Got up at 6:00am this morning so I could get into town early - had 10 miles into Daleville, Va. Went to Kroger for some fresh fruit and vegetables before heading to the PO for my drop. While there - the postmaster asked what had happened - I told him the story and that I needed to get to an Urgent Care facility - 20 mins by car - away. He called a Trail Angel - Dell - who came and picked me up. He took me to the facility and waited for me to find out the results. New Xrays showed that the last doctor did get it set back correctly. The bad news - I couldn't move it still. He said that is pretty normal - since it has been immobel for a week. Off came the splint and sling - and a new script for more pain pills. Every night I am supposed to manually bend each of the joints - forcing mobility back. If I can't move it in a week - it is back to an Ortho to see if I have ligament damage - which could mean surgery. Praying that isn't the case. Dell took me to a hotel - going to shower and relax a bit for my hand. Have seen 20 or so hikers rolling into town - so should be able to have a good diner out - then back to the trail. We just passed mile 714 - so have finished 33% of the trail - WOW over 1/3 done at this point and still going strong!!!!
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
After laying around at McAfee we continued on - as we had heard that the actual better view was from Tinker Cliffs - just 5-6 miles father. (Folklore says the name came from Revolutionary War deserters who hid up here and repaired pots and pans - "tinkers") I have to agree - thought the view was better. Basically a 1/2 mile walk all along the cliff face - straight down. In fact - there are two trails - one out on the cliff, and one twenty yards in - for those that didn't want to be that close to the edge. The one on the edge had the white blaze - so that's where I was. Honestly - these last two days were probably the best. Beautiful sun and views. Keeps putting perspective on why I'm doing this. This would be an easy day hike for any of you to make - parking is fairly close - and with light weight day packs - you could easily spend an afternoon up here - no agenda - just "be". LOVE IT! come join me.
Considered by many to have the best view in all of Virginia, McAfee Knob at 3,200' was killer! Nice, easy graded hike up. Was absolutely full of dayhikers since it was Memorial Day. Was cool to see all of the families coming up - most would talk to us to find out about our journey's so far. The sun was hot - almost 85 degree's, and I bet we layed out on the rocks for almost 3 hours! Snackies had packed up some beer and offered to share. Probably close to 16 thru hikers just drinking, and soaking up the views and the sun. Doesn't get much better than that. The feet by the edge is "the" quintessential photo from this knob.
For the last 100 miles or so - all the hikers were leaving notes in the journals about how they couldn't wait to get to "The Homeplace" restaurant in Catawba, VA. The more and more we talked - the more it was the only thing we could talk about. The problem was - only open Th- Sunday, and Sunday they closed at 6:00pm. So Sat I did a 23 miler (ended up getting to the shelter at 9:00pm in the dark). No skin left on the bottoms of my toes - so laid down. Some section hikers told me too hard to get water there in the dark - and the next morning filled my bottles since they knew it was hard for me. So much help out here. Sunday - we had a 14 miler - plus a 1.5 mile hike on asphalt out of our way - but we made it at 5:00! $13 for all you can eat - fried chicken, brisket, gravy, mashed potatoes, pinto beans, green beans, biscuits and blueberry cobbler! Also came with limonade and unsweetened tea. What the hell? are we no longer in the south - just as I got hooked on the sweet tea - it's no longer. I know we haven't passed the Mason-Dixon line yet - but understand we are now in central Virginia which must mean "northern" based on the tea. The owner could see that we were bloated and in no shape to hike - so told us to go set up in and around the gazebo for the night! To my left are Professor Longjohns and Mary Poppins. To my right is Bilge Rat and Snackies, and across from me is Tailgate and Aqua Maria (can't see her). Well worth the big day and going out of the way.
