Day 65

Day 65

After getting in the sleeping bag last night, I heard Tandem breathing like she was asleep and thought it ironic how scared of noises in the woods she had been minutes earlier.

I woke up at 7:30, packed my stuff, pulled down the bear bags, and ate cereal and a honey bun. Tandem caught up and we ate together. We saw a couple of through hikers that we didn’t know go by, but neither looked like Double R.

We hit the trail by 8:20 at mile 683 and climbed 1500 feet to an old fire road that was now covered with grass. We hiked side by side and talked about the day and our destination. We got to the memorial for Audie Murphy, American’s mostWeek10_Day65 decorated WWII combat solider, and met Free Man there who started on April 4 and is on his seventh thru hike. He has over 8000 miles backpacking. He started a quick fire between four rocks and cooked his breakfast. We took a snack break and pictures for my father in law while Tandem read the story of Murphy’s WWII heroics. It was a special spot.

We left before Free Man and headed downhill to VA 620. On the way down, we passed several trail maintainers from the Roanoke group and thanked them for what they do.

The next hour was spent doing a slow hike up right past the Pickle Branch shelter, which was .3 miles off trail, and on up to a view one mile later for a scenic lunch. We found cell signal here, so updates were sent and location apps were checked in on.

Free Man came upon us when we were loading packs. We wished him well again and continued to climb to the famous Dragons Tooth. The terrain was really rocky for a few miles, which slowed us to three miles over two hours.

We arrived at Dragons Tooth at mile 695 at 14:30. It was crowded there, but we climbed up and grabbed a couple of seats on the bumps in the tooth. Someone told us that the name of the rock feature was due to the series of rock points that each look like a bumpy tooth.

We left and started our difficult hike on big rocks downhill. There were other day hikers coming up, most of whom were college age and had just gotten out of school. We finally cleared the rocks and started hiking more quickly to VA 624 where the Four Pines Hostel is located.

We walked the .3 miles to the hostel and met Joe, the owner. This hostel operates on donations. It is located in a three-car garage and has a stove, bathroom with shower, and two refrigerators. There are seven cots, three couches, three chairs, tables, and kitchen chairs. There was also a logbook and a stamp for my AT Passport book.

Week10_Day65_4After grabbing a couple of cots, we unpacked some stuff and joined a group going to the convenience store .7 miles away. Joe told me to drive the five of us in the blue hostel van. We got milk and a lighter for our temperamental stove. I got Pringles, ice cream, and Coke in bottles.

On the way back, we stopped at the AT and loaded three hikers and their packs on the back floor of the van. When we reached the hostel, those three, including Ghost Buster, took the van back to the store for food, snacks, and beer.

Games of corn hole were going on and Jimmy and his wife, I Believe, showed up. We hadn’t seen them since Hot Springs, 40 days ago. Jimmy does trail magic between helping I Believe slack pack trail sections.

We made our dinner on the electric stove, and I cleaned up. Tandem had showered earlier, and I showered after dinner, then had my pint of black raspberry ice cream. With ten talkative hikers in one place, we talked for the rest if the night about trail stories, hiker statuses, personal facts, hometown stories, and other interesting. There were about 16 staying at the hostel, including City Slicka, KT, Professor, Scout, Ghost Buster, The Alchemist, Hot Sauce, Scout, Ragnar, and Simple, who is from Atlanta.

Day 64

Day 64 — Sunday, May 18

We all woke up early today with the group that was going off to do Hard Core trail maintenance with Bob Peoples. They were all meeting at the bingo hall at 8:00. Tandem and I woke, packed, and headed out in the same direction toward Tent City to find Flats and his group going to Peter Creek Road.

We got to Tent City but took a detour to the welcoming porch of the One Way Ministry. We plugged in our phones, and I joined others all ignoring each other on our devices while I write the blog for yesterday. Many hikers kept coming on the porch to see if the Ministry was open and to plug in their phones. The three power strips quickly ran out of space and the negotiations began.

Truck came on the porch and Tandem asked if he had seen Flats. He had, and said that he would take her to his tent in Tent City. I chose to hang out until she returned. She had woken him up, meaning the departure time was not any time soon, so we decided to go to Mojo’s Coffee Shop.

We were offered a ride by Tum Tum and her boyfriend hiker in their rental van. They kindly took us all of the way to Mojo’s. We had breakfast there and hung out in back on the couch writing blogs and reading. Tandem fell asleep for a while due to being up late last night.

