May 29, 2016
May 30, 2016
Jeff and I woke up around 8am and showered, packed and checked out of the hotel. We drove and had breakfast at Perkins. We then got on 81 and headed north back towards Marion. We arrived back at Mt Rogers visitor center around 11:30. After tearful hugs and goodbyes I walked back into the woods. Ugh that was so hard to do. I think harder then saying goodbye the first time on April 6th. I'm not sure if that was due to having trooper with me or not. Jeff is amazing as he drove 10 hours down from New York to I essence spend 24 hours with me to turn around and drive the 10 hours back to New York. I love him so much. Heading back into the woods the trail didn't waste time.. Up up up up. Within the first hour I crossed VA 622 and forest road 86. The big climb of the day was Glade Mt at 4113 ft. After the summit it was all downhill to Atkins. I stopped at Chatfield Shelter and at my turkey sandwich that Jeff and I bought at food city the night before. I met Google and treadless at the shelter. After my late lunch I continued on my way and crossed forest road 644. At this point it started to cloud over and I felt a drop. I took my pack off to put on my pack cover and gaitors and the heavens opened up. I just had enough time to get my pack cover on. It poured for a good 30 minutes and all there was to do was walki in the rain. I crossed VA 615 which was by an old one room school house called the Lindamood School. Right after the school I crossed VA 729 and went through a field. After the field there was a small wooden bridge where I sat to pour out about a cup of water from each boot. The rain let up and I continued on. The sun started to come out which helped to try and dry my soaked everything. The trail went up a ridge and you could see and hear
I descended down the ridge slipping and falling on a wooden bridge. That's twice in a week I've wiped out. There was a set of railroad tracks to cross that the trail came to US 11 where I crossed and went to the Sunoco station across the street. I took my boots and socks or poured another cup of water out of my boots and sat in the sun to dry off. Luckily it hadn't rained at this location so everything was still hot and dry. I put my sandels on and went inside to buy a drink and a bag of chips. I finally got on my way walking another 2 miles. After leaving the Sumoco station I crossed underneath I-81 finally. I decided to make camp in a field near VA 617. Two other campers set up shop near me and I crawled into my tent to crash.
May 31, 2016
After I wrote lasts night blog from my tent I started to fall asleep when I heard a roar in the distance. It was rain. Normally this is no big deal but it came down hard and fast that a river formed and basically a pond started to form where I was tenting and two others. I jumped out of the tent and pulled the stakes out and tried dragging the tent to higher ground and trying to keep my stuff dry. The other two hikers did the same as the water was rising on all four sides of the tent. It wasn't quite dark yet and a car driving by must of saw the commotion in the field and either felt bad or had it happen to them once stopped and yelled do you want a place to stay. The three of us were like heck yea. We threw all of our gear and tents back into our bags and piled into the mini van and drove back to Marion. The other two hikers were treadless and I think she said her name was waterfall but it wasn't the same one I met before. We crashed in their family room and were able to take a shower. We dried our gear on their covered patio. We were so thankful. In the morning we got driven back on their way to work.
After descending there was the climb up Lynn Camp Mt which was unforgiving and steep. It was slow going with the heat but finally I made it and started back down the other side. The trail descended and came across a US forestry road. I sat down and had a snack as my energy level was nil. As I was sitting I heard thunder in the distance. I had no cell signal to check radar so I put on my rain cover and gaiters. I boogied up the hill to try snd make the shelter which was only 4 miles away. The climb was steep and I quickly was running out of energy. The storm still seemed far away and I wasn't even sure if it was headed towards or away from my location. I was crawling up the chestnut knob when I was finally able to get radar. Two big storms were headed my way. I decided to not try to make the shelter. I don't mind walking in the rain but was afraid I'd get there rye shelter will be full and I'd be stuck putting my tent up in the rain. I decided the next available spot to camp I'm doing it. Of coarse there was no available place to camp for a mile. Finally about 2 miles from the shelter I see a fire ring. I quickly get my tent out throw it up. Throw all of my gear in and it downpours. Phew!! Just in the nic of time. The batch of rain over me is going to last for hours. I'm glad I'm dry. Sleep time for me.
