Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Buena Vista, VA to Waynesboro, VA

Mile 856

We're here in Waynesboro to get a quick resupply to last us till Saturday when my parents come again. We're so lucky to have my parents be so supportive and willing to come see us, bring food, and give us a ride to church.

Waynesboro has been super hiker friendly. We were hiking with a guy and were planning on hitching to town together. He got to the road a little ahead of us and a car pulled over before he even got his thumb out. "Need a ride to town?" He told the driver he was with two other people and we might be a few minutes, and the guy said he didn't mind waiting. He gave us a little tour of the town, pointing out the church where hikers can stay for free, and dropped us off at the Chinese buffet.

It started pouring rain while we were eating. Awesome, because we were inside, but not awesome because our packs were outside and exposed. Luckily everything was okay and we're glad to be in this church basement tonight. They have showers, computers, breakfast, movies, all free for hikers.Since there isn't a ton to report and we still have 20 minutes till lights out (10:30 is way past my bedtime), I'll go on a little more.

It's amazing what weird things you think about when all you do is hike all day. In the beginning, when I was solo, I hiked with random people sometimes and it was fun learning about new people. I hiked with a girl for about a week and it was nice to have an audience who didn't know all my stories, and who I enjoyed hearing from as well. Sometimes there would be an amiable silence and we might say, "Okay... We need to talk about something. Tell me about your favorite family vacation." And that would occupy us for a few more miles.

Beau and I have come up with a few games. One is where the first person sings a few lines from any song. "Everybody hurts sometimes" Then the next person uses any word from the line and sings another lyric from a song that contains that word. "Sometimes I feel like I am drunk behind the wheel" Then the next person continues on with a different word. "Jesus take the wheel".

Welp, time to get going, and into the Shenandoahs we go!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Daleville, VA to Buena Vista, VA

Mile 810

After resupplying in Daleville on Tuesday morning (great selection at the grocery store, a nice change of pace from some of the small hick towns we've been in) and an early lunch at Wendy's, we did a half day out of town.  Somehow we didn't get rained on, even though we could hear thunder almost the whole time we were hiking.  We planned on some aggressive days to put us on track to meet my parents at a specific shelter on Friday night, and dubbed the upcoming week "Power Week".  Beau was partial to "Hell Week", but I wanted a more positive connotation. And actually, it would be more accurate to call it "Power 3 Days", or "Hike 66 Miles in Three Days". Anyway.

Power Week went well despite an ominous forecast, and we continued to dodge rainstorms while other hikers just a few miles before or after us got wet.  Highlights:
- Staying in the super nice two story Bryant Ridge shelter
- Seeing a freaking RATTLESNAKE on the trail. Beau and I were walking along playing a game we made up (I'll get into that another time) and I stopped short because a 4 foot snake was stretching the trail about 10 feet ahead of us.  I quickly noticed the distinct patterns and oh, I don't know, the rattle on the tail and concluded we probably wanted to stay away from this one. The two of us and another hiker were forced to skirt around the trail, too close to the snake for my comfort, to continue on. Let me tell you, that rattle-y sound they make with their tail is a frightening noise.
- Getting stung by a bee for the first time in my life. I recovered.
- The grand finale, my parents coming to visit!

We are currently in Buena Vista, Virginia. Buena Vista is a trail town and also coincidentally home to Southern Virginia University, an Mormon affiliated school where I attended EFY years ago.  Beau had never seen the campus so we stopped by and looked around.

My dad arranged for us to stay at a family friend's home who lives here and is out of town for the weekend.  We went to church this morning and will get back on the trail late this afternoon for a short day... and then into the Shenandoah's we go! Just about two more weeks till Harper's Ferry!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Pearisburg, VA to Daleville, VA

Mile 724
We got out of Pearisburg early and were back on the trail at 8:30. Our destination that night was "The Captain's". The Captain lives on property bordering the AT and invites thru hikers to camp in his yard or sleep on his back porch, drink sodas he provides from a mini fridge, and use his bathroom. The best part of this setup is that in order to get to his yard, you need to cross a decent size creek. He's rigged up a zip line, complete with a caribiner to clip your pack to. We have pictures, but they were taken with the camera and we can only post photos from Beau's phone. There were three other hikers there we hadn't met before, but had heard of, so we had a fun evening with them. The other highlight from the experience was their persistent border collie dropping sticks on our sleeping bags early the next morning and barking.
The trail was a little less populated this week because of trail days. Trail Days is an annual festival in Damascus celebrating the AT and many hikers take time off from hiking to attend. We didn't want to leave the trail for that long and decided we'd rather go next year and make a vacation out of it.
One of the shelters we went to this week was a little readjustment (probably because it was within a mile of a road) and we were debating tenting instead. Then Beau spotted a tan snake in it... And another under it... And later another, this one orange and white striped, near it. Nope! We also read in the log book that there were multiple snakes in the privy.
We got to McAfee Knob a couple days ago, and it is fantastic. Photos below.
One last note. Cicadas are out in full force and it is gross.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bland, VA to Pearisburg, VA

