Saturday, June 30, 2001

day 49, Bearwallow Gap, VA (WV)

Start:  Bearwallow Gap (Flattop, WV)
End:  Bearwallow Gap (Flattop, WV)
Miles:  0 today, 731 total

Pretty good day off today.  Went to the library, did the internet stuff, Mom & Dad washed my sleeping bag (not to mention chauffer [how do you spell that?] me around... thanks!), got my latest roll of pictures developed.  I spent the rest of the day relaxing.  Ate a lot, of course.  Cereal, ice cream, bananas, etc.  And then I rode the jet ski.

Uncle John took us out on the boat.  That was actually pretty nice.  The sun was out, weather was good.  I was content.

Anyway, so that was all great.  Oh, I forgot.  We saw the fireworks at 9pm from the boat.  And that was good, too.

But, so yeah, I made an ambitious plan to get to Swift Run Gap in eight days of hiking.  That'll put me over my 15.5 average, but if I take a zero day I'll go back down to 15.3.  Still, a profitable plan.  It'll be great when I'm high enough over the average that a zero day will still keep me over the average.  It might be awhile until then, though, because Megan still wants to hike.  I'm thinking we'll do 4 or 5 days starting from Swift Run Gap.  It should be fun.  And going back to Sunchase will be awesome.

Friday, June 29, 2001

day 48, Bearwallow Gap, VA (WV)

Start:  Fullhardt Knob Shelter
End:  Bearwallow Gap (Flattop, WV)
Miles:  16.7 today, 731 total

About to stink up the car at Bearwallow Gap

I was pretty excited today about seeing the family.  We set up a 5pm pickup time at Bearwallow Gap.  As you can see, it was about 16.7 miles.  Pretty nice hike overall, didn't really have to rush until the very last mile or so because the trail had been relocated to a more scenic (aka: longer) route.  But it all worked out in the end.

When Mom, Dad, Rachel, and Aunt Jane first spotted me, they all started snapping pictures.  I was like a movie star or something!  Mom even brought out the video camera.  Then we got in the car and had to roll down the windows immediately.  Complaints about how bad I smelled the rest of the way there.  But I was still happy to be off the trail, seeing everyone again.

We stopped at a Kroger on the way and picked up a bunch of food.  My personal craving was cereal for some reason.  I had like 3 bowls when we got in.  Despite all the food I was eating, Mom wanted me to eat more.  She felt my shoulder and said I was skin and bones.  I don't think I've lost more than 10 pounds, probably less than that.  But that's what Mom does - worry.

Anyway, looking forward to taking it easy tomorrow.

Thursday, June 28, 2001

day 47, Fullhardt Knob S, VA

Start:  Campbell Shelter
End:  Fullhardt Knob Shelter
Miles:  20.4 today, 714.3 total

Tinker Cliffs was (were?) great today.  Really nice views, just like McAfee Knob.  In fact, you could see McAfee Knob from the cliffs.  When I got there around 10 or 10:30am, Flying Bear, Chachi (Jonathan), and Spongebob were there hanging out, eating an early lunch, etc.  Chachi mentioned that the 3 of them were going to get a room at a motel at the Troutville I-81 interchange.  He also mentioned something about heading to Shoney's for the AYCE buffet.  He invited me to stay with them at the motel.  It would've been really cheap split 4 ways.  I told him I'd think it over.

Anyway, so I left them at the cliffs and hiked for a long while.  Once I stopped at Lamberts Meadow Shelter for a break and they all came in as I was leaving.  Eventually I got down to the interchange.  I took a long break at a nearby gas station.  I could see the trail from there, but I never saw the 3 amigos come out.  I called home a couple times to schedule when and where to pick me up tomorrow.  It'll be good to see the family again.

I finally left the gas station a little after 6pm.  I hiked about 5 miles to the Fullhardt Knob Shelter where Raver was by himself.  No water at the shelter so we have to conserve tonight.  Looking forward to a break from the trail tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2001

day 46, Campbell S, VA

Start:  Pickle Branch Shelter
End:  Campbell Shelter
Miles:  16.1 today, 694.4 total

McAfee Knob.  After this photo, I eventually left the knob for the shelter down
the hill a ways.  At the shelter, Tiger Cakes and company wanted to eat dinner
back up on the knob and watch the sunset, so we clambered back up for a
second viewing session before the day's end.

Today was a pretty exciting day.  Dragon's Tooth was pretty neat.  The "teeth" were tall, thin slabs of rock jutting out of the ground.  I climbed the highest one and took a couple pictures.  Then the descent down the mountain was one of the hardest yet.  There were places where steel ladders had been stuck in rocks to help the climb.  At the bottom of the mountain, I took a detour down the road a ways to Catawba Grocery.  There I bought two pints of ice cream, a banana, and a quart of orange juice.  And I consumed all of it.  Eating two pints straight like that is good training for the half-gallon challenge.  I didn't really feel bad after the two pints, but four is going to be tough.

Then, the best part of the day: McAfee Knob.  It was amazing.  I climbed up the knob really fast, and when I got there I was alone and pretty exhausted, so the reward seemed even better.  You could basically see 180 degrees up there.  Took a bunch of pictures including a 10-or-more panoramic experiment.  We'll see how that turns out.

