Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 31

Well I didn't get the AYCE pancakes but breakfast this morning at Weasie's was delicious!
The foot felt a bit better this morning and I got an early start but was still the last one to the road. Pappy had waited for me and we got a ride into town from a guy bringing another hiker back to the trail. He took us to Weasie's where we met up with everyone else for a delicious breakfast. We were planning to stay at the Grace Lutheran Church Hiker Hostel but knew we couldn't get in until 5 so we headed to the laundromat next. The day was hot, hot, hot, and I burned up in my rain gear waiting around for my laundry! When we were finished we headed to the outfitter. The tips on my poles (and Veto's and Pappy's) were broken (must be an 800-mile thing?) so we needed replacements. Pappy and I hitched a ride and picked up Veto along the way; Fiber and Tomahawk ended up walking all the way there! I got the new tips along with some seam sealer to try to patch my tent when I get the chance.
The same guy who took us to the outfitter gave us a ride to Kroger where we resupplied. Comfortably Numb, 2per, Henry, and Little Knee were there as well and we sat outside for awhile killing time. We decided next to walk to the YMCA as they offered free showers...soap and towel included! Amazing! We waited around a bit longer until the hostel opened, dropped our packs, and headed over to an AYCE Chinese buffet. I tried sushi for the first time!..not bad! In the hiker box here at the hostel, there was a set of hair clippers so Fiber gave Tomahawk and Veto haircuts (he had gotten one himself earlier today)...entertaining! Several more people have shown up tonight; we're sleeping in cots in the church basement, and they have food and internet access for us here...an awesome place! It's supposed to be another hot day tomorrow so we're unsure of our plan...but that's what's so great about the AT...no plans are necessary!
And I can't believe tomorrow is June 1! Time is flying!!
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May 30

First bear(s) today!
It was an early morning today; Muffin Man woke me around 5:30. My foot was sore but felt better than yesterday!...It'll get better eventually, right? I readied my gear, said goodbye to my aunt, uncle, and MB, and was on the trail at 6:30. The day started with a tough 2000-foot climb that was pretty slow going for me. It was setting up to be another hot day...dripping sweat by 7 in the morning!
I made it up over the mountain and the next 3 miles to Maupin Field Shelter were downhill. About 2 minutes before the shelter I saw something move on the trail about 50 yards ahead of me. Bear! The mother ran into the woods as soon as she detected me and I saw two tiny cubs run after her...so neat! Being by myself, I was a little scared though so I started singing to make noise and got my pepper spray out and held it in my hand as I walked past the area where they were...but they were long gone. No time to take a picture but everyone keeps saying we'll see lots of bears in Shenandoah so maybe I'll get some pictures there.
After a break at the shelter I was back on the trail for 6 more rocky miles to a crossing of the Blue Ridge Parkway where there was trail magic! Pappy, Tomahawk, Muffin Man, Rem, Frosty, and Hamburglar were there as well and we lunched and I enjoyed a Propel water and some oreos. The next 9.2 miles were hot but not overly difficult although my feet were getting sore from all of the rocks. I made the 22 miles to Paul C. Wolfe Shelter where I met up with the rest of the crew. Sleeping inside tonight with the group plus Tomahawk, Rem, Frosty, and Hamburglar. Tomorrow we're doing 5 miles into Waynesboro...AYCE pancakes!!
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May 29

The morning was cool but the day quickly grew hot!
I said goodbye to my family and hit the trail around 7:30. They were planning to hike back to their vehicles and meet us later up the trail at another road crossing. My foot felt better today (maybe it's the new shoes?) but was still stiff and painful. The morning terrain was fairly easy. I hiked alone most of the morning and with Little Knee from Canada for about half a mile. I'd seen him on the trail a few times but this was the first time I met him. We took a break at The Priest Shelter along with Pappy, Fiber, and Veto. The shelter log there included confessions to "the priest"...funny stuff! We then prepared ourselves for the 3000-foot, 4.2-mile downhill! Thankfully not as painful as expected; I occupied my mind by singing and made decent time. Muffin Man and I were the last two to arrive at the road crossing, and my family got there about a half hour later. We ate snacks and drank sodas and said goodbye again. We had another 2.8 miles to go to Harpers Creek Shelter where I'm sleeping inside tonight. Fiber and Veto actually went on ahead to the next shelter; we'll either catch them tomorrow or see them in Waynesboro on Tuesday. Aunt Tina, Uncle Mark, and MB decided to hike in and spend another night on the trail! It's been nice having them here this evening! Lots of section hikers as well and a former thru-hiker, Zipper, full of advice and stories...a good night! It's supposed to be hot again tomorrow so we're going to get up and leave early to try to beat the heat. The foot is swollen again and a little bruised so it has me worried. Maybe tomorrow will be the day I wake up and nothing hurts?
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May 28

WThe rain last night was finished when I rose around 7. I heard Fiber and Tomahawk talking outside and when I emerged from my tent, the first thing Fiber said was, "Look at my bug!" There was a huge, probably 2 inch, bug on his tent, with long, 1 inch, pinchers. Never seen such a thing! He poked at it and it flew away, right into the window of a truck nearby. Ha!
The five of us and Tomahawk gathered in the pavilion and decided to walk to a convenience store nearby. We then needed to figure out how to get back to the trail, so we stood by the road and tried to hitch. Tomahawk started walking and was picked up in like, one minute! So Fiber and Veto split off and started walking as well. Pappy, Muffin Man, and I stood around for about 15 minutes with no luck and then began walking, and a lady in a small pickup offered us a ride. Yes! When we got back to the trailhead, my parents and sister were there! Wasn't expecting to see them yet! Pretty exciting though. They met the crew (Fiber and Veto showed up shortly after us) and then we hit the trail while they headed on to a road crossing to meet us later. We started with a 2000 foot climb following by some shorter ups and downs. It felt like slow going since we didn't get started until 10! My parents, sister, aunt, uncle, and family friend met us at Salt Log Gap with sodas and snacks...awesome! And new shoes for me! They are Keens as well but are shoes instead of boots. They felt pretty stiff at first but after wearing them for awhile felt okay. I think part of my foot problem is just that I needed new shoes...hopefully that is the cure! So we all hit the trail to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter, about 6 miles from the road crossing and pretty easy terrain. Saw a rattle snake too!..sitting right along the trail. I also switched out sleeping bags and am now using my 45-degree synthetic.
It's been neat to have my real family meet my "trail family"! We've had a fire going so it's another late night...I'm up past 10! Bed time!
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May 27

