Tuesday, July 31, 2001

day 80, Leroy A. Smith S, PA

Start:  Bake Oven Knob Shelter
End:  Leroy A. Smith Shelter
Miles:  23.5 today, 1253.5 total

Coming up out of Lehigh Gap.

No lunatics showed up at the last shelter, though we've got someone supposedly tripping on acid in the shelter tonight.  So we're all camped up the path from the shelter.  Oh the stories I'll have to tell.

Left Bake Oven Knob Shelter at 9am, pulled in here at 9pm.  It's almost impossible, it seems, for me to go any faster than 2 mph (including breaks) with these rocks.  And, yes, the rocks are bad.  That catch phrase, "Betcha bite a chip!" came to mind as I walked for about half an hour straight unable to have one rockless step.  The constantly uneven terrain really screws up your feet.  I've got 20 miles left to do tomorrow and I know my feet are going to be bloody stumps when I pull into the hostel.  I put moleskin on the left side of my left heel, by the end of the day, it had moved ALL the way around behind my heel to the right side, just under the arch.  At least SOMETHING was protected I guess.  That's never happened before, until the past 2 days.

Had a great rock climb coming up Lehigh Gap, took some pictures.  Tonight I'm with a foursome: Khaos (girl), Sherpa (male), Puck (girl), and Gnome (male).  Khaos & Sherpa are a couple.

Monday, July 30, 2001

day 79, Bake Oven Knob S, PA

Start:  Eckville Shelter
End:  Bake Oven Knob Shelter
Miles:  17.4 today, 1230 total

Took some time leaving the shelter this morning.  At first I didn't know exactly where I was going to stay tonight.  Roland (not Rollin', I discovered) said that the town of Palmerton was a great place.  You can stay in a jail(!) there for free and there's some great restaurants, even a library, laundromat, etc.  So, really, aside from the location, Palmerton sounds better than the Delaware Water Gap.  So that was Option #1, hike 25ish miles and then possibly 2 more along the road to Palmerton (depending on how easy a hitch would be).  Option #2 was to stick with my original plan and hike 24ish miles to the Outerbridge Shelter.  I was kind of skeptical of that because I read that large amounts of metal contamination polluted the area around the Palmerton area, where the Outerbridge Shelter is.  (For a long time, a big industry in Palmerton was zinc smelting.  The EPA put a stop to that in the early '80s, but much environmental damage still remains.)  So I was afraid of using the spring at that shelter.  And finally, Option #3 was to do 17.5 miles to Bake Oven Knob Shelter.  The only drawback there was the crazy guy who sometimes comes up to the shelter and harasses hikers (according to Roland).  Virginia G-Man said he was headed to Bake Oven, so I figured the two of us could take the guy if he tried anything.  So now I'm at Bake Oven, no sign of any lunatics yet.

Sunday, July 29, 2001

day 78, Eckville S, PA

Start:  Auburn Overlook (campsite)
End:  Eckville Shelter
Miles:  17.7 today, 1212.6 total

Well, I'm still alive, no sign of any black market surgery, so I guess all is well.  Packed up the tent and headed down to Port Clinton.  I attempted hitching into Hamburg for about 10 minutes with no success.  I think as my beard gets scragglier, people will be less likely to pick me up.  Nevertheless, I did get resupplied and that's what counts.  I set down my pack in front of one of the hotels in PC just to take a rest for a bit, buy a drink from the vending machine.  Then this guy and his wife walk out and he starts talking to me about army boots and having to change your socks twice a day or something.  I played dumb and asked him if there were any grocery stores in town.  "No, but Hamburg has some."  hehe... "Hamburg?  How far is that?"  I'm so evil.  So I ended up getting a ride with these folks, not to Hamburg, but to some Egyptian bazaar / farmers market type of place.  Basically a poor-man's Price Club.  I was able to piece together enough of what I needed to get to the DWG.  They gave me a ride back to PC (they were headed to the farmers market anyway, so I'm not that evil).  Packed up my food and got back on the trail at 1:40pm.  Did a pretty fast 15 miles to the Eckville Shelter by 8pm.  Cool place.  Like 501, there's a house next door where the caretaker lives.  Rollin' (SOBO) and VA G-man are here.

Saturday, July 28, 2001

day 77, Auburn Overlook c, PA

Start:  501 Shelter
End:  Auburn Overlook (campsite)
Miles:  21.2 today, 1194.9 total

Well, today's a rarity.  One of the few times, if not the first time, that I couldn't reach my goal for the day.  Actually, now that I mention it, I wasn't able to get to Peters Mountain Shelter the other day, and had to stop short at Clarks Ferry Shelter.  But anyway... so today I stopped about 2.5 miles shy of my goal.  I blame this on starting too late (9ish am) and the insane rockiness of the trail.  There were spots where it looked like the maintenance crew took rocks from the woods and put them on the trail itself.  So it was pretty slow going, somewhere around 2 mph.  The next few days will be interesting - the Thru-Hiker's Companion book says the real rocks, the ones where Bill Bryson's boots go to die, are found between Eckville and the Delaware Water Gap.  Oh joy.