The climb up Dragon's Tooth really wasn't that bad - obviously I couldn't get to the very top. We kept wondering why Tree and Moonpie and mentioned that this was going to be hard. And then we started our desent. Going down was very steep, several places had these steps bolted into the wall that you had to go hand over hand with. Many of the ledges -were only wide enough for one shoe - so slow going and two hands would have been prefered. I think in 3 spots I would not have physically been able to make the climb if it weren't for Professor Longjohns. You had to use 2 hands for the hold to lower yourself down - which I couldn't do. He would go ahead of me - brace against the rock - take my left hand - and I would kind of slide, fall, into him - trying to get footing while he kept us from falling off the rock face. A little touchy. I was able to carry my full pack the entire way - which was really important to me - but again - without his help - wouldn't have made it. Thx!
So - several of us come down out of a gap - and there are two SOBO's - Tree and Moonpie. They begin to talk about how cool and intensive the upcoming climb up and down Dragon's Tooth is going to be. Since they just finished it - they were giving us pointers. As they finished talking about how hard it was - I calmly looked at Tree and said, "what about with one hand", his reply was simple, "oh shit". Thought about that all night getting ready for that next morning. I didn't want to do anything stupid - that would cause me to end my trip - but wanted to get as high up as I could. I climbed up on the first of the smaller teeth pictured here. The second picture is the big tooth - Professor Longjohns climbed it - looking like an eagle on its perch - and told me no way should I try it one handed. For once in my life - I listened - and likely a good decision.
Waters draining down the west side of this ridge - flow to Sinking Creek Valley, then to the Mississippi River, then on to the Gulf of Mexico. Waters flowing down the east side of this ridge - empty into Craig Creek Valley, then to the James River, and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. 405 miles North would put me over the halfway point - just past Hapers Ferry. However - those 405 miles to the east, would put me at a resort, on the beach, with a fruity drink, amongst bikini clad women needing a good towel boy. I bet I waited here for a good 30 mins before making my decision. And yes, I continued north. : )
Well - after the doctor set my finger - I asked if I could hike. No reason to lay around to let it heal - if it will heal the same on the trail. Besides - I had a shot in my hip, 2 in my finger, an 800 mg Ibo, and 500 mg hydrocodone - so pain really wasn't an issue. Was smart though - only hiked 7 miles to the first shelter and stopped. Everyone wanted to help me - but I had to see if I could do it myself - didn't want to get a couple days in and need someone - and they not be there. I could do everything (even pump water) except take the lid off my pills (put them in ziploc bags) and zip my rain jacket (had someone zip it and then just used it as a pull over. Didn't sleep much that night - pain meds wore off and the swelling really kicked in. Hand was 2x the normal size - and I couldn't move any of my fingers on my right hand. Figured if anything went really wrong - could hike back down to town easily. Here I am crossing over barbed wire / electric fence. In several places we pass over personal property - typically with cattle on it - and this is how we get over. Assume they don't trust us with gates. When you hit one of these- usually hit about 10 - as we stay down at lower elevation just weaving back and forth. Hiking with Tailgate, Aqua-Maria, Professor Longjohns, Mary Poppins and NY Minute.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Well - as if the trail wasn't hard enough for me - thought i would make it harder! Hiking out of town this morning - crossing a stream, slipped on a rock and fell backwards. Little finger wouldn't move. Hiked back down and got a ride to the hospital. Wasnt broken - but very dislocated - check out the xray! of course it is my dominate hand - so everything is going to be harder. Atleast it wasn't broken, or my leg, and i was close to town. getting lunch while waiting for medicine. Met up with Mary Poppins and Professor Longjohns last night at the hostel. they are doing low mileage today so going to tag along with them. I was able to get my pack on by myself. and yes - i did cry when he re set it - hurt like a SOB - didnt tell me when coming - just kept talking - then bam. neat
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
I uploaded a picture of a blaze a long time ago. We also have them in blue - which represents a side trail, a shelter, or water. We also have a double blaze - which means to pay attention - that there is a change of direction coming up. Or multiple paths are converging and you need to pay attention to make sure you are on the right path. Very fitting for where I am in my life right now.
