Monthly Archives: June 2016

I Can See For Miles And Miles

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WV/VA line – mile 642

 

Charlottesville, VA – mile 861 – 39.3% of the trail complete –

This is the first blog I’ve gotten up in a while and I know there were some rumors out there that I had quit the trail. Well no actually I’ve just been busy making miles, and there haven’t been a lot of opportunities to update my blog. Since my last entry I’ve done 227 miles and have really picked up steam. I am headed into Shenandoah National Park tomorrow after having taken off five days for a wedding in Nashville.

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Apparatus to cross to the Captain’s – mile 655

 

June 10th – Pearisburg, VA to The Captain’s
Total miles on AT – 21.1
Elevation gain – 2412ft
Elevation loss – 2020ft
Start time: 9:50am
Finish time: 6:55pm
Total time hiking : 7:50
Weather: beautiful – sunny, very warm

I tied my personal best today – 21.1 thanks to a half day off yesterday, a cup of coffee this morning, and easy terrain. After a steady climb the trail followed the ridge line that separates Virginia and West Virginia. There was no water for a thirteen mile stretch, kinda challenging on a warm day. I saw a raccoon.

I am staying the night at the Captain’s. It’s simply this man’s backyard and he allows people to camp. He also has free cold sodas which I feel I rather took advantage of – I had four! In order to get here you have to cross a river on a zip line!

I finally caught up to Jem, a 42 year-old lively minister for homeless people in Boston. I’ve been trying to catch her for the past week and a half. She gave me a big sweaty hug when she saw me.

My knees felt the best they’ve felt since April. But I don’t want to jinx that. I soaked them in the river and then sat around the fire chatting. I talked a lot because I had caffeine this morning. One of the young women around the fire started May 7th, over three weeks after I started! The women out here just kill it!

It’s already 10:45 and I’m not tired. Just took two Advil PM. Hope that helps.

 

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Largest oak tree on the AT in the south – mile 676

June 11th – The Captain’s to Laurel Creek Shelter
Total miles on AT – 17.3
Elevation gain – 3414ft
Elevation loss – 2974ft
Start time: 11:50am
Finish time: 9:15pm
Total time hiking : 7:15
Weather: sunny, hot, humid
I slept till 9 and didn’t get on the road until ten of noon. It was the hottest day we’ve had yet and the going was slow through the first part of the day. By 4:15pm I had only made 6.6 miles.

The views from the top of Wind Rock were nice and I talked to some Virginia Tech students who were pretty fascinated by my trip, and by my other trips. “I want your life. I want do do all that,” they were saying. I simply replied, “Do it!”

I saw a bear late in the day – well I only saw his ears propped up above the bushes from about 45 yards away. I slapped my hiking poles together over and over and he scurried off. That’s bear number four!

I caught the sunset from the top of Kelly Knob and headed down to the shelter as it got dark. I saw 6 or 7 deer today. I walked within 12 feet of two of them. I felt like I could almost pet them. They weren’t afraid of me. There was one in the middle of the trail who briefly looked up and me and went back to eating. “Aren’t you going to move off the trail?” She took some convincing.

I hiked down the mountain as it got dark. About a tenth of a mile from the shelter I saw an outline in the trail that looked like a snake. I touched it with my hiking pole and sure enough it was. I got my headlamp out and was able to decipher that it was a copperhead. The irony of it all is that in the near darkness I could see his dark outline better than I might have seen his camouflage colors in the daytime. What is it with me and close encounters with snakes?

A good crew here tonight including Jem.

It’s 11:15 already. Need to try to get to bed.

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Dragon’s Tooth – mile 699

 

June 12th – Laurel Creek Shelter to Audie Murphy Monument
Total miles on AT – 17.5
Elevation gain – 2887ft
Elevation loss – 2585ft
Start time: 9:40am
Finish time: 7:55pm
Total time hiking : 7:05
Weather: mostly sunny, very warm, windy in the afternoon

Another later start but much better than yesterday. I was low on food so once I got to US 42 I headed for a resupply at a place called Joe’s Trees. The guide said it was a mile off the trail but it was more like a mile and a half. When I got there it was closed – it’s Sunday. I didn’t think about that. When I got back to the trail there was trail magic – cold sodas from a guy who finished the trail in the early 90s. He offered me a ride into town to resupply. I declined, but have had to ration what I have left until I get to Catawba tomorrow.

