Days 91 – 94 (5/30/15 – 6/2/15)

Day 91, 5/30/15

Start: Bearfence Mountain Hut
Finish: Pass Mountain Hut
Miles Hiked: 26.8
Miles To Go: 1246.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 942.9

Well, since I’m a pro at 12×12’s now, this will be the last one I write about! I’ve been doing pretty well physically since I got the new boots and it definitely shows in my mileage. Right after camp was a quick climb up Bearfence Mountain and the view was great. To get to the summit, you have to take a short side trail, but it was well worth it. I soaked in the view, as well as the sun and allowed it to set my mood for the rest of the day. Well, it worked because I didn’t think of quitting once today! Seriously though, today was better than the last few have been – One day at a time.

Poboy at Bearfence Mountain Overlook

Poboy at Bearfence Mountain Overlook

Today is Saturday and the trail is packed with day hikers.  Some are familiar with the A.T., some aren’t and it never gets old telling someone you are hiking from GA to ME. As I was climbing up the trail, I noticed 2 people hunched over in the woods picking up logs and rocks. I thought the situation was odd and casually asked them what was going on. They were researching salamanders. Whenever they find one, they would measure its length as well as the temperature of its environment – Pretty cool!

Salamander Researchers

Salamander Researchers

A short while later, I reached the top of a mountain and took a seat next to some day hikers to enjoy a cold pepsi. I apologized for being stinky and they said that they didn’t mind. They do a lot of hiking and are familiar with the A.T. We talked for several minutes until it was time for me to leave. As I was walking away, one of them asked if I needed good luck. “All I can get,” I said. She put a plastic band on my right wrist. The band was in memory of her daughter, Sydney, who passed away a few years ago from Leukemia. I will wear the band proudly and I will think of Syndey every time I see a ladybug – They were her favorite.

Sydney band

Sydney band

A few hours later I arrived at Stony Man Cliffs. It reminded me a lot of Tinker Cliffs, except these had people climbing up them in their full climbing apparel. I sat down and watched a few of them negotiate the step cliffs, thinking no way would I ever try something that crazy! The Stony Man Cliffs are a short hike from a visitor parking lot below and I strongly recommend it if any of you make it to the Shenandoah Park. I made it to the shelter just before dark and pitched my tent – Snoring could be heard from it moments later!

Stony Man Cliffs

Stony Man Cliffs


Day 92, 5/31/15
Start: Pass Mountain Hut
Finish: US 522
Miles Hiked: 26.5
Miles To Go: 1219.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 969.4

Deer

Deer

A few miles from the shelter way the last wayside I would have the opportunity to visit and having passed up several already I decided to make the short hike from the A.T. to it. I was not disappointed! I treated myself to two ham, cheese and egg biscuits and powerade and took a seat next to some other hikers. One of them was named Tic Toc and she is averaging 27 miles a day out here – That is booking it! She actually hiked the Pacific Crest Trail last year and hopes to hike the mother of them all, the Continental Divide Trail, next year. If all goes as planned, she will earn the Triple Crown of Hiking by the end of next year, a title she will share with fewer than 200 other hardcore hikers. Good Luck Tic Toc!

AT

AT

Another hiker I met there, Woodchuck, would become my hiking buddy the rest of the day. He is a 51 year old retired Marine and our pace is the same. Being able to talk to someone while hiking really helps to pass the time! Oh, and this happened today. I’ll let the sound speak for itself:

Hitting these big miles has been great, but they have certainly taken a toll on my feet. The new boots are great, but there is only so much comfort they can provide. There is no pain free way to hike over 20 miles day after day. What’s worse is that I’ve developed rashes on my ankles and toes. I think it is because they are wet a lot of the time, so I need to do a better job switching out wet socks when I stop for lunch. Hopefully it helps because the rash is quite painful.

I am out of food and dry clothes, so I will be heading into Front Royal, VA tonight. It’s just a few miles off trail and there is a $20/night hostel where I can stay. WIth town food on our minds, Woodchuck and I cruised through the last few miles. We got a ride over to the hostel and got cleaned up. Next we headed further into town to resupply and grab a burger and shake – hiker diet staples. Mountain Home Cabbin, where we are staying tonight, is owned by Anything and Possible. Anything thruhiked in 2012 and together they operate  one of the nicest hostels I have stayed in so far – highly recommended! A good night’s sleep will do this body good, so I am turning in early, night night!


Day 93, 6/1/15

Start: US 522
Finish: Dicks Dome Shelter
Miles Hiked: 15.2
Miles To Go: 1204.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 984.6

Possible woke us up around 7:00AM for a home cooked breakfast of eggs. sausage, toast,  fresh fruit….and pancakes!

I wish I was in need of a zero because this place would be an awesome layover! Possible dropped me off at the laundromat where I spent the next few hours trying to wash and dry clothes. The washing went as expected, but drying my clothes tested my patience. What had happened was, I put my clothes in the machine, added my quarters and hit start. The clothes started tumbling and I walked away.  20 minutes later, I opened the dryer and my clothes were still soaked. I told the attendant that I thought the machine was broken and she said, “They are old machines and go out a lot, try a different one.” There was no mention of reimbursing me my $2.00, so I asked. After a 5 minute conversation, she finally gave me 8 quarters. I was a little perturbed, but said thanks nonetheless. I repeated the steps as before, except for hitting start. I walked back 20 minutes later and my clothes were still just as wet with 20 minutes on the timer. This time I was the dummy! I tried for the third time and was finally successful.

I was hoping to get back on the trail early, but now it was almost noon. I grabbed a quick bite at a local eatery (yes, I got a burger again!) and finally made it back to the trailhead. Thunderstorms were in the forecast so I hiked fast. In fact, I averaged over 3 mph for my 15 mile hike today! For me, that is flying. Of course, that average does include the last 4 miles of my day where I literally ran. I made it through the first 10 miles dry, but thunder could be heard in the distance for most of the day. I was at a shelter and had a decision – do I stay here after only 10 miles, or do I press on to the next shelter 5 miles away? The radar looked okay and the lightning had stopped, so I decided to go for it. Well, 1 mile in the skies became very dark. I started running. The closer I got to the shelter, the worse the weather got. I did the last 4 miles in about 48 minutes as the wind gusted and lightning popped. I walked up to the shelter and scared the hell out of the 3 guys in there – They weren’t expecting to see anyone in this weather! Unfortunately, you can’t always hike in good weather. I don’t like hiking in lightning, but I didn’t have a choice. Now, if lightning is in the area and you know you are about to go over a bald or over a ridge, it is best to stay down in lower elevation. Fortunately, I was on the way down the mountain when the worst of it came in.

I stripped down, got into some dry clothes and got into my bag. The temperature dropped about 20° and I was cold and wet – not a good combination, but I was able to warm up pretty quickly. One of the guys in the shelter is a thruhiker I’ve met a few times named DG. The first time I met him was in Hot Springs, NC and he gave me and BIlly Goat some homemade cookies he got from home. There were no such cookies tonight.


