullock, agreed to join me. It is always nice to share time on the trail with others, but having one of my life long friends join me for two days of hiking was exceptionally nice.

To say that these hikes require planning is a bit of an understatement.  Let me explain the plan for this particular trip... Bruce, who lives in Pinehurst, would drive to Clemmons and pick me up around Noon on Thursday.  From there we would drive about 4 hours towards Franklin, NC and attempt to locate a gravel side road (U.S. Forest Service Road 71) outside of Franklin that would take us to a parking area next to the AT called Deep Gap.  Hopefully the "shuttle" that I had previously arranged with a guy named Gene would be there at 5:00 p.m. to drive us into Hiawassee, GA where we would spend Thursday night.  Friday morning, Gene would hopefully arrive and take us to Unicoi Gap where we would begin our Friday hike.  We would then hike 16.6 miles on Friday to Dick's Creek Gap where Gene would once again pick us up around 4:30 p.m. and take us back to our hotel in Hiawassee.  Saturday morning we would get another shuttle ride (this time from a lady name Joyce) back to Dick's Creek Gap where we would hike the ramaining 15.8 miles back to our car at Deep Gap.  Hopefully we would arrive back at our car around 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and if our car was still there we would then drive home.

How can anything go wrong with a detailed plan like that?  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Hike #2 - Parting Thoughts and Observations

I usually learn a lot on my hikes across the AT and this trip is no different.  First thing I learned is that Georgia is a beautiful state.  I love my N.C. mountains and think they are the most beautiful mountains on earth, but they had better watch out...the Georgia mountains could easily take that title away.  They are absolutely gorgeous and I can't wait to visit them again soon. We hiked 30.8 miles on this section which brings my total miles hiked thus far to 50.9.  Only 2,124.10 miles to go.

Another thing learned... I'm not as young as I used to be.  Those of you that know me well are probably saying, "Gee, Mike, you are just now figuring that out?".  Old age creeps up on us all and when you catch it doing so it usually is depressing at first.  Whether it was struggling to "converse" with some of the younger hikers or when I almost gave Grayson my cholesterol medication instead of the Advil he requested...my age was on full display for the entire forest to see.  It helps that there are hikers and adventurers even older than me out there doing their thing.  I'll definitely keep them in my mind as I plan the next hike.

My trail name?... well, I'm still working on it.  Grayson calls himself "Tin Man" and that is a fitting name since he is raising money for the Children's Heart Foundation and the Tin Man is a reference to the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz.  That's a cool name and makes sense.  For me... well Grayson wanted to call me "Working On It" since that is what I continued to say to other hikers that asked, but that ranks right up there with "Lasagna" that the dude from my previous hike waned to call me.  I know the right name is out there somewhere.  Maybe I'll have a contest to see who can give me my perfect trail name.  Who knows?  If I don't find the right name soon... it is sure to find me.

I feel honored that I got to spend a few quality days with my cousin, Grayson (aka Tin Man), as he makes his way along the AT towards Maine. My uncle Larry and aunt Carolyn should give themselves a big pat on the back and be proud that they have raised such a well round and caring son as Grayson.  We shared many great conversations pertaining to just about everything there is to talk about.  It was great and I will never forget it.  I wish that I had a fraction of his determination and zest for life when I was his age.  There are plenty of people in my life to worry about, but Grayson isn't one of them.  He is going to go far in life and I can't wait to see what happens next as the "Tin Man" winds along his own yellow brick road.

Helen, Georgia

First of all let me say that Helen, Georgia can be a bit deceiving.  On the surface it appears to be the cutest little town on the face of this planet.  All of the buildings are structurally shaped like you are in the Swiss Alps complete with Christmas lights dangling from every roof top.  There are horse drawn buggies slowly meandering through town and outdoor musicians playing to folks as they eat at outdoor bistros.  I initially thought it would be a nice quite place to take my wife someday soon, but I now see that wouldn't be a fun trip with the wife.
As we quickly find out, Helen is very noisy at night.  It's like Blowing Rock on steroids.  Apparently this small town is very popular with loud partiers and the many bikers that I saw on the road earlier.  We find a hotel in town and quickly get cleaned up and head out for that steak and beer. Grayson and I would have normally stuck around downtown to explore a little more but we were too tired.  It was an early night for us both.

Saturday's Hike

Saturday, April 9, 2011 - Hiking 19 miles in one day over some of the roughest terrain in all of Georgia is not something that I hope to do again anytime soon.  My body felt just like it did when I ran a marathon 2 years ago.  It was brutal as I tried to keep up with the extra long steps of my 26 year old cousin.  All I could think about was how wonderful the steak and beer would be once we got into town.

We also met a very inspirational hiker along the way that day, named Flatbread.  Flatbread is 67 years old and she is out hiking the AT for her second time.  Normally that would be great all unto itself, but what really made it special is that she only has one lung.  She had one removed 2 years ago due to lung cancer.  Needless to say the thought of having her out there doing this made some of my own personal pain fade away.

