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May 31st: Another Misstep ​

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 This little snake slithered right by my feet while I was sitting having a break.  No idea where it came from.  

This little snake slithered right by my feet while I was sitting having a break.  No idea where it came from.  


Miles Today: 12.8

Mile Marker: 982.8

I got a slow start out of the hostel this morning.  The owner Scott made us breakfast around 7:45, and then I hung around until about 11:00.  Once I got back on the trail I decided I would try to do 16 miles even with the late start.

I was making great time until I saw Zack and Ali (Burning Man and Peach).  They had just gotten back on the trail after being gone for a wedding.  They were heading right toward me.  We were both insistent the other was going the wrong direction.  I was wrong.  About an hour ago I had gotten confused going through a rock scramble.  I retraced my steps until I found the white blazes and followed them out.  Unfortunately I followed the wrong set and didn't realize it.  I hiked about 1.5 miles over the same terrain before I bumped into them.  Pretty devastating loss of time and energy.  I was prepared to sulk, but they were full of energy and it was good to see them.  I hiked with them for the next few hours until I needed a break.

They ended up hiking further and likely got to their goal.  I was exhausted and defeated and stopped just before sunset to set up camp.  Hopefully I've got the drive in the morning to make up the miles.

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May 30th: Mountain Home Cabin in Front Royal

 Mountain Home built in 1840.  Original set on 3,000 acres. 

Mountain Home built in 1840.  Original set on 3,000 acres. 

 The renovated cabin where we stayed.   This was formerly the slave quarters. 

The renovated cabin where we stayed.   This was formerly the slave quarters. 

Miles Today: 17.2

Mile Marker: 970.0

Woke up this morning to rain.  I was not at all ready to get moving.  I heard Hop Along come over with my food bag.  He said he was over the rain and was not going to stop hiking until he got to the hostel.  I finally got moving around 8:40.  Pretty uneventful day.  It rained off and on throughout the day.  I tried to stay focused, and made the mileage by 4:45.  Hop Along had gotten there by 3:00.  He was not messing around!

I got to the hostel and showered and started relaxing.  Around 6:30 the owner got home and took us into town.  We stopped at an Italian place and then got our resupply done.  The question for tomorrow is do we leave or take a zero.

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May 29th: Last Wayside

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Miles Today: 16.4

Mile Marker: 952.8

I woke up this morning and summoned all of my energy to get packed.  I kept reminding myself that any moment a Ranger could round the corner and decide to give me a ticket.  I needed to get my tent down pronto.  I threw all of my stuff in my pack and went a tenth of a mile to the picnic area to regroup.  I reorganized my stuff, planned my day, took advantage of indoor plumbing, and lazily ate my breakfast of protein bars.  Have you ever seen one of those post apocalyptic movies where everyone is assigned a food ration? When they open it, it is this nondescript grey colored bar, and that's all they get to stay alive.  Then later you find out it's an amalgamation of crushed crickets for protein and corn and wheat as a binder.  That's my breakfast. Every. Morning.

Around 11:00 I caught back up with Hop Along and planned our day to the Wayside.  The Waysides are these diner and camp stores every 15 - 20 miles in the Shenandoahs where I mentioned doing my resupplies earlier.  We decided we could make the 8.5 miles by by 4:00.  I started booking it trying to get in as quickly as possible.  Deep into a podcast I flew by something my brain threw up a LOOKOUT warning.  I looked to my right and saw something big and black and jumped backwards.  Turns out I should have jumped forward.  I looked over and saw a black pointy head I immediately recognized to be that of a viper less than two feet from me.  I stepped back in confusion trying to figure out if it was a cottonmouth or something else.  Then I saw the rattle.  Growing up in Texas I'm used to the western diamondback rattlers.  This thing had an all black head and a darker body.  I waited for Hop Along to catch up so I could let him know it was on the trail.  Eventually the snake retreated back into the brush, but it never once rattled.  Hop Along will probably have footage of it up at some point. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCK4Vne3uUNkq4D6TqvXLBJQNot too long after that we were approaching the turn off for the Wayside.  I took a right hand turn, and boom! Bear running full speed off to my right.  It stopped and looked at us after about 50 yards, and then walked away slowly.  Animals in the Shenandoahs are so desensitized to humans.