The bugs are killing me in this shelter.  I might pull out my tent again.

Tuesday, June 26, 2001

day 45, Pickle Branch S, VA

Start:  Laurel Creek Shelter
End:  Pickle Branch Shelter
Miles:  22.3 today, 678.3 total

Though it was a long day mileage-wise, it went by relatively painlessly.  However, I'm thinking that maybe a break from Raver would be a good idea.  Nothing provoked that thought today, it's just been a general feeling that I need to be on my own again for awhile.  Granted, he's not the best pal to hike with.  He's kind of a moocher.  Always asking you to do something for him.  Like, if you're going to go pump water, he might ask you to pump him a couple extra quarts.  Stuff like that.  Little things but they add up.

We rearranged the schedule for the next couple of days.  Tomorrow is McAfee Knob and Dragons Tooth, but we're staying at Campbell Shelter rather than Lamberts Meadow Shelter.  McAfee Knob is supposed to be really great.  You can walk out on this ledge that has a 180 degree view.  So I'm looking forward to that.

There's a stray dog in camp tonight.  He's pretty noisy because there's a bell attached to his collar.  We've seen a number of strays on this trip so far.

Oh, I forgot.  I came upon 3 goats up on a mountain today.  When I tried to take their picture, they grabbed a day's -worth of food out of my pack!  Luckily I got it back.  They were so nosy.

Monday, June 25, 2001

day 44, Laurel Creek S, VA

Start:  Pine Swamp Branch Shelter
End:  Laurel Creek Shelter
Miles:  18.5 today, 656.0 total

Well, it seems official now, my trail name has been found.  From now on I shall be referred to as "BVD".  Yep, the underwear.  That's all thanks to my non-pants experiments a few days ago.  There was one time when Big Toe and Q-tip caught me in my underwear.  So yesterday when the topic of my undecided trail name came up, Q-tip said, "I know, BVDs!"  And I didn't mind for some reason, so I accepted it, but made it singular rather than plural.  So I'm BVD.  Thinking about it now, part of me regrets taking the name because it's not necessarily the best name out there.  But then again, part of me says to give it time and the name will begin to fit in.

Nothing too exciting about today's hike.  Apparently there's a pretty sizeable group about half a day ahead of us.  See, we would already be a day ahead of them if we didn't have to take that extra zero day at Snowshoe.  Oh well.

There's a mouse running around the shelter now.  He keeps nibbling on an old Ziploc bag I used to hold some food.  I've been thinking about carrying mouse traps like D-Con, just to take care of the annoying ones.  Goodnight.

Sunday, June 24, 2001

day 43, Pine Swamp Branch S, VA

Start:  Pearisburg, VA (Holy Church Hostel)
End:  Pine Swamp Branch Shelter
Miles:  20.1 today, 637.5 total

Today was a great day for hiking.  Pretty good weather, but I didn't have any blister pains, no sore feet, and though my pack was full, it felt relatively good on my back (well, not as painful).  Got into camp before 6pm!  Normally I pull in around 7 or 8pm.  And I pumped 7 quarts of water in no time at all with my new filter.  It's so much easier to pump now.  Ahh... the good life.

Though I'm behind schedule, I've got a plan from here to Rockfish Gap that'll pull me really close to my average.  If I don't take a zero day at Waynesboro, I'll be averaging 15.3-ish miles/day, which is just under my desired 15.5 miles/day.  And then it'll be time to pay a visit to JMU.  Dave might come down.  I'll probably start hiking with Megan then (if she still wants to).  And soon after that will be the G3 concert, maybe get a chance to stay a night or two at the Pennington Ranch.  So in general, things are looking up for awhile.  I'm pretty excited, though it's probably not outwardly noticeable.  hehehe...

Tonight we've got Raver, Q-tip, Big Toe, Joyster (an older woman, retired-type), Lucky Duck (an older woman, but not as old as Joyster), Jim Bowie (a recent college graduate, wanted to thru-hike but ran out of money.  He's pulling off the trail in Troutville), and little ol' me.

Saturday, June 23, 2001

day 42, Pearisburg, VA (HCH)

Start:  Pearisburg, VA (Snowshoe, WV)
End:  Pearisburg, VA (Holy Church Hostel)
Miles:  0 today, 617.4 total

I think when I'm finally done with the trail, I'll get used to home life pretty quickly.  I got used to the flushing toilets, water on tap, TV, ice-cream-eating lifestyle in the two zero days that I've had at Snowshoe.  We didn't do too much today.  Melissa and Kevin drove me down to her parents' house (Kevin drove, but w/ Melissa in the car it was a much saner ride).  I had been wanting to get on the internet to check email and update my Excel AT Mileage file.  I added a column that projects / predicts the date I'll finish based on the average daily mileage.  I'm currently a little behind schedule, averaging 14.7 miles/day, which, according to my Excel file, means I'll finish October 7.  I'm pretty confident that I can pull the average up to finish sometime between September 20 - 30.