There's someone else tenting nearby.  When I got here, I couldn't see any people, so I assumed he/she/they were in the tent.  I hope I don't get knifed in the middle of the night.  This is one of the few times when I think I'd feel better if I camped alone.  Too late to move now, I'm already in my bag.  An army of elephants couldn't move me now.

Friday, July 27, 2001

day 76, 501 S, PA

Start:  Rausch Gap Shelter
End:  501 Shelter
Miles:  17.4 today, 1173.7 total

A nice lazy morning.  After everyone else had left, I was still slowly breaking camp, and the shelter overseer comes up from behind the shelter huffing and puffing.  He had just carried a crate of building materials about a quarter of a mile.  See, the floor of the Rausch Gap Shelter was in the process of being renovated.  No actual work had been done yet, but there were some boards and plywood stacked up in the shelter.  In fact, yesterday during my hike I came across a sign saying the floor was being renovated between mid-July and mid-August, thus making it unusable.  So last night I thought I'd have to camp, but when I got to the shelter, no work had been done, and everyone else had already setup their sleeping bags inside.  So I slept in the shelter, too.

Anyway, since I knew it was going to be an easy day and I could afford to kill some time, I offered to help out however possible.  He took me up on it.  He made it sound like he'd need me for about an hour, which was fine with me, but I really only worked for maybe 10 minutes.  All I did was carry a shovel, mattock, level, and crowbar about a quarter of a mile.  Woohoo!  He thanked me for my services and I went on my way.  His name was Dave Crosby of the BMECC.

Thursday, July 26, 2001

day 75, Rausch Gap S, PA

Start:  Clarks Ferry Shelter
End:  Rausch Gap Shelter
Miles:  24.3 today, 1156.3 total

It's been a long while since the weather's been like this: foggy, misty, rainy.  It was a welcome change.  The temperature dropped to a really comfortable level and the ground was softer.  It was a really relaxed hike for at least the first 12 miles or so, because of the different weather.  It felt like the world was taking a day off.  No pressure to do the big miles, though I ended up doing 24 to get back on schedule after yesterdays' comatose 4.5 miles.

Yahtzee, Beerstyck, and Yahtzee's mom left some Trail Magic at the intersection with Route 225.  I grabbed an apple and moved on.  I tried to write a thank you note on the cooler, but it was wet from the rain and my pen wasn't working.  I thanked them in the register at the Peters Mountain Shelter.

Some new thru-hiker faces tonight.  Camping a few tenths back are Indian Summer (woman) and The Amazing Dolphin Boy.  I think they're a couple.  Here at the shelter we've got Freebird (male, seems pretty nice), Virginia G-man (older guy), and Bob (not sure if he's a thru-hiker).  Spongebob made it here from Clarks Ferry Shelter about half an hour before I did.  I was the last one here.  Gonna be an easy 17.4 miles tomorrow.  No need to set the alarm.

Wednesday, July 25, 2001

day 74, Clarks Ferry S, PA

Start:  Duncannon, PA (The Doyle)
End:  Clarks Ferry Shelter
Miles:  4.5 today, 1132 total

I spent most of this morning figuring out what to do about the Port Clinton mail drop I've got coming.  I didn't realize during my planning that I'd arrive at Port Clinton on a Saturday, and we're talking Saturday evening.  Some of the options I had in my head were to hike fast and get to Port Clinton before the P.O. closed at 11am Saturday, or hike my planned schedule and get a shuttle from the 501 Shelter at Pine Grove to Port Clinton, pick up my package, then shuttle back to Pine Grove to hike (possibly slack), OR have Port Clinton forward the package to, say, the Delaware Water Gap.  I tried calling around to see about shuttles but people were either not at home or... not at home (at work).  So I did Option #3: mail forwarding.  I had the Duncannon P.O. mail a forwarding slip to Port Clinton.  That should get there probably tomorrow.  Then, when the package gets to Port Clinton, it should take about 2 days to get to the Delaware Water Gap, so right on schedule.  I plan on getting some hiker food in Port Clinton from a supermarket or something.

Also got some laundry done, checked email (7 messages, all junk mail, ads, etc), and ate breakfast and lunch at restaurants.  I finally got out of town at like 4:15pm.  I planned on doing 11 to Peters Mtn. Shelter, but when I got water here, it started to rain.  It was also around 6:30pm and I still had 6.8 miles.  So I sleep here!

Tuesday, July 24, 2001

day 73, Duncannon, PA (Doyle)

Start:  Yellow Breeches Creek (campsite)
End:  Duncannon, PA (The Doyle)
Miles:  26.0 today, 1127.5 total

Continuing yesterday's discussion:  I often feel pressure to keep on schedule, get to the shelter before it's too late, etc.  I'd imagine that's standard fare for many thru-hikers.  It's just more intense with me since I started so late.  Man, if I had another half month to play with, that would be so great.  Imagine, 15 zero days to allocate.  Or I could take that time to make the days shorter, less miles.  Or a combination of both.  So I've decided that when I get to, say, Bennington, VT, I'll reset my completion goal from Sept 30 to Oct 7 or so.  Then I can spread that time out however I desire.  But that's if I'm on schedule.  So, in summary, I'm thinking of slowing down near the end to increase the enjoyment / peace-of-mind factor.

