Days 87 – 90 (5/26/25 – 5/29/15)

Day 87, 5/26/15

Start: Reeds Gap
Finish: Rockfish Gap
Miles Hiked: 19.2
Miles To Go: 1327.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 861.7

I got picked up in the morning by Tony, the manager of Devil’s Backbone Brewery. We talked about my trip until he dropped me back off at Reeds Gap where I had left nearly a week ago. Just like that, I was back on the A.T. Today was the hardest day I have had on the trail yet. The trail itself was easy – no problem there. I was struggling emotionally. I miss my wife and I want to be home. Physical pain is easy to get over; mind over matter and all that b.s., but this pain was not just something to fight through. I hiked in sadness for most of the day. I’m sure over the next few days it will get easier, but right now it sucks.

Virginia Valley

Virginia Valley

Wintergreen Ski Resort

Wintergreen Ski Resort

As I was lost in thought, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. I was not alone. Several deer were standing just in the woods and were content with letting me just walk on by. This encounter got me out of my slump a bit, but it was short lived. The skies opened up and I got drenched. It rained for the next 2 hours, just awesome. I got to Rockfish Gap and found a free ride into Waynesboro, VA. My new boots are waiting for me at the Outfitter there, so I had no choice but to go into town. I did get lucky with my accommodations for the evening. The Grace Hiker Hostel is run by the Lutheran Church in Waynesboro and a dry cot with my name on it was available for a small donation. I dried out and retreated to my cot.

Deer

Deer

Bench on A.T.

Bench on A.T.


Day 88, 5/27/15

Start: Rockfish Gap
Finish: Calf Mountain Shelter
Miles Hiked: 7.6
Miles To Go: 1319.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 869.3

The Outfitter didn’t open until 10:00AM, so I had a few hours to kill this morning. I went over  to the Waynesboro Public Library to take advantage of their WiFi. I’ll be honest, I spent most of my time on Facebook. I know, lame! When 10:00 finally rolled around I called the Outfitter and confirmed my boots had come in. Next, I called for a ride. Waynesboro has about 20 trail angels that are nice enough to help hikers with rides to and from the trail head. I started down the list, about halfway through I was finally able to arrange a ride with Bob Costanzo. Bob picked me up shortly after and drove me to the Outfitter. My boots feel great! I’ve gone too long without having the right boots, but it is better late than never. 30 minutes later I was back on the trail. I thanked Bob for his generosity and sat down to get a bite to eat before I started. Just as I was about to start hiking, I realized I had left my phone in Bob’s car. Luckily, there was a day hiker nearby and I was able to call Bob and explain my stupidity. He was so nice and understanding. I felt like an idiot.

New boots!

New boots!

For those of you who know me, reading about a misplaced phone should not come as a surprise. After all, 4 nights before I left for the A.T. I put my phone into the washer and dryer!

After only a mile of hiking, I came upon a self-registration box where hikers must register to enter the Shenandoah National Park. I will be in the park hiking near Skyline Drive for the next 103 miles. I completed the registration form and was on my way. I met 2 day hikers from England and they asked me if the trail was always like this. They elaborated and said they expected to see breathtaking views, but all they have seen all day were trees. I told them they were better off driving Skyline if they wanted views and that the A.T. is known as the Green Tunnel because trees and bushes are mostly what you see. They were really nice and we talked a few more minutes about my hike. They wished me well and continued on their way.

PoBoy studying!

PoBoy studying!

I reached the shelter around 5:00PM and set up my tent. Of the dozen hikers there, I didn’t know anyone, but that is expected because of my time off the trail. I have some work to do if I ever want to see a familiar face! There are 2 section hikers here who are trying to complete the A.T. in long sections. One had been at it for 3 years, the other 20 years! Hats off to them and good luck!

Campsite for the night

Campsite for the night


Day 89, 5/28/15

Start: Calf Mountain Shelter
Finish: Pinefield Hut
Miles Hiked: 26.2
Miles To Go: 1293.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 895.5

Rocky VA trail

Rocky VA trail

Today was a marathon day and overall I feel pretty good. The new boots feel great and are allowing me to make bigger miles. I woke up early this morning because I knew it would be a long day and I was hiking by 6:30AM. There are pros and cons to leaving this early:

Pro: Since you are usually the first one out of camp, any wildlife on the trail is yours to see!
Con: Wildlife includes spiders and you must be the trailblazer to take on all webs.