At 3:30 we strolled into the wayside. A total of 14 miles to get there.  We were motivated and made solid time.  Waysides to hikers are like when the cricket eating proletariat mentioned above realize the wealthy upstairs are eating real meat, vegetables, and wine.  It's the exact same thing except cheeseburgers, chili cheese fries, and beer.  Revolutionizes your outlook.  We ate, hung out, resupplied, and charged our phones.  Then we set out for the next flat place we could find.  2.4 miles later we called it a day.  Unfortunately today was the last Wayside.  Tomorrow we will be through the Shenandoahs and have to go back to carrying full loads of food and waiting days for a good meal.  We will likely be in Front Royal by Wednesday, so that will help bridge the gap.

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May 28th: Slogging Along

 What sort of monster stocks Pepsi as the only caffeinated drink? 

What sort of monster stocks Pepsi as the only caffeinated drink? 

Miles Today: 16.1

Mile Marker: 936.4 Pinnacle Picnic Area

I didn't sleep very well last night, and I had a hard time getting going this morning.  I made it to the next wayside around 10:00 and saw Hop Along.  I heard him head out before me this morning, but he must have booked it.  He had already eaten and gotten his resupply done as I showed up.  I got a solid breakfast and milled around looking for trail food.  I was in no rush as I wanted to give my phone time to charge.  I've wasted more battery on looking for signal in the Shenandoahs than anything else.  I get just enough for a text or two and then it cuts out.


Around 3:00 my brain started saying this is good enough, let's stop here.  It had been raining all day and I was particularly tired after the big day yesterday followed by little sleep.  For the next four hours I kept looking for a good spot to camp that was out of a restricted zone.  I had already decided I wasn't going to make it to where Hop Along was camping.  Just before 7:00 I realized I was almost there anyway.  Turns out Hop Along decided to camp in an area that was restricted.  Hopefully they are letting things slide right now because it is a Holiday weekend.  At any rate, we'll be gone first thing in the morning.  I was all excited to set up my tent in the soft grass when he tells me what happened while he stepped away.  Hop Along had found the perfect site, but headed up to the bathroom before setting up.  He came back and a freaking bear was standing right where he wanted to pitch his tent.  The bear saw him and ran off.  We camped there anyway, but hung our food way away from camp.

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May 27th: Double Magic

 Bear print

Bear print

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Miles Today: 19.6

Mile Marker: 920.3

Last night I camped near an overlook with a sunrise view.  Bold move on a holiday weekend.  I woke up at 5:00, visited the tree, and went back to bed with the intent of getting another hour of sleep. Thirty minutes later a group of six walked up.  Guess it's time to get up.  I quickly packed and got on the trail at 6:00.  By 7:30 I had made it the 3.5 miles to the shelter to gather water.  I ran into Hop Along again who said he only hiked to there last night because he was out of water.  We chatted about what we were doing for the day, and then I headed off. 

A bit later we caught up again and hiked for a while until we hit a gap and saw a shade tent and several ice chests through the trees.  We immediately turned to each other and whispered Trail Magic!  We popped out and sure enough it was.  Jim and Carol greeted us and said their son did the trail in 2014 and was named Wiki (I think).  They had a spread with EVERYTHING a hiker could want.  A handwashing station, donuts and coffee, chips, snack cakes, honey buns, sloppy joes, apples, string cheese, candy bars, Smart Water bottles, soda, Gatorade, beer, and likely a dozen other things I can't remember.  Incredible start to the morning.  Finally around 10:00 Hop Along and I started to head out.  Just then Jim hit us with a surprise. Mini bottles of Crown, Bacardi, and I want to say a top shelf brandy.  I grabbed a Crown and several snacks for the road.  Absolutely outstanding treat.

The rest of the day cruised by.  I saw several deer and a massive bear print.  Toward the end of the day I past a car camping site with toilets.  I stopped by to use the bathroom when I was waved down by three couples who were camping with their kids.  They asked if I was hiking the AT and if I'd like a snack.  I said I'm always hungry, so yes.  They gave me bear sausage, some shrimp, cod, a bell pepper, some potato salad, and a beer.  I've never had bear before.  It was a bit surreal.  I felt a bit guilty, but they can be a pest animal and have no natural predators.  Hunting of them is allowed.  Verdict: Bears are delicious.  Shortly after I finished eating there was a downpour.  I helped the group move their shade tent over the stuff they didn't want to get wet.  However the vents at the top let in a torrent of water.  One of the guys said “Well it is a sun shade, not a rain tent” and laughed.  They were able to use some binder clips to close the holes.  I said my goodbyes and got back on the trial.

