Hiking: Updates from Storm's Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike (5/16/16 thru 5/28/16)

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Storm (Moe) is making his way through Virginia on the Appalachian Trail. He's now over 540 miles into his Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Here's a look back at his last several days of hiking in his own words:

May 16, 2016
Back to Greasy Gap

Sorry this is so late all. No cell service for this stretch of Roan. Woke up at Otter's house about 8am. Showered dressed and we headed to the diner. I wanted to load up on lots of food before I got back on trail. We sat with a bunch of thru hikers and exchanged stories. After we finished breakfast we headed back to Otter's house. I packed up my bag and packed up the box that I was sending home. We ran to the post office so I could mail the box home. Otter texted a bunch of people to see if we could get a ride to Greasy Creek Gap. I went inside and mailed my box. Before I left I asked the post office lady if I had a card here that Jeff's mom had mailed me. She went and looked and came back with not only the letter but the package that Jeff mailed me to Hot Springs that was missing. Yay yay. Looking at both the wrong zip code for hot springs was written. Well now we know why the package didn't arrive on time. After I finished up with that we ran to Asheville so Otter could buy new shorts that weren't so long and a head band. We stopped at Zaxby's for lunch as I had never been. It was good for a fast food place. We then headed back to his house. It was 3pm and no one was able to give us a ride back to Greasy Creek. Besides a shuttle which would be 100 bucks. No thanks. Otter said he would drive me back and should be able to get a ride from Will either on Tuesday or Wednesday. He's done most of this section except for Roan mountain and said he can either get slack packed to catch up with me. So hopefully he catches back up with me because I've enjoyed his company over the last 2 weeks. We headed north stoping at DQ because the urge to resist is nill. We arrived at greasy creek gap hostel at about 5:30. I threw my pack back on and headed the .50 miles back to the AT. Thank god my pack feels lighter and more comfortable. The new boots are still slowly being broken in so I wore double socks. I stopped at the first shelter because I got a message from Ompi saying he was at the first shelter. When I arrived no Ompi so I signed the log and saw that he was heading on. I pushed on and made it over Little Rock Knob and headed down to Hughes Gap where route TN 1330 crosses. At this point it got dark and the head lamp went on. First time night hiking. Well apparently at the road crossing Ompi was camping and I passed him. So he's behind me but will catch up. I walked 8.3 miles and arrived at Ash Gap at 10:30. I climbed 1200 feet which is 1/2 way up Roan Mt. Set up my tent and hung my bear bag. The wind started howling and it was nice to fall asleep to.

May 17, 2016
A wet day to Roan Mountain

I woke up to pitter pater of rain on my tent. I was like ick and rolled over and went back to bed. I woke back up and quickly jumped up and tried to pack up before anymore rain came down. Well the rain started up again before three minutes went by. I quickly stuffed everything into my pack and got on trail by 9:00. I realized while climbing Roan Mt I had packed all my food into my pack and didn't have any snacks out. I hiked into the clouds and it was wet and windy. I summited Roan to no views and started down the other side. There was a fireplace remanant right on the trail which was from a ranger station post possibly. The trail this morning was nicely laid and went through a beautiful spruce forest. Once over the summit the trail had a gradual grade down and looked like an old road. I arrived at Carvers Gap where the auto road up Roam Mt begins. There was a privy at the gap. Yay!! Pooping in the woods in the rain is by no means an easy feet. My next to climbs where both balds. Jane's Bald being the first which was docked in pea soup fog. No views. ??. But I've been lucky on this trip so I can't complain. I started down the other sides of the balds and arrived at Stan Murray
shelter. I ate lunch and dried out and tried to warm up a bit. I pushed on after calling Jeff and calling Trooper. The next few miles were easy grades and I arrived at the blue blaze that took me to the red barn. I arrived at mountaineer shelter at about 3 pm and decided it's early but I am so exhausted I'm falling asleep. I decided I'm staying the night as this is too cool to pass up. Hey why rush and push for miles when you will miss out on an awesome experience. The shelter is an old red barn which has been converted into a shelter. It sleeps 20. There is a picnic table under a covering in the front with 2 platforms on either side which sleeps 4 per platform. The upstairs sleeps about 20. I set up my stuff in one corner and went down to filter water. I got back to the loft and took a nap or two hours. I woke to the sound of people walking. A group of 5 high school kids arrived who were doing this as a school project. I got up and started making dinner. When I came down little Jon was there. We chatted while we cooked dinner and ate. A group of three guys showed up, then Ompi showed and I was psyched. We all sat around talking while others made dinner. I met Special K who is a 14 year old girl who is thru hiking and her mom is following in an RV. If she finishes she will be the youngest person to Thru hike in the same 6 months. Wow how inspiring. We made a fire and sat around and chatted. The high school kids were asking us lots of questions about our hike. Crashing now and hopefully up early.

