Trail Notes – October 20

Today was wonderfully different. For one thing, this bed thingie I was lying on was incredibly soft and comfortable and had no air valve that I could find. For another, I woke up at 8, ate a lot of packaged pastry things, drank a lot of coffee, answered a lot of questions from other curious motel guests about thru-hiking, and then went back my room and BACK TO SLEEP until 9:45, as my shuttle was not scheduled until 10:30, and packing up my gear would be quick. 

The hike also was quite different than in days past, as it was largely level and paralleled the Blue Ridge Parkway quite closely. It kept switching which side of the road it ran on at the overlooks – there were at least five, each a window out onto incredible vistas. Some truly breathtaking pictures!

At Harvey Knob Overlook, there were several birdwatchers, set up with chairs and binoculars. Apparently this area is on the migratory path for many different kinds of birds at different times of the year – currently they are looking for and keeping stats on hawks. Later on, in November, it will be eagles – I sure wish I was there then! Trail magic was also spotted here! A cookie, fresh orange slices, and water – the latter was especially welcome, since I was running dry, and sorely needed it. 

A nice, easy 11 mile day was just what I needed and what I got. I was seriously grateful. Tonight at the shelter, there are more people than I have seen since I started in Virginia – a number of people tenting, and five in the shelter. I would have tented, but rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow, and I hate packing up a wet tent. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

Tomorrow the trail goes right through the town of Daleville, in 11 miles. The neighboring town of Troutville offers free camping in the town park, so I will likely stay there tomorrow. Particularly since I used the last of my canister fuel cooking up an odd supper of rice, mixed with mac and cheese, mixed with a shredded slice of Spam. Hey, it sounds weird, but it worked. Kinda. Sorta gassy tonight. But I need to buy three more dinners, preferably non-cooking, since I don’t want to buy another fuel canister. We’ll see. 

I hike on!

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Trail Notes – October 17 – 19 (Highcock Knob, Apple Orchard Mt., Floyd Mt., Fork Mt., unnamed ridges)

Oh, people. 

Today is definitely a nearo, and I have been flat on my back, resting, for a good part of it. Forgive the TMI, but my digestive system has been in open rebellion for the last few days, and it is all I can do to drink enough liquid to not dehydrate. I am hoping that this almost-day off will settle it down; I looked at the guidebook yesterday and realized that I have not taken a break since a zero in Luray – 200+ miles ago. No wonder my body is rebelling, the elevation gains and drops have been taking their toll, too. I am just hoping it is not something like giardia, but I doubt it – I am very careful to filter and/or boil water.

You see, every day lately begins with at least a 1000 ft. climb and ends with a similar descent. Since the shelters are by the water sources, typically streams, and the streams are typically in the bottoms between ridges or mountains… In between first ascent and last descent are a number of other ascents and descents. I have noticed a certain amount of knee wear and tear, and sore muscles where there did not used to be any. 

But enough of complaining. Where did we leave off, anyway? Where was I? Ah, yes. Glasglow.

October 17

Philosopher and I were ready to go when our shuttle arrived – okay, we were one minute late. Oops. I had gone to the post office at the dot of 8, but they were still sorting mail, asked me to come back in 20 minutes. I bought and ate a cheap gas station breakfast sandwich, then went back to the shelter to finish packing up. On the way out of town, we stopped by the post office again, and this time, they had my package ready! I dumped all of it into my food bag, and we were off!

The first 2.1 miles out of town were a hiker’s dream. First across a long footbridge over the James River, then alongside first the James and then Matt’s Creek, whoever Matt was, to Matt’s Creek shelter. 2.1 miles, 45 minutes, almost 3 mph! I stopped there to organize my food drop into logical order – breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, drinks. The food bag was very heavy, thus the backpack was too! I actually had to tie my tent on the outside to make room, and it kept hitting me in the butt the rest of the day. 🙂

Then the long, long climb out of the James River valley began. Up from 850 ft to 2650. There’s not much to be said about this section. It was just a long, sloping climb up the ridge, crossed by a few trails. I lost Philosopher in the fog as we climbed into it and she got ahead of me. She’s 20 years younger. It was expected – though I caught up with both her and Wreckin’ taking a break at the top of the ridge, about 7.7 miles in. I also stopped to take a break, while they moved on.