June 1, 2016
The day of suck and boy did it suck. I woke up at 6am wet. Wet sleeping bag, wet pad, wet tent, wet everything. It poured so hard that water got between the tent and the base layer and soaked through during the night. I got up and ate a cold breakfast and then packed up all the wet gear. I got on trail about 7am. The climb was brutal like it was last night. I just thought it was because I was tired. Up up up for another two miles. I passed a group of three yellow lady slippers. I had never seen yellow before only pink. I took pictures and sent one to Leslie my plant specialist who I used to work with just to confirm. Wow!! So cool!! The trail broke into a grassy field but still climbed. After about a 1/2 mile I came to a pond with a spring on the north side of it. I filled up on water. It was only 8:30 am and it was hot. I kept climbing through 2 more fields when I came to Chestnut Knob Shelter. The shelter was a cinder block building with a door. It slept 8 and had a picnic table inside the shelter. You could of fit 30 people inside standing. If I had known that I would have pushed onto the shelter even though it was raining. However the fields and exposed ridge line in the thunderstorm might have been a bit harrowing.
|Chestnut Knob Shelter|
Finally I arrived at the shelter and first filtered water. Once finished with that I took off my boots and put my sandals on. I started to pull out all my wet gear from my bag when I noticed it had started to cloud over. I moved my bag to the shelter and the heavens opened up. There was already a hiker at the shelter when I arrived napping but they quickly woke up with the rain. Then I heard thunder. Well this is going to be a while. With nothing else to do I took out my sleeping pad and took a nap. Virgil arrived about 30 minutes later and then a south bounder who is doing a flip flop hike from Pennsylvania. After about an hour more the rain subsided and the sun came out. It was 4:30 and I pushed on. Where it was much later now I decided to head for Laurel Creek campsites than try and get to the next shelter. With all the pop up storms I did not want to get stuck. I already had a wet tent I didn't want to have to set it up in the rain. I didn't get a chance to dry it out with the afternoon rain. Ompi texted me saying the next stretch wasn't too bad and he had hitched a ride into Bland and missed the rain. He was about a mile from the next shelter which put him about 8 miles in front of me. I only had one climb to do and got at it. The climb itself wasn't too bad the mud made it super difficult. After about 1.5 miles I got up on top of the ridge line and the trail was flat for 2.5 miles. I took out my back up phone charger and plugged in my phone so it would be fully charged when I got to camp. It was down to 28%. I walked the 2.5 easy miles and pulled my phone out to check on the status of charging. The phone was at 30% and the charger was dead. At the hotel in Bristol when I was charging it, something seemed off. Now I know why. Ugh. I'm going to have to go into Bland to charge my phone. I don't like being in the woods with no battery. I could use my stove but with all the rain it has not been reliable for that. I kept on chugging and descended the mile down to Laurel creek. There were campsites across the dirt road. When I arrived a few other thru hikers were set up. None I had met before. I set up my tent which was soaked (boy this is gonna be fun to sleep in) then proceeded to make dinner. Chris Lovell had mailed me nips and I still had a Kahlua one left. I made 6 cups of hot water and made ramen, rice and coffee which I put the nip in. Great night cap Chris. Thank you!! Made the ending of the day nice.
June 2, 2016
I slept in today and didn't get up until 7:30. Wohooo!! The tent dried through the night except for the part under my pad but overall it was mostly dry. I got up packed up and pushed off around 8 after eating a cold breakfast. The morning climb wasn't too bad it followed a bunch of switchbacks and I was at the top in no time. The trail than followed the side of the ridge for 6 miles. It stayed fairly level and was fantastic to walk. You could see out over the valley. Today was the day of the caterpillar. 90% of the trees including white pine were defoliated. The trail was littered with bits of leaf debris. It was like this all 18.8 miles with some areas worse than others. With the lack of leaves there were some fantastic views. The sound of light rain could be heard along the whole trail. At first I was confused as it was sunny out than I realized it was caterpillar poop. Ick!!!!