We got hungry again around 11:30, so we went to Dairy King for burgers, and I had one of their famous shakes. We ate with Tatonka and Day Tripper, who was surprisingly not stoned. We talked about hikers behind us and how those that started in April are catching up with them.

When we left, we found that Diary King takes only cash, so I went across the street to Cowboys to get cash from their ATM. Unfortunately, it was out of cash. I told Tandem then went down Main Street to BB&T instead. On the way back, I ran into an upset Tandem, who said that we had been left by Flats and his ride.

So, after paying, we went into hitching mode at 14:00. We made a sign for Christiansburg and stood across from Dairy King thumbing. We were picked up in 10 minutes by a couple of the ALDHA recruiters in their van headed back to MA. We sat on the floor in the back with our packs and rode to exit 128B to Blacksburg, where we were dropped off on VA Bus 420.

We were a bit off route for Peters Creek Road, but we made a new sign and started thumbing. We were approached by a woman from the car wash up the hill asking where we needed to get to. She recognized us as AT thru hikers because she had a relative do it a few years ago. We told her our destination, and she said that she would take us to Peters Creek Road after the cars mats were cleaned of spilled chocolate milk. Once she finished, her son and his friend had to stay with the wet mats while she made the 25 mile round trip. We talked about her English double major education from Virginia Tech as well as the expensive housing market in Blacksburg.

Our second leg of hitching got us to Peters Creek Road at 17:00. We thanked our driver and made a sign for the AT, which was now 14 miles away. Five minutes after holding it up, we were picked up by Jack, who lives 10 miles short of the trail but agreed to take us as far as his road. After making a call home, though, he was able to take us all of the way. We were excited! We arrived at the spot that Christopher had picked us up one week ago today.

When we pulled in, there was a Ranger talking to a group of hikers. We thanked Jack and took our packs over to the group where we learned that a thru hiker named Double R was considered missing by his wife. He has been calling home daily, but not successfully Week_10_Day64connecting. It was determined that he is somewhere around that intersection on the AT and that we should look out for him. One of the hikers posted the info to the Class of 2014 Thru Hiker Facebook page. We each got a business card from the Ranger to be able to contact him if we see the bald, caucasian, 60 year old Double R on the trail.

Tandem and I decided to hike about half mile north to set up in a campsite with water. We had the large free bag of plain pasta that I was given last night. The stove igniter is giving us issues not sparking correctly, so we need to research and  fix that. While Tandem cooked, I got a fire started, which was the first time that we had our own fire. We enjoyed the fire and turned in when it died around 22:30.

Day 63

Day 63

Our sixth zero day and second day at Trail Days. This break has been good for my shin recovery.

We slept in, enjoying our sun-warmed tents, until sounds began resonating across from the park. When the music started playing, I knew it was time to get up. Tandem brought me a toasted bagel with cream cheese, which I ate while I walked around visiting my favorite vendors.

I checked the AWOL Hiker location board for anyone else who had put a marker up at Craig Creek Road. There were only three others, including Flats. We are hitching with him and a couple of other hikers back there tomorrow. I had also signed up on the Hiker Ride board at the Hikers Inn, but I have no cell coverage if anyone were to call me.

Bison and I went into town at 11:00 to be early for the free hotdogs from Sundog Outfitters. They weren’t serving yet, so we went into Mojo’s Coffee Shop for fruit smoothies, cell charging, and wi-fi. I wrote a blog update and we enjoyed the time here. Once the free hotdogs started being served, we got in line. Bison then bought a $5 foot long at the Subway. Lots of hikers started showing up by 13:30, and a podcast was being recorded with hikers being interviewed.

At 14:00, the hiker parade started, which is really just an opportunity for townies to spray us with water guns. Many hikers were prepared with water guns as well. The 2014 class was the best represented with what looked like about 250 hikers. We paraded down Main Street and around to the park.

Week_9_Day63_5After the parade, I wandered the exhibitors’ displays talking to them and hikers. I ran into Hoss, who was looking for the vendor for his sucky hammock tarp, but didn’t find them. I also saw Mio, who we left last Saturday on the trail. He, The Dog, and Mombo had just been shuttled in from Troutville for Trail Days. I took them to the yard we were set up in and showed them the big tree they could hang their hammocks in. There were already four hammocks hung there, but they got theirs to fit and got a tarp over them.