I saw The Shining for the first time all the way through today.  It's Stanley Kubrick, so I was expecting a pretty weird, cool movie, and that's what it was.  Raver was making alcohol stoves out of Coke cans.

Melissa's parents drove us down to Pearisburg after they got off work at 4:30.  We got to the hostel ok, supposedly the weather will be clearing up, so that's good.  Surprisingly, Big Toe & Q-tip are still here.  They also took 2 zero days.

Friday, June 22, 2001

day 41, Pearisburg, VA (WV)

Start:  Pearisburg, VA (Snowshoe, WV)
End:  Pearisburg, VA (Snowshoe, WV)
Miles:  0 today, 617.4 total

Today was my second zero day of the trip, but I know now that I'll have to take another one tomorrow.  We had planned to leave Snowshoe tonight, but some really bad storms came through and washed over sections of the road up the mountain.  Melissa (Kevin's girlfriend) didn't want to risk driving in the weather (and I don't blame her), so we'll push it back another day.

I just did miscellaneous things today.  Lounged around a lot, ate a lot of food in the apartment (I'm going to leave some money to compensate for my burden), bought a replacement filter for my Pur Hiker water filter, caught up on some journal writing, did laundry, etc.

Here at Snowshoe this weekend there's a huge mountain bike tournament going on.  It's the NORBA Nationals or something.  There's mountain bikers EVERYWHERE.  They use the ski slopes and lifts, just without the snow.  Apparently today there were a lot of time-trial -type runs, tomorrow begins the real stuff.  A few different events, we watched some slalom stuff.  It's like seeing the ESPN X-Games live.  Pretty neat experience.

Raver and I had pizza at Cheat Mountain Pizza.  It was pretty good, but nothing too special.  Well, tomorrow will be another lazy day.  Too bad we can't get back on the trail.

Thursday, June 21, 2001

day 40, Pearisburg, VA (WV)

Start:  Sugar Run Gap (Woodshole Hostel)
End:  Pearisburg, VA (Showshoe, WV)
Miles:  10.0 today, 617.4 total

      The crew post-breakfast at Woodshole Hostel, about to roll out.
      Left to right, front row:  Big Toe, unknown, Q-tip.
      2nd row:  Jonathan (Chachi), Little Train, Heatmizer, Raver
      3rd row:  unknown, Gruff, me
      standing:  unknown, unknown, Tiger Cakes, hostel owner?, unknown


Raver and I had to rush to meet his friend Kevin at the Pearisburg P.O. on time.  Neither of us hiked naked, and we didn't see any naked hikers either.  So it was really like any other day.

We came flying down the mountain at around 12:50, thinking we'd be late for our 1:00 pickup time.  However, we put up our thumbs at the first passing car and it stopped.  Again, great luck with hitching so far.  We got to the P.O. at 12:55, perfect timing.  I picked up my package, and we made a quick stop at Subway for free drinks (hikers only).

We drove over 2 hours to Snowshoe, WV, the famous ski resort.  It was really amazing how beneficial automobiles are to humans.  In less than 15 minutes, we covered more ground than a day's -worth of hiking.  The time saved is so impressive.  It was also great listening to music in the car.  I will say, though, that Kevin drives like a maniac.  Squealing tires around turns, passing people constantly on one-lane-each-way roads.  We went over 60 mph on a gravel road, broke 95 mph on pavement.  This guy was nuts.  Took off his seatbelt at times.

Sounds like we're going to take one (possibly two) zero day tomorrow.  We're having trouble getting a ride back to Pearisburg.  It's nice being in an apartment with shower, laundry, TV, food, even a bed.  R&R time!

Wednesday, June 20, 2001

day 39, Sugar Run Gap, VA

Start:  Jenny Knob Shelter
End:  Sugar Run Gap (Woodshole Hostel)
Miles:  19.8 today, 607.4 total

Today was a pretty full day.  I left the shelter behind Raver and Jonathan, ahead of Big Toe and Q-tip.  When I got to Va. 606, I took a short walk West off the trail to Trent's Grocery for some pizza and orange juice.  Then, within an hour of getting back on the trail I took a quick detour to Dismal Falls.  The falls weren't really that spectacular.  I didn't take any pictures.  Got back on the trail and hiked awhile to the Wapiti Shelter for another break.  Raver had already come and gone, as he had signed the register.  Jonathan and his dog were there.  Eventually Q-tip and Big Toe arrived along with Tiger Cakes, her dog Isabella, Gruff, and her dog Toby.  I'm not positive, but I think Tiger Cakes and Gruff are a couple (ie: lesbians).  After talking awhile it sounded as though we'd all be staying at Woodshole tonight.  The big-to-do was that the first 8 people to arrive at the hostel got breakfast the next morning (the option to eat for $3.50).  I only had one dollar, so breakfast was out of the question for me anyway.