As noted above, it was a long day.  The first half was quite different, though.  Pretty flat, a lot of fields and road crossings.  We were basically heading from one ridge, across a wide valley to another ridge, then over the other side to Duncannon.  Spent the day leap-frogging with Groovy.

Pulled into the Doyle Hotel after 8pm.  Restless and Nathan were there.  The front door opens to a bar with lots of locals singing along to Frank Sinatra, among other music.  No A/C in my room, no screen on the window, single bare light bulb w/ cobwebs as decoration.

Monday, July 23, 2001

day 72, Yellow Breeches Creek c, PA

Start:  Pine Grove Furnace State Park (campsite)
End:  Yellow Breeches Creek (campsite)
Miles:  19.1 today, 1101.5 total

Ready to take the first bite!

Done!  Alleged half gallon record breaker, Grasshopper, on the left.

hehehe... I am now a member of the Half Gallon Club!  I downed a carton of cookie dough in 40 minutes, 37 seconds.  I kind of surprised myself, actually.  I mean, a half gallon is A LOT of ice cream!  Grasshopper, Mike, Dusty, and Skipper witnessed the event.  I had them take pictures of me at successive levels of consumption.  There's the "before" shot, the "halfway done, starting to get full" shot, and then the "last bite, look ok but feel like crap" shot.  After a couple hours of digestion I began hobbling down the trail.

I think we go right.

About a mile into the hike, still inside the park, I came across the "official" halfway point marker.  It's really not the halfway point because it reads "1069 miles to GA, 1069 miles to ME".  Halfway now is more like 1083.5 or so (though Dusty said the trail is actually 20 miles longer this year because of so many relocations, which messes all of my calculations up, so we'll just forget about that).

Near the end of the day's hike.  Lovin' it.

While getting water at a creek, I was sitting on a rock drinking a quart and I had a revelation.  Perhaps the reason I feel unhappy at times is because I'm going too fast.  I mean, I'm doing this thing in 4.5 months!  I've decided to slow down near the end if I can afford to.  I'll discuss more later.

Sunday, July 22, 2001

day 71, PGF State Park c, PA

Start:  US 30 (Jim & Julie's)
End:  Pine Grove Furnace State Park (campsite)
Miles:  20 today, 1082.4 total

Big news for the day.  First of all, I'm halfway to Katahdin!  This here park marks the true halfway point.  I pulled in here too late to eat the half gallon today.  Arrived at like 7:30pm and the store closed at 7.  So guess what that means... a half gallon of cookie dough for breakfast tomorrow!  And then a 19-mile hike!  Vomit city!  Just as long as I get my spoon.  Speaking of which, I saw the spoons and they're those little tongue depressor things you use with Dixie Cups.  Grasshopper showed me his... which he got when he BROKE THE ALL-TIME RECORD!  He did it earlier today (when I was still hiking):  nine minutes and eighteen seconds.  His flavor: cherry jubilee.  Pretty amazing, eh?  All I'm looking to do is finish, like a fat man in a marathon.

The other big news is that Skipper, of Skipper and Dusty, isn't Laura.  It's a man!  And Dusty's not a guy, she's Skipper's wife!  So there's two Skippers (that I know of) on the trail.  I'll have to let Laura know.  So I guess that means she's either behind me, or up in Connecticut.  In addition to Skipper & Dusty, I met Jordan, Tekman, Mike, Groovy, and some other guy (forgot his name).  Groovy is a woman.  Time for bed, there's ice cream to be had tomorrow.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

day 70, US 30, PA (J & J's)

Start:  Devils Racecourse Shelter
End:  US 30 (Jim & Julie's)
Miles:  22.8 today, 1062.4 total

Welcome to PA!  Woohoo!  But first...

Headin' into Yankee territory...

I got to Pen-Mar Park (get it?  PENnsylvania-MARyland!) around 10am, called home, left a message, ate a cheeseburger, took advantage of the flushable toilets and free TP, and got out of there after 11.  Not too long after that I crossed the Mason-Dixon Line.  Took a picture of the sign.  heheh... that rhymes.  So then I hiked a long time until about 7:15pm, when I crossed US 30 and waited for the Pennington-mobile to show up.

Within 10 minutes I was whisked away to Grandma True's favorite ice cream hangout.  We ate our cones and sundaes and went back to Laurel Run to drop her off.  Unfortunately, her mental health has generally been deteriorating over the past few years (I believe she has Alzheimer's).  It seemed like 5 years ago she was fine, then she started to slip.  But despite all of this, I think she recognized me.  She had my Fontana Dam post-card on the wall.  Her heart is still doing fine.