Day 94, 6/2/15

Start: Dicks Dome Shelter
Finish: Bears Den Hostel
Miles Hiked: 18.3
Miles To Go: 1186.3
Overall Miles Hiked: 1002.9

It rained all night, but I stayed dry in the shelter. A heavy mist descended upon us all day and by the time we reached our destination for the evening, we were completely soaked. For much of the day, I hiked with DG. He is a slightly faster hiker than me, so I had to kick up my pace to keep up. The trail meanders through Sky Meadows State Park for a few miles. On a sunny day I am sure the park would be a beautiful hike, but because of the mist, not much could be seen past 50 yards.

Sky Meadow State Park

Sky Meadow State Park

After a few hours, we arrived at a section of the trail known as the Roller Coaster. For 13 miles, the trail consisted of tightly grouped ups and downs. This section of trail gets a bad name because you don’t have a chance to rest, it is just one after another. Instead of the Roller Coaster, I think it should be renamed Georgia!

Rocky trail on 6/2

Rocky trail on 6/2

About halfway through sits the Bears Den Hostel. We were soaked to the bone and cold, it was a no brainer. For $30 a hiker gets a bunk, shower, laundry, soda, pizza and pint of Ben & Jerry’s! For all of you who are planning a thruhike, it is a don’t miss hostel! We checked in and immediately ate our pizza. After that, my attention turned to getting cleaned up and warm. Sleep followed shortly after.

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…

Days 80 – 81 (5/19/15 – 5/20/15)

Day 80, 5/19/15

Start: Spy Rock Campsite
Finish: Reeds Gap
Miles Hiked: 19.4
Miles To Go: 1346.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 842.5

Today would be the most challenging day I have had on the trail. For weeks, all hikers have been talking about The Priest and Three Ridges Mountains and how they are some of the hardest mountains outside of New Hampshire on the A.T. Because of the climb yesterday, I was already at elevation, meaning I had to descend Priest, but climb up Three Ridges. Just before the 3,000 ft. downhill is The Priest Shelter. I stopped in to resupply my water and eat a quick snack. Whenever I get to a shelter, I try to make an entry in the shelter log. Most shelters have a log book – It serves as our way to communicate with one another and see who is ahead of you on the trail. The entries are usually pretty entertaining and I really enjoy reading them. One of the trail traditions is for hikers to confess their trail sins in The Priest Shelter log book. I wish I had time to read the entire book because it was hysterical! I made my confession and moved on. I know you want to know what I confessed, but that is between me, the mountain and all the hikers behind me. If you really want to know, to find out you just have to climb 3,000 ft. and hike about 10 miles!

Buggin out!

Buggin out!

I woke up feeling strong and full of energy. Some days you have it and some you don’t – Today, I certainly had it and hiked strong. Maybe that sunset last night gave me the boost I would need to get through the day! It took me an hour and a half to descend The Priest, but my body handled it well. I ate a light lunch of Ramen and guzzled some water before tackling Three Ridges.

Three Ridges is 3,000 ft. up and the last 1,000 ft. are pretty nasty with a billion rocks trying to kill you. I was dreading the climb and had heard nothing but horror stories about it for a while now. To be completely honest, it wasn’t that bad! After the first 2,000 ft. I was still cruising along pretty well. I came to a nice viewing spot and stopped for a break. I was proud of myself for how far I have come. Two months ago this mountain would have killed me…today, I was kicking its ass! I was in the zone! I spoke with two nice section hikers before moving on.The last 1,000 ft. was pretty steep and there were rocks everywhere as promised, but I handled it well. Oh, and when I say rocks, I mean thousand pound, refrigerator sized rocks.

PoBoy on Three Ridges Mountain

PoBoy on Three Ridges Mountain

Before leaving camp this morning, the group decided to try to reach Reeds Gap and get a hitch to a nearby brewery. I hiked the remaining miles and got to the gap around 6:00PM. The third car offered me a ride, as long as I agreed to sit in the bed of the truck. No complaints from me, I know I smelled pretty bad! Devil’s Backbone Brewery offers hikers a place to camp for free and later this year will also have showers available. I am not a beer drinker, but I do eat and the brewery had great food. I started off with a big plate of nachos, which I had them top off with pulled pork – AMAZING! An hour later I was hungry again and ordered a burger, also amazing!

After dinner, Team Vortex and I played some Gumball. Gumball is a fun card game I learned on the trail – We will have to play some day!


Day 81, 5/20/15

Start: Reeds Gap
Finish: Reeds Gap
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1346.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 842.5

In the morning, the brewery offers a hikers only breakfast. The crew over there is amazing and I definitely recommend it. The staff even brings hikers back to the trailhead for free.

Skipper playing his violin

Skipper playing his violin @ Devil’s Backbone

I needed to find a ride to Charlottesville, VA so I could catch my train tomorrow morning. Charlottesville is 45 miles away and I knew a shuttle would cost me big bucks, but I really didn’t have a choice. I asked the manager, Tony, if I could use the restaurant’s phone. He said yes, but when he heard my plan to call a shuttle, he changed his mind and said, “No, you can’t use the phone.” I was a little perplexed, so I just responded, “OK.” He smiled and said, “You can’t use the phone to call a shuttle because it will cost you so much money! I lived in Charlottesville and would be happy to bring you there shortly.”

I had a great time talking to Tony about the trail and life in general. Tony, thanks so much for the kindness you and your restaurant offered to me and my fellow hikers. And everyone back home, please give a round of applause for Tony! I checked into a cheap room and awaited my 7:00AM departure in the morning.

Days 76 – 79 (5/15/15 – 5/18/15)

Day 76, 5/15/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

Everyone was excited in the morning but me. I still didn’t have a ride and now I really wanted to go to Trail Days. I made a crude sign out of a beer box that simply stated, “A.T. Hiker, Damascus” and headed for the I-81 on-ramp 3.5 miles away. In the hour it took me to walk there, I had convinced myself that this was a waste of time. No way would I be able to get a ride from Buena Vista, VA (where I was currently) to Damascus, VA…3 hours away. I had a frown on my face, but put my thumb out towards the first car coming down the ramp to the interstate anyway. Nine cars and 13 minutes later, something amazing happened. A car pulled over. I did a double take and started walking towards the car, suddenly the passenger door burst open and all I heard was “PoBoy!” It was Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and their friend, Not Ophelia! I hadn’t seen these guys in the last 400 miles and now we were all in a car together headed for Damascus. The trail provides! We laughed about my crazy hitch and how things just seem to usually work out on the trail.

Before we knew it, we were in Damascus. It was early Friday afternoon on Day 1 of the event and there were already hikers everywhere. I bid my heroes farewell until Sunday and started looking for Click, Pie, Blade and Cheese Beard who were tented at Crazy Larry’s Hostel, which is where we all stayed when we hit Damascus a month ago. I walked over to the hostel and was told by one of Larry’s employees that there was no more room inside or out back with the tents. I found Larry and luckily he remembered me, and liked me, so he told me I was free to set up anywhere I liked! I found the other guys and setup my tent.