Mile 630
Town again? Yes please! We're doing a big resupply here in Pearisburg- six days till Daleville.
After Bland, it continued to rain for a few days. The trail is basically a creek in some parts and we're just hopping from rock to rock or skirting the edge of the trail. We did a really big day yesterday, so resting in Pearisburg is good.
I'm not sure of how good of a story teller I am, but here are some random anecdotes from the trail:
We had been hiking with a guy named Delaware for a few days when one evening, Delaware came into camp with an announcement. He had reached 3,000 plays of "I'm Gonna Be" by The Proclaimers, more commonly known as the song that goes, "and I will walk 500 miles and I would walk 500 more...". Upon further discussion, we learned that he has been listening to the same song since Springer. And will continue to do so for the first 500 miles and maybe 500 more. He literally listens to that song and only that song while he hikes. He called it a gentlemen's bet with himself, and hopes the band will perform for him on Katahdin.
We saw in a shelter logbook that W, a young and pretty unassuming guy, had been there that morning. His entry:
"Killed and ate a rattlesnake today."
We got the story a few days later. W came across a rattlesnake on the trail and threw some rocks at it to scare it away. It didn't go away, so he moved on to bigger rocks. It still didn't leave, so, he decided, "It was me or the snake." With a few well thrown rocks, he killed the snake, then cut off its head and tail. I'm not sure how or why he decided to then consume the poisonous animal, or had the skillset to do so safely, but he did. And has the skin to prove it.
Whistles, a girl about my age and a few inches shorter, was telling me how annoyed she gets when male hikers talk to her in a patronizing way. Within the first week of hiking, a guy asked her how many miles she had done that day. She told him she had hiked 13. He bragged that he did 17, and that she shouldn't worry; she'd soon be able to do that kind of mileage. "After all", he said, "Smiles before miles! Hike your own hike!"
That night, Whistles found a decent size rock and put it in the bragger's pack. "Try hiking 17 miles with that, sucker!"

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Marion, VA to Bland, VA

586 miles in
Here we are in Bland, VA. It is living up to its name. If we had planned better, we probably wouldn't have come here at all because the next town isn't too far away. But it is raining tonight, and we hadn't showered in over a week, so.... I guess it's good we're here. :)
A couple nights ago we had some great trail magic. Trail magic refers to pretty much any help (usually in the form of food) thru hikers get from other people. Sometimes there will be a cooler randomly placed on the trail with snacks and drinks. Less often, but more exciting, is when someone or a group of people prepare a whole meal or various fresh food for hikers. This was the case on Saturday when we got to a road crossing a few miles from where we were going to end our day. Hot dogs, fruit, veggies, baked desserts, etc. Hooray!
I've had some requests for more details of daily stuff on the trail. We typically get up around 6:30am or a little after and change and pack up everything inside the tent. Sometimes we cook oatmeal for breakfast and other times we just have a Cliff bar or something. I've been trying to increase my calorie intake in the morning, so three packets plus some nuts or granola mixed in is good.
We are usually hiking by 7:45. This is a little earlier than the average thru hiker, I think. Then we walk. And eat. And walk a bunch more through the woods and maybe hit up a cow field or something. If there's a shelter or a nice view around lunchtime, we'll eat there. Lunch is usually tuna packets, wheat thins, cheese (usually lasts a few days with no refridgeration), or some peanut butter or nutella on a tortilla. Beau and I are mostly together during the day, but plenty of times one of us pulls ahead and we are more or less alone. We usually leap-frog with a few other hikers during the day, catching up at breaks.
We always have a destination for the night, planned the night before. Usually it's a shelter, but sometimes a shelter isn't the distance we want for the day so we look for a campsite. Our guidebook tells us where all the shelters and water sources are and includes many campsites. It's not too hard to find a place to pitch your tent, but staying at shelters (not necessarily in them, but tenting around them) has a huge draw for social reasons. There are usually at least half a dozen other hikers at shelters, providing for a much more fun evening than being alone.
We usually arrive at our site around 5, pitch our tent or set up in the shelter, pump water if needed, soak feet in the spring, cook dinner, clean up, and in bed around 9.
Exciting? :)
Unfortunately we only took one photo on Beau's phone this time. Next up, Pearisburg!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Damascas, VA to Marion, VA