The bugs weren't nearly as bad last night as they have been, and it stormed during the night so I was glad to be in the shelter. The four of us inside were up by 6 and on the trail by 7. My foot was really swollen this morning and pretty painful as well. The swelling subsided after about 15 minutes of hiking and the pain was reduced enough after half an hour that I was walking semi-normally. As soon as I would stop, though, my foot would just throb and it was difficult to get moving again.
The guidebook mileage was off and it was only 1.8 miles to the road instead of 2.4. Pappy, Bagdrop, and Muffin Man were trying to hitch when I got there, and I stood out by the road for about a minute...two trucks came by back to back and the second one pulled over for us...I guess it's true that it's easier to hitch with a girl along! We piled in the back of the guy's truck for the 9-mile ride into town and got dropped off at Hardee's for breakfast. Fiber, Veto, Tomahawk, and Captain Planet were in the second hitching group and arrived about 20 minutes later. We then resupplied at Family Dollar, got a ride from Pat, the owner of a local wine shop, who took us to her store to stash our packs for the day. We visited the library and lunched at Franks for the Memories with Mingo and Freight Train (different Freight Train than the one who visited). We debated getting back on the trail when we heard the weather forecast...severe thunderstorms all afternoon. Sooo, we decided to camp in town at Glen Maury Park. It did rain and storm, so I'm glad I wasn't on the trail! Got a shower too! There was a concert here at the park tonight, a local cover band, The Worx. Fiber, Veto Tomahawk, and I checked it out...pretty interesting to say the least. They played a little bit of everything...country, rock, and hip hop. Not the greatest show but it made for an interesting and entertaining night. It's raining again but is supposed to be finished by morning. My foot is still swollen even though I iced it all afternoon. Maybe the club foot (haha) will be better in the morning? I keep telling myself it will...
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May 26

I left camp around 7 again for yet another big day, one that started with a big climb! About 2000 feet right off the bat...nothing like that to warm you up in the morning! I knew it was going to be another hot day when I was dripping sweat before 7:30! And hot it was. I stopped at Punch Bowl Shelter for an early lunch and intended to fill up on water there as well, but the water was brown and chunky so I decided to hold off for the next source. When I got to the road crossing where the water was supposed to be, Captain Planet was there and said there was no water, but he had a liter and a half and gave me half a liter...much appreciated! I filled up at the next source. The last 6 miles were pretty tough as my foot was getting pretty achy, and I was the last one to roll into camp at Brown Mountain Creek Shelter. I took a nice dip in the creek to cool off and wash off and felt so much better! I'm sleeping in the shelter tonight with Muffin Man, Bagdrop, and Captain Planet. Hoping I don't get eaten alive by bugs as they have been bad lately...I have 59 bites on my left arm and 39 on my left leg!
Another exciting thing happened today: I met a ridgerunner who I've met before! Regina was hiking the Benton MacKaye Trail in the fall of 2009 when my family and I did a hike through the Smokies and we crossed paths. I recognized her when I saw her today...small world!
Tomorrow we're resupplying in Buena Vista, which is about 9 miles off the trail...should be my first hitchhike! My thumb is ready!
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Friday, May 27, 2011

May 25

Awesome day! I woke at 6 and was on the trail at 7...the first to leave camp! My foot was pretty stiff in the morning but loosened up throughout the day and didn't give me nearly as much pain as yesterday. I made the 12.6 miles to Matts Creek Shelter for lunch by 12:30 and everyone else showed up...no matter how early I leave, everyone always catches me! Tomahawk was at the shelter as well; we haven't seen him for over a week now so that was exciting! After lunch we only had 3.9 miles to go, including the crossing of the James River Footbridge, the longest foot traffic only bridge on the trail. It's a thru-hiker tradition to jump off the bridge into the river...I've been wanting to do it since I started the trail, and Veto agreed to do it as well. So, jump we did! The bridge was about 25 feet up from the water...the highest I've ever jumped! Veto went first and after I psyched myself up I jumped as well. I held my nose but the force of the landing blew my arm upward so it didn't do any good. The water was cold but felt sooo good on such a hot day. It was a long swim back to shore but I made it and was full of adrenaline! So exciting! While we were getting packed up, we were under a bridge and a train went over...it came out of nowhere and was so loud! Neat to be under it though. The final two miles to Johns Hollow Shelter were hot, even with wet clothes and hair! And, some other exciting news...Muffin Man caught us today! He's been doing huge miles and finally made it back. It's good to have him back with us; now we just need Shepherd! I'm tenting again so I should get a good night's sleep again. Tomorrow is another big day: 18.3 miles, and then resupply in Buena Vista on Friday.
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May 24

Another early morning! I left camp at 7:20 and headed down the mountain, meeting up with Bagdrop, Veto, and Fiber along the way. We were planning to stop at the swimming hole at Jennings Creek and when we got there, a couple was doing trail magic! They had homemade bread, apple butter, and cookies, and sodas and waters as well. We hit the swimming hole after eating...the water was so cold, but refreshing! Captain Planet, Fiber, Veto, and I went all in. I felt so much cleaner! And the wet clothes helped cool me off on the thousand foot climb that followed. We did lots of climbing today, and my left foot was really bothering me. On the last mile of the 2000-foot climb, I was getting sharp pains with every step and I was hobbling along and stopping every few steps. I admit, I had a moment of weakness and shed some tears, more out of frustration than anything else. I wanted so badly for my foot to just stop hurting so I could climb the mountain! It was slow going but I made it, and met up with the others at a shelter for a lunch break. We then continued on 5.3 more miles to Thunder Hill Shelter for a 17.2-mile day. My foot continued to hurt so I was limping pretty good for another thousand foot climb and the rest of the miles to the shelter. When I was close, I saw a guy coming the other way on the trail, and he said he was doing trail magic at Thunder Hill, and to make myself comfortable and he would be back shortly. Awesome! John cooked us breakfast for dinner: sausage, eggs, pancakes, OJ, and peanut M&Ms for dessert...amazing! A small crowd here tonight...Pappy, Fiber, Veto, Bagdrop, Captain Planet, Comfortably Numb, and myself. I'm tenting and hoping for a good night's sleep!
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May 23