May 18, 2016
The day of the balds

Woke up at 6:30 to voices downstairs in the barn. It was foggy out but warm. This building is so neat to sleep in. I got up and ate a cold breakfast. Wanted to get a move on and not spend a lot of time cooking. I got on trail at 8 after packing up. There weren't too many of us last night. There were the 5 high school kids so were doing a section hike as part of a school project. Ompi was there. Then mayfly, simple and Jake the fake. He has a blog on Trail Journals. Pete look him up he recognized me from my journal and he started a few days before me so I finally caught him. Special K the 14 year old. Then Jackrabbit and Jefe came about 11 pm as they were night hiking. Said goodbye to everyone. Ompi was the only one who neat me out. I pushed off and about 2 miles in came across the first bald. The fog had lifted and what a WOW MOMENT!! After the first bald you could see the next bald behind. It was an epic 6 miles. Great scenery and great pictures were taken. The climb down was an easy grade and I got caught by three section hikers singing my heart out with my head phones on. They were laughing and said you sound like a dying angel. I guess that's a compliment. Ha ha. I came to the official sign that said leaving North Carolina. Every time I think I'm out of North Carolina she comes back. Now officially done. Wohooo. I got to US 19 in Tennessee and sat on the side of the road and ate my lunch. Several people driving by honked and waved. It's so nice to be respected and treated so nice. After lunch I ran across the street as the people coming up the hill seem to hit the gas when a hiker is in the road. Maybe it's like a video game for them. The climb outta the gap wasn't too bad. I came across I nice field and the trail followed and ok keep road. It winded through fields and next to a cemetery. I crisscrossed a road 3 times that the cemetery was on and finally came back into a white pine forest. The trail winded back and forth up and down. It started to rain about 4:30 and the last mile to the shelter seemed to take forever. It wasn't too bad but I was wet. Finally arrived at the shelter and I was the only one here. Very weird. The herd is really thinning out. I gathered wood for my stove and filtered water. I cooked and now am running the stove charging my phone. It's been boosted 30% in two hours. Not to bad. While writing this Jefe just showed and jack rabbit should be somewhere behind. I wonder if Ompi will make it. Tomorrow I'm gonna try and push the 20 miles to Hampton. There is a hostel a little bit before so I might crash there too. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

May 19, 2016
Otter Is Back!

Woke up around 6:30 to rain so I decided to go back to sleep. After I posted the blog last night two more late arrivals came which were breakneck and a girl who I don't think I heard her trail name or real name. They arrived at 9:45 as Jefe, Jack rabbit and myself were about to head to bed. They were so thankful that there was room in the 3 tierd shelter. It was really nice and rather new and an enjoyable place to spend the night. I pushed off at about 9 and it looked like a rather easy day as the topo map in the book was relatively a straight line. After about 1/2 a mile I was covered in mud. With the rain from overnight the trail was the consistency of molasses. Think enough to hold its shape but once you stepped you sunk in. It made for tough walking as it took twice the effort. My prior hiking buddy Otter texted me that he had a ride back to the trail. He had already walked this section so
wasn't too worried where to get dropped off. He said he might go to the hostel near lower Laurel forks but I told him I already passed it. I suggested go to Dennis Cove road as I should get there around 3:30. It gave me a goal so I set out to boogie. The terrain today was pretty lackluster. Winding through a dense Forrest of oak and mountain laurel there wasn't too much scenery. Like the last two days again today a lot of plants had been hit by a frost that we had on Saturday night. I forgot to mention it before but above 3000 feet in North Carolina and in Tennesee was hit by a frost. Many ferns, mayapple and some of the new trees leaves got hit. It was a patchy frost but still enough to do some damage. So between the mud, fog, clouds and not much to look at the day was kind of boring. I did pass a cascade which was listed in the book. Well after Jones Falls this cascade wasn't too impressive. I was surprised they named it. I forget the name and already burned that page of the log book. I arrived pretty much on time and Otter was waiting for me and he brought his dog ghost. Sandy would love ghost. I think they need a play date. Otter brought me 3 cheeseburgers from Burger King. I was in heaven and they tasted like heaven in a bun. I repacked my bag and organized and we pushed on. This section of the trail follows the Laurel river and the trail goes up and over some really interesting rock formations. The trail then descends steeply to Laurel Falls which has a large pool in front of. I stripped down and was gonna jump in and then stepped in the water... I went numb. So instead I bathed, soaked my head and washed up. I threw the stick just like I would with Sandy in the pond and Ghost went nuts. We stayed at the falls for an hour and pushed on for another mile or so. We found a great spot aling the river to set up camp. We made a fire and had dinner snd crashed about 9. Tomorrow I gotta go into Hampton to get a package from Chris Lovell. Not staying in town just a quick in and out. We have one climb tomorrow which is Pond Flats mountain. Then it's a straight shot into Damascus which is only 45 miles away.