I hung out on the house porch writing blog updates and then dressed up in my shirt and jalapeño-and-smiley-face tie from Goodwill for the Hiker Prom at the Damascus Brewery. In town, the bank’s ATM was being serviced. I tried getting cash back from a debit card purchase of honey buns at Dollar General, but it didn’t have a cash back option.

The Blue Blaze was rumored to have $2 draft beers. Not true. Tandem was at the bar, so I ordered a steak and cheese with an IPA beer. Ordering it at the bar got me served faster. I sat down with Mio and others, including The Rock, around the big pool table, which had been covered and converted to a table.

At 18:30, the best beard contest started. I entered the category of best trimmed beard and won second place! My prize was an assortment of thirty full size candy bars. The first place winner won cash and two large bags of fancy pasta. He gave me one of the bags for the trail. Bison got second place in the natural beard category and won a large box of mini muffins.

After the contest I took my winnings back to my tent, glad that I wasn’t way back in Tent City. I watched the shuttle vans go by as I walked the mile to the Damascus Brewery, the location of the prom. We drank brewery beer on a tab and talked with other hikers. I had fun, but it got crowded later and I decided to head back to my tent at 22:00.

During the mile walk back, a shuttle van picked me up. Unfortunately, it took me to Tent City, and the walk back to my tent from there was about the same distance as having walked from the brewery in the other direction. LOL

I settled on the house porch and plugged in while I wrote blog updates. Bison came back around 23:30 and we talked on the dark porch for a while. They are going to do the two trail maintenance workdays with Bob Peoples tomorrow at Roan Mountain, while Tandem and I try to get back on the trail.

Our plan tomorrow is to pack early, determine shuttle times, relax, and do about nine miles in the afternoon to the Pickle Branch shelter.

Day 62

Day 62 — Trail Days Day 1

Tandem came to my tent around 6:45. I threw on my boots, and we headed to the Damascus Volunteer Fire Dept for a $5 “egg, bacon, and biscuits with gravy” breakfast. It wasn’t worth the $5, but it was for charity. After breakfast, we went down the street to Front Porch Ministry to get coffee and a free knit cap. They had handmade 800 of the caps for hikers, and I got a black one with yellow stripes for Georgia Tech.

We wandered back to the exhibitors’ area, which is in the park next to where we are camped and a half mile walk back to Tent City. We visited many of the vendor exhibits, concentrating on those that we had or wanted gear from. Each was friendly and helpful.

I stopped by the Big Agnes exhibit and talked to them about the tear in my tent netting, which I had repaired by sewing it shut. I wanted to know if I could have it done better by the Big Agnes repair team located back by tent city. They said to bring it by.

We got to the Kelty exhibit and they were handing out raffle tickets. We took a pair and waited for the 11:00 raffle. They gave away tents, sleeping bags, air pads, and hiking poles, in multiples. It was a very popular raffle. We didn’t win anything, but there would be another at 13:00.Week_9_Day62_3

We wandered back by the exhibits we had visited, seeing if they had anything going on. We grabbed our leftover Subway sandwiches, got a strawberry lemonade drink from a food vender, and enjoyed the meal at the picnic tables. After lunch, we split up. Tandem spent most of her time at the exhibit with Zach Davis, the author of “Appalachian Trials”, and his bloggers and followers.

I went back to my tent and was able to remove it from on top of my ground cloth and from under my tent fly, leaving the fly up in what may be my summertime configuration. I took the tent back to the Big Agnes guy, and he said that I had fixed it well enough to not go back to the repair tent in Tent City. It looked like rain, so I put it back together with the tarp just in case.

I hung out looking at the arts and crafts exhibitors and enjoying the live music. Later I went by to visit the Appalachian Trials exhibit and talked with Zach and his photographer, who had her pictures on exhibit. I also met her father, who she had thru hiked with in 2012. He and I spoke about hiking with our daughters, and I got tips on doing it, depending on how we are now. Tandem and I got our pictures taken, and they will be emailed to us. I signed up with the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association and will be getting a PDF of their trail guide in an email.

We got together later with Kozi and Bison and went over to the One Way Ministry for their coffee house, which included nachos, desserts, and hot beverages. After snacking there, we walked into town to the Blue Blaze and had pizzas and beer. The pizzas were late and underdone, so we asked for and got a 50% discount.

I left the bar with its loud DJ music around 22:00 and headed back to my tent to get some sleep.