Pro: The temperature is cool and you can hike without breaking a sweat.
Con: The spider webs get in your eyes, mouth and ears and cling to your face like spider glue.

Pro: You can put in big miles before lunch like I did today. In fact, I did my first 12×12 today, which is 12 miles by 12:00.
Con: After a few hours of breaking spider webs, you now have about 5 extra pounds to lug around.

From now on, I’m only leaving early if someone else leaves before me! The trail was pretty rocky, so I was hiking with my head down. Suddenly, just under my feet I saw a snake looking up at me and I nearly jumped off the mountain. I’m not sure what type of snake it was, but I am sure my buddies Scott and David might have an idea. I made it to my lunch spot with no further incidents.

Snake on trail

Snake on trail

While I was in D.C., Leigh gave me a pack of beef jerky my Uncle Mike made. I tried it for the first time at lunch today and nearly ate the entire bag. Mike, it was absolutely amazing! You knocked it out of the park – Thank you!

The Shenandoah Park has several restaurants they call waysides. About 5 of them are within a half mile of the trail and several hikers walk the extra steps to grab a burger and fries. If you plan it out, you could eat at a wayside everyday you are in the Shenandoahs. The first one I had the opportunity to eat at was a steep .3 miles off trail, but just before it and right on the trail was a campground with a store. I decided to check out the store to see if I could get some decent food without having to hike the extra steps. I had about 2 miles to go before reaching the store when it happened. I saw the ferocious creature the Shenandoahs are famous for standing right in the middle of the trail, just daring me to take one more step. Can you guess what it was? I’ll give you a hint, it starts with a “b”…

The

The “ferocious” beast!

If you guessed bunny, then you are correct! Yep, I practically had to jump over the beast to avoid being devoured. Just when I thought I was in the clear, I had another frightening encounter. What you are about to read is 100% real, no b.s….

I was walking by the base of a big oak tree when up above I heard what sounded like a branch breaking followed by a bark-like sound. I took a few hurried steps back, thinking a branch may fall and looked up into the tree. I didn’t see anything, heard two more barking sounds and the unmistakable sound of claws coming down a tree. I went stiff as the thought BEAR raced through my mind. I took a few more steps back and there it was, about 30 ft. off the ground. It was still climbing down, so I backed up about 50 ft. and kept my eyes on the bear. It jumped down from the tree and ran across the trail away from me…Awesome! I honestly couldn’t believe it. Not all hikers will see a bear, so I felt pretty lucky. I waited about 20 minutes and then hiked on. Sorry, there is no picture of the bear, but I took one of the tree it was in.

The tree the bear climbed down

The tree the bear climbed down

After another 30 minutes, I made it to the camp store and decided on bologna on hamburger buns. I ingested 720 calories in bologna alone – gross! At least I didn’t have to walk to the wayside. Surprisingly, there are only 3 others here at the camp. Since it could rain tonight, I decided the shelter, while everyone else will stay in their tents. Maybe they know something I don’t!


Day 90, 5/29/15

Start: Pinefield Hut
Finish: Bearfence Mountain Hut
Miles Hiked: 20.6
Miles To Go: 1273.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 916.1

Another early start, another 12×12! We had a visitor in camp last night. Just before dark, I heard something moving outside and was surprised to see a deer about 20 ft. away from me. He looked my way several times, but didn’t seem to care that I was there. Since I was the only one staying in the shelter, no one else saw it.

Deer at campsite

Deer at campsite

Around 6:00AM, I got out of my bag and sleepily walked over to the stream just outside the shelter to fill up my water bag. Just as I was about to stoop over, I noticed a rattlesnake just upstream – That is sure to wake you up!

Rattler!

Rattler!