Tents set up at Trail Days

Tents set up at Trail Days

There were 2 main areas where hikers gathered, the vendor area and tent city. Tent city is where most people camp – close to 2,000 hikers and other carefree people make up tent city in the woods along the river, just upstream from the vendor area. As I was walking through, I came across Hula, Blazer, Car Bomb and Made It. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen my old group, so we spent some time catching up. They are all about 200 miles behind me on the trail. Next, I walked through vendor row and entered every raffle I could! The drawings a few hours later were of no success, but it was worth a shot and besides, the better prizes would be given away tomorrow! I walked back to Crazy Larry’s where Click’s dad was grilling up some steaks! Being from New Orleans, I love festivals and Trail Days is definitely one I’d like to come back to.

Vendors Row at Trail Days

Vendor Row at Trail Days

Waiting to hear the raffle outcome on 5/15

Waiting to hear the raffle outcome on 5/15


Day 77, 5/16/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

I woke up early and most of my morning was occupied by much of the same activities as the day before – enjoying the amazing weather with good company and entering every raffle available! Oh, and eating – lots of eating! Hikers and townspeople were cooking everywhere – free food was easily accessible which made everything taste that much better!

Trail Days - Damascus, VA

Trail Days – Damascus, VA

Around 2:00PM, Cheese Beard, Car Bomb, Made It and some others lined up for the parade. A few minutes later, we were underway. The parade was great and of course, 2015 was the biggest group. We were sprayed with water guns the whole way by the townspeople. During the parade, I met a hiker I hadn’t seen since night 3. Of the 9 guys in the shelter that night, one was unaccounted for and 6 had left the trail. After the parade ended, I met Click and Pie and we walked back to the vendor area for the last round of raffles. The big prizes up for grabs were a lightweight backpack and a sleeping bag. I had two chances for each and waited along with a few hundred others for my number to be drawn. Well guess what, it was! I was speechless as I walked away with a $350 sleeping bag! The trail provides indeed! I finished the night hanging out with Pie, Thunder God, Mile Marker, Scooby and some others in tent city – great times had by all!

More vendors at Trail Days

More vendors at Trail Days

Right before my number was called for the sleeping bag raffle!

Right before my number was called for the sleeping bag raffle!


Day 78, 5/17/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Not Ophelia were planning on heading back early, so I called them up and arranged my ride back to Buena Vista. We made the 3 hour drive back and all agreed that Trail Days was an amazing time. I thanked them for the ride and checked into a hotel room. Mile Marker, Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Skipper and Cookie Monster pulled up a few hours later and split the room with me. These guys are known as Team Vortex. A hiker vortex is when you could have hiked, but decided to stay in town or at a shelter instead, even though you really didn’t need rest. Team Vortex is made up of really fast hikers who hike 100 miles in 4 days, then won’t hike at all for 2 days. We filled the afternoon with cards and stories from Trail Days and were all eager to get back on the trail in the morning.

Team Vortex  Top row left to right: Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker Bottom Row: Murphy's Law, PoBoy, Cookie Monster

PoBoy with Team Vortex
Top row left to right: Skipper, Scooby, Mile Marker
Bottom Row: Murphy’s Law, PoBoy, Cookie Monster


Day 79, 5/18/15

Start: U.S. 60
Finish: Spy Rock Campsite
Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles To Go: 1366.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 823.1

It was hard to get going this morning, several zero days will make you weak! Since there were 6 of us needing to find a ride back to the trailhead several miles up the road, we decided to split up to make it easier to land a hitch. Scooby, Murphy’s Law and myself were the first to get picked up and we were back on the trail in no time. We had a really steep 2,000 ft climb before the trail evened out some. The weather was warming up quite a bit and I was sweating profusely, literally dripping. I usually only carry about a liter of water and fill up at every water source, but now I have to carry 2 liters. The extra liter means I am adding 2.2 lbs to my pack weight. In a given day, you can expect to have at least 3-4 water sources that cross the trail. These can be small springs just barely trickling, up to large rivers. Some days, there is water every few miles. I filter 100% of my water, not all hikers do, but it is worth the extra time it takes for me to treat it.

Trail shot 5/18

Trail shot 5/18

It started raining at 3:00PM and it felt great! Usually, I would hate hiking in the rain, but because of the heat and humidity, it was welcomed. I didn’t even bother putting on my rain gear. It let up around 7:00PM which was just when I was getting into camp.Spy Rock is a large rock outcropping that hikers can climb up to see the sunset. Just below the giant rock is the campsite where about a dozen hikers had already called home. After setting up our tents, Mile Marker, Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Cookie Monster, Skipper and myself got on the rock and watched the sun go down over the Virginia valley – awesome! Before bed, Skipper treated us to a violin performance. He has been carrying it for the last few hundred miles and is very talented. He has been playing for 19 years and can play anything from Beethoven to Disney songs.

Spy Rock Sunset

Spy Rock Sunset

Another picture of the sunset from Spy Rock

Another picture of the sunset from Spy Rock

Days 72 – 75 (5/11/15 – 5/14/15)

Day 72, 5/11/15

Start: Daleville, VA
Finish: Wilson Creek Shelter
Miles Hiked: 11.2
Miles To Go: 1450.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 739

I enjoyed a late sleep for once! My king bed was comfy and it was hard to leave. At 10:00AM I called the outfitter in Daleville to see about replacing my shoes, but they didn’t have my model in stock. I called the manufacturer, Salomon, directly and explained the situation. After answering a few questions, Salomon agreed to replace my boots! Sweet! I’ll pick up my new boots in Waynesboro in 10 days. I finally hit the trail just before noon and boy was it hot and humid. I decided to hike shirtless to try and save a shirt, my apologies to any hikers I saw… I’m a work in progress!

Leaving Daleville

Leaving Daleville

It was slow going today. I just didn’t have much energy, it was hot and my feet hurt. I reached my first shelter after only 6 miles. I seriously considered staying, but I forced myself to at least make it to the next shelter. The only highlight of my day came at a stream crossing. The water source was loaded with tiny fish, so I stuck my GoPro in the water and took a video – I hope it comes out! Seeing these fish turned my mind to fishing back home. I fish a lot during the year and miss the time I get to spend with my dad, brother, father-in-law and other family and friends. Maybe if I’m lucky, I’ll make it home in time for one final summer trip! As I was filling up my clean water bag, my dirty water bag busted from the pressure I was exerting on the filter. Damn! If I pressed as hard as I could where the leak was, I could just barely filter my water without contaminating it. This would work for now,  but I better come up with a better solution soon – I hear dysentery isn’t much fun!

Cattle Stile

Cattle Stile

I arrived at Wilson Creek Shelter late in the afternoon and decided not to go on any farther. Already there were 3 section hikers at the shelter – none of them knew each other before today and they were all on their first day of hiking. 50+ has spent most of his adult life section hiking different parts of the A.T. In a few more years, he will have it completed. Bonsai is from Tampa and this is her first experience on the A.T. and camping in general. She said Day 1 was tough on her, but she hopes to make it 350 miles to Harpers Ferry, WV. Rewrite is 62 and thruhiked the A.T. in 2008. He loves telling stories about his hike and is quick to offer advice, but he is nice enough, so I listen. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn a thing or two. I hit the tent around 7:00PM. I’m tired and salty and plan on waking up early to beat the heat – We shall see!