Then it was time to climb the very interestingly named Highcock Knob. Tough climb; another 700 feet over a mile. More diagonalling. Quickly followed by a 700 ft *decline* into Petites Gap. I liked that, being Petite myself, and my knees were happier. For a little while, because, you guessed it, up again! About 800 feet. Somewhere in there, I hit the wall – not enough energy, due to not having eaten very much that day. I dumped pack and lay down on a handy log for 30 minutes, before making the final push to where I decided to spend the night – Harrison Ground Spring, approximately 11.4 miles from point of origin. 

As I came up, I could smell a campfire, which always cheers me up. It means company! This was a campsite, not a shelter, everyone was tenting, no privy. Attended to the usual camp chores, then was able to get some social time in. Two of the six there were from White River Jct. in VT, and another two were 76 and 77! I was seriously impressed and told them so!

Sleep did not come so easily that night – we were in the middle of a massive number of acorn-dropping oaks! I can only imagine the percussion sounds all those nuts would have made on a metal shelter roof!

October 18

I was only planning a 13.4 mile day today, to reach Bryant Ridge Shelter – another hiker had told me it was a great place to stay and I was curious. So I was pretty slow to get going in the morning, spent some more time chatting with the couple in their 70’s. I also made sure not to repeat yesterday’s mistake, and cooked up a delicious mixture of blueberry & flax granola, with two packets of instant grits. But I was on my way by 9 am.

 I had the rest of Thunder Ridge to climb, before it leveled off, a couple hundred more feet. My thigh muscles were surprisingly sore, but loosened up later. Gradually (mercifully), the trail wound upwards to the top of Apple Orchard Mt. A nice, meadowy top, with a weather station, but sadly, the trees were blocking what otherwise would have been a great view.

Down, down, bounce up and down, curve around, up Floyd Mt., will this ever end… Bryant Ridge Shelter!

Now, this was a shelter! Two stories tall, full of bunk space, right by a stream, big enough to fit 20 people easily… Tonight, it only held one. Me. It was lonely and a bit unnerving, but since there was no space to tent, I sheltered up. All the camp chores needed to get done regardless, and I spent a lot of time reading, since sleep was hard to come by. Some hikers think this shelter is haunted. I am glad I didn’t know that last night, I was jumpy enough as it was. I really wanted to sleep in, but in the end, I would have settled for just getting some sleep, period. I was awake and reading again at 5:45 am.

October 19

Up and on my way as soon as the sky was light enough to see by. I had decided to make it a nearo sometime in all the tossing and turning last night. But I still had to hike 4 miles, up and over Fork Mt., and yes, it was a tough climb up and over. As if by some arcane agreement, different parts of my body began hurting, one after another. Right foot first, then right knee, then left knee. It was seriously discouraging. Finally reached the top and began the 2 mile descent to Jennings Creek. Lo and behold, as I reached the bottom and sat on a rock, a punchbuggy pulled up, driven by a shuttler I had met before! We debated who was following the other, laughing about it, as two hikers climbed out, and I climbed in. I am sorry to confess that I gave in to my weariness, pain, and digestive issues, and sought out a nearby hiker-friendly motel, regardless of budget. (But the bed feels so good. It is soft and horizontal. And my hot shower set off the smoke alarm. Go figure.)

My shuttle tomorrow does not arrive until 10:30. I think I will take the opportunity for a hot, soaking bath in the morning. If the smoke alarm does not go off again.

People, I needed this break… 

I hike on!

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Trail Notes – October 14 – 16 (Cole Mt., Bald Knob, Rice Mt., Punchbowl Mt., Bluff Mt., Big Rocky Row, Glasglow, VA)

Well, this will be a long one, a lot to get caught up on! The silence was due to flaky reception. Very mountainy around here. Weird, huh?

