The trail has a learning curve that is even steeper than its hills. This was a hard week in many ways. My pack wasn’t wasn’t fitting correctly. Others noticed it and I felt it. I spent another zero in Daleville with No Collar adjusted the whole pack and improved it immensely. The next day I left No Collar behind to rest his injured knee. I’ve known him since my first day on the trail. I hope he heals soon! I mention that because that’s another part of this life. People get hurt and have to stay behind. Up to now he’d been my closest friend and now a week later he is still off the trail. I got a late start but covered the 11.2 miles to Wilson Creek Shelter. It was mostly an uneventful hike which is what I wanted. I was alone but as I’ve learned eventually 7 more arrived. Two of those moved on to a campsite a few miles down the trail. Most people doing 20 plus miles walk all day and even past dark. I get there early but am still limiting my miles according to how my legs feel. At this point I prefer to end my day going downhill. Though that means starting each morning going uphill.
The next morning I met Kip, a man that is hiking with a prosthetic arm. He writes inspiring stories for amputee’s in a magazine called Amplitude. He is my age and has a great story to tell. I also saw a deer stroll into camp while eating breakfast.
This day I had a decision to make. Water was not going to be readily available for quite a few miles. There was a shelter (Bobbletts Gap) 7.7 miles away which had water. The next water would be 12.5 miles away. That meant if I kept going I would have to do a 19 mile day. It was 85 degrees that day! The shelter was .2 miles downhill which meant a steep climb back to the trail. I decided it best to call it a day. I hiked down to the shelter because the 19 miles was just too far at this point with or without water. Another hiker, Reader stopped by for lunch and we had a good conversation. Better Together is behind me and may catch me tomorrow. Other hikers that night were Cayenne, a doctor from Stone Mountain and Griffendore and his wife from Griffin Ga. I would see these hikers for the next few days. Especially Cayenne.
The next day was the hardest hike I have had yet. Or so I thought until the day after. On the first there were 3 climbs of 400, 500, and 1000. It was 80 degrees! And there still was 2.3 miles down to the shelter. There were good moments like meeting back up with Better Together. Having lunch with Hugs and his dog. But that last climb of the day did me in. The shelter itself was special. It held 20 people. We only had six. A really nice shelter but for some reason I didn’t take a picture.
The next day would be worse. It started with a 2000 foot climb. Followed by a rocky up and down and then 1000 ft. climb over rocks that hurt my already injured foot. At the top of Apple Orchard Mtn. a thunderstorm hit and I was exposed, having to hustle across a field while lightning cracked overhead. It was an unusual spot because an FAA tower was atop the ridge. It had kind of a weird spaceship look. The Guillotine, a rock formation was just ahead in the trees so I snapped a quick picture and headed for cover. The Guillotine is two large rocks with a third rock sitting squeezed between the two. I took cover underneath and took my pack off to retrieve my rain coat. In the process I hit my head on a rock and felt for blood. I found it. Needless to say I didn’t take a picture but hurried on to the shelter a mile away. The trail was now just a river almost as high as my shoes. The rain slacked off just as I arrived. Jed Morgansen and Tank we’re headed out. Tank a retired policeman from Louisiana and I had lunch at a small stream earlier that day. I asked Tank to inspect the cut on my head. He said it wasn’t too bad so I ignored it. Found Cayenne taking a nap waiting out the storm. Eventually he would decide to spend the night. Later we were joined by Jumanji and Dory, a couple day hiking for a few days. Enjoyed there company and conversation. As bad as the day had been I felt good having covered 31 miles in 3 days despite having to stop early the first day. I planned to go to the next shelter tomorrow for another 12.5 miles.
That is what I planned. At first the trail was gentle with no big climbs and plenty of flowers. I met 5 ladies from the Natural Bridge Appalachian Trail Maintenance Club.They pointed out different flowers as we leapfrogged each other for a few miles. Down at the parking lot where their cars were we talked and they gave me an apple. I climbed up another 700 ft. to Highcock Knob. I found Cayenne here eating lunch and after discussing plans I decided to call for a shuttle to Stanimals hostel in Glasgow Va. instead of stopping the night at Matt’s Creek Shelter. The pickup time was 4:00 pm. It was 12:30 when I made the call. That meant covering almost 9 miles in 3 and half hours. It would be the fastest I travelled to this point. Fortunately it was mostly downhill. I told Cayenne goodbye and sprinted down the hill. After maybe 10 minutes I realized there were no white blazes. I checked my phone and verified I was off the trail. In a minute I came to a junction with a sign. Two of the trails went to places I did not want to go. The third directed me back where I came from. I had to go a quarter of a mile uphill and start over. Now I was in a hurry. I almost ran, down the steep rocky slopes, hurting once again my foot. I stopped at the shelter I intended to spend the night and cooled off by pouring cold stream water over my head. Then I began racing again another two miles until I saw the James River. The trail followed beside it for a mile and a half. When I finally reached the bridge it was 3:50. I had gone almost 10 miles in 3 hours. Not the way I want to do it.
I was really needing the new shoes which I had shipped, to Stanimals Hostel in Glasgow Virginia. When the shuttle driver dropped me off I learned my package had not arrived. I called Amazon and found it had been shipped to the wrong place. They couldn’t guarantee I would receive it in an acceptable time. I cancelled the order and arranged to be shuttled to an outfitter in Lexington Va. I ended up getting a regular trail shoe which I had worn in my gear test hikes. Fingers crossed.
I spent most of the day with the shuttle driver who took me to a great breakfast buffet in Buena Vista. Fresh fruit, pan a cakes, eggs, biscuits and gravy. But the best part was they made their own sausage. Best I have ever eaten!
We also went to Walmart. He had to buy some things for the hostel. I sat on a bench by the cashier. Wouldn’t you know it but the gentleman I sat next to had opened the first General store in Monson Maine. He told me many trail stories as all the hikers north used his store for resupply. Amazing how these things keep happening. Glad about my shoes and glad I did the extra miles to get Glasglow (15.8). Scotto’s had great pizza and subs. Had a great time away from the trail. It was a tough week physically and mentally as well. I need to get my trail legs soon!
Sorry for the delay on posting but so many things need to be done when off trail and I’m composing this on my phone. I’m not to good at that and the pictures aren’t placed where I’d like them. Also the descriptions may seem repetitive but that is my day. Keep moving forward as far as I can whether it’s up or down no matter how high or hard you have no choice but get to a place with water and at least some flat ground for a tent. Thanks for following!