After 6 miles the trail followed a dirt road for a mile to route 52. I had decided to go into the town of Bland to charge my phone and to pick up the resupply I needed. I started hiking hoping I would be able to hitch a ride. No such luck. I walked the 3 miles and saw the sign entering Bastian. Oh shit I went the wrong way. I thought Bland was west and it was easy. Jordan pulled over as he must of seen the look of distain on my face and asked if I needed a ride. I said I went the wrong way and really wanted to go to Bland. He said I'm going that way I'll take you. He had a 1952 Ford pick up. He was refurbishing it. It was his grandads. It's neat in the south you see much older cars in the north they get rotted out so fast with the salt. He dropped me off at the Sunoco station and they had a pizza/deli and seating inside. I ordered a cheeseburger combo and sat at a booth that had a plug up charge my phone. It didn't work so I went to a different one, that didn't work either. After the third plug I gave up. I guess they had the circuit breaker off so Thru hikers don't sit there all day taking up valuable seating. I ate my meal and walked up the street to Dollar general. After some moving of carts out front I found a plug. Success!! I went inside to purchase my resupply and then came back out and drank and ate while my phone charged. I was there for about an hour when a thunderstorm rolled through. I sat and watched.
A nice lady named Susan Bowers came to the store, her license plate said "hiker." On her way out we chatted a bit about where I lived and what my trail name was and when I started. She felt bad as she had an appointment to go to or she would of driven me back to the trail. I said no worries. She left and apparently got on the phone and called the cavalry. A woman named Nami showed up and said I can give you a ride, Susan called me but I have to stop at the library first. I was like sure and thank you. While I was loading my bag another woman pulled in and was like oh Nami you got him good bye y'all. I felt like a celebrity. Nami took me back to the trail. We talked about plants and I told her I saw yellow lady slippers yesterday. She was really excited. She dropped me off and I thanked her and started walking.
The trail followed a ridge with ups and downs but nice ones. Not like the stretch from Chestnut knob but the trail looks similar in the guidebook. I guess you never know. I came to a dirt road and bumped into waste management. This was my 5th encounter with him and I keep forgetting to mention him. He is 70 and is section hiking north using his jeep and a moped. He hikes south but leaps forward with the vehicle he comes to at a road crossing. Then he drives that vehicle north to the next road and walks south to get to his vehicle and does it again. His jeep has a bike hitch he can put the moped on if need be. It's a smart way to do it. He gave me a bunch of water and I said I'll see you tomorrow I'm sure. I walked a bit and bumped into spam and her boyfriend camping. I said hi. I walked another 3 miles and hit the 600 mile mark. So exciting. At this point it was getting dark so I threw on my head lamp for the last 3 miles to Jenny knob shelter. When I arrived at 9:30 the guys in the shelter were still up and there was room for me. Yay!! I knew there were big storms coming and didn't want to pack up a wet tent in the morning. I crashed almost instantly.
June 3, 2016
I woke up today squeezed in between whitecap and nooner. Purple mist and optimist were also in the shelter to my tight. I slept kind of rough last night. First the storms came through about midnight which woke me up. Then I was consciously trying not to snore or move around to much so I didn't wake up the guy on either side of me which I think caused me to not go into deep sleep. The nice thing about sleeping in a shelter is its so easy to get up and go in the morning. No tent to pack up and if you arrive late night and are so exhausted that all you unpack is your pad and bag it makes it that much easier. I got on trail at 7:30 and it was foggy but super humid. I would take a guess the dew point was in the mid 60's.