October 14, I wrote my confession to the Priest in the logbook, and moved on. I have to say that the presence of anti-Catholic comments in the logbook from other hikers was rather depressing. But what can you do… 

The trail was not exceptionally hard, but I have noticed a tendency in Blue Ridge trails to curve around endlessly along the sides of the mountains or ridges, just below the ridgeline, on very narrow paths. This day was no exception. Still, pretty level most of the day – no complaints! I stopped and rested at a shelter a while, still covered my 14.3 miles by 4:30.

I ended the day getting a pickup from Hog Camp Gap to 3 Springs Hostel. While I was waiting, I say on a rock to rest – some weekend campers declared I looked amazingly photogenic and insisted on taking my picture with my phone. Well, okay… 

 I did not really want to stay at another hostel, but I needed a place with reliable internet connection to purchase my plane ticket out of VA, and this was the only option for at least 3 days. I did enjoy a home cooked sirloin burger, I must admit, and I had forgotten how good cotton feels on your skin. Also, I overslept and almost missed breakfast – I woke up at 7:15, it was served at 7:30. I must have really needed that rest! 

October 15 – Very good breakfast, then time to hit the trail again – I had a long day ahead. 17.7 miles. Right from the beginning, I was climbing, up to the very grassy top of Cole Mountain, one of VA’s famous balds. It was reputed to have one of the best views in the state, but unfortunately was socked in by fog and cloud – this began to clear about an hour later, but I had already moved on. 

There was a lot of up and down this day! Bald Knob was next (not really bald), then a long drop from 4000 feet down to the Pedlar River at 952. I didn’t mind this so much, but I wasn’t prepared for the climb up Rice Mt., it was getting late in the day and I was getting tired. There was actually a campsite with a fire ring at about the 14 mile mark, and if I had had more water, I would have camped there, but I was down to less than a half-liter – not feasible. So I trudged on, and made it to Punchbowl Shelter about 6 pm.

I was so hungry, I are a double portion of kung pao noodles, which did not please my stomach as much as I might have thought. Usual chores – hang the bear bag, filter water, lay out sleeping gear. There were three of us there – me in the shelter, one hammocking, one tenting. The water source was awful, outflow from a small pond, but I filtered it well. The privy was somewhere out there, off Navy property. But, you know, you make do. At least there was a campfire. I did not sleep very well, despite being very tired.

October 16, I deliberately let myself sleep in. I only had a 10.5 mile day planned, to the town-owned and maintained shelter at Glasglow – this actually began as an Eagle Scout project. More on that in a bit.

Very steep climb up Bluff Mountain, but the view was so worth it! Up top, I met southbounder Philosopher, and by the time I finished extolling all the expected joys of Glasglow, she decided to stay there as well. She’s about 20 years younger, but we got along well. 

A lot of up, a lot of down. It was a day filled with unexpected trail magic, mostly in the form of cookies! Two chocolate chip, two peanut butter. And a bottle of water. I could not resist.

 At first I was afraid I would miss the shuttle, due to the fact that the descent from Big Rocky Row into the James River valley was incredibly steep and rocky at first, but it got much better after the first mile. I even had time to stop at a shelter, rest a bit, chat with some weekend hikers, and eat my cookies. Very pleasant people, they kept offering me all this food, but I was only 1.6 miles from destination, so I declined. Not good to be greedy.

Philosopher and I arrived at the hiker parking at the same time, and our shuttle was waiting. Only $5 to go into town, not bad! And this is a very sweet set-up for a hiker. First there was the enclosed, outdoor shower, open to the sky – this in itself justified this whole town’s existence, it was pure bliss, with plenty of hot water and fresh air all at the same time! Porta potties with toilet paper provided. Clotheslines, picnic tables and benches, a fire ring with enough stacked firewood for twenty bonfires. Bunks in a shelter with electricity, tenting space, potable water. All of this sitting right behind a pizza and subs place with beer!

