Day 75

Day 75

I woke up at 5:30 with the other older hikers and found it to be drizzly and cloudy. I ate breakfast in my tent and packed. Once the pack was ready, I packed up the wet tent fly with the rest of the tent in a waterproof compression bag. I woke up Tandem to let her know that I was leaving and hiked to the top of Humpback Mountain, which lived up to its name with a series of five or six climbs and descents over humps. On the other side of the mountain, it was a net downhill of 2000 feet over 6.8 miles to the Paul C. Wolfe shelter. I was glad to get out of the rain for a rest. Tandem and Mio showed up 15 minutes later, and we reviewed the logbook and snacked. I had enough water to keep going.

From that shelter, we hiked to the intersection of US 250 and the beginnings of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive by 11:00. This major intersection needs to have a more welcoming appearance with a visitors’ center. Stapled to a guardrail post was a laminated list of volunteers in Waynesboro who will pick hikers up and shuttle them into town. Mio called several of them without any luck.

I emailed Alex Hausrath, a friend of Dave Hack who I’d talked with during Trail Days. He called back immediately and said he would be there in 10 minutes! We loaded into his car and headed into town. We checked out the Grace Hiker hostel at the Lutheran church, but it doesn’t operate during the day between 9:00 and 17:00. We checked in to the Quality Inn at the hiker rate of $75, splitting it three ways with Mio.

Alex, who had thru-hiked in 2004, wanted to drive us to lunch so he could talk about our hiking experiences. We ate at Heritage on Main Street and had a great experience and burgers! The waiter was fun, and talking with Alex about our hike was cool. After lunch, Alex took us back to the hotel, and we thanked him for the lifts.

We took showers and rested for a few hours. Mid-afternoon we decided to go see a movie at the Zeus digital theater. We gave Alex a call, and he was at the hotel in 10 minutes to drive us out to the west end of town. We met Johnny Utah in the lobby; he is staying at a hostel for $20. Mio and I saw X-Men: Days of Future Past while Tandem and Johnny Utah saw The Neighbors.

It was raining after the movies, so we sat in the lobby joking around until the rain stopped. We parted ways with Johnny Utah and headed a half mile to Kroger to shop for trail food, including high protein bars and dehydrated fruits. I got nuts and cereal. We walked 2.4 miles along Main and Broad, most of it without sidewalks. Once back at the hotel, we ordered Papa John’s and split a six pack of beer while sorting and bagging food and watching the hockey playoffs and trash TV. We crashed after midnight.


Day 74

Day 74

I awoke still thinking about the Rattlesnake that I killed yesterday. I even made that my confession for the Priest shelter logbook, where everyone confesses something.

We left the shelter by 6:30. After finishing the climb up Priest Mountain, we dropped 3000 feet in five miles to the Tye River and AT suspension bridge. I love suspension bridges!

Then came the 3000 foot climb up the other side to the top of Three Ridges Mountain. A third of the way up, we took a snack and water break at the Harpers Creek shelter. That was a hard steep climb! That is the last time we will be above 4000 feet until New Hampshire and the Week-11_Day-74Whites.

After descending Three Ridges Mountain, we took a lunch break at 13:00 at the Maupin Field shelter, where we met Scout and Viking. Scout said that she had been to Philmont in 2008. We left after them, and the rest of the afternoon was spent traversing the Blue Ridge Parkway and hiking over many rocks below it.

We took our third break of the day at the Blue Ridge Parkway crossing at Reeds Gap, where there is a spring. Reeds Gap is mile 13.6 on the BRP, which means we are running out if that road and will soon enter the Shenandoah National Forest. Tandem blew up her mattress and took a nap by the road.

After filling our water, we left for the last climb of the day up to a camp near the top of Humpback Mountain. I got there first and quickly set up my tent due to the distant sound of thunder. I was 10 feet from the AT and the view was fantastic! Tandem got delayed due to not being sure which campsite we were stopping in but finally came up to the top with Mio.

We made pasta after she hung her tent. We ate with Mio while the storms popped up all around us. It was windy and cooling down on top of the mountain. We retired by 20:00.

We arrive in Waynesboro tomorrow for a free hiker dinner at the Lutheran church and hostel. We may stay at the hostel since their price is based on donations. If not, we will split a hotel room with other hikers. I look forward to charging up this dying phone and my dead USB battery charger.

I has just started to rain, which it’s supposed to do all night and into tomorrow.

