Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Your Mission- If You Choose to Accept It

This week I was on a mission- to hike 134 miles in 7 days. This was a huge stretch goal for me. First off, I would be hiking 7 days straight. Second, I would have to average 19 miles a day to make it. My partner in crime is Dirty Girl, who usually hikes an average of 15 miles a day. He also wants to make it to Waynesboro by Tuesday night. We had our work cut out for us but we were up for the challenge. The payoff is huge- I get to spend two days with my wife who I haven't seen since Gatlinburg (April 1). So here is how the week shaped up...

Day 66 (5/16) - Daleville, VA to Bobblet's Gap Shelter (18.5 mi)
Today was a great hike, not only because of the terrain and weather, but also because we officially hit the 1/3 completion mark of the trail. We got off to a late start (around 9:30) but we were energized after a great night's sleep and a huge continental breakfast at the HoJo. It was also great to catch up with Secrets and Shenanigans. We knocked out the first section, which was getting away from the town and cicadas, as quick as we could. After some climbs and descents, the trail started to level off. The second half of the day we found ourselves walking parallel to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Today was also a great wildlife viewing day. We saw a mother turkey running around like crazy trying to protect her babies when we walked by and also spooked four deer right before we got to the shelter. I was impressed we got in right before dark with the late start and miles we did. Today was just the first day of this marathon. Six more to go!

Day 67 (5/17) - Bobblet's Gap Shelter to Cornelius Creek Shelter (18.4 mi)
Today was another killer day. I have to say I really enjoy hiking with Dirty Girl. For the most part I have hiked alone and would just meet up with everyone when we stopped for breaks or for the night because we all have different paces, but with Dirty Girl we hike the same pace so we are able to hike together. We had a great conversation today about God, faith, and how that looks for someone who is homosexual. The great thing about walking with him is because we walk the same pace we can have conversation during the entire hike and it keeps our minds off of the hard climbs like the 2400 foot one we had tonight. This was the second day in a row we have done over 18 miles and we have several more. I just hope we don't run out of things to talk about.

Day 68 (5/18) - Cornelius Creek Shelter to Glasgow, VA (19.9 mi)
I woke up this morning to see the sun starting to rise. I checked the time and it was only 5:30. Wow it is getting light early! Luckily I fell back asleep. We hit the trail right at 8 this morning with plans to push about 20 miles. We originally weren't going to go that far but we figured we could make it into Glasgow for resupply tonight and not have to worry about it tomorrow. We had a couple big climbs- none as big as last night, but enough to make it annoying. We flip flopped a few times with some weekend hikers and their dogs but finally passed them when they stayed behind at Matt's Creek Shelter. That is where we were going to stay but we pushed on. We walked along James River for around a mile which put us at some of the lowest elevation we have been on this entire hike (which means we will have to do some climbing to get back up- suck!). We crossed the river on the longest foot bridge on the trail and made it to the highway that took us into Glasgow. We made great timing to hike almost 20 miles by 6:45. I have been feeling my legs getting stronger and stronger this week. I stuck out the magic thumb and the second car to pass us pulled over and gave us a ride. This elderly black gentleman liked to drive fast and hug the turns on this windy road. I sat in the front seat and it felt really weird seeing everything move so fast. What would have taken us 2-3 hours to walk took only 15 minutes by car. The town of Glasgow isn't much but it had a restaurant that closed right before we got there and it had a Dollar General. After a quick resupply we headed over to a shelter just for hikers run by the parks department. It is complete with a hot water shower, a porta-potty, and fire ring. I saw it listed in the guide but had my reservations until I saw it. It is actually a pretty sweet service offered by this town. They are taking pride in being an official Appalachian Trail town. So even though we missed dinner, we were invited back for breakfast so I am planning on getting my carb overload on before hiking another 20 tomorrow.

