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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Hiking: Updates from Storm's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike (6/916 thru 6/27/16)


Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Storm (Moe) is making his way north through Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. He's now over 900 miles into his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Here's a look back at his last several days of hiking in his own words:

June 9, 2016
Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of Al Cratty. His son Kirk and I went to college together. Al loved the AT. He wanted to Thru hike it someday and walked most of the Maine section. He was a trail angel to thru hikers in Maine. He never was able to thru hike before his death due to cancer. His son Kirk asked me when he found out I was going to thru hike if I could do him a favor. His dad carved s walking stick from wood he found on the trail in Maine. He used this walking stick on all of his hikes. Kirk asked me if he overnighted the walking stick would I be willing to bring it to Georgia and leave it on Springer Mountain in hopes people use it and walk it from shelter to shelter. I said sure and when I received the walking stick I said to myself I can't just leave this on the summit. So it's been with me for over 700 miles and is called Smitty. Today we woke up at 4am so we could watch the sunrise at Mcaffe Knob. I found it ironic that on the anniversary of Al's death I would be at the most photographed spot on the AT. We got up packed up in the dark and got on trail at 4:30. The climb up to Mcaffe knob was not nearly as steep as the book showed. We arrived at 5:30 and took some fantastic pictures of the sky and of ourselves. I actually sat on the edge and got a photo of my legs hanging off the edge. The sunrise was spectacular. We continued on heading down the knob to the Cambell Shelter to fill up on water and have breakfast. After we ate we continued on following the ridge line which would take us to Tinker Cliffs which were about a three mile walk. The climb right before the cliffs was steep and Ompi and I took our time. The morning fire by though as we were deep in conversation while we were walking. The cliffs were amazing views that looked back toward Mcaffe knob. Ompi received a text from free fall that my water bottle was at 4 pines hostel. Spam and Sniper had found it on trail and recognized it as mine because of the Catskill Center stickers and the trail conference stickers. They were staying at 4 pines hostel but were getting off trail for a wedding. Free fall knew I was hiking with Ompi and texted to find out where I was. He was getting a shuttle to the outfitter here in Daleville and we asked if he could bring my water bottle and leave it at the checkout and I would pick it up later. He said no problem. Yay my water bottle lives on. After Tinker Cliffs we had about 8 miles to go before hitting town. The trail followed the ridge line with a bunch of small ups and downs. It started to get hot but it was nice after the cool weather we have been having. We stopped a few times for snack and to eat a quick lunch. We were originally going to camp in Troutville as the town park lets you camp on the edge of the park and there is free showers and laundry at the fire station. Ompi texted the Royal couple to see if they wanted to split a room at the Howard Johnson. They were in and it was exciting to think of a bed, food, shower and the Royal couple. We continued to push on and started our descent down into Dakeville. We met tank along the way as well as lightning. They both watched the sunrise from Mcaffe Knob this morning. The trail takes you through wooded flatlands and you can hear the traffic suddenly you plop out of the woods into the chaos of the real world. It was almost disorienting at first. Semi trucks whizzing by, horns honking, road construction in the distance. Noise, noise, noise. The Howard Johnson was immediately to our right when we popped out of the woods. We found the Royal couple and were very excited to catch back up with them. Ompi and I showered, threw our clothes in the laundry and sat by the pool while the laundry was running. We got into town at about 2:45. When the laundry was finished we headed over to the flying mouse brewery and had a beer. The motel has a BBQ spot so after the brewery we stopped at Krugers and bought stuff to grill. We had hot dogs, steak, burgers, corn on the cob, sausage, chips, cold drinks. I ran into the outfitter to see if my water bottle was there. The guy working behind the counter was like I know nothing. He didn't really look or go out back so I'm not sure. We texted free fall to check to see I he made it to rush and dropped off the water bottle. We got back to the motel and grilled up a storm. Good times. By 9:30 everyone was ready for bed and we quickly passed out. Hadn't heard from free fall yet by the time we fell asleep so I will swing by the store again in the morning.

June 10, 2016
Woke up in the motel at around 6:30. When you split a room with 4 people it's super cheap. Ompi was already up and had left the room to work on his blog. The Royal couple and myself got up showered, dressed and headed to the free continental breakfast. We gorged ourselves on bagels, waffles, cereal, eggs, doughnuts and muffins. Plus plenty of juice and coffee. After breakfast we headed back to the room to pack up. I ran down to the grocery store to do a small resupply. I also stopped in at the outfitter to ask again about my Nalgeen. The staff ran around looking out back, under the desk. I looked in the hiker box on the off chance that it may have been tossed in there. No luck. The staff hadn't seen it. I'm not 100% sure even if Free fall brought it to the outfitter or he got a shuttle to a different outfitter and it's somewhere else. A bunch of us texted him yet have not heard back. I walked back to the motel and we all packed up. We left the motel at 10:30 and we're back on the trail after crossing route 11. We walked the 1.5 miles to the next road and stopped so I could go pick up my package and Slosh could go mail home their winter gear. Ompi and Scavenger stayed with the packs. It is about 40 minutes to walk the .70 mile to the post office and back. We continued on the trail. We had a pretty good size climb coming out of Daleville and Troutville. Coming out of town always sucks as your pack is heavy and the climb is steep. We had 3 miles to go to get to Fullhardt Knob Shelter where we were going to stop and have lunch. It was nice to hike with a group. This was my first time in 700 miles I hiked with a group. We didn't stay completely together but were close. We had lunch and continued on. The climb went downhill for awhile and we stopped for water at the creek at the bottom of the climb. After our water break we had a real steep climb to the ridge and then back down the other side. The trail right now is going up the ridge and back down the other side. We did this 4 times on 4 different ridges. We finally arrived at Wilson Creek shelter at about 6:30. This was an early end to the day but on leaving town days it seems to make sense doing it this way. We set up camp and made dinner. We were all pretty exhausted and got ready for bed about 8:30. The plan is for me to shoot for 17 miles and there is a swimming hole and a campground. Ompi has a package waiting for him there. We may camp there or push on. The Royal couple may shoot for the same distance. As of 8:30 neither Ompi or myself have heard back from free fall about my water bottle. I hope he is ok as I find it weird no one has heard from him. It's lights out.