I had my alarm set for 5 this morning but woke a bit before. Pappy, Bagdrop, and I hit the continental breakfast at 6 for biscuits and gravy, eggs, cereal, bagels, waffles, doughnuts, muffins, and juice. We were on the trail at 6:30 for what we assumed would be an 18.6-mile day. There were lots of things to see today: 3 turtles, a deer, a frog, a salamander, and a toad. It was a hot day and my left foot was hurting, but we made good time. We crossed the 1/3 mark today (727 miles)!!
We cruised into Bobblets Gap Shelter before 3 to find Fiber and Veto, who said they were going to move on! The 3 of us debated staying but decided to push 6.5 more miles to Cove Mountain Shelter...a long and hot 6.5! There is no water here so I had to carry 3 liters up from the last water source 3.4 miles back. Captain Planet and Phoenix Rising (former thru hiker out for a section) are here as well. Phoenix is a yoga instructor and has been showing us some good stretches for hikers...I've lost so much of my flexibility out here! Guess I should stretch more. I also accidentally drank untreated water...I packed water up but didn't treat it and drank some in my exhausted stupor while cooking dinner before I realized what I was doing. Oops!
So, it's been a long day, 25.1 miles total, over 11.5 hours. Hoping the foot gets better!
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Sunday, May 22, 2011

May 22

Morning came fast and we all woke by 6:30. Whispers of "Pizza Hut..." floated through the morning air (seriously...lots of laughs as well) and I hit the trail a little after 7 with Fiber, Veto, and Bear Bag. The trail, which appeared to be pretty level on the profile, was frustratingly up and down all morning until the final descent into town. We met up with Bagdrop and Hoop for the last few miles. Hoop showed us how to "eat" honeysuckle...a first for everyone else! We met Pappy in town when we arrived around 10:30 and waited for Pizza Hut to open at 11. Peter, REM, and Little Knee showed up as well and we feasted! Bagdrop and Bear Bag were planning to stay in town so we stashed our packs in their room and resupplied at Kroger, and then got Bo Berry Biscuits (upon Fiber and Bagdrop's recommendation) at Bojangles...delicious! The entire time, Bagdrop was trying to talk us into staying in town...I didn't need much convincing! The day was hot, my feet and hip hurt, and a shower and laundry sounded appealing! I decided to crash on the floor of their room along with Pappy and Hoop. Veto and Fiber decided to hike on to the first shelter out of town; we'll catch them tomorrow!
There are lots of hikers here at the Howard Johnson in Daleville, VA...a big group went to a Mexican Place for dinner but Hooper and I stayed behind and ate ice cream instead...1450 calories of Ben and Jerry's!! Totally worth it. Tomorrow is supposed to be hot, around 90 degrees, so it should make for an interesting 18.6-mile day!
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May 21

I woke at 6:30 to everyone else packing up...apparently I slept in! Bear Bag, Fiber, Veto, and I were on the trail by 7:30 for the hike to McAfee Knob...and we crossed the 700-mile mark!
We got to the knob and had a photo shoot of everyone hanging their feet off the edge...so awesome! I took my boots off and walked around on the warm rocks; it felt so nice! We lounged around for almost an hour and a half before getting back to the trail. My foot hurt even more after the break and my left hip started hurting as well...I think I'm falling apart! I'm switching shoes next weekend when my family visits so hopefully that will help with the foot problem.
We hiked through Tinker Cliffs as well and were treated to some awesome views...so glad we had good weather for this section!
We got to Lambert's Meadow Shelter and not long after a guy showed up and said he had sodas and hot dogs at a campsite .3 miles away. We headed down there and enjoyed the food (including smores!) that he and his wife had packed in...awesome trail magic!
I'm staying inside tonight with Veto, Fiber, Bear Bag, Hooper, Bagdrop, and Peter. REM and Pappy are camped outside. We've been enjoying lots of laughs...it's been an awesome day! Tomorrow we're doing 9.3 miles into Daleville (or DaleTrout as Fiber calls it) for lunch at Pizza Hut and resupply. Can't wait for pizza!
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Friday, May 20, 2011

May 20

Another awesome zero day! I woke early as usual...along with everyone else because there was a rooster crowing outside! We all lounged around for awhile and convinced Bear Bag, Bagdrop, REM, and Hooper to zero here today as well. Despite the enormous amount of food I ate last night, my stomach was growling when I woke so I ate a pack of pop tarts...and then everyone decided to head over to the gas station for some breakfast, so I went and ate a sausage, egg, and cheese biscuit. The walk was only .6 miles but my feet HURT, particularly my left. They need the rest! I bought a pint of ice cream at the gas station as well and ended up downing it almost as soon as I got back to the hostel...couldn't resist the chocolate fudge brownie!
I did all my chores...set out the tent and boots to dry, hand washed some laundry, "cleaned" out my backpack...and spent the morning relaxing. Then Bear Bag and Fiber decided to go fishing in the pond here so Hooper and I joined them. Fiber was the first to catch anything, a small bluegill, and I caught one next--even tinier! Hooper caught one just as Pappy and his wife showed up to give me a ride to the post office...where I got my new, correct, backpack! It's so clean and pretty, but I'm sure will be dirty and smelly in just a few days!
We got back to the hostel and Linda fed us chips and meatball subs. The guys were still fishing so I sat down by the lake for awhile watching them in the boat (quite entertaining, I must say) and did lots more relaxing! Joe, the owner, offered us deer meet for dinner if we cooked it, so Veto, Hooper, and REM made a small fire in the grill outside and we made deer burgers. Awesome! This has been one of my favorite zeros this far and I'm sooo glad we decided to stay here. I'm on a couch again tonight, I have a new backpack, my gear is dry, the weather forecast looks decent, and tomorrow is McAfee Knob...so many reasons to smile!
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May 19

