May 30, 2005 | Day 64 | Miles: 11.9 | Total Miles: 781.7 End: Punchbowl Shelter, Tent Danielle: Sunny and warm After a nice stroll along the James River for 1.5m, we met Aaron and Neha across the footbridge and they took us into Glasgow for our resupply. We did laundry, got great biscuit sandwiches, got groceries for the next 5 days and then got a quick ride out with Beantown, who was getting a ride with this guy named Del. He calls himself an official trail angel, who basically drives people around and helps them out. He's a talker and a bit crazy, I'd say, but very friendly. We got back on the trail about 12:45 and did another 10m to Punchbowl. Neat shelter with a pond and a grassy area. We camped by the pond, which was quite nice but noisy. The bull frogs and peepers are making a racket!
Ryan: sunny, hot, evening/right now rain thanks once again to aaron and neha. they picked us up at the trailhead this morning and brought us into town. a guaranteed ride into town is the best. (especially, since it would have been a less than fun 6 mile walk.) so, if you're ever in glasgow, virginia...actually, you don't ever need to go to glasgow, virginia. don't get me wrong, the laundromat, convenient store and grocery store were fine, but there's nothing else there. (except the car wash, but we didn't need to stop there.) the best part of the day was our ride back to the trail...from del. del is a self-appointed, self-described "trail angel." he has business cards. the business cards list his title as "trail angel." basically, del drives around central virginia picking up and dropping off hikers. del was in town, and del gave us a ride. del has been doing this since '97, and if you needed enough rides, i'm certain you would hear all about each person he has shuttled or met. here's a new definition of irony: del said to us, "that fella i just dropped off, he will talk your ear off. he didn't know when to shut up." for the record, punchbowl shelter does not offer any punch. spiked or unspiked. today song's - that song by wilco that was on in aaron's car...can never remember the name.
May 31, 2005 | Day 65 | Miles: 14.7 | Total Miles: 796.4 End: Cow Camp Gap Shelter Danielle: Rain in the early am, clearing later It was raining in the morning so we didn't get an early start, but finally got out about 9:30am. It was a mellow 9m to the first shelter of the day and the sun came out so we were able to dry the tent fly, which was a plus. Then a climb up to Cow Camp. The shelter was a bit off the trail so I don't think it's a popular spot, and tonight it's a quiet one too. Just us and Doc Gnarly. He's a funny older guy who hiked the trail last year. He is pretty quiet unless he decides you're OK and then he tells tons of AT stories. Looks a bit rough but a sweet man.
Ryan: mostly cloudy, few sunny breaks, more humid than you can imagine it poured last night, so we carried a wet tent. that's no fun. it also felt like we were hiking underwater today. so humid. just gross. it's a little cooler tonight, so maybe the weather is changing. we're in the shelter tonight with doc narley. if you saw him coming down the sidewalk, you'd cross to the other side of the street. he's one of the nicest people we've met out here. he hiked the trail last year, and he's back for more. he's definitely lived a tough life, but he's a good soul. he smokes. actually, a lot of people out here smoke. if you want to quit smoking do not hike the at. a lot of people smoke. doesn't seem to really mesh with the whole outdoorsy thing, but people are puffing away. it's a bit odd. i can barely make it up some of the hills, and i don't smoke. one guy said to us, "i was having trouble with that climb, but i stopped and had a butt and finished it." huh? anyway, we're hitting town in a couple days, so danielle can pick up a pack of camels.
June 1, 2005 | Day 66 | Miles: 17.1 | Total Miles: 813.5 End: The Priest Shelter Danielle: Cool, windy and partly sunny A decent mileage day :-) We've been taking it a bit slow through this section as we had made reservations in Waynesboro for the 4th. Now that we're out hiking of course we realize that we could be there on the 3rd. Ryan is feeling a bit constrained by the "schedule" at the moment and it's kind of funny to talk about our miles with other hikers who we doing big VA miles. Oh well. It will all work out. It was a nice hike today, up over Cold Mountain Bald with nice, but hazy morning views. Plus lots of fragrant pink azaleas. Very nice.
Ryan: am haze, then clearing and breezy, evening dark, black, nasty clouds everything was wet this morning. it didn't rain. it was so humid that everything that was wet stayed soggy and everything that was dry become soggy. yuk. but, a breeze picked up shortly into the day, which helped to dry things out. we climbed cold mountain today. it was another bald...very nice. we're not sure if it is the cold mountain of book/movie fame, but i'm certain that jude law is still dreamy. today's song - shilo, neil diamond...many thanks to beantown for putting this gem in my head
May 28, 2005 | Day 62 | Miles: 19.5 | Total Miles: 752.5 End: unofficial campsite by stream, Tent Danielle: Morning clouds and sprinkles, afternoon sun Happy 2 month anniversary on the trail to us! Pretty cool, huh? Amazing to think we've been out here this long, but yet it seems so short too. Crazy. We celebrated by doing a long day in which 5m of the last 6.2m were a big, long uphill. I'm tired out :-) But of course it's a good, wholesome tired out... It was a nice walk today. Went through lots of blooming mountain laurel and rhododendron, which was really nice. Saw a few lizards, one deer, a turtle way up the hillside--what was he doing there? He had a black shell and yellow-orange markings--, a toad, a little snake swimming in the river where we sat on the rocks and ate lunch and tons of tadpoles in the same spot, plus lots of the brown, prehistoric cent/millipede things we've been seeing along the trail recently. We're currently camped by a random stream 1.2m past the Cornelius Creek Shelter. We had planned to camp there but there were no flat tent spots, so we kept on pushing for a bit more. There are two other thru-hikers, who we just met, camped nearby.
Ryan: am clouds and sprinkles, pm sun. it's amazing what the body can do. we were beat when we stopped at cornelius creek shelter, but we pushed another 1.2 after we heard that the shelter was a real mouse house and couldn't find anywhere to set up the tent. so, we had to wait a little longer to cook dinner, but we found a pretty nice spot by a little stream. significant milestone missed in yesterday's journal: we hit the one third mark. yup, we've now hiked more than 1/3 of the at. we're a bit amazed. today also marked our 2 month anniversary. we've been walking for two months. seems like it's been a lot longer and a lot shorter at the same time. virginia is still proving to be nothing like we heard: flat, ugly and boring. we had a good climb at the end of the day today. and the views have been pretty nice, especially when we cross the blue ridge parkway, which it looks like we're going to be doing a bunch in the upcoming days. sometimes, they route us below the road through a space that has been cleared so the cars on the road have a view. the hikers don't get to see anything from our symbolic lower elevation. we just get to revel in the irony of being 2nd class citizens. oh, you're fat and consuming oil...well, enjoy the view.
May 29, 2005 | Day 63 | Miles: 17.3 | Total Miles: 769.8 End: unofficial campsite by Matts Creek and James River, Tent Danielle: Sunny all day After a nice quiet night by the stream, we got on the trail at 8:30am so we could meet our friend's Aaron and Neha at the Thunder Ridge overlook off the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had talked to them on Thursday night and they said they would come camp out Saturday night and meet up with us for a bit. Cool! We awed them with our stink :-) but they took us into town anyway in their car for lunch. Thanks guys! Glasgow, VA is not a big place but it did have Mom and Pop's Restaurant, which in its diner-esque way filled our bellies up. Then, after our nice 3 1/2 hour break for lunch and hanging out with Aaron and Neha, we were back on the trail. 11 miles to go... I was hoping to not get into camp too late, so I pushed the pace a bit and we made it to the shelter in 4 hours. Not too shabby. However, it was like a convention there with tons of tents up already and tons of people. It's pretty close to the road, plus it's the holiday weekend meaning there are lots of people out. So on we pushed for another 0.7m and we're now in a small little site by a creek that drains into the James River. It's pretty loud with the road, the frogs and birds, but only 1.5m to the road tomorrow and Aaron and Neha are outdoing themselves as our friends and meeting us at 9am to drop us back in Glasgow so we can resupply for the next 5 days into Waynesboro. Thanks again guys :-)
Ryan: sunny, pm stormish looking clouds we did the last 11.8 miles today in 4 hours and 15 minutes! danielle was on fire! tik, tik, tik, tik, tik, tik. sure, she takes 5 steps to every 1 of mine, but no matter, she was hauling. mostly due to the fact that we didn't start those last 11.8 until after 2:15. "must finish before dark." good reason to be delayed, though: our friend aaron who lives in d.c. picked us up and took us to lunch. (btw, lunch was a very large salad, mozzerella sticks and a bacon cheeseburger...mmmmm) we also got to meet his fiance, neha. that was great. what wasn't so great was that he failed to prepare her for our hunger, our smell, or my skirt. she had no idea what to make of the thruhikers. pretty comical. they're scheduled to pick us tomorrow morning and give us a ride into town to resupply...hopefully, we didn't repulse her too much, or else, we're going to be hungry. in other news, we climbed highcock knob today. (honestly, who names these things...)