Day 73, 5/12/15

Start: Wilson Creek Shelter
Finish: Bryant Ridge Shelter
Miles Hiked: 20.8
Miles To Go: 1429.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 759.8

Two thunderstorms came in overnight and boy was the lightning popping! This was the worst weather I’ve had so far, but thankfully the lightning missed the camp area!

Beautiful section of the trail

Beautiful section of the trail

After a few hours of hiking, I came to the first Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) crossing. The A.T. intersects the BRP about 15 times over a 120 mile stretch of the trail. The road that makes up the BRP along with Skyline Dr. actually used to be the original route of the A.T. Most of the trail has been rerouted over the years, but every so often, a hiker will be walking the original A.T. path. I hiked about a half mile stretch of the original A.T. today!

Hiking on the original AT

Hiking on the original AT path

Just around lunch, I came to a road crossing and discovered I was in luck. Apple Butter and her friend, Gwynne, were at the crossing with ice cold drinks, fruit, sandwiches and other goodies! I joined fellow thruhiker Wolverine and pigged out! Apple Butter thruhiked in 2013 and wanted to repay the favor others had given her – thanks again!

Trail Magic!

Trail Magic!

I had set my goal at 14 miles, but there are some serious climbs tomorrow, so I decided to press on and take out a 1,000 ft. hill so I wouldn’t have to in the morning. Since my feet have been really hurting lately, I have been taking a lot of long breaks. Today is proof that these breaks help because without them I would not have been able to hit 20 miles. Hopefully, the new boots will help. Bryant Ridge Shelter is one of the nicest shelters I have seen so far. It has a full covered deck, a table, plenty of sleeping space and quick access to water – highly recommended!


Day 74, 5/13/15

Start: Bryant Ridge Shelter
Finish: Matts Creek Shelter
Miles Hiked: 22.6
Miles To Go: 1406.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 782.4

I was feeling lazy last night and didn’t want to set up my tent, so I slept in the shelter. I usually don’t sleep in the shelters unless it’s raining. Well, my exception to the rule cost me. The bugs were relentless and bit me and the other two guys staying in the shelter all night long. I had just enough length on my sleeping bag liner to wrap it over my face. Every so often, my head would pop out of the liner and become promptly attacked. Even with the gentle buzzing of a million insects to lull us into slumber, sleep was short lived!

Bryant Ridge Shelter

Bryant Ridge Shelter

In the morning, the bugs were still “bugging us” as Crawdad would say, so I got out of camp quickly. Over a series of 700 ft. and 1,000 ft. climbs, I would ultimately ascend and then descend 5,500 ft all day. My legs were strong enough and my cardio allowed me to hike without the need for many breaks, but my feet wore down about half way through my day. If I could just get these feet right, I feel like I could hit 30 miles everyday. Hopefully, these new boots will be the ticket!

Just as I was about to cross a gravel road, I looked over my left should and saw a big doe. She was only 15 ft. away and she was just staring me down. I slowly reached for my camera, but she wasn’t going to hang out long enough for me to use it. I expected her to bolt, but she moved away from me no faster than I was hiking. I thought that was odd, until I saw her little fawn struggling to keep up. The fawn must have been born within the last few days because it looked small enough to fit in my pack. I decided it would be best for me to move on out, so I said, “It’s okay, I’m leaving. You just hang out and enjoy this nice weather.” As I moved on, the doe stopped and watched me, just underneath her was her fawn.

For the next few hours, I thought about that encounter. Had the doe bolted like I expected her to, the fawn would not have been able to keep up. The doe knew this which is why she walked away slowly. I just thought it was a really neat experience! About 2 hours from camp, I ran into Pop’O and Den Mother. Pop’O thruhiked a few years ago, now he and Den Mother make smaller day hikes. They were very nice and have visited New Orleans several times and always eat at Antoine’s when they do. We talked trail and street performers for a few minutes before getting back to our hikes. It is so refreshing talking to strangers who know what you are going through.

The guillotine

The guillotine

About a mile from the shelter was another road crossing and instead of deer, I saw trail magic! In an ice chest tucked off on the side of the trail was cold Dr. Pepper and some apples. I took one of each to complement my dinner of Easy Mac tonight! I don’t know who left it, but thanks! I arrived at the camp and talked to Foxtrot who was halfway through a two month section hike. He lives in the area and said I have some pretty hard days in front of me, but in 4-5 days the trail will “ease up.” I am raising my Dr. Pepper to cheers the “eases up” part! Salud and good night!


Day 75, 5/14/15

Start: Matts Creek Shelter
Finish: U.S. 60
Miles Hiked: 24
Miles To Go: 1382.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 806.4

After just a few miles, I came to the James River footbridge. It is the longest foot-use-only bridge on the A.T. and one of the trail traditions is to jump off of it into the river. While I didn’t honor this tradition, I know a few who did and said the experience was exhilarating – maybe next time!

James River Footbridge

James River Footbridge

James River

James River

I passed several hikers I knew today and most asked me if I would be going to Trail Days. Trail Days is held every year in Damascus, VA and is a huge festival for the townspeople and hikers alike. Many of the companies that make our bags, packs, poles and other gear show up and help fix or even swap out broken gear. They also hold a bunch of raffles, giving away anything from t-shirts and hats to expensive backpacks and sleeping bags. There are also several vendors from the surrounding areas selling artwork and other wares. The organizers of Trail Days do a great job keeping everyone of all ages entertained from rock walls, great musical acts, hiker talent shows and even a hiker prom. The party culminates Saturday afternoon when hikers from past and present line up in year order and hike down Main St. for the hiker parade. It sounded like a great time, the only problem was that at the moment, I wasn’t going.

I had never really intended on going to Trail Days because I was intent on making miles before I need to get off the trail next week to meet my wife, Leigh, in D.C. Now that Trail Days was less than 24 hours and a full 300 miles away, I gave up any idea on attending…until I met back up with Mile Marker, Scooby, Murphy’s Law, Cookie Monster and Skipper. I’ve been hiking on again, off again with this group since the Smokies and they are a lot of fun. They gave me a hard time about not going and said they would even kidnap me if they had room for me in the ride they arranged a few weeks ago. I agreed to split a room with them in town for the night and I will try to hitch out in the morning. It was a long shot, but now that I kinda want to go, I think it will be worth it.

Days 70 – 71 (5/9/15 – 5/10/15)

Day 70, 5/9/15

Start: VA Hwy 311
Finish: Lamberts Meadow Shelter
Miles Hiked: 10.4
Miles To Go: 1470.8
Overall Miles Hiked: 718.4

Crawdad and I woke up around 7:30 and headed down to the hotel lobby for their breakfast. This was the last “town” food I would be able to get for a while, so I hit the eggs, biscuits, sausage and waffles hard! Our bags were packed and we still had a few hours before the shuttle was coming to pick us up, so we just relaxed. It was very nice, but not long enough! These past two weeks have been amazing. When I told my mom and dad that I’d be hiking the A.T. this year, my dad looked at me immediately and said, “Two weeks, I can join you for two weeks.” Whenever I would see my dad before I left, we would talk about our future hike – when we would meet, where would we be, what gear we will need, what will we see? Our plans changed several times, but one thing remained strong – Dad’s promise to hike with me for two weeks.