Tonight at the hostel, in addition to Jonathan, Raver, Big Toe, Q-tip, Tiger Cakes, Gruff, and myself, there's Little Train, Heatmizer, Doc Everlast, and others.  So it's pretty crowded.  The bunkhouse basically consists of mattresses on the floor.  There's a solar shower, but I didn't get a chance to use it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2001

day 38, Jenny Knob S, VA

Start:  Jenkins Shelter
End:  Jenny Knob Shelter
Miles:  24.1 today, 587.6 total

Longest day yet with a pack.  That still doesn't break the 27-mile record, a slackpack record, but it's getting up there.  Really, slackpacking will always come out on top because if you can do 35 miles in one day WITH a pack, then you could've done more without a pack.  But anyway...

So I basically hiked ALL DAY.  I took a break at Helvey's Mill Shelter and then hiked the last ten miles in my underwear again.  It's really great hiking in your underwear.  I'm thinking I'll have Mom and Dad send my pair of Umbros down.  I need something that weighs less and isn't as constricting / restricting as my shorts / pants combo things.  The only downside is that there are no useful pockets on a pair of Umbros.  The shorts I've got now have all kinds of pockets.  Maybe the outfitter in Pearisburg could help (if there IS an outfitter there).  I also need a new filter for my Pur Hiker water filter.  It's getting really hard to pump the water.  As in, you have to push really hard to get the water you just sucked up to go through the filter.

Tomorrow it looks like Raver, myself, some section hiker name Jonathan, and possibly Big Toe & Q-tip could all be staying at the Woodshole Hostel at Sugar Run Gap.  So that should be fun.  I only have one dollar, but that shouldn't be a problem since it's free!

Monday, June 18, 2001

day 37, Jenkins S, VA

Start:  Knot Maul Branch Shelter
End:  Jenkins Shelter
Miles:  18.8 today, 563.5 total

Well today's been pretty wacky all around.  First of all, Rachel graduated!  I wish I could've been there to see the ceremony.  So tonight's the All-Night Grad Party.  I'm sure she's having a blast, while Mom and Dad are going insane with the various events.  So it's busy back home.

I got a later start than usual out of camp.  The past few days I've really focused on taking care of my blisters.  The one on my right heel seems to have dried up for the most part, and the one on my left heel still needs some work, but it's slowly getting there.  So I spent a good while playing foot doctor.  Then, I took some time to catch up with my journal writing (hehehe... I was 4 days behind when I left Damascus).  I also took some time adjusting my pack.  It seems to fit better now.  In fact, I may have struck on something that could really help with my hiking.  If I wear the pack higher on my body (so the hip belt buckle covers my belly button), it feels a lot lighter.  It also allows my legs greater range of motion... which leads to my next wacky happening: I hiked in my underwear.  And not just any underwear, Performance Underwear.  All day my pants kept sliding down, and I got tired of messing with them, so I took them off.  I hadn't seen any hikers all day, so I figured I was safe.  Freedom, baby!  Yeah!

Sunday, June 17, 2001

day 36, Knot Maul Branch S, VA

Start:  Chatfield Shelter
End:  Knot Maul Branch Shelter
Miles:  18.8 today, 544.7 total

I didn't have enough room yesterday to mention the Partnership Shelter.  After getting back from Sugar Grove with my food, I hiked about 8 miles to the Partnership Shelter, located at the Mt. Rogers NRA Headquarters.  In short, that was the best shelter I've seen so far.  I even took a picture of it.  The shelter was extremely well maintained, looked relatively new, had a nice gravel patio type of thing, slept 16 (a nice loft upstairs), had a warm water shower IN THE SHELTER!, and a relatively decent privy.  I spent about 2 hours there using the various facilities, eating some lunch, and relaxing in general.  I gave my compliments to the maintenance crew in the shelter register.

And now for today's happenings.  Really, nothing much to report other than an excellent brunch at Dairy Queen.  We left the shelter (Raver and myself) at around 8, took a break at an old one-room schoolhouse, and got to the Rt. 11 / I-81 intersection at Groseclose around 10:30am.  We promptly partook of the fine feastings at the nearby DQ.  We each got a chicken salad and a blizzard.  Tasty!  Spent about an hour and a half there.  Raver called a friend near Pearisburg.  It sounds like we'll be staying at this guy's place.  He'll pick us up Thursday at 1pm at the Pearisburg P.O.  Not sure if I want to take a zero day in Pearisburg yet.  It's a long stretch from Damascus to Pearisburg.  Maybe I'll need a break.  I'll think it over.

Saturday, June 16, 2001

day 35, Chatfield S, VA

Start:  Trimpi Shelter
End:  Chatfield Shelter
Miles:  17.6 today, 525.9 total

I got up at 4:30am this morning.  I pitched my tent in the shelter last night because the bugs were so bad.  I was the only one in the shelter, but Raver and E of E & J were tenting just down the hill.  In fact, I could hear Raver's headphones from the shelter.  His ears must've been bleeding.  Anyway, so I got up at 4:30, left at 6:13am.  I hiked about 2 - 2.5 miles down to VA 670 and started walking on the road toward Sugar Grove.  That was at 7am.  I hiked about 3 miles or so until someone headed my direction picked me up.  Most of the cars I saw were headed out of town.  So I got a ride the rest of the way into town from a middle-aged couple in their minivan.  They said they were going to breakfast with their son, who was in a car in front of them.