June 11, 2016
I woke up around 6:30 but decided to fall back asleep. I was beat and didn't hear anyone else in camp up yet. I got up not to much longer and we got on trail by 7:30. Scavenger and Slosh (the Royal couple) left first followed by Ompi then myself. We could tell it was going to be a hot day. We all hiked separately but kept leap frogging over one another. We walked about 5 miles following the side of the hill and came to mile 97 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was the first time we have crossed over the parkway on our journey. The trail at this point follows the Parkway for about 100 miles. Sometimes the trail is very close to the parkway and you can see it through the trees and sometimes you are further away near roads that lead to the parkway. We continued on another few miles and the trail lead to a parking area with a view. The most exciting thing about this parking area is it had a trash barrel. We cheered and started emptying out our trash. Some more Thru hikers came out to the parking area and cheered when they saw the trash barrel. You wouldn't think this would be a big deal but following leave no trace you carry out everything you carry in. This does not mean burn it in the fire pit. When you have gone several days you can acquire a bit of trash and it's nice when you can unload it. We continued on stopping at Bobblets Shelter to fill up on water. We had a stretch of 11 miles with no water. It was going to be hot so we needed to be cautious about water. We crisscrossed the Blue Ridge Parkway a few times. The RC was ahead of me on our last road crossing for the day. When I crossed the road and caught up to them on the trail by the road they were stopped. When I arrived I saw why they were stopped. Across the trail was a 3 foot long rattle snake. I have only seen a rattlesnake once and this was a small brown one. This snake was huge and very green in color. We stood and waited while it looked at us and went nowhere. Finally it rattled its tail and slowly moved off trail. We took pictures and video of it cause what else were we gonna do while standing there. We were finally able to move on and warned two section hikers going south bound to be wary. They were thankful and gave us Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for the warning. We walked on and crossed over VA 43 and the Blue Ridge Parkway was only
.20 miles east. The trail at this point banged a sharp uphill. Normally not to bad but in this case it was very hot and the trail was in the open sun and it was 1pm. I was first followed by the RC and the Ompi. When all four of us reached Cove Mt Shelter we looked pretty haggard and felt like we were gonna drop. It was a tough section and we were trying to conserve water as the shelter had no water and we still had 3 miles to go before water. At the shelter we saw Jessie's Girl again who was at the shelter we stayed at last night. She was having her lunch, which was what the rest of us were about to do. We had passed three woman day hiking with a collie and they arrived at the shelter. Come to find out one of the woman had hiked last summer from the West Virginia border to Katahdin and blew out her knee when she went back to leap frog and finish so she is now doing sections. Today her and two friends were doing a ten mile section. They stopped and has their lunch with one of the offering me a hard boiled egg. Oh boy what a treat. This reminds me that when Ompi and I were doing the marathon to catch the RC we were at Dragons Tooth and there was a group of day hikers there. They were talking to us about our hike and I told them a story how I was approaching a road crossing and a caravan pulled in and it looked like trail magic was being set up. I kinda got excited and as I got closer I realized it was just a hiker getting dropped off and they were pulling stuff out of the trunk to get the pack out. Then when I realized I was like oh (sad face). I then proceeded to tell them I never fully understood what hiker hunger was until about 4 weeks ago. One of the guys proceeded to go through his bag and come back and hand us home made teriyaki beef jerky. We were excited. Ompi leaned over and said good job on the Yogiing. I was like wow I did do my first real Yogiing. Yogiing is just like the cartoon yogi bear you see day hikers and or picnickers and you try and get something out of them by telling them how hungry you are or how hot it is. Some people take it to the extreme in my case I wasn't even trying and got something for my efforts. Ok back to today..... The ladies finished up their lunches and left. We were discussing the idea of splitting and staying at one of the cabins at the middle creek campground. Ompi had a resupply package to pick up there anyway she with the heat the cabin had AC. We inquired and they told us the cabin was 45 for 2 people. Each additional person was 25 dollars. Uhm that would be 95 dollars and 2 cabins would be 90. We got the feeling they didn't want to rent the cabins to thru hikers so we decided we would walk the remaining 3.2 miles to Jennings Creek and camp. There was a supposed swimming hole and Ompi could walk up and get his package. We finished up our lunches and pushed on. The day got hotter and the temperature was 94 in Buchanan with a heat index of 101 according to the weather App on my phone. Finally I could hear water in the distance and the trail dumped us out onto VA 614. I was the first to get there and crossed the street went down the small hill, dropped my pack, yanked off my shirt, pulled of my boots and basically dove into the water. The day bathers must of thought I was a mad man but I was hot and stunk. I looked up and saw Ompi crossing the bridge over to the parking area he looked down at me and laughed. That didn't take long he said. I came out of the water grabbed my things and headed over to the parking area where a thru hikers parents were doing trail magic. They missed their son and wanted to see him so they drove 5 hours down and are going to drive the 5 hours back tonight. They had cold drinks, hot dogs, burgers, watermelon, brownies. OMG it was heaven after the day we had. I gorged myself that I didn't even need to have dinner. We got to the trail magic at 5pm and it was perfect timing fit dinner. We thanked the couple profusely and walked from the parking area down a path to a bunch of campsites along the creek. We set up camp and I went with Ompi to the campground to pick up his package and I wanted to do a small resupply for lunches. We walked the 1.5 miles to the campground and without a pack it was a breeze. We picked up what we needed and one of the workers at the camp store offered to give us a ride back. We got back to camp and relaxed while Scavenger and Slosh had a lite dinner. When Ompi and I were walking to the campground we passed the couple doing trail magic who was packing up to leave. They said we have 4 hot dogs and a burger left that we are gonna trash if it doesn't get eaten. So Ompi and I could not let that happen. When we got back we were so full we couldn't eat a thing. We are all about to crash. Staring at us first thing in the morning is a climb from 951 feet here at the creek to 2054 feet in 1.6 miles. That's gonna be fun first light but I guess get it out of the way before it gets too hot. Tomorrow is going to be hotter than today but the saving grace is that we have plenty of water.


June 12, 2016
We all woke up around 6:15 this morning and packed up and ate our breakfast. We knew the day was going to be hot and we had big climbs. We started the day at 951 feet and we were going to end the day at 4200 feet. Now the climbs we had to do were not a steady up but a series of ups and downs. 7 to be exact with each time not having us drop as much as the prior. We started our first incline and that went to 2300 feet in 1.2 miles. We rested at the top and then made our descent to the shelter which was 5.5 miles from our starting point. We filtered water and had a snack and met Nemo who was doing a flip flop and now hiking south. She had done other sections before but was now hiking south to Hot Springs. We continued on and had our first section climb of Apple Orchard Mountain. It was a steep up and the day was getting warm. I took my time and stopped often. Ompi was ahead of me and the Royal couple was behind. We would ascend steeply and then descend, then ascend steeply then descend. We passed some day hikers who said watch out for several rattle snakes a mile ahead. I never saw them but was quite anxious for the next mile after the behemoth rattler I saw yesterday. About a mile before Cornelius Creek Shelter Ompi caught up to me and said Scavenger had an idea. Why don't we stop at the next shelter and eat lunch then take a 2.5 hour siesta while the heat of the day passes and then hike into the night. I was like its a genius idea and that is exactly what we did. Several other hikers followed suit after we arrived. Some moved on but some lounged waiting for the heat of the day to subside. We got up and packed by 3:30 and moved on. I left first and then Ompi and then the RC. I checked out Black Rock Overview which was a nice vista. I had cell reception at this point and got texts through from family letting me know about the shootings in Orlando Florida. It was horrible news to hear and I felt for the families of all those involved. I moved on and began the final big climb up. It wasn't as steep as the morning but it seemed to go on and on. Finally I created over the top of Apple Orchard Mountain through a field. In the distance you could see a FAA radar tower and the trail passed to the side of it and back down. The trail descended down through some rock scrambles and I arrived at the guillotine. The guillotine is a small passage between two rock outcrops, there is a large rock wedged between the two rock outcrops. It looks like a guillotine about ready to drop on you. In about 1/2 mile I crossed back over the Blue Ridge Parkway and Thunder Ridge Shelter suddenly appeared. We had seen signs that this shelter was closed due to bear issues. However at the shelter the signs we saw prior down the trail were not here. In the log the ridge runner said the shelter is now open and the issue had been taken care of. Ompi showed and we decided that it was time to set up camp. We only did 14 miles but with the steep climbs and the heat of the day it was good enough for us. The RC showed and cheered that the shelter was open as they were dead. We set up our tents and Ompi made a killer fire. Black gnats are out and a nuisance and the fire moved them away. Tomorrow I need to hitch a ride into town to collect my package at the post office or ask to have it sent forward. We will see what time it is when I get to that road crossing.