May 26, 2005 | Day 60 | Miles: 9.4 | Total Miles: 714.5 End: Comfort Inn, Daleville, VA (near Roanoke) Danielle: Sunny, windy and getting hot Since we were meeting my parents, we weren't in too much of a rush today, and enjoyed the ridgeline with sporadic views as we wandered down to this major interchange off I-81. We got to the road a few minutes after they did, and they had brought some soda, bananas and cookies for any hikers that might wander by. Luckily, a bunch did while we were standing there, and much of the food was quickly devoured. Thanks Mom and Dad! Then we quickly turned them into a shuttle service, doing laundry, hitting the outfitter, grocery store, and having them help out a few of our friends with chores too. Such good sports! By the time all that was done, it was dinnertime and we had great Mexican food and margaritas with Hairball and Snowbunny. Yum! Hairball was on his best behavior and didn't shock my mom too much with his funny expressions :-) Then a quick pack-up of the packs and finally, soon, to bed so we can get up and do 18.5m tomorrow. Fun, fun :-) It was great my parents could come up for a short visit. Thanks guys!
Ryan: sunny, breezy, warm another short day and we're in town. great trail magic today: danielle's parents met us at the trailhead. they had to check in on us, and make sure we were still alive, and that everything in these journals wasn't fabricated. so, really...we're doing great. last night at around 9:30 at the shelter, hairball, pacman and i were enjoying the remains of the very large fire hairball and i had constructed. (hairball likes to burn stuff...i like helping him.) we heard a loud crash in the woods. on went the headlamps probing the forest. one pair of green eyes, then another, then another, then another. like little girls we scurried around to get our food bags and hang them in the trees, while thoughts of angry, maneater bears went crashing through our heads. throw the bear line, look in the woods...more green eyes. the shelter was surrounded by them. after more scurrying and whatnot, the food was hung and we were nestled deep in our sleeping bags. still green eyes everywhere. a bit unsettling. during, my final pee before i jumped into the shelter, i was shining my light towards the green eyes...watching them move. one got very close, so close that i could clearly make out the shape of its body...a deer. we had seen them around the shelter all afternoon. but those eyes! i think they were green eyed maneating alien deer.
May 27, 2005 | Day 61 | Miles: 18.5 | Total Miles: 733 End: Bobblets Gap Shelter, Tent Danielle: Overcast with patches of sun and warm After a second breakfast at Hardees--yummy biscuits!--and saying goodbye to Mom and Dad, we finally got out on the trail about 9:20am. We were a bit slow this morning but after lunch by the creek we picked up the pace a bit. We went through some great rolling terrain with tunnels of blooming rhododendron. Gorgeous! We also made our first few crosses of the Blue Ridge Parkway today at a few nice overlooks. Finally got into the shelter about 5:50pm. There are a few guys out here who are going south for a bit and they had basically taken over the shelter, along with their little dog. Kind of annoying, as we should be able to fit 6-8 people in, and there are only 4 in there. Oh well. We found a slightly slanting spot on the gravel next to the shelter to set up our tent. Shouldn't be too bad. All in all, a good day to be out :-)
Ryan: hazy, humid, looking like it's going to rain. we had a great visit with danielle's parents, and now we're back at it. they brought me new shoes. my feet still hurt, but it's amazing what shoes with support feel like. although, i was feeling a little rubbing on the heels that i'm sure will be sticking around for a couple days. duct tape it is. everything feels worse after a night in a bed. it just doesn't make sense. you're supposed to be well rested, but we always feel worse. not bad, but just out of sorts. since we did the two short days, some of the people that went back to trail days are starting to catch up with us. it's great to catch up with old friends. today's song - i'll be around, the spinners (song may actually be called, i'll be there, but i think it's the spinners. either way, it's terrible, but it was on in hardees this morning. what is not terrible are hardees breakfast biscuit sandwich things...pure magic.)
May 24, 2005 | Day 58 | Miles: 13.6 | Total Miles: 695.7 End: Johns Spring Shelter Danielle: Overcast with some rain in the afternoon Snowman had a rough morning this morning--he walked straight into a tree that had fallen just over the trail. He has a wonderful egg on his head. Poor thing. But we did have a nice morning other than that. We went up to Dragon's Tooth, a really neat rock formation that Ryan felt the need to climb up and out upon. He said the views were very cool but I was content just taking his photo :-) Then we went down through this gap with tons of blooming rhododendrons. Gorgeous! We had about 7m to a road crossing where we hoofed it to a gas station/convenience store. They did have pizza--yum!--so we all sat and ate for a while, then bought food for the next few days. By then it was raining but what can you do but just move on? Always a bummer to move on out of civilization and into the rain though.... And then there were the cows, as we wandered through some pastures. What do you do when there are cows on the trail? Are they scared of you? Or will they charge you? We had two cow stand-offs today. One was with a whole herd of cows that we eventually skirted around by going through the grass. The second was with a curious little calf who just stood there staring at us and sniffing the air wondering what the hell we were. Quite cute actually, except that he didn't move for about 5 minutes. Then he got spooked as we tried to sneak around him, and ran off to his mama. :-) Bravo caught up with us last night after a 28-mile day, and he's here again tonight. It's good to see him, but we plan to split the miles between here and Daleville into 2 days so he'll get ahead again :-) Oh well. That's just how the trail goes.
Ryan: cloudy am, pm rain ok, so today i walked into a tree head first. i have a very large lump on my melon. grumble, grumble. ok, moving on. we hiked to dragon's tooth...very awesome. the perfect remedy for someone with a bit of headache. i climbed to the top...mom, don't look at the photos. hit a store for lunch...complete with pizza, a 24 oz miller lite in a rusty wallace commemorative can and grouchy ladies. while purchasing the aforementioned miller lite, grouchy lady #3 informed me, "ya can't drink that outside." "i won't drink it here, but i will be outside when i drink it." she was not amused. here's a riddle: we slept in the shelter last night, but the rainfly of our tent was soaked. how did this happen? well, i'll tell you. ox is a moron. he sent his tent home and after arriving late to a full shelter was a little concerned with the impending deluge. so, he asked to borrow our tent. the idea of schlepping a wet tent was not pleasant, so i offered him the rainfly and suggest he sleep under the picnic table. which he did. he stayed dry. i carried a wet rainfly. today, i strongly suggested he at least purchase a tarp. short day tomorrow!