Since the day I left on March 1st, I’ve been looking forward to these two weeks and the time I would be able to spend with my dad. Now that it’s over, I’m kinda sad. I’m big on family and I miss everyone back home a lot, more than I thought. Don’t get me wrong, I’m determined to see the face of Katahdin before the faces of most my family and friends, but I miss everyone back home. The good news is that I get to see my wife in two weeks, so now I have that to look forward to! I’ll be meeting her in D.C. for a quick getaway since the trail passes nearby. I get to speak with her every 4 to 5 days, which is more than I thought, but I miss being able to give her a hug and I really miss our high-five I love yous! (Inside joke.)

So, before I move on to how my hike went today, I’d like to say: Thanks for coming up here, dad. I love you and I had a great time. And to Leigh: I miss your face and can’t wait to see you in a couple of weeks!

Now, on to business. The shuttle picked us up and brought Crawdad to the airport. We said our goodbyes and not long after, I was back on the trail. I hiked this section a few days ago, but didn’t count the mileage in my total.  With today being a weekend day, the trail up to McAfee Knob was packed. I was passing groups of day hikers left and right. They must have thought I was crazy! I hit McAfee Knob for the second time and stayed just  long enough to get another picture. After only a minute or so, I moved out. Someone asked, “Leaving so soon?” I replied, “Yes, ma’am, I have to get to Maine. Have a great day!” And with that, I was gone. I would have loved to see her face – I’ve found that many day hikers we meet on the A.T. have no idea they can follow the white blazes all the way to Maine.

PoBoy back at McAfee Knob

PoBoy back at McAfee Knob

View from McAfee Knob

View from McAfee Knob

After another few miles, I arrived at Tinker Cliffs where the trail follows an open cliff for half a mile – Awesome hike and even better views! Over the last week, I’ve had some of the best views since the Smokies and more importantly, I’ve had the best weather to enjoy them!

Tinker Cliffs, I walked a 1/2 mile along these edges

Tinker Cliffs, I walked a 1/2 mile along these edges

PoBoy at Tinker Cliffs

PoBoy at Tinker Cliffs

I pulled myself into camp and said hello to the one guy at the shelter. He said, “Thank God, I thought for a while I was going to have to sleep here alone!” I thought this was pretty funny, I thought it was even funnier when I told him I was going to sleep in my tent down by the stream…about 50 yards away. He said there was plenty of room in the shelter – I moved on. At dinner, I spoke with him a little more. He just got into hiking and is out in the woods for just for the weekend.  He seemed pretty worried about bears, I assured him that as long as he doesn’t use his food bag as a pillow, he would be just fine. After talking bears, camping and more bears, I excused myself and turned in early. For his sake, I hope someone else comes into camp!


Day 71, 5/10/15

Start: Lamberts Meadow Shelter
Finish: Daleville, VA
Miles Hiked: 9.4
Miles To Go: 1461.4
Overall Miles Hiked: 727.8

I woke up to the sound of laughter. I put my shoes on and walked up to the shelter. The guy scared of bears, now named Bear Bait, was talking to two other guys who came into the shelter late last night; they were all laughing. I asked what was going on, here is the story:

Bear Bait was just about to get into his tent when the two other hikers showed up. The three guys talked for a bit and then everyone turned in – Bear Bait in his tent just outside the shelter, the two other guys in the shelter. Around 1:00AM, Bear Bait wakes up and hears something moving around outside. He convinces himself it is a bear trying to get into his food bag that was hung up in a tree. He starts yelling, “Get! Get out of here bear!” Apparently, this happened 2 or 3 times throughout the night. In the morning, Bear Bait asked the other two guys if they saw or heard the bear. They said, “No, but we thought you were having a nightmare!” It turns out, one of the guys sleeping in the shelter was sleeping on a Tyvek groundsheet. Groundsheets are put on the shelter floor first and the sleeping bag is laid on top, which helps to keep your sleeping bag clean. Well, Tyvek can be really loud. Every time the guy moved, Bear Bait would hear the crinkling Tyvek and start yelling at his bear! This has got to be one of the funnier things I’ve heard so far! After a few more laughs, I was on my way.

Snake on the trail

Snake on the trail

Do I have to walk under that?

Do I have to walk under that?

Over the past few weeks, my feet have been absolutely killing me at the end of the day. I have heard that hikers’ feet can swell up to a full size larger than when they started and I think this has happened to me! On top of that, one of my boot buckles has snapped off and now on the downhills my foot slides forward, cramming in the toe box – not comfortable! I decided I just can’t hike much further in these boots, so I was going into Daleville, VA to try to get this matter resolved. The trail goes right through town and a quick 1/2 mile walk will bring you right to the outfitter there. My plan was to hit the outfitter up for new boots, eat a quick lunch, then get back on the trail. Unfortunately, the outfitter was closed on Sundays. I walked over to a BBQ joint and ate a pulled pork sandwich while I debated what to do. Daleville would be my last opportunity to shower and sleep in a bed for the next 10 days. I decided to get a cheap room for the night – It didn’t take much convincing!

A deer I spotted from the trail

A deer I spotted from the trail

I called my mom to wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. We talked about hiking and said our I miss yous. I checked into my room, washed some clothes in the sink and got into bed…where I didn’t plan on leaving until tomorrow morning.

Virginia Trail

Virginia Trail

Days 66 – 69 (5/5/15 – 5/8/15)

Day 66, 5/5/15

Start: Trout Creek
Finish: VA Hwy 624
Miles Hiked: 8
Miles To Go: 1487.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 702.1

Crawdad and I were back on the trail for 10:00AM. We intended to sleep at Four Pines Hostel tonight so we arranged for our shuttle driver to bring Crawdad’s pack along with some of my heavier items to the hostel after he dropped us off. I carried all of our water, rain gear, food and some other items so Crawdad could hike light.

Crawdad and PoBoy back on the AT

Crawdad and PoBoy back on the AT

Today we would be climbing up to Dragon’s Tooth and hiking light would certainly help the effort! Without the burden of his pack, Crawdad traveled fast!

The duo on 5/5

The duo on 5/5

We were making good time until we came across a swarm of 643,283 black flies. They came out of nowhere and were flying in our ears, nose and open mouths. It was pretty miserable and there wasn’t a breeze to aid our struggle. The A.T. can get you in a lot of different ways and this was definitely a new one. The only time anything other than a sour frown was displayed on my face was when Crawdad would update me on his thoughts about flying pests.

Crawdad: These bugs…they are really bugging me!

PoBoy: Pun Intended?

Crawdad: What?

PoBoy: Bugging me…Pun intended?

Crawdad (shooing bugs from his face): What? The bugs are all over, they are driving me crazy. They are really bugging me!