Showers first. Me, then Philosopher. Food and drink second. Then, campfire. Ziptie here made fire! Granted, I cheated by using a firestarter disc, but I built a very beautiful fire! We even got the ingredients for s’mores, but we were both pretty full, so only had a few marshmallows. The chocolate bars, I’ll take with me, and the rest leave for other hikers. 

So now I lie in my Eagle Scout bunk, typing away. Each bunk has three levels, and I am in the middle level – there was a stray dog wandering by earlier looking for handouts, and I’d rather be out of range. My only concern is how close the levels are together. Not much headroom! Can we say “Bonk?” 

Tomorrow is slated to be a 13 mile day, after I pick up my last food drop at 8 am at the post office. Unless I go crazy and try to do 20 miles to the next shelter after the 13 mile one. Anything is possible. 

I hike on! 

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Trail Notes – October 13 (Bee Mt., Three Ridges Mt., the Priest)

Oh, my. I have absolutely no idea what they put in that beer last night, but I was up every two hours to visit the portapotties. It was like Niagara Falls every time, too! It continued today, very aggravating. I would have much rather slept. I always keep a water bottle nearby at night to replenish – by morning, it was all but empty!

Ah, but the $5 hiker breakfast was something to sing of. Two strips of bacon, a melody of fresh fruit, a ham and spinach omelet, a biscuit with butter and jelly, and coffee. Absolutely incredible! They gave me a ride back to the trailhead as well, and then I began to hike, about 8:30.

And it was indeed a hike. I stopped often to text, probably too often – focus on the trail, not the phone, Ziptie, you are not out of the woods yet! But it alleviated a private worry that I was getting soft. 

Up Bee Mountain, but first I came across the campsite of some former thru-hikers, out section hiking, and we had a good chat. They convinced me not to take the shortcut blue trail, and I am glad they did! Bee Mt. was nothing special, really, but Three Ridges Mt. had some incredible views I would otherwise have missed! Very rocky though, particularly on the way down!

And then down to the Tye River, at 970 feet – a drop of over 2000 feet down. It is crossed by a suspension foot bridge that gave me a bit of vertigo. Hated that. Another 1.7 miles to a main highway, and then… The Priest. This is a major climb of 3100 feet, up to the tallest mountain in VA on the AT (iirc) at 4000 ft., stretched over 4.4 miles. A lot of switchbacks, a lot of climb, very rocky up near the top before it latches onto and follows the ridgeline. Still, I did not find it as bad as I had been told. I arrived at the shelter .4 miles past the summit about sundown.

As I came down from the summit, I could smell a campfire, and this made me very happy that I would not be alone like the last two nights. Four others are here – one sheltering, like me, the other three tenting. I opted to stay in the shelter tonight, the light was dying too quickly to both make dinner and set up the tent in daylight, and food took precedence. It was a great fire they had going, too, but I arrived too late for the marshmallows, alas. I consoled myself with a shot of Jameson’s. 

So I am lying in my sleeping bag tonight, and it is getting very cold out there. Here’s hoping I don’t have to get up a million times tonight! Tomorrow I plan on a 15-17 mile day, a lot of that will be ridgeline though, easy walking. I will tent again tomorrow night, most likely. 

I hike on!

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Trail Notes – October 12 (Humpback Mountain)

There is a common perception on trail that “the trail provides”. Mrs. Joy and I were discussing that the other day. It certainly provided today! But I will get to that.

Today I got up about the usual time, 6:30 – 6:45, but had a very slow start anyway. The day was cold, and the propane stove was very slow to boil water, probably in part because it was on the verge of empty. I ate my oatmeal and drank my coffee lukewarm, then filtered more water from rushing Mill Creek. The Sawyer filter takes forever compared to a Steripen, but was much cheaper. Anyway, it was close to 9 before I hit trail, but I figured that was okay, since I only had 15 miles to go. 

But I was fretting about not having fuel to cook with, so plans quickly re-adjusted to go to a hostel 14 miles on and see if they had half-empty canisters in the hiker box, they almost always do. It was a plan, anyway.

