Monthly Archives: April 2019

Daily Ups and Downs

So many things happen each day and lots to do when I get to these towns. Including rest, resupply, communication with family, new gear, and yes I still have to conduct some business 😳. In week two I’m starting to get into the routine of life on the trail.

After 2 days off the trail I was ready to get moving north. 3 days is really too long but I plan to use my zero mileage days more often early in the hike. The joints and bones need more time then muscles to get use to the constant stress from difficult hiking along with the weight of the pack. Two days off is also a way to step backward for an unseasoned hiker. Getting started again is a shock to the system.

The Keffer Oak

I was headed to Niday shelter from where I left off at Hwy 42. Starting on private lands, which were cow pastures on rolling hills. My legs were feeling much stronger today! I passed by the Kiefer Oak which is the second largest on the Appalachian Trail. 18 feet around and 300 years old. It was 10 miles to the shelter including a 3 mile ridge walk. Ridge walks are not as pleasant as they sound. They include a series of peaks which are connected by a sag in the trail, requiring you to walk back down in elevation then reclimb that much and more. This can go on for 6,7, even 8 peaks until finally reaching the top. This one wasn’t as bad as the ones to come. On the way I crossed the Eastern Continental Divide. I tented on a pleasant night looking forward to the Audie Murphy Monument the next day.

Niday Shelter to Pickle Branch shelter. 10 miles

The morning started hot and soon was 80 degrees. The trail itself was what I have become to call a proper trail. Meaning fewer rocks, more leaves and pine needles. At 3100 ft and a 1000 ft. On what looked like an old road I walked up to the Audie Murphy Monument. Audie Murphy was the most decorated WW2 Veteran. He died in a plane crash here in 1974. It was my most anticipated moment to this point on the trail. I took some pictures, sat on a bench in silence for awhile then prayed and left in silence.

Audie Murphy Monument

The leaves on the trees still were not out and the sun was taking a toll on my energy not to mention my arms were getting red. I couldn’t apply sunscreen often enough so I’m forced to wear a long sleeve shirt and hat. From here it was down to Trout Creek where I sat for a long lunch with my feet in the water. Mule, Dave livin’itup and three others were here as well. Not sure if I mentioned it but I tweaked an old foot injury and though manageable it means being very mindful of my foot placement. Fortunately the trail has been forgiving the last couple of days. I use the cold water of the streams like ice to reduce any swelling whenever possible.