The trail dropped down and crossed over a suspension bridge over Kimberling Creek. It was a really neat bridge. On the other side of the bridge I saw a man with tape and a sign saying trail magic! I said you must be bear finders dad. He said you heard, well please eat a ton of food. They had sodas, Gatorade, gallon jugs of water, all kinds of chips, subs (turkey, ham, roast beef) cake that read congrats bear finder. It was awesome for 10am. I stayed and ate for a half hour and then moved on. I saw Gretel, chef, blue hawk as well as detour who I haven't seen since walking down the big hill into hot springs. Purple mist and optimist were also there. The clan asked me if I had seen David. I said yes he was at a campsite near the last road crossing. I asked where Avalon was and they told me she had gotten up at 7 and pushed off. They had camped nearby but didn't get up very early. I said thank you and goodbye and moved on. Gretel, chef and bluehawk passed me when I was switching to trekking poles from the walking stick. Ompi had texted me saying the trail from VA 606 to Wapitti shelter was mud all 6 miles. When I got to the downhill I thought it best to have the trekking poles. I was behind the three of them and we all took a side trail to dismal falls. I ate a snack and the three of them went in swimming. I debated going but my gaitors were covered in mud and I needed to boogie if I was gonna make the 21 miles to meet Ompi at Woods hole hostel. I yelled to the three have fun I'm moving on.
The trail for the next 7 miles was relatively flat but muddy. It made it really hard to walk. It felt like you were stepping on ice as when you stepped on the ground your foot would slide either left or right. I finally made it to Wapiti shelter where I was gonna have a snack and use the privy. When I arrived some man had his hammock set up in the shelter. I was like ok that's odd not to mention you've taken up the whole shelter. I was only there for 20 minutes. He wasn't too chatty. 7.2 miles away from shower, bed and laundry!! Wohooo. What lay ahead of me was a 2 mile steep climb up another mt with no name. I seem to be at a stretch where the trail goes up to these 3800-4000 foot peaks with no views and no name. The climb was tough as I was exhausted. It looked like rain was coming and it had sprinkled a bunch already. Finally I made it to the top. I checked radar, rain was most certainly coming. There was a text from Ompi. Moving on from Woods Hole Hostel. They are out of water. No showers, no laundry. Nooooooooooo!!! I had been daydreaming about the shower all day.
He said he was gonna push and camp just outside of pearisburg and did we want to split a room. I was like hell yes! He told me the royal couple are only 3 days ahead. OMG Sarah and Simon I have missed you guys. Sarah got back from the UK and Simon hiked through skipping trail days. Simon passed all of our locations while we were at trail days so now he is ahead. Sarah met up with Simon in Damascus about 2 weeks ago. So we need to catch them. The RC (royal couple from now on) said the Chinese AYCE (all you can eat) was fantastic. Ompi and I are gonna meet there tomorrow before we check into hotel. So now I'm sitting on top of this mountain with 4 miles to go before I get to the hostel with no water. Ugh what to do now as that plan is out the window. I decided to go for the next shelter. Which was 7 miles from my location. I dragged myself there. The last 4 miles I thought I was gonna drop. My legs burned and felt like rubber. The last climb in the book looked rough. I sat at the bottom near the waterless hostel and ate everything in my food bag for energy. I started the climb and as luck would have it the climb was so much easier than what the guidebook showed. Phew. When I arrived at Docs Knob Shelter there was only one person in the shelter. Score for me. I added up my mileage for the day and realized I had done 24. Gosh no wonder why I felt dead. Tomorrow I meet up with Ompi in Pearisburg.