The trail today roughly paralleled the Blue Ridge Parkway, and was much rockier than in the Shenandoah. There was even a real mountain to climb, up to 3400 feet, Humpback Mountain. A lot of switchbacks, rock stairs, and chunks of path strewn with rocks. I took spills twice, no harm done, but it was the most challenging day in VA since the rollercoaster.I passed a few northbounders, leapfrogged a couple of dayhikers now and again. I kept stopping, had a hard time getting into the zone. Eventually I reached Reed’s Gap, 14 miles in. And then I had a choice to make.

I could try to get a ride to the hostel, tent for $20, though I’d tried calling all day, only to get voicemail. I could try to go to the Devil’s Brewpub, a place highly recommended for great beer and free tenting, but no hiker box – but at least I’d have a hot supper, or I could press on another 1.7 miles to the next shelter and eat granola bars for dinner for a few nights. I sat on a rock by the parking lot at the gap, and tried to contact the hostel again, in vain. The pub couldn’t spare any staff to pick me up. Two day hikers came out of the woods. And the trail began to provide.

They had never heard of the hostel, but were willing to give me a ride to the pub, as it was on their way. We got to chatting, and I was laughing about my being out of gas. Lo and behold, when we got there, the driver reached into the back and produced a full fuel canister! Would not accept payment for it either!

The brew pub has a sweet set-up for camping – clotheslines, firepits, plenty of logs to sit on, and two portapotties! I got everything in place, tent set up, then cooked some freeze-dried chicken teriyaki using the new canister, to save money. Feeling virtuous, I then went into the Devil’s Brewpub to sample some beer, and oh, my. Their reputation is well-deserved, that was some great beer! They certainly know how to treat hikers right, there is a $5 hiker breakfast special tomorrow I am dying to try before I hit the trail again, and they will give me a ride back to the trailhead, too.

Ah, tomorrow will be strenuous, I will need that breakfast. Climb 1200 feet to 3900, drop to 970 at Tye River, climb to 4000 feet, shelter. 16.5 miles, though if I need to stop sooner, there is a campsite at 12 miles. But I think I can do it, with a full breakfast and an early start. There will be a lot of switchbacks to make it easier.

Tonight I lie in my tent, relaxing and listening. Music from the pub; a cricket nearby; a dog barking in the distance. Traffic sounds. The moon is bright, clear, and nearly full above, casting shadows from the trees. My legs itch from poison ivy, and I am texting weird comments with my brother. Life is good.

I hike on!

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Trail Notes – October 11 (Waynesboro & points south)

Enough of the bouncing around this way and that way, time to make tracks south with noooo deviations… But with poison ivy. Ugh.

Today was not the ‘sleep in’ day I envisioned – by 8:10 am I had pancaked and was already at the Urgent Care clinic for a very quick diagnosis of the dreaded poison ivy, and a prescription for Prednisone to get rid of it. Relief is in sight, but not here yet! Still itching and heavily band-aided tonight. Takes time. I figure I must have got it somehow while trying to negotiate some of the slowdowns on trail.

So, Urgent Care, then pick up the last two boxes at the post office. I spent a good chunk of morning sorting food and gear – sent a final box of food ahead to a town five days off, shipped some gear home.

The hostel owner and I did not get along so well, and I was actually very glad to see the last of this hostel. He thought I was treating him like a taxi driver, and I was taken aback, because usually shuttles within town are included in the price. Anyway, I added some extra money after he showed me a sign that had been hidden behind a desk, about encouraged (read: mandatory) donations for town shuttles. Glad to be gone! I hit the trail about 1 pm.

I only planned to go about 5 miles to the next shelter – later I wavered and considered doing 8 to a campsite, but this shelter is so beautiful, I stopped here, even though it was only 3:30. Looks like I have the area to myself, too. Nobody in the shelter, and I am tenting. It is going to be a cold one again tonight, down to 42. Thank God and Doug for a warm sleeping bag!

Okay, a few words about the blasted bear pole. It is just a tall pole with several arms coming off that 32nd in upward curved hooks. There is also a pole with a u-shape at the end that you put your food bag on, then lift it up to try to catch the food bag loop on one of the metal hooks up top.