May 25, 2005 | Day 59 | Miles: 9.4 | Total Miles: 705.1 End: Lamberts Meadow Shelter Danielle: Cool, windy and overcast Since we only had a short day today, we didn't rush to get up and had breakfast in our sleeping bags :-) We got out of camp around 9:10am and headed up to McAfee Knob, a spot a lot of people have raved about. It's a gorgeous rock outcropping with about a 200-degree view out into the valleys below and the hills in the distance. Really nice. Unfortunately it was really windy so we didn't hang out for too long, but long enough to enjoy the vista. Then as an added bonus for the day we went over Tinker Cliffs, where the AT follows the cliffline for about a half-mile. Again, great vistas but windy! Brrrr. Still, we were really glad they routed the trail right along the cliffs. It was great. We got into the shelter about 1:30pm and are currently hanging out with Hairball and Snowbunny, who are on the same "slacker" plan as us for these two days :-), as well as Hot Flash, who is getting off the trail for good this year tomorrow. She is a really nice woman, but has some things she feels she needs to do off the trail, so this is it for her. Still, for a grandmother, she's done over 700 miles--very impressive! Hairball and Snowman are off collecting firewood for a huge bonfire tonight. Should be nice :-)
Ryan: mix of sun and clouds, cool, breezy to recap: feet very sore, almost bruised. large egg on head. crotch on fire. other than that today rocked. great views from mcafee's knob and tinker cliffs, and it was short. we were in camp by 1:30. magical. we also crossed over 700 miles today. still moving along. we're already planning for the shenandoahs and looking at harpers ferry. that's halfway...um, holy crap.
May 22, 2005 | Day 56 | Miles: 21 | Total Miles: 666.2 End: Sarver Hollow Shelter Danielle: Comfortable and intermittent sun Two milestones today. The most impressive--Ryan was up first out of all of us at the shelter, and it was 6am! Wow! I don't know what brought it on, but when I looked up, he was sitting up and already stuffing his sleeping bag. So we were all packed up and on the trail by 7:30am. One of our earliest starts ever. Second milestone--our 21 miles, our longest day yet. I think it was one of our toughest days, as it had some big ups and downs, but Ryan is still holding out for the 19m day we did a bit ago as the toughest. Whatever the case, we were out on the trail for a full 10 hours, and I am tired out. Early to bed for this little Sparkplug :-)
Ryan: sunny & warm with pm clouds and sprinkles so, i feel like i short changed my journal last night, so i'll probably babble a bit tonight. please note, that i was the first one awake this morning...in the whole shelter, and we were on the trail by 7:30. danielle had best not get used to it. the big news is that today was our longest day yet. 20 milers make us grouchy, though. we always seem to hit a few moments in the longer days when we're too tired and hurting to be civil. luckily, we're usually by ourselves. it always seems to blow over. you just can't hold a grudge out here...especially with your hiking partner, that just doesn't work. i've decided that virginia needs better marketing for its rocks. pennsylvania is supposed to be the rockiest state...legendary for the misery. but, virginia has been super rocky so far. we hiked a section today that looked like a piece of rock candy for about 4 miles. have you ever seen rocks that actually look like rock candy? me neither...until today. (although, they were neither shiny or tasty...i licked them.)as i mentioned, we've been hiking with hairball and snowbunny since damascus...they are hilarious. (hiking with doesn't mean going every step with them, but we start and end at the same place and leapfrog throughout the day. they're from nh, and both work at crotched mountain, where they met. yup, falling in love at the crotch. hairball often refers to himself in the third person..."hairball will make fire now." "hairball's feet are so sore." they don't/rarely take any sit down breaks during the day; they snack on the fly. meanwhile, we stop to snack every 2 hours or so...otherwise danielle goes into ultra-grouchy mode. we hit that stage today...always good times. she's already asleep. the long days really tire her out, but she always manages. hopefully, she'll be able to handle more 20's in the future, as we'll need them to stay close to our mid-september goal. me? except for my feet, i feel great. and, new shoes will help out a ton. i'm just hoping everything holds out for another 60 miles or so until i get them. i've been hiking on and off without my knee braces, and my knees feel great. as long as i get my stretching done at night, i'm usually good to go. my calves are always tight, though. it's unavoidable. you're on your toes so much climbing the steep hills...add a full pack, and ouch. but, stretch, stretch, stretch. my shoulder is feeling a lot better....barely bothered me today, which is great. who knows? i may actually be healthier by the time we get to katahdin! overall, i think my fitness is really starting to be pretty solid, but it's tough to really tell. hopefully, i'm building a good base for some cross country racing this winter. yup, i'm already thinking about skiing...dreamt about it the other night. the one thing everyone is dreaming about, though is katahdin. i think about it everyday. and, best of all, i'm starting to feel like we will make it. (barring unforeseen injury or disaster.) people are starting to get off the trail...for whatever reason. but, we're still having fun. i think that's the key right now. if you're not having fun now, time to rethink the plan. we've gone enough miles to know whether this trip is right for you. and so far, it's the coolest thing we've ever done.
May 23, 2005 | Day 57 | Miles: 15.9 | Total Miles: 682.1 End: Pickle Branch Shelter Danielle: Sunny, windy and comfortable Everyone says in Virginia you get the VA blues, with it being the same state for over 500 miles, and no views, etc. But really we've found VA to be pretty enjoyable. Only about 330m to go, and there have definitely been some views along the ridges, and some nice walking. Although there have been a ton of rocks! We weren't expecting them until PA. We don't really see how it can be much worse... Big rocks, little rocks, pointy rocks, loose rocks, everything. Oh well, it's doable, but boy does it hurt the feet! And poor Ryan, with his shoes breaking down. Plus he was having some chafing issues. Not fun. He was hurting today. Plus we were a bit slow-moving due to yesterday's miles. But we got here by 5pm, so not too bad in the end :-) Seen today: A toad, big black 3-ft. snake, lizard, an orange salamander with bright orange spots, many black butterflies with blue markings, an Indigo Bunting at the shelter this morning--very cool! I've been wanting to see one, so I am very excited!--, and three little Phoebes in a nest at a trail register sign by a road crossing.
Ryan: mix of sun and clouds, warm, cool breeze, pm showers, impending doom so, remember how great everything was yesterday. well, today sucked. first of all, my shoes are beyond dead. take a cereal box, trace your foot, cut out, duct tape to the bottom of your foot, repeat with other foot, now hike a lot. um, ouch. secondly, i fell today. um, more ouch. finally, remember how funny it was back in the smokies when drumstick lit his crotch on fire? well, i'm currently experiencing a lot of chafing. very bad times. it started yesterday, but i figure it would be ok. started today in my rain shorts (basically running shorts with a liner) and a good dose of body glide (a magical substance designed to lube body parts for athletic types). that combo lasted about an hour...then the tears...well, almost. switched back to kilt with the boxers and more body glide. still not so good... so, at the next shelter, i borrowed danielle's razor, shaved my leg and applied gauze and tape. this worked for about a mile. then it fell off. (sweaty down there, you know.) then i tried moleskin. that worked for about a quarter of a mile. so, i went with duct tape. yup, i shaved my leg and put duct tape on it. not good times. it worked pretty well, but not perfect. the next few days should be interesting. needless to say, boxer briefs are in my future. hopefully, that will be better than duct tape.the only good part about today was the morning temperature. all that winter gear i sent home...it was in the 40's the last two mornings. at least it was in the mid 50's this morning. so with a 45 degree sleeping bag, and a couple thin layers of clothes, i've been a little chilly. not bad, but not entirely comfortable. oh yeah, still great, loving every minute of it.