My uncle Jim and aunt Julie were gracious enough to offer my family a night at their house in nearby Thurmont, MD.  This will be the last time I'll see the fam for awhile... likely until Katahdin.

Friday, July 20, 2001

day 69, Devils Racecourse S, MD

Start:  Rocky Run Shelter
End:  Devils Racecourse Shelter
Miles:  20.1 today, 1039.6 total

Talk about frustrating.  You walk 20 miles only to find that the shelter is full and you've got to setup camp in the dark.  Actually, that sounds bad, but the reality wasn't too terrible.  (My mind has truly gone to mush out in these woods.  Is that how you spell "terrible"?)  I'm starting to like sleeping in a tent.  It gets me away from the bugs.  That, in itself, is an amazingly comfortable feeling.  So I'm really just whining.

After a couple days of being in limbo, I've finally located some people.  Raver and Skipper are about 4 days ahead of me.  Ganj is a couple days ahead, but he was talking about quitting early, as in before the Delaware Water Gap.  Grasshopper and Numbfoot are also ahead of me.  I'm confident that I could catch pretty much any of them but Raver.  He and I are almost the same speed, but he's just a tad faster I think.  And, as far as I know, Big Toe and Q-tip are behind me, probably a day or two behind.

Had a whole bunch of trouble trying to call home with the cell phone tonight.  I was able to get through a couple times, but the connection was so bad that we got cut off.  I'll try again tomorrow morning.

Thursday, July 19, 2001

day 68, Rocky Run S, MD

Start:  Harpers Ferry, WV (home)
End:  Rocky Run Shelter
Miles:  16.1 today, 1019.5 total

The standard Polaroid that hikers get at the ATC headquarters.

During my two-day break, I checked my email and saw that Laura had sent me a message.  I haven't seen her since Damascus.  It would be nice to see her again.  However, she's saying that she wants to skip ahead to Connecticut and see some of New England before her money totally runs out.  And, by the way, she says that's her new name:  Skipper.  Can we guess why?  hehehe...  She said she wants to live in New York (presumably the city) after the trail.  I wrote her back asking when she'd make the move to the Big Apple.  Maybe I could swing by on my way back home.

It took me forever to get out of the house this morning.  We had planned to leave at like 7:30am, but thanks to me, we didn't leave until after 10am.  I tried setting up a computer for Rachel to take to college, but that fell through when I wanted to reinstall the OS, but didn't have a Windows 98 CD.  Anyway, we got to the ATC Headquarters, got my picture taken and archived, signed the register, etc.  Apparently, that rumor about Baxter State Park closing October 1st was just a rumor.  The ATC people kept with the usual October 15 deadline.  So that's good news.  Gives me a little more breathing room.

Wednesday, July 18, 2001

days 65 - 67, H. Ferry, WV (home)

Day 65, Monday, July 16
Start:  Bears Den Hostel
End:  Harpers Ferry, WV (home)
Miles:  19.7, 1003.4 total

Day 66, Tuesday, July 17:  ZERO DAY
Day 67, Wednesday, July 18:  ZERO DAY

Home sweet home.  It was a great feeling being back, feeling safe, free from responsibility for a couple days.  And then there was the concert!  G3 baby!  Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, and, the god of guitar, John Petrucci from Dream Theater.  And Mike Portnoy backed him up on drums.  So it was like getting to watch a Dream Theater concert and, oh, Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.  Arguably the best concert I will ever have the privilege of attending.  So yeah, it was awesome, and I bought a shirt.  I almost wanted to quit the trail and start a band again.  I know I want to do that when I get back, but I almost couldn't wait.

I blew over $200 buying supplies for the trial.  I went to Appalachian Outfitters and got another pair of boots, some spare laces, an Esbit stove and extra bricks, a polyester shirt to replace the heavy Nike basketball reversible one I use as a backup, a fleece bag liner (to use as a bag itself, weighs 1 lb, 14 oz, over 3 lbs lighter than my sleeping bag), some bigger gloves, etc.  I bought a whole bunch of trail food at Costco and Safeway.  A shopping bonanza!

Sunday, July 15, 2001

day 64, Bears Den Hostel, VA

Start:  Dicks Dome Shelter
End:  Bears Den Hostel
Miles:  18.9 today, 983.7 total

Trail Magic near the Route 50 crossing.
Notice the thank-you notes left on the styrofoam cooler tops.

Trail Magic!  It's been really great since we left the SNP.  Back at the 522 crossing there were the Goldfish, and then a double dose today.  The first was at Ashby Gap, the Route 50 crossing.  I took some pictures of this one.  Two coolers filled with sodas and then sitting on top was a small bag of bananas.  The coolers must've just been filled, too, because the ice was nice 'n fresh, really cold sodas.  So I stopped for a good 20 minutes.  Had 2 bananas and 2 sodas.  It was a blast.  Then, later today, crossing Va. 605 there was a cooler with some banana bread or some similar baked good in it.  At the time I was pretty full, as I had just recently taken a food break.  But oh boy!