Shortly after I started hiking I heard something squealing that sounded like a piglet.  It turned out to be a baby deer.  It must have been very young because if could still barely walk.  I got several pictures of it before it froze and hunkered down in the worst hiding place possible.  I continued up the trail and found a mama deer with another baby.  Hopefully they find each other. 

Finally I got to the peak where I intended to camp.  I found three locals camping in front of the highest overlook with a sunset view for 15 miles in either direction. Literally camping on the trail that leads to it, totally blocking it off.  On a holiday weekend no less.  When I was in Yosemite in September one of the staff there told me the technical term for this.  According to him this is what is called a “Boner Move”.  I've seen enough of Virginia to not really care, but still super poor form.  I hiked on looking for a spot to camp and ran into Hop Along again.  He was all set up and was surprised to see me.  He thought I was long gone.  I thought the same of him.  Turns out we were both hanging out at the camp ground at the same time, but in different areas.  He helped me find a spot further up the hill from him to camp, and we hung out while eating dinner.  Turns out he was in the Air Force for nine years as a sheet metal repair technician on aircraft.  He used to work on fighter jets. 

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May 26th: Wasted Walking

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Miles Today: 14.6

Mile Marker: 900.7

This morning I woke up with a renewed wonder for the trail.  Recently I had been a bit gloomy about making enough miles, focusing on the halfway point, and just generally feeling like the trail was work and wasn't an adventure.  This morning I took some time and enjoyed the fact I live in the woods.  I got a leisurely start and had a great day.

Half a mile in a couple was enjoying an overlook at a road crossing.  They asked if I was doing the trail and offered me a Miller Lite.  I would have preferred a soda that early in the morning, but an ice cold drink is an ice cold drink.  I chatted with them about the adventure so far before heading on.  My only goal for the day was to make it to the camp store for a resupply.  The Shenandoahs are lined with them.  They are expensive and cater to car campers, but only having to carry a couple of days worth of food is worth the extra cost.

I headed down the trail listening to podcasts and looking for the right turn off to the store.  There are several of them marked from the trail, but only one of them is 70 yards long.  The others are a half mile or more.  I got to the third one and realized I must have gone too far because the trail was overgrown with weeds four feet tall.  I checked my Guthook app and realized it was still showing me a half mile from the turn off like the last time I checked.  I rebooted the app and it synced up and told me I was a half mile past the turn off.  Annoyed, I turned around and re-covered the ground correcting my mistake.  Sacrificed a whole mile to stupidity.

I ate lunch there, resupplied, and took a hot shower.  $1.75 for 5.25 minutes on the shower.  Highly weird increments, but it felt so good.  While I was there I ran into Hop Along.  He said most of the people he was hiking with had decided to aqua blaze (canoe through the park instead of hiking).  We both agreed we came to hike the trail, not canoe near it.  It feels like cheating to me, but some people think slack packing is cheating.  We're all out here with our own goals, so ultimately it doesn't matter.

The rest of the day was uneventful.  The trail is incredibly easy right now, and I really wanted to go further.  But with the late start, the wasted mile, and hanging out at the store; it just wasn't in the cards.

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May 25th: Bearly Made it Down the Trail

 Bears Seen: 3   Tomahawks Needed: 0

Bears Seen: 3 

Tomahawks Needed: 0

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Miles Today: 16.5

Mile Marker: 886.1

I saw my first bear today!  I had heard the Shenandoahs are the place most people start seeing bears.  Day two in, and boom!  Bear.  I spotted its head from a ways back around a corner. At first I thought it was a dog, but didn't see anyone else around.  Then it clicked it must be a bear.  Naturally I did exactly what you're not supposed to do.  I took out my phone, fired up the camera, and crept down the trail without my trekking poles.  I took a few pictures, and then perfection.  It looked right at me.  I snapped the photo, stared at it for a second, and then yelled and scared it away.  It listlessly trotted down the hill and then stopped and looked up at me from the valley.  I continued down the trail past it.  Presumably it went back to licking the same tree I had scared it away from.