More rain last night but I was nice and dry in the shelter! It's rained every day and night since leaving Pearisburg on Sunday! The clouds were still around this morning but only dropped a few sprinkles. The trail was muddy though from all the rain...makes for some dirty hikers! My feet hurt a lot today so I was going pretty slow. I met up with Pappy at the Audie Murphy monument and we hiked together for a few hours. We passed through a huge section that had been destroyed by a fire recently...we could still smell it! Dragon's Tooth was the big feature today...a tough rocky climb toward the end of a 16-mile day but we made it to find Veto and Fiber waiting there. Veto had already climbed to the top but went up again with me...definitely the scariest thing I've done on the trail so far, but so awesome! It took me awhile to pull myself up over and through the rocks but I made it to the top and stood with my arms out for a picture...such an awesome feeling! And unfortunately the picture is on my camera so I can't upload it yet! The descent was scarier but Veto guided me down and I made it back on solid ground safely. Such a rush! The trail down from Dragon's Tooth was much more technical than expected...there were a few sections where metal bars were set in the rocks as footholds for climbing. Big steps, jumps, and scoots, and lots of hand usage (as opposed to poles) climbing down the rocks. We met Pappy's wife, Linda, at the road at the bottom and she drove us to Four Pines Hostel where we are going to stay tonight. The hostel is on a guy's farm and we are sleeping on cots and couches in his garage...very interesting, but a neat place! We then went to The Home Place for dinner and met Pappy's aunt and uncle there as well. We ate fried chicken, roast beef, bbq pork, mashed potatoes and gravy, beans, biscuits, green beans, cole slaw, and cherry cobbler with ice cream for dessert. The meal was served family style and was all you can eat...we enjoyed stuffing ourselves! A delicious meal. As we were leaving, the hostel owner showed up so Fiber, Veto, and I caught a ride back with him in the back of his truck. I took a shower and have been hanging around with everyone (about 12 people) here tonight...we've decided to zero here tomorrow!
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May 18

It rained all night but when I woke around 6:30 the rain had stopped. It wouldn't have mattered because all of my stuff is soaked anyway, plus with the fog and humidity nothing dries out. I put on my still wet (and cold!) shorts and t-shirt and headed out into the morning. The first obstacle today was a crossing of Laurel Creek. The water is swollen from all the recent rain and it was impossible to rock hop without getting my feet entirely drenched. I actually started across on the rocks, got my foot soaked, and retreated. Fiber was not far behind me and when he got there we decided to walk across a log that spanned the width of the creek, about 12 or so feet. Dangerous anyway, but a wet moss-covered log made it all the more tricky. We made it and continued on to the next crossing which was slightly less dangerous but still unnerving. Definitely the most dangerous crossings so far. The trail was fairly easy going for the first few miles, but was muddy and soggy from all the rain. My boots were still wet from yesterday but my feet were sloshing around pretty good after walking through a swampy cattle field.
We came to the Keffer Oak, the largest tree on the southern AT...pretty neat to see (and get a picture with, of course!). The clouds hung around and we got sprinkled on a bit but thankfully didn't get rained on when we crossed a rocky ridge where we had to walk on slabs of rocks on a cliffside...lots of slipping as everything was still wet but thankfully no falls for me...everyone else took a spill though! We stopped at Niday Shelter after a short 12.4-mile day, and it started raining shortly after...it's so nice to be inside in the rain! It's been raining off and on ever since...I really hope the sun comes out tomorrow!!
I went to get water during one of the breaks in the rain...the path was a steep downhill covered in mud. Again, lots of sliding, and I actually fell going around a switchback and left quite a skidmark! My left cheek was covered in mud and everyone had a pretty good laugh about it when they saw...guess I'm wearing dirty shorts tomorrow!
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May 17

It rained during the night as expected and I woke up damp but not soaked...could be worse! I left camp with Veto and we got lots of sprinkles throughout the morning. The trail was rocky and slick, and we took a lunch break at a shelter where Fiber and Pappy caught up to us. I decided to take off my rain pants as I was getting sticky (remember the diaper description?) and set back out on the trail with Veto and Fiber. Shortly after the shelter was a creek crossing with a "bridge" of 3 narrow logs spread across it...dangerous when wet! I inched my way across safely and we started our big climb for the day, about 1700 feet. It started to rain and then poured on us as we made our way up the rocky ascent. We came to a road crossing and found some trail magic in a box! Orange sodas and oatmeal creme pies...we stood in the pouring rain eating and drinking and then continued sloshing our way up the muddy trail. I was completely soaked, including my feet (wish I had left my rain pants on!), and was so glad to see the rain stop and the sun peak out for a few minutes! It didn't last long at all, and we got to Laurel Creek Shelter, set our tents up, and it started raining again. The weather gave us another break for dinner but it's raining again pretty steadily...so tired of the rain! Everything is wet and so, so dirty and smelly! Really hoping it clears up tomorrow!
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May 16

