Hiking Dude Blog
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On my 300-mile section hike of the Appalachian Trail, I met many interesting folks and had some wonderful (and some challenging) times. Every day offered up at least one memorable moment, but my evening spent in the Gravel Springs hut in the Shenandoah National Park was certainly one of the favorite times on my trek.
Just before reaching the shelter, I met a National Park Service ranger (with a gun) that was investigating pilfering of Gensing in the park. He was an Eagle Scout, too. If you are interested in that story, check out my A.T. Journal for details.
When I walked up to Gravel Springs, there were already 4 people there. This usually means a crowded, often sleepless, night. But, these 4 were wonderful.
A Boy Scout and his dad, and a Girl Scout and her dad, from Maryland were out for a few days of backpacking. Right off the bat, they welcomed me, made room at the picnic table, and made me feel right at home.
They made some freeze-dried dinners for their meal and had too much to eat (or so they insisted), so they shared with me. They also made a campfire which was nice for drying out soggy clothing. And, I got to tell two of my favorite stories - #1 and #2. The Girl Scout wanted to know if the second one was true, so that was a bonus. :-) But hey, this Girl Scout is awesome - she loves being outdoors, is self-sufficient, and will do great things in her life, I'm sure.
It was just a great evening, and one of those that I'll think about often.
I said I would send a Scout Shop gift card to some Scout or Scouter that I got to hike with on my A.T. trek, or at least met on the way. In my 300 miles, I met this Maryland scout, two other scouts, and 3 Scouters. Oh, and 3 Eagle Scouts that were backpacking as part of some Washington & Lee University outdoors program trips.
Anyway, this MD scout was chosen as the winner and I've sent him a $25 Scout Shop gift card. He's a young Star scout and has big plans for some high adventure trips over the next couple years, so I expect he'll have no problem spending it.
Pictures and narrative are on my A.T. Journal page if you'd like to read the story.
I also have a few other thoughts about the trail that might be helpful for others...
- Spider webs and gnats are bothersome, but do no harm.
- The A.T. is a lot like climbing up and down stairs all day long. It is steep and rough, and there are few flat areas.
- Water, even sources marked as 'reliable', can be scarce in the late summer. Be ready to carry more than you expected.
- Any off-trail shelter means a steep side trail and usually a steeper path to water.
- Side trail distances are always rounded down. 0.2 miles might actually be 0.28 miles.
- Views are few and precious.
- People are the best part. Make time to stop and chat whenever you can.
Some of the wonderful people I met for just a short time:
- Stanimal and Dana - running Stanimal's hostel in Waynesboro, VA. Super folks with a great little home they share.
- Randy at Lewis campground - he manages the camp store and is very welcoming to hikers. Very positive about life and the trail, and makes you feel comfortable.
- Homer - the epitome of a trail volunteer, maintaining the Daleville area. A wealth of information, flexible, and willing to work something out to help a hiker.
- Washington & Lee University - I'm just simply impressed by how well their 14 backpacking groups handled themselves during their 5-day treks on the A.T. Their program seems to be doing a great job.
- A Ridgerunner in Shenandoah - she was spending her day on the trail, checking on hikers and providing information and advice.
And, a couple people I just can't figure out:
- The 3 or 4 people taking tiny dogs up McAfee Knob. Dogs so small they could not climb over the small rocks, so their owners carried them up.
- The young lady that burst onto the rock cliffs at sunrise while a dozen people were silently enjoying the view, and started loudly sharing her thoughts, including letting us know that she has 4 bars up here.
Just like the spider webs and gnats, those few people can be ignored and more energy put toward all the other daily adventures that inevitably happen out on the trail.
I walked 14731 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 5 miles today.
Up on the dark wee hours got us to the top of McAfee knob before the sun, but clouds muted the sunrise anyway. I did get my pic taken here hanging off the famous edge. It was a nice last memory of the hike. Got picked up at a road crossing and taken to the Roanoke airport for an evening flight home. I'm on Charlotte, NC now laying for the last leg. A-town is continuing on and I'll a link to his blog soon, and a recap of the trip. Thanks for following along as long as it lasted.