June 4, 2016
June 5, 2016
I slept in until 8 am which was super late for me. It was raining lightly and neither Ompi or I had the Umph to get moving. I finally got up and showered. Ompi followed suit and we ran over to Food Lion for a small resupply. Ompi only needed tortillas and I needed a bit more. I checked out and walked over to the motel. Ompi had gone to Hardee's and bought us breakfast. 4 bacon egg n cheese biscuits. That was such a nice surprise. We organized and packed up and checked out of the motel. Ompi headed out as he came into town a bit further up the trail. I stopped in Dairy Queen and got an iced coffee and wanted to let my phone charge some more. I started on the side road back to the road about 11:30. The first part back on the trail was super muddy. It was so bad I was holding onto trees trying not to fall down. I crossed lane street where Ompi originally got off trail yesterday. The trail went up a bit passed a cemetery and then back down to US 460 where I crossed the Senator Shumate Bridge. The trail went down a set a stairs and under the a bridge and into the woods. It rose sharply for a mile and came back down to Landfill Road. There were signs do not drink the creek water. After following the trail back up steeply again you see why. The creek comes directly out of the landfill. Ick. The climb was about 2 miles up and then descended shortly to VA 642. It then went back into the woods crossing private property for 600 feet before rising sharply for 3 miles to Rice Field Shelter. The sky looked of rain and it rained intermittently as I was hiking. My plan was to stop at the shelter for a late lunch and then push on. When I arrived at the shelter Ompi was there and had set up his hammock as he wasn't sure if there would be bad storms or not. I looked at the radar as I had service and saw a line of storms coming. I decided to set up in the shelter and not risk getting poured on, hail, wind and lighting not to mention the risk of having to set up in the rain. There are about 7 others here and we all are relaxing making dinner. It was an easy 7.2 miles but still 7.2 closer to Maine. Tomorrow will be a big mile day.
June 6, 2016
June 7, 2016
I zonked last night. I mean passed out instantly once getting into my tent. I guess a 25 mile day hiking will do that to you. I woke up around 7:30 got up and made breakfast. I ate while writing my journal entry and packed up. I got on trail about 9am which is kind of late for me. After the first 2 miles I did not see Ompi so he must of already got packed up and was on his way. The first climb of the day was Kelly's Knob. The climb started out ok but there was a one mile stretch that was steep and several rest breaks were needed. I dropped my pole which disappeared in all the tall green plants on the side of the trail. I reached in to find my pole then realizing they were stinging nettles. Ouch!! I reached the top of Kelly Knob and there was a view where I had s snack. Spam and her guy where coming up the side trail as I was coming back from the view. I asked if they had seen Ompi and they said no. He must be ahead of me then. I moved on climbing down to the next shelter which was Laurel Creek. When I got there it was lunch time so I ate while reading the log. Ompi was there at 10 am and was headed for the shelter we both agreed to shoot for which was 18.2 miles. Wow if he was there at 10 that means he got on trail by 7am. How the heck did he do that as I was still dead to the world. I moved on and the trail passed through a few fields which were really pretty. After the fields and before the next big climb we passed by Keffer Oak which is the biggest oak on the AT and its about 300 years old. I thought Dover Oak in New York was bigger but maybe it's the oldest Oak tree on the AT. Next the big climb began up Sinking Creek Mountain. The climb up was another fought with very steep pitches and loose soil. It turned into switchbacks which made for a much easier go of it but the beginning was pure hell. Finally I made it to the ridge line and followed that for 6 miles. There was a shelter up top which was 1/2 mile off trail. I didn't need to stop so I kept moving on.
The ridge climbed over some rock ledges with some great views. It down poured for about 2 minutes. It was just enough time to get my pack cover on and it stopped. There was rain north of my location but it should miss. The random downpour was just for fun. It was partly sunny too when it happened and there was a rainbow but not well enough visible to take a picture. I began the climb down to Niday shelter which was about a 3 mile walk from the top of the ridge. About 1/2 mile from the shelter I reached into my side pocket for water. As I was doing so I was like wrong side that's the one that is empty. However my hand was where the bottle should of been and no bottle. It must of fallen out on the way down. Oh no ugh. I walked back for a bit and didn't see it. It could be anywhere in the 3 mile stretch. I kept moving on and hoped someone would bring it if they saw it in the trail. Just like Spam's I-phone from yesterday. When I got to the shelter Ompi had finished dinner and was packing up. He said he was gonna try and get to the top of the next mountain so we didn't have so many climbs. I said good idea but didn't know what to do about my water bottle. I decided at least to filter and fill the bottle I have and wait to see if anyone shows up with it. When I got back from filtering Ompi had got his shoes on. He said that either way we both would still go to the same shelter tomorrow so if I decided to stay the night at the shelter no biggie. He pushed on and I sat filling out the log book. I told myself I would wait an hour and if it didn't show up most likely no one saw it. At the shelter there was a pastor, 4 seniors who has just graduated and two other guys. I think all that were there were the same group from the same church doing a section hike. They were from Ohio. The pastor said let me give you this extra Nalgeen water bottle as I don't need it right now. I was most appreciative and told him if my bottle shows up he can keep it as an AT memory. I can't for the life of me remember his name as my hiker brain is in a fog. I told him about my trail journal if he was interested in following along. Pastor if you are reading this THANK YOU again for being so kind and offering me your water bottle. I wonder if mine showed up if so message me on here and let me know. Did you keep it? Do you want yours back? I can mail it. The pastor also gave me a meat bar and a cliff bar. The trail provided for me again when I was in need.
