Day 62, 5/1/15
Start: Pearisburg, VA
Finish: Somewhere in the VA woods
Miles Hiked: 14.2
Miles To Go: 1540.5
Overall Miles Hiked: 648.7
Crawdad was ready and excited about getting back on the trail, PoBoy wanted to sleep in. I lost! We arranged for a shuttle to bring us back to the trail and began packing up. Over the last 2 months, I’ve hiked with Billy Goat nearly everyday. It will be strange hiking without him, but I’m really glad we met and I wish him well. We said our goodbyes and Crawdad and I were on our way. My plan was to hike 7 miles to a shelter. It’s not many miles but would allow Crawdad to rest his knee. After 4 hours of hiking uphill about 1,700 ft., we arrived at the shelter. To my surprise, Crawdad did great! We only had to take a few breaks and his pace was perfect. He said he was feeling good and wanted to push on. I tried to talk him out of it, but the A.T. was calling. We walked on.
Crawdad navigating rocky trail
Mile after mile passed under our boots as we talked and walked. I’ve enjoyed spending time with my dad out here, when all you do is walk for hours a day, you have a lot of time to talk – It’s been great hiking with him!
Our plan was just to do another 5 miles, but we did 7 because the campsite we originally had planned on wasn’t there. We were on a very rocky ridge and there was no place to put a tent, so we had to keep moving. Finally, we found a spot big enough and flat enough with no rocks, so we made camp. I wanted to eat but had to make a phone call first. Luckily, I had a signal and called my buddy, Gary – He is getting married tomorrow! I was not able to attend because of my hike, but I wanted to wish him and his soon-to-be wife, Michelle, well. After catching up with Gary for a few minutes my attention turned to dinner. My hiker appetite is in full swing now as I am hungry just about all the time. My process for deciding what to eat out of my food bag is very simple – whatever weighs the most gets eaten! Tonight, was a pastalaya pack Gene & Nicole sent me. Very delicious! Which reminds me… I’d like to give a shout out to Gene & Nicole, Scott & David and Ellie for sending me care packages. The A.T. would be a lot harder on me if I didn’t have the support of awesome people like them. Thanks again!
At our campsite for the night
I know Crawdad is tired because he turned in early and has been snoring loudly for the last 15 minutes. I hope he isn’t too sore in the morning – we have trail to travel!
Day 63, 5/2/15
Start: Somewhere in the VA woods
Finish: Bailey Gap Shelter
Miles Hiked: 9.6
Miles To Go: 1530.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 658.3
The temperature dropped down overnight into the low 40s – Crawdad was cold. I had given him some of my cold weather clothes to wear last night, but I guess it wasn’t enough. I definitely didn’t plan on temps this low at night in early May. The good news is that right off the bat we had a really steep climb that warmed us right up! Crawdad needed a break or two during the climb, but overall did great and soon enough we reached the top of Peters Mountain. To our left was West Virginia and to our right, Virginia. On the top of the mountain was the beginning/end of the Allegheny Trail, which runs 330 miles all the way through West Virginia and terminating at the Pennsylvania state line. Maybe I’ll hike that trail next year – NOT! After the A.T. I am retiring from long distance hiking.
Crawdad at a white blaze and stream
On the way down the mountain we were passed by two hikers. We said hello and waved. They waved back but didn’t utter a sound. Crawdad and I thought this was really odd and wondered if they were mute, rude or had taken a vow of silence. We found out the answer at lunch. We both thought they were mute and when the 4 of us were all eating lunch at a nearby shelter, no attempts at conversation were made. Another hiker walked up and immediately started talking to the two non-talkers about how their hike had been going since he had last seen them a few days ago. No response. Instead, one of them took out a piece of paper which said, “We are taking a Ghandi today and aren’t speaking so we can hear the woods. You should try it as well.” When the other hiker finished reading the message on the paper aloud, he could only respond with a, “Oh, cool.” He was fighting back a smile. After the two “vow of silencers” left camp, I told Crawdad that I would also be taking a Ghandi – We both laughed. I don’t think I could go more than 20 minutes without speaking! Good for them, I hope they hear the woods and as long as they don’t hike with me, they should be able to.
Crawdad & PoBoy
Crawdad testing gravity
After lunch, we just had another 4 miles to walk for the day, 3 of which would be the hardest miles Crawdad has done yet. Just before our big 3 mile uphill, a man stepped out of his car parked on the side of a nearby road and offered us Little Debbies and Capri Suns! As we drank and ate, the man said his dad was thruhiking and would be reaching the road shortly. While he waited, he wanted to give out some trail magic! Thanks, Dave! I’d like to say that the brownies and sugary drink were just what Crawdad needed and powered him up the mountain without so much as a sweat…but I can’t. Crawdad got his ass kicked. It was just over 1,000 ft. and it was steep. Needless to say, there were several breaks taken. After several attempts offering to carry some of his gear, he finally allowed me to lighten his load by a few pounds. I tried to tell him he was doing great and that I would be struggling too if I didn’t already have 650 miles under my belt. He appreciated the encouragement and said for the hundredth time, “I get it now…I didn’t then, but I get it now.” Earlier in the day we had been talking about how hard the A.T. is and how most people just don’t understand until they knock out a few miles. It is still hard for me to describe the trail. I continually say it is up and down all the time, no flat hiking. Crawdad said its just like walking up the levees back home…except 25x higher, loaded with rocks, roots, fallen trees and the trail you have to take is straight up and down. You have to do this for 10 hours a day, everyday, for 6 months! He likened the hikers left out here to machines – eat, walk, eat, sleep, repeat. To say he is impressed with us thruhikers is an understatement. I think he finally gets it!