I got to the P.O. right at 8am when it opened.  As I was getting my pack, the husband asked if I was Christian.  I said, "Yes, Presbyterian."  And then he said something like this, "Well that's good.  We won't ask for a donation as long as you're doing the Lord's work."  By "donation" I think he meant some sort of tip for giving me a lift.  I should've told him I was Buddhist.  So far I've had 5 hitch-hike experiences, (I got one back out of town) and I haven't given the drivers anything, though I've considered it every time.  Maybe I'll change my ways.

Friday, June 15, 2001

day 34, Trimpi S, VA

Start:  Old Orchard Shelter
End:  Trimpi Shelter
Miles:  14.2 today, 508.3 total

A pretty easy day mileage-wise.  It's funny how I say 14 miles is easy now, when back on like Day 6, 14 miles was a solid day.  Anyway, I pulled into the Trimpi Shelter at around 3pm, which is extremely early for me.  I didn't really know what to do with all the time.

Sometime after 5pm, Raver mentioned / asked if I was going to get to the Sugar Grove P.O. before they closed tomorrow.  For some whacko reason, I didn't realize that the post office would close early on Saturdays.  I mean, I know that generally P.O.s close early on Saturdays, and I knew that I had to get to a post office.  I just didn't put the two together for some reason.  So suddenly I was in a bind.  I spent the next hour or two trying to decide what to do.

To make a long story short, I decided to stay the night at Trimpi, wake up at like 4am, and try to get to the P.O. ASAP.  To make matters worse, the Sugar Grove post office closed at 10:30am, not noon.

Tonight there's Raver and E of E & J (a weekender).  "E" taught us a dice game called Blisters.  I had a come-from-behind victory in my first game!

Thursday, June 14, 2001

day 33, Old Orchard S, VA

Start:  VA 600, Elk Garden
End:  Old Orchard Shelter
Miles:  15.2 today, 494.1 total

One last photo before leaving "The Place".
Left to right: Raver, Laura, Took, me

We got off to a really late start today.  That was ok for me, though, since I had some last-minute things to do in town.  I bought some insoles at Mt. Rogers Outfitters.  Apparently, no one actually uses the insoles that come with a new pair of boots.  Laura uses SuperFeet insoles and she hasn't had many problems.  I got some cheaper brand for under $20, and they look and feel a little better than the original ones in my boots.

My blister situation seems to be improving, as well.  The one that recently appeared under my left big toe has pretty much dried up.  And my left pinky toe seems to be doing well (knock on wood).  And also, my right heel may actually be progressing.  The blister seems to be drying up.

We saw some great scenery today.  I hiked with Raver to the shelter (we'll be hiking together for awhile).  We didn't go to the top of Mt. Rogers, though there's no view up there anyway.  We did see the wild ponies that they show in my thru-hiker video.  I took a bunch of pictures.  Many of them were pretty bold, some even aggressive.  They wanted food.

The trail went through a lot of wide open spaces, great views.  Plenty of really pretty spots to camp, but no water close by.  So we pressed on to the shelter, as originally planned.

Wednesday, June 13, 2001

day 32, Damascus, VA (The Place)

Start:  VA 600, Elk Garden
End:  Damascus, VA (The Place)
Miles:  23.8 today, 478.9 total

Today was a slackpack, so not as hard as usual.  7 of us piled into the Mt. Rogers Outfitters van at 8-ish am.  There was Snack Attack, the Orkin Man, Mars, Venus, Raver, myself, and someone named Tim.  Tim was just visiting from Europe, out for a few days.  He didn't get out at Elk Garden.  The rest of us did.

Not much to report about the hike.  It was mostly gradual downhill.  For some reason, both Raver's and Snack Attack's water filters stopped working at the same time, same water source.  Raver eventually got his back into order.  I didn't bring mine to save weight.  We got back sometime before 7pm.

I bought pints of ice cream for Laura and myself.  I ended up eating about a third of hers, since she said she needed help.  We did some math and figured that a half gallon is 4 pints.  The famous half-gallon challenge is coming when we get into PA, and I need to be ready.  I decided to begin a rigorous training schedule.  I'll try to eat two pints in Pearisburg.  Maybe get 3 pints down before Harpers Ferry.  Then I'll leave the main course for that place near Harrisburg, PA.  The 1.33 pints I had today was pretty easy to down.  I have confidence.

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

day 31, Damascus, VA (The Place)

Start:  Damascus, VA (The Place)
End:   Damascus, VA (The Place)
Miles:  0 today, 455.1 total

Man, was I thirsty!

I was pretty busy today, doing the town stuff.  Had some breakfast at the Side Track Cafe, which was pretty good.  The guy who made my breakfast talked awhile about the trail.  He thru-hiked a few years ago.  One neat thing he said was that his stove consisted of 3 tent stakes (for holding a pot), a piece of aluminum foil (for holding the fire starter brick), and a fire starter brick.  He would light the brick and then add some small wood pieces, build a small fire essentially.  And the whole thing weighed practically nothing.