May 20, 2016
Pond Flats Mountain

Woke up to the sound of the river and the cascades. Such a soothing sound. I got out of the tent to Otter making coffee. Wohoo. We drank coffee and I made some oatmeal. We packed up and pushed off about 9am. The plan was to walk the mile to the side trail which takes you into Hampton. I had a package from Chris Lovell to pick up. We got to the side trail and it runs along the river which was so pretty. The side trail was 1 mile to the road and 1.5 miles to the end of town with subway and Dunkin Donuts. We headed to the post office first and I picked up my package. Then we headed down to Subway and had some lunch. Then I ran across the street to get an iced coffee. Yum yum yum. On the way we saw a copperhead snake. Eeeeeek. After Dunkin Donuts we stopped at Dollar General to charge our phones and to buy what resupply we needed. We then headed back to the AT. At this point we had walked 5.5 miles and it didn't count for anything. At this point it was 1pm and we had only walked a mile on the AT. The only climb we had for the day was up and over Pond Flats. We started up and this climb was over 2000 feet in elevation gain in less than 2 miles. We pushed and stopped frequently. It was steep.. Ugh. Ghost kept turning to us and looked like "come on let's move" Ottter and I were like we are old and slow pup. We made it to the view less summit and started our way back down. I looked at radar and said we need to boogie as rain was coming. There was a campsite .3 miles from the road so that was the goal. We arrived snd decided to set up Otters 3 person tent first as if it did rain we all could be in one tent, eat dinner and play cards. We got it set up just in time and the rain poured down. We ate dinner and hunkered down. With three of us the condensation in the tent was bad and we think water from the rain came in. But we were relatively dry.

May 21, 2016
Boots Off Hostel and Campground

We woke up to rain in Otters tent but it was slowing down. The issue we were having is two people and one dog there was so much condensation on the inside of the tent it dropped down on us and got everything soaked. I wasn't sure if it was a combination of that and the rain leaking in but I was in a puddle. We were wet, the dog was wet our gear was wet. Pretty much it was sucky. We brainstormed for a bit to figure out our options. I remembered in the book it said there was a campground .8 off the trail and the book said they did coffee in the morning. Otter and I decided to walk and check out the situation. We grabbed our poles and left everything in the tent. We walked the .30 miles down to the road and were trying to figure out which way was east with the cloudy and foggy day. Otter noticed a sign that said Boots Off Hostel and Campground. I was like that's not in the book. Otter said should I call, I was like sure it's 7:30 but why not, maybe we can dry our gear out. He called and talked to Jim who said they are not officially open yet but come on down. We walked back up the hill and grabbed all of our stuff except for the tent. We walked back down and arrived at the property. Let me just say Jim and Jordan are the nicest people I've met on the trail. They are in the process of building a bunkhouse and other hostel amenities. They are getting close to ready but were so accommodating. They made us breakfast, we were able to take a shower, do laundry. Jim set up a mega tent with cots in the yard in case we decided to stay. With the weather of more rain for the day, all of our gear soaked and me feeling nausea and blisters on my feet we decided to call it a Nero. Jim picked our brains about the hostels we have stayed at and the positives and negatives. We chatted for a couple of hours. Otter and I went out to the mega tent and napped for a few hours. We got up and Jim showed us around the property. We helped them with the bunkhouse layout and gave them a bunch of ideas for placement of things. Around 7 we went into town and had dinner at O'Charleys and went to a bar after. It was a great day off and after my 4 hour nap I felt fantastic. Tomorrow the weather looks good and hopefully it warms up. Anyone hiking north or south and are near Pond Flats call these guys. They will do whatever they can to help you out. Simply Amazing