    Going down to water always means going up afterwards. I climbed 400 ft. To Pickle Branch Shelter to end the day. An unexpected rain started the next morning followed by rolling thunder. I planned to go 13.5 miles today my longest yet. Little did I know it would be my worst day. Dragons Tooth had its own plan. The rain was limited to the early morning. The climb was tough but these now are becoming just an accepted fact of life.
The easy part of Dragons Tooth!
    As I got higher and the rocks more prevalent I took a tumble. Not serious once again but then another in the next 5 minutes shook my confidence. Was I getting tired already? I rested started again and then a bad foot placement and I injured my foot again. I could still walk but a little more gingerly. I would have to be really careful from here on out. Unfortunately the terrain was going to get much worse! Dragons Tooth was no joke. At times I questioned whether this was the trail because it was that dangerous. I had to go real slow because of my foot and at times I could feel my feet sliding off the steep angles of the rocks. Twice I had to back up because I left the trail thinking I was supposed to go around a rock only to realize I’d followed the mistakes of others before me. Eventually The trail became a trail and not a rock scramble. In my focus to navigate this section I failed to see the sign which led via a side trail to the actual Dragons Tooth. Not sure with my injury I would have climbed it but I will go back one day without all the weight of my pack. I still had 9.4 miles to go and that was not looking good to me. I opted to stop at 4 Pines hostel believe it or not 4 miles away. Turned a bad day into a good day.
FourPines Hostel
    I rested my foot, met new hikers, had pizza and cheese burgers, did my laundry and regrouped for an exciting next day to McAfee Knob. The goal today was 10 miles to Johns Spring Shelter. This would get me to Daleville in Saturday a day later than I planned. As tough as they are I’m getting used to the climbs specially in the cooler mornings. Starting out over a ridge than down to some cow pastures I saw many flowers long the way to Hwy. 311 in Catawba Va. Climbing to McAfee’s Knob a 1200 ft. climb in the heat of a very warm day. At the top was an amazing view of the valley below. I was a little leg weary so I didn’t have my picture made sitting on the ledge.
Pa on the trail. McAfee Knob
Looking toward Roanoke
    Now I wish I had! I met Papa Smurf who took my picture and after talking to him I had the idea of attempting to go another 6.5 miles to another shelter which would put me in reach of Daleville on Friday. Papa Smurf didn’t know how unwise his suggestion might have been. My longest day up to now was 12.7 miles. This would be 16.3. Not only that but it would be 3 climbs in a day. Weather was threatening soon and there was no camping allowed after passing the next shelter a mile away. Plus I didn’t know how rough Tinker Cliffs would be. Another Dragons tooth and I’d never make it. I only had 4 hours till dark so I got to the first shelter thought about the pros and cons, prayed and decided to risk it. I’m drank a half liter of water and almost ran down to the se of Tinker Mountain. It started to sprinkle and struggled with the climb but I was committed and kept pushing upward. I was glad to see the top! Next was negotiating the cliffs which turned out to be not so bad though I lost the trail a few times which delayed my progress a few minutes. Thunder rumbled so I didn’t waste time up there and headed down to the shelter 900 feet down and a mile away. Got there and was glad to see No Collar who has been struggling with a knee issue and Papa Smurf . I just had time to filter water, eat and get into my bag before darkness settled in. Tired but happy. What a day!
    Morning brought rain and a 9 mile tough climb over seemingly unending peaks but eventually Daleville where I intend to to take Saturday off the trail and recover. I’ve traveled 119 miles thus far. Next stop Glasgow Va. The journey continues…

This was long again but I’ve had fun recalling all that happened and I use it to refine what I’m doing and learn from my mistakes. I have noticed a few themes that keep recurring in my thoughts as I travel. The first is trust and faith. The trust that God is with me and the faith that he will see to it that all is well.

The second is wherever I end up is where I’m supposed to be.The plan may change due to circumstances but wherever I end up that day, I can go forward the next.

The third is to make time I have to forget time. That is to say stay mindful of what is immediately in front of me. Not think or worry to much about the next climb or the next day. When climbing hills I found if I look down at the trail instead of how far I have to go uphill I make quicker progress with less stress.

Thanks for all your support!

Day 4-7 First Sunset/First Fall

The trail life is a steep learning curve. Seems that my mornings always contain some delay whether that is an equipment issue or simply me forgetting something. Today leaving Angels rest after a nice breakfast in Pearisburg I felt rushed to get on the shuttle and left my trekking poles at the hostel. No Collar left me at the trail head while I waited for the drivers to retrieve my poles. Thankfully they located them and returned in 5 minutes. So I began this hike a little rattled. Proceding up the trail a short way I missed a turn and walked 30 yds. into a interesting and historic cemetary. It seemed a good place to sit down and regroup. I took several pictures Later as I began the climb up my daughter texted me asking me if I was on the trail because my tracking device showed me miles away. This just added to my frustration. In my rush to get started I did not give the device time to fix my location and once hiking it never would. That fixed I caught up  with Safety Chute, a lady doing a section hike. We talked and climbed the hill in close proximity until one or the other would stop for a break. Leap frogging each other until my pack strap came apart. Luckily it wasn’t broke but I had to spend 15 minutes fixing it. I say all this because I’m learning fast that things happen and feeling angry or frustrated doesn’t make things better. I slowed down and started the tough climb to Rice Field shelter in decent time.