This hostel tonight is fabulous.  It's an old stone house with a big stone wall around the property.  I'm saving $6 tenting outside.  Had some Phish Food Ben & Jerry's after setting up the tent.  Called home to check in and arrange tomorrow's meeting.  Took a shower (yeah!) and my clothes are in the dryer now.  I'll grab 'em when I get up.

Along with some unknown people, Ganj and Grasshopper are here.  Haven't seen Ganj since Erwin, so we had some catching up to do.  I hope to see him before he's off in NJ, after my break.

Saturday, July 14, 2001

day 63, Dicks Dome S, VA

Start:  Tom Floyd Wayside
End:  Dicks Dome Shelter
Miles:  18 today, 964.8 total

Talk about yer late starts!  Got up at 7:47am.  Atropine, a section hiker and only other hiker at the shelter, got up and left before 7.  So I woke up and no one was there.  I had purposefully (is that a word?) decided to not set my alarm since I knew today would be a short day.  Ha!  18 miles - a short day... whoda thought.  And then, when I was leaving camp at 11am, Afterthought and Dragonfly were stopping for a break at Tom Floyd!  They had already hiked 6 or 7 miles from Gravel Spring Hut.  After hiking over 50 miles in the past two days I think I deserved a relaxed wake-up.

Hiked the rest of the day.  Since it was a Saturday, there were a lot of weekenders out on the trail.  Had some trail magic right before crossing Va. 522.  Someone had left about 5 or 6 gallons of bottled water, a bag of potato chips, some snack-size bags of Goldfish, and a quart of Gatorade.  I drank the Gatorade and had a couple bags of Goldfish.  Before moving on, I read a letter in a Ziploc bag stapled to a post from a would-be thru-hiker who had been struck by lightning up on Mary's Rock (just before Thornton Gap in SNP) and was quitting the trail to be with his family.  The letter was dated June 23.  He's lucky to be alive.

Friday, July 13, 2001

day 62, Tom Floyd W, VA

Start:  Pass Mountain Hut
End:  Tom Floyd Wayside
Miles:  23.6 today, 946.8 total

I'm having a dilemma with the radio situation.  I've found that I really only want to listen to music when I'm hiking, but the problem is that I pick up like 5 different radio stations at one frequency.  If I stop, I'm fine, I can get the one station I want coming in really clear.  But as soon as I start moving again, it'll switch from Led Zeppelin to Barry Manilow.  Sometimes I hear more static than music.

Now, I have been lucky at times.  There have been a couple times when the station I want to hear actually comes in fine for at least 10 minutes.  But anyway.

I've thought of alternatives like using my Discman or buying an MP3 player.  The problem with using the Discman is that I've got to carry all the CDs I want, and it weighs more than the radio.  Not to mention that Mom would be sad that she couldn't listen to Ottmar Liebert when sitting at her lightbox!  And the MP3 player would cost money and probably weigh more, as well.  However, with either one, I get to hear what I want, and it never switches to Barry Manilow.  What a dilemma.

Thursday, July 12, 2001

day 61, Pass Mountain H, VA

Start:  Bearfence Mountain Hut
End:  Pass Mountain Hut
Miles:  26.8 today, 923.2 total

Honestly, not much to say today.  Journal writing is always (well, not ALWAYS) one of the toughest things to do because it always comes at the end of the day.  In theory, it's the last thing I do before bed.  Who wants to write when the only thing you want to do at that very moment is sleep??  Not me.  But, it's even worse when you put off writing for a day or five.  Catching up is even harder.

And really, unless something wacky happens, like the goat that I threw into a bush after he tried to steal a day's worth of food from my pack, there's pretty much nothing new to report.

More than likely, I've done this just about every day (but zero days and pre/post town days):

     1. Got up between 6-7am, broke camp 8-9am.
     2. Hiked all day w/ periodic breaks.
     3. Arrived in camp 7-8pm, got to sleep 10-11pm.

Today, for example, I got up at 6am, broke camp at 8am, hiked ALL DAY until 8:45pm, about ready to sleep at 11pm.  The only thing out of the ordinary is the new "with pack" record of 26.8, just shy of the 27ish slackpack record.  Anyway, I'm doing well, journals are just getting to be monotonous.

Wednesday, July 11, 2001

day 60, Bearfence Mountain H, VA

Start:  Swift Run Gap (Sunchase Apts, Harrisonburg)
End:  Bearfence Mountain Hut
Miles:  9.0 today, 896.4 total

Wow!  A whopping 9 miles!  Break out the moleskin.  I'll need it for this blistering pace!  Haha...  Actually, 9 miles isn't that bad considering I started at 4:30pm.  I spent the earlier 2/3 of the day trying to get out of Harrisonburg.  Megan drove me around a lot, for which I am very grateful.  I went back and forth between the two Harrisonburg  post offices trying to find my mail drop package.  On the third try we finally got it.  Picked up a new watch for only $5 that could do everything Bob's watch could do, and more.  It was a pretty good deal.  But then, whaddaya know, we find Bob's watch!  It must've been under a car when Joe and I were looking for it.  So I gave my new watch to Megan and kept Bob's watch for myself.  It's good to have it back again.