Other things happened today, but are hardly worth mention next to a bear sighting.

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May 24th: Short Day out of Town

 Why walk in the rain for water when I can make the water come to me?  

Why walk in the rain for water when I can make the water come to me?  

Miles Today: 7.7

Mile Marker: 869.6 Calf Mountain Shelter

We started this morning by going back to Weasies for breakfast.  Only Walkman, Salty Camel, and I were heading back out to the trail.  Hamilton, Rocket, Cash, and Songbird joined us though.  After breakfast the three of us said goodbye to the rest of the group and caught a ride back to the trail.  Songbird has been having foot pain, so she and Cash headed to the doctor.  Hamilton and Rocket went to the outfitter to check out shoes.

I really wanted to zero again today.  The forecast looked dismal, and I wasn't particularly excited about getting back on the trail.  By now I know the more time off I take, the harder it is to get going.  It was time to go back, even if I didn't want to.  Hiking started out slowly as everything was wet.  Shortly into the day I lost my footing on a slick rock and flopped down hard on my butt.  Both of my feet flew out in front of me like a cartoon as I went down.  If I had slid another few inches forward I would have landed squarely on a jagged rock.  Luckily I was only slightly scratched up instead.

At 1:00 I walked down the side trail to meet up with Walkman and Salty at the shelter. Walkman is getting off trail on Friday for a week for his high school graduation.  He managed to convince his superintendent the trail would be an excellent learning experience for his last semester.  Since he had enough credits to graduate already, it was approved so long as he attends graduation.  He only has to do short days until Friday when he meets his family at a wayside in the Shenandoahs.  Salty is hiking ahead to meet up with his Mom for a day on the trail.  I couldn't decide what I wanted to do, so I had some lunch while I figured things out.

After checking the map and the forecast, I decided to stay.  The Shenandoahs have similar camping restrictions to the Smokies, and the next shelter is 13 miles away.  The forecast for rain also went to 100% at 4:00.  Hiking in a downpour late into the evening didn't sound all that great.  A short day seemed like the right call.

 

 

 

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May 30th: Location Update

So I received a text from the manager and I realized that I was slipping on my duties of updating everyone on his location. My apologies James! Our friend is currently around Compton Peak, which for those keeping track is mile marker 953. Almost to the coveted 4 digit / 1,000 / 1 comma club! Keep making us proud!

 

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May 21st: Some Trail Angels are Assholes

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Miles Today: 19.1

Mile Marker: 861.9 Rockfish Gap (Waynesboro, VA)

 

This morning I packed up and got over to the restaurant at 7:30 to get some breakfast and get moving.  For five dollars you get two eggs, two pieces of bacon, a small bowl of fruit, breakfast potatoes, and a pancake.  It’s an excellent deal considering how much dinner costs.  I finished my breakfast and asked about a ride back to the trail.  She said when a manager came in at 9:00 someone would be free to take us.  I debated hitching, but decided to wait it out.  I started talking with Veg and drinking coffee.  Then Pumba showed up.  He looked so incredibly rough.  He got there at 3:00 yesterday and spent most of the day drinking.  Then Dingo and Hitch showed up.  Hitch looked equally rough.  I only had one beer and then went and set up my tent.  Apparently they all stayed up until about midnight.  It sounded like by the end of the night Dingo was trying to herd cats between trying to get Hitch and Pumba back to their tents.  Veg and I continued to wait  for a ride, but 9:00 became 9:30, then 10:00, then 10:30.  Finally one of the servers said the managers were taking too long and grabbed the keys to the truck.  I didn’t get on the trail until 11:00.  My initial plan was to try to do a bigger mile day into Waynesboro, but at that point it looked like a nearo tomorrow was going to be the only way to make it.

 

Shortly after I got back on trail I ran into the Black Hole group.  Apparently they all woke up and decided they were in no rush to get hiking.  Most of the day was great hiking.  There was one last climb, and then the rest was relatively flat.  I bumped into Veg again and somehow got on the topic of him having hiked the PCT.  It turns out he’s hiked the PCT and the CDT.  That means when he finishes the AT, he will be a Triple Crowner.  I don’t know the exact number of people who have completed the Triple Crown of backpacking, but the last number I saw was sub a thousand.  Incredible feat.

