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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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”…
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.
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.
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!
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?
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…