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.
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!
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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!
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.