May 20, 2005 | Day 54 | Miles: 7.3 | Total Miles: 629 End: Rice Field Shelter Danielle: Overcast and humid So we didn't get that far today... Reasons? One, it was either 7.3m or 19.6m with a big ridgewalk in between and no water or campsites. Two, the weather people were calling for severe storms today. Three, the first 3m were completely overgrown and riddled with poison ivy and completely SUCKED for that reason, putting me in a bad mood. YUCK! (Aside: If you're going to put the Trail through a field/narrow corridor of woods, especially down low, near town where poison ivy seems to thrive, at least maintain it and keep it brushed back! Ack. Top pet peeve of mine for the trail. Nothing else is as bad as trekking through three miles of overgrown, poisonous trail. Nothing. Give me huge ups and downs and PUDs any day.) Four, Ryan's shoes are breaking down and his feet are feeling a bit tender. Five, we did not get an early start out of Pearisburg this morning, so by the time we got here at 12:30pm, and we figured another 12m would get us into that shelter at about 7:30pm. A bit late and not so fun. So, with all those previous excuses mentioned, wouldn't you have stayed here too? :-) Snowbunny and Hairball are here as well, and we're all hanging out, relaxing and have gathered a bunch of firewood for a fire. I don't think we've stopped for the night at 12:30pm yet, but being flexible is the name of the game out here and here we are. :-) We'll pick up the miles over the next few days and it will all work out. Flora and fauna notes for the day: Saw three deer, a male and female tohee (spelling? Very cool bird with a neat call. The male is black and white with orange splotch on its breast area.), multiple lady slippers, and a salamander down by the water source at the shelter. Pretty good for only 7.3m :-)
Ryan: sun & clouds, impending doom so, this morning was kind of crappy. even watching danielle put away 3 krispy kreme donuts couldn't hold back the crappiness. first, of course, the pack is heavy with food...instant grouchiness. secondly, we always feel like dung after a zero days...no more zero days. everything was creeky and painful. finally, for the first couple miles, the trail was ridiculously overgrown with poison frickin' ivy. you lazy bastards get out here and clear the trail. hello, roanoke atc? are you out there? much anger. the only plus was that we found a good patch of jewelweed, which supposedly neutralizes the ivy...we shall see. if not, the roanoke atc is going to get some sort of nasty-gram laced with poison ivy. in other news, we only walked 7 miles today. better than going 19. those were the options, since it's going to rain a great deal any minute now, and we really didn't want to set up a tent in the rain or carry a very soggy tent. not so much. we have dumped all our winter gear, and down to just the summer stuff. so, this means two things: 1. the pack is a little lighter and 2. it's going to be very, very cold for a few nights...
May 21, 2005 | Day 55 | Miles: 16.2 | Total Miles: 645.2 End: Bailey's Gap Shelter Danielle: Sunny and comfortable What a great day for hiking! I woke up at 6am and glanced out of the shelter--the sky was all pink above the ridge. Very nice. It was only about 40 degrees. Brrr. But wonderful hiking weather! The first 11m were along the ridgeline, nice and mellow. Then down to the first shelter, at 12.3m, where we had a late lunch around 1pm. From there, the trail went down to a road where there was a sign that the hurricane last year had knocked out the bridge across the river 2.5m up. "To avoid fording the river, turn left on the road for 1.5m..." We were with Hairball and Snowbunny, and we all stood there and pondered. To ford or not? To keep with the "pass every blaze" philosophy and risk the river, which was high from the rain last night and the night before? Or take the road to avoid the river and be "yellow-blazers" (road walkers who cut off parts of the trail to make things easier) for our first time this trip? The decisions.... In the end, we decided on the road to be safe, but Beantown and his brother decided on following the trail. With our decision to take the road, we did get some trail magic--a man who lived along the road has some soda and chocolate for us. How nice! We ended up getting to the river crossing just as Beantown and his brother, Fresh Legs, who is out on the trail with him for 2 weeks, were getting ready to ford. They're both 6 ft. tall and the water was running pretty strong and was up to their mid-thighs. I think there is a good chance that with the current and the depth, I would have gone over. And getting everything wet would just not have been fun. Plus it might have been pretty scary. So, despite missing a few white blazes, I am happy with our decision. Seemed like a good detour :-) We are currently sitting around the picnic table, chatting and relaxing. Hairball, who is our resident fire-maker, has started a large and bright blaze. A nice end to the day :-) Topic of the day: "our typical day" So what are our days like, you ask? Well, I get up around 6:30am and eventually nudge Ryan awake. We start to pack up, eat our breakfast (which today consisted of a tortilla with peanut butter and 2 poptarts each), stretch a bit, go to the bathroom and eventually get out between 8am and 8:30am. Hike until around 10am or 10:30am and then have a snack (Luna bar for each of us and some GORP (mix of nuts, chocolates and fruits). Hike for 2 to 3 hours more and have lunch. Today we ate late at about 1pm (bagel with cheese, Just Fruit mix from justtomatoes.com, a bit of turkey jerky and a candy bar). Hike for another few hours and have another snack (packet of cheese crackers and some dried bananas and strawberries). Today we ate our snack at the shelter and didn't have more miles to go, but normally we would hike for a bit more until our stopping spot for the night. After we set our stuff up in the shelter or the tent, depending on where we are, we get water and filter it, then start dinner (couscous with chicken, dehydrated carrots, mushrooms, onions and garlic plus taco seasoning). Eat, take our medicines, brush our teeth, hang our food up on the bear rope, and then write journals, chat, look at tomorrow's day, etc and go to bed around 9pm. Then more of the same tomorrow, with what we eat, weather and terrain being the main variables :-)
Ryan: perfect hiking weather we're about to play spades with hairball and snowbunny, so this will be short. today was awesome. except for my feet. my shoes are toast and need to be replaced. soon...very soon. we've been hiking with snowbunny and hairball since damascus, and they've great to hang out with. beantown's brother is out with him, so that's been slowing him down, which is great because we actually get to hang out with him. all in all, it's been a really good day...hoping for more of the same for tomorrow. oh yeah, we're aiming for 21 tomorrow...yes!!! today's song - hold on, wilson philips (ahhhhhhhhh!!!! help me!!!!)
May 18, 2005 | Day 52 | Miles: 7.8 | Total Miles: 621.7 End: Rendezvous Motel, Pearisburg, VA Danielle: Sunny and hot Gotta love the short days into town :-) Not a bad morning at all, and we got here about 11:30am. Descents into town are never too much fun, as they typically mean a big drop into a valley, but this one wasn't too bad. We're currently relaxing in our motel room with our gear spread all over the place as usual. We enjoyed some candy and animal crackers when we arrived, courtesy of my wondeful friend Kris. Yum! Thanks Kris :-) And some Reese's peanut butter cups from my parents. Thanks Mom and Dad! Healthy eating, I know, but they did taste good. We'll get a salad at dinner and some fruit at the grocery store tonight to even it all out! :-)
Ryan: hazy, hot, humid we're in town, and planning to take tomorrow off. a little r and r. other than that, we've been enjoying virginia. we've heard that a lot of people get the "virginia blues", and end up leaving the trail. so far, virginia has been great. well, the rumor you hear in georgia is that virginia flat. um...not so much. it has some flat sections, but it's not flat. the pattern looks like a climb, then a sort of flat ridge, then a descent, then a flat section, then a climb, then a flat ridge...sort of like a trail. just longer sections of each than we've seen at the beginning of the trail. and so far, it's been a little easier. plus, we're getting more used to it. what we're not used to is the heat. summer is officially here. it's getting hot. but, at lower elevations, we at least have leaves on the trees now. without the leaves you get cooked. now, less cookage. but, it's still going to be hot...
May 19, 2005 | Day 53 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 621.7 End: Rendezvous Motel, Pearisburg, VA Danielle: Warm and humid Ahhhh, a zero day. Pearisburg is not a compact town to walk around, but we lucked out. One of the section hikers we met out on this past stretch, Talisman, was stopping his section here in Pearisburg, so he had his car. He nicely agreed to meet us the motel this morning to take us to the PO and other errands. What a nice guy! Putting up with all us stinky hikers and hauling us around. :-) It was much appreciated. We're currently hanging out with Hairball and Snowbunny in the motel room, and will be playing cards soon, I'm sure. A very exciting afternoon :-) Not much else to report.