Day 69 (5/19) - Glasgow, VA to Brown Mountain Creek Shelter (20 mi)
So I feel a bit like a homeless person after last night. I basically slept in a shelter right in a town and you could hear people talking, sirens, car horns, and all other noises of a small town. We got up and ate our big breakfast at the restaurant and hitched a ride back to the trail. With stomachs full we started the long trek up and then up some more. Today was just one of those days that no matter how far I walked I didn't feel like I was getting anywhere. There were some nice views of the James River and the town of Buena Vista from up high. I could tell Dirty Girl was getting tired and in some pain so I was trying to get him in some good conversation to take his mind off of it. In the last stretch we saw a sign that said the shelter was 2 miles off but the guide said it was only 1.2 miles. The further we walked the more I was seeing that the book was wrong in the mileage. Once we finally made it to the shelter, we were both too exhausted to make the side trail climb up to the shelter so we pitched our tents. Tonight I am excited about being in my tent and even ate my dinner in it (shame on me). My food bag is camping with me too so hopefully I won't get visited by any critters. I'm a rebel.

Day 70 (5/20) - Brown Mountain Creek Shelter to Seeley-Woodworth Shelter (15.8 mi)
So what is the difference in eating dinner and not eating dinner? It's about 5 miles. Since I didn't eat a real meal last night, just a few snacks, my caloric level wasn't where I needed it to be to start off today which meant I was dragging. The plan was to push about 22 miles to the Priest Shelter and that would put us in a great position to do 19-20 miles tomorrow and coast into Waynesboro on Tuesday with about 15 miles. That was an aggressive take on our schedule- it was based on hitting the all you can eat Chinese buffet that night. Finishing where we did still puts us on schedule, it just means we have to do 20 miles the next two days. The big victory today was hitting the 800 mile mark. With keeping with the theme this week, we started with a big climb (2500 ft). That pretty much sucked the life out of me. I got a second wind after lunch but it didn't last very long. I slipped into zombie mode where I was just walking and not much else, but was quickly snapped out of it by a big fat rattle snake. It jumped into coil position and started rattling its tail. I think I pee'd a little when I jumped back. We had to walk off trail to get around it and Dirty Girl "persuaded" it off the trail so it wouldn't bother any hikers coming up afterwards. That was pretty much the highlight of the day. Hoping for more energy and no rain tomorrow.

Day 71 (5/21) - Seeley-Woodworth Shelter to Maupin Field Shelter (20.4 mi)
Today was a tough day. It didn't start out that way, though since we knocked out the first half plus lunch in 5.5 hours. That kept our pace right at 2 mph. But we knew what we were dreading and it was a 3000 ft climb over a span of 6.5 miles. This was the big daddy of the week. This was the one big hurdle that stood in the way of eating some awesome fast food in awesome amounts tomorrow. I tried to make sure I was putting enough calories in my system before making the climb. It helped, but I was quickly drained. As I started making the descent off the mountain I was getting light headed and weak. Luckily, Dirty Girl came to my rescue with some peanut butter. Talk about gone in 60 seconds, I tore up 2 peanut butter wraps very quickly. That gave me enough energy to make it the last 2 miles. I didn't even go to the shelter because there was a nice large camping spot right by the little trail that went there. Now if the rain will hold out, the 21 miles tomorrow should be cake!

Day 72 (5/22) - Maupin Field Shelter to Waynesboro, VA (21 mi)
Ah, to experience mind over matter is most often a good thing. Today it wasn't. In my mind I was going to be arriving in a town with a ton of food options and going to see my wife and dad. But the reality was I had to hike 21 miles first. No matter how hard I pushed and how fast I went, it would not make my arrival any quicker than evening. So of all things to get my mind off of town, it was my stomach. And it wasn't that I was hungry, it was that I had to go. I have made it the entire journey without having to go in the woods. I pressed hard to make it to the next shelter with a privy. I was not successful. So my small victory for the day- I pooped in the woods for the first time! After that, I was able to focus on the task at hand- finish this stretch. I met Dirty Girl down at the shelter and we filtered water and got mentally prepped for the last 5.5 miles. I have to say I was so ready to get to town I finished that stretch in about an hour and a half. I flew...probably because I was about a pound lighter. We made it to the highway and I put the magic thumb to use. After getting passed by too many times, a truck pulled over and delivered us straight to McDonalds where I ate like a king! Tonight I am staying at the Grace Lutheran Church in their makeshift hiker hostel and had the best shower I think I have had on this entire trip. Looking forward to spending a few days with family and relaxing- I earned it!


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