Leaving Atlanta

Day 61 —  Zero Day 4

Tandem and I were packed and loaded by 8:30. We woke Christopher, ate breakfast, and woke him again. We left for Enterprise by 8:45 and were on the road to Damascus in our Dodge Charger by 9:00.  We made good time up I-85 to Greenville but got slowed by the back roads that followed going to I-26.

We had lunch at Subway before getting on the interstate and saved half our foot-longs for another meal later. We took I-26 to I-81 toward Damascus in a steady rain. About 20 miles from our exit, we passed a wet hiker on the road thumbing for a ride. We pulled over, and Grizzly came up and introduced himself as we put his pack in the trunk. He is from MA and had just returned from home to the Tri Cities Airport. He’d been able to hitch a ride to the highway but not much further.

When we arrived in Damascus, we drove around to see what was going on. We had heard from Kozi that there was free Week_9_Day61camping at a house across from the park. Grizzly was dropped by the ball fields at Tent City, where it is $5 to enter, and we went back through town to the house which had tents and Jiffy Johnny’s set up in the yard. It was raining, so we sat in the dry car waiting for it to stop.

During a lull in the downpour, we got out and took our packs over to the yard. We introduced ourselves to the owners, who were kind and told us the camping rules. We had a joyful reunion with Bison and Kozi, and I set up my tent near theirs. Tandem couldn’t find a tree to hang her hammock from, but others had been hung high from a big tree in the yard with lots of large branches. Someone overheard us discussing the issue and offered Tandem an extra tent, which she set  up next to mine

We hung out staying dry for the rest of the afternoon before heading to the bingo hall by Tent City for a free barbecue dinner sponosred by the churches of Damascus. I had three  desserts. After dinner, we went across the street to view  Terry Coyle’s (aka Seven) documentary ‘2013 Thru-Hikers’. It is a great movie, and he is making a 2014 version also.

After the movie we had a beer at the Blue Blaze Bar before heading back to to tents.

Home, Sweet Home

Day 58 — Zero Day 1 in Atlanta

We all woke early. I ate what I could, and we started for Atlanta. I drove, Christopher slept, and Tandem controlled the tunes. The drive went well, and we arrived at 13:00. Carson greeted us and was very happy to see us. Tandem and I both unpacked, and I started removing items like my last long sleeve shirt, pillow, and Crazy Creek chair, since I am trying to drop a few pounds. I do want to add a third short sleeve Troop 434 Philmont shirt. I took our sleeping bags to the cleaners, picked up my prescriptions, and spent the rest of the evening getting caught up on blog updates. Our plan is to rent a car on Day 61 (Thursday) and drive back up to Trail Days in Damascus, VA. We will get back on the trail on Day 64.

Day 59 — Zero Day 2 in Atlanta

It is so nice being home with Couch Control. Being home, rather than in a hotel in Virgnia, provides us the time and resources to reexamine our packs, which I spent half the day doing. By dropping half of my cold weather clothing and other items, I decreased my base pack weight by six pounds.

When I wasn’t working on gear, I fixed the washing machine by clearing the filter of stuff. I also attempted to diagnose Week_9_Day59_5and fix the lack of low beam headlights on my Trailblazer. I replaced the relay and got the left one to come on but ran out of patience and time to check why the right headlight was out, I do know it’s not the fuse, so it’s probably the bulb. I didn’t do anything about my swollen shin except elevate it when I was idle.

We attended Carson’s semifinal lacrosse playoff game later in the afternoon. Unfortunately, they lost. We met our family friends, the Borrellos, at the game and they came over to the house later for pizza and wings. We had lively discussions about hiking gear, food, water, and logistics around towns.

Day 60 — Zero Day 3 in Atlanta

Today I concentrated on my shin and why the swelling continues. I starting a 20 minute on/20 off cycle of icing it all morning, which helped some. Because I was prepping my pack gear in between, I was walking around on it and trying to run errands in under 20 minutes — tough to do around busy Brookhaven.

I used free Chick-fil-a mini chicken biscuit coupon from Carson then picked up the sleeping bags from the cleaners. After adding the sleeping bag to my pack, my base pack weight without food and water came in at 22 pounds! I am very pleased with that weight. I plan to carry less water (2 pounds per liter) between creeks and springs due to how little I drink while hiking.