7pm hit and no one had come to the shelter from the trail. I got up and said goodbye to everyone and pushed on. The first 2 miles were easy and then we got to climb three. I took my phone out and out my headphones in and played some upbeat music to get myself up the hill. 3/4 of the way up I came across Ompi who said I'm dead and can't go on anymore so I stopped here. We were in a neat spot, which was a narrow ridge. I found a spot to set up my tent. Organized made dinner and now ready to pass out. Tomorrow we are hiking to just near Mcaffe Knob which is the most recognized part of the trail in my opinion. It's the lion king like outcrop where people stand out looking over the valley. I just realized I will be reaching this spot a year to the date that Al Cratty died from cancer. He was the original owner of smitty (the walking stick). I am carrying this stick as a tribute to AL who always wanted to walk the AT but died before he got the chance. This is his last hike and I have the pleasure of taking him on it, smitty that is. I find it fitting that I will be at Mcaffe on the anniversary of his pasting. Tomorrow I am gonna try and get into a town. We cross a road that leads to a grocery. I need a bit more food as its getting tight. The royal couple are within our reach.
June 8, 2016
Woke up today on the ridge line on bushy mountain and boy was it chilly with gusty winds. I got up and packed up as Ompi was already up. We both got on trail at 6:30 and left together. We were mostly up Brushy Mt and only had a short distance to go to the ridge line. There was a view point from the top which we didn't stay at for long as the winds were howling. The hike down bushy mt. seemed to take forever I mean forever. At the bottom we had to fill up on water as it was the only place for 10 miles. We pushed on making the climb up to dragons tooth. We met Jessie's Girl on the way up and she was the woman who I spent the night in the shelter with before Pearisburg. I finally got her trail name and she said Storm is this the guy you were trying to catch. The climb wasn't as bad as I thought it might be. Many switchbacks helped in that department. We skipped the shelter that was 1/2 mile off trail.
I was in the lead and a big gust of wind knocked over a dead tree across the trail a bit in front of me. Eeeek falling trees oh my! We descended down the ridge and arrived at US 311 where there was a big parking lot for Mcaffe Knob which was about 3.5 miles away. From this parking lot we had 2 miles to go before getting to Catawaba Mountain Shelter. The climb wasn't too bad until the very end when we just wanted to get there. We finally arrived at 8:30 and Jessie's girl was the only one at the shelter. I set up in the shelter and Ompi set up his hammock close by. We made dinner and are crashing. We are planning on getting up at 4am to watch the sun rise from Mcaffe Knob. To me Mcaffe Knob is the most pictured part of the AT in movies and on TV. I find it strange I will be getting to this big milestone for me on the one year anniversary of the passing of Al Cratty who was the original owner and carver of Smitty. Tomorrow I'm going to do a tribute for Al and hopefully get some great pictures. For now I gotta sleep if I'm getting up in 6 hours. Also tomorrow we make it to Troutville to catch up to the RC (Royal couple) which I haven't seen since Gaitlinburg.
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