 

Toward the end of the day I started thinking I could make it to Waynesboro.  The Black Hole group tried to convince me to stay and nearo in with them tomorrow.  I gave them my number and told them to let me know when they got in town, and we would meet for lunch.  Tomorrow is Hamilton’s birthday, and the plan was to meet at Mings for lunch.  Mings is known as the best Chinese food buffet on the entire trail.  We’ve all been looking forward to it.  Shortly thereafter we ran into a day hiker that informed us Mings is closed on Mondays.  That is fine for Black Hole who is double zeroing, but for me I’m leaving town Tuesday morning and will miss it.  I checked Google and saw they are open until 10:00 tonight.  Target aquired.  

 

I got to the trailhead at 8:00 and found a list left by the city of Trail Angels who would give free rides into town.  As I was making calls a woman named Sarah cycled up.  It turns out her and her friend John are cycle touring coast to coast across the US.  John did the AT a few years ago and his name was Columbus.  He rode up shortly after and we chatted for a bit. She gave me her card with her blog, and John and I took a picture together.  I forgot to snap a picture of the two of them, but there are several on her website at www.aviciouscycle.org.  They cycled on to their hotel, and I called a few people for a ride until someone was willing to come pick me up.  

 

The guy who picked me up was kind enough to immediately tell me how terribly I smelled.  Apparently I was the worst smelling all day.  I asked out of how many, and he said five and “not to be proud of it.”  He then took me on an unwanted tour of town showing me all of the places my map has clearly marked.  You know that and smartphones are a thing.  He also gave me a flyer the city puts together that has a map with the same information.  Apparently he does the corrections for the flier, but “the City Council doesn’t like him” so the never send it to him early to proof.  I can’t imagine why.  He was also sure to mention heading to the YMCA a few times for a free shower first thing in the morning.  After this obnoxious jaunt around town he finally dropped me off at Mings at 8:59.  I walked in and they told me the buffet closes at 9:00.  Google failed me, but it was hard not to be the most annoyed at the pompous ass named DuBose who led me on the ridiculous tour of town.  If only I smelled worse, perhaps he would have dropped me off earlier.

 

I stopped at the Kroger and grabbed a wrap from their deli section, some chocolate cookies, and a tall Yuengling and headed to the free camp site the town provides.  Annoying end to the day, but it all worked out in the end.  Zero day tomorrow!

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May 20th: Devil's Backbone Brewpub

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Miles Today: 19.4 + (0.4 of shelter side trails)

Mile Marker: 842.8 Reid’s Gap

This morning I woke up without a plan and started hiking.  Shortly into the day I bumped into Dingo and Hitch who reminded me there is a brewpub off of the trail.  They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  They also let hikers camp in the yard and shuttle you back to the trail in the morning.  New goal acquired.

I hiked most of the day off and on with the group I camped with last night.  They have nicknamed themselves Black Hole because people start hiking with them and end up never leaving.  Apparently the full group is actually about ten people, but half of them are off trail at Trail Days in Damascus.  Early in the day we got to the Priest shelter, which was hilarious.  Everyone uses the shelter log to confess their trail sins.  I confessed to stealth camping in an area where I knew it was prohibited to have a shorter hike into Daleville.  We got to the river around lunch and soaked our feet and lamented over the climb we were facing.  A day hiker told us it is one of the hardest rated sections in Virginia.  Not the best obstacle to be facing when you are considering hiking over nineteen miles.  I made it almost all the way to the top just as the rain clouds were rolling in and thunder was rumbling in the distance.  Being at the top of the tallest point for miles in a thunderstorm is a terrible place to be.  I booked it across the top and through the fog to get down the back side.  Thankfully we only encountered some light rain and no lightening.