PoBoy: Yeah, I got that. That’s what they do. Just keep walking.

We walked until finally we were atop the mountain standing before the stone monoliths that make up Dragon’s Tooth. I really wanted to climb on top of one and check out the view, so I dropped my pack and started going up. The first 20 ft. were easy, but it kept getting more narrow. Although I wanted to get all the way to the tip, I called it quits when I was standing on a ledge about 2 ft. wide. To my left, Crawdad was about 45 ft. below. To my right, I was staring down at the tops of trees. After snapping a few pictures, I carefully navigated my way down.

PoBoy at Dragons Tooth

PoBoy at Dragons Tooth

The bugs were still “bugging” us, so we continued on. The next 250 ft. were by far the steepest and most dangerous steps I have ever taken. One slip or one wrong turn and a hiker could easily be killed. I don’t even want to imagine how many hikes have ended here. Countless times I questioned whether we were actually on the trail. “No way they would make it this steep. This is crazy,” I said aloud. We were practically walking down a near vertical mountain side. Several times we had to sit on our butts and half slide, half fall down. I honestly hope to never see trail that steep again. After an hour, we finally made it to a more manageable section of trail and didn’t stop walking until we were off the mountain and on the highway leading to the Four Pines Hostel. We survived and high-fived each other. The view was amazing, but I’m honestly not sure if it was worth the risk of the climb.

PoBoy and Crawdad at Dragons Tooth

PoBoy and Crawdad at Dragons Tooth

The hostel is free, but hikers are expected to leave a donation. The owner, Joe, and his help, Ed, were extremely nice and truly love helping hikers. I would absolutely recommend Four Pines Hostel to any future hikers!

There was a possible norovirus victim inside the hostel, so most of us tented outside on the lawn. Norovirus is carried by mice and unfortunately common on the A.T. The best ways to avoid contacting the virus are by not sleeping in the shelters or using the privies, washing your hands frequently and turning down food and water offered by other hikers. I won’t get into the gross ailments associated with the norovirus, but rest assured, sleeping in the possible rain was well worth the assurance of not coming into contact with it.


Day 67, 5/6/15

Start: VA Hwy 624
Finish: VA Hwy 311
Miles Hiked: 5.9
Miles To Go: 1481.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 708

Today was a short day and a pretty easy hike. We were coming back to the hostel for another night and again traveled with one pack so Crawdad could hike a little easier. There were no more norovirus victims left, but that didn’t stop Crawdad from keeping a 50 ft. distance from the hostel – Take no chances! Me, well, I actually played cards and pool inside the hostel last night with two others and the guy getting over the virus. Probably a dumb idea – we will see!

Tenting at Four Pines Hostel

Tenting at Four Pines Hostel

We picked up a hitchhiker on the A.T. today – a presumed lost dog followed us all the way until we reached our goal for the day, which was the parking lot before a very popular trail to McAfee Knob. He had no collar, so 2 nice girls felt sorry for him and loaded him into their car so they could bring him to the local humane society. It was a busy highway so no one wanted to let the dog keep wandering around. The mom of one of the girls was an animal rescuer, so they were happy to help. Also in the parking lot was another hiker’s mom waiting to surprise her thruhiking son with fresh fruit and soda. She was also offering it to all of the other thruhikers who came out of the woods and I was happy to take some apples and oranges off her hands!

Crawdad hiking 5/6

Crawdad hiking 5/6

Tomorrow is the last day Crawdad and I will be hiking together. These two weeks have flown by and although the hiking has been difficult for him, he has done a great job and knocked out quite a few miles – stay tuned for the final tally tomorrow. I’ll miss hiking with him and I’m sure he will miss me and the A.T. as well. Something tells me though he may step foot on the A.T. again! Tomorrow is a tough, steep hike up to McAfee Knob. From what I’m told, it is worth every step.

Crossing a bridge

Crossing a bridge


Day 68, 5/7/15

Start: VA Hwy 311
Finish: VA Hwy 311
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1481.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 708

We actually hiked 8 miles today, but I am going to have to rehike this section in a few days, so I will count the mileage later. We got dropped off in the McAfee Knob parking lot early, around 7:30AM. It was a beautiful morning and once again Crawdad didn’t need to hike with his pack, so we hid it in the bushes near the parking lot. It was our last day of hiking together, so we walked slow and enjoyed our time. I have really enjoyed these last two weeks!

Arrow pointing the way

Arrow pointing the way

Within a few hours we reached McAfee Knob. The view was incredible! Unfortunately, the bugs were back, but it didn’t really matter at the moment. We took several pictures and then made the 4 mile hike back to the parking lot.

PoBoy at McAfee Knob

PoBoy at McAfee Knob

PoBoy and Crawdad at McAfee Knob

PoBoy and Crawdad at McAfee Knob

On the way down, we met a family from Roanoke. They were carrying a Superman action figure! They take Superman with them everywhere and pose him in pictures to make it look like he is flying! Too funny – I took a picture with Superman and moved on.

Superman!

Superman!

We made it back to the parking lot and called our shuttle for a ride into Roanoke. I think Crawdad had a great time, but I also know he is ready to be back home. We are taking a zero tomorrow and I will be back on the A.T. sometime Saturday.


Day 69, 5/8/15

Start: VA Hwy 311
Finish: VA Hwy 311
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1481.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 708

I am letting Crawdad take over this entry. Here is what he had to write:

Hey everyone, this is Crawdad, aka Duke. First, I want to thank my son, Nick, for taking great care of me these last two weeks on the A.T. He constantly ensured I was as comfortable as possible. He planned these two weeks to benefit me at the cost of his own miles. I appreciate everything he did.

Next, the numbers: 15 days off, 3 travel days, 8 days of hiking and 4 zero days equated to 66.4 miles on the trail. I can’t believe I did that. It was the most difficult, physically challenging adventure I ever attempted, but I have no regrets. Being with my son for two weeks is irreplaceable.

To future hikers: THERE IS NO FLAT LAND ON THE A.T.!! You are either going up or going down. It is hard! I still don’t know why my son or the other thruhikers do it. You’ll have to ask them.

With that said, I again want to express great gratitude to Nick for all the help and care he provided me. I had a great time and would encourage everyone to embrace adventurous opportunities when they present themselves.

I would like to thank my wife for being so understanding.

Finally, to Nick – Be safe, keep water and Happy Trails!

Love,

Dad

Days 62 – 65 (5/1/15 – 5/4/15)

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

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

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

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 hiking

Crawdad & PoBoy 

Crawdad testing gravity

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

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 trail

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

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

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!

Steep Trail

Steep Trail

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

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

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

Crawdad & PoBoy in Pearisburg, VA

Days 59 – 61 (4/28/15 – 4/30/15)

Day 59, 4/28/15

Start: Virginia State Rd 611
Finish: Somewhere in the Virginia woods
Miles Hiked: 22.5
Miles To Go: 1567.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 621.5

Billy Goat and I got started around 9:00AM, which is early by our standards. We were planning on putting in big miles today – rain was forecasted for tomorrow and we were planning on getting into Pearisburg, VA before it hit. I hiked the first 3.5 miles in one hour. I was feeling great even though the temperature last night was in the mid 30’s. Usually I am slow to start when the temperature is that low, but there was no wind and that helped! After a quick break for breakfast (a protein bar and two starbursts) we hiked up a gradual 800 ft. hill and then continued hiking the along ridge lines for the next several miles. Hiking on ridge lines gives you good views from either side, but can be rocky so the hiking can be slow at times.