June 13, 2016
Woke up this morning and boy was it cold. We all were up at 5:45 am because it was so freaking cold. I would have to take a guess it was in the high 40's. We filtered water, ate breakfast and packed up while the wind howled. We were camped on thunder ridge which is close to 4000 feet. Normally in mid June it's not this cold but this morning we were bundled up. We pushed off about 6:30. Ompi leaving first, than Scavenger, then me and then Slosh. We planned to walk the 1.5 miles to the parking area where there were trash barrels. I passed scavenger and walked awhile and the 1.5 miles seemed to be taking forever. I caught up to Ompi and said any idea why this is taking so long. He got out the guidebook and we read .10 side trail to parking area with trash barrels. Oops we missed it. We treked on and another 3 miles I stopped at a gravel road with parking to call my credit card company. Apparently they sent me an email thinking there may have been fraudulent charges. Well there were cause that card was at home and I haven't used it since early March. It took awhile but the situation has been rectified. After being transferred 3 times and telling my story again and again and no I do not know my credit card number and no I do not know the security code I'm in Virginia and my card is in New York. Ompi and the RC passed me and all 3 heard me on the phone and knew it wasn't good. We went over highcock knob and descended down to an approved campsite where we filtered water and had a late breakfast snack. The next shelter was only 4 miles away and we all planned on stopping there for lunch. I pushed on before the rest as I had a package in Glascow, VA and wanted to try and get to route 501 in time to get into town before the post office closed. The trail so far was mostly downhill with only 2 modest climbs and then a third leaving the campsite. The last climb was following a side of the hill for most of the way with a small incline. You hardly noticed you were climbing as the trail was barely a pitch and went in a straight line along the side of the hill. I called the post office just to confirm that my package was there before I made the trek into town. After about 2 miles from the campsite the trail began its descent from 2600 feet to 865 feet at the James River. The trail descended steeply at points but the last 1.5 miles was the same pitch at an angle down the side of the hill with no switchbacks. It wasn't to terribly a steep pitch but the side hilling was not flat but at and angle and the trail went in a straight line. So the same steady repetitive motion started causing my legs to cramp up. Finally I could see Matts Creek shelter where I stopped for lunch. Lightning was at the shelter having his lunch and the last time we saw him was at the campground by Jennings Creek. He is a nice kid who hikes at a really fast pace, he doesn't always do big miles but he's hard to keep up with. We will probably see him again in Waynesboro. He moved on about 15 minutes after I arrived. About 30 minutes after I arrived Ompi showed and so did the RC. We had gone about 12 miles at this point and it was only 1:30. An older couple arrived at the shelter who were doing a section of the AT. They have been trying to do small sections every time they travel. They didn't stay too long and headed out back towards route 501. I took off about 1:45 in hopes of hiking the remaining 2.2 miles relatively quickly and then try and get into town. We agreed everyone was going to stop at the shelter on the other side of the river. This would only be another 1.7 miles after I got back to the trail from town. The post office office closes at 4:30 so that should give me 2 hours to get there. The walk from the shelter was nice and easy. The trail first followed Matts Creek to the James River and then the trail followed the Janes River. I arrived at the footbridge that takes you over the river and it is the longest foot bridge on the AT. Apparently in the past it was a thing to jump off the bridge into the river. There were signs posted everywhere do not do not jump off bridge. Many have died and it's illegal. I passed the coupe from the shelter a few yards before the bridge. Walked over the bridge and ended at a parking area adjacent to 501. To get to Glascow you head left on 501 and the road on that side has no shoulder and no place to pull off so I stood in front of the parking area trying to hitch a ride. The sun was hot and I as sweltering and must of looked pathetic because the couple from the shelter came over and said do you want a ride into town. Yes please I said!! Thank you! They dropped me off at the post office where I thanked them again and went in and grabbed my package from Chris Lovell from Massachusetts. I then headed to the dollar general to charge my phone and do a small resupply. Afterwards I was going to go to the pizza place and get a sub but apparently all restaurants in the town are closed on Mondays. Sigh!! I was all excited for FOOD!! I swung into the gas station to see if they had any hotdogs or whatnot. Nothing! I ended up with a bag of corn chips and ate the whole bag. On the plus that was a total of 1440 calories. I should be eating 6000 a day and that helped. With my phone fully charged I headed back on road and started hitching while walking. I only made it over the bridge when a man stopped and said you need a ride. I was like heck yea. He said you mind jumping in the back as I have too much stuff in the front. I was like for a ride I'll ride on the roof. A few minutes later he dropped me off at the parking area and I thanked him and got back on trail. The 1.7 miles to the shelter was steeper than the guidebook showed it and I arrived at the shelter at 6:15. The RC and Ompi where the only ones there and they had a fire going to control the black flies or knats that just seemed to come out within the last two days. While unpacking my bag I announced I had a surprise. I had bought and packed out a 6 pack of beer. Everyone cheered and we sat and made dinner. Everyone was sleepy and ready for bed at 8:15. We all were in our tents/hammock by 8:30. Tomorrow we have mostly big climbs up and an 18.8 mile day ahead of us.

June 14, 2016
I didn't wanna get up today. With the sound of the creek at the shelter and warm temps it was a comfortable night sleeping and I slept well. I finally pulled myself out of bed and filtered water and packed up my tent. I organized my food bag and figured out what I was doing for lunch. Ompi had gotten up and bit earlier and pushed off as I was eating breakfast. I got on trail at about 7:30 as the RC was finishing up their breakfast. This morning the first thing staring me in the face was a 2000 ft climb up to the summit of little rocky row and big rocky row both near 3000 feet in elevation. The climb was not terrible with a lot of switchbacks but for some reason I was sweating buckets. I reached the summit of little rocky row and took a break. There was a fantastic view of the James River looking south and you could see the foot bridge we had passed over yesterday. I took some pictures. I continued on and descended a little bit before climbing again. The next knob had a small viewpoint over looking the river again. I sat and rested and posted a few pictures and texted Jeff. I received a text from Otter. The wedding is over and was wonderful and he is coming back on trail from Ohio. He asked were I was and I told him right now not near a town but the next big town would be Waynesboro. After some back and forth I came up with a plan. Ompi and the RC are going to do a Nero tomorrow or what they like to call take it easy Wednesday. There is a hostel 8 miles away 1 mile from the gap we will be walking through. They are going to set up their tent and walk to the hostel to resupply and have lunch. Then on Thursday they will do around a 18 mile day and Friday do 12 miles and camp at a brewery. The brewery provides breakfast and some other nice things including a ride back to trail. Saturday they have a 15-18 mile day and then Sunday into Waynesboro where they will take a zero on Monday. My plan is to do big miles tomorrow. I will split from Ompi and the RC for a bit probably for about a week. I am pushing for 30 miles to the 4th shelter from where I am tonight. It will depend on weather, terrain and how my body feels. Then on Thursday I will have 23 miles to do to reach Waynesboro where Otter will pick me up in his rental car. We will stay in town and I would like to take a zero Friday so I can do laundry, relax etc. Saturday we get back on trail and with Otter being off trail for about three weeks we will do low miles until Ompi and the RC catch up and then continue north from there together. That is the current plan as it stands now. After this longer break of texting I continued on and descended for a bit then had another climb. I don't remember the name of this mountain or the one prior. I have a routine that every time I complete a page in the guidebook I rip out the competed page and burn it causing the guide book to get lighter and lighter. It's sort of another motivator to get to Maine. Normally I burn it after I write the journal entry in case I need to go back for reference. Tonight however I burned it before and now I can't look anything up ha ha. The climb up mountain number 3 was steady but not steep. I caught up to Ompi who was resting and his ankle was acting up on him. We both continued on and made it to the summit at about 11am. There were great views to the west and east. I took a break and sat on one of the concrete remnants of an old fire tower. There was a plaque remembering a child who got lost and made it 7 miles up the mountain in a snow storm and died frozen to death by the summit. After resting and drying out my sweaty clothes I continued on. The plan was to meet at the next shelter for lunch. I passed Ompi on the descent as he was resting his ankle and arrived at the shelter at about 11:45am. I took out my therma rest and laid it on the shelter floor. I was beat almost to the point of exhaustion. I'm not sure why as I slept great and have been eating as much as I can. Ompi showed and we chatted for a bit and I must have passed out. I slept for about 15 minutes and awoke with a start. I was like sorry Ompi for falling asleep on you while we were talking. He said no worries I checked out the water source and it's not the best the side stream will work well for a pump filter but not for my sawyer. I'm gonna continue on .40 miles more and fill up by the Blue Ridge Parkway and I might come back and rest here. I said ok and laid back down as I was so sleepy. I thought to myself I will wake up when the Royal couple gets to the shelter. Well the RC decided to push on and not stop at he shelter as it was .20 miles off the trail. I jumped up out of a sound sleep and was like what time is it? Where am I? I looked at my watch and it was nearly 2pm. Yikes!! I guess I needed to sleep. I wonder if the Royal couple are ahead or behind me as at this point I didn't know they had pushed ahead. I packed up after eating a quick lunch and descended down to the blue ridge parkway where they had a trash bin. Yay!!! I continued on with a series of 4 rises and descents were ahead of me. None of them very long but steep. On the third rise a military jet who must have been training zoomed overhead with a big boom. I thought a plane was crashing and dove into the bushes. It sounded like it was headed into the mountainside and scared the bejesus out of me. The trail then did a long 3 mile descent down to a gravel road and a small river. There was a suspension foot bridge with a yellow note attached at the end of the bridge that read Hornets nest under third post. Then someone else wrote yellow jackets nest mid way on bridge. Then finally someone else wrote fucking bees all over entire bridge do not bounce when walking over bridge. I was like oh boy this is gonna be fun. I started on the bridge and walked briskly and did not stop. Bees were flying about but I stayed ahead of them. Hikers are great about leaving signs that warm of dangers. Things like rattlesnake under rock at 12:30 June 11. So you don't end up sitting on rock or bees nest here. It's a good thing but sometimes it makes you paranoid for awhile because you are now looking for something that is no longer here. Better to be safe though and the heads up is well appreciated. After crossing the bridge I had a small climb and crossed the 800 mile mark. Holy crap 800 miles Wow! There was a small stick display the read 800 miles, spelled out with sticks. The trail then followed the side of a hill overlooking a lake. The trail side hiked for about 3 miles and all I wanted to do was jump in the lake but there was no easy way down to the lakes edge. I passed several lake houses and suddenly heard a telephone ringing in the middle of the woods. I looked around and no houses, cabins, cottages. I could see the lake but no buildings. All I could think of was the person had there phone rigged up to a loud speaker so they could hear it ringing when outside in the yard or on the lake. It was rather strange to be in a woods setting and hearing a house phone ring. I did think I was hallucinating for a few minutes. I was like am I really getting that delirious. I crossed over a fast flowing creek and refilled up on water. At this point I only had 2 miles to go following the creek called Brown Mountain Creek to the shelter. I arrived at 6:15 with the RC and Ompi being there about 30 minutes prior. They met up and had lunch at the footbridge with the bees. They all said have a good nap you must have really zonked to not catch up to us. I set up my tent by the creek where the designated sites were and Ompi was nearby with the RC being in the pad one site over. I jumped in the creek and cleaned up. The water felt fantastic. We all made dinner together in a circle and chatted while we ate. I told them of my plans to run ahead and meet Otter and have him recondition himself while they catch up. They are happy we all will still be together. Slosh and I discussed the 4 state challenge. Hiking from the Virginia border to the Pennsylvania border in 24 hours. It's a thing some hikers try to do. It's 44 miles and you complete it in 24 hours. Mmmm I don't know it sounds like a challenge. Scavenger yells at us both in her British accent isn't fucking walking 2000 miles challenging enough? We laughed maybe she's right but it's something to think about and keep on back burner. Bedtime for us all now. Tomorrow is gonna be a big day and they are calling for thunderstorms.