We all rested at the shelter on the back of Three Ridges mountain.  The group decided to call it a day, but I had warm dinner and breakfast in my sites.  I made it to the road at 7:30, but no one was interested in picking me up in the rain.  I decided I would wait until 8:00 before calling it quits.  At 7:59 John pulled in and gave me a ride.  He wasn't actually going all the way down to the brewery, but helped me out anyway.  Turns out he grew up in the HEB area in Texas.  When we pulled into the brewpub I was floored by how massive it was.  This is not the usual hiker fare.  There was a massive stage, three outdoor seating sections, a main restaurant, and a small breakfast restaurant.  They were also in the process of building a massive new building.  I have no idea why this place considers catering to hikers.  When I first showed up a manager grabbed me and gave me the tour.  I felt like a zoo animal on display as he was showing me around through all the normal people while my massive pack swung around and my ripe smell wafted through the air.  So very bizarre.

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May 19th: A Full Pack is Heavy

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Miles Today: 16.7

Mile Marker: 823.4 Spy Rock

This morning started with an immediate uphill climb.  My pack was full with a 3.5 day resupply and extra water to get started.  I was immediately shocked by how much harder it is to hike with a full pack.  800 miles with a full pack and it only took one day of slack packing to forget. Once I got to the top, the rest of the day was nice.  It was incredibly hot, but there were excellent views.

Initially I was planning on doing a 15 mile day and camping with Cheese and his brother Einstein.  I stopped there and made dinner, but decided I'd like to move on.  The camp spot was positioned in a bit of a dark valley.  Right now with the weather being so hot, I'd prefer to camp higher up with more air flow.  Additionally the bugs are coming out, and the wind keeps them away.  I hiked further in and ran into Green Beard who had just woken up from a three hour nap through the heat of the day.  He was going to do a bit of night hiking and then crash for the night.  Once I got to the top of the hill I found Walkman, Cash, Songbird, Hamilton, Rocket, and Tea Leaves camped near Spy Rock.  They said it is a bit of a rock scramble, but it's worth the view.  I dropped my pack and climbed up.  Definitely worth the view.  I came back down and set up camp with them. Perfect campsites of soft green grass and a steady breeze.

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May 18th: Slack packing is Second Only to Zeros

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Miles Today: 21.8

Mile Marker: 806.7

Susan from the shuttle service came and picked us up promptly at 7:30 and we got moving down the trail at 8:15.  I drank one of the little cans of Starbucks Double Espresso before I started.  Between that and only hiking 6.5 miles yesterday, I was raring to go!  I made it to the halfway point by 11:30 and took a one hour lunch break.  I took two more 15 minute breaks later in the day.  The rest of the time I was moving.  I finished up around 5:00.  I stepped off the trail and got a hitch from the first truck that drove by.  A thing of beauty.  He dropped me off and asked if I had enough money to get a hot meal.  I assured him I did and thanked him for the ride.  I didn't catch his name, but so incredible of him to offer.

 

I crossed the 800 mile sign early in the day and snapped a picture, but it felt a bit like cheating.  Technically I wasn't at 800 miles just yet since I was going south.


It was crazy hot, but the trail was fantastic about 90% of the way.  Between that and hiking with basically no weight in my back, it was an amazing day.

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May 17th: I’ll Gladly Hike Tomorrow for a Nearo Today

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 I can't wait for that number in the right to be sub 1000. 

I can't wait for that number in the right to be sub 1000. 

Miles Today: 6.5

Mile Marker: 784.9 Glasgow, VA

This morning I woke up ready to go because I knew I would be in town by lunch.  On the way in I hiked over the largest foot traffic only bridge on the AT.  It spans over the James River and is indeed massive.  Right after crossing the river I got to the road crossing I needed to hitch from.  Ho Chi Minh was also there.  He was trying to get signal to call the hostel and have them pick him up.  He asked a guy who had finished fishing if he had service.  The guy didn’t, but realized we were both trying to get to town and offered us a ride.  His name was Steve, and he wasn’t even going that direction initially.  He recently retired and he and his wife have taken up hiking.  We chatted about our journey so far and the miserable heat as he took us through town.  He drove all the way through so we could see all of the stores and then circled back letting us decide where to be dropped off.  The town has three stores and they are all within walking distance.  Entirely unnecessary, but incredibly kind of Steve.