We passed the largest oak tree on the trail in the South – 18 feet around. Then a big climb up to the ridge line. Saw a black snake about five feet long on the way up. It got so spooked it slid across the trail in front on me and down the hill like a streak of lightning. I didn’t know snakes could travel that fast.

It was slow going on top of the ridgeline as it was very rocky. After a long downhill I finished the day with a 1500 foot climb. I saw someone coming up behind me and I thought no way am going to get caught going uphill at the end of the day. I turned it into overdrive and left him out of sight. But 15 minutes later he was right behind me. I let him pass but stayed right behind him until he stopped and I kept up my intense pace until I reach the top. I never saw him again.

A thruhiker named John had set up camp and a fire here and it was nice to join him. I took a look at the WWII monument here dedicated to the most decorated war veteran of the war. He died in a plane crash near here in 1971. There was also a stunning view nearby and I took a look at the fading light beyond the ridge above us across the steep valley.

A woman named Giggles is also camping here. John and I chatted by the fire until almost 10.

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McAfee Knob – mile 711

 

June 13th – Audie Murphy Monument to Johns Spring Shelter
Total miles on AT – 18.6
Elevation gain – 1764ft
Elevation loss – 2907ft
Start time: 9:15am
Finish time: 8:30pm
Total time hiking : 8:10
Weather: sunny, very warm
Another beautiful day after a chilly night up on the ridge. I got frustrated by the slow going before and after Dragon’s Tooth. The way down was steep and rocky and I just wanted to get to The Catawba Store to eat! I had eaten the last of my food at the top. In short, my attitude kinda sucked today.

Last night John said he was loosing the desire to climb up and down hills day after day. I caught up with him twice throughout the day and he said he was having trouble getting motivated. When I got to the shelter tonight I saw someone has written “F- this Sh-. I’m done.” But I couldn’t make out who wrote it and didn’t read it right the first time. I thought at first it said something like – ‘Sup this grit. I assume it might have been John.

Now I wish I had talked him into going to the store with me and sharing a pizza. After all, one pizza was a lot for one person. I had to wash it down with a chocolate waffle ice cream cone and two 20 oz sodas. But seriously, I could have done better helping John and now I feel bad about it.

I tore off and kept part of my pizza box. It reads as follows: “The task ahead of you is never as great as the Power within you.”

I caught the headline of the Roanoke Times of the mass shooting in Orlando. It was only a matter of time. And it will happen again unless America changes. Makes me want to live in another country. I haven’t heard anyone talk about it out here.

When I got to the shelter at 8:30 after a long day, I was the only one here. (There are two more shelters within three and a half miles.) I decided to stay in the shelter instead of setting up my tent. A couple of day hikers went by and said they saw a bear a mile from here. There is a shelter about ten miles up from here that is closed due to bear activity. So I was extra vigilant to put absolutely everything in my bear bag and I took it down and set it up again after forgetting I had two empty drink bottles in my pack, and a third time when I discovered trash in the shelter.

A couple came in at 9:40 and set up their tent, which makes me feel better about the bear situation. The only problem with staying in the shelter alone is that it is a warm night with a lot of bugs.

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The AT joins up with the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time – mile 742

 

June 14th – Johns Spring Shelter to Troutville, VA
Total miles on AT – 20.3
Elevation gain – 2798ft
Elevation loss – 3357ft
Start time: 9:00am
Finish time: 7:45pm
Total time hiking : 8:05
Weather: sunny, very warm
Making miles now, despite my right knee hurting today. Hmm, that’s a change. It’s been the left knee for so long. What do I do when they both start to hurt? I was happy that the right knee pain didn’t persist.