We got some lunch from Wendy's, and I ate the biggest gut grenade of a burger.  It was a triple cheeseburger, 3/4 of a pound of meat on it.  When I started hiking, my heart had to do a few warm-up laps to clean out the grease in my arteries.  Good meal.

There's a chance I might do 26.8 miles tomorrow.  I may just be senile.

Tuesday, July 10, 2001

day 59, Swift Run Gap, VA (H-burg)

Start:  Pinefield Hut
End:  Swift Run Gap (Sunchase Apts, Harrisonburg)
Miles:  11.6 today, 887.4 total

Ok folks, I'm going to lay this thing to rest.  For the longest time I had a 5-day gap in my journal entries.  This one marks the LAST of those 5, and I'm writing it on August 19.  So, over a month late, but I remember July 10 like it was yesterday...

I remember feeling really fatigued all day.  Mild cold-like symptoms.  I was scared I had Lyme disease (even now, in Massachusetts, I'm scared I've got it, just in remission).  My appetite dropped, didn't really want to eat because it was a chore getting anything in my belly.  I never threw up, which was good.  However. this "24-hour" bug caused me to drop at least 5 more pounds when it had run its course.  Fortunately, I gained the weight back later.

Megan and I finished the day around 4-something pm.  She had accomplished her goal of finishing PATC Map #11.  We called her roommate Ujala to come pick us up, and then waited for her, lounging in the grass just outside the park's Swift Run Gap entrance station.  Eventually a small car pulls up with 3 girls inside.  So we cram in two sweaty hikers and head back to their place, with all the girls singing along to the Dixie Chicks.  I took a shower, ate a great spaghetti dinner, checked email, and took a nap at Megan's.  Eventually, she dropped me off back at Sunchase.

It was fun spending these few days with Megan, and I'm thankful for all of the shuttling and hospitality she and her friends provided.  Looking forward to finishing up the SNP over the next few days.

Monday, July 9, 2001

day 58, Pinefield H, VA

Start:  Riprap Overlook campsite
End:  Pinefield Hut
Miles:  18.2 today, 875.8 total

Made some pretty nice miles, eh?  Granted, we had to hike ALL DAY, Megan's probably dead, and I'm starting to catch a cold I think.  Megan is still amazed that all you do is hike.  We made up a little motto: "Just keep on hiking!"  I'm starting to learn that if you think of hiking as your friend, rather than as a chore or as work, your breaks aren't as long and you can get the day's miles finished sooner.

We went over a lot of the same terrain that Dave and I covered back in the warm-up days.  I remember that pivotal day when Dave had to turn back and head to the car, and I hiked on alone.  Hope he gets a chance to give the trail another go sometime, I think he'd really enjoy it.  I remember some of those hills, like up on Loft Mountain and just beyond, as being pretty hard.  But now, with close to 900 miles under my belt, those hills were like butta'.  And now, staying at Pinefield Hut, the same place Dave and I stayed that night back in February (same "pivotal" day) is pretty neat.  Looks a little different now with leaves on all the trees.  I remember I saw my first black bear on that pivotal day, too.

Tonight there was supposedly a copperhead on the trail from the shelter to the campsites up on the hill.  I really only know rattlesnakes because they make an obvious noise.  Any other snake, and I just hope it's not poisonous.  I'm a pseudo-woodsman.

Sunday, July 8, 2001

day 57, Riprap Overlook c, VA

Start:  Rockfish Gap (Sunchase Apts, Harrisonburg)
End:  Riprap Overlook campsite
Miles:  15 today, 857.6 total

A big thank you to Joe for driving Megan and myself to Rockfish Gap.  Leina'ala came along for the ride, too.  I mean, it's about 30-45 minutes one way, so possibly as much as 1.5 hours round-trip, which is quite a drive.  I slipped him some money right as he was about to drive off.

So then we started hiking... very slowly.  Megan, if you ever read this, please don't take offense.  Honestly, it's to be expected that a "first-timer" will hike slow.  And, though I knew all of this, I still got really frustrated.  I mean, it's the SNP!  I wanted to burn through there so badly.  But, despite the slow pace, we still made some good mileage for the day, actually, terrific mileage considering it was Megan's first day.  So I'll put a sock in it.

We decided that her trailname should be "Fallbird".  Mainly because she skydives, but also because I fell the first time this whole trip while hiking with her.  And not just once, either:  two times, both within a minute of each other.  So her presence must give me bad luck, hehe...

We were pretty certain that we weren't going to make it 20 miles to the shelter (Blackrock Hut?), so we ended up camping at a random spot (nice little site, though).  Ate dinner with a nosy deer nearby.  More miles to do tomorrow.

