My foot is healing and if I have no further issue I plan to be on the trail early September. Due to the season winding down and no chance to make Maine this year, a new option is shaping up going forward. I will star where my daughters dropped me off last April. Heading southbound I will finish Virginia which is 45 miles. From there I will head toward the Smokies a little more than 330 more miles. If successful I’ll stop there for the year. I would still like to end this journey in Georgia 2020. Next April there is a Festival for hikers heading north to Maine from Harpers Ferry which just happens to be where I left the Trail. I plan to be part of that group. This plan has several advantages which I’ll explain in a later post. Now here is my favorite experiences among many more I left out. I’ll post some links for more information if you are interested.
From Blogpost Days 1-3 This was where I started. An odd place to start for sure but you know what they say, “You have to start somewhere”. I was super excited but anxious as well.excited. I was also sad to be leaving Stephanie and Anna who have been so supportive. They shared my emotions yet each of us couldn’t help but have mixed feelings. Standing by the the car I took my time getting organized yet at some point it felt like I was stalling, buying time to keep from that moment of separation. I genuinely felt their concerns and knew this moment was a symbol of much more than me simply going on a hike. Eventually one of us had to get this thing started. We took pictures, cried and then I turned around and walked into the trees and out of sight. I climbed maybe fifty feet and turned around. Standing high up over the car I peered through the trees. The car was still there. I thought something might be wrong and wondered if I should go back. Looking at my phone which had no signal I waited for what seemed quite a long time. The taillights came on, the car disappeared. Now alone, I did too. Twenty minutes later after climbing a couple hundred feet the trail flattened out and I was overcome by a rush of excitement. I was really on the Appalachian Trail!
Woods Hole Hostel
From Blogpost Days 1-3 I had mixed feelings about this at first. It was only my second day. I was stopping short of my original planned mileage. Not a confidence builder for sure. The six wonderful hikers I met the first night had plenty of experience. They planned to sit the storm out at Woods Hole because the approaching cold front with possible snow and high winds was suppose to only stick around for a day. I decided that as long as I got to Pearisburg the next day my schedule wouldn’t be compromised. Woods Hole Hostel proved to be a unique place and an excellent chance to talk with my new friends and gain valuable trail knowledge. Here are two links to articles about this amazing place. http://woodsholehostel.com/ https://woodsholehostel.com/about/the-legend/
Hike into Pearisburg
From Blogpost Days 1-3 Leaving Woods Hole Hostel in spitting snow I was very disorganized. It would take a few weeks to get a routine but right now I was making too many mistakes. I was the last to leave that morning, even forgetting to fill my water bottles. A half mile away at the trailhead I located and filtered water from a sketchy source alongside the road. Got my feet wet and was feeling the cold that had settled in last night. Fortunately the weather would improve as the day went on and the exertion from hiking kept me warm. It actually was a pleasant hike with a steep descent into Pearisburg. Along the way down there were more than several switchbacks through an immense hillside of flowers. The biggest nursery I had ever seen! It was too early in spring to see the blooms but I would like to go back one day and witness the many thousands of flowers.
Rice Field Shelter
From Blogpost Days 4-7 I had spent a single night in Pearisburg and the weather definitely changed.It was a hot climb that day to Rice Field. Approaching the top of the mountain I came to a clearing which I saw before I entered. I had no idea the size of this field though and once I left the forest I knew this would be a special place on my trip. The weather was perfect and promised a beautiful sunset overlooking the West Virginia valley below. There were 10 to 15 people there and we all watched in silence as the sun slowly dropped out of sight along with an amazing show of colors from orange to purple.
Pine Branch Shelter
From Blogpost Days 4-7 The highlight of this day was my mileage. I had covered 12.5 miles. It was a confidence builder as the friends I had met were all a day ahead of me and all the decisions to be made were made by me. I had been hiking 5 days now and averaged just under 10 miles a day. That was exactly what I planned for my first few weeks.