I had really great trail magic at the top of McAfee’s Knob. A couple who are former thruhikers brought some goodies. They shared a shot of whiskey and we cheered together. They also shared an apple, some chips with humus, and a bottle of water. They’ve also hiked the PCT and next month are going to start the Continental Divide Trail. All of their thru hikes have been southbound.

Despite the heat, I made good miles. I’ve been meaning to say it for days but I have been surprised how many pine forests there are in central Virginia. They look like ponderosa pine like out west. I often feel like I’m hiking the PCT. The trees aren’t that high or thick so I am getting a lot of sun.

I am staying at the Troutville Park where they let you camp here for free and can shower and do laundry for free across the street at the fire house. Nice deal!

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The Guillontine – mile 769

June 15th – Troutville, VA to Bobblets Gap Shelter
Total miles on AT – 17.0
Elevation gain – 2505ft
Elevation loss – 1733ft
Start time: 11:10am
Finish time: 7:15pm
Total time hiking : 6:10
Weather: clouds in the morning, afternoon sun and very muggy, evening thunderstorms

A late start, but an easy 17 today. I got up early, iced my knees in the fire house, but the store wasn’t open yet. So I went back to sleep for an hour and a half. I got a ride to the trail from a guy in town who said he’s hiked from Maryland to Tennessee. It was very hot and muggy in the afternoon. John (still on the trail!) pointed out a bear about 100 yards down off the trail. I wouldn’t have seen him otherwise. That’s bear number five.

We have joined the Blue Ridge Parkway and had some nice views where the trail junctions with some parkway turnoffs. It makes me feel like I’m almost back to Charlottesville. I got caught in an early evening thunderstorm for the last two miles to the shelter. I set up my tent near the privy, no good spots here and the shelter is full.

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Mile 771

 

June 16th – Bobblets Gap Shelter to Cornelius Creek Shelter
Total miles on AT – 18.4
Elevation gain – 4375ft
Elevation loss – 3347ft
Start time: 9:40am
Finish time: 7:50pm
Total time hiking : 7:05
Weather: sunny, hot, nighttime thunderstorms

Boy, I sleep a long time when I take an Advil PM – about 10 and a half hours last night. I made good time for the 9.7 miles to Jennings Creek where I took a swim. VA 614 is right there and it’s 1.2 miles to Middle Creek Campground. A woman gave me and a southbounder a ride both ways. I had a double cheeseburger, mozzarella sticks and a strawberry milkshake. (They were out of chocolate ice cream but it’s nice to mix it up once in a while anyways.) The southbounder is attempting a flip flop. He started at Harpers Ferry in April and is making terribly slow time.

Back at the creek a woman was passing out granola bars. There’s trail magic everywhere! Her friend warned us that there were “derechos” forecasted. I had never hear this term. The weather was supposed to turn at 5pm. That scared some people from going to the campground and a lot of people from leaving the last shelter.

But I pushed on from the last shelter at 5:45. It was still sunny and beautiful. It was a 2300 foot climb over 4.3 miles and then sixth tenths down the other side to this shelter. It clouded over and became a little windy on the way up, but I was able to make dinner here when I arrived and the thunderstorm rolled in at about dark. A pretty rip roaring one.

The only other person here tonight is John. He’s tenting because of the bugs. I decided to stay in the shelter to stay dry and so I can get an early start tomorrow – I need to do 20 miles by 6pm to meet Kristen at the James River to head to the Buena Vista Fiddlers Convention. The bugs are all up in my face as I type. There are two shelter mice here! (one of them ate a page out of my guidebook!)

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I didn’t think this rattler was real at first

 

June 17th – Cornelius Creek Shelter to US 501
Total miles on AT – 19.9
Elevation gain – 2339ft
Elevation loss – 4873ft
Start time: 5:45am
Finish time: 5:45pm
Total time hiking : 7:40
Weather: rain, mild
A very early start. I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night. The rain started mid-morning and became heavy at times throughout the day. I made it the shelter two miles before the highway and stayed there for three hours and got in an exquisite nap. I crossed over the James River on the longest footbridge on the trail.