Ryan: hazy, cloudy, impending doom lazy day off. it's going to rain tomorrow, and we may have to build an ark. sounds like a great time to go camping. smart people would have left today, and taken a day off in a dry shelter. we're not smart. stay tuned... today's song - downtown, petula clark (every establishment in pearisburg seems to be required to play this song at least three times a day.)
May 15, 2005 | Day 49 | Miles: 13.8 | Total Miles: 581.5 End: Helveys Mill Shelter, Tent Danielle: Sunny and humid with showers early Well, we succesfully completed our first in-and-out town mission today. After 11.5m, we got out to a road crossing and turned right toward Bland, VA. Unfortunately all the traffic was going the wrong way, so we ended up walking for about a mile before a nice couple picked us up and deposited us at the grocery store. After a quick resupply we walked up and over I-77 to a truckstop with a Dairy Queen. Try the raspberry/oreo blizzard. Yum! Then down to Subway to pick up dinner (only 2.3m to the next shelter). As we got up to the cashier, the guy said, you don't owe anything, the guy behind you is paying for you. It was Bull, a 2003 thru-hiker. How nice was that! He said it was trail magic, so we thanked him and sat for a while chatting. Then to make things even better, he took us back to the trailhead. Extra nice! He was on his way back to OH from Trail Days. What wonderful trail magic. So, after 2:45, we were back on the trail trekking up to the shelter. And the skies have cleared out and cooled down a bit. A good day. :-)
Ryan: am clouds and rain showers, pm sun so, we hiked today. it rained this morning...we got wet. i'm not feeling very journalistic today. we made an afternoon stop into bland, va. it lived up to its name. however, we did stop at dairy queen for raspberry, oreo blizzards and hit the subway. we packed subway up to the shelter for dinner. best of all, we met bull, a 2003 thruhiker, at subway who dropped a little trail magic on us and bought us dinner and gave us a ride back up to the trail. we can't wait to do trail magic next year. today's song - jeopardy, greg kihn band (i couldn't help it. it was on in subway.) May 16, 2005 | Day 50 | Miles: 18.2 | Total Miles: 599.7 End: unofficial campsite, Dismal Creek Falls, Tent Danielle: Sunny and cooler. Not humid! Yeah Wow! A perfect day for hiking. Cool this morning until about noon. The first 9.8m were nice and mellow and we had them done by noon with a half hour snack break (we started at 8:30am). Pretty good :-) We saw a few ladyslippers--the first of the season, plus another Scarlet Tananger. Very cool. We're currently camped at Dismal Creek Falls, an awesome river with a cascade and nice flat rocks along the shore. Hairball has a fire going, and we're all (Hairball and Snowbunny, plus Tank, Eric, Marcelo and Trip--four guys we just met) hanging out drinking Coors Lights. I guess one of the guys met a beer delivery guy at a store nearby and the guy dropped off a case of beer at the road crossing, so it was schlepped up for a great treat. An excellent 18.2m today. Mellow terrain, nice temps and felt good all day :-)
Ryan: perfect hiking weather in the words of hairball: "dear pocketmail, today rocks the house." i couldn't agree more. to sum up: perfect blue sky and fairly cool temps. a little warm in afternoon, but that's what we expected. the terrain was pretty mellow. no big climbs, no big descents. we made great time. started at 8:20 and arrived at camp at 4:45 with about 2 hours of relaxing breaks thrown in. best of all, this campsite is amazing. it's right on the creek, right next to the falls. the fire is going. perfect. oh yeah, and we have beer. mmmm.... another brochure perfect day on the at. (although, i don't think that tomorrow morning will be a whole lot of fun.)
May 17, 2005 | Day 51 | Miles: 14.2 | Total Miles: 613.9 End: Doc's Knob Shelter Danielle: Sunny and cool We didn't get a real early start this morning, after a rousing, late-ending game of Gin Rummey with Tank and Eric. Hadn't played that before, and it was lots of fun. We were all hanging out on the rocks by the huge fire Hairball and Tank built and maintained. Very nice. I saw a hummingbird hanging out by the pink azaleas this morning, then we saw four hooded warblers (bright yellow face with a black hood, and a olive/yellow body). Neat. Plus lots of pink azaleas lighting up the woods. It was some nice hiking today, pretty mellow overall. Started at 9:40am; ended at 4:40pm with about an hour and a half worth of stops. Pretty good for 14.2m. We're looking forward to a short 7.8m day tomorrow into Pearisburg, VA and a shower and real bed too :-)
Ryan: mix of sun & clouds, warmish danielle didn't wake up until 7:40 this morning. i was most pleased with an extra hour of sleep. there was something funny, witty and interesting that i was going to write about today...but, i forgot it. oh well. in other news, the shelter we are staying in tonight makes up for last night's camp spot. well, the shelter itself isn't bad, but they built it in a swamp. tasty. for those keeping score, we hit the 600 mile mark today. i'm also on my 2nd pair of shoes, and 3rd and 4th pairs of socks. and, we're switching to summer gear in pearisburg...which is tomorrow. oh yeah, lighter pack... actually, i'll probably just be carrying more food.
May 13, 2005 | Day 47 | Miles: 13.9 | Total Miles: 548.7 End: Knot Maul Branch Shelter Danielle: Overcast, a bit cooler, humid The rhododendrums are starting to bloom. Gorgeous deep magenta blooms and purple flowers making a nice change from the greens in the woods. Plus we saw a few flame azaelas too. Bright orange flowers that really light up the woods. Very pretty. There are only 5 of us here at the shelter--Treetrunks (he has very big calves! and is super nice), and Snowbunny and Hairball (a couple from NH who work at a small southern ski resort. A fun couple.). I think most everyone else who was around us hitched back to Damascus for Trail Days (an annual hiker fest with parade, vendors etc. which we decided to skip as 30,000 people in the small town seemed like it might be overwhelming. We'll plan to go back next year for the experience though.). We are happy with our decision to be out here. The trail should be a bit quieter for a few days. Topic of the day: Stupid Little Things. SLTs are rocks and roots in the trail which set out to trip you up as you walk down the trail. This causes either stubbed toes, trips, jumps, ankle twists and much anger. As I am not entirely coordinated and often shuffle along, I tend to hit a few SLTs during the day, even more so when I'm tired. In response to this, Ryan devised something to make me feel better about it all. He picks up a small rock, hands it to me and I throw it in the woods with an "rrrrr." Silly, I know, but it sure is satisfying to see them tumble down through the woods :-) Ryan, May 13 overcast am, sun later, really humid well, i take back what i said about danielle being a good hiking partner. she decided to run the last two miles today. nearly killed me. i never liked her. so, i have a question: how do cows make such large turds? they only eat grass. i don't get it. what i'm trying to say is that we hiked through a bunch of fields today. very cool. not really mountainous at all. not what i expected. but, pretty neat. unfortunately, all the fields are encircled with barbed wire fences, and to get through them we have to climb stiles. we hit at least 10 today. and, you know how coordinated we are...interesting. most importantly, we hit the 25% mark today. so, now all we have to do is do what we just did three more times. one quarter done...so, unfortunately one quarter is over. oh yeah, trail days started in earnest today...we're celebrating by being on the trail...more on trail days to come.