Saturday, July 7, 2001

day 56, Rockfish Gap, VA (H-burg)

Start:  Rockfish Gap (Sunchase Apts, Harrisonburg)
End:   Rockfish Gap (Sunchase Apts, Harrisonburg)
Miles:  0 today, 842.6 total

Man, I love zero days.  Oh, and again, like "yesterday" I'm writing this in the future, on a different zero day, actually, August 2nd at the Delaware Water Gap.  I'm here with Peter waiting on the lazy shuttle driver at the Pack Shack to pick us up at the Stroudsburg library.  But anyway, I digress...

I remember that I spent most of the morning-mid-afternoon running errands with Megan.  Really, she drove me around.  I ate breakfast with Big Toe, Q-tip, Q-tip's girlfriend, and Grasshopper at Shoneys.  Breakfast buffet!  I had at least 3 plates.  After breakfast I went with Megan to do our stuff while the rest of the gang did their thing.  Anyway, as usual, we were slow, so we decided to take the rest of the day off.  The others managed to get out around 5pm and do some hiking.

So then I went over and saw Joe, Leina'ala, Shannon, and Sean (her current boyfriend).  Hung out briefly but then ducked out to do more errands with Megan, and came back a little later.  Joe let me borrow his laptop from work, so I got to take full advantage of some great Ethernet.  Joe drove me over to 7-11 and we talked with Geoff a bit.  He came by around midnight after work and took me over to his place to crash.  Awesome day.

Friday, July 6, 2001

day 55, Rockfish Gap, VA (H-burg)

Start:  Reeds Gap (Rusty's Hard Time Hollow)
End:  Rockfish Gap (Sunchase Apts, Harrisonburg)
Miles:  19.4 today, 842.6 total

Rusty's.  L-to-R: Q-tip, unknown, Rusty, BVD, Big Toe, Grasshopper

Ok, here's the deal: I'm a slacker.  The date up there says July 6, but you know what today's date is?  July 30!  Yes, I have come from the future back in time to deliver my message.  The me now laughs at the me in the past.  hehe... Guess where I am now.  No, don't flip ahead, that's cheating.  I'm 3 days away from the Delaware Water Gap in PA!  HAHA!  Rockfish Gap, please...

L-to-R: Big Toe, BVD, Q-tip.  The date in the lower right corner says 7/5,
but I'm skeptical.

So I'll do my best to recall the events that took place on July 6.  That was the day I slacked to Rockfish Gap with Q-tip.  Big Toe and Grasshopper started from Reeds Gap rather than the fire road (Big Toe skipped the 1.6 miles from Maupin Field Shelter - Reeds Gap, the cheater).  We left our packs in the woods by the fire road and picked them up at the end of the day using Q-tip's girlfriend's minivan.  And those free-loaders at Rusty's put rocks in my pack!  I didn't find out until I was back at Sunchase.  Overall, aside from the rocks, the Rusty's experience didn't sit well with me.  Though he did make us some fine pancakes, he ranted about Waynesboro, DuPont, and police.  I wonder how many times he's been arrested.  I bought a shirt but now I wish I hadn't.  I invited Big Toe, Q-tip, Q-tip's GF, and Grasshopper to stay at Sunchase, and they accepted the offer.  And, as long as they took showers, I let them sleep in the beds.  Grasshopper didn't, so he slept on the floor.  That was a great night, I was really excited.

[ post-hike note:  "Sunchase" is/was an apartment complex in Harrisonburg, VA.  I had been renting there with 3 other roommates while taking my last year of classes at James Madison University.  The lease was still valid in July, and my roommates and I had all moved our stuff out {the beds at this point were sans sheets, etc}, so I tried to take advantage of the apartment's amenities while in the vicinity of Harrisonburg on the trail. ]

Thursday, July 5, 2001

day 54, Reeds Gap, VA (Rusty's)

Start:  The Priest Shelter
End:  Reeds Gap (Rusty's Hard Time Hollow)
Miles:  15.3 today, 832.2 total

I can tell that I'm starting to get this hiking thing down.  All the routines.  The wake-up, pre-hike routine, the end-of-the-day post-hike routine, pumping water, using the stove.  And hiking seems to be easier, too.  My blisters have calmed down, at least for the time being.  So, in general, it's getting easier.  The only downside is that I'm not always sure whether someone will be at the next shelter.

It was awesome - today I got up after 6:30am, but I took my time getting out of camp.  Sometime around 10, Big Toe and Q-tip came rolling in off the trail.  They'd already hiked the X number of miles from Seely Woodworth to The Priest.  And I hadn't done squat!  And then later Grasshopper strolls in on a slackpacking jaunt.  Turns out we're all headed to Rusty's.  So then, finally, we start hiking.

The directions to Rusty's say to turn left onto the fire road right after the Maupin Field Shelter.  Somehow Grasshopper missed the turn and walked all the way to Reeds Gap.  Anyway, we all eventually got to Rusty's one way or another.  What a different place!  I'm not sure whether I like it yet.  We'll see how the sleep goes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2001

day 53, The Priest S, VA

Start:  Brown Mountain Creek Shelter
End:  The Priest Shelter
Miles:  22.7 today, 807.9 total

Broke 800 today!  I'm really getting up there now.  Lately I've been thinking a lot about what Harpers Ferry will be like, and what it'll be like after that.  There's a lot of activity happening soon.  Megan wants to hike, there's the G3 concert, going home for a day or so, hitting Harpers Ferry and eventually the real half-way point, staying at Uncle Jim & Aunt Julie's, etc.  I'm wondering what will happen once I've passed all of that stuff.  I'm sure there will be things to look forward to (ie: towns), just not friends or family.