Suspension Bridge

Suspension Bridge

Around 1:00PM, Billy Goat had our first decision to make…Should we continue hiking or take a half mile detour to Trent’s Grocery and eat hamburgers? By this point, I am sure you guessed it – Hamburgers it is! For a gas station, the burgers were okay. After our 1 hour break and another half mile walk, we were back on the trail.  Unfortunately, the trail went up, steeply at times, for a few hundred feet. With full bellies, hiking was slow and I’m sad to say there may have been a curse word or two uttered from beneath our pickled and onioned breath. Eventually, I’ll learn not to eat a big meal just before an incline!

Tree canopy over the trail

Tree canopy over the trail

Great shot of the trail

Great shot of the trail

The trail finally leveled off and started going downhill. We soon were faced with our next decision of the day…Should we hike an extra .3 miles to Dismal Falls? Yes, we sure did and am very happy about this decision! The falls were beautiful and gave us an opportunity to catch some sun on the warm rocks and refresh our aching feet in the cool river. We didn’t want to leave, but there were miles left to hike. After eating a quick snack and relaxing for 30 minutes, we made the .3 miles back to the A.T. and resumed hiking. With the two stops (hamburgers and waterfall) we hiked an additional 1.6 miles that we didn’t have to and do not count towards total A.T. miles hiked. I’d love to know how many additional miles I’ve hiked so far and how many more I will hike in the future! When it comes to food and especially great views, the extra miles are well worth it in my opinion.

PoBoy at Dismal Falls

PoBoy at Dismal Falls

PoBoy taking a nap at Dismal Falls

PoBoy taking a nap at Dismal Falls

After Dismal Falls, we had 6 miles of some of the flattest trail yet. It still went up and down, but not to any degree that caused difficulty and before long, we arrived at Wapiti Shelter around 7:00PM. Decision time #3…should we call it a day at 17 miles or keep going? We had 18 miles before we reached Pearisburg and wanted to get that number lower. We still had about an hour of daylight left so we made the steep 1,300 ft. hike up and watched an amazing sunset. The plan was to watch the sunset then hike with our headlamps until we found a decent campsite. Well, at 9:15PM we were still hiking so we found some fairly level ground and pitched our tents. This was my first time night hiking and I enjoyed it! I definitely plan on doing it more, especially with a summer full moon. I’m not exactly sure where we are, but I think we only have 13 short miles to Pearisburg. Should be there right in time for lunch!

Hiking at sunset

Hiking at sunset

Sunset selfie!

Sunset selfie!

Another picture of the beautiful sunset

Another picture of the beautiful sunset


Day 60, 4/29/15

Start: Somewhere in the Virginia woods
Finish: Pearisburg, VA
Miles Hiked: 13
Miles To Go: 1554.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 634.5

We woke up early and were out of camp by 7:30. It was a nice hike today. Since we climbed up the mountain yesterday evening, we were walking ridge lines and had good views on both sides. The weather was much better than we anticipated and the hiking went fast.

On the ridge line looking back at where we camped the night before

On the ridge line looking back at where we camped the night before

Just before the descent into Pearisburg is a rock outcropping called Angels Rest. From atop Angels Rest, you can see the valley below with Pearisburg right in the middle. Billy Goat and I sat down and enjoyed the view.

Enjoying the view at Angels Rest

Angels Rest

Billy Goat at Angels Rest

Billy Goat at Angels Rest

Pearisburg from Angels Rest

Pearisburg from Angels Rest

We only had one hour of hiking left so I called Crawdad and asked him where we would be staying. He said the motel was right across from a big strip mall. From our view, we thought we could see the strip mall he was talking about. I zoomed in with my camera and sure enough we could make out the motel. I asked Crawdad to walk across the street into the strip mall parking lot. Within a minute or so, we could see a figure walking, so I told Crawdad to stop walking, the figure stopped. I said, “Start walking again”…the figure walked… “Go back the other way,” the figure obeyed – It was Crawdad! I took a picture of him from 2,000 ft. up!

Where's Crawdad? (Hint: He is next to a light post in center of pic!)

Where’s Crawdad? (Hint: He is next to a light post in the parking lot in center of pic!)

We met him at the motel and showered. Right across the street was  La Barranca Mexican Grill. The food was good and they had a pool table and jukebox. We stayed there the rest of the evening as other hikers trickled in.


Day 61, 4/30/15

Start: Pearisburg, VA
Finish: Pearisburg, VA
Miles Hiked: 0
Miles To Go: 1554.7
Overall Miles Hiked: 634.5

We took a zero today. I know Crawdad was itching to get back on the trail, but I needed some rest. I went over my plan on how Crawdad should resume hiking. He seemed to agree that low mileage was the way to go. I feel confident that he will be able to stay on the trail and make some good miles. Today is Billy Goat’s last day with me. He is heading home for Mother’s Day soon and is moving up 50 miles on the trail to see some great views before he leaves the A.T. I’ve really enjoyed hiking with him and hope to see him again. Maybe we can hike the John Muir trail in California together…just kidding! After the A.T. I don’t think either one of us will be doing any long distance hiking ever again! A bunch of hikers we know came in town today so we are all going back to La Barranca for more pool, the NFL draft and to send Bill Goat off in style. Adios, Buddy and Happy Trails!

Days 55 – 58 (4/24/15 – 4/27/15)

Day 55, 4/24/15

Start: Atkins, VA
Finish: Knot Maul Branch Shelter
Miles Hiked: 14.4
Miles To Go: 1632.1
Overall Miles Hiked: 557.1

I checked out of the hotel around 10:00AM and got back on the A.T. The weather was absolutely perfect today and the hiking was phenomenal. These last 2 days have been my favorite so far. After a few miles of hiking, I came to mile 547.3 and sat down on a log with a big smile on my face. I had just completed 25% of the A.T. I know I have a long way to go, but I never thought I would make it this far. After patting myself on the back, I got to work on the next 25%.

I've completed 25% of the trail!

I’ve completed 25% of the trail!

I came down from the mountain and hit a road. There was a car parked off to the side and as soon as I approached, the two occupants got out and offered me a coke! Their son, Hard Tac, had hiked in 2013 and they were just paying it forward to other hikers. The generosity of complete strangers out here never ceases to amaze me! I hiked along a series of streams for the next few miles and wished I had a fishing pole. I’ve heard that in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine there are several opportunities for hikers to do some fishing along the trail, as long as they have the proper license of course. I think I may have to look into that!

