Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The 700 Club

Woo Hoo! I am now a member of the 700 Club...not Pat Robertson's club, but the one that requires a lot of walking. It has been a weird week that I feel has been out of routine with weird stops and stuff but you will see that in a minute. First, let's tackle some questions that you all had for me.

How well marked is the trail?
The trail is very well marked by white blazes painted on trees and rocks. If there are intersecting trails, they are usually marked by a sign or a blue blaze. If the trail has been moved or rerouted, there are piles of logs and sticks blocking the old trail.

How are your feet and shins doing?
They are good. Yesterday though I walked through the rain and my feet were swimming, causing a few small blisters on my toes. They will heal though.

What song do you listen to the most?
There is no particular song, but I have been listening to the Passion Here For You album and some Foo Fighters quite a bit.

What, besides my wife, do I miss the most?
I miss my Cincinnati Reds baseball!

Where do I want to be taken to lunch when I get back?
El Camino Real! Chicken quesadillas fajitas!

Have I seen Bigfoot?
I have seen signs of him like footprints and droppings...those could be mine though.

What are your plans after the trail?
I am blessed to have a job at Starbucks again when I finish up. Long term, I have been thinking about teaching, freelance graphic designer, or some sort of off the wall ministry. There are still many more miles for me to figure out life, but until then I am enjoying the ride.

What is slack packing?
Slack packing is hiking to a certain point without your backpack and requires a car. You arrange for someone to either drop you or your backpack off and you hike to a designated spot (either to your pack or back to a town). This allows for you to get big miles in without having to wear your backpack and can be done in a short amount of time. Example- I slack packed back into Damascus and hiked 19 miles in 6 hours and was able to stay another night in town and got a ride back the next day to continue hiking north.

Here is what has happened since the last time...

Day 58 (5/8) - Zero day
There is something about a day off that is not only good for your body, it's good for your soul. The day started off pouring rain so we quickly decided to take the day off. This place- Woods Hole- is simply magical. I had signed up for breakfast and went up to the cabin early for coffee. They were still early in the prep stages for breakfast so I volunteered to help where I could. Ironically I got put on coffee duty. Then I helped with the eggs. Later, the gang went into town and I stayed behind to just lay in the hammock and relax and enjoy the day. Then I decided to help with some farm chores. It was good to do some work that needed my upper body (it isn't getting the workout my legs are). Because of that work, I got my dinner for free. The night ended with a jam circle in the living room of the cabin with 2 guitars, a bongo, and a mandolin. It was a blast, especially when Neville (hostess of the hostel) jumped in and danced a little hillbilly jig! The moral of the story is a zero day (planned or unplanned) is good for the soul! This also applies to all you non-hikers out there!

Day 59 (5/9) - Woods Hole Hostel to Pearisburg, VA (10.4 mi)
As hard as it was to leave Woods Hole, we packed up and headed out. We didn't plan to take the zero yesterday, but were glad we did. I wouldn't have been opposed to staying again, but it gets really expensive. We hit the trail and I quickly found a good pace. There were nice gentle uphills but there was a huge 2000 foot descent that I was not looking forward to. My shin splint was still bothering me so as long as I was going up or flat, I felt fine. The huge downhill actually didn't hurt all that bad and once I made it all the way down, I was just outside of town. Oh did I mention that during the entire hike it poured down rain? Yeah, it did. And did I also mention that the temperature was floating around the 50 degree mark? It was. Once I got down to the town I turned my phone on because I knew one of the gang would text me to let me know where they were. They were across the street, freezing cold, and also soaked. They decided to get a room for the night because the rain just wasn't letting up. After 2 failed attempts at 2 motels, we got the last room at the only other motel. Surprisingly, most were full of hikers who were also cold and wet and looking to get off trail. Today was a wash (get it?) but tomorrow is supposed to be clear skies so hopefully we will make up some miles then.