Days 72 & 73

Day 72

I slept in today due to having done such a long day yesterday – our first time over 25 miles! We woke, packed by 8:00, and headed out the two miles up the creek and then straight up to US 60. I fell behind Tandem a bit, and when I arrived there was a shuttle from the Blue Dog Art Cafe waiting. Tandem had her pack in the back of the truck, so I loaded mine and we got in the bed with the five packs. Three hikers were already sitting in the cab. We passed under the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way to Buena Vista, VA.

We arrived at the Blue Dog at 9:30, and the other hikers checked into the hostel. The cafe is closed today for Memorial Week-11_Day-72eDay to everyone but hikers. The owner even graciously agreed to take us on a food restock run to Food Lion. We shopped, and I was done quickly, causing Tandem to feel rushed.

We got a ride back to the café where Tandem had coffee and I had a raspberry smoothie made by his wife, who manages the cafe and hostel. We charged our devices while talking to the owner about hunting and his experiences in the military while stationed in Maine.

When we asked where the laundromat was, he volunteered to drive us the four blocks there, too! He was leaving town for business, so that was the last lift for the day. We spent an hour doing laundry, eating, and charging. We “hiked” back to the cafe and passed a small garden statue display that Tandem thought her grandmother would appreciate seeing.

We paid for showers at the hostel, which were refreshing. Tandem had to run to Family Dollar for backs for her earrings, so I walked around town finding a couple of Geocaches. I found one in a park, and a family there was very interested in what I was doing. They helped search, and I think they are new Geocachers!

The next Blue Dog shuttle run was at 15:30, so we settled in the cafe charging and using the cell signal. At 14:30, the owner’s wife asked if we wanted to go back to the trail early. We agreed and packed up quickly. We were back to the trail by 15:00 where Johnny Utah waiting for the Blue Dog Cafe shuttle. We talked for a bit before hitting the trail for a hike straight up from the road for about 2000 feet. We topped Cold Mountain and found signal again to send our updates, enjoy the view, and rest.

I found the Cold Mountain cache and traded travel bugs. I then hiked the 1.4 miles down to the Hog Camp Gap camping Week-11_Day-72darea ahead of Tandem. This campsite was a beautiful grassy field with trees in small pockets where little camping spots were located. There was only one other hiker there, so I grabbed a spot away from him with good trees for Tandem’s hammock.

The water was .3 miles down the grassy hillside. It was peaceful, and the water was flowing well, so I grabbed three liters and cooled my feet. When I returned, Tandem had her hammock hung and also wanted to visit the spring. While she was gone I boiled water for our Rice Side and we ate into the darkness.

We cleaned up, hung bear bags, and went to bed. It had been a good day of 12 miles hiked and a five hour visit in Buena Vista.


Day 73

I woke at 5:30 and wrote yesterday’s blog entry. The sun was rising when we got up at 6:45. We packed, ate, and I hit the trail by 7:30.

I hiked on ahead and Tandem caught me after a few miles. We hiked up and down on easy terrain making miles until we reached the Seeley Woodworth shelter where we got water and snacked. Week-11_Day-73aWhen we left, I let Tandem take the lead, and we met up again at Spy Rock. That is a big rock scramble to get on top. I found a Geocache there, and we met a family of short section hikers. We left and hiked the easy rolling hilltops until we had to climb up to The Priest. On the way up, I encountered a large, four-foot long Rattlesnake in the middle if the trail. It put up a fight and wouldn’t allow me to pass.

I had to fight back, so I started throwing sticks and rocks to make him move. He wouldn’t. Then I hit the mark with a rock and killed it. I felt bad, but I was tired and frazzled.

I arrived at The Priest shelter well behind Tandem at 15:00. We agreed that with the snake experience, impending severe thunderstorms, and having already done 14.3 miles, we should hang out at this shelter and tackle the Three Ridges Mountain 3000 foot climb in the morning. It did thunderstorm but cleared up by 17:00.

Everton and Bear Bag showed up in the rain, and Everton set up his bedding in the shelter.
Week-11_Day-73bOnce the rain stopped, Bear Bag convinced Everton to pack back up and go to the next shelter, 7.6 miles away. Other hikers showed up by 18:00 and set up tents. Tandem had her hammock set up in one end of the shelter.

Tomorrow we plan to do 22.3 miles, down 3000 feet to the Tye River, then up 3000 feet and over Three Ridges Mountain, finishing with a climb up Humpback Mountain to camp on top. It may be raining. On Thursday, we will push 12.5 miles in the morning to US 250 to hitch into Waynesboro for the hiker meal cooked by the Lutheran church and hostel.

Day 71

Day 71 — Sunday, May 25

A new week and Memorial Day weekend! That means many weekend and day hikers to pass.