I spent a long time doing internet emailing. Scott Buffardi contacted me after a long lapse in communication.  There's a G3 concert coming up July 17, and he was asking if I wanted to go.  The G3 concerts were started by Joe Satriani several years ago.  They basically feature 3 famous guitarists (usually Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and someone else).  Anyway, after emailing back and forth, it'll be Dave Humphreys and myself, Scott and his friend, and somewhere Ryan Balis and his buddies.  That's going to be great, I just need to find some way to get off the trail then.  I'm pretty excited.  Pretty happy in general, actually.  I made it to Damascus ok, met some new friends, and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead.

Monday, June 11, 2001

day 30, Damascus, VA (The Place)

Start:  Double Springs Shelter
End:  Damascus, VA  (The Place)
Miles:  19.2 today, 455.1 total

I came crashing down the hill into Damascus today.  Caught up with Snowmaker and his dog, Covu, at the Abingdon Shelter.  Talkradio was there, too.  My blisters were hard to ignore during the hike.

I got to Damascus around 3pm, so I was able to get my mail drop before the post office closed at 4:30pm.  Then I took a shower.  Raver, Gravytrain, Commodore, Big Toe, and I went to dinner.  Commodore ended up eating with an old buddy.  I got a pretty good size stromboli and a huge Mountain Dew.  After awhile Mission Man showed up and ordered his own meal.  Then, after all that, we ordered two pitchers of beer.  So, we were there for at least two hours, but it was nice to relax and shoot the breeze.  I was surprised Mission Man knew a lot about famous guitarists.  And both he and Big Toe really liked Dream Theater.  Raver and I got a pint of ice cream each to finish off the evening.  We tried to wash our clothes but the laundromat was closing.  Then I spent 20 minutes or so looking for a pay phone to call home.  Apparently only 2 of the 5 or 6 pay phones in town work.  Anyway, a good day.

Sunday, June 10, 2001

day 29, Double Springs S, TN

Start:  Watauga Lake Shelter
End:  Double Springs Shelter
Miles:  21.7 today, 435.9 total

I came really close to stepping on a rattlesnake today.  As in, 2 or 3 more feet and he would be under my boot.  I was walking through some really thick grass, the kind that I really hate when it rains.  I didn't see it until I was right up on it, and I immediately stepped back about 20 feet.  He noticed my presence about then and started shaking his tail.  This one was bigger and had a more defined rattle than the one I almost stepped on in Georgia.  And again, I made a big loop around him through the underbrush to the side of the trail (hopefully there was no poison ivy).  I kept yelling, "Keep singing, buddy!" so I'd know where he was.

For once in a long while the weather was nice all day.  And, up until the last 3 miles or so, I had an almost perfect hike.  It was pretty satisfying.  But then, with 3 miles left, I started feeling what I thought was a rock under my left big toe.  I stopped and took off my boot to find a brand new blister.  Oh boy!  So I put some moleskin on it and limped to the shelter.  To date, the biggest problem physically has been my feet.  Fighting blisters has been a main concern.  I hope I can keep them under control.

Tomorrow I do 18-ish miles into Damascus, 5 days ahead of schedule!  Bring on Virginia!

Saturday, June 9, 2001

day 28, Watauga Lake S, TN

Start:  Moreland Gap Shelter
End:  Watauga Lake Shelter
Miles:  16.4 today, 414.2 total

I left Laura at the Moreland Gap Shelter this morning.  She was complaining about her knees.  She caught up with me later, though, at the Laurel Creek Lodge.  It's a campground / hostel; pretty nice, too.  When I got there Mission Man and D-Con were leaving to do more slackpacking.  Basically they're slacking the whole way from Erwin to Damascus.  Also saw Q-tip and Big Toe.  Q-tip said there was some free extra restaurant-type food in the hiker kitchen, so I went in there and ate for about an hour.  Ribs, bread, and these little spinach triangle things.  It was great.  Then Laura came by with a stray dog that was hanging around Moreland Gap Shelter.  Apparently there's a lot of stray dogs in the area.

So then I left the Lodge after my free lunch and about $2.50 in extra food for the trail.  Laura said she was going to stay the night there and just meet up with me in Damascus.

On my hike I made a couple stops.  One at Laurel Falls, a pretty nice waterfall.  And then another at a rope swing by Watauga Lake.  Some teenage guys were swinging out and falling in the lake.  They said I should try it, and I needed a bath, so I took off my shoes & shirt and jumped in.  It was pretty cool.  Tonight I'm with Q-tip, Q-tip's girlfriend, Big Toe, and three others.  Broke 400 today!

Friday, June 8, 2001

day 27, Moreland Gap S, TN

Start: Overmountain Shelter
End: Moreland Gap Shelter
Miles: 22.5 today, 397.8 total

I'm doubting I took this photo on 6/8, but will keep it here for now.

Long day today, longest day so far with packs (the 27.2 mile slackpack a couple days ago is currently the title-holder). Laura and I hiked together the whole way. It got frustrating at times because I underestimated the difficulty of the terrain. We had a lot of short but steep climbs and descents. At one point we considered hitching to a nearby hostel, Kinkora (I think that's how you spell it), and then slackpacking some the next day. In fact, that's what Raver was going to do, but start from Elk Park and do like 60 miles in two days. Mission Man and D-Con passed us headed south. Naturally they were slackpacking. D-Con was saying that after Damascus there wouldn't be too many opportunities to slackpack, so he wanted to take advantage while he could.