Two months on the trail!!
Thankfully it wasn't raining this morning! Pappy, Veto, Fiber, and I left at 8 for a long-ish but easy-ish day. The trail was relatively flat for the first 7 miles, but everything was wet from yesterday and there were lots of rocks...I slipped and fell...got my knees dirty but that was about it. A few hours later I fell AGAIN! Fiber was behind me; apparently I tripped on a stick and went down on the rocks. I landed on my side and banged my knee pretty good but thankfully nothing was hurt. It took Veto and Fiber both to pull me up...hard to do that with a pack on! So, my wipe-out count is now up to 6...and 4 of those have been within the past 6 days!...it's all the rain I think...everything is slippery! We're supposed to get a lot of rain (someone said 2 inches) tomorrow...the trail is going to be a muddy mess for sure!
We had initially planned to stop and camp at The Captain's, a guy who lets people camp in his yard. He lives across the river from the trail though so there is a zip line to get across. We got there around 2 though so decided just to stop and ride the zip line, then continue hiking. Captain Planet, Bear Bag, Vinca, and Poncho Verde were there as well and we took turns riding across the river...hilarious and fun. The Captain gave us sodas and we relaxed in his yard for a bit. It started to sprinkle shortly after we left but stopped by the time we got to Bailey Gap Shelter. Not a lot of tent spaces here so I'm on a pretty good incline but hopefully will be able to stay dry if/when it rains. It's been so gloomy for the past week or so...I want to see the sun!
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May 15

I slept in until 8:30 this morning! Haven't slept that late in months. I woke and ate a bagel with cream cheese and 2 bowls of frosted flakes for breakfast. The morning was spent packing and showering...3 showers in 4 days! Unbelievable! We had sandwiches, chips, and cake for lunch (thank you to Greg and Bonnie...they fed us so well!) and left for the trail this afternoon. We got started at 3 and I immediately began feeling it. My right shin, ankle, and foot hurt, and the lower left side of my back and my left thigh hurt. The pain on the left I think is caused by my pack...can't wait to get the new one! My knees have been achy as well. Things felt a little better as i continued on but i definitely took my Vitamin I tonight. We had a tough climb and did 7 miles to Rice Field Shelter. It started raining about a mile away and I had to set up my tent in the rain...a first! Definitely not fun, but my tent was/is still wet from camping Thursday night so the rain didn't matter much anyway. It's a little chilly as well...probably into the 40s. I didn't feel like cooking dinner so I just ate a bunch of snacks, hung around the fire that someone started, and got into the recovery capsule (sleeping bag) early. I need a good night's sleep!
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May 14

It is so nice to sleep in a bed! Okay, technically it was a futon but it totally counts. I slept well despite getting to bed late and waking up at 6. Greg and Bonnie fixed us a delicious breakfast of pancakes...we've been eating so well here!
I called REI this morning about the pack they sent me. They are supposedly going to send me the correct pack in Catawba, but they can't expedite the shipping so I'm hoping it's there when I get there! We piled in the minivan and Greg drove us to the post office where I mailed the 18 liter pack back and sent home some of my cold weather clothes as well...hopefully lightening the pack! We went to a couple of outfitters as well where Fiber got new tips on his trekking poles (one had come off completely!) and Pappy got a new pair of shoes. Next was resupply at Walmart where I tried to restrain myself from buying a huge amount of food...I think I did okay. We got back to the house and played food bag where we spread everything out and strip down all the packaging...always a funny sight! My food bag feels a bit lighter than normal...hope I have enough!!
The rest of the day was spent relaxing! We had sandwiches for lunch and lasagna and bread for dinner with cake and ice cream for dessert! We played Golf again after dinner and then dispersed for some much-needed sleep.
I also talked to Muffin Man today; he is about a week behind us in Atkins but seems to be doing well...hopefully he will catch us soon! Shepherd is supposedly getting back on the trail tomorrow or Monday so we hope to see him and Daisy soon as well!
Tomorrow we'll be hitting the trail in the afternoon for a short 7 mile day. My feet have been swollen, sore, and tender so I'm hopeful they'll feel better tomorrow after the rest they had today. Either way, it's been another great zero day!
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Sunday, May 15, 2011

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May 13

It rained a bit during the night and due to the hill I was on, I woke up half on my sleeping pad and half on just my tent floor...at least I was dry! I woke around 6 and got everything packed away and everyone gathered at the main house for breakfast. Neville instructed us to form a circle in the yard and we went around and stated our names, where we were from, and something we were thankful for...a neat way to start the day! Breakfast was steak and onions, eggs, hash browns with cheese, and homemade bread with apple butter...delicious! We left the hostel around 9 for 10 miles of fairly easy but a bit rocky terrain. Some great views along the way...it hasn't been clear enough to see anything for the past few days so the views were nice! We also saw our first rattle snake today! Apparently Full-Time was walking along the trail and unknowingly stepped over it...Fiber was close behind and said the snake actually snapped at Full-Time's leg trying to bite him! He was a little shaken up when we saw him! We all stopped and took pictures...the snake was about 3 feet long and pretty thick as he'd probably just eaten. He rattled and slithered away in all the attention. A neat thing to see!
Pappy's brother met us at the first "exit" for Pearisburg and gave us honey buns and Gatorade...yum! We piled into his mini van, said goodbye to Freight Train at the Dairy Queen, and stopped at the post office to pick up what I expected would be my new backpack. The lady brought out an REI package and by the size of the box I could tell there had been a mistake...aaaand there had been. Instead of sending me the Flash 65, I received the Flash 18...don't think I can fit all of my junk in an 18 liter pack!! Or maybe I will just go ultralight..? I will call REI tomorrow and hopefully get it all worked out.
We got to Greg and Bonnie's house and showered (two showers in two days?!) and they cooked us a delicious dinner of barbecued chicken, baked potatoes, corn, and cake for dessert. Bonnie made cookies so we've been snacking on those as well, and then we had nachos for a late night snack. So good! We play cards for awhile and decided to hit the sack as it's late and we're all worn out. We're zeroing tomorrow...always an exciting thing!
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May 12