Day 64, 5/3/15
Start: Bailey Gap Shelter
Finish: Sarver Hollow Shelter
Miles Hiked: 21
Miles To Go: 1509.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 679.3
The plan was to hike 3.8 miles to a road crossing and hope one of us had a cell signal so Crawdad could get into town and rest for a day or so. It was an extremely rocky ridge we were hiking and the going was slow. What’s worse was that neither one of us was getting anything close to a signal. Just as I was wondering how Crawdad was going to be able to make the 2,000 ft. descent 2 miles ahead, heading towards the trail was Dave, the guy with the trail magic yesterday. He was hiking southbound to meet his dad and wife and then they all would walk northbound together until they reached Dave’s car at the road up ahead. Dave gave me another brownie and went on his way.
Snake in a tree
The trail was getting harder and harder and Crawdad was really struggling. I thought if we could make it to the road then maybe we could wait and see if Dave and his family could get Crawdad off this mountain. About a half mile out, they caught up to us, so I decided to ask them if they could do us a huge favor and give Crawdad a ride. Without hesitation, Dave and his wife, Ashley, said yes. Thank God for people like them, we really needed the help today.
We all made it to their car and Crawdad loaded his things. I was given another Capri Sun and slurped it down as Dave and his dad, PA Ridge Runner, hiked on. Ashley and the family dog, Riesling, would take Crawdad down the road so he could get a signal and call a shuttle for a ride into town. The plan if Crawdad could not get a signal would be for him to wait for me at the next road crossing 6 miles away. Ashley was heading there anyway to pick up Dave and say goodbye to PA Ridge Runner who would continue his thruhike. Just like that, I was alone. I hiked the 6 miles in record time because I was anxious to see what happened with Crawdad – I was praying he called a shuttle so he could get some much deserved and much needed rest. When I got to the road, I saw Ashley, Dave, PA Ridge Runner and Riesling, but no Crawdad. He was able to get a ride! To top off their amazingness, the group invited me to sit with them for lunch. It is really hard for me to turn down a Capri Sun, so I did, but not before thanking them again and again! I ate quickly so they could enjoy their last few minutes with PA Ridge Runner and moved on. One more time – Thank you so much!
The VA trail
After only a few hundred feet of hiking I was treated, or should I say mistreated, to another surprise. Standing next to a stream was a naked man and two clothed others, one holding a camera. I casually asked Birthday Suit if he was enjoying the weather. I think he said yes, but I was moving too fast to hear! When I stopped at the next shelter, Birthday Suit was the hot topic of discussion, we could only wonder what was going on back there!
I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to hike another 6.4 miles to the next shelter. As I was walking over a marshy area with a stream running through, I spotted a beaver building his dam – Too cool! I took a couple pictures and moved on.
Beaver building the dam
Another few miles brought me beneath the Keffer Oak, the second largest oak tree along the A.T. It measures 18 ft. around and is over 300 years old. It’s amazing to see an oak that big and I could only imagine how many acorns it could produce. I sure would love to put my bow stand somewhere close!
PoBoy under Keffer Oak
The next mile was some of the steepest trail that I have hiked so far on the A.T. I must have stopped 10 times to catch my breath as my heart raced and sweat poured. After I finally reached the top, I walked the remaining miles in zombie mode and didn’t stop until I reached the shelter where I immediately ate and setup my tent. PoBoy is extra tired tonight!
Day 65, 5/4/15
Start: Sarver Hollow Shelter
Finish: Trout Creek
Miles Hiked: 14.8
Miles To Go: 1495.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 694.1
Sarver Hollow Shelter is .4 miles off the A.T. This morning, I needed to walk a side trail straight up to get back on the A.T. It woke me up fast, that’s for sure! There were a few sections of trail, each 100 yards or so, that you had to hike on the open face of the mountain. They were pretty steep and hard to walk on even with my poles. I took it very slow. One misstep and your hike could be over. There have been some sections of the trail that I have actually been surprised we are expected to hike because of how dangerous they are. But, surprised or not, when you see a white blaze in front of you, you follow it regardless of the terrain. Thruhikers are crazy!
Another few miles brought me to the Eastern Continental Divide. In simple terms, water on one side of the divide drains into the Atlantic while water on the other side will eventually reach the Gulf of Mexico. I pressed on a few more miles and stopped for lunch. While eating a protein bar, I looked at my guidebook and hatched an idea. If I could get to the next road, I may be able to get a shuttle back into Pearisburg and reconnect with Crawdad. In the morning, we could get back to that road and continue hiking together. I got out my phone, no signal. Oh well, I would just have to meet him at the next shelter tomorrow morning as we discussed.
Eastern Continental Divide
On the top of the next mountain was a memorial dedicated to Audie Murphy who was America’s most decorated solider of WWII. His plane crashed near this spot in 1971.
Audie Murphy Monument
I took a seat on a nearby bench and checked my phone again. I was in luck! I called a local shuttle driver and arranged a ride. I had 4 miles to go to reach the driver, all downhill, and hit the blacktop 61 minutes later. Although I was feeling good, I really shouldn’t hike this fast because that is how injuries develop – Slower is better! I met Crawdad about an hour later and we made our plan for the rest of the week. We have some good views coming up, so I want to make sure he is rested enough to see them. Fingers crossed again!
Crawdad & PoBoy in Pearisburg, VA