May 14, 2005 | Day 48 | Miles: 19 | Total Miles: 567.7 End: Jenkins Shelter Danielle: Overcast and humid with a few thunderstorms, rain and moments of sun A long day today. A big climb followed by lots of PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs) and then a big 3-mile downhill. Plus it was humid again. Isn't it illegal to be sweating profusely at 8:30am? :-) Oh well. We made it. Of course we're tired out and will be asleep soon (it's 7:45pm), but all is well. It is currently raining and we are bunked up in the shelter again. Normally tenting is nice as you have your own space but on wet days, the shelter are great as it is a dry space. Plus then you don't have to pack up a wet tent! :-)
Ryan: hazy, hot, humid, pm thunderstorms i'm tired. today was hard. the weather, the terrain. ugh. probably one of our hardest days yet. but a good tired, and a good hard. so, trail days...we're missing it. trail days is an annual festival held in damascus to celebrate everything that is the at. there are all sorts of hiker related activities and events with vendors, and lectures and whatnot. a hiker parade down main street, a talent show, etc. sounds like a pretty cool time. but...they estimate around 30,000 people are in damascus for the weekend. um...damascus probably has a population of 2000 people or so. yikes. too many people in too small of a town. i came out here to get away from people. plus, all the inns and hostels have been booked up for months, so it means we would be camping in tent city. in a field with thousands of other people. yuk. so, we're skipping out on the chaos, and enjoying the slightly quieter trail. we would have gotten to see a bunch of people who are behind us now, but we're happy with our choice. plus, we came out here to hike, not to drink too much and sleep in a muddy tent. (although both of those have occured.) today's song - walk on, u2 "you know it aches, and your heart, it breaks. you can only take so much. walk on."
May 11, 2005 | Day 45 | Miles: 20.8 | Total Miles: 523.2 End: Partnership Shelter Danielle: Hot hot hot Another 20-mile day. I know, I know. We are trying to stay away from them, but the pull of this shelter was too strong. It has showers, a deep sink, enclosed privy and a visitor center with phone, restrooms and soda machne. Plus, from the phone you can order pizza! Yeah! We were psyched. We got pizza, salads and split a tiramisu. We're stuffed! Very enjoyable. This is how all shelters should be! Wouldn't that be nice :-) As for hiking today, the terrain wasn't too bad and the miles went by quickly. However, it was super hot and muggy and sunny, so that made it hard. Plus my feet were hurting a bit. Ugh. But we pulled through and made it. And only 11.5m tomorrow. Yeah :-) A short day. How nice.
Ryan: sunny, hottish at miles - 20.8 it's starting to feel like summer. we had record warmth in the shelter this morning...57 degrees. we even started hiking in just our t-shirts...a first. so, basically, we walked a long way in the hottishness. but, all that was really important from the day is that we ordered pizza for dinner. the shelter is a short walk from the mt rogers visitor center and there's a phone and they deliver. there's also a shower at the shelter. in other words, virginia is pretty nice. today's song - 500 miles, the proclaimers (make it stop!)
May 12, 2005 | Day 46 | Miles: 11.5 | Total Miles: 534.8 End: Relax Inn, Rural Retreat, VA Danielle: Sunny, super humid and hot Well, 64 degrees in the shelter this morning. It is definitely summer here in VA! A pretty quick 11m down to "town" today, which in this case is a truckstop by the highway. My feet and I were feeling a bit better today, which was good. Ryan has been doing awesome in the heat, and his knees are doing well too--two days without his braces in the past three days. I'm so glad about that. He is a tough one :-) At least we choose our tired days when the other is feeling good :-) I guess the past few have been my tired days but I'm hanging in there. Can't feel superduper all the time--even though I want to!! I think this short day will be good, and I'll be recharged again. We're currently at the roadside motel and have eaten ice cream at Dairy Queen twice, plus dinner at Rhonda's Family Restaurant. $10.49 for both of us. And that was about what it was worth too :-) But hey... Back to hiking tomorrow :-) We should officially hit the 25% mark tomorrow. Cool.
Ryan: sunny, hot, pm thunderstorm, 98.9% humidity for those of you keeping score, it was 64 degrees in the shelter at 6:15 this morning. not good times. and the humidity was through the roof. really not good times. however, many thanks to swift who arrived at the shelter pretty late with oc-1 after an extra trip to damascus, so oc-1 could buy all new gear (sweet!), and brought a very tasty cabernet savignon with him. i drank it out of a titanium pot. mmmmm... (btw, swift stands for "so, whaddid i forget today." he got this name when he hiked the trail in 2003 because he always leaves something behind. unfortunately, he has bad knees and made to mt. moosilauke in nh before they gave out on him in '03. but, he's back again this year, giving it another try. he's a really good soul, and i truly hope he makes it all the way this year. if i can't make it, i want swift to make it.) today, it was hot, and the humidity was brutal. strangely enough, i felt ok. granted, i sweated a ton and my hat looks like the rim of a margerita glass, but the heat didn't kill me. hopefully, that's a good sign for the months to come. unfortunately, danielle wasn't feeling so great. for some reason her feet have reached a temperature close enough to melt rock the last couple days. plus, we've been walking through some fields of tall grass...great for her allergies. it was better today, so with any luck she'll get through it. she's been doing really well lately, but i can tell she's pretty tired. i wish i could carry more, but i'm maxed out myself. by the end of the day, she's dragging. but, she's tough, and i'm proud of her everyday. she's pretty amazing, and the best hiking partner i could have asked for. the best part of the end of the day today is the relax inn, and it is, indeed, relaxin'. basically, we're at a truck stop, so not the most luxurious accommodations, but we did get to go to dairy queen...twice. i also order the 8 oz. barbeque dinner at rhonda's restaurant...i'm sure that will be rearing its ugly head again. oh, excuse me.
May 9, 2005 | Day 43 | Miles: 12.2 | Total Miles: 487.5 End: Thomas Knob Shelter, Tent Danielle: Sunny and hot Another warm and sunny day out on the trail. Wow! And a beautiful day of hiking. We went up and through a lot of nice meadows and open grassland, and the woods were all flower-blanketed. We're back into the wood sorrel, trout lilies and trilliums. Makes for some pretty walking. We knew we were taking a short day so we enjoyed the walking and had a nice hour-long lunch at a spring. Then we dropped our packs and took the side trail up Mt. Rogers (5729 ft.), the high point in Virginia. It was only a mile round-trip. The summit is wooded so it wasn't very exciting, but it adds to our high point list. 6 done :-) ME, VT, NH, VA, TN and MA. Alright :-) This shelter is up at the edge of a field with great views out into the valley and hills below. Very nice.
Ryan: sunny, warm i hiked without my knee braces today! no pain...well, only a little...but, it's the at. it's supposed to hurt. what an awesome spot we're at! great view, great weather...just awesome. i really don't have anything to complain about today. we even added an extra mile to go to the summit of mount rogers, the highest point in virginia...it was completely wooded with a rock. oh well. tomorrow, we're headed through grayson highlands state park to wrastle with the ferral ponies...i know what we're having for dinner. speaking of dinner, we still have too much food, so i'm going to eat a bunch...