June 15, 2016
Woke up at 5:30 to the sound of Brown Mountain Creek. It's so nice to sleep next to a creek while hiking as it always provides a great nights sleep. I got up and packed up and said goodbye to Ompi and the RC. They will probably catch up to Otter and I in about a week. I pushed off about 6:30 and had a 4 mile climb ahead of me up Bald Knob. It wasn't terribly difficult but it was a continuous up. I was pretty beat by the top and rested for a bit. I descended skipping over Cow Camp Shelter which was .6 miles off trail and pushing for 30 that was too far. The trail after this followed a ridge line with gradual ups and downs offering some nice views. It allowed for me to collect some miles fast. I stopped at Steeley Woodworth Shelter for lunch. After lunch there were some steep ascents and descents up and over Spy Rock and two more unnamed hills. I then began the climb up the priest. The trail followed an old road which made the climb not as difficult as it could be. I stopped at the Priest Shelter to filter water and to check the radar as there was a line of storms in west, West Virginia. The storms have gotten closer but the northern part had fallen apart so I pushed on. The summit of the priest was only .50 miles north and had a good view. It was hazy and mostly cloudy but I did get a good picture of the storm clouds. I then had a long 5 mile 3000 foot descent. The trail was rocky, steep and lose gravel. It was slow going and being at the end of the day between 22-27 miles I was careful not to trip. I made it to the Tye River suspension bridge at dusk about 7:45. I decided to push on as it was only 2.9 miles to Harper's Creek Shelter. It was 1000 foot climb to the shelter and it seemed to take forever. I arrived at the campsites for the shelter first and decided to set up there instead of looking to see if the shelter was empty. It was ten pm and I crawled in my tent and crashed. I did 30 miles today and that much closer to getting Chinese food.

June 16, 2016

Woke up later than normal today but when you do a 30 mile day the day before I guess your body needs rest. I had tented at the Harper's Creek approved tent pads. I got up and packed up and headed down to the shelter to filter water. There were three dads their with their kids doing 2 overnights in the woods hiking a section of the AT. There also was another thru hiker there. One of the dads had cooked and put in a zip loc bag about 2 pounds of bacon. Everyone had eaten already and he asked if we wanted some as he didn't want to pack it out. We were thrilled and said yes please. So myself and the other Thru hiker munched down on bacon. Yay trail magic. I filled up on water and got on trail at 8:30. The first climb of the day was three ridges mountain. The climb up was steady with several switchbacks which brought you to a ridge line and a rock ledge with a view. Then it continued up some more switchbacks to another ridge with a view of the chimney. The chimney is a rock outcrop that looks very much like a chimney. The trail than looped around the chimney and climbed steeply to what appeared to be the top. Nope it was a false summit with steep switchbacks to the real summit. That was mentally challenging and by the top I was practically on my hands and knees. What I seem to be running into is when I eat I have energy but that goes fairly quickly. It's hard to eat all the calories you need each day and to carry that much food that you need. So at times when climbing I just feel week and this was one of those moments. When at the true summit I collapsed in a heap and dug out my granola bar and ate it. Feeling energy coming back to me I began the descent down. In my guidebook it said that at the next shelter if you follow the old jeep trail for 1.2 miles and then the blue ridge for .50 it will take you to a hostel that has a deli and resupply items including cold beverages. I was sold and had been thinking about this since yesterday. It was 2.6 miles down to Maupin Shelter from the top of three ridges mountain. There was one cliff on the way down that offered fantastic views. I arrived at the shelter and refilled on water. I had a feeling today was going to be all about the water. Refill, refill, refill. The time was around 11:45. I found the jeep trail and followed it to the parkway and then walked the parkway for .50 to the Royal Oaks cabins and hostel. They had a country store on site with a deli. I ordered the biggest sand which you could get with two bags of chips and 4 drinks. 2 sodas and 2 gatorades. I sat and ate on the patio while my phone charged. I chatted with one of the workers or maybe the owner I'm not sure for about an hour. I headed back out and got back to my place I left the AT at around 2:45. I continued on and felt like I had much more energy than before. There was one small climb and the trail descended down to Reeds Gap. I saw Gaia there and another girl who were trying to hitch a ride to the Devils Backbone Brew Pub. They were at he intersection of the blue ridge and VA 664. They allow free tenting and do a 3 dollar breakfast in the morning with a ride back to the trail. I said enjoy the beer and continued on. The guidebook showed the next 6 miles to be relatively flat but what the guidebook didn't show was that it would be 6 miles following the side of the ridge in a boulder field. Ugh a hiker can never have an easy section. The trail passed cedar cliffs which gave excellent views to the west and of the looming thunderstorms. At this point I was thinking of shelter as I had 2 hours until they arrived. The next shelter was still 10 miles away and I had not seen many campsites. I pushed quickly to find a place to camp before the storms arrived. I didn't want to be walking in them. Severe thunderstorm warnings were preceding the line and I knew it was gonna be rough. I climbed steeply to a view point and just after it the trail looped around and went by a lower section of smaller trees with a flat area where people had obviously camped before. Perfect!!! I quickly set up the tent making sure the rain fly was on perfect and the stakes were in solid. I organized and walked up to the view point to see the angry sky. It was coming and had about 20 minutes. I got into the tent to hunker down and it hit. First the gust front and through and it must of been 50 mph winds. Then the rain came down in sheets. Thunder lightning and more wind. My tent held up and I didn't get flooded. Phew!! It was one of the most intense experiences of my life. I have never been in a thunderstorm in a tent, actually never been outside in a thunderstorm except for running to and fro from a car. Add in sitting in a wooded spot on top of a ridge and whoa!! I survived and ate a quick dinner and now bedtime. Due to my 3.4 side trip and being weak and tired from yesterday I do not have 5 miles to town but more like 14. Meeting Otter there tomorrow night. Oh My God there is all you can eat Chinese buffet in this town. I'm in!