I woke and packed up around 6:30. Tandem woke and got ready quickly, and we hiked quietly out of the Sulphur Spring campsite. Only a couple of other hikers had left. It was mostly downhill, but after five miles we took a snack break at Matts Creek shelter. We dropped down to the James River and the pedestrian bridge for crossing but didn’t jump in due to the early hour of 9:30.

Week_11_Day_71We stopped on the other side for pictures with a mileage sign and Tandem discovered that she had lost the back of one of her earrings. We searched, but didn’t find it.

We hiked a couple more miles and lunched at 11:00 at Johns Hollow shelter. Then we had a hard climb to the top of Big Rocky Row where we were rewarded with good views.

We then cruised along in the afternoon sun to the Punchbowl Shelter for a rest. There is a pond beside the shelter. Free Man was there. Zig and Zag, his dog, showed up as well as a couple of other hikers. Tandem napped after snacking, and I prepped my backpack. After she woke, I left for the downhill run, knowing that she would catch up with me.

I met Ridge Runner Regina along the way, and we talked about how her son had graduated in December from Georgia Tech. She had a lot of patches on! She asked if I was playing my music out loud to fend off bears, and I explained that it was due to the lack of hikers on the trail at that later hour to pester. Tandem came up, introduced herself and talked about UGA and what Regina knew about the campsites ahead. She gave us advice, and we moved on.

We reached the reservoir and passed many families fishing from the narrow bridge. We hiked up and around most of the reservoir without seeing a place to camp. We passed Free Man in a small campsite, but passed on it. We turned up a feeder creek and hiked a couple of miles up toward the Brown Mountain Creek shelter.

It was getting dark at 20:00 when we arrived at a small campsite below the shelter. We set up with about six other hikers and made pasta dinner. We never did get up to the shelter. We talked with a couple of longer section hikers who were raising money for renovating Appalachian homes. They were finishing with the two miles into Buena Vista tomorrow.

I hung our bear bags, got water to make Gatorade, and crashed.

Weekly Wrap Up: Week 10

May 18 – May 24

Miles Hiked: 89

  • Weekly Average: 12.7
  • Total:  764
  • Overall Average: 10.9
  • Zero Days: 0 / Total: 11

Money Spent: $273

  • Town Food/Lodging: $188
  • Hostel: $20
  • Trail Food: $63
  • Laundry: $2

Highlight of the Week

Jerry:  Hiking over 115 miles in the last 7 days, after being laid up for a week recovering my shin splint.

Bennett: I absolutely loved staying at the Four Pines Hostel — it was basically a bunch of couches and cots and fridges in a three bay garage, but it was awesome! We played corn hole with the owner, and I met some really awesome other hikers like Aerie and Scout. There was tons of fresh fruit, fresh baked cookies, and the owner just let us take his van down the street to the convenience store. The fact the owner does it all just off donations, too, was so kind. Definitely a place any hiker should visit and one I’d return to.

Karen: Having dinner at the Flying Biscuit with Christopher, sitting outside in the gorgeous weather, and finally getting a chance to really talk to him since he’s been home.

Lowlight of the Week

Jerry: My left foot is not doing well and affects my hiking speed, especially downhill. The front ball of the foot has an ongoing pain, the toes are aching and tingling, and the bad blister spot on the back left side is flaring up again. It kept me from going as far as Tandem wanted to go on Saturday after the Hiker Feed.

Bennett: Not sure I have one. Was a little irked in Daleville when Buzz couldn’t make up his mind about what we should do and didn’t think my concerns about invading a coffee shop without paying for drinks was valid. Also was a little annoyed when the chicken salad I was craving and bought from Kroger was more like weird soup…

Karen: Carson leaving the day after graduation to work at Camp Highland until July.

Memory of the Week

Jerry: After being left in Damascus after Trail Days by our planned ride, we were able to hitch from there to Craig Creek Road in just a few hours. The rides were from the ALDHA secretary in the back of his seat-less van, from a car-washing mother, who left the kids to fit us in the car, and from Jack, who drove us up Craig Creek, past his house, though he hadn’t planned to initially.

Bennett: Best memory by far is all the amazing views this week. Hitting Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and Tinker Cliffs were beautiful. Having stalked McAfee Knob on Pinterest in the past, it was neat to get a picture of my own out on the edge. Would definitely bring a few friends back out to this section in the future!

Karen: My week was spent in a conference room with a consultant learning to use our new software and attempting to create a master schedule. The days were long and ran together and there were some major glitches, but ultimately we consider it a successful week.