Today is also officially known as Livestock Day. We passed by so many cows, horses, and cow and horse poop. The first bunch of cows were long-horns. Pretty scary, they wanted to eat my pack. Laura took a picture (I'm out of film; she said she'd mail me some photos). We walked through hilly pastures among the animals.

Today is also special because it's Laura's birthday! She's 24. Too bad she hiked with me on my masochistic walk today. I'll do some sort of birthday thing for her in Damascus.

Thursday, June 7, 2001

day 26, Overmountain S, NC

Start:  Hughs Gap
End:  Overmountain Shelter
Miles:  9.4 today, 375.3 total

I forgot to mention that Jake, Cheerio, Hawaii, and Gravytrain were at Uncle Johnny's when I got back last night.  I'm going to have to make a list of all the people I've met and describe each one in more detail than the one-page-a-day rule allows.  So... coming soon.

So, in the morning Gravytrain, Jake, and Cheerio left Uncle Johnny's; Gravytrain by himself, and Jake & Cheerio left together as always.  Around noon, Jason and Robin were shuttled by DeadManMurphy (who's a woman, remember) to Iron Mtn Gap where they headed north (they slackpacked from there to Uncle Johnny's yesterday, about 19.6 miles).  Then, around 2pm, Gannon, Laura, and I were shuttled to Hughs Gap.  Now, out of the three, I'm the only one not skipping the 27.2 miles from Erwin to Hughs Gap.  Laura's really got some make-up mileage to cover later.  Gannon doesn't really count since he's only going from Fontana Dam to Rockfish Gap, VA.  He can do what he wants.

We did a little over 9 miles, but part of that involved getting up and over Roan Mountain, the last mountain over 6k feet until the Whites in New Hampshire.  So it was a long 9.  No views at all today; fog, rain, mist, mud, cloudy.  Went over a couple nice balds, too.  It's a shame the weather is so moody.  Tonight we're in a converted barn.  Two-stories.  Raver, Laura, Gannon, myself, and some other older section hikers are all sharing this awesome shelter.

Wednesday, June 6, 2001

day 25, Erwin, TN (Uncle Johnny's)

Start:  Hughs Gap, TN
End:  Erwin, TN (Uncle Johnny's)
Miles:  27.2 today, 365.9 total

Basically, I spent ALL DAY hiking. Got up around 6am, got ready to go, started hiking at 9:30am. DeadManMurphy (it's a woman, she's married to a guy named Dead Man) drove Mission Man, D-Con, and I up to Hughs Gap. Mission Man and D-Con got out and hiked north, while I headed south back to Erwin. See, Mission Man and D-Con had been in Erwin for 4 or 5 days already, doing some slackpacking and taking a zero day or two. So technically, they were pretty far ahead of me.

On my hike south I met some people who have been a day or two ahead of me the whole time. I stopped and talked to Commodore for awhile. He basically does 20 milers except for when he's near or in town. He started May 15, so somewhere along the way he passed me. I passed Took, who was actually at Uncle Johnny's yesterday, and Powdered Toast Man. Took named himself when a bear "took" all his food back at Big Spring Shelter. I remember reading a lot about that when I stopped at Big Spring Shelter and signed the register. I don't know much about Powdered Toast Man. I also passed Chris (Devo). He's officially going to change his trailname to "Raver" tomorrow. Anyway, after a long but prosperous slackpack, I got back around 8pm and took it easy the rest of the night.

Tuesday, June 5, 2001

day 24, Erwin, TN (Uncle Johnny's)

Start:  No Business Knob Shelter
End:  Erwin, TN (Uncle Johnny's)
Miles:  6.3 today, 338.7 total

A nice easy six miles into Erwin today. Came down off the mountain and stopped at Uncle Johnny's, a pretty neat hostel. Got here around 10:00am, an hour after Ganj (Jason) got in. So we took it easy today. A lot of people showed up, met a lot, too. Big Toe and Q-tip were out slackpacking all day, doing 30 miles from Carvers Gap south to Uncle Johnny's. So I met them when they got in (which was close to dark), but didn't talk to them much. I met Mission Man and D-Con. Mission Man reminds me of Steven Tyler of Aerosmith without the huge lips. D-Con is so named because he tries to rid all shelters of mice (at least the ones he sleeps in). Apparently he had a bad incident at the Blue Mountain Shelter back in GA, where mice were crawling all over him, sniffing his ears, etc. So he flipped and has been on a killing spree since then.

Laura and Robin also showed up later in the day. Laura came by car because she hurt her knee back near Sam's Gap I think. It seems like she hitches rides more than she hikes. Robin hiked 27 miles to Uncle Johnny's, pack and all. Laura says it was to see Jason again. And now, it looks like it worked because Jason and Robin are doing the snuggle thing. Oh boy.

