Daleville to Pearisburg

April 21 Day 33 Zero Day Daleville

Here at the Super 8 and it has exceeded my expectations. Probably because the continental breakfast includes a waffle maker. Two, in fact. I was up at 5:30 am because that’s when I get up every day. I was watching the news, eating waffles and drinking coffee by 6 am. Some laundry, another shower, some gear cleaning and then I walk over to the Goodwill to find a hat.

No dice. I was forced to go to the outfitter and buy a hat there. Oh well, that’s ok.

I spent the afternoon watching a Resident Evil marathon on the Sci Fi channel and fooling around on social media.

And now that it’s 8pm it is way past my bedtime.

April 22 Day 34 Catawaba Shelter

After another waffle session I was on trail before 7am. Not bad! I felt great. I need to take more zero days, I told myself. The motel zero day is the top tier zero day, the shelter zero day being not the greatest. I’d like to say they are the best, but let’s be honest here.

I climbed up about 1,000 feet and then followed a ridge line for 10 miles to Lambert shelter where I had lunch. Then another 1,000 feet up to Tinker Cliffs. Stunning views! I could see McAffe Knob, a very iconic spot on the AT. I decided to hike up the Knob and over to the shelter on he south side. Glad I did! I got my photo taken and sat there for a bit. I’m still amazed that I have made it this far. And it’s pretty special to me to be in such a beautiful and well known spot.

I’m in my tent with a full belly and a happy heart.

April 23 Day 35 Pickle Branch Shelter

Woowee! What a day. I was on trail at 6am because I wanted to get to the Post Office in Catawaba as soon as possible. Even though they open at 9am, I was hopeful I could get a ride into town and didn’t mind waiting.

Score! Thank you section hikers, who had just finished their section and were heading home.

I got to the PO and sat down on the curb for a long wait. Around 8:15 the postmaster came outside and asked me if I just wanted to pick up a box.

Yes ma’am!

I got my package, arranged my pack and was on my way. Immediately I got a ride, from two thru hikers from 2012, Bearsnack and Raincatcher, with their dog Baby. They dropped me right where I left off and I hustled and hustled up to the Dragon’s Tooth, another iconic rock formation on the trail. I got up there around 11am, before the rain, which was my goal. I had hiked hard and fast all morning, something I don’t do often. I hike at around 2 mph, and this morning I was doing 2.5 or more. Anyway. I was happy that I only had four more miles to go to the shelter, and since I had finished the tough, technical climb up the Dragon’s Tooth, I was less worried about the rain.

I got here to the shelter around 1:30 and set up in the shelter. I really don’t like sleeping in shelters anymore but I like packing up a wet tent even less, and since tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, I know that I won’t have a chance to dry a wet tent.

So here I am with Pacemaker, a section hiker from Delaware, Hoot, a NoBo from Colorado and Bigfoot, a section hiker from Pennsylvania. The rain has come and I am happy to be here. A good day!

April 24 Day 36 Sarver Hollow Shelter

It rained all night and this morning as I prepared to leave the shelter I joked with Pacemaker: “At least it’s not freezing rain!”


I walked the .3 miles to the AT from the shelter and felt warm. That was the last time I felt warm pretty much all day. I climbed up 1,700 feet to the Blue Ridge in the rain and felt ok, until I got to the top and massive gusts, maybe 40 to 50 mph blasted me from the east. The rain was so heavy that even my clothes under my rain gear were wet.

It was barely 9am and I still had 14 miles to hike to get here. My supposedly waterproof rain mitts that go in over my gloves failed and I had small pools of water inside them. I spent some time cursing ZPacks and then decided that I’m just too hard core for these mitts.

Throughout the day I had several mantras that I spoke aloud:

1.) Spring will come.

2.) I will be warm again.

3.) You’re a fucking badass (this I saved for the last 4 miles).

I hiked down and then back up the Blue Ridge because hey, why not? This time I traversed the ridge for some time climbing up and over rocks, sliding sideways over wet rocks as the wind kicked my cold wet ass all over the place.

I got to the top and read a sign that said: Eastern Continental Divide

So that’s why the trail is so rugged!

I decided this would be a good place to take a break and eat something; I had only stopped hiking two other times for a couple of minutes to get water and pee.