Day 60 (5/10) - Pearisburg, VA to Pine Swamp Branch Shelter (19.3 mi)
Not a whole lot to say about today other than it was long. We crossed in and out of town for around 3 miles and finally made a big climb up to get on the ridge line. After that it was pretty much a straight shot the entire way. There wasn't a lot to look at and everything seemed repetitive. The only highlight of the day was that the privy at the shelter I stopped at for lunch was just a toilet on a platform. It had a great view and for some crazy reason got 4 bars of 3G service from AT&T. The sad thing was that there was an AT&T tower on the trail and I barely got 1 bar standing next to it. Oh well, I am here to hike, not check my Facebook and e-mails (but it helps on days like today). Finally got to the shelter around 9 tonight (told you it was a long day). It was full and there weren't any good places to set up my tent so I set up on the dirt floor of the shelter. It did have an inside fireplace and someone had a fire going so on the plus side I am sleeping in front of the fire. Sipsy and Dirty Girl are the only 2 I recognize here in the dark (everyone else is asleep) and the rest of my crew went 1 more mile. I was too hungry to keep going, plus it's too dark and I'm too tired so I will catch up in the morning.

Day 61 (5/11) - Pine Swamp Branch Shelter to Laurel Creek Shelter (18.5 mi)
I went to bed last night on a sour note. I was exhausted and grumpy. So today I needed to get in a positive mindset or else it would be a miserable day. I made myself say 2 things I was thankful for today before I would start walking. I am thankful for getting to see my wife in a week and a half and that it was warming up and not going to rain (it got down in the upper 30's last night/this morning). I felt in a better mood pretty quickly and took off. The day started off pretty level and then took a big turn up. I made it up pretty quickly but found myself ready for lunch and it wasn't even noon yet (my hiker appetite is starting to kick in). I stopped and ate and continued down the trail. The terrain was pretty rocky but at least it was level. After a few miles of that, the trail dropped 2000 feet and then immediately climbed 2000 feet. I guess a huge bridge to cross the mountains was out of the question. When I was about 80% up the mountain, I saw a container with trail magic. I was trying not to get my hopes up because a lot of times those containers are usually empty or full of trash. I opened it up and sure enough it was full of pop, apples, and oatmeal cream pies. I grabbed a Dr. Perky (Dr. Pepper's jittery cousin) and the snacks and consumed as if I only had 10 seconds to finish them. Then I flew! I made those last 3 miles in superhuman time. I felt like Popeye after he had his spinach. Made it to the shelter and ate my instant mashed potatoes and hit the hay! Oh yeah, 2 month trail anniversary today!

Day 62 (5/12) - Laurel Creek Shelter to Niday Shelter (12.4 mi)
I have to admit that today I disappointed myself. The goal was 22 miles and I fell 10 short. I blame peer pressure. I already had a strike against me because I overslept and didn't get on the trail until 9:30. That shouldn't have stopped me though. I felt great today! The climb first thing was a beast, but after that I was in the groove. There were incredible views from the rocky ridge line. When I made it to Niday, I only had 10 miles to go and it was only 3:45. Yes, I would have gotten in after dark for the third night in a row but that would have been fine. Instead, I fell into the peer pressure trap of everyone deciding to call it a day and make it to a hostel and restaurant tomorrow. I should have pushed on. This wasn't part of my plan. But as I looked over everything, it would work out perfectly to meet Wendy and my Dad in Waynesboro. I reconfigured my plans and from this point on I have to stick to it (even if there is a monsoon everyday until then). I cannot give in to short day peer pressure anymore. I felt great all day- all cylinders were firing. No more 12 mile baby days until New Hampshire (where 12 miles will be a huge day).