Here I am standing on the Kimberling Creek suspension bridge. As I walked over it - you could feel it swaying back and forth and up and down. I know that all suspension bridges do that - but it does make you wonder - was this built by volunteer's???? Oh - and here is another look at that kilt - must say that I rock it like no other. In some hiking circles - they say the kilt makes the man. After seeing this picture - I would say that its the man that makes the kilt! I have to say - have hiked in it for 3 days now - did a 23 miler yesterday (didn't get in till 9:00 at night - got to set up my tent in the dark and in the rain!) and it was very comfortable and cool. Going to stick with it. Stopped at Pearisburg for the day - have been in the rain for the last 3 days and want to dry out if I can. Picked up my drop and am staying at a hostel.
I think townies call us "hiker trash" since we stink, we roll up in large groups (which stinks even more), and we never want to spend much money. Several of us have taken to this and commonly refer to ourselves as hiker trash. I couldn't resist then - when I saw this t-shirt. Trail Days reminds you of a small town fair - with about 1,000 residents, and 20,000 non residents. Think beer, cotton candy, and funnel cakes. Oh - and tons of hikers.
about a mile outside of town (yep more walking) was "tent city". basically all the rowdy's go here since only $5 to camp all weekend - was here for 5 days - which in hindsight - is about 3 days too many. everywhere you went - it looked like this - even in town - where people would let hikers camp in their front yards. I had tents so close to me - that they were on my guy lines (so about 10" from me on either side).
Here I am on main street rocking out in my new hiking kilt. I have lost enough weight that I had to buy new pants, shorts, underwear, and even a new hip belt for my pack. Have seen a TON of guys hiking in kilts and asked them how they like it. Everyone so far has loved them. Based on the amount of chaffing I have been getting - ready to try anything new. Haven't hiked yet- but feels comfortable and the ladies have all approved. Oh - and it isn't a skirt - its a Mountain Hardwear MEN's hiking kilt. go ahead and look it up.
Friday, May 16, 2008
The 1st Baptist Church has really been taking care of the hikers. They have cooked for us two nights, sponsored a cake and hot dog eating contest, brought in FEMA style travel showers, and doctors - had my blood pressure checked (122/69) and bloodwork done (can check tomorrow)and are even running a shuttle to get us back to where we hitched from. Thank you 1st Baptist Church!
Thursday, May 15, 2008
This is pretty much what I get to look at every day. Tough to beat. Question is, does one appreciate it more when you only see it every now and then, vs living here and seeing it everyday? If I lived here - would I take it for granted? Love to hear your comments. Been hiking by myself the last few days - but meeting new people (A Lo Hawk, Fizz, So Jo). Made it up to Bland (130 or 140 trail miles from Damascus). Was planning to go farther but some maintainers said it would be harder to hitch back. Ended up hiking past Bland down to I-77 where I talked to Noah John for a bit - he was heading on. Got a hitch from there back to Bland and to the Dairy Queen. Ate and hung out with New York Minute. He started making us a sign for Damscus so we could hitch when in walked a guy with an AT shirt. I asked for a ride - and he was able to get us down to Sugar Grove. Then hitched from there - got 12 miles outside of Damscus. Hitched again (4th time) and finally into town. Set up at "tent city" for $5 all weekend. Had a free meal at the 1st Baptist Church then on to Dots for some rehydration. Saw several of my old friends (Big Ez, Bloody Mary, Duck Feet, Swammy, Snowplow, Pixie, Hollar, Y2K, C-Bass). Heard that The Breeze just left town - shin splints still not healed. gotta run - but will be in town for 3-4 more days - which is nice- kind of a vacation from my vacation. Which I really need mentally. Broke down the other day - too many choices with what to do with life - a good friend helped talk me through it - and to just take a deep breath for right now. Always good advice. Hope to see more of my friends today.