May 22, 2016
Sunshine Finally

Woke up around 8:30 in the mega tent in the yard of Boots Off Hostel and Campground. Otter and I packed up our gear and organized and cleaned out the tent for their next guests. We headed up to the house to find Neil making another fantastic breakfast. Otter had bad news texted to him. Either a family member or family friend passed away. It wasn't anyone immediate or anyone he was super close to but it was one of those moments where he said you don't get a do over on this so I gotta go to
the services. So Otters other 1/2 was on their way to pick him up. The poor guy has now been pulled off the trail 3 times for things that keep arising. Luckily he has done the section from near Roan mountain to mid Virginia so it's not a biggie if he misses it. But he really was trying to walk all sections this year but it doesn't seem to be in the cards. He says he will get on either at the hostel and be behind me or find where I am at and get dropped off nearby to me. We shall see but I'm gonna be solo again for a bit. We ate a fantastic breakfast AGAIN and took showers. After showers and breakfast we headed back down to the tent and swept it out. We then brought all of our gear up to the front porch. Around noon Otters ride showed up and he was on his way back to Aiken South Carolina. I stayed for another hour to fully charge my phone. I pushed off about 1pm and just like Otter, Jim wouldn't accept anything from us for our stay. He said all of our Facebook feeds and word of mouth means more to him. He said also that he's been able to pick our brains and get to know the good and the bad about Hostels. He really wants to make his personal and have people have a memorable experience. I thanked them all profusely and shoved off. I found out during the morning that Ompi made it into Damascus so he's about 36 miles ahead. Luigi I believe is near Laurel Falls and the royal couple supposedly are back together and are a day or two north of Damascus. Sarah flew back and I think that might have been where they met. I think Simon (slosh) skipped trail days and passed my location on the trail while I was a trail days. I walked down the road the Hostel was on and arrived at US 321 in TN. I crossed snd you immediately come to Watauga Lake. The trail runs all the way around lake and starts climbing the ridge. This area is closed except for hiking. No camping, the Watauga Shelter is closed. You are not supposed to picnic, stop for any reason and be idle. I guess they are having issues with the Bears. I made it through the 4 mile closed section and arrived at Watauga Dam. The AT follows a dam road for a few miles and then climbs steeply up the ridge. I stopped at Vandeventer Shelter and had lunch which was actually dinner at this point. I ate than pushed on after we had 15 minutes of sleet falling from the sky from a very dark cloud. I arrived at a campsite at around 8pm. Set up and did chores and was about to start a fire when rain started to fall. I jumped into the tent and called it a night. Tomorrow I hope to get into Damascus.

May 23, 2016
Back to Damascus

So I should begin this entry with the fact it's getting really old with the cold. I woke up in the middle of the night freezing. I don't usually get woken up by anything but this was cold. I put on all the clothes and socks I had and hoped it would keep me warm. I got up around 6:30 and noticed there was partial frost outside on some of the plants. Like seriously it's the end of May in the south and its this cold. I made oatmeal and coffee and shivered. I got packed up and shivered. I started on trail about 8:30 and still was shivering. The three people who camped across the trail on the side with the water had told me when I arrived that there was a bear spotted by a passing hiker right before I got there. We never saw the bear but something was crashing around in the woods when I laid down to go to sleep. My goal today was to get as close to Damascus as I could. Main Street in Damascus was 29.2 miles away. I pushed off and had a series of ups and downs. The trail at this point was fairly level in the guidebook which meant no really big climbs. However the reality is you would have a steep climb for .3 miles and then drop back down and the do it again another 22 times. This is what
we call NUNDS. Needless ups and downs. Early on I arrived at Iron horse and had a second breakfast and signed the log book. I crossed TN 91 and went back to the ups and downs. I did come to a field which the trail went through and there were many cows. I got to walk amongst them and one of the cows had recently had a calf. The cord was still attached snd it was very neat to see the newborn. Mom was still cleaning the baby up. I should add the entire trail at this point is 6 inches deep with mud from all the rain we've had. It made it super difficult to walk period and took twice as much effort. I arrived at the next shelter double springs. I filtered water and took my boots and socks off to dry out. For some reason the boots I swapped out are giving me grief which they didn't do before. The last pair has faulty eyelits and were shredding my laces, this new pair is great but for some reason the side of my heel keeps getting a sore on both heels. This never happened with the last pair but it's rubbing but there is nothing inside the boot that I can feel that is rubbing. So I mole skinned the area and duct taped it to keep it secure. I walked several more miles snd my right foot was in immense pain. The moleskin must have slipped and was digging into my heel. Now the comedy of errors started. I needed to get my boot off and fix this as it was too painful to keep climbing this needless up. I begin to take my bag off which gets stuck on my arm. I lean forward to loosen the stuck shoulder strap and don't realize they Smitty (the walking stick) has slipped out and falls to the ground. I shake finally releasing my pack and I let it drop to the ground which it clips Smitty and the stick flips up and smashes me in the face. Needless to say a few choice words were said and I plopped onto the ground a bit defeated. I do manage to get all the old moleskin off and rebandage the sore. Good to go again and I push off for some more ups and downs. I'd rather have a 6000 foot climb cause I know at least over the summit we will go down for awhile. This .3 up and .3 down is exhausting. I arrive at Abingdon shelter and need to filter water. Of coarse the water is .4 down a super steep trail. Grrrrrrrrrrrr. But I don't feel so bad as the woman I meet at the bottom was nice enough to fill up everyone's water but then realized she had to carry it all up that hill. I offer but she said no no I'm determined to do this. I get back to the shelter and have a snack. Ompi was taking a zero in Damascus today for his birthday. Through texts he said if you get here I'm making steaks for my birthday. You can have one! Well I looked at the book and realized that I was still 9.4 miles out at 5 so I texted Ompi saying it would be so darn good but don't hold a steak I won't be near there till 9. Now I was more determined to get to Damascus tonight. I pushed off with 9.7 miles to go. 6.7 miles to the TN/VA border. The trail still muddy finally stayed in a down direction after another 73 NUNDs. I arrived at the border at 8:10 pm and was so excited to be entering Virginia. It's crazy to think I am almost up to 500 miles walked. I passed the last designated campsite in the book as it was dark and threw on my head lamp. I arrived at a small campsite just after 9:20. It's so close to town you can see houses. I started a fire and dinner after I set up my tent. Looking at mileage I walked 28.9 miles on the AT snd over a mile in water trails. So i basically did a 30 mile day. Holy crap. I feel pretty darn good for just waking 30 miles. Tomorrow I have a short walk to breakfast and all the town goodness. Bed time for me as its 12:03 which is like crazy hiker midnight...