  1. This day was the first full day of sunshine and what a grand surprise when I got to the top. A full view of the west side looking down into a valley that I have been told is West Virginia and the promise of a beautiful sunset. Several hikers I knew were there including two guys who were brothers in law Lorax and The Mayor from Florida. We all had dinner and then went to a huge open field to watch natures light show. I can’t explain how the days events, surrounded by friends, and the atmosphere changed my outlook. To cap it off it was almost a full moon and a view of sunrise the next morning.
Sunset Rice Field

Sunrise Rice Field shelter

After eating breakfast I headed toward Piney Branch shelter which began as a short climb through a field followed by a ridge walk with beautiful views of the rolling pastures below. Somewhere along here my foot kicked a root and down I went. The speed with which it all happened startled me though my pack softened the fall. I estimate that you have decent footing only 50 per cent of the trail. The rest is a balancing act. The ridge walk was really several ridges which required a descent and climb to the next ridge. This went on for more than 5 miles . It was a beautiful day and for the first time I didn’t feel like I had to hurry. When the 1500 foot descent to the shelter began the nice trail turned into a rock fest. I try to be extra careful in these areas but it forces me to slow my pace. I have found that my trekking poles also have to be used judiciously because they tend to get caught between rocks and can cause a fall. Eventually I heard the sound of rushing water which is Pine Swamp branch. It would lead me to the shelter. After a few minutes rest I picked great spot a great spot for the tent. It looked like I would be alone for the night but eventually Crockpot arrived and before dark 4 others Including 2 new hikers Nemo and Hemingway.

This is basically the routine each day. I think I’ll begin to shorten these descriptions and tell only the destination, mileage, exceptional happenings or other interesting people I meet. If I have a particularly tough day or a really good day I might go into why that was. I would like to say that up to now the climbs have been really tough. At the end of each day I feel like my legs have done all they can do. To ask for more would risk injury and possibly my hike. Up to this point I have exceeded what my plan called for despite the mistakes. Each day seems more routine if not any easier. I expect in 3 weeks or so my legs will catch up an I can add a couple miles to my daily routine.

Day 5 War Spur Shelter 12.7 miles.

This was to be the warmest day yet. As usual it started with a hard climb and after a few hours a ridge walk but this one was different. It never did quite make the ridge. The trail stayed below the peak about 50 yds. and any breeze on the other side. With no leaves on the trees the heat of the sun made for an awfully harder hike. I kept hoping to feel the wind I knew was just a few steps higher. Eventually I spilled out into the Mountain Lake Wilderness. A big open area and parking lot with access to Wind Rock overlook at 4100 feet elevation. I stopped to eat some cheese crackers and a big drink of needed water. No one was around and I decided to take a longer than usual break. Unknown to me I was about to experience some trail magic. A car pulled up and two women (Laura and Becky) along with 5 children got out and came to the kiosk where I was sitting. We chatted a little and they asked if I would like a turkey sandwich! I don’t thing I’ve ever said yes quite so fast. Not only did I get one but two sandwiches along with an apple, a cucumber, and a coke. It really lifted my spirits which had drained in the heat. They went on to Wind Rock while I ate and I followed which was only a few hundred yards. I stopped took a few pictures and then asked for all of us to be in one together. I wanted to remember my new friends. Thank you all and best of luck to you. Now it was another steep and tricky descent with 2 swift creek crossings. The water was pretty high and very fast. Once negotiated I followed it again down to the shelter. I love hiking along beside a large stream. It’s cool and the water is loud. Magnolia was already setup in the shelter and because I wanted a fast start in the morning plus the threat of storms, I decided to as well. Near dark 3 high mileage hikers showed up and took to the shelter as well. We ate and got into our bags for the night: The morning started with the sound of thunder. Only a few drops fell as we all hustled to beat the storm up the hill. I was last as usual but was out by 7:30, a first for me. Once again these climbs in the morning really challenge me but I do see improvement. The rain came with a flash of light and a rumble just before reaching the top. That was the only lightning I would see. I put on my rain coat and headed to Hwy 42 where I would be picked up by Paul, a childhood friend I hadn’t seen in many years. The rain was steady for awhile until I heard cows mooing in the nearby. A pasture appeared below through some trees. Soon I was walking in green grass and rolling hills. The trail led through several of these with wood planks spiked to the ground in low areas. The cows looked curiously at me as I traversed their home. Timing was perfect and my ride was there in 10 minutes. So gracious for a needed rest after seven days!