It rained just a bit last night and I woke early (and dry!) this morning. Freight Train and I were the first out of camp and we set out in the humid morning for a 12-ish mile day to Woods Hole Hostel. The first 6 miles were flat but I wasn't feeling strong and they were difficult for me. We took a break at Wapiti Shelter and began our only significant climb for the day, about 1300 feet. I struggled up the mountain slowly (Freight Train is in better shape than I am I think, and he hasn't hiked much since last year!). The day seemed long but when there were only 1.4 miles left I got a burst of energy (town speed?) and Freight Train and I pushed to see how fast we could complete it...27 minutes! Not fast but still fun. We waited for Pappy at the road and headed .5 miles down to Woods Hole Hostel. We are all tenting here as it's cheaper than staying in the bunkhouse. I got a shower and used the homemade Amish soap that was supplied...amazing! Michael and Neville, the owners, weren't cooking dinner tonight so we ate out of our food bags and I ate a pint of delicious homemade ice cream for dessert. There are several people staying tonight, around 20, and some have been watching a movie inside and others talking around the fire pit. The day began difficult but has turned out to be wonderful and relaxing...it's so nice to sit around the farm and do nothing!
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May 11

I stayed dry last night! I was on a very level spot which I'm sure had something to do with it. It rained throughout the night but never very hard. Lots of lightning though, and a huge explosion of thunder around 10:30 that woke everyone up; my heart was pounding for like, 10 minutes afterward! Thankfully it wasn't raining when I woke up so I left camp for an easy 6 miles to a road crossing, and there was Freight Train! Veto and Pappy were already there along with a few other people from the shelter last night. Freight Train gave us sodas, cookies, and other snacks and then we all hit the trail. We planned for 16 miles to Trent's Grocery near Bastion and arrived there mid afternoon. We got burgers and ice cream and decided to keep hiking for 2 miles and camp near Dismal Falls. Freight Train had camped here last year on his hike and had said it was a nice spot...and it is! It's crowded though...the five of us plus Maps and Pacemaker and a section hiker. The falls is small but we can hear the rushing water from our campsite. It sprinkled a bit this evening but it passed quickly.
Freight Train recommended the stove I am using, a Caldera Cone by Trail Designs, but I have been having problems with my cone separating beneath the weight of my pot. I had him take a look at it and he informed me that I've been putting it together wrong this entire time! Ha! We had a pretty good laugh about that; I'm excited to cook now and use it correctly!
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May 10

You know the wall-less privy I described yesterday? Totally used it this morning! A great view of the woods, and strangely exhilarating! Haha!
The trail today was much easier than yesterday, but more difficult mentally. I prepare myself more for "hard" days and thus they seem not so difficult; today was 14 miles of easier terrain, so thinking it would be "easy", I was in for a surprise. It wasn't difficult, but my feet and knees were achy and I forgot to take my vitamin I this morning...
The miles passed quickly though and were sunny and beautiful. I met up with Veto, Fiber, and Pappy, and we crossed over I-77! I didn't realize today was the day until I looked over the profile this morning...probably the closest I'll be to home while on the trail..? A weird feeling...I'm certainly not ready to go home yet!!
We stopped for lunch and finished the day with a climb to Helveys Mill Shelter. We got here mid-afternoon so it's been nice relaxing for awhile, although the trek for water here is .3 miles downhill! It's raining now and I'm in my tent praying it will keep me dry tonight. I'm seriously contemplating replacing it...I love everything about it except that it doesn't keep me dry! The condensation is a huge problem. Something to think about...
So tomorrow I am going to be meeting up with Freight Train, who thru-hiked the AT last year. He answered my hundreds of questions about the trail before I started and has given me tons of advice. He's going to Damascus for Trail Days and is going to be on the trail for a few days beforehand. Looking forward to it!
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Friday, May 13, 2011

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May 9

I woke at 6:45 with a decent amount of condensation inside. Pappy was the only other one awake and we ended up leaving camp just as Fiber and Veto were getting out of bed. The day began with a 600-foot climb, and 4 miles in we got some trail magic! Full-Time, a fellow Buckeye, had some friends visiting and they gave us Powerade, crackers, cheese, and homemade cookies. The good food definitely helped power me up the next climb...4 miles up 2000+ feet. Most of the climbing was done in the first 2 miles so the last 2 were pretty gentle. The trail took us up across Chestnut Ridge, a beautiful setting of open fields with great views, but hot on a sunny day! Lunch was at Chestnut Knob Shelter, and I continued on for 10 more hot and exposed miles to Jenkins Shelter for the night. My feet were getting pretty squishy and I had some chafing going on so the shelter was certainly a welcome sight after 18.6 miles! Another crowd here and I'm tenting as the weather is supposed to stay clear...I think there's a chance of rain tomorrow though. Dinner was taco rice with jalapeno cheese and hot sauce that Tomahawk picked up from Taco Bell...delicious! And a candy bar for dessert, of course. There is a privy here but it has no walls! Pretty funny to see a toilet just sitting on a platform like a throne...
Oh, and Tenderfoot is here with the kitten he found alongside a road 5 days ago...it's probably only about 4 weeks old but he's keeping it and feeding it instant milk...so cute!
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May 8

It rained through the night and into the morning. I woke around 6:30 to a light rain and noticed a LOT of condensation in my tent...it was dripping down so the floor was pretty wet as well. Lots of misting too...the force of the rain knocked little bits of condensation down so I was getting a nice spray on my face and the top of my sleeping bag. There was also a tiny puddle in the most downhill corner, and when I finally decided to get out a little after 7, I noticed water under my pad as well. At least it wasn't as bad as last time! It was still raining lightly when I got out so I donned the full rain suit as I packed up a sopping wet tent and groundsheet both plastered with dirt. I don't mind the wet so much as the dirty...when it rains, EVERYTHING gets covered in mud and little wet pieces of forest.
I left camp at 9 knowing there would be a few climbs today but aware as well that we would pass mile 545.25...the 1/4 mark! I immediately was sweating in my rain gear so I stopped about a mile in and took it off as the rain had quit. (Also took advantage of a rare trailside privy!) Wearing rain pants feels like wearing a wet diaper while hiking...you sweat inside and there's not an easy way to ventilate without getting wet. I was much more comfortable when I continued hiking. As expected, the trail went up and down all morning. Veto, Pappy, and I stopped at the VA 610 crossing for lunch. The grass was wet so I sat right on the road and ate...only one car came and didn't seem to mind! We were surrounded by open farmland and I had to use the bathroom so I ended up just going right alongside the road! Haha, just another one of the many things I've done out here that would seem totally ridiculous in any other situation.
The trail continued through the cattle fields (lots of land mines!) And the sun actually appeared! Amazing how much the weather can affect your mood out here. Two miles from Knot Maul Branch Shelter, we happened upon some trail magic!...that always brightens your mood as well! We drank sodas and ate pb&j sandwiches and then met up with Fiber at the shelter. We decided to push on a bit farther and are camping next to Lick Creek tonight. It's a beautiful spot right by the water, and I set all my gear out to dry and air out. We only came about 13 miles today but tomorrow will probably do 18 or so. My feet were a bit sore today...hope they will hold up for me!
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May 7