May 24, 2016
Damascus Nero Day

I woke up again shivering around 6:30. I took out my phone and pulled up Damascus and the weather channel said it was 41. I looked for Tannersville NY in the Catskills and it said 58. Come on how the heck is it colder in southwest Virginia than the Catskill Mountains of New York. This is getting really old now. I forced myself up and packed up and headed the last .3 miles into town. I popped out of the woods literally between 2 houses. The trail follows a side street, then bangs a left and goes down a gravel walkway down the common. This was the where vendor row was during trail days. I walked all the way across the common then the trail makes a right and follows the side walk down Main Street. I have now been thinking about bacon egg n cheese biscuits from the Exxon station I had a trail days. I walked all the way down Main Street and the trail goes right onto another road. At this point the Exxon station was on the corner and I got off trail to go eat breakfast. I debated should I stay in town and take a Nero or do I do all my errands and head back on trail. My feet were a bit sore where my boots were rubbing but not horribly terrible. I knew I needed to eat, resupply, buy new rope and a new multi-tool, shower and do laundry. As I was sitting reading the newspaper I looked out the window and next door was a do it yourself car wash. Hmmmm shower check. I laughed at the visual of showering in a car wash with the big spray gun. No I didn't do it. Ompi texted me to say he was taking another day off as his left foot was giving him problems. I debated but decided what the heck I walked 30 miles yesterday why not take a day off. So I walked back down Main Street stoping at dollar general and an ATM. I checked in at Woodchucks. It was 10 dollars to tent, 2 for a hot breakfast and 5 for laundry. It was a deal in my book. The sun was shining and blue, blue skies. I set up my tent in the yard and put my laundry in first. I updated Facebook and went through emails while laundry was running. I also went through my food bag to determine what I needed for the next 4 days. After laundry I jumped in the shower and black water was running off me. Jeez with all the mud on the trail I was dirty. I sat on the back porch and talked to a bunch of thru hikers. It seems like so many people have gotten hurt due to the mud. The effort involved and the different movements you are making seem to have caused a lot of strain/sprains. I know 3 people here are going to a doctor today. I decided to walk back into town and supply up at dollar general (it's becoming my new friend) and hit the outdoor gear store for rope and a multi tool. I brought all my purchases back to my tent and organized it. At this point it was becoming dinner and I hadn't eaten lunch. I headed down to pizza plus where they have an all you can eat buffet, (AYCE from here on in). I ate 16 slices of pizza and 2 bowls of salad. I left (I think they were glad when I did) and walked through town and through the common. Felt good to walk and on days off I try to keep walking so my legs don't get stiff. I headed back to Woodchucks and hung on the porch for two hours and chatted with Ompi, gasket (who I haven't seen since the smokies) and a few other new faces. Around 8 I thought to myself who can I possibly be hungry again. I resisted the urge and went to bed. Luigi is coming into town today she's 7 miles away. I'm gonna wait for her and we are gonna get chocolate chip pancakes. It's her birthday so it's gonna be my treat (she doesn't know it yet) she turns 30 today.