Next stop Daleville, the journey continues….

Day 1-3 Pearisburg

It’s late but I won’t be able to post again until Easter weekend. First of all thanks for your interest and support. Many times each day I use that as motivation to keep moving north.

I’m not sure what form these posts will take. I’m still learning how to navigate the days I get to a town. Today for instance, I was a little late getting to Angels Rest hostel and now it’s 8 o’clock. But like life on the trail, this blog is a work in progress. Well get there.

So here’s a capsule of what I experienced.

Day 1 Trents Grocery. Thanks to my daughters for dropping me off. It was hard on all of us and you could tell we were stalling a bit. I because the point of no return had arrived. It was put up or shut up. Those first few steps were full of mixed emotions. The immediate climb didn’t make it easier. It rained on and off but light enough not to need a rain coat. Thankfully the terrain leveled off pretty quickly. I made it to the shelter in good time arriving damp but in good spirits. There were 6 people there. Two married couples. Better Together (they took one trail name), Muffit and Johnny Walker. Hugs, a retired marine, and No Collar who started 3 weeks ago in Damascus Va. All really great people who had good advice and even better friendship. Eventually 5 more people arrived. I stayed in the shelter as a storm was predicted but we only had a shower late that night.

The next night though was going to be worse and was it ever. I had a plan of doing 10 miles to the next shelter and then 7 into Pearisburg. I didn’t want to pitch a tent with the combination of high winds (40 mph),low temps , and hard rain. As late as I would get to the shelter there would be no guarantee I’d have a spot. So I flipped my days and did the seven miles on the 2nd day First making a reservation at Woods Hole hostel. I got the last reservation. What a lucky day. The storm was bad as expected and I had a bunk, shower, and two home cooked meals. There were twenty two people there. Including my friends from the previous night. We all shared stories furthering our friendship. Hopefully I’ll see them later down the trail.

Day 3 Got off to a bad start as I left the hostel with no water. I filtered from a questionable water source just off the road. It was cold and blowing wind, not to mention spitting snow. The climb wasn’t too bad but I was hurrying because No Collar was ahead of me and we planned to meet in Pearisburg. I never did catch him but stopped for a snack at Docks Knob shelter. Hot Cakes a section hiker from Canada was there eating lunch. We chatted a few minutes while eating and then I headed out to Pearisburg. Spring hasn’t really started here yet and the flowers are ready to bloom. I saw massive hillsides of a single flower but only a few had bloomed. It was beautiful! The trail turned into a ridge walk which is very pleasant. The downhill though was quite different except for another huge mass of flowers. The rain from the previous night changed the trail into a 2 mile a river. Nothing to do but walk through mud and water and try not to slip or worse fall down. Finally got to Pearisburg which is .7 miles down a road from the trail but didn’t have No Collars number. I figured I’d just get a motel or call Angels Rest hostel to see if he was there. Before I called a lady stopped her car and asked where I was heading. She told me she owned the hostel and No Collar had paid for my reservation. It was the last available bunk. That is what the Trail is about. We went out for Mexican Food after a needed shower. All in all things have gone well but I’m still learning not to mention getting trail legs!

Notice the branch through the roof.

Wapiti Shelter

Foggy morning before the storm

No view today

Woods Hole hostel/ bunkhouse to left

View from the ridge walk

Looking down

Couldn’t capture the scene. More of these just out of view

Woods Hole hostel

Porch of the Woods Hole Main cabin

Doesn’t show it but it was cold,windy, and at times snowing At least it wasn’t raining..