Hiking through a cow pasture

Hiking through a cow pasture

I made it to the shelter and debated on where to sleep. I could either pitch my tent or sleep in the shelter with several other smelly hikers. Usually the tent is a no brainer, but with rain forecasted tonight, I chose the shelter. It’s hard for me to sleep in a shelter because of all the moving around and snoring, but at least I would stay dry tonight.


Day 56, 4/25/15

Start: Knot Maul Branch Shelter
Finish: Virginia Hwy 623
Miles Hiked: 15.5
Miles To Go: 1616.6
Overall Miles Hiked: 572.6

It was an overall nasty day. Right off the bat, Billy Goat and I had a pretty tough 2,000 ft. climb up Chestnut Ridge in rainy and foggy weather. At the top of the ridge is Chestnut Knob Shelter. We ducked inside and ate a quick Ramen lunch. After 2 months, I am pretty sick of Ramen, but when the food bag is running low there is usually plenty of it left!

Although the hiking today was pretty tough, the time passed rather quickly. My mind was occupied with the fact that I would be hiking with my dad for the next 2 weeks. We had previously agreed to meet at the Big Walker Motel in Bland, VA, but today I had been in touch with the shuttle driver picking him up from the Roanoke airport and also arranged a ride for me and Billy Goat.

Waiting on Crawdad to arrive!

Waiting on Crawdad to arrive!

We met in the woods where the A.T. crosses Virginia Hwy 623. It was great seeing a familiar face! I hugged my dad and introduced him to Billy Goat. Over the course of a 30 minute ride to the motel, I filled him in on our last 2 months. He seemed fascinated by our stories and was extremely excited to get going in the morning. I also gave him the trail name I’d been thinking of…Crawdad! I figured it was perfect, he’s from New Orleans, would be so slow hiking the A.T. it would almost be a crawl, and obviously, he is my dad. I think he liked it, but I didn’t give him much of a choice! Crawdad, Billy Goat and I checked in to the motel and got ready for our hike tomorrow. With any luck, we will all be alive and well this time tomorrow!


Day 57, 4/26/15

Start: Virginia Hwy 623
Finish: Laurel Creek
Miles Hiked: 9.7
Miles To Go: 1606.9
Overall Miles Hiked: 582.3

Duke, I mean Crawdad, woke early with excitement. The weather was rainy again so we held off on our departure until it somewhat cleared. We finally hit the trail around 10:30AM. Before we left town, we bought a case of coke and some beer and left it at the trail crossing for any hikers coming through. It was nice to be on the other end of trail magic for a change. All day, hikers that passed us thanked us wholeheartedly for what we left behind! The three of us hit the trail. It is hard to describe the A.T. to my friends and family back home. It’s one thing to say, “It’s up and down all day,” but it’s another thing to actually see and hike it. Crawdad learned this quickly. Our 10 mile stretch of trail today was extremely easy for thruhikers who have made it this far, it was not for Crawdad. He said he had looked over this section in his book and it looked pretty flat and easy. On the A.T., flat does not exist. The first 2 miles had us going over 3 or 4 hills with about 100 ft. elevation gain each. Crawdad handled this pretty well. Next was a 1,700 ft. descent. We took it slow, but all descents wreak havoc on the knees and this one was no exception. We were all in a little pain by the time we hit the bottom. In the gap was Jenkins Shelter, where we stopped for lunch.

Crawdad's first white blaze

Crawdad’s first white blaze

Crawdad seemed to be holding together okay, but the real test was just ahead. After lunch was a 700 ft. uphill. My first few weeks on the trail I would have dreaded every step of it, but now, anything under 1,000 ft. isn’t too big of a deal. I have about 600 miles under my belt, Crawdad had 4.5 and rightfully so, it kicked his ass. Billy Goat and I walked behind him and took breaks when he needed it. We remembered how we felt at first and we are half his age. He was doing great but it was not easy on him by any means, especially with a full pack strapped to his back. Once we reached the top, the trail flattened out a bit and allowed Crawdad to speak again. As soon as he caught his breath, he praised every hiker still hiking for making it this far. Day 1 and the trail was already exponentially harder than he had thought.

Crawdad after the uphill

Crawdad after the uphill

We finally made it to camp and set up our tents among the dozen or so already pitched. Laurel Creek is right next to a road that we had been told to make sure we get to tomorrow morning. We were told several townspeople would shuttle hikers into town for a free breakfast bonanza! We were all very excited and willing to accept. Crawdad doesn’t have his hiker diet just yet, so he ate a few dried foods for dinner while Billy Goat, all the other hikers and myself gorged ourselves! Again, he praised us for the miles under our belt and said we were all crazy for doing this to ourselves everyday. Regarding the crazy, I can’t disagree!


Day 58, 4/27/15

Start: Laurel Creek
Finish: Virginia State Rd 611
Miles Hiked: 16.7
Miles To Go: 1590.2
Overall Miles Hiked: 599

Man it got cold last night. I feel bad for Crawdad because I know he got cold and it’s probably my fault. I told him to expect lows in the upper 40’s, not lower 30’s. All of the hikers took their time getting ready since we weren’t getting picked up until 9:00AM. Even though I was about to eat a free breakfast, I ate a quick snack. Last night I woke up in the middle of the night craving food. It looks like my hiker diet is kicking in big time! Just before   nine, the first car pulled up and took away 4 hikers. There were 16 still waiting and a few more on the way. Another minute later a van pulled up and took Crawdad, Bill Goat, me and 4 others to the church.  There was one big table downstairs with a dozen or so hungry hikers around it and two smaller tables upstairs seating about 8 each. Crawdad and I ate upstairs – we were offered coffee, orange juice, chocolate milk, yogurt, pudding, fruit cups, pancakes, eggs, grits, sausage, biscuits and gravy and a few different casseroles. On the way out they offered us bags of candy and hand knitted scarves. This church has been helping hikers for the past 14 years, so amazing! To all of you who have helped me and other hikers along the way, THANK YOU so very much! A little goes a long way for a thruhiker! After expressing thanks, thanks and more thanks, Billy Goat, Crawdad and I were dropped off back at the trailhead.

Hiker breakfast feast

Hiker breakfast feast

Before we got going for the day, I took my dad’s food bag, tent poles and some clothes and put them in my pack. It was probably around 15 pounds or so, I know the lighter pack would help his hike today so I was glad to do so. I would have taken even more if I could have fit it. To start the day, we had a 700 ft. climb. It was a little more gradual than the climb yesterday and Crawdad did great! His pace quickened a little and we were rewarded with a few great views of the valley below. A pain in his knee was becoming an issue on the downhills so we agreed it would be best if he went back into town to rest up while Billy Goat and I pressed on and made up some miles. We would meet back up with Crawdad in 2 days in Pearisburg, VA.

It was hard leaving my dad behind, but it was the best plan of action for everyone. For the next 10 miles, I thought about how to best handle Crawdad and my remaining time with him. I think I have a few good ideas and will tell him as soon as I see him again. Sparing the details, my plan would allow us to hike together, allow him some recovery time every few days and also allow me to hike solo and put in some big miles…Fingers crossed! Billy Goat and I found a nice area on the side of the trail for two tents, so we set up camp around 7:00PM and called it quits on a long day.