Kristen picked me up just after six and we joined Rose and her three year old son Jake for the Fiddlers Fest. We had a nice time camping and listening to the music. Kristen brought Chipoltle and cocktails!

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Mile 793

 

June 18th – US 501 to Punchbowl Shelter
Total miles on AT – 10.5
Elevation gain – 3112ft
Elevation loss – 1305ft
Start time: 1:30pm
Finish time: 8:05pm
Total time hiking : 4:30
Weather: sunny, pleasant
It was cold this morning until the sun got above the trees, then it warmed right up. It was the first time in two and a half weeks I used all my top layers.

I had jerk barbeque for lunch then they brought me back to the trail. My battery for my iPad is almost dead, one of my apps ate up a lot of battery.

I was so lifeless to start. I had five days worth of food on my back. I made it to the first shelter which was 1.7 away and stayed there for about an hour and just laid down. I wasn’t sure I would be able to continue. I felt weak and just the slightest bit of nausea. I did finally find the strength. It cooled considerably and the wind felt a bit chilly. I need new socks, they are starting to tear my feet apart.

I might try to get off the trail to charge my battery somewhere. I didn’t get much done on my “to do” list while I was off trail. A lot of relaxing, which I needed – I had done 150 miles in the previous eight days.

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At Devil’s Backbone from left to right – John, Sleeping Bear, Gasket, Rude, Tortoise, ?, me. In front – Raiden

 

June 19th – Punchbowl Shelter to Hog Camp Gap
Total miles on AT – 17.6
Elevation gain – 3775ft
Elevation loss – 2777ft
Start time: 11:25am
Finish time: 8:55pm
Total time hiking : 7:25
Weather: sunny, pleasant
I felt so lifeless in the morning that I went back to sleep for a while. My back has started to bother me. I think it started two days ago with all that down to the James River. I must get in to see the chiropractor while I’m in Charlottesville.

I got a very late start and took a lot of early breaks. I made up time in the evening.

I heard a snake making noise off the trail and it sort of sounded like a rattle but not fully. I investigated and it was a black snake. It was moving its tail, but it had no rattle. Then it slithered off with gusto. Very peculiar.

I had another dog freak out on me again, and I was lucky not to get bit. They sense my fight or flight response and it triggers something in them, and at this point I can’t control it. It’s really bad.

I had amazing views in the evening walking over Cole Mountain, but my iPad died early in the day so no pictures. I would have also gotten pictures of two dear who were real curious and approached me like they wanted to be friends.

I camped in a nice meadow with others at Hog Camp Gap and there quite a few campfires going.

Tomorrow is naked hiking day so I was going to push on after midnight and hike in the moonlight. But it’s too cold, I’m too tired, and a slight twist of my ankle coming down to the gap in the fading light was a gentle reminder that night hiking is a good way too jeopardize my whole trip with a sprain.

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Humpback Rocks – mile 850

 

June 20th – Hog Camp Gap to Spy Rock
Total miles on AT – 10.4
Elevation gain – 1372ft
Elevation loss – 1062ft
Start time: 2:55pm
Finish time: 7:15pm
Total time hiking : 3:50
Weather: sunny, pleasant

I called the Three Springs Hostel to see if their store was open. It’s the first time I’ve used my phone for any purpose out here. It took nearly four hours to charge my iPad there and it was a mile and a half walk each way. I didn’t get started on the trail till nearly 3 o’clock.

I saw three people back at Hog Pen Gap where I took down my tent and packed up to go – pretty inconvenient on naked hiker day. But I charged ahead of all of them and only passed two unfortunate southbounders late in the day. I only made it to Spy Rock, but watched the sunset with some law students from UVA who all graduated last month. They shared some beer, strawberries, and chocolate with me, and I shared marshmallows and the fire that I had made. I’ll get up for the sunrise tomorrow and then try to do a 20-miler to Devils Backbone. T’will be a long two days.