June 17, 2016
Woke up to the sound of rain on the tent. Darn, it wasn't raining earlier when I was up. I thought packing up in the rain is going to be miserable. Oh well. There was a lull in the rain at about 7 and I had already packed up what was on the inside of the tent. I quickly jumped up and packed up the wet tent and the rest of my gear. I got on trail about 7:45 to fog and mist. There was only one more small climb to the true summit and then to smaller climbs down below but the majority of the morning would be downhill. The walking was slippery as it was all we rocks. I came across a section hiker who was going southbound and we talked about how crazy the storm was being near the summit. He had it worse than me as he was a bit higher up on the mountain. I went about three miles and it started to rain, well not it was more like it started to pour. I tried to stay focused on town, Chinese food, a nice bed and a shower. It was pretty unpleasant walking the remaining 9 miles. I had my rain pants and raincoat on but with that much rain and how heavy it was everything slowly became wet. This also included my boots which actually stayed dry until the last few miles. I stopped at the shelter right before town to dry off well to at least get out of the rain. There would be no drying off. I walked the remaining 4 miles and came out of the woods where The Parkway meets Skykine Drive and route 64 is. I crossed the wooden fence on the side of the road and walked toward the visitor center when a guy in a red truck stopped and asked Did you just come out of the woods? Have you called anyone yet? I said yes and no. He told me wait right by that hot dog stand and I will be right back. I walked over to the hot dog stand and bought a soda and the guy in the red truck was back in 5 minutes. His name was John and he is part of a group of trail angels from the Waynesboro area that help give hikers rides into and out of town. He drove me into town and showed me where all the places I may need were. Things like the laundromat, Dollar General, Ming's. John dropped me off at the Quality Inn and I was most appreciative. I sat on a bench in front to come out of my hiker fog as everything happened so quick. I was on the bench for not very long and Otter pulled up. Wow talk about timing. We checked in and I immediately took a shower. We then walked over to Ming's and ate lunch. Talk about a super Chinese buffet. They had 6 tables of food and a whole sushi bar area as well as a hibatchi grill area where a chef would make you stuff. It was rather impressive and only $7.99. Once we finished eating we stopped back at the room and picked up ghost and went to throw my laundry in. While it was washing we stopped into Dollar General and Family Dollar to resupply. I ran over and threw my stuff in the dryer and we then got ice cream while it dried. Once the clothes were dry we walked back to the motel to organize, repack and relax. Soon it was time for more food and we stopped at a pub in town for burgers and beer. Not sure how it happened but it was suddenly 11pm which was so past my bedtime. We walked back to the motel and I passed out rather quickly. I decided that I wanted to pack out the motel bed on the trail because it was so comfy.

June 18, 2017
I slept in at the motel this morning. Got up around 7 to lower back pain. It seems like when I take a day off the following day my back hurts. I think it's a residual affect to not wearing a pack for a whole day. The pain usually only lasts for a little while and then it subsides. I got up and showered and we headed to breakfast at Waffle House. It was fantastic and we don't have this restaurant in the northeast. After breakfast Otter and I headed back to the motel and packed up our things. Check out was not till 11 so we took our time. Ompi got into town last night and actually roomed next door to us. Most of the Quality inn last night was thru hikers and I think I knew most of them. While hanging in the room I saw Slosh walk by our room as Scavenger was right behind him. The Royal couple made it into town. I also saw the dude or (Jake the fake) as his trail journal name is. We know him on the AT as "The dude" he made it in as well. We chatted for awhile about our hike and the true meaning of hike your own hike. Some people get offended or upset when you hike with them for sometime but then move on for one reason or another. They may enjoy your company and might be sad your moving on but don't be offended. You will cross paths many more times as you move forward and new people will come into your fold and give you new great memories and experiences. We both agreed it's important to get much out of your hike and not get stuck in a rut. Follow where the journey takes you and if your gut says I need to don't hesitate. We all chatted while we played ball with Ghost. Ompi and the Royal couple went to do laundry. I went back into the room and finalized my packing. We saw see sharp a bit later and he came down to say hi and play with ghost. At noon our trail angel Michael picked us up to bring us back to the trail. He agreed to give Slosh a lift to the outfitter and back with us. We arrived at the interchange parking lot and thanked Michael and said goodbye. Otter and I bought a soda from the food truck and enjoyed a cold drink before getting on trail. We walked the side road back to where I came off the trail and crossed onto Skyline Drive after crossing over a bridge over I-64. We walked the road for 1/2 mile and the trail than shot into the woods and climbed back up to the ridge. About a mile in we came upon the self registration station for those who were overnighting in Shenandoah National Park. You fill out a form and the top portion you tie to your pack with metal twist ties. I don't see this thing lasting very long but good thing we should only be in the park for 7 days or so. We continued on and stopped when we got to McCormick Gap for a late lunch. After lunch we had a small climb up to a bunch of communication towers on top of Bears Den Mountain. The guidebook also said there were tractor seats at the summit. I didn't understand what that meant until I got there, see the pictures for a visual. We started down the other side and began looking for a place to camp. We were gonna start with a short day to let Otter get his trail legs back as he has been off trail for about 2-3 weeks. We came to a field which was the beginning of Beagle Gap and you could see a truck below where you could see coolers. Was this trail magic? Someone from the truck yelled up to us from the truck do you guys want cold drinks. We ran down the rest of the way. They were getting ready to wrap up for the day but saw us and waited. The people were a thru hiker who was taking a day off and her mom and grandfather. They decided to do trail magic together at the gap. So amazing and unexpected. We stopped and chatted for awhile, drank and ate snacks and then moved on. The trail after crossing the road climbed back up through another field on the other side of the road. We still were looking for a place to camp but no luck yet. We were hoping for a place when we got to the woods but nothing. We slowly continued on as we were tired from the sun and from all the sun yesterday. We finally reached the summit of Little Calf Mountain which was an open field that had been mowed with fantastic views. This was the place to camp and it was my first time camping on a bald like summit. It was a full moon tonight and the sunset was shaping up to be epic. Otter and I set up our tents. Bi choose to forgo the rain fly as I wanted to see the stars and full moon. We ate out dinner and played ball with ghost. A girl showed up with a dog who was local and had walked up to camp over night to watch the sunrise in the morning. She had made fresh Picco and had tortilla chips and shared with us. Fresh veggies (salsa) it was delicious. We chatted while watching the sunset she the moon rise and it was magical. A perfect evening. We got into bed about 9:30 as the colors began to fade. I do find it amazing as I write this that its 10:09 pm and you can still see twilight on the western sky. It's so neat being so far west in the eastern time zone. Wow!

June 19, 2016
It was a fantastic night on Little Calf Mountain. It was the first time I have slept without a rain fly on and with the nearly full moon it was pretty cool. We woke up at around 5:30 when Otter let ghost out to pee and he spotted a white tailed deer and barked and ran off chasing it. He came back shortly there after but all the commotion I was up. Otter made coffee and I ate my pop tarts. We packed up and got on the trail about 7:30. We walked the 1.3 mile to Calf Mountain Shelter to fill up on water. This is another stretch of 13 miles of no water which kind of sucks. Sometimes even though the guide book doesn't say it you will come by a spring or creek that is flowing due to how wet it has been but not always and you can't count on that. With ghost and is two we were going to need a lot of water. We filled up everything we could carry and moved on. For 8 in the morning it all ready was hot and I knew it was going to be a tough day. We walked a few miles too Sawmill Run Overlook and took a break in the shade and had some snacks. Otter's knee was giving him grief and overall soreness was making his day tough. Coming back to the trail after having some time off always makes it tough. We carried on and had a steady climb up Turk Mountain. It was really hot and we were drinking a lot of water. The heat was making me so sleepy I didn't have the energy to move. We made it to Turks Gap where we stopped for lunch in a shady spot in the parking lot. We assessed what we had left for water and it wasn't looking to good. We really hadn't hiked very far today mostly do to the sun, heat and Otter going slow to reacclimate. We found a small campsite a bit up the trail from the parking lot and decided to take a nap. We slept for about 2 hours and woke to it being a little cooler. We weighed out our options. Otter says he didn't think he could make it the 8 miles to the next shelter with his knee as it hurt more now that he slept than before. He decided he would try and get a ride to town to fill up on water and I would stay with all our gear. I set up my tent to chill in as the black knats were pretty bad in this location. Otter texted me that he got a ride, later I found out he paid 40 bucks for a ride to town. I'm not sure if he called someone or if he asked someone in the parking lot. Any ways he made it back to Waynesboro. I made myself dinner and had enough water at least until tomorrow. After about two hours of trying to get back Otter gave up and got a room. Now we are laughing at the ridiculousness of this. He's in town at a motel and I'm in the woods with all of our gear in a tent. Luckily there is enough water for me and I think he feels bad that his slowness and soreness has gotten us into this situation. However I knew the first week with him back would be low miles. So for now I'm just going to go to sleep and see what tomorrow brings. We didn't hike very far but we did do some miles and every mile is one step closer to Maine.