I walked 40458 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 15 miles today.
The shoes felt nice today, but the rest of me was still pretty worn down. I climbed out of Daleville onto a ridge that made a huge horseshoe around a reservoir. Unfortunately, Vanilla Thunder still has too much pain to continue. As I mentioned yesterday, I'm not cut out for long solo trips, so I'm leaving the trail too. Tomorrow, we hope to see the sunrise on Mcafee Knob and then hike 5 miles to get picked up.
I walked 16041 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 5 miles today.
A very short day off the mountain and into Daleville this morNing - to 90 degree heat. I've tried to keep the posts positive, but my wife said I should let you know the tough parts too, so ... This was a very tough day for me. I was out of food and the heat sapped all my energy. I have chills and I believe I got extremely dehydrated - at least that's what I'm hoping. My shoes are worn out, as is my body. Pain in my feet, terrible headache (from yellow jacket sting or dehydration), and I started looking at plane fares home from roanoke, va. This has been a grueling trek and I've only done about 300 miles, not 1400 like V.T. and A-town! So, I hitched a ride to the post office and got a package then found the GA guys at the hotel. I told them I was looking to go home. But they encouraged me to rest today, eat, and try top replace my shoes. Also, a long call to my wife was uplifting. So, I'll post the new plan in a few minutes ...
We got some pizza for lunch then resupplied food for 4 days at the grocery. I got waaay more than I probably need, but I now have my stove and need to stay stronger. After that, I went to a local outfitter (not terribly helpful) and bought this nice, light pair of merrill shoes and some thicker socks - the hope being better support will help my foot pain. I've been eating fruit and sandwiches all afternoon and evening as well as drinking lots of water and chocolate milk. The chills have subsided finally but I've still not had to use the restroom (tmi) so I continue to drink water. The shoes were quite expensive but feel nice so I have high hopes that tomorrow goes well. I'm hoping we do a short day, but VT Is stir crazy having been here waiting 4 days. It's just super that they have let me hike with them. I've discovered that I am really not a solo hiker - I need other people around or it's not even a little enjoyable. So, there we are. New shoes, food, and we'll see what the next couple days bring. If I'm not better in the morning, I'll stay another day, otherwise it's back on the trail. By the way, these were three most tame shoes - some wild colors out there!
I walked 59384 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 27 miles today.
Met a bunch of day hikers on the trail. Many (most) of the water sources are just mud since the area has had little rain. A bird watcher from hawkcount.org (I think) and a motorcyclist gave me water which was very helpful since it was over 80 in the shade. I managed to get stung in the back of the head by a ninja yellow jacket - just walking down the trail and BAM. Ouch. After the heat of the day, a lightning storm came up and dumped tons of rain - so water might be better at some point. But, just 1 second from setting the flash to hearing the thunder is a bit closer for me. Unfortunately, not much for pictures today. Here's a herron fishing.
I walked 52176 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 23 miles today.
We hiked under The Guillotine today! A suspended rock over the trail. I chatted with yet another W&L group - every one has been just great. They are friendly, courteous, and following Leave No Trace principles. I also saw a garter snake but that's the only wildlife. Plenty of climbing though. Tomorrow will be even a couple miles longer to stage a short hike into town on Saturday. Looking forward to a shower and more food - I'm almost out.
I walked 51922 steps on the trail today.
I traveled about 22 miles today.
Hiked pretty much alone all day, meeting up with A-town on top of a mountain for lunch. Covered many miles but it got terribly hot this afternoon followed by a sudden rainstorm that caught me just 1 mile from the shelter. If you're the praying type, a little healing for Vanilla Thunder's feet would be appreciated. Hopefully, he's testing up and we'll see him in a few days.
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