We met a couple of fellow hikers heading in the other direction just as we made it to Hog Pen Gap.  They had just completed a small section hike and they were getting ready to hop in their car and head back to Atlanta.  I'm glad we stopped to talk to them because they ended up giving us some extra water and a few food bars they weren't going to need anymore.  A little "trail magic" to help us get through the day!

We made it to Low Gap Shelter around 4:00 p.m. that day.  We had decided to rest here for about 45 minutes and have some lunch.  It was a good call since my body was hurting very bad at this point.  There were about 8 other hikers that were already there at Low Gap and they were going to camp there for the night.  It was tempting to stay there too, but just as the Blues Brothers once said... "We are on a mission from God".

We pressed on and finally arrived at Unicoi Gap around 8:30 p.m. as it was getting very dark.  It was great to be back at the car.  Now on to Helen.

Now What?

Our new friend, Rolling Stone, was going to hike 1 mile back to Mountain Crossings and restock up on food supplies before moving on for the day.  We probably would have done the same thing if we didn't have Grayson's food bag to share.  Having just lost all of my food to a bear, I suddenly had a great idea... we will hike 19 miles all the way to Unicoi Gap, get in my car and drive to Helen for the night, thus taking another bear attack out of the equation.  It would be a very tough hike but the thought of having a nice bed to sleep in and a nice dinner in town was very motivational.  Our original plan was to hike just 14 miles and make camp on Saturday night at a place called Chattahoochee Gap, but luckily Grayson was up for the extended challenge.

Uncle Larry's "Gold Mine"?

It didn't go unnoticed that this bear totally ignored Grayson's bag.  After the shock wore off of seeing what was left of my bag, my thoughts turned to "why" Grayson's bag was untouched.  After all, Black Bears typically eat about 40 pounds of food each day and they will eat just about anything they can get their paws on.  Grayson's bag was still hanging on the rope well within the bear's reach.  What did Grayson's bag have in it that ours didn't?  All he had was the food that his dad (my Uncle Larry) had made for him.  I'll admit that initially I had a few doubts about Uncle Larry's homemade, farm-grown, organic, freeze dried, dehydrated, vacuum packed trail food especially since it was still a suspect in Grayson's Woody Gap spewing bout the day earlier.  At this point it would be very easy to make a joke about how Uncle Larry's food is so bad that even a hungry bear wouldn't eat it, but I honestly don't think that is the case given what is known about a Black Bears appetite.  Grayson had even shared some of it with me earlier in the day and it was pretty good stuff.

My only logical conclusion... Uncle Larry has unknowingly developed the very first trail food that is totally resistant to bears!  Could this be the "gold mind" opportunity that he has been searching for his entire life.  His trail food is light, healthy, tasty and now "field tested" to be totally ignored by bears.  With Grayson's knowledge of hiking and Larry's secret recipe of trail food I think the manufacturers of trail food are about get a new industry leader.  Please sign me up for some of that food for my next trip!

Grandpa Must Have Missed One

We all retire to our tents and try our best to get some sleep.  I don't know about Grayson and Brandon, but I didn't get to sleep until about 2:00 a.m. as I lied there staring at the top of my tent while caressing my own BFK which was resting on my chest.  I was very still and thought silly thoughts such as how my small one-person tent probably resembled a giant burrito and if BFB even liked burritos.  Luckily I did finally manage to get some sleep.
The next morning I am the first one up (go figure) and I meander down the path to check on our bear bags.  I don't have to go very far before my jaw drops and my mind screams... WTF!  (no, that doesn't stand for Win-The-Future).  When I was younger, my aunts and uncles would often take us kids on a late night stroll through the woods in an attempt to scare the snot out of us.  This stroll was referred to as a "bear hunt" and we would all chant the chorus line of "There ain't no bears out this night, Grandpa shot them all last night" as we nervously waited for one of the older adults to jump out of the woods and send us all running back to the house vowing never to go into the woods late at night all alone.  Well, all I have to say is that apparently Grandpa missed one!  Our camp had been invaded over the night by one or more very smart bears.

Upon approaching the "crime scene" I noticed that there was one bag still hanging.  Who was the lucky winner?  You guessed it... not me.  For some reason the bear didn't touch Grayson's bag.  Instead it totally destroyed my bag and Brandon's bag.  Nothing was left except a bunch of trash with a heavy presence of bear slobber all over it.  The bears are now clever enough to figure out how the bags are hanging outside of its reach.  It had clawed at both lines which lowered the bags just enough for it to grab whatever it wanted.  I think its not too long before the bears figure out how to quietly unzip tents and drag hikers off into the woods.  Anyway, we picked up our trash and then sat down to reassess the situation.