June 21, 2016
I just realized while writing this that the date is one day behind the actual date of each entry. One of my zero's in town sometime prior I must of forgotten to do a journal entry and ended up being one day behind. I woke up at the stealth campsite at Turks gap around 6:30 am. I checked out radar and saw a line of showers and thunderstorms headed my way. I quickly jumped up and got the food bags down and everything inside the tent so it didn't get wet. I fell back asleep and woke to the sound of rain. Otter texted me around 8am to say that he was trying to rent a car and come to pick me and his gear up or just me. It was my call if I wanted to come back into town. He said he would text me when he was on his way. I drifted back into sleep and he texted me an hour later to say he had a car and was on his way and it would be 45 minutes. I started packing everything up inside the tent and luckily the rain had stopped and the sun came out so the outside of the tent dried out. After two trips I got everything down to the parking area at Turks Gap. While waiting for Otter I checked the weather and they were calling for nasty thunderstorms this afternoon and evening. When Otter showed I decided to stay in town and he offered to pay for a room for me as he felt bad I was off trail and he had extended the room he had already before he left and it was only a single queen. We headed back into town stoping at the motel to drop of our gear and ghost. We headed to Ming's Garden because heck we are back in town why not go twice. After lunch we went back to the motel and I watched ghost so Otter could go to the clinic and get his knee checked out. It only took about an hour and a half and I played ball with ghost while he was at the clinic. They think Otter has septic arthritis and gave him antibiotics and told him to keep off it for three days with today being day one. So Otter is going to be off trail for two days while he lets his knee feel better. He got back to the motel and I took a shower and watched tv for awhile. We then went to pick up his prescription at Krugers and to grab a pizza for dinner. By 7 pm we both were ready for bed and went to our rooms where I proceeded to watch tornado survivor stories on the weather channel until 10 pm as storms kept rolling through. The plan is to have Otter drop me off at Turks Gap in the morning and he will try and catch up with me.

June 22, 2016
Woke up at the Quality Inn after sleeping in for a bit. I got up and packed up all my gear. The forecast was for severe storms and the possibility of a Duracho. I debated on what to do. Should I stay again or should I go. Otter decided to extend the rental another day as he was still going to be here resting his knee. I hated to take another day off from hiking but felt it better to be safe than sorry. The weather channel was saying this would be a nasty event. We decided to split a room by the days inn as we found a better rate. We checked out of the Quality Inn and drove down to the Days Inn and checked in there. Once we got all of our stuff in we went and grabbed lunch and to run errands. We lounged by the pool as a few showers and thunderstorms moved through. From the looks of it I made the right choice in staying out of the woods. The storms that started to form looked to be nasty and I didn't really want to be in a tent for them. It was another day of relaxing and not doing much of anything. We went to Outback for dinner and then headed back to the motel and relaxed. Let's hope the morning is in better shape and I can finally get back on trail.

June 23, 2016
Woke up at 4am in the Days Inn to the boom of thunder. The severe storms had made it to our area with some smaller storms coming through before we went to bed. I went back to sleep and got up about 6. I showered and packed up all my gear. The plan was for Otter to take me back to the trail and then drop off the rental car. I looked at the radar and there was a line of storms from Virginia all the way back to Indiana and they kept forming in the same location. I was now stuck at what to do. Go back as I would surely be soaked but they were calling for flash flooding and there were already some flood warnings out. I decided to stay another day as its better to be safe than sorry. Boy did I make the right call as it rained all the way to 11pm that night. Otter decided to keep the car one more day. We went out and grabbed breakfast as there was a 45 minute lull in the rain. We stopped at Target to pick up a new wall plug for my phone charger as mine stopped working the night before. We headed back to the room as it poured and poured. I got sucked into a marathon of Nightmare on Elm Street as they were showing all 5 of them on Sy-Fy. Otter took a nap and read. We finally decided we needed to do something. At this point it as time for dinner and we basically skipped lunch. We went to Applebee's did then went to the movies to see Independence Day Resurgence. When we got out of the movie the rain had stopped. OMG will I actually be able to get back on trail tomorrow.

June 24, 2016

Woke up to sunshine at 6am. Wohoo finally the rain has subsided. I got up and jumped in the shower while Otter took Ghost outside. By the time I got out of the shower Otter had gone and come back from Starbucks with coffee. Yes!! I was pretty much packed and ready to go. Otter was gonna stay one more day as the antibiotics was giving him terrible digestive issues and really didn't wanna be in the woods. He was taking stuff to off set that side effect. He was planning on getting dropped off where ever I was on Saturday. I loaded my stuff into the car and we were on the road by 7am. We stopped at a gas station on the way so I could grab something to eat for breakfast. I got dropped off by Otter at Turks Gap at around 7:45am. His plan was to bring the rental back to Stauton and then get a ride back to the motel and take it easy. Judging the condition of Skyline Drive this morning I assume it was pretty nasty up here the last few days. I started off and my body was in fairly good shape and seemed to jump right back into hiking mode. The biggest thing I noticed today was how many times you cross Skyline Drive when you are hiking the AT through Shenandoah National Park. I understand it's because the trail used to be where the road is now and they needed to relocate the trail when Skyline went in, but the amount of times it crosses almost ruins it for me. I hope as you get further north it becomes less but I don't think it will be. Don't get me wrong it's very pretty and the park is wonderful but it seems like every few miles you cross and then cross again. I stopped at Blackrock Hut for a snack and to refill water. The trail overall this morning was easy grades with some climbs but it is laid out in such a way that it's not overly difficult. The top of Blackrock Mt had some nice views and the AT skirts the summit which is just lose boulders which you can climb up and see the view. I took some pictures and moved on. I stopped at Brown Gap and ate lunch. I then began the climb up Loft Mountain where there is Loft Mt campground. I was planning on stopping at the camp store for some resupply stuff and to charge my phone. The trail was rather rocky which made the going slow. In Shenandoah Park the trails are marked with concrete pillars with metal bands at the top telling you what's in that direction and distance. It's a different style of trail markers and they must last longer than wood but the look of them are rather ugly. I'm not a fan. The AT skirts around the campground and there were many concrete pillars telling you what campground services where nearby. I walked 3/4 of the way around when I finally found one for camp store. I walked up to the camp store and plugged in my phone and iPod. I went inside to pick up some lunches and to buy a cold drink. I hung at the store for about a half hour then pushed on. In a mile there was a side trail that went down to Skyline Drive where there was Wayside which was like a park cafeteria which did burgers and hot dogs. There exhaust fans were broken so they could only make cold sandwiches and hot dogs. I ordered 2 hot dogs, a small soda and a bag of chips all for only 11 dollars. Good grief I forgot national park food is not cheap. I ate and packed up and had to walk the .50 miles back up the hill to the AT. Walking down to Wayside it was a 1/2 mile straight down and I knew the hike back up was going to stink. I got back to where I left off on the AT and continued north. There was a ledge look out about a 1/2 mile north of where I got back on the trail. Nice views and to the north there was a towering thunderstorm. I pulled up the radar and that cell was moving east. Phew! However there was another cell north of that which was moving due south. The next shelter Pinefield Hut was about 4 miles away so I didn't waste any time and moved. After about a mile of a steady downhill it turned around and became a steep uphill. My foot started to hurt where I had fractured my foot about ten years prior. This usually means the support in my footwear are shot. Luckily Jeff ordered me a new pair of inserts and will be bringing them next weekend. I struggled the last three miles. My foot throbbed and I had no choice but to keep walking. I was also racing the clock as the storm was getting closer. Well at the top of the ridge where there had been a fire last year the storm hit with lightning, thunder and rain. Ugh!! I was only about .75 miles from the shelter and I didn't make it. Luckily when I arrived there was still a spot upstairs in the shelter up against the wall. I threw my bag up, hung my food from the bear pole and rolled out my pad and sleeping bag. Definitely time to crash as I just had done a 22 mile day. When I arrived waterfall was at the shelter on the main floor. I hadn't seen her since Marion where she, her guy and myself ordered pizza and had it delivered to the shelter. That was at partnership shelter in southern Virginia. I guess the guy she was hiking with (can't remember his trail name I gotta look it up) went home. Didn't get the whole story. Also sweep was there set up next to her and I saw her last when I was racing to catch Ompi. I met her right before I got into Bland. Finally right before I turned in for the night Gasket showed up and I hadn't seen him since Damascus. He had waited for side winder to feel better and then took two days off to watch a sports event. I didn't catch what event it was. It's kind of nice to have all these familiar faces around me. Also I should mention there was a ridge runner at the shelter named Carl. He was really nice and I think I saw him doing trail work the first day we got into the park.