I stink at it. Both the food bag and the pole are heavy to lift and wobbly, and it is impossible to hook the bag. Eventually, tonight, I resorted to tying my bearbag-hanging cord around a rock and throwing it over an arm of the pole, hoisting the bag up, and tying it off. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Tonight, after a delicious meal of freeze-dried beef stroganoff, I lie in my tent, listen to Mill Creek rushing by, and feel very content. Except when my legs itch. Tomorrow should be a 15 miler.

I hike on!

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Trail Notes – October 8 – 10 (Waynesboro, Southern Shenandoah)

My apologies for the gap in days. It turns out that cell reception is hit or miss in the southern part of SNP. I will try to flesh out the missing days… It was a very Joyful section – Mrs. Joy is a wonderful hiking companion and the miles flew by.

I would further like to note that Virginia seems to have two modes – grey, misty, and rainy, or bright, beautiful, and sunny. I think /once/ it was a cloudy day with no rain or mist… but I could be misremembering. 

October 8 was in the cloudy, misty, rainy mode. It took us a while to get underway – we drove north, left her car at Hightop overlook parking on Skyline Drive, then were shuttled south about 30 miles. It was about 11:30 when we started to hike, but we only had 8 miles to go, so no worries. She set the pace, and I found it very relaxing! If wet. Yes, it rained a lot. We talked of many things… Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, and cabbages, and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.

Okay, well, maybe not. (Apologies to Lewis Carroll.) But it was an enjoyable hike, and we did talk a lot. Toward the end, though, I hurried ahead – too many people were headed for the shelter, and since I had no tent with me, I needed to make sure I secured a spot in the shelter. A good thing I did, too. 

Dinner that night was a Mountain Home chili mac with beans, supposedly 2.5 servings, but I quickly demolished the whole thing. Methinks they need to adjust for hungry hikers! Everyone turned in at full dark, as usual, and there was a blessed lack of snoring in the shelter in this particular night.

During the night, the rain stopped and the wind started – by dawn, the clothes that were soaked and hung up to dry, miraculously, actually were! October 9 was bright and sunny, but cold – the wind did not let up, was gusting over 30 mph, with no reprieve until maybe mid-afternoon. We each hiked at our own pace today, and I was slightly faster, but not by much, which was good. It was too cold to stop for very long, at least until we reached the camp store at Loft Campground. We took a break there, bought some snacks, drinks, refilled water bottles, used the restroom, etc. But again – didn’t stay long. I think the longest break I took while the wind was blowing was hunkered down behind a grouping of rocks, our of the wind. There were reports of another bear on trail, but I never saw it. 

Toward the mid-afternoon, the wind finally relented and the day warmed. When I reached Ivy Creek, 11 miles in, and about 2 miles from destination, it was only 2:30 pm. I had plenty of time, so I lay on a large rock for about half an hour, listened to the gurgling of the creek, the splashing of it’s waterfalls, and stared up into the swaying trees. Very peaceful! Eventually, though, I had to move on. 

At yet another crossing of Skyline Drive, some kind section hikers gave me a handful of freshly sliced apples. Mmmm, fresh fruit! Fortified, I moved on the remaining two miles, feeling like I had barely hiked at all. The trail had a lot of elevation rise and gain, but it never felt difficult. Plenty of room in the shelter that night – there was no tenting space though, as there was a college group out for an excursion. Creepy guy showed up, smoking his weed and trying to bum cigarettes. None of us were smokers, to his great disappointment. 

He tried to get a fire going, but had no luck there, either. The college group did manage to, though, and had brought the ingredients for s’mores. They had a great time, and it was fun watching and listening to them; they were polite, and headed off as it got dark, so the shelter hikers could sleep. 

Sometime during the night, I sneezed – hard. It really set that darned rib to hurting again, still aching in the morning. Even though it was another bright, beautiful day, it was still cold, and I was in pain. Mrs. Joy was not of the mood to hike 10 more miles, either, so we hiked 3 to the next road crossing, and in the blink of an eye and the raising of a thumb, we hitched a ride 5 road miles to where her car was parked, and headed back to Waynesboro.