May 25, 2016
Trying to escape the Damascus vortex

My plan was to sleep in today as I was meeting Luigi for breakfast. She had to hike 7 miles to get into town and she thought she would be here by 10. I was wide awake and looked at my watch 6:30am. Really! So much for sleeping in. Woodchucks gives you a hot breakfast for 2 bucks which was fantastic. Oj, coffee, strawberries, bananas,potatoes, waffles with syrup and whipped cream. It was fantastic. The kitchen was already full as everyone seemed to be up early. Last night wast nearly that cold and it was nice sleeping weather. On the walls in the kitchens dining area where two maps. One global and one of the USA. This hostel has been open since 2014 and they ask every guest to put a pin from where their home is. I was the first to put a pin from the Catskills. After breakfast I packed up all my gear and tent and had my bag ready to go. I spent the time charging all my devices bad chatted with the other hikers there. The weather was another blue bird sky day and it was s beauty. It was gonna be hot and humid finally. Luigi texted me saying she was walking into town. I left the hostel and walked down the street when I realized she was at the restaurant and not coming to the hostel. It was her 30 birthday and I treated her to breakfast. I looked at her and said goodbye 20's and welcome to the 30's party. Luigi got a combo and got her chocolate chip pancakes. No issues and no heads had to roll in the pancake department. They came through and provided choc pancakes with no issues. We walked back to the hostel and Luigi checked in and I got my boots on and suited up to shove off. I said goodbye to Ompi and gasket. Both were taking another zero as Ompi was letting his foot heal and gasket was waiting for his friend to heal. A lot of people injured themselves coming into Damascus due to the mud and trying to do crazy big days. I pushed off at about 1ish and walked down Main Street to mail a few postcards at post office. The trail follows Main Street then goes right following US route 58 which then the AT joins the Virginia Creeper trail. I had to follow that for
.40 miles. I almost stepped on copperhead snake which was just sitting on the trail. I thought it was a stick. Jeez!! The trail crossed route 58 and we got right at it climbing up up up. I'm getting used to this come into town happy and dreaming of food. Leave town and you pay!! It wasn't to bad but I'm not sure if it was because I have trail legs. The pitch and steepness I was thinking I should be resting, breathing heavy, sweating right now but I'm good. Such a weird feeling. I took a couple of breaks to drink water as it was warm and humid. After about 3 miles I stopped to drink and I see little John coming up the trail. I haven't seen him since over mountain shelter which was the big red barn that got converted to a shelter. We walked and chatted for several miles. The trail came over the first high point and we descended back down to the river. We crossed over route 58 again and the trail reconnected for a bit with the Virginia Creeper Trail. It then followed the trail for 2 miles and this section was just beautiful and the sound of cascades was really nice. I so wanted to jump in but the water level was just too high and the current too strong. It was muggy and the water looked so inviting. We turned away from the river and the trail went straight up for 2 miles. We gained 1100 feet of elevation and the trail was a series of 12 switchbacks. We stopped for a water break where the AT makes a u turn and there is another trail that stays straight ahead. This goes back to the Virginia Creeper within a mile. While sitting there Tarzan came up the trail. He had passed me at Watauga Lake but I didn't know his trail name. He said hello up little John and myself and I thought he was waking to sit on the other side of me but he kept on trekking. I was like no no no wrong way. I almost didn't catch him. He was so thankful and didn't notice that the AT made s U-turn. He would of been walking at least a mile out of his way. We continued back up the trail and came across knot who tented next to Otter and I at trail days. He's about 10 years older than me and was dying in the humidity too. We finally came across a sign for the shelter which was a .25 mile blue blaze. We arrived and I set up my tent while little John jumped into the shelter. We made dinner and sat around and chatted before it was hiker midnight. So we thought we looked at our watches and it was only 8:25 but it was bed for all of us. Only about 9 miles today but I was wiped. I had purchased tape for my blisters at dollar general which worked really well. They did not carry moleskin so this was my only option. My two side blisters hurt early on but as it got more humid they boots seemed to stretch and they didn't hurt as bad. I have my socks off and I'm trying to dry them off.