Monday, June 4, 2001

day 23, No Business Knob S, TN

Start:  Hogback Ridge Shelter
End:  No Business Knob Shelter
Miles:  20.6 today, 332.4 total

Again, 20+ miles. As of right now, I'm averaging 15.39 miles per day (tomorrow it drops down to 14.1). For my 5-week goal to get to Damascus I only needed to average 13 miles a day, so I'm ahead of schedule. That's a good thing because I'm not sure about the "20+ miles on consecutive days" idea. You start to get worn down. In fact both Ganj and I are getting tired, literally. We're both thinking about scaling back and only having 20+ days every so often, or at least not back-to-back. So, in short, I can afford to slow down some.

I'm also starting to think about using my stove. Watching Ganj heat up some nice, hot Lipton noodle stuff made me think about it. He's got an Esbit stove, which is basically a three-legged stand that holds a small pot on top and a little fire brick underneath. The bricks (say 5 days worth) and the stove combined should weigh less than a pound. Though his stove is neat, I'll try my own Primus stove first. I'm thinking Damascus would be the perfect time. By then I will have spent about a quarter of the trip eating non-stove food, so maybe I'll spend the next quarter using a stove. Then for the last half of the trip, I'll know pretty well what's good and what isn't, whether one method or combination of methods is better than others.

Sunday, June 3, 2001

day 22, Hogback Ridge S, NC

Start:  Little Laurel Shelter
End:  Hogback Ridge Shelter
Miles:  21.3 today, 311.8 total

Another 20 mile-ish day today. The day's pretty long when you hike 20 miles. I left the shelter this morning, just behind Jason (trailname Ganj, GA-NJ), at around 7:40am. Pulled in here at around 6:30pm or so. Caught up with Sparkle and Glide here at Hogback, I've been a few days behind them since Springer. Pretty nice couple (male + female), they live in Charleston, WV. I think they're thru-hiking.

I tried my Weight Gainer stuff today. I think it helped some. You basically feel full like you just ate a light meal. That's all I'm really looking for, something to put in my morning quart to give me some calories and nutrients. (Before I set out each day, I drink a quart of water.)

I like to hike alone for the most part (at least so far). There are ups and downs. Then there are other times when you feel totally neutral, at peace. You feel really calm, almost powerful in a way. I really only feel lonely when pulling into an empty shelter for the night. That's a little unnerving. But, when you're out on the trail for 5 months, there's going to be lonely times. I think I've been pretty lucky so far, only been alone at night twice out of 22 nights. Pretty good record there. Almost time to take a break in Erwin! Goodnight.

Saturday, June 2, 2001

day 21, Little Laurel S, NC

Start:  Hot Springs, NC (Elmer's)
End:  Little Laurel Shelter
Miles:  19.6 today, 290.5 total

Laura and me before I left Hot Springs

Yesterday, Laura, Chris, and I walked over to Dan "Wingfoot" Bruce's house and talked with him for awhile on his front porch. He's pretty famous among thru-hikers, he's hiked the whole trail like 7 times, written some books, has gotten into internet stuff in the past few years. In fact, he was having some guys install some sort of satellite internet connection for faster use while we were there. Anyway, he was saying some pretty neat stuff. Apparently, after hiking for awhile, the lower half of the body begins to change, as in, the bones thicken. They don't expand, they grow inside, the marrow portion shrinks. It's because you've tricked your legs into thinking you're 40-50 lbs heavier. He also said your blood circulation improves somehow so you get 20-25% more lung capacity or something. And he said that when we get into southern VA, we'll start to notice that we can do more miles with less bodily stress, increase pace, etc. In essence, become super-hiker-athletes. So that's pretty neat.

Today was actually a pretty easy day even though it was just under 20 miles. I'm wondering if that super athlete thing is happening now. I'm here in the shelter with Jason (he left Robin to hike his own hike, Robin might quit the trail now after their falling-out). Another 20ish day tomorrow. Looking forward to it.

Friday, June 1, 2001

day 20, Hot Springs, NC (Elmer's)

Start:  Deer Park Mountain Shelter
End:  Hot Springs, NC (Elmer's)
Miles:  6.3 today, 270.9 total

Again, I really only hiked 3.1-ish miles, just saying 6.3 to make up for errors. Really not much to say about the hike, it was pretty quick. I pulled into town around 9am. At first I wanted to stay at the Hike Hostel, but found that it was closed. Actually, what I THOUGHT was the Hike Hostel was closed. I went to some church right off the trail thinking their hostel was the Hike Hostel (their place was closed). The REAL Hike Hostel could've been open all along. Anyway, now we're all confused. I stayed at the Sunnybrook Inn, which is known to hikers as Elmer's. Elmer thru-hiked in '76 I think. It was a really cool place. Lots of hippie/cultish type of stuff going on in and around the place. Turns out Laura got a ride from Gatlinburg to Hot Springs, and she'd been there (staying at various places in town) for a few days. Jason and Robin (Laura's hiking buddies), Chris (Devo) and some others were there, too. Met Cheerio and Jake. I've been following them this whole time.

I spent the whole day doing the in-town business. Shower, laundry, real food, email, post cards, the whole bit. Had a vegetarian dinner at Elmer's served by the hippies. A great day off.