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Layed up short yesterday - storm supposed to roll in - and you know how I love to nero into town. Nice little 4.5 miler to The Relax Inn. Picked up a new shirt, and new shoes that I had ordered a bit ago. Here are the dead ones - made it 535 miles in them, have several tears in them, burns from too close to a fire in the Smokies, and tread is starting to come off. I'll miss them - but my knees called - and they wanted new ones. Here are the new kicks as well - kinda forgot what they looked like. Going to have to get new pants and shorts soon - weight is really starting to drop off of me now - maybe at Trail Days. Rained all day today - PERFECT use of a nero. Going to go ahead and switch out my 10 degree bag for a lighter 35 degree bag as well - keeping wool long johns for a few more weeks - huge storm that came through dropped us down to the 40's again. Will pass the 25% mark tomorrow! (545 miles) - HUGE accomplishment for me - seems like I was just at Springer yesterday. Going to go as far as I can then hitch back to Trail Days - and might stay a few more days for Hardcore. Only 1,000 people in town, but Trail Days brings in 2,000 hikers and with only 4 computers in town at the library - not assuming I will be able to update anything for a bit. Hope to get pictures of all my friends - really miss everyone - hiking alone is great - but nice to see friends at the end of the day. I'm not exactly introverted. Might have to slow up at some point to save myself mentally - or get some of them to speed up. Peace for now - might be 2 weeks before you hear from me again.
Spring is here, and with the lower elevation of Virginia (2,500 - 3,500') lots more vegetation. This is pretty much what I am seeing everyday. Those are almost all giant rhododendron's! Can't wait till end of June when they bloom as they cover the mountains. Right now - though - they don't allow any views left or right - just straight ahead. A large portion of people will quit during this next stretch. It took almost 500 miles to get to Virginia, and it will take 545 miles to get all the way across it. They call this the "Virginia Blues" since not much changes, no views, and no milestones. I'll admit - it's getting very tough mentally - 20 miles a day with nothing to look at - you can only "think" so much a day, and to be honest - I have probably already thought about it getting to this point. Pictures may be kinda boring for a bit.
Not much to see the last couple of days here - long days - 18 miler followed by a 20 miler. Topo is better - so big days are easier - and body is really getting in shape - though a 20 miler gets old mentally. Crossing a meadow when I saw this old school bus - um - hello - anyone seen Into the Wild?!? Clearly decided not to stay there.
Spent the night in Damscus - me, The Breeze, and Half Elvis killed 7 pitchers at Dot's. Just trying to stay hydrated and give back to the trail towns! Everyone else is doing zero's here - but I hiked out the next day - I'll meet up with them again at Trail Days (10-18th). I'm going for 16-18th. Hiked to Thomas Knob shelter and was going to stay there - but Southpaw found someone's Croc and gave it to me since I am faster. Found a note at the sheter that it belonged to Noah John and he was going to the next shelter - so I pushed on. Made it to the next shelter about 10 mins before a huge storm (which would have left me up on a bald - not a good place to be for a storm). I am now even with the trail (someone had carried my hat for 3 days, I carried a guys hat for 2 shelters, left it, then met him later that night, and now have carried a shoe to its owner. ) All is good. Virginia is very rocky - but so far no huge elevation changes. At Mt Rogers was getting water when I heard something coming right at me down the trail. Ended up being about 15 wild ponies - very very cool.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
Made it to Damascus today! 460 miles in so far. Bill themseleves as the "friendliest town on the trail". Stopped by Dollar General for some clippers - got to shave that dome again. Going to get lunch with Half Elvis and The Breeze, drink some beer, resuply, eat a big dinner, drink beer, and head out tomorrow. The Breeze is taking a week off for shin splints. I'm planning on hitch hiking back for Trail Days since I have heard such good things about it. Gotta go explore now. Might be a while before I can update again. Keep those positive comments coming - love them!