June 25, 2016
Woke up in Pinefield Hut at around 7:30. We all slept in as it was a foggy morning. It was a full house in the shelter with 10 of us in a shelter that's supposed to fit 6. We weren't cramped and all fit comfortably. The rain will do that to any shelter. So today my climbs consisted of Weaver Mt, Hightop Mt, Saddleback Mt, Baldface Mt and Bearfence Mt. My rest stops would be all the gaps on Skyline which were Pinefield, Simmons, Powell, Smith Roach and Swift Run gap. The climbing was much steeper today than yesterday. Shanendoah pulled out the stops today with some steep big climbs. I left Pinefield at 8am and was on my way. I stopped at Simmons gap to get water from the ranger station as they had a hand pump out front. On the way back to the trail from the ranger station there were 3 deer grazing on the side of the road. They stayed as I pad and one of them came up to me to sniff. Wow so close. When I got back to where Skyline meets the trail from the side road to the ranger station I remember the Coke can. I was excited as I packed out a Coke from Waynesboro which I was going to drink at lunch. It was in the side pocket with one of my water bottles. It was super foggy and misty. I had my pack cover on as it was so wet and it kept dripping on the back of my legs and shorts getting my backside wet. After a few miles I rested and realized that it wasn't water dripping on me but Coke. The can got a bit crushed and was leaking out of the can and dripping out the bottom of my pack. I grabbed the can and opened it to quickly drink what was left and I was barely a mouthful. Noooooooo I was so looking forward to that Coke. Ugh. The only good news is there was the Lewis Mt campground 15 miles away where I could buy a Coke. I just needed to get there before they closed at 7. I continued my up and down climbs stopping on the view point of high top mountain. I crossed over the 900 mile mark on the way up to the summit which was very exciting. Someone had made a sign out of sticks on a rock on the side of the trail. The fog and clouds were starting to break up as some sun came out while I was eating. I became the dedicated picture taker for the weekend and section hikers as they came out to the viewpoint. It was no big deal I was there and no reason why I couldn't. One interesting thing I noticed on this Saturday was while hiking north and weekenders or section hikers were coming south they would jump out of the way for me. I always said thank you and most said you deserve the right of way. It made me feel good to have that respect for what I was doing. I made it to a picnic area where I filled up on water and had a snack. Only 5 miles to go before I reached Lewis Creek Campground and Coke!! I should add that my foot was giving me grief today like it did late last night. Exactly where I fractured my foot ten years ago it was sore when I walk. Usually this happens when the support in my shoe is shot. Luckily Jeff ordered me super feet and will be bringing them down to me on the Fourth of July weekend. I popped Ibuprofen to numb the pain and walked slower than normal. The other issue I had which was the first in the whole trip was Ass crack chaffing. Not going into detail but it sucks!! Thank God for Gold Bond tonight. I reached the campground at 6:15 and made it to the camp store with plenty of time to spare. I ate a whole bag of tortilla chips and 2 Cokes. Several of the other hikers were there from the shelter last night. Waterfall showed as I was getting ready to leave. She went for the 20 opposed to the 15 she was going to do. Her ankle held out and she thinks she will pay for it tomorrow but she did it today. I only had .8 miles to go from the campground to the shelter. Made it there at around 7:45. I was full from all the chips and soda so I skipped dinner. I set up my tent, brushed my teeth, put my food bag in the bear box and crashed for the night. Gonna shoot for 26 miles on Sunday.

June 26, 2016
Woke up at 5:30 and was like this is way too early and rolled back over to sleep. I finally got up and packed up around 6:30. Ate a cold breakfast and put my boots on. While sitting on a log putting my boots on, one of the section hikers camped nearby was drinking her coffee and said there is a bear next to you to your right. I turn my head right and sure enough there is a beat about 20 feet away slowly climbing up the hill. It stopped to look at us for a bit but then kept on moving. Finally after 900 miles of walking I finally saw a bear. I got on trail about 7:30 and walked a mile taking the side trail to Bearfence Mt view point. I had a signal at this point and updated my journal and sent out a few texts. Today's climbs were going to consist of Bearfence Mt, Hazeltop Mt, Big Meadows, Hawksbill Mt, Stony Man Mt and the Pinnacle. I went over Hazelnut without realizing it because I thought I was further back in the log book and thought I was doing the little unnamed climb before it. That made me happy. I arrived at the side trail to the visitor center and Wayside at about 10:40. I was hoping I would make breakfast and did with 5 minutes to spare. Waterfall, big sky and 3 other thru hikers were there as well. The same group I've been with the last 2 nights at the shelter. I had breakfast, Coke and a cup of coffee. Get it all in while I can. Afterwards most of us say outside at one of the baby picnic tables outside the building. I bought a small resupply mostly snacks for the next couple of days. A woman came over giving us trail magic. She gave each of us an apply and a Milky Way bar. Yay!! I pushed on about noon stopping at Franlin Cliffs to take some pictures. Went up and over Hawksbill Mt and stopped for a snack at the stables for Skyland Resort. Most of the hikers I was with were planning on staying the night here but after being in Waynesboro for three days I wanted to keep moving. I took the side trail to the top of stony man Mt to a view point which was packed. This is the highest point on the AT in Shenandoah Park. The last 4 miles I struggled as my feet were shot. With my insoles really failing I not only had a sore foot where I had fractured it ten years ago I know had two blisters forming on the pad of each foot. I took my time and kept self motivating and made it to Bryds Nest #3 Hut at around 8:15. I set up my tent, made dinner and crashed. Almost 23 miles hiked today.

June 27, 2016
Figured I'd give an update on some of the familiar names out there. Otter stayed one more day in Waynesboro and his knee blew up again and his leg went numb for a few hours. He drove back to Aiken to have his primary Doctor look at it. He is more or less done with the trail this year but wants to meet me in Vernont, New Hampsire and hike a bit as he never has been to either state. Luigi is still behind me and should be either very close to Waynesboro or just left. Her parents were up for a week hiking with her. She's been hiking with rambler and I believe . The Royal Couple (RC) Scavenger and Slosh are a day ahead of me and currently staying at the mountain home cabin. I am going to try and catch up with them hopefully in the next few days. Ompi was ahead of me but got off trail at around mile 900 and went to mountain home cabin to rest his ankle for a week. He texted me today that he needed to fly home to Florida as his partner was in the hospital. Nothing super serious but he needed to be there. He told me he would be back by July 6th where he got off. Gaia, Feather, the dude, ghost, holy diver, karma and grandma are between 7- 2 days ahead of me. Little foot and Tranquility are a ways back probably near Dragons tooth. Waterfall and gasket are behind me by one day as they stayed at Skyland Resort. Anyone else you wanna know about message me and I'll give you an update. I woke up late today. 7:45 am!! I packed up and didn't get on trail until about 9am. The beginning of the day I started with a climb up to Mary's rock which was the last talk peak in the park in the AT which was at 3500 feet. Great views and several pictures were taken. Then a long decent down to Thorton Gap where I refilled on water in the restroom and washed up. As I was drying my hands I glanced down into the trash and thought anything good. OMG what's wrong with me. Food food food food I was starving but scoping out trash barrels is to much. My next climb was up Pass Mt and all I could think about was just 5 miles to Elkwalkow wayside where I could get a burger, fries, milkshake, soda, chips, maybe pizza!!!!!! The 5 mile walk seemed like 50 but I finally arrived and was in the hiker daze for a few minutes. I took out my electronics to charge and found an available plug. I then ordered a cheeseburger, fries and a soda. I ate that and bought to more sodas from the cooler which were .99 cents as they were a no name brand but who cares. I did a small snack resupply and then ordered a chocolate shake and cinnamon roll for dessert. After lunch I had my big climb up Hogback Mt which was a chore with a full stomach. When I reached the summit I was able to get radar loaded on my phone as I finally had service. Flood watch in effect and a line of storms were coming. I boggied to get to the shelter before the rain came down. I almost made it but it was lightly raining by the time I got there. Five minutes after I arrived it down poured. Luckily there was still room in the shelter up top so I threw my stuff in. I turned around and there was Freefall coming back from putting his food bag in the bear box. I said where is my MIA water bottle. He laughed and told me he tried to get a ride to the outfitter but couldn't then his phone died and he didn't have a cord to charge it. End result it's still at 4 pines hostel. I'm going to call and see if they still have it tomorrow. Met some nice folks here tonight I will name them all tomorrow because right now I can't remember their names. About 18 miles done today. I was so full from my luper that I didn't eat dinner.