I had a mad craving for a bagel with lox, cream cheese, and capers. It must have been contagious, because we both ended up having one (minus the capers). Then a visit to the outfitters, and she dropped me off at the hostel, and headed back to Maryland. It was great! I will miss her!

And now? I am definitely deep in planning my return home. Two weeks and 150 miles will put me near Roanoke, which has an airport.  It will also put me at the 1500 mile mark. I had hoped to get to the VA-TN border, but it was not to be, this year anyway, and I don’t regret. I am feeling ready, actually eager, to go home. Since I realized I would not be able to finish this year, I have been able to relax and enjoy the hike a lot more – the pressure of time and mileage crunch is lifted.

However, I have this weird itchy rash that keeps popping up in new places, really annoying – I am plastered with so many large band-aid pads to avoid scratching, I feel like a walking band-aid advertisement. Here’s hoping it fades quickly once I stop scratching, because it is driving me nuts. Poison ivy? Bug bites? Maybe I am just allergic to Virginia.

I am finished the Shenandoah. Bring on the rest!

I hike on!

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Trail Notes – October 7 (Calf Mountain Shelter – Waynesboro, VA)

Oh, people.

Last night, I was made aware that the shelter had a metal roof, because of the rain drumming insistently upon it. Eventually, I applied ear plugs and was able to sleep. 

Well, until just before 6 am. The German couple next to me in the shelter had very bright headlamps and were not particularly careful where they shone them… I think they woke all of us up – a very unpleasant way to wake up!

Darkness was reluctant to lift this morning, otherwise. 7 am and it was still thick. Eventually, it gave way to a very foggy, rainy day, and I eventually got under way about 8 am. 

Ask and you shall receive – just when I needed it, one of the gaps had a row of porta potties. Relief. Onwards! I startled several deer along the way, and vice versa – the path wound through meadows, but also many rocky stretches and steep uphills. It really made me work at it today!

7.5 miles, and I was at the Waynesboro trailhead; and voila, Spidey was there, who I last saw in Maine! We had a good chat and catching up before I called for a ride to the hostel. 

The usual town errands included a stop at the outfitters this time – somehow I left my Steripen behind somewhere, so I purchased a less expensive method of water purification. Also, a trip to the post office yielded two boxes, instead of the four I was hoping for. Since I was a few days early into Waynesboro, my tent and one box of food had not yet arrived. I will pick them up Tuesday when I come back through.

Tomorrow Mrs. Joy and I hike a three day chunk of trail northwards that will finish off the Shenandoah for me. Tonight we enjoyed a good dinner along with Danish section hiker Pointdexter. Good beer, too…

Loud movie playing in the background. I will try to sleep anyway. I am Ziptie.

I hike on.

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Trail Notes – October 5 & 6

I am not even going to try to list where I have been the last two days, because I have been all over the SNP. Nor can I describe how good it is to be carrying the pack again, or what effect a good sized dose of bourbon has had on me tonight. It is chilly out there though.

Okay, let’s see if I can be coherent. I had a whole entry typed up and ready to go last night for yesterday, but an accidental icon click replaced it with the phone # for a shuttler – not very useful in that context. 

Yesterday was my first day of carrying the full pack again (minus tent) in well over a week, and though the terrain was rougher (rockier and a lot of uphill/downhill) than in past days, I was very happy – minimal pain and maximum independence. I covered 14.5 miles. 

I stayed at Rock Spring Shelter, and that helped shape today. Because there was a hiker there who both loved to smoke and to talk. I was inclined to neither, particularly the stuff he was smoking, but that didn’t stop him. Fortunately, another hiker and his mother arrived later, and they enjoyed both – so I was off the hook, as they all smoked up a storm outside. Okay for them, but I need to be able to keep a job. 