After two minutes I was freezing and I realized that it was sleeting.

Fuck this.

I moved my ass down that ridge, over more sideways slabs of rock and thorns and giant puddles of mud.

As I rounded an uphill corner I saw that blessed sign:

Sarver Hollow Shelter .4

And here I am in my dry clothes, wet clothes hanging up to dry.

I have a full belly and a dry sleeping bag. Now I will go to sleep.

Spring will come.

I will be warm.

I’m a fucking badass.

April 25 Day 37 War Spur Shelter

Last night as I was falling asleep I heard what I thought were footsteps. I thought, oh, another hiker is here, and I turned over to grab my headlamp.

There was no one there.

I decided to pitch my tent in the shelter, very bad trail etiquette, but it was 9pm and I didn’t think anyone would come along. I was right. I had a hard time getting to sleep though and woke several times during the night to the sound of footsteps.


It took me a long time this morning to get going and I was finally back up on trail around 7:30. So late! It was slow going and I stopped for many breaks. I knew I had put my body through the ringer the day before so I decided to have a short day and go 12.5 miles here to this shelter.

About half way through my day I stopped at another shelter for a rest and snack. I met Shivers and Sink, section hikers who asked me if I stayed at Sarver’s Hollow. I said yes and they asked me if I heard anything unusual. I told them about the footsteps and then I remembered waking up in the middle of the night with goosebumps all down my spine.

“Oh! No way! That is what some hikers say! It’s totally haunted!”

Well then. There was a very distinct energy about the place and while the shelter was nice, with the Kerouac quote in the plaque and the covered patio, I was happy to leave.


I got here to the shelter and met several NOBOs, and while I am tenting tonight, Postcard and Silver are sleeping in the shelter. Professor and Granite hung out and ate with us for some time and it was all good conversation.

This is been a tough stretch and I’ll be happy to get to Pearisburg on Friday. Tomorrow will be a big day and I think that after a good rest tonight I’ll be ready. Hopefully ghosts will leave me alone.

April 26 Day 38 Dickinson Gap Tentsite

I woke up feeling well rested and was hiking up a long ridge at 6:30am. Feeling good. Strong. I walked along this ridge for several hours, sometimes coming across small springs swollen with the recent rain. I stopped around 9am at a very nice viewpoint but I didn’t stay long; the cold was lingering on the high ridges and breaks that lasted longer than 5 minutes made me cold.

As the trail slowly descended I came across a shelter littered with trash. I had found a broken umbrella earlier and decided to clean the place up. I filled my existing garbage bag and strapped a broken trekking pole to the outside of my pack. Trash like this is usually left by long distance hikers who should know better.

As I reached the bottom of the ridge I hiked along a river for awhile and through another rhododendron forest. I knew I was going to spend the night up on the next ridge and that there would be no water up there. I came to another shelter and found an empty Gatorade bottle that another hiker has left; there was a pink lighter inside and some other trash. I took out the trash and rinsed the bottle out; now I would be able to carry some extra water up the ridge for tomorrow morning. And pack out trash at the same time. Yay!

As I was hiking up the next ridge I came across Badass Betty, a section hiker in her 60s. We chatted a bit and after hiking on a bit I checked my phone and found that I finally had cell reception. I called Keith and it was good to talk to him, as always. Then I called Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven, a hostel in Pearisburg. I reserved a bunk for one night; this stretch has been a tough one and I felt like I earned a night in a bed.

I reached the tentsite I had been shooting for and I set up my tent just before it started raining.


I cooked dinner in the vestibule of the tent and hung my food. Now I’m reading and looking forward to some town time.

April 27 Day 39 Angel’s Rest Hiker Haven, Pearisburg

I slept fitfully and started hiking through the fog around 6am. I felt tired, spent and very much looking forward to a rest. I decided to take another zero day at the hostel and when I finally got to the trailhead near town I was so happy to be picked up and shuttled to the hostel. I met Handy, the caretaker and I asked if I could stay two nights and he said no problem. Yay!

I walked over to the grocery store and got resupply for the next stretch and some food for my hostel stay. Laundry and a shower were next and then I hit up the AYCE (all you can eat) Chinese buffet.