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Storm is posting regular updates from the AT on his Trail Journal (where much of this content is being developed from)

You can also follow him on his Facebook Page, Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail

Storm is working to raise money for charity as he hikes the Appalachian Trail. He currently has a GoFundMe campaign that is supporting the work of the Catskill Center to protect and preserve the Catskills and the Catskill Park, where Storm lives, enjoys the outdoors and volunteers!


Read all of Storm's posts on Adventures in the Outdoors.


For more information about the Appalachian Trail

You can visit the National Park Service's Appalachian Trail Park Page, which features a link to the AT brochure and map.  Guides and maps are produced and sold for the AT as it passes through each State between Georgia and Maine.  There are several books including the Thru-Hike Planner, the AT Guidebook, the AT Thru Hiker Companion and the Data Book to name just a few that can help hikers who are planning on hiking the entire AT or sections of it. We also maintain a section for Appalachian Trail Guides, Maps and Books at on Adventures in the Outdoors Online Shop.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

News: New York City Department of Environmental Protection Releases Interactive Mapping Tool for Outdoor Recreation in the NYC Watershed

The view from the Shavertown Trail, located on DEP lands
The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) today announced the release of an interactive recreation mapping tool that uses layers of data and maps to help the public find properties that are open for fishing, hiking and other types of outdoor recreation. The digital map, which provides information on City-owned properties that are open for recreation, is now available on DEP’s website by visiting www.nyc.gov/dep/recreation. The map also shows New York State lands such as forest preserve and other accessible areas. DEP will hold a number of public forums this summer to demonstrate the new mapping tool and help outdoor enthusiasts learn about watershed recreation opportunities on City-owned lands in the Catskills and Hudson Valley.

“This easy-to-use mapping tool will help watershed residents and visitors find hundreds of scenic locations that are open for hiking, fishing and other outdoor activities,” DEP Acting Commissioner Steve Lawitts said. “DEP has opened more than 130,000 acres of water and land for public recreation, but that access is only useful if the public can locate the properties and understand the types of recreation that are allowed at each site. This new interactive tool achieves both goals, and it reaffirms our commitment to support tourism and outdoor recreation in the communities that surround our water supply system.”

DEP developed the digital tool by combining maps of recreation areas with data related to parcel size, location, uses allowed on each parcel, and other information. It allows users to interactively explore recreation areas by zooming in to any portion of the Croton, Catskill or Delaware watersheds. Watershed parcels owned by New York City are shaded in blue; forest preserve and other areas owned by New York State are shaded in brown. The map also features icons for fishing access and recreational boat launch areas on City reservoirs. The 10 hiking trails that have been developed on DEP lands, with significant help from nonprofit partners, are also delineated on the map.

Users can click each City-owned parcel to see more information, including the name of the recreation unit, its location by county and road, the types of recreational uses that are allowed, and the state’s wildlife management unit designation for each parcel. Each recreation unit also includes a “more info” link that brings users to a standalone map that includes acreage of the parcel and topographic lines that show its steepness. There are several map views, including ones that provide aerial images, that further help users to learn more about “on the ground” features of the property. The tool was designed to work on computers, cell phones and tablets.

The recreation mapping tool currently includes a total 131,944 acres of City-owned land and water east of the Hudson River in Dutchess, Putnam and Westchester counties, and in Delaware, Greene, Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster counties in the Catskills. The mapped areas comprise 393 distinct parcels of recreation land totaling 96,113 acres. Those recreation areas range from as small as 6 acres to as large as 3,804 acres. The map also outlines recreational access to 19 reservoirs covering a combined surface area of 35,831 acres.

DEP will participate in several public gatherings this summer to demonstrate the new mapping tool and share information about recreational access on water supply lands and waters. Public sessions scheduled thus far include:
  • Thursday, June 23, at Morgan Outdoors, located at 46 Main St., Livingston Manor, NY 12758. The event will begin at 7 p.m.
  • Monday, June 27, at the Kent Public Library in Putnam County, located at 17 Sybils Crossing, Carmel, NY 10512. The event will begin at 12:30 p.m.
  • Wednesday, June 29, at the Time and the Valleys Museum, located at 332 Main St., Grahamsville, NY 12740. The event will begin at 10:30 a.m.
  • Wednesday, July 6 at the Catskill Interpretive Center in Mount Tremper, located at 5096 State Route 28, Mount Tremper, NY 12457. The event will begin at 12:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, July 7 at the Catskill Watershed Corporation office, located at 905 Main St., Margaretville, NY 12455.
The recreation mapping tool can be accessed directly by clicking here.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

News: New Trail Opens at Catskill Interpretive Center for National Trails Day, expanding recreational opportunities on-site

Celebrating the opening. From L to R: Jeff Senterman, Catskill Center, 
Jeff Ryder, NYS DEC, Doug Senterman (NY NJ Trail Conference), 
Ian Dunn (NYS DEC); Photo credit: Rosalind Dickinson
On June 4th, The Catskill Center and the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference celebrated the grand opening of the newly constructed Nature Trail at the Maurice D. Hinchey Catskill Interpretive Center (CIC) in Mount Tremper, NY. The CIC is the visitor center for the Catskill Park and offers visitors a unique Catskills experience with visitor information, hiking and walking opportunities, an outdoor art park, picnicking areas and more. “We are thrilled to continue expanding recreational opportunities on-site here at the Catskill Interpretive Center, while giving our visitors a sense of what they’ll encounter while out enjoying the rest of the Catskill Park,” said Jeff Senterman, executive director of the Catskill Center, and board member of the American Hiking Society.

This past June 4, 2016 was “National Trails Day®”, the country’s largest celebration of trails and a program of the American Hiking Society. National Trails Day events took place in every state across the country and included hikes, biking and horseback rides, paddling trips, birdwatching, geocaching, gear demonstrations, stewardship projects and more.

“The Catskill Park has over 200 miles of trails traversing its vast and beautiful mountains. The Catskill Center and New York-New Jersey Trail Conference built the trail at the Catskill Interpretive Center to give visitors a taste of the larger trail network and the confidence to explore it,” said Ed Goodell, executive director of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.


MORE CATSKILL PARK, HIKING, PLANNING AND VISITOR INFO


Read up on the Catskill Park at our Catskill Mountains Information Page for hikes, advice, travel and planning information.   We have a Guide to Hiking in the Catskills available.

Need a hiking map for your hikes in the Catskills?  We recommend the Trail Conference's Catskills Trails 6-Map Set.  These maps are the best available for hiking and outdoor adventures in the Catskills and the Catskill Park. The Catskill Center offers a regional map of the Catskills that provides an excellent overview of the region, it's roadways, attractions and trails.  National Geographic Trails Illustrated also produces a map for the region that is useful for trip planning and road navigation. How about a guidebook?  Both AMC and ADK publish trail guides to the Catskill Region . 

If you are looking for more information about the extensive history of the Catskill Mountains and the Catskill Park, we would suggest reading one of the following: The Catskills, From Wilderness to Woodstock; The Catskill Park, Inside the Blue Line; or The Catskills, It's History and how it changed America. For the most comprehensive natural history of the Catskill Park and the Forests of the Catskill region, we recommend reading The Catskill Forest, a History by Michael Kudish.