May 26, 2016
Back to 5000 foot mountains

Woke up to rain in the middle of the night. I think it was around 4am and I went back to bed. Thank god I'm tenting in a pine grove and there are a lot of pine needles as my back is sore but would be so much worse. I got up around 7 and it was just cloudy. I packed up and ate a cold breakfast and got on the trail about 9am. The climb was mostly flat with a few ups and downs. Then the trail descended back down to the river and to the Virginia Creeper trail. The trail followed the creeper trail for awhile then darted back into the woods. Last night at the shelter there was myself and little john, Avalon, David and Gretel. Gretel came after I went to bed. Climbing up from the creeper trail David passed me and said he was probably having lunch at lost mountain shelter. It was only 2 miles away. The trail ran a bunch of switchbacks and I arrived to lost mountain shelter in no time. David was there and so was Avalon. She must of left before I got up. There were also two woman in their sixties with their dogs. One of them I recognized as the woman who sat with Otter and I at breakfast in Hot Springs the morning he was gonna drive me back to greasy creek gap. She was like no I didn't walk here my friend wanted to hike with me for a week so she picked me up in Erwin and we drive north to Greyson Highland State Park and are walking back to Damascus then she will go home and I will continue on till I get back to Erwin and then will get a ride back. They were a hoot. Everyone finished there lunch and headed out. I headed out after filtering water. The trail descended back down and I crossed over US 58 again. This being the third time. The trail ascended at a good clip steady uphill for 5 miles. The trail went through another cow field but I didn't see any cows this time. To get to the summit of Whitetop Mountain we had to gain 2300 feet of elevation. I finally broke above the trees to around 5100 feet and the top was almost similar to a bald. Low shrubs and grasses abundant with fantastic views. The trail then went sharply right with a side trail to the real summit. The trail began to descend again and crossed Virginia 600 and crossed into another cow field on a bald hill covered in all grassland. The cows were all to the left at the bottom of the field near the fence. I discovered I had one package left of Jelly Belly sports beans left. I love these and quickly ate the package. They give you such an energy boost especially when you are dragging. The trail climbed the grassy hill and went into the woods. It followed the ridge for awhile with a slight increase but not noticeable. The trail them descended to deep gap where there was a sign stating 2 miles to the shelter. The trail went up steeply and I believe it was on Mt Rogers but curved to the right and circled the mt. After climbing steeply and some switchbacks it leveled off and I came across a field and there were wild ponies. I was able to walk out amongst them and filmed it. If you want to see the video go on Moe Hikes the Appalachian Trail as I posted it there. It was so cool to see the ponies. Just amazing. The last mile of the climb I could feel that I was running on empty. I was getting starving. The trail again came to a grassy area and you could see Thomas Knob shelter in the distance. I got to the trail junction where the side trail to Mt Rogers was .5 left. I just didn't have the energy to do this tonight so I will run up the summit in the morning. I arrived at the shelter to some familiar faces that I saw at Uncle Johnnies in Erwin. I ate a cold dinner as there was a ban on any fires at the shelter. The view from this location is simply amazing and fantastic. If anyone reading this is behind me going north bound or is headed south bound make sure you plan on staying here or at least having an hour long lunch it is stunning. I set up on the second floor of the shelter. This particular shelter has a ladder with a small hole in the ceiling. It sleeps 16 and there are only 6 of us in the shelter with I think 3 others in hammocks nearby. No storms tonight as we lucked out. They were to our east and west. I'm at mile mark 497 tonight.

May 27, 2016
Greyson Highlands and wild ponies

I woke up this morning to someone's alarm going off on their watch. I decided to get up and watch the sunrise and to summit Mt. Rogers. The sunrise was spectacular and to get to the summit the trail was a blue blaze and it was only 1/2 mile. Unfortunately the summit had no view and it was covered in spruce trees. I got back to the shelter and filtered water, took my bear bag down and ate breakfast. At this point it was close to 7:45 so I climbed into the loft and quietly packed up my stuff. The crew that was at the shelter were the other half of the group that Avalon, David and Gretel were hiking with. They were polar bear, trinity and daddy long legs. I stayed with their other group Avalon and company at the Saunders Shelter the night before. The odd thing was all three of them said they were going to Thomas Knob Shelter and either left before me or passed me. I didn't see any of them at the shelter last night and didn't pass them during the day from what I noticed. Really odd. I got on trail at 8am and instantly the trail changed into a rocky outcrops and small bushes. It was really magnificent views 360. This must be the preclude to the Greyson Highlands which were coming up. I descended a rock outcrop and at the bottom there were about 30 wild ponies just grazing along the trail and in the trail. One of the ponies ran up to me assuming I had a snack for it. When I didn't the pony proceeded to lick me apparently getting the salt from my body. I moved on after taking some pictures and making sure the licker wasn't following me. I arrived at the official gate to Greyson Highlands and took some more pictures. Ponies were everywhere mostly in the distance from me. I continued along the trail and most of the ponies started walking north on the AT just in front of me. They all herded together and started going north. I laughed and said talk about a pack of thru hikers. I quickly learned why they were doing this and 1/2 mile up the trail there was a stand of balsams and spruce on the right that they could get under to get out of the sun. It was a very warm morning and by 10am it was almost hot. They were so neat to watch. I continued on leaving the Greyson Highlands and stopped at the next shelter to have a snack. Clouds had formed and it started to sprinkle. I put on my rain cover and continued on. The trail ascended to (Rock top) mountain which was almost like a bald but with more bushes and a few small trees. You could see dark clouds off to the north. I descended and walked past a horse ranch. There were a group of people and about as many horses. I presumed they were going riding. The trail went south of their location and into a grassy parking area. I plopped down taking a break. A forest service employee who was with the people with the horses was leaving but looped around when he saw me and asked if I was alright. I said yes and we chatted for a bit. He was really nice and was letting me know of what was coming north and some nice camp spots. He drove off and I continued north. There was another climb and this one was not to bad. Once to the top it skirted a fence and then descended back down. Now it dawned on me it was the beginning of a holiday weekend as there was a steady stream of day hikers and weekend hikers coming up the hill. I would say I passed 35 people on the descent and I arrived at Old Orchard Shelter where I ate lunch. The sky still looked ominous. The next shelter Hurricane Mountain Shelter was only 4.2 miles and that was where I planned on stopping for the day. I descended for another mile and crossed a dirt road. The trail then ascended again after a stream crossing. This is where after 500 miles of walking I had my first fall. The stream had a wood bridge to cross it and had 4 steps going down to the bridge. I put my foot on the first step and it flew out from under me. I flew through the air landing on my back/pack sliding down all 4 stairs and nearly landing in the creek. Smitty helped to break my fall and I thought it was going to snap in half. Luckily it was fine and I was fine no injury. I continued on and the trail rise steeply up iron mountain. I was about 1/2 mile in when the skies opened up and it poured. It continued to rain up and over the climb all the way to about 5 minutes of arriving at Hurricane Mt Shelter. When I arrived to the shelter it was full of weekend hikers. Sat under cover and tried to dry off, sign the log book and read it. I actually had cell service here and sent out a few texts. The last two days has been really bad with service and trying to post blog updates. I decided to push on to let things dry out again and to find a campsite. Well 5 miles later and several more rain showers I came to Virginia route 16. I was beat and was determined to find a campsite. After walking north on the AT finally a nice campsite appeared and I set up shop. I almost just laid down on the ground and went to sleep but thought what if it rains. Luckily this campsite was north of the rain so it was dry. I made dinner and was fishing around the food bag when I came across 3 nips that Chris Lovell had sent me in the package in Hampton TN. Baileys salted caramel, yes please. Boy was it nice to have a night cap for my aching bones. Jeff my husband is driving down tomorrow to see me. I'm so excited. This is the longest we have ever been apart since meeting one another almost 20 years ago. He is leaving from New York in the am and it's about a 10 hour drive. I walked 21.3 miles today and feel pretty darn good still.