I’m cozied up in the bunk room with several other hikers and I could not be happier. Great folks, nice spot and a good rest. Just what I needed to prepare for the next stretch.

Glasgow to Daleville

April 17 Day 29 Part Two Matt’s Creek Shelter

Donna from the hostel offered to drop me back at the trailhead because she was picking up two hikers. Before I left, Squirrel, a NOBO, gave me a couple of cherry brownies he made. So nice! And tasty. As we drove up to the trail Donna and I chatted and I watched the scenery; the trees are just starting to bud out and it is gorgeous. Virginia is awesome. One of my favorite states so far.

We pulled into the parking lot and I saw Cheesesteak and Lucky Boy; two SOBO Flip Floppers. They camped at Punchbowl last night. Super nice guys. We chatted briefly and I may run into them tomorrow if they slack pack. Slack packing is when a hiker hikes without their backpack. Either someone, like a shuttle driver, will meet you somewhere at the end of the day with your pack (you just hike with snacks and water) or they will pick you up and take you back to the hostel or motel for another night. I’ve never done it, but lots of hikers love to do it and jump at the chance.

I hiked an easy two miles up to the shelter and found a weekender named Spencer here. We chatted over dinner, and now I’m cozy in my tent listening to the creek. It turned out to be a sunny and decidedly springlike afternoon.

April 18 Day 30 Cornelius Creek Shelter

My first task of the day was jumping over Matt’s Creek without getting my shoes wet. Mission accomplished. It’s all easy from here, I said to myself.


After over 4,000 feet of gain I am beat. I was up and over Highcock Knob by 9:30 but Thunder Ridge took it outta me. The ascent was not steep, just long, long, long. Near the top I came across a trail crew. I thanked them for their hard work and one of the volunteers gave me a blueberry fig bar. I love those things. This is my favorite kind of trail magic. Different sections of the trail are maintained by groups of volunteers, and without them, the trail would not be what it is.

Near the summit of Thunder Ridge is a rock formation called the Guillotine. A giant bolder is trapped between two other boulders, and the AT passes right under the boulder. Pretty cool, literally, as there was still snow in the cool recesses of the stone.

I called Keith from the summit and chatted with him for a bit to get some motivation for the last four miles to the shelter. For much of those four miles the AT wound through rhododendron forests. Green! So nice.

I met Eagle and Ibex here at the shelter and it’s nice to have company. We chatted trail and have now gone to our respective tents for the evening.

April 19 Day 31 Bobblets Gap Shelter

My morning routine revolves around several events, as follows:

1) a visit to the privy

2) breakfast and coffee

3) packing up gear

4) taking down the tent

On mornings like today when it is raining, this is the sequence of events. When it is sunny, I’ll take the tent down as I eat breakfast and pack up my things. Sometimes the privy visit is the last thing I do before leaving camp. It only rained for about 20 minutes, which was good. I was on trail by 6:30, my usual time. A short climb, then a long downhill to Bryant Ridge Shelter, a very cool shelter with room for about 20 hikers. Neat place. I had second breakfast there and headed out. It was a nice day of trail; not too much ascent, not too much descent, lots of ridge walking. Nice. Except the wind blowing in from the west that was very cold and strong. There was a time of sunny calm where I was able to dry my tent. This is always a priority when carrying a wet tent.

I got down here to the shelter which is somewhat out of the wind, but not completely. Two other hikers, Kiwi and Jess are here and we chatted while we made dinner. And now here I am in my tent next to the shelter because there are no tent spaces anywhere else. Four NOBOs with a dog showed up; they are cooking food now, but soon after camp will be quiet with sleeping hikers.

April 20 Day 32 Daleville Super 8

I was up early as usual and bouncing down the Blue Ridge that I have been following since Front Royal, waiting for my morning sunrise shot. I was looking forward to staying at the shelter on Fullhardt Knob; it’s rumored to have 360 views and now that the trees are starting to bid out I wanted to take advantage of all opportunities to get views.

I was pretty cold the first four hours of the day and resorted to putting on my rain mitts (water and wind proof overmitts) over my gloves and soon my hands warmed up. Around 11am the sun took over and I finally warmed up.