I moved a little further downstream for my water. I was the first one out of camp and took on the spider webs once again. About halfway through my day, I came across 2 college age day hikers. The following is the conversation we had:

Day hikers: Hey man, do you know how much further this trail is?
PoBoy: What do you mean?
Day hikers: How much farther until the trail ends?
PoBoy: Georgia.
Day hikers: (After a few seconds) Wait, what?
PoBoy: Yeah, Georgia. This is the Appalachian Trail. It goes from Georgia to Maine. If you keep hiking, you will hit a road in about 6 miles and then it just keeps going.
Day hikers: Oh, we thought it was just a side trail to a waterfall or something.
PoBoy: Nope. There are waterfalls, but you can find much shorter trails to reach them.

As we parted ways, I told them they could go to the campground up the road and talk to one of the rangers there. It was a funny exchange, I don’t think they knew they were in the presence of a thruhiker!

On top of a mountain, I checked my phone for a signal; I was in luck. I called my wife. To be honest, these last few days have been extremely trying. I have actually convinced myself that I am leaving the A.T. at Harpers Ferry…only to change my mind a few hours later. They say all A.T. thruhikers are looking for something out here. We may not know what it is at first and some may never find it, but I agree, we are all looking for something. The reason it has been so hard for me the past few days is because I have found “it.”

It has taken me 3 months and 900+ miles to realize that calling myself a thruhiker isn’t as important as it once was. What is important is my wife, who I miss more than words can say. Over the past few days, I have fought back tears just thinking of her and the time we should be spending together. Instead, I am out here and I don’t know why. I told her my feelings and she said she just wants what’s best for me, whether that is out here or at home. I thought I could handle the A.T. and anything it could throw at me, but I was wrong. I wasn’t at all prepared for these feelings. Perhaps I am just a little lonely. I have hiked alone since getting back from D.C., barely seeing any other hikers much less conversing with them. For those of you who know me, apparently I like to talk! I haven’t been doing much of that lately and the hours creep by. I’m trying to catch up to Click, Pie, Blade and Cheese Beard who are about 3 days ahead. Stay tuned folks, things could get interesting…

16 thoughts on “Days 87 – 90 (5/26/25 – 5/29/15)

  1. Dear Poboy,
    When you feel lonely, talk to God. He will reveal your purpose. I enjoyed your last posts about your trip to DC. You could be a travel writer. Today’s post was so emotional and heartfelt. You need a big bear hug, well on second thought maybe not:) I love the wildlife pictures with the exception of the snakes. My Mom is deathly afraid of snakes and she imagines them everywhere! I get creeped out too. I feel so much better now that you have the new boots! I can’t imagine how you could stand walking in so much pain. Well, God bless your journey. Love, cousin Jan

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Nick, I got a few things to say.

    First: try to stay positive. When you start to feel sad, change the direction of your thoughts. Your brain is a powerful tool. Use it. When tucker was deployed I literally had to control my thoughts. It’s not easy, but I got the hang of it and it really helped me combat my loneliness.

    Secondly: phone, wallet, keys!!!!!

    Lastly: I’m really proud of you. Not everyone takes the time to reflect on how to be their best self.

    I miss you and can’t wait to read more about your adventures. Keep an eye out for a surprise! Love you!

    Emily

    Liked by 1 person

  3. She is right there WITH you. Though you are the one carrying “the weight” and moving from one white blaze to the next, thru hiking is not an individual sport. It takes a team to prepare, support and follow. You have many years ahead. This is just one 5 month snippet of your life and now is the time to savor and make the most of it. You may feel lonely and like no one gives a crap and you’d rather be taking her to the grocery store right now but there is plenty of time for that. Do this now. Don’t put it off. I did and have regretted it.

    Today I’ll be on a training hike on the trail in PA. It’s only a 5 mile out and return but it is a step toward getting ready for that day when I pat the blaze at Springer and cover the ground you have already put behind you. It’s your decision, just make sure you make the decision that is right for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mike, I am not sure who you are or even how you came across Nick’s blog ; at any rate I just wanted to say that I appreciate you taking the time to write a few encouraging words to my son,

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am following several blogs of thru hikers on the AT. I have wanted to do the walk since college and it never rose to the top of my list of things to do. Until now. I’m retired and among those who realize there is not unlimited time allotted to us here to accomplish what is important to us. I hope to do a thru hike in the next couple of years. If my knees and arteries hold up. Nick’s blog helps me understand the challenges and how to overcome them. I am also struck by his spirituality. I hope he finds the right answer to all of his questions and makes a decision that is right for him. I believe he will.