Day 63 (5/13) - Niday Shelter to Four Pines Hostel (16.8 mi)
So the energy I had yesterday continued today. We all got up at 6 and I was on the trail by 6:50. Including the giant climb first thing this morning, I hiked the first 9 miles in 3 hours. I was rocking it. I went on and ate my lunch at 10:30 since we were planning on going to a buffet tonight. The next 6 miles were up and down and rocky. But then the highlight of the day came- Dragon's Tooth. Dragon's Tooth is a huge rock monolith shooting out of the mountain. It's a popular day hiker attraction. I have a fear of heights and falling so climbing up a huge rock is not my thing, but I can proudly say I faced my fears and climbed up that beast. I got some help and encouragement from the gang and got to see an incredible view from the top! The trail down was just as fun. It was steep drop offs. It reminded me of climbing up Albert Mountain except we were climbing down. Today was fun. It was nice to have some challenges. I got to the hostel and because it is Mothers Day they were not doing shuttles to the restaurant, so I walked down to the gas station to resupply and grab dinner. It started raining and everyone is already talking about taking tomorrow off and waiting for nice weather for McAfee Knob. I am not (see yesterday). I have a schedule and I am keeping to it. If it is nasty when I get to McAfee Knob, maybe I can get Wendy to drive me back down when she comes and I can get some pictures then.

Day 64 (5/14) - Four Pines Hostel to Lambert's Meadow Shelter (16.3 mi)
Even though it rained and I didn't have any views, especially of the picturesque McAfee Knob, it was a great hike! And how could it not be- I hit the 700 mile mark! Dirty Girl is the only one who braved the evil rain with me because both of us are on a schedule and we are sticking to it. It wasn't bad until we walked through a field with high wet grass. It was like a car wash for our legs. That got my socks and shoes soaked. I had to just deal with it. The rain did allow for me to see two huge box turtles, a few toads, and a ton of little orange salamanders. We got to the first of four shelters we would encounter today and broke for lunch. The timing was perfect because it started pouring rain. We hung out there for about an hour and a half until it calmed down and then began hiking again. Once we got to the knob, we still took some pictures, but there wasn't much to see other than us in front of a white cloud. Oh well, it just shows how tough we are! Stopped at one more shelter for a little break and made the haul for the final 6 miles. All in all, the terrain was kind to us. I was glad to get to the final shelter so I could get my shoes and socks off. My feet were very pruney and I am hoping they didn't get too blistered. I will find out once they dry. Out of all the shelters we have seen, this is the rattiest (literally) that we could stay at. There is a huge rats nest in the corner. Hopefully they will leave us alone or else Dirty Girl will never sleep in a shelter again (it's his first time). Ok, now I need to get my mind off critters. Tonight I will dream of a hot shower, laundry, and Little Caesar's pizza and tomorrow make those dreams come true!

Day 65 (5/15) - Lambert's Meadow Shelter to Daleville, VA (9.4 mi)
Well I survived the night in the rat shelter. It rained pretty much all night. We got on the trail at 7:15 and had great pace. The terrain was a little rocky at parts. The first 5 miles flew (mostly because I was excited to get into town). The next 4 miles seemed like it took forever, mostly because we could see the town, but the trail kept going up and away from it. We were also hearing this whistling kind of hum the entire way and couldn't figure it out until we got down within a mile of the town. It was cicedas and thousands of them. I hate those things. We rushed through that section and made it to town. I ate an entire Little Caesar's pizza and then did my grocery resupply. Then a quick run to the outfitter to grab some fuel and was nicely reunited with Fatherman, DK, Big E, and Diesel. I hadn't seen them since at least Standing Bear. We also learned that for what we were going to pay at the truck stop for showers and laundry we could get a room at the HoJo for just a little more. We were only going to hike 5 more miles today so we decided to tag those on over the next week.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Brian,

    Thank you for your AT journal - I recently found it and read through the back posts and am now keeping up with it. I love that you are doing your hike for a charity. I've stumbled upon the blogs of several current thru-hikers...reading those journeys (including yours!) gives me inspiration and insight for the thru-hike I hope to do someday when my kids are grown! Right now, living vicariously through you and your fellow hikers. Keep up the good hike! :) (Holly in PR)