I made good time and got to the shelter around 1:30. A quick 14 miles. Once I got there, I got water from the cistern there (the rain gutters funnel water into an underground cistern, very cool) and decided, what the heck, I’m going to hike five more miles into town and get a room, and take a zero day Saturday.

I made a good decision for sure. I got into town and stopped by the Howard Johnson to pick up the package Keith sent me. I was going to stay there but several hikers told me that it’s not a good place to stay, so I opted to stay at the Super 8. Good choice. Once I check in I walked down the road to the outdoor store; time to get bug spray and a new spoon, finally! I went into the Kroger to resupply, and found myself wandering around the deli area. A woman who was handing out meat samples saw me and asked me, “honey, what do you do to look so healthy? Look at you!”

“Well, I’m hiking the AT.”

“Ohhh, you’re hungry, here.” She gave me several samples of smoked turkey. “And here, you can’t shop hungry.” She gave me some cheese samples too.

I love Virginia!

I picked up a cheap novel since I finished Women Who Run With the Wolves, and everything else I need.

Back at my room I thought about how great Virginia has been, and how far I have come in this past month. It’s kind of amazing to me that I’ve made it through the weather I have experienced.

I sat in front of the TV and ate some of the trail food Keith, my amazing and intuitive boyfriend, sent me. He also sent me his pocket rocket stove since mine has finally kicked the bucket. I’m lucky to have such a special man in my life.

Tomorrow, a zero day laying around, cleaning my gear and taking multiple baths. Yes!

Waynesboro to Glasgow

April 12 Day 24 Maupin Field Shelter

What a day! Stanimal dropped myself and three other hikers off at Rockfish Gap, literally exactly where I got off the trail the day before. Not that I’m a purist or anything. He took our photo and the three guys headed north and I, the lone SOBO, headed south. Because that’s what I do.

After five miles I came to the Paul Wolfe shelter and there were several NOBOs there, all guys, and we chatted for a bit. They were heading to Stanimal’s place for a nearo (nearly a zero, just a few miles hiked).

I got a liter of water from the creek and headed toward Humpback mountain.

And soon I realized that I did not take enough water. The sun came out and it got warm as I climbed up and soon, mostly after I ate my Subway sandwich for lunch, I knew I did not have enough water to be comfortable.

Some miles later when I got to the next water source I was so relieved. I drank a liter there and packed two out. I only had six more miles to the shelter but I knew I’d drink more than usual since I got myself all dehydrated.

Of course during those six miles there were about five more water sources, springs coming right out of gaps in the rock cliffs to my left. It was lovely.

It was a long 20.7 mile hike today but once I got here I felt better and relaxed. I realized that I was a bit grumpy during that last stretch and told myself yet again to not let that happen again with the water.

There’s a few Flip Floppers here and it’s nice to have company here. I have pitched my tent since the weather is lovely and I’m going to be asleep in about 30 minutes.

Another brutal and glorious day on the Appalachian Trail.

April 13 Day 25 The Priest Shelter

Another goal met today. I could have stayed down by the river and camped and been somewhat happy and hiked The Priest tomorrow morning but that’s not what I wanted. Granted, it was lovely to dunk my head in the ice cold river. I had hiked up Three Ridges mountain and then down, and it was hot. I filled my water bottles and began the four mile, 3,000 foot climb up. There was a small creek a third of the way up and so I stopped there and cameled up (drank as much water as I could) and packed out two liters for the rest of the climb. It was just enough.

I got to the shelter, which is just on the other side of the summit and was happy to see some women hikers. I usually only see men. I met Hoilday and her mom, Tagalong. Also, Powerhouse. All NOBOs, which means I won’t see them again. That’s ok, it was nice to talk with them and trade trail stories and share information. I like hiking by myself during the day, but it is really nice to share camp with people in the evening.

My Pocket Rocket stove is in its death throes; I’ve had it for several years now and the threads where it screws into fuel canisters are shot. I can coax it into working just barely. Keith has sent me his stove, and I should be able to pick it up Wednesday or Thursday in Daleville. I may take a zero day there too. I’ll be ready for one by then for sure.

So here I am in my tent, warm, fed, comfortable. My feet have that familiar hurt and I know they’ll be feeling good tomorrow morning. So now I think I’ll put in my earplugs and read until I doze off.