What am I taking

This is a list of what gear I’ll be taking to start my hike. I didn’t list the brand in most cases. If your curious email me and I will share. Shoes are an exception as they are probably the most important piece. 5 million steps ain’t no joke. It is also a good example of why you must find the gear that works for you. Never just decide on the suggestion of someone else. Many times I feel hikers judge each other by how light weight and or expensive (brand) of each item. Gear is an economic and a personal decision. In the end it’s not your gear but your determination and attitude that make the difference.  Research Grandma Gateway as an example.

I did tons of research and was very lucky that seemingly mostly all of it has worked to this point. Now as I prepare to get this show on the road adjustments will have to be made and it will be interesting to compare what items are still in my pack at the end.

What am I going to sleep in

I have a 2 man tent that is very lightweight. It is waterproof and needs no rain fly.  It uses my trekking poles to set up and requires 6 to 8 stakes.

20 degree rated  down sleeping bag with a silk liner that can be easily washed. It also is very lightweight .

Inflatable pillow

What clothes will I wear

At camp and sleeping:

Lt. wt. puffy down jacket

LS Polyester blend shirt, Wool blend long johns, exofficio underwear, Wool socks, lt. wt. camp shoes

running shorts for doing laundry

Hiking

1 ball cap, wool hat

I have 2 different types of shoes which I plan to use on different places on the trail. I will only bring one of these at any one time. When I change I will have to have the other sent to me. The primary shoe is an Altra trail runner. I have opted for the Olympus model for it’s extra cushioning. Pennsylvania has a large section of real rocky terrain and I might opt for my second choice Oboz sawtooth low-cut hiking shoe

1 pr underwear, 1 pr zip off pants w/belt, For cool mornings 1 Lt. wt. wool hoodie

Rain coat and pants, rain hat,  possibly lt. wt. rubber glove for cold rain

wool hat, 1 pr. gloves and glove liners

Cook system

Bear canister

Small gas stove,  fuel canister, lighter and a few waterproof matches, kitchen towel, spoon/fork

1 titanium pot 900 ml.

2nd 500 ml. pot to be used as a cup as well

(1) 3 liter water bag w/filter and 1 .6 liter bag w/ filter

Misc. freezer bags for rehydrating food

Small knife/multi tool

Toiletries

Trowel for digging holes when necessary, toilet paper, wet wipes allowed to dry out (hydrate as needed). Small piece of foot padding. Cut to desired shape on the trail. Chapstick, Band aids, neosporin comb, toothpaste/brush, floss, Hand sanitizer, sunscreen, nail clipper,  2 bandanas

Electronics

Phone, emergency beacon, headlamp, spare batteries, luci light for tent,  20000 mah battery for recharging, cables for recharging, USB adapter, camera

misc.

short piece of rope, sm. amt. of duct tape, piece of chamois cloth for drying up condensation in tent. 2 moisture resistant journals

The journey begins for real Saturday…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last preparations

It’s been almost 3 weeks since I retired. It is less than 2 weeks until I take thepexels-photo-906531 first step  on the Appalachian Trail. It was and is quite a mix of emotions. The last 3 weeks felt like 3 months. Thanks to all my work friends for the support and encouragement not just for this journey but the last 22 years. I can sincerely say  that you made my job a joy! The emotional roller coaster has now taken a turn toward the trail. The reality is, despite two years of planning and anticipation I will have to experience separation from family, fear of the unknown, doubt, and anxiety. As the impending first steps approach, these thoughts grow louder. All of us have these same feelings at different times in our lives. Walking the trail is one way I have purposely chosen to face my fears. Yes there will be excitement. There will be untold beauty and all the other things one can dream. But at it’s core the trail provides the perfect environment for a new mindset. Overcoming fears and instilling confidence as a result. It provides the time and place to heal, to grow, and to wonder!  Only three things are needed. Myself, the earth and heaven. Oh yeah maybe a little food

Something calls to me

The trees are drawing me nearpexels-photo-167698

I’ve got to find out why

The gentile voices I hear

Explain it all with a sigh

Moody Blues/ Days of Future Passed

                                                      1967