Unfortunately, this hiker seemed to take an interest in me anyway, something not reciprocated (the man has children and grandchildren, for crying out loud!). There was a wayside grocery and restaurant with picnic tables about 4.5 miles in, and as I approached, another (northbound) hiker was leaving. He warned me this first hiker was waiting for me at a picnic table, and planned to buy a ham to cook me a ham dinner at the next shelter that night.

Enough was enough, and this was getting exceedingly creepy. They guy just was creepy. I decided to jump ahead on trail – since Mrs. Joy is joining me tomorrow for a few days of hiking, I had a perfectly true and legitimate reason. I got a ride to an overlook about 4.5 miles from a shelter, and about 12 miles from Waynesboro, after a lot of asking people. Tomorrow I will hike into Waynesboro, pick up my maildrops, and join Mrs. Joy at a hostel – then we will hike north to cover the section I jumped over.

Today abounded in wildlife – first it was a Momma bear and her cub. I saw them crossing the trail about 150 feet ahead, and froze, the cautiously retreated, walking backwards. I waited about five minutes, then slowly went forward. No good – they were right next to the trail. Retreat again… Another few minutes, I watched them, then slowly advanced, whistling very loudly. They must not have liked how offkey I was, because they headed off downhill, and I was free to move on. I spent a lot of the day’s hike whistling. Just in case.

And deer! Four deer, grazing right by the trail as I came by – I didn’t faze them at all. A buck, a doe, and two fawns – I got some pictures, though none of the bears. Too risky.

My day’s hike was oddly split. 4.4 in the middle of the SNP, and 4.5 at the southern end. Neither section very hard to hike. And there was a fair dose of bourbon at the end of the hike. Plus a Ramenbomb – what you get from mixing Ramen noodles with instant mashed potatoes. Filling, if weird. I enjoyed the bourbon more. 

It is cold here. I am really enjoying being able to carry a pack again, I felt… inadequate without it.

I hike on!

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Trail Notes – October 4 (Open Arms on the Edge of Town Hostel, Thornton Gap – Gravel Springs Gap)

Today, i hiked north, to cover the last section between this hostel and the one in Front Royal, and sliced off another 16.something mile chunk of trail. 

I am really loving the trail in Virginia, still. Others have slammed it for being a ‘long green tunnel’ with few views, but I love how level of is – the southern trail maintainers love their switchbacks and are not shy about putting them in! It makes it so much easier to ascend and descend, and as for views – the AT in the Shenandoah National Park crosses Skyline Drive dozens of times, and sometimes close to or at overlooks. The views are there… And it is fall, so the views are lovely!

Today I also came across my first wayside. In New York, everything is about the delis along the trail; in Virginia, it is allll about the waysides, a combination of souvenir shop and short order grill that is most known for blackberry milkshakes. I tried my first, and probably last, today – truth to tell, I was not much impressed by the milkshake, but the chili cheese fries were quite tasty!

I ran into some hikers I recognized at the wayside as well. One of them had a tale to tell and a picture to show about too close an encounter with the bear kind. Also a newly purchased bear bell. I later caught up with her just before the final shelter, and I can vouch for the jangliness of the bear bell! I can’t say much – when I hear crashing on the trees, I spontaneously break into a badly whistled version of “Bridge on the River Kwai”, after all.

Cell reception in the SNP is not great, but texting often works when phone service drops, so I was able to text my shuttle a good pickup time. Unfortunately, she didn’t get it until an hour and a half later, and her texts to me didn’t get through, so I was pacing the empty parking lot, fretting, until she pulled up. 

Well, not quite empty. There was a parked tractor. I speculated about hotwiring it. It remained only speculation. I worry too much. 

Okay, tomorrow. Tomorrow, I put back on the full pack and hike southward. I am not going to make any predictions about how far I will hike, because I have no way of knowing, but I have run out of convenient hostels and patience. 

There are some very vocal dogs outside my open window. One howls, and the other constantly barks. I think there is a third one doing some combination of the two. Please stop. 

I understand there is a hurricane scheduled for Saturday. I am not liking this, God. It is much easier to hike when not under a waterfall. 

I hike on!

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