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The Three Ridges to the left, The Priest in the distance – 3000 feet down and back up – from mile 838

 

June 21st – Spy Rock to Reeds Gap
Total miles on AT – 19.4
Elevation gain – 4057ft
Elevation loss – 5188ft
Start time: 9:10am
Finish time: 7:05pm
Total time hiking : 8:00
Weather: warm, humid, thunderstorms

A glorious day in every way. I think I felt most emotions on the emotional spectrum today. My alarm for 5:30 did not go off so no sunrise from Spy Rock. I wasn’t too upset because when I did awake an hour later it was cloudy. I slept very poorly last night, felt like I only got a couple of winks. It was windy all night and I didn’t check for loose branches above me. It rained in the morning, but I was finally able to get off at ten after nine.

I again maintained a slow pace in the morning. I ran into a woman named Big Bird who was going the wrong way. She was the second person this morning that I had run into that had done at least a mile in the wrong direction to start the day.

I can be very happy in that today was the biggest day of downhill I have done so far and my knees feel pretty good. It was also the biggest day of uphill and downhill combined. The trail went down 3000 feet to the Tye River and then straight back up 3000 feet. Today we went over the last 4000 foot peak we’ll hit until Killington in Vermont.

I took a dip in the river and it was swell, but as soon as I started going up, the weather turned. I hit that uphill hard as the wind and rain picked up. The last section to the top was rocky and slow going and I cursed because I really wanted to make it to Devils Backbone Brewery in the evening.

The rain intensified and the gap road was a welcome site. Tortoise were lucky to flag a cab to Devils Backbone and it was quite a reunion – Raiden, Gasket, John, Sleeping Bear, Lando, Clutch. Raiden paid for everyone’s meal!

I need to move tomorrow at a good clip to get to Rockfish Gap by 5:45pm to meet Kristen.

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Strange tree formation

 

June 22nd – Reeds Gap to Rockfish Gap
Total miles on AT – 19.1
Elevation gain – 1888ft
Elevation loss – 2520ft
Start time: 10:00am
Finish time: 5:50pm
Total time hiking : 6:35
Weather: warm, mostly overcast
A great day! Devil’s Backbone served an amazing hiker breakfast for only five dollars! I had two cups of coffee which is still affecting me at 2am. I had a panic attack in the pick up on the way back to the trail, but that’s to be expected after two cups of coffee and a crowded situation.

I had to make some seriously good time to get to Rockfish Gap to meet Kristen and Mary. I started the day hiking with Raiden and we talked about all sorts of stuff, including spirituality.

Then I spent the rest of the day hiking with Sleeping Bear, a twenty five year old who grew up around the world because his parents are involved with Feed the Children – Bangladesh, Moscow, Malawi, Turkey, and Jerusalem. Quite a list. He’s a big sports fan, so we had that to talk about. He had to have brain surgery five years ago and it really affected his ability to read and write, his memory, and his ability to finish sentences and keep his train of thought, but it sort of just makes him sound like he’s being more deliberate with choosing his words.

We hiked and talked the whole rest of the day – the miles came easy and the hours flew by. We took the short side trip to Humpback Rocks, a place I had been to maybe three times before, and then really flew to get to Rockfish Gap where I had plenty of time to spare before Kristen and Mary picked me up. We ate at another familiar joint – The Blue Mountain Brewery, and I just felt so good. I was on a high from two big days in a row, having excellent conversations, and getting to the beginning of Shenandoah National Park!

I’m off the trail for five days to go to Mike’s wedding in Nashville!

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Raiden and I at Rockfish Gap

Week 8 Totals
Miles: 129.0 (18.4)
Elevation gain: 20,082 (2869)
Elevation loss: 21,776 (3111)
Hiker points: 149.1 (21.3)
Avg start time: 9:28am
Avg finish time: 7:45pm
Total time hiking: 51:30 (7:33)
Mph: 2.51