I was able to schedule an appointment with Resurgens Orthopaedics for 14:00. I iced until then, watching the worst movie in the Matrix trilogy while I finished sorting out my food bag and adding to my pack.

Once at Resurgens, the doctor examined my shin and swelling down to my foot. He poked and asked what hurt, then scheduled me for an x-ray for broken or fractured bones and an MRI for blood clots. The x-Ray came back negative, so he sent me off for my MRI on the sixth floor of the main St Joseph’s Hospital building. The last time that I was here was years ago when my father passed away from cardiac failure.

The MRI operator gelled up the wand and checked the entire length of my left leg for a blood clot. Curious about the swelling, she concentrated from my shin down to my foot but found nothing broken or torn.

Week_9_Day60Armed with no concrete information on the source of the swelling, I returned to the Resurgens offices to check out. The doctor told me the swelling is probably due to a shin splint gone bad and that I should rest, ice, compress, and elevate the left foot. He said that I could return to the trail if I lowered my number of miles hiked and paid attention to the levels of pain and swelling. He took me off the antibiotics and prescribed wearing a compression sock.

After I checked out, I went to the Northside Women’s Clinic store for the compression sock. There were no fitting appointments available, so I asked for off the shelf options. I was surprised by the cost. Since I will be able to soak my ankle in cold streams and keep it compressed in my pairs of liner and hiking socks combined with above ankle hiking boot, I left without a compression sock. My trip inside had been so quick I didn’t even have to pay to park.

I scheduled an Enterprise rental car from Atlanta to Abingdon, VA, for tomorrow. Even with the a drop fee for the one-way trip, it’s cheaper than staying in a hotel would have been. I spent the rest of the afternoon icing my shin while clearing 1/2 GB of songs from my iPhone trail song to make room for pictures. The evening was spent icing and hanging out with Couch Control.

Day 57

Day 57 — Sunday, May 11 (Mother’s Day)

We both slept in at our “cowboy campsite” so that I could catch up on rest. I heard a hiker on the trail nearby going southbound, which isn’t unusual for a Sunday. Before her phone died last night, Tandem had arranged for Christopher to pick us up on VA 621, Craig Creek Road, at noon today.

We got up and packed around 9:30. I ate an apple and a honey bun and drank some Gatorade. We got back on the trail at 10:00 and headed down to the Niday shelter. We found a thru hiker drying his belongings and waiting for his group to catch up with him. One of his hiking buddies had suffered a fall and had gone to the hospital in Blacksburg for four stitches.

We snacked and chatted until 11:30. A sign on the shelter said there was going to be a big cookout for hikers just down the hill at Craig Creek Road, starting at 14:00. We said our goodbyes and started the 1.3 miles down (and up) to VA 621. Tandem was going her speed down the hill. On the uphill, I vomited again.

I arrived at the parking area at 12:15 to find Tandem, Wet Dog, and a few women with tables and coolers set up while they prepped Dutch ovens with various delicious recipes for the hikers. I dropped my pack near Tandem’s and settled into a folding chair in the shade. The trail angels had been informed of my illness and were very caring. I had a ginger ale and naked hotdog.

I sat and talked with the trail angels while Tandem and Wet Dog helped set up. People continued to arrive until there were eight trail angels and a dozen hikers. Christopher showed up at 13:00 in my Trailblazer, still loaded with the stuff from his dorm. He took a seat, and we discussed our options, but until we could get a cell signal, we really didn’t have a clue.

We loaded our packs back in the vehicle, said our trail angel thanks and hiker goodbyes, and headed south down the very long Craig Creek Road to VA 460. We went into Blacksburg and stopped at a gas station for a break and to do cellphone Week_9_Day57_1research. Being Sunday, there wasn’t much open, so we headed to the Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg.

I was checked in and gave samples, which showed signs that I had a virus, so I was given a couple of liters of fluids and anti-nausea meds intravenously. Tandem came in to visit while the fluids were given and we watched TV while Christopher did uMentioned business via Skype in the lobby.

I was checked out at 17:00 with prescriptions for antibiotics and anti-nausea meds.  We went to find the kids dinner, which for me was a Starbucks grande strawberries and cream frap with whip.

Because our plan is to attend Trail Days in Damascus at the end of the week, our options were to stay in a hotel for four nights or to drive home to Atlanta. We decided to drive home, with an overnight stay tonight at my in-laws. Christopher drove, and I went to bed immediately upon arrival.