From Blogpost Days 4-7 This was a hard day but also one of the best. My first trail magic! I had been hiking in the heat and conserving water all day. At Mountain Lake Wilderness part of the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest I decided to eat lunch at the trailhead to Wind Rock overlook. After eating a pack of crackers a van pulled up with two ladies and 3 children. They offered to make me a turkey/pepperoni sandwich which I gladly accepted. I was also given a second sandwich for later along with a cucumber, apple and a coke. We talked and met at the Wind Rock overlook for pictures and more conversation. This little act of kindness restored my energy and lifted my spirit. The rest of the days hike was a joy. I also ran into Magnolia here. A thru hiker I first met at Woods Hole Hostel. She received some of their Magic as well. Hiking down to the shelter I felt even more confident and trail life was starting to feel normal.
Spending Easter weekend with my good friend Paul and his wife.
From Blogpost Days 4-7 I had planned for Paul to pick me up on a highway that the trail crossed in the middle of nowhere. There wasn’t good phone reception so I had to trust things would work out and it did! I waited along side the road for maybe 10 minutes and saw a truck which fit the description. We hadn’t seen each other for many years. Paul was my neighbor growing up in Wisconsin. The bonds between us created during those days are still alive despite the many years apart. We had a great time reminiscing and I can’t thank him and his wife enough. Paul would also pick me up at a motel in Daleville the next week where No Collar and I were going to zero. Thanks for the hospitality!
Audie Murphy Monument
From Blogpost Daily Ups and Downs I had noted this landmark while planning my hike. I was looking forward to it for two reasons. The first being the magnitude of his service to this country. He is the most decorated American soldier of World War Two. The monument marks the spot of his death in a plane crash in 1971. The second reason was that I had planned to call a friend from here who was also a veteran and very familiar with Audie’s life. Sadly he passed away before I started my hike. I stayed awhile here on a bench in front of the memorial and thought of each of them, saying a prayer before quietly and humbly continuing up the trail. https://connectingvets.radio.com/articles/5-things-know-about-audie-murphy https://www.ausa.org/audie-leon-murphy
From Blogpost Daily Ups and Downs This could be considered a low light. The hike was going well until I fell three times in twenty minutes. The first two weren’t bad. I even laughed at the first one. I was annoyed at the second and on the third I felt pain. I had aggravated an older injury which at first seemed minor but grew worse as the terrain also got worse. It was the first time I experienced instability and possibly at risk of a serious fall. I slowed my steps due to safety concerns as well as the increasingly sore foot. Looking back at my notes and the guidebook, it would bother me off and on for the next 300 miles. This day however it influenced my decision to not take a short side trail to the actual Dragons Tooth. A decision I regret and will go back another day. Hopefully with a better outcome.
Mcafe Knob and Tinker Cliffs to Lambert Shelter
From Blogpost Daily Ups and Downs Mcafee Knob is the most iconic overlook on the southern portion of the Trail. It was a nice but also hot and hard hike. Unknown to me as I climbed it would be my longest mileage day. Almost 17 miles! The views were everything I imagined and Tinker Cliffs was amazing. I made a decision to leapfrog my original destination and extend hike this day by six miles to Lamberts Shelter. I made it just before dark. Also I was reunited with No Collar who I had met on my first day of this journey. https://www.visitroanokeva.com/things-to-do/outdoor-adventure/hiking-trails/triple-crown/#Tooth
Thunder Hill Shelter
From Blogpost Gains and Pains First time crossing an open field in a thunder storm. Despite the weather and a small head injury I had a great time at the shelter.