Another beautiful morning on the trail! Cooler still but lots of sunshine. Veto, Pappy, Fiber, and I left camp around 8:30. The trail today was fairly easy...lots of downhill and no significant elevation changes. We knew that we would be passing the road to Atkins and heard from a section hiker that The Barn, a restaurant near the trail, was a good place to stop, so we headed there for lunch and feasted on burgers (everyone but me got a 16 oz burger!), fries, and an ice cream sundae for dessert. Perfect! We continued on the trail under I-81 and through a few fields and decided to stop after just about 13 miles. We're camped at a nice spot near a spring with several others, including James and Jen, Gumby, Twoper, Ponch, and a few more. Dinner was ramen tonight as I wasn't too hungry from the big lunch. I did pack a jar of Nutella this time out though and have made an embarrassingly huge dent in it already! It's like eating gooey chocolate...amazing, as you can imagine.
Now for sleep; it seems that the easy days make me more tired than the hard!
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May 6

The zero today started with a delicious pop tart and peanut butter breakfast. We got a shuttle from the visitor's center nearby to Marion where we resupplied at Walmart and Ingles and lunched at Sonic. Shepherd was intending to rent a car and pick all of us up so we wouldn't have to ride the shuttle back, but for some reason that didn't work out, so we caught the bus...hopefully he can find his way to Texas and back! We lounged around all afternoon; the shelter is again crowded tonight. It didn't rain today so I'm hoping that doesn't mean it's holding off for tomorrow! Fiber has been resting and icing his knee; hopefully it will be ready to go tomorrow as well!
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May 5

Today began cold as well but the sky was blue. Knowing I only had 10.6 miles to go, I took my time getting out of bed (7:30!) and didn't leave camp until 9:30. The trail was beautiful and the cool weather made for great hiking. I walked through a cattle field, across a few gravel roads, and through the mountains. The trail was easy and I made good time and arrived at the shelter at 1. I waited for the others to arrive, set out my tent to dry, and even took a shower!..Partnership Shelter is amazing! We called for pizza and had it delivered to the visitors center nearby...I ate an entire large pizza! Not the best quality but certainly delicious out here. I did a bit of laundry as well and let everything dry in the sunshine. It's been a beautiful and relaxing day! There are about 20 people here and we've been enjoying a fire outside as it's another chilly night. Aaaand...we've decided to take a zero here tomorrow. Fiber's knee is bothering him and everyone agreed that a day off will be nice. We plan to get a ride into Marion to resupply. We also will be losing Shepherd and Daisy tomorrow; they are going to Texas for Shepherd's girlfriend's graduation. The group will be down to 4 for awhile! It's still strange to be hiking without Muffin Man...phone service hasn't been good so we don't know how he's doing...I hope he's back on the trail!
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May 4

No bear bag incidents to report today!
The morning was cold as expected but full of sunshine. I left the shelter with Pappy and Veto and we made our way up the trail and across the 500-mile mark! An exciting thing! The clouds rolled in and threatened rain but with the cold temperatures we actually got some sleet just as Veto and I were pulling into a shelter for lunch. Pappy, Fiber, and Shepherd caught up and we hiked the rest of the day together mostly. The sky alternated from sunshine to clouds to sleet to rain, and after stopping at a campsite, we decided to continue to Trimpi Shelter for a 20 mile day. It didn't feel like 20 miles; I felt good all day despite (or because of?) the cold. We are tenting as the shelter is full and it started raining just as dark came so everyone is in bed. Tomorrow we're planning a short day to Partnership Shelter where we will be able to order pizza and have it delivered .2 miles away!
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May 3 - 2

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Friday, May 6, 2011

May 3

I've concluded that I did not get the bear bagging gene. This morning when I went to retrieve my bag, the rope snapped (apparently it's just been through too much) and the bag came crashing down right on top of my head...it happened so fast I couldn't move out of the way. Thankfully it survived, probably because I broke the fall, and I obviously survived as well. Pappy was the only other person awake at the time and heard the crash but didn't see it. Another story to come in a minute but I'll go in order...
We planned to do about 17 miles today and I left camp around 8:15 feeling good. I knew the elevation changes today weren't anything drastic and I also knew I would be on the same section of trail I hiked last fall! When I got to my first white blaze (as Pappy said, "this was where it began, huh?"), a wave of emotion washed over me. Here I was 7 months later passing by this same spot on my thru hike that I was so unsure of last fall. But curiosity trumped uncertainty and I'm thankful every day that I took the leap. Pappy took my picture with the white blaze to reenact the photo I got before and we continued on our away. The trail up to Mount Rogers was shorter and easier than I remembered (I'm in such better shape!) but just as rocky. I didn't go to the summit but stopped and looked around at some of the places I'd seen before. Pretty neat. I met up with Pappy, Veto, and Fiber at Thomas Knob Shelter for a quick break and we continued through the Grayson Highlands among the gorgeous views, gorgeous weather, and "wild" ponies! We saw a group of ponies after we came down over a ridge. Red Eagle and Tenderfoot were there as well and a few of the ponies came right up to us. We petted them, they licked us, we took pictures...very cool! There was a baby as well, probably born within the past few weeks!
We continued along the rocky, rocky trail (read: sore feet) to Wise Shelter, and a pony was just hanging out around the shelter! A funny scene to see a pony in camp. We heard from another hiker that the weather was supposed to turn bad late afternoon and overnight so we decided to stay here even though we only did about 11 miles today.
Since it was supposed to rain, I hung my bear line early to avoid prolonged exposure when I hung the bag. The limb I used felt pretty strong so I wasn't too concerned. The rain started around 5 and Veto and I went out around 7 when it let up a bit. I started hoisting my bag, heard a crack, and the entire limb came down on top of me! Two in one day...seriously? Veto heard the crash and since the rain had picked up offered to hang my bag on his line to save time...it's heavy with two enormous food bags so hopefully it will hold!
It's been raining through the evening and it's getting colder...low around 40 tonight. I'm inside with Tenderfoot, Red Eagle, 3rd Life Crisis, Veto, Pappy, and a section hiking couple. Several people are tenting outside as well. It's been another great day...the trail was beautiful and seeing the ponies was awesome!
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May 2