Good hike today.  I got up at 6am, left camp at 8am, got to the Seely-Woodworth Shelter (15-ish miles) at around 3:45pm.  I then took about a two hour break before heading out again to do the last 7 miles to The Priest Shelter.  I got to The Priest Shelter around 8:20pm.  People here tonight:  Johnny Six String and a ridge runner.  First time I've met Johnny Six String.  He's got a small steel string guitar that he carries, pretty religious guy, seems kind of poor.  He let me play awhile, that was fun.  The three of us went up to the overlook to watch whatever fireworks we could see.  There was one display that was relatively close.  Nice and peaceful up there.

Tuesday, July 3, 2001

day 52, Brown Mtn Creek S, VA

Start:  Johns Hollow Shelter
End:  Brown Mountain Creek Shelter
Miles:  17.6 today, 785.2 total

Ok, I want to talk a little about Trail Magic.  Well, first of all, I'm writing this at Rusty's, just after midnight, the morning of July 6.  But anyway... Trail Magic.

Trail Magic happens when unexpected fortune befalls (is that a word?) a hiker.  Usually this fortune takes its physical form through the medium of sodas, candy bars, or beer.  These goodies are most always delivered by Trail Angels.  A Trail Angel can be pretty much anyone who gives valuable trail commodities to hiker(s), expecting nothing in return.  Usually a Trail Angel is not a current hiker, though that IS quite possible.  Often Trail Angels hiked all or part of the AT in the past, or consider hiking a hobby.

I bring up Trail Magic now because it has been happening a lot lately.  It seems like since we left, say, Pearisburg, there have been many instances of Trail Magic.  And, up until a couple days ago (actually, July 4th), I wasn't getting any of this magic.  D-Con, Beer Stick, Yahtzee, Big Toe, Q-tip, Grasshopper, Raver... on and on... they all got sizeable doses of Trail Magic.  Sodas, cookies, beer, pistachios, etc.  Well, that changed for me on the 4th when Grasshopper gave me enough food to get me to Rockfish Gap happily (thanks, dude!).  Ramen isn't as fun as cookies, though.

Monday, July 2, 2001

day 51, Johns Hollow S, VA

Start:  Cornelius Creek Shelter
End:  Johns Hollow Shelter
Miles:  21.5 today, 767.6 total

You know, it's weird.  There was absolutely nothing spectacular about today.  Yet, it was a perfect day.  I was originally planning on staying at Matts Creek Shelter, but the hiking went so well that I got there at around 5:30pm, and I had already done 17.7 miles.  I decided to break from my plan and continue on.  And I'm glad I did.  Now, if I REALLY wanted to, I could do a whole bunch of mid-20 milers, skip Rusty's Hard Time Hollow, and perhaps get to Swift Run Gap a day sooner.  Or I could go back to the old plan, and just use the extra miles today as insurance for the days ahead.

According to Yahtzee yesterday, Laura is still on the trail.  I really can't see her staying on too much longer, simply because she has no money.  Nonetheless, it would really be cool to see her again.  I'll have to email her to see where she is, etc.

And speaking of Yahtzee, he's a different breed of hiker.  First of all, he's pretty experienced.  He's section-hiked a lot of the AT before.  But the abnormalities are that he hikes in Tevas (sandals).  Not only that, but he hikes really fast, at least a constant 3 mph.  I wonder what his secret is.

Sunday, July 1, 2001

day 50, Cornelius Creek S, VA

Start:  Bearwallow Gap (Flattop, WV)
End:  Cornelius Creek Shelter
Miles:  15.1 today, 746.1 total

It was sad saying goodbye to the family today, but I had to get moving on.  I didn't actually start hiking until 1pm or so, and I had about 15 miles to go!  All the food I had, along with the break from hiking over the weekend must've done some good.  When I pulled into the shelter, I didn't feel too tired and my feet felt fine.  I met Yahtzee for the first time.  He's been ahead of me the whole time by at least two or three days.  He, D-Con, and Beer Stick (formerly Dan) took 3 or 4 zero days at the Troutville interchange apparently, so even though I took a day off, I was easily able to catch up to them.

Tonight I witnessed, first-hand, D-Con in action.  He laid out two mousetraps baited with peanut butter by his feet along the wall.  We all went to sleep... an hour or so goes by... then "Click!".  When a mouse would fall victim to a trap, D-Con would take the trap out front and remove the mouse from it, making sure it was dead first.  One episode involved using a sizeable rock to put one mouse to rest.  He would put the mice on display for all to see, and to let the other mice know not to return.  The, he would reset the empty trap and go back to bed.  There were 3 casualties tonight (I'm writing this July 5).