Mile 530
Sunday morning, we left Damascas and planned on a 16 mile day. But I had been feeling kind of sick since Hampton and I made us cut our day short. I was bummed to only have hiked 10 miles that day, but that night we figured I just wasn't eating enough because my appetite was off from feeling sick earlier. Burning 3 to 4 thousand calories a day and not wanting to eat anything makes for a bad situation. Anyway, I vowed to make the next day better and we planned to go to a shelter amidst the wild ponies of Mt Rogers.
Everything was going great until it started POURING at 3pm. Our shoes were soaked through within 5 minutes, and we were still 7 miles or so from the shelter. At 4 we came upon a road crossing and huddled under sign with 5 other hikers. We all wanted to hitch to the nearest town, but so few cars were going by, we didn't know what to do. The shelter would surely be full. After 30 minutes or so, a Damascus shuttle pulled into the parking lot to drop some section hikers off at their car. Score! It was a little discouraging to be back in the same place we had just been, but it was good to dry off and put some more food in me.
The next morning we shuttled back to the parking lot we left off from and continued on. It was on and off raining all day, so we did a shorter mileage day to be able to grab a spot in a shelter. We walked through Grayson Highlands, which is a state park that preserves herds of wild ponies. They are super friendly and love to lick the salt off hikers. We took some pictures of my new event prospect; hopefully Martha will approve.
The weather is cleared up for now and we're currently at a Chinese buffet in Marion, VA. I've had three bowls of ice cream.
Some photos:

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Hampton, TN to Damascus, VA

Mile 465

We are in VIRGINIA! It always seemed like Damascus (the first town in VA) seemed so far away, but somehow, I made it here.  (Sidenote: I'm not sure when to use "I" and "we".  This is a weird transition from solo hiking to couple hiking. :) )

I know we just updated a few days ago, and really, not much has changed since then.  Beau did two 15+ mile days in a row and feels great.  My hair can go into pigtails (think baby pigtails). Beau learned how to drain a blister.

A few pictures:

Coming out of Hampton, the trail looped around a lake for several miles and crossed over a dam.  Beau was hoping someone would be out waterskiing so he could get a ride.

There was a half mile of the trail that was part of a handicapped accessible path. Isn't that nice?

On this particular day, we had stayed at a shelter that was exactly 26.2 miles from Damascus.  Several hikers attempted/succeeded in hiking a marathon day into town.

I realized that I've never talked about trail names on here.  Almost all hikers take on a trail name within a few weeks of starting that they pretty much exclusively use.  There are log books at every shelter that most hikers sign and leave a message.  It's a fun way to keep track of who is ahead of you or learn information.  My trail name is "Progress" and Beau's is "Joiner".  Some people come to the trail with their trail names already decided on, some pick them up quickly after some humorous event, and others just kind of come about.  I hadn't heard any that I loved for myself.  One hiker suggested Bluebird, because I normally have a blue shirt on (and he thought my eyes were blue?) and because of my apparently sunny disposition.  Another suggestion was "Owl Bait" after a dead mouse appeared outside my tent on a night we had heard several owls.  I thought of Progress and liked how it sounded and thought it was meaningful.  Not really an exciting story to go with it. :) Beau and I independently thought of Joiner for his trail name, for more obvious reasons.

Time is up on the computer here at the Damascus library, time for some Quincey's pizza!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hot Springs, NC to Hampton, TN

Mile 425
I have a week and a half to update on! Ahh!
The wonderful family I stayed with in Hot Springs dropped me off back on the trail at about 3pm. I had planned on doing ten miles to the next shelter, which is a bit tight on time but I figured I'd be fine.  By my calculations, I'd get there at 7pm. Well, but then it started raining. By mile eight or so it got super windy and even started turning to sleet. I was mildly freaking out when 7 came and went and the weather continued to get worse, but I eventually found my destination and quickly put up my tent and got situated. The sleet turned into hail and snow making for a cold evening. The highlight was at 5am when a big sheet of ice fell from an overhead tree onto my tent, pulling a stake out, effectively collapsing my tent in on me. I hopped out and fixed it quickly and it was more humorous than anything.
The next day was hard because it was still snowing and the trail was slippery and wet. By mid day, it stopped precipitating and it was really pretty with all the ice on the trees. I was up in an exposed ridgeline that day, making for some great photos. That night was also really cold but luckily it got better from there.
I met a solo female hikers who is my age and we stuck together for a while. After two big days (20 and 21 miles) we made it to Erwin, TN. The hostel there, Uncle Johnny's, was fantastic and the shuttle took us to town for dinner. I ordered a foot long sub and sun chips, certainly more than I usually eat but I figured I needed it. It went down surprisingly easy. The shuttle wasn't coming for a while and... I still wasn't full. Hello Ben & Jerry's ice cream. I ate an entire pint of "phish food" ice cream. AND IT WASN'T EVEN HARD. I'm not sure how I feel about that.
A couple days later I met my parents and Beau at a road crossing and we stayed in a delightful cabin. Beau hiked out with me and we climbed Roan Mountain to kick off his thru hike. It's very interesting repeating my first week... Re learning routines, doing low mileage, etc. It's GREAT having Beau out here. I'm anxious to do bigger miles again, but for now we are taking things slow to get him used to the trail. It's worth it to have a great hiking partner.
Right now we're in Hampton, TN doing laundry in a bar. Weird, but there are kittens here so I'm cool with it.
Damascus is only a few days away, then shortly on to the 1/4 mark!
This is the first time I'm using the Blogger app, so hopefully the photos turn out okay. One is a random view from the other day, the next is me in the back of a truck hitching to town, and kittens!