I slept in this morning...didn't wake until 7! I was the first one up though and the first to leave camp for a 15-ish mile day full of climbing...approximately 4700 total feet of gain. My pack was immediately bothering me. Backpacks are designed to carry the weight on your hips. With the framesheet sagging, all of the weight was hanging from my shoulders...very uncomfortable. I hiked about 4 miles when Hard Back passed me, saying he saw a rattle snake not too far back the trail...I must have walked right past it! I mentioned to him about my pack and he suggested I ask Torch to take a look at it since he had fixed Hard Back's pack earlier on the trail. Not long after that I ran into Hard Back, Torch, and REM taking a break. Torch agreed to look at the pack so I emptied it out. He removed the framesheet and turned the pack inside out and pulled out his dental floss. He stitched up the rips with the floss and sewed in a bit of webbing for reinforcement while REM played some music for entertainment. A funny scene! Torch guaranteed me 100 miles on the stitching job...my pack immediately felt better...no more sag! Thanks Torch!
As I mentioned before, lots of climbing on the trail today but I felt strong. Tomorrow I will be on the section of trail I hiked last fall, near Mt Rogers...very exciting! I've been looking forward to this 1) because it's beautiful (hoping to see ponies!) and 2) because last fall I kept thinking, "I wonder if I will see this again if/when I thru hike..." Well, I'm thru hiking, and I'm going to see it again!
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Monday, May 2, 2011

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May 1

As I expected, it was difficult to get back to the trail today!
We spent the morning leisurely packing up, ate breakfast at Cowboy's, visited another outfitter, and after some procrastination, shouldered our food-laden packs ("seriously guys, let's take just one more day off..."), and hit the trail by noon. We took it slow and didn't really have a plan for a destination. We talked to a dayhiking couple who said there were some nice campsites along the river so we decided to seek one out...but not before a bit of trail magic! Someone left beers and sodas near a road crossing so we took a short break there, walked a few more minutes, and found a beautiful spot near the river and the Virginia Creeper Trail. It's just the five of us and it's been a lazy day of only about 5 miles and lots of laying around. Veto got a fire going and we've been enjoying that for the evening.
On the trail today I noticed my pack didn't feel quite right. The entire thing seemed to sag and the waistbelt was pinching me. Then I heard a popping sound that I thought was the framesheet cracking or buckling. Upon further examination, I found that it's beginning to rip out at the bottom. Hmmm...it's an REI Flash 65 and fits me well so I'm pretty annoyed that it's not holding up. No phone service tonight so I will call REI when I have the opportunity...hopefully it doesn't get any worse in the meantime. It's certainly usable but I'm worried the entire framesheet is going to just bust out of the bottom of the pack. That would not make me a happy camper...
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April 30

Mmm, double zero! Breakfast this morning was a bowl of Reese's Puffs (thanks Veto!) and then IHOP again for some pancakes. Ryan, Pappy's son, drove us back to Damascus...5 people and lots of gear stuffed into a Subaru. We visited the outfitters in town and I finally got a new food bag! Shepherd, Fiber, and Tomahawk have been staying at Ruby's Rest and the rest of us are tenting in the yard. We've been doing nothing all day...just laying in the sunny back yard...wonderful! We heard about a former hiker, Mountain Man, who picks hikers up in town and drives them to his farm and feeds them...count us in! He picked us and some other hikers up at the park in town at 6...12 people in a tiny Ford Ranger pickup, haha! The drive to his farm was about 15 minutes. They have lots of goats, including a baby that was just born yesterday! Lots of pigs and little piglets too...all so cute. We walked around looking at all of the animals until dinner was ready...spaghetti, salad, bread, and shortcake with ice cream and berry topping for dessert. We sat around for awhile and REM entertained us all with some mandolin music. The ride back after dark was chilly! Mountain Man dropped us off in the middle of town so we stopped to see Muffin Man, who is staying at The Place, on the way back to Ruby's. He had an x-ray on his leg that was inconclusive, but it may be a stress fracture. He is going to rest for awhile and see how things go. Get better soon, Muffin Man; we miss hiking with you!
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April 29

Zero!! Despite my fatigue from yesterday, I woke around 6:30 this morning. Pappy, Veto, and I headed to IHOP for a delicious breakfast of eggs, sausage, hash browns, pancakes, and juice...exactly what I wanted/needed. We bummed around the Marriott for awhile doing laundry and decided to move to Motel 6 for tonight to save a little money. We packed our gear and "hiked" the maybe 1/2 mile across this section of town to the new place...definitely got some stares from people passing by! Lunch was Wendy's, resupply was Walmart, and dinner was Golden Corral. An awesome zero day with lots of relaxation!
Veto got a call from Fiber (he and Shepherd are now in Damascus), and he said the town has power! Pappy's son and a family friend came to visit, and he will be able to give us a ride back to Damascus tomorrow for, yes, another zero! My feet have been sore today and can definitely use the rest.
And, I really need to go to the outfitter and get a new food bag!..
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