May 28, 2016
Jeff is coming

After waking up from a horrible night of sleep. First it was my air mattress or lack there of and sleeping basically on the hard ground. I awoke in the middle of the night to back spasms then when that passed the coyotes started screaming. Once they had moved on I was about to drift off when the whippoorwill started doing its call at 3am. Are you serious!!! At 6:30 I said forget it and got up and made breakfast and packed up. I took my time getting ready as I knew Jeff was picking me up at Mt. Rogers visitor center and it was only 14 miles away. I pushed off on trail about 9 and the first climb of the day was a steady up but not to bad. This mountain had no name in the book but was an 800 foot elevation gain. At the top I texted and called Jeff so we could agree exactly where to meet in case there was no cell service. I called my mom who was visiting in New Hampshire and Jeffs parents to get an update on the tropical storm and the timing. I headed the 2 miles down to trimpi shelter where I filtered water, had a snack, read, wrote in my paper journal, wrote in the log book. I killed some more time and pushed off again. The trail ascended some more passing through a field where the grass was chin high almost with the trail cutting through it. So cool. There were a couple more ups and downs but nothing to noteworthy. I did cross a road at one point and a long bridge over a creek the water looked so inviting as it was hot. I do remember the climb after the road had 8 false summits. You go up, up, up and think your almost there and then once on top you notice more up ahead. Finally reaching the summit I called Jeff to get an update. Then headed back down and arrived at Fellowship Shelter at 4:00. I walked over to the Mt. Rogers visitor center which was .20 miles away and arrived at 4:06 and they closed at 4pm. Argh!!!! So much for charging my phone. No cell signal here either. Let's hope Jeff finds me. I trudged back to the shelter and picked up trash. It makes me furious when thru hikers are careless and trash places. The shelter was like a log cabin with a loft area. On the right side of the shelter was a room which housed a cold shower. The inside of the shelter had 3 empty boxes of beer and trash scattered about and on the picnic table. It's this small % that ruin the good name of most thru hikers that are respectful, follow the rules, carry out more than what they carried in. I spent about 45 minutes cleaning up and walking trash to the dumpster on the other side of visitor center. I made 3 runs. Back at the shelter familiar faces started showing up. Waterfall and her guy, D3, Avalon, David. Bullet showed up and he started Springer on May 10.
MAY 10!!!!! He's to where I am and I started April 6th holy crap he's literally running and his pack is 25 lbs. Crazy!! The visitor center has a phone outside their building where you can call local for shuttles and to have pizza delivered to the shelter. That's right it's the only place on the AT where you can get pizza delivered trail side. Waterfall her guy and I all ordered together. I got a large cheese and ate the whole thing. I chatted for awhile with everyone. At 7:30 I went and sat by the road as the visitor centers gates were closed. At 8:25 I saw the red Chevy cruise with New York plates coming up the road. OMG it has been almost 2 months since I've seen Jeff. It's the longest time we've ever been apart and it's been so hard. We drove to Bristol and got a room at the Marriott. Pool and hot tub. Now this is a zero!


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 also 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!

Help Moe Hike for the Catskills!

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.