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      • I did a 6 mile out and return training hike on Friday SOBO from rt 309 (in PA). Nice easy trail, one of the few mild sections in PA. You’ll need all your intestinal fortitude for some of the bits here but with all you’ve bested so far, piece of cake. march on!

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  4. Dude – You are a stud!!! Proud Uncle!
    PS Checking my BFRO Sasquatch data base and another more localized data base I found on the net I note that since 2012 there have been 7 reported sightings either directly on the trail or very near to the trail. So, Keep those eyes and ears wide open!!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Its been a while since I sent you any more Sasquatch info. This is a relatively new development on Sasquatch
    Some interesting news on the Bigfoot front!

    Dr. Melba Ketchum is a veterinarian in Texas. Her practice includes doing genetic research on farm and ranch animals and domestic pets to give people an exact understanding of the genetic lineage of their animals. People who raise quarter horses, Texas longhorns, show dogs and cats etc. are very interested in this kind of info.
    About six or seven years ago a local rancher visited her office with hair samples he found on a barbed wire fence at his ranch. He was curious as to what kind of animal these samples belonged to. Dr. Ketchum thought it an unusual request because most people who are interested in DNA analysis want to know the genetic specifics about a particular animal for the purposes of breeding or some other animal husbandry concern. Dr. Ketchum told the rancher that her lab charges $500 for the analysis and she thought that was a lot of money just to satisfy his curiosity. Ketchum reports that the rancher didn’t so much as bat an eye. He simply reached into his pocket and gave her the $500 and told her to get busy. As he was leaving he turned to her and said, “By the way doctor, you might find this extremely interesting.” And indeed she did.
    After reviewing the results from her preliminary analysis, she called the rancher and said she had several questions for him that she didn’t want to discuss on the phone. At their subsequent meeting the rancher told her that he would answer all and any of her questions but first he wanted to hear her report. She explained that any report she could deliver at that time would be very premature and far from conclusive. The rancher said he understood. Ketchum began by saying that she knew only three things. 1) The samples came from a primate 2) It’s not a human primate and, 3) None of the DNA databases she uses in her research could find an exact match for the DNA extracted from the samples. She told him that at this point they had nothing but a big mystery on their hands. The rancher then told her his story. He, his son and one of his ranch hands were rounding up some stray cattle on his ranch late one afternoon. It was getting to be twilight but visibility was still good. All three of them saw a large upright animal covered in hair estimated to be 7-8 feet in height run across the pasture and jump over the fence. They investigated and found nothing. The next morning he and his son returned to the area. That’s when they discovered the hairs on the fence. And that was all he could tell her.
    Ketchum describes herself as open minded but not a Bigfoot believer at that time. Needless to say her personal and professional curiosity was initiated and she began her research in earnest. As word of her investigations got out she became the object of a great deal of personal and professional opprobrium from the scientific community. She was not deterred! She submitted samples to several independent DNA labs who found exactly what she did! Her research continued in depth.
    So, here we are several years down the road. The ICZN (International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature) located in the UK, has found her research evidence compelling enough to actually issue a scientific name to Bigfoot, Homo Sapiens Cognatus (related to humans). Hmm, why that nomenclature? During her research, Ketchum isolated mitochondrial DNA which clearly indicated that some of the species’ DNA came from a human female!! This does not mean that the scientific community at large will recognize Bigfoot as an extant North American primate but it takes a big step in that direction. This thing just gets more and more interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hey Nick! I am so proud of your accomplishment thus far. We were talking before you left and you said you weren’t sure how far you would make it, but look at you today. You have made it through many challenges and can make it the rest of the way. I have all the confidence in you. I have enjoyed reading your blogs and following your journey. You are an inspiration to us all. When you get lonely reflect on the joyful time spent with your wife and father. What a special privaledge that was to share with him and something you both will remember for a lifetime. Keep walking my friend!!!! Your Gilsbar friend, Terri Conary.

    Liked by 1 person

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