Days 69 & 70

Day 69

We knew waking up that this would be an easy day of only 13.5 miles, with a hitched stop in Buchanan, VA. We packed up and had a good breakfast, with Tandem heating up a new grain-based oatmeal that she made too much of. We cleaned up and left the shelter by 8:30.

Most had left the shelter earlier, so we passed a few of the slower hikers later in the morning. After intersecting the Blue Ridge Parkway a few times again, we dropped and took a snack break at the Cove Mountain shelter. Free Man was there, as well as a couple with a very well trained dog. They talked about how the dog always picked up ticks and had to be checked daily.

After leaving the shelter, we descended a lot to under 1000 feet at Jennings Creek and VA 614. There is a swimming hole there, so several of us went swimming or wading. It was refreshing and a great break! A utility truck stopped and the driver brought us an Igloo cooler full of iced-down water and diet soda bottles. It was great timing. After drying off, six of us tried hitching from the bridge into Buchanan for a movie and Burger King.

We waited for 30 minutes for someone to stop. Four motorcycles did stop, but the space was obviously limited. Hot Sauce had left to walk in and hitch solo. The five of us who remained were finally picked up at 14:20 by a women taking Week_10mher sick cat to an emergency vet. Tandem sat in the front seat with the cat in a box in her lap while the four guys crammed in the back seat.

We discovered that the movie theater has only one show per day at 19:30, which would not work out for us. We watched the road for Hot Sauce and passed him by due to a lack of space. Simple did heckle him, though. We were dropped off at Burger King and noticed a barbecue place around the corner near the James River. We were the only customers. We ordered burgers and barbecue and had milkshakes or ice cream. The burgers were cooked fresh with all the fixings and sides. The owner opened the store a year ago and was trying to grow it. The owner’s wife had decorated the walls with excellent artwork characters from SpongeBob SquarePants.

We had texted Hot Sauce, but he hadn’t replied, so when we finished we went to the main intersection to hitch a ride back to the AT. A very kind 32-year veteran offer to take us back in his pickup truck. I rode in the cab giving directions while the other four rode with the packs in the truck bed. We talked about how he and others have dogs that they use to run after and tree bears. Most have an average of 15 dogs. We arrived, unloaded, gave our thanks, and sat down to talk with Bacon Dog and Happy. We were happy to see that Hot Sauce had also made it back safely.

Tandem and I left shortly after that for the Bryant Ridge shelter, four miles of 1000 foot up-and-down hiking. Bryant Ridge holds 20 hikers and has about four tent sites. I set up down the hill from the shelter near the AT and creek but didn’t put on the tent fly due to the warm weather.

We had pasta dinner and talked with other hikers until dark. Tomorrow we have a 3200 foot climb over nine miles and a mile drop to another hiker feed served between 14:00 and 19:00. I will enjoy this one more than the last one, two weeks ago when I was sick.

Day 70

I woke up chilled at 6:30 due to being down near the creek and not having Week_10_Day_70_2my tent fly on. I did enjoy the white noise of the cascading creek. I ate at my tent and was packed before Tandem got up. I left at 7:30 after telling her I’d meet her at the next shelter at the top of the big climb this morning.

I arrived there at 9:30 and Tandem arrived 10 minutes later. We snacked and signed the log book. I left early, but Tandem caught up on a distant climb. We passed a few points of interest at the top of a mountain, including an FAA tower. The other was a rock configuration called the Guillotine.

We passed several thru hikers and others passed us as we all made our way toward the hiker feed at the Blue Ridge Parkway. Most of the first hikers arrived there at 12:30.
The special traveling marbles were handed out and Tandem got another one. I already have mine from Mothers’ Day, when I was ill.

These hiker feeds have been hosted for ten years by these woman. At each one, the main woman gives out cool mineral marbles. She used to give them to friends who travelled to leave all over the world (like in the Egyptian pyramid, all the Week_10_Day_70_4continents, the deepest part of the ocean, etc), then she started giving them to hikers so they could remember that good things might be around the corner at any minute when they’re feeling down. She said we could leave them somewhere cool, keep them, or give them to someone who’s struggling.

After Tandem and I had cobbler, we left for the trail behind several other hikers.

We hiked seven miles to a campsite where many of the hiker feed hikers came to. I found a flat spot for my tent early before other hikers came in and set up. We hung our food from Tandem’s hammock and settled into our sleeping quarters. I listened to music to block out the other conversations while I wrote this blog entry. We will get up early tomorrow to hitch in and out of Glasgow, VA.

[“La. La. La. La. La. La. La.” – Couch Control]