Ottie Cline Monument
From Blogpost Gains and Pains A monument to a four year old boy in 1890 who wandered away from school in a snowstorm. He was found dead the next spring on top of Bluff Mountain. I had thoughts of this boy for several days. Still do. I said a prayer and placed a flower on his monument. Weeks later I would mention this to other hikers and all had the same reaction. https://blueridgecountry.com/archive/favorites/ottie-cline-powell/
From Blogpost Gains and Pains This was another fabulous view. Maybe my favorite of the whole trip. There were three times I listened to the song Wonder by Hillsong UNITED in 400 miles of the hike and this was one of them. http://www.theoutbound.com/virginia/hiking/hike-cole-mountain
The flood at Priest Shelter/Meeting Sunshine and Spoons/Devils Backbone Brewery
From the Blogpost Trail Magic or coincidence The next two days were a mini representation of how life on the trail changes from hour to hour. Misfortune or what could be disaster is avoided, a desperate need or want suddenly appears as if by magic. Changing of plans and daily goals on the fly. The climb up Priest Mountain at the end of a 14 mile day was hard but not much different from any other day. The rain and darkness started soon after arriving at Priest Shelter. Quickly it turned into a monsoon. The whole campground was in short order, under water. In the outdoors your equipment gets damp even without the rain. The next morning mine would be wet and in need of a lengthy drying period. My intended plan was to do seven miles to the next shelter and do just that. Morning started out foggy and unlikely the sun would show its face soon. However fortunes changed and I was able to accomplish the drying out while I waited on two Trail Angels who offered a better plan. I would also get a great meal and shower at the Devils Backbone Brewery. Thanks to two extraordinary hikers who happened to be out just for a day hike. See my May 14th post Trail Magic or coincidence?https://dbbrewingcompany.com/location/basecamp/
Three Ridges Mountain
From the Blogpost Trail Magic or coincidence I had been warned by Spoons and Sunshine on how difficult this climb would be. Looking in the rearview mirror I feel I handled it well but at the end of the day my feet hurt terribly from the continuous rocky terrain as we seemingly spiraled up this 2200 feet of rocks. I am always amazed by the chaotic nature of strewn boulders along these mountainsides, and yet each seem to be where they belong. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1o0hxmwqLnM Start at 5:17 for a look at what it was like climbing 3 Ridges. This is not my video but gives an accurate look at the trail I posted a screenshot of in my blogpost.
Shenandoah National Forest
From Blogpost Shenandoah Part 1 and 2 There were many highlights here including:
BlackRock overlook, a mass of large dark rocks piled up and spewed down the mountainside.
1st bear sighting. Though I missed the chance to get a really close picture at least it was a positive encounter.
Hiking with Jed Morgansen and Steak n Shake for 3 weeks
Spent more time with these two hikers, both of whom had much more trail experience then myself. Thanks to them for hiking with me for 200 miles. I learned many things about navigating the trail for my next section in September. More importantly I have memories that will go with me no matter where I venture.
Dinner at the Big Meadows Lodge
The Blackberry ice cream pie was outstanding. My calorie intake for the meal was well over two thousand.
First slack pack only 8 miles but very telling about the relationship of my foot injury and the amount of weight on my back.. Made me realize I needed to shed a few pounds more from my pack. All this courtesy of Steak “n” Shake’s friend, Kent Lester. He is an author and was camped in an RV nearby writing his third book. I was inspired after talking to him about writing. Thanks Kent for all your hospitality. https://www.goshenandoah.com/dining/big-meadows-lodge
Tom Floyd Shelter
Met some of the dedicated volunteers maintaining the Trail. They were actively repairing the shelter when a storm quickly and somewhat violently blew in and then out just as fast. That was also my goodbye to Shenandoah.
Trail Magic from Flip Lewis
I intended to bring a sandwich from Front Royal where I resupplied. I needed some lunch and a drink. The day was extremely hot. Flip was setup along the trail with a grill. Fed me 2 hotdogs, 2 Mountain Dews and chips. Great guy to talk with and he provided me with much needed calories. Thanks to Flip. Trail Magic is great! From Blogpost Shenandoah Parts 1 and 2
Bears Den Hostel
From Blogpost 50 miles to Harpers Ferry A great place to stay and real close to the trail. A bed, shower, pizza and a pint of Ben and Jerrys ice cream, not to mention pancakes in the morning for 30 dollars. https://www.bearsdencenter.org/
From Blogpost 50 miles to Harpers Ferry What a cool town. Seemingly every building and house is from the 1850’s. History everywhere you look. Also the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. Sadly it also was the end of this part of my journey. https://theculturetrip.com/north-america/usa/west-virginia/articles/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-harpers-ferry-in-west-virginia/