Wanted to get as close to Damascus as possible - I love a good nero into town. Ended up making it 23 miles! My biggest day so far. Body and mind hurt so stopped at a shelter - looked like everyone else did as well. That's my tent on the far left. Just 10 miles into town tomorrow!
Had to hike all the way around Watuga Lake - we kept trying to find campsites with a lake front view - as the shelter didn't. Couldn't find anything so I went on - ended up going to the next shelter - but check out the view up here - overlooking the lake. Nice place to camp.
You can always tell the difference in lunch on the first day after a town vs the second. Everyone carries fresh, heavy stuff to eat right away. Here I have an apple, an avacado, cheese, tortilla's, and a beer. Fantastic lunch! Cheese has been holding up pretty well - usually takes 2-3 days to get through it - and assuming won't be an option as we get into the summer and warmer temps - so enjoying it now.
Standing in front of Laurel Fork Falls. Not able to get under for a shower - but just had one at Kincora - so no biggie. Walked through azalia's (orange and pink) all day - can't wait for the rhododendron's to bloom next (they are all over the mountain and the size of a car!)
Stayed with Bob Peoples at the Kincora Hiker Hostel. Highly recommend it! He and his wife, Pat, run a great establishment. $4 for shower, laundry, bunk, and shuttle to town! Ordered pizza when I got there with everyone else - yes I at 1.5 medium pizza's - still amazed at the appetite in town. The next morning - we all had chipped in money and Brahma Bull and Pixie cooked for 20 of us. Eggs, bacon, juice, biscuits, and Pixie made crepes for all of us! Strawberries, banana's, Nutella, whipped creme - the whole nine yards. And the best part - I'm still losing weight. burning 5,500 calories a day allows this kind of splurging. I'm going to hitch hike back to Damascus for trail days (16-18th) and hope to sign up with Bob for "Hard Core" so I can help build more trail. They are going to be relocating part of the AT.
The waterfall had helped clear my head - and was on my way to the Moreland Gap shelter. Brand new in 2006 - and built by hikers - it rocked! - 3 levels and benches/bar all the way around. Bob Peoples also runs "Hard Core Trail Days" volunteer crews. Hikers sign up (50 from the current class, and 50 from previous classes) to give back. They built that shelter in 1.5 days - carrying all the materials in and tools. On my way there - noticed a sign on the ground from another hiker - we had just passed the 400 mile mark. Made me feel great - actually doing this.
Pretty sure this is a baby rattle snake. He was coiled up and actually struck at me. If you zoom in - you can get a good look at him - was only about 8" long and about as big around as a sharpie pen. Looked around to make sure that his big brother nor parents were around - took the picture - and moved on. It reminded me that this is real - eastern diamondback rattle snakes can kill you - need to pay a little more attention.
Last day wasn't great mentally. After thinking about how I am an AT Hiker - it set in. The novelty had worn off - and this is my life for the next 5 months. Walking all day. Kept trying to remind myself that this was my choice - and that I was getting back to Mother Nature - but it just kept hitting me - that this is it - same thing every day - only thing that changes is the weather. Kinda like work. Yuck. Then we came across a water fall. Jet Ski's and Waterfall's make people happy and this one was no different. Me, Brahma, Sweet P, Holler and Pixie all climbed up, stripped down, and took very cold "mountain shower's". Laying out on the rocks to dry - the feeling of "this is it" was removed from my mind. Waterfalls fix everything - and are amazing on hot, sweaty 70 degree hiking days.
Several of us stayed at Apple House Shelter (tenting in a grassy meadow full of apple trees!). We had heard that there was a good steak house (King of the Road) just 1 mile away. Take our packs off - and 1 mile for steak is nothing. Funny seeing us this way though. Me, Happy Tracker, Brahma Bull, Sweet Potato, Cookie Monstor, Sundance, Hoot, O-Pop, and Bert all made the trip. Ate way too much (salad, steak, fry's, toast, vegetables, hush puppies, and blackberry cobbler). Well worth the walk.