The town of Glasgow has a shelter (like we see on the trail) right in the middle of town.  They have a shower with hot water, two privies, electrical outlets, room to sleep 12, and plenty of room to camp.  The town has basically nothing going on, but them providing this for hikers is an incredible gift.  I showered and hand washed my hiking clothes and hung them to dry.  I then headed over to the only restaurant in town for lunch.  I ordered the garlic bread with cheese and the fettuccine alfredo.  It turns out the dinner comes with the same sized order of garlic bread, sans cheese, and a house salad.  The entree itself was massive.  It was an incredible amount of food.  I eat often on the trail, but usually not in that volume.  It took quite a bit of time to get my stomach to accept the challenge.  Upon finishing I promptly went and took a food agony nap.  Once I had regained mobility I grabbed a small resupply and started to pack up.


While I was packing up Little Cheese (now Cheese) and Einstein showed up.  They informed me they were working on a slack pack for tomorrow from Buena Vista back to where we are.  A shuttle driver would take them north, and then they hike back south to here tomorrow.  My plan was to hike more today and then get in to Buena Vista tomorrow evening or Friday morning for a full resupply.  However the idea of not hiking today, doing 21 miles tomorrow without gear, and effectively ending up in the same spot sounded great.  So now I’m taking the rest of the day easy and will head out with them at 7:30 in the morning.  This will be my first slack pack.  I’m hoping without the gear I go significantly faster.  We’ll spend the nig

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May 16th: Miserable Sleep

 FAA Radar Golf Ball

FAA Radar Golf Ball

Miles Today: 12.4

Mile Marker: 766.0 778.4

Last night I tried to go to sleep just before 9:00,but as soon as I laid down I could hear footsteps in the leaves.  There were two sets, so I assumed they must be deer.  I turned on my headlamp and confirmed my suspicion.  They kept trying to get to the tree where I had hung my food bag.

I tried yelling at them, but they kept coming back.  I threw downed branches at them, they came back.  I hung my food bag higher to hopefully reduce the smell, they came back.  In an act of desperation I turned on my phone and played gunshot sound effects from YouTube.  Their response was to walk closer to the glowing screen.  Morons.  I eventually tried to ignore them, but they kept coming right up to my tent.  Deer have been know to drag backpacks away trying to get to hiker food.  Finally around 11:00 I had had enough.  I put my shoes back on, found several rocks, and spent way too much time trying to pelt them as I chased them further into the woods.  The whole situation is of course incredibly hilarious, but I got terrible sleep and was dragging all day.

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May 15th: Another Day on the Trail

 Lunch

Lunch

Miles Today: 15.3

Mile Marker: 766.0

The green tunnel has completely filled out, and the views have faded.  Sometimes it's hard to remember I'm actually still in the mountains.  The crowd of thru hikers has also started to thin, so the hiking can feel a bit monotonous at times.  Excitement should start to pick back up after the halfway point.

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May 14th: Mother's Day Trail Magic

Miles Today: 15.0

Mile Marker: 750.7

Today was a perfect hiking day.  Good trail and great weather.  Halfway in I ran into Tree Hugger VA doing trail magic.  She wanted to ensure all of us hikers had a mother to take care of us today.  Best Trail Magic spread so far.  Massive sandwiches, fresh fruit, loads of drinks, and two storage tubs filled with chips and snack cakes respectively.

I'm moving slower than I'd like and taking more breaks, but so far my ankle is continuing to hold up.

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May 13th: Nearo out of Town

Miles Today: 7.6

Mile Marker: 735.7

Today was the first day I've nearoed out of town.  I got a late checkout and headed over to Cracker Barrel around noon.  The place was absolutely mobbed.  I had a hearty meal and then called an Uber to take me the 0.90 miles to the trail head.  Poor Carolyn couldn't figure out how to negotiate the construction in the area.  It took her 25 minutes to get to me, when the app had a 12 minute Eta.  I watched her circle around all over the place.  I had to help navigate her to where I was going.  I should have just walked there. It certainly would have been faster.

Around 5:30 I laid down on my foam mat to take a break.  I sat there staring up into the trees as they swayed in the wind and the sun trickled through.  It really was a perfect day.  I started to feel regret at wasting the first half of it not hiking.  I started to stress about being a week behind schedule.  I ran calculations on how many miles I could do tonight, and then I started debating night hiking.  But the longer I laid there, the more relaxed I started to feel.  I realized it had been a while since I was truly living in the moment.  I laid there for an hour just breathing, clearing my mind.  Ultimately I decided the best decision was to call it an early day, rest well, and start early in the morning.  It felt good to let go for a while.

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