May 10, 2005 | Day 44 | Miles: 14.9 | Total Miles: 502.4 End: Hurricane Mtn Shelter Danielle: A lovely mix -- overcast, hail, rain, sun A lot to talk about today... First, we have now gone more than 500 miles. Yeah! Not quite 25% there but close. Pretty cool. Second, we went through the Grayson Highlands today before lunch. Gorgeous open grasslands, interspersed with rocks and low brush. Plus there are ponies! They roam free through the park in small herds. We saw one herd at the beginning of the park, then ran into a herd right on the trail. We skirted around them, then stopped to look at them for a bit. One of the smaller foals came right up to Ryan's side and nuzzled his hand. Looking for food, I know, but so cute! Thirdly, as we were coming down from Pine Mountain, we heard thunder and it started to get louder and the skies got darker, and it hailed pellet-size hail on us along with a downpour of rain. The trail turned to a stream. It was quite an intense half hour storm. Yikes. We were soaked! But luckily the storm cleared out quickly and we got a little sun to dry things out a bit. And lastly, as we hit the last road crossing for the day, we ran into some trail magic. Wow. Soulman and his wife, Andy, were there in their RV handing out goodies. Soulman hiked in 2000, and they drove over from Indianapolis to share some magic with the hikers. They filled us up with cookies, crackers and cheese, bars, fruit, soda and chili with macaroni (I got yogurt and a piece of pie instead.) Yum!We've been hiking on and off today with Tank and Willow. I think I mentioned them before--they're 2003 hikers who are out for just a section tis year. We have found out more about them--they are hiking just through Trail Days (a big fest in Damascus this coming weekend that they'll hitch back to) and then they are going off to bike from Portland, OR to Portland, ME. They met on the trail in 2003 and have been together since. They're very cool and we've enjoyed hanging out with them. They might hike the 100-mile Wilderness when they're done with biking, so maybe we'll see them then. Now we're at a brand new shelter. There are 10 of us here and it's thundering again, so we'll all cram in for the night. Should be cozy! :-)
Ryan: overcast, sunny breaks, strong pm thunderstorm another interesting day on the at. we hit what people consider one of the highlights of the trail - grayson highlands state park. it's sometimes called the montana of the east, vast open grasslands with rock outcroppings. beautiful. plus, there are ferral ponies. the ponies are cool. one of them came right up to me, licked my hand and let me pet it. pretty cool experience. it was overcast for most of the day, but then it eventually started to thunder. then it started to thunder really loud. then the lightning started. then it rained. then it rained harder. now, picture the hardest rain you've ever seen...now double it. now and hail. a lot of hail. it hurt...quite a bit. the brochure mentioned nothing about hail, and we've seen a fair amount. the good news is that it started when we were only about a mile from a shelter. of course, it stopped just before we got to the shelter. at the shelter, we found tank and willow curled up in their sleeping bags...they missed the rain and hail. i never liked them. (actually, they're great, but in this instance...not so much. they met on the trail in georgia in 2003, hiked to katahdin together, and have been together ever since. after we left the shelter, we had a mellow downhill to a road crossing...where we found trail magic! a thruhiker from 2000, soulman, and his wife decided to hang out for a few days feeding hikers. mmmmm...dr. pepper and chili. now, we're in a brand new shelter...it's overstuffed with people, but at least it's new. best of all, we hit 500 miles today! only a few more miles to go... today's song - 500 miles, the proclaimers
May 7, 2005 | Day 41 | Miles: 0 | Total Miles: 459.5 End: Montgomery Homestead B&B, Damascus, VA Danielle: Sunny and warm A zero day. Ahhhh. Started it off with a big family-style breakfast for which we were called to at 8am by a trumpet--yum. Then the post office, outfitter, laundry, lunch, phone calls, emails and catching up with everyone in town. There are a lot of us here. Patch, Hopeful and Redwing came in a bit after us yesterday; Bravo, who we haven't seen since NOC way back when, came in too, after some high-mileage days to make up for 5 days off the trail vacationing with his wife; Clearwater, SWIFT (one of the best names yet -- Sh**, What'd I Forget Today-- and a great guy), Horizon, Wiggy, Free Radical, and on and on. Plus we're meeting new people here too. Amazing what an ebbing and flowing community this is. Makes and keeps it interesting. We met two men, Brian and Jim, this morning at breakfast who we haven't run into on the trail yet. Brian is a Bowdoin grad from 1966. What a coincidence! Great and very interesting guy. Lives up in Rangeley, ME. We chatted for a long time, and we'll definitely look him up when we get back to New England. Hopefully we'll see them out on the trail too. This was a nice town stop but we're back at it tomorrow :-) Hopefully it will stay sunny for a bit!
Ryan: sunny, warm two great things happened on our day off: 1. i won a poker game. that brings our earnings to an even $20. oh yeah. 2. i no longer have any pants. it's all about the kilt. it's not a plaid kilt, it's more of a khaki skirt. ok, maybe it is really a skirt, but i'm hiking in it, and i am most excited. (actually, i do have a pair of waterproofish shorts for when it's rainy and nasty, and i still have my rainpants to wear in camp, but i'm hoping to spend most days in the skirt...i mean kilt.)
May 8, 2005 | Day 42 | Miles: 15.8 | Total Miles: 475.3 End: Lost Mountain Shelter, Tent Danielle: Sunny and warm Wow! Another nice day. Great day for hiking. We were completely filled up by Susie's breakfast of peach cobbler, french toast casserole, sausage quiche, grits, strawberries, bacon, juice and coffee. Yum! Might have been too much food--oh, and it could be the 5 days of food in our packs too!-- as we were going nice and slow the whole day. The trail paralleled a bike trail called the Virginia Creeper Trail, which was a rail trail and completely flat, while the AT meandered up and down over every bump. There were a lot of hikers today blue-blazing along the Creeper, which really was pretty as it went along the river. Taking the easy way out, no fair! To each his own, but still... Of course we saw some slackpackers too--basically doing a day hike along the trail. Someone shuttles you out to a spot and then you hike back into town with a day pack for another night in a hotel or hostel. Again, hike your own hike, but seriously folks! How is that the same as us trudging north with our full packs? Ah well... We're headed up to Mt. Rogers tomorrow, the high point in Virginia. It's supposed to be another sunny day, so that should be nice :-)
Ryan: sunny, warm, breezy while walking today, i said "i can't wait to write my journal. it will be full of anger." so, here i go. first of all, we left town today with too much food...again. so, we were slow, and i was dragging a bit. now, i haven't mentioned blue blazing yet. the at is marked with white blazes, 2x6 inch white marks on trees, that let you know you're going in the right direction. simple. any trails off the at are marked with blue blazes. blue lead you to water and campsites, etc. however, some blue blaze trails are shortcuts or easier routes. so, if you take one of those trails to skip ahead, it's called, blue blazing. it's basically cheating. today, we walked next to the virginia creeper trail, which is flat, level, scenic, and generally quite nice. you can see it while walking along the steep rocky at. today you could skip about 14 miles of the at and take the creeper. some people did. dirty blue blazers. that only makes me slightly grouchy. even worse than blue blazing, is slackpacking. slackpacking is a crime against humanity. i hate chronic slackpackers. (if you're reading this and you've slackpacked...sorry, it's my journal.)slackpacking is only acceptable if weather, illness or another bizarre circumstance knocked you off the trail, and you have a deadline or tight schedule. basically, you hike a section of trail without your pack. from most towns you can get rides from local hostels or outfitters or whoever, they'll drop you off in the am and pick you up in the pm. and most times you go southbound. we saw some slackpackers today. they were skipping dancing singing...i hate them. as i'm grunting along under huge pack weight, feeling tired and grumpy, they saunter along talking about what a beautiful day it is. here, let me take my hiking pole and bash your knees with it, then throw my 45 lb pack on your head. that's about how i feel...little miss tra la la. slackpacking is weak. lower form of life. grumble grumble. one guy even said to us, "i really enjoy slackpacking." of course, you enjoy it...you're not carrying anything! nothing! that's like saying, "i really enjoy my 10:00 to noon work day." yeah, i'd like that, too. you might as well rent an rv and drive from atlanta to bangor. grumble grumble.
May 6, 2005 | Day 40 | Miles 14.9 | Total Miles: 459.5 End: Montgomery Homestead B&B, Damascus, VA Danielle: Sunny and warm. Yeah! Wow! Virginia. Amazing. 3 states down, 11 to go. Of course, VA goes on for about 500 miles, but hey, we made it here and to us, that's impressive. So we're happy :-) We're staying at a cute B&B. The owner even hugged us when we came in, and we hadn't showered for three days. Yuck! She's super nice. Damascus seems like a great small town, and I'm sure we'll have fun wandering around tomorrow on our day off. Oh yeah, hiking today... We did our 14.9m in 5:45 with about an hour worth of stops. Nice, fast terrain.
Ryan: sunny, warmish virginia!!!!!!!!! damascus is a major milestone for us. things are great. burritos, a pint of ben & jerry's and a zero day tomorrow. i'm sleepy.
May 4, 2005 | Day 38 | Miles 17.5 | Total Miles: 426.8 End: Vanderventer Shelter, Tent Danielle: Sunny and warm After a lazy morning, we finally got on the trail at 9:30am. The first section was down through Laurel Gorge and along Laurel Fork River. Gorgeous! Then up and over a big mountain, down to Watauga Lake. It's a huge dammed lake that we ran along for a while and then up a ridge that wandered along with great views to the lake below. Really pretty. Our tent is set up behind the shelter with a lakeview. It was a long day but a good one. Nice to have the sun out and be warm :-)
Ryan: sunny, warmish ummm...we hiked today. today's song - "all i need is free radical, all i need is cheese", this is free radical's version of mike & the mechanics, all i need is a miracle. yup, free radical is most likely going to die. that is not something you want in your head all day.
May 5, 2005 | Day 39 | Miles: 17.8 | Total Miles: 444.6 End: unofficial campsite by Lows Gap, TN, Tent Danielle: Overcast, windy, cold, spits of rain Another glorious weather day on the AT. But oh well, what can you do but keep on hiking? The hiking was lots of little ups and downs along a treed-in ridge. Not too much of excitement, but we did make some good mileage. Ryan probably could have kept on going at the end of the day, but I was done. A bit tired out. Looking forward to a day off in Damascus, VA after tomorrow, without a doubt. Highlight of the day: This afternoon, the trail meandered through an old pasture and as we got back to the woods, Ryan saw a streak of red. It was a Scarlet Tananger. Wow! Bright, candy-apple red body with black wings. And wait, there's more! We saw not one, but three male Tanangers, flitting around the edge of the meadow in amongst the brushy trees. Very, very cool! I hope our friend Scavenger saw them when he went through, as he was saying he really wanted to see one on the trail. There are lots of bird people out here, and Scavenger has a bird book so we tend to have conversations about birds we've seen, and used his book to ID the Grosbeak the other day too. Lots of fun!
Ryan: cloudy, windy, coldish, few showers yesterday's journal was not a reflection of how i felt. i felt pretty good, but i didn't feel like writing. now, on to today. today, was a typical day on the at: cold and rainy. it's getting a bit old. the cold is definitely getting to a lot of people. i don't mind it, but it would be nice not to wear everything i'm carrying every morning and evening. i don't want to wish the cold away, because it's the heat i really hate. shoulder thing is still there. it would be nicer if it wasn't. the good news is my masseuse is getting a lot better at working out the knot, and trust me, it's huge. hopefully, when it does get warmer, i can stretch it more effectively. other than that, we're ready for a day off...we're tired. not bad tired, just general trail tired. i think we're going to try to work in a few shorter days after damascus. (our stop tomorrow.) not just for the physical break, but the mental one. it's nice to hit camp early to have time to just relax. it's tough to get everything done and relax when you get into camp after 6:00. granted, it's not as hard or un-relaxing as, say, having a job, but being a professional hiker is hard work. in other news, power bars dipped in peanut butter are great and texas pete hot sauce makes every lipton noodle dish taste good. except of course, any that are billed as having brocoli...those are just rude and i'm certain that no actual brocolli was harmed in the making of those things. today's song - distant sun, crowded house
May 2, 2005 | Day 36 | Miles 20.4 | Total Miles: 397.2 End: Somewhere in the woods by a stream, unofficial campsite, Tent Danielle: Overcast and cool We officially passed out of NC this morning. Yeah. 2 states down; only 12 to go :-) Actually we'll be out of TN in about 60 miles, and into VA. Now that's amazing. We're already talking about VA! Crazy. And at the beginning that seemed so far away. Funny how time flies. Just like the miles... Now you see, we had planned a 15m day. But when we looked at the book at snacktime at Jones Falls--very cool, very high falls--we figured we could go a bit further and hit a campsite up the way 4 more miles, which was 2m more than planned. But we got there and the sites weren't that great and the book said there were a few options at 1m and 1.9m further, and it wasn't even 4pm, so on we went. Then at the first campsite, Papa Bear, a former thru-hiker who's out for just a section this year, was there and we chatted for a bit, but we figured we could go the extra 0.9m. So on we went. Except the book steered us wrong and there was no water at the site, so we kept going till we hit a stream, discussed the options and decided to fill all our bottles up and keep going until a good site. Worst come to worst, the book mentioned another site 2.5m away. It would have been a long day but it would be OK. So on we went again. Luckily, we found a flat spot on an abandoned road by a stream only about a half mile or so from where we'd filled up for water. Tank and Willow, 2 other former thru-hikers who are out doing just a section this year, are here too. We don't really know exact mileage for where we're at, but based on how far we are from our last known point, you got it-- an unintentional 20-mile day. Isn't it funny how these things happen :-)
Ryan: mix of sun and clouds, cool what a wacky day. it was a great day, but wacky. i'll sum up as best as possible. after we left the barn, which was the coolest shelter yet, we had a tough but fair climb over little hump and then hump mountain. both were balds with spectacular views. a local out for a couple days pointed out all the peaks, including mount mitchell and mount rogers. supposedly, longhorn steer graze on hump, but we only their leftovers. then we had a long descent, which included the nc/tn state line for the final time. we'd been bouncing between the two for a long time, but now nc is behind us. actually, we're almost to virginia...huh? how did i get here? we crossed a road, and then it got bizarre...open meadows, graveyards, trash filled ravines, atv tracks, an old road, rumors of fueding clans, remnants of a forest fire and lots of barbed wire. ahhh...tennessee. so far...just what i expected. best of all, our ole buddy wingfoot let us down today. wingfoot is the author of our guide book, and has hiked the trail a number of times. apparently, he's a bit odd. in any event, his book includes brief trail descriptions with mile markers, along with the locations of camping and water sources. well, if you ever make it down this way, there is no water source at the campsite .2m north of walnut mountain road. and, thus, our first unintentional 20 mile day. everything was fine, just not what we planned. but, flexibility is the name of the game out here. actually, we both feel relatively good this evening, but are looking forward to a mellow 12 miles to kincora hostel tomorrow. if it's really there...we've learned to not take wingnut literally.
May 3, 2005 | Day 37 | Miles 11.9 | Total Miles: 409.3 End: Laurel Fork Campground and Cabins, Hampton, TN Danielle: Sunny and cool Another cool morning (what is this, New Hampshire in March? Brrrr), but sunny. It was a pretty mellow hike all day, with a few ups and a few downs thrown in to make things interesting. We did have an idyllic stop for lunch in this open field with Scavenger, Montana Gal, Catch 23 and Crazy Legs. Beautiful sunny spot for lunch with them playing frisbee and Scavenger singing and playing his guitar. Ahhhh... Now this is what every day would be like. But then it would be boring :-) And now we're relaxing in this rustic cabin after a quiet dinner of pizza and ice cream here. There aren't many people at this place, as most people are down the road at another spot. We decided to come here over there so as to avoid the crowds a bit. Must be 30 people there. It's nice to have a bit of peace and quiet for a night. Back on the trail tomorrow morning :-)
Ryan: sunny, cold am, warmer pm it's may. it's tennessee. but, it's cold. since we left hot springs, we've had only one morning that was above 38 degrees. it's cold every morning. don't get me wrong, i like it cool, but crawling out of a sleeping bag when it's hovering around freezing is difficult. luckily, it has warmed up during the day. today was great. we stopped for lunch in a meadow. there was a frisbee and a guitar. it was an idyllic vision of the trail. just perfect. of course, it will probably hail again on friday. we had planned to stay at kincora hostel, but it was full. or, we knew it would be. people were practically running through the woods to get a spot...most of them didn't. it was crazy. we made the right choice to stay at laurel fork...less people, less chaos. today's song - i'll just quote... hiking the trail high on pain pills casey jones, you better watch your feet mud up ahead mud back behind trudging through the muck, all of the time. - thanks to the rambling ramblers for coming up with that...more on them later...