Goodnight Appalachian Trail!

April 14 Day 26 Cow Camp Shelter

Today was incredible! Ok, so I say that about a lot of days in trail, but today was an exception.

The trail sent me many signs that I am on the right path with my immediate plans and it recognized my needs.

Or, in other words, my needs have been met by chance encounter and good timing.

As I left The Priest Shelter I had the good fortune to encounter several women with whom I had excellent conversations. The first, Fran and Katie, were at the next shelter where I stopped in for my second breakfast. Fran is 79 years old and Katie is probably a few years older than me. Both started talking non stop as soon as I showed up. They are obviously good friends who know each other’s quirks well and it was fun to listen to them.

Fran gave me a Harper’s Ferry quarter for good luck and I stashed it in with my other good luck charms. I wished them happy hiking after a bit and I hope to see them today here at Cow Camp Shelter, since I am taking the day off (zero day) tomorrow.

After a few miles I ran into NOBOs No Shoes and Research. These women told me about Fresh Grounds, and said that he’d for sure be at Hog Camp Gap, 6 miles down the trail. We talked mice, shelters, men and hostels for a good 20 minutes before going on our respective ways. My spirits were lifted with good, strong positive female energy and I crushed the 6 miles to see Fresh Grounds.

He has a few tarps set up next to the trail by the trailhead parking lot and he said, “Welcome to the Leap Frog Cafe, have a seat, grab some Kool Aide and I’ll make you a salad. Then some chicken tenders and how about grilled cheese? Have a seat!” I grabbed a drink and sat down. Fresh Grounds is an AT hiker who also does trail magic like this when he’s not hiking. He drives to different spots up the trail to feed hikers for free.

I sat and ate salad, green beans, chicken tenders, French fries and grilled cheese until I could eat no more. Then some AT alumni from last year showed up with ice cream because they read on Facebook that Fresh Grounds was at this location and they happened to be nearby.

The trail community is pretty awesome.

We all sat and chatted when some weekenders hiked by and Fresh Grounds hailed them and told them to pull up a seat. He fed them too.

After I had somewhat digested the feast I had just inhaled I prepared to hike the last couple of miles to the shelter. Since Fresh Grounds packed me out with tons of food, fruit and sweets I realized I now had the chance to take the rare on trail zero day. Usually zero days are in town, and I don’t take trail zeros usually because I don’t have the food to do so. Now I did!

Once I got to the shelter the weekenders arrived just after me and pitched their tents. I decided to sleep in the shelter, but ended up pitching my tent in the middle of the night to escape the mice that kept crawling into my hair.

Yep. Crawling into my hair.

Anyway, we got more food from some groups that were camped over in the group tenting area, and even fortune cookies! I had more great conversations with some of the women in these hiking groups and some kids as well. I spent some time telling several kids about LNT (leave no trace) after I caught them trying to carve their names into the shelter. Then I told them how I always pick up trash I find and how it makes the wilderness nice for the next folks who come along. Then later in the evening I saw them walking around looking for trash.


April 15 Day 27 Cow Camp Shelter

Today is my first zero day, zero miles hiked. It’s cloudy, and not was supposed to have rained by not but it has not. Tonight big thunder storms are expected. A good, uneventful day of napping, reading and eating. And hydrating.

I ended up pitching my tent around midnight last night because mice were getting into my hair. Ugh. No more shelters for me.

April 16 Day 28 Punchbowl Shelter

I was up at 5:30 and it was still raining. I moved my stuff over to the shelter so I wouldn’t have to pack up in the rain. Rollercoaster, a section hiker, was snoring away. I shined my red light headlamp up and saw two huge mice up in the rafters staring down at me. Like something out of a Hitchcock movie. So creepy!

I was outta there and happy to be hiking. The rain stopped and it was blustery most of the morning. I hiked up and over a ridge and followed several overflowing creeks for about 8 miles. I had to get my shoes wet a few times but that’s ok. They are almost dry now.

I wanted to push a few miles past the shelter but a ranger I ran into crossing a road said that high winds are expected up on the ridge line and it is supposed to drop to about 30 tonight. And there’s no water up there. So here I am.

I’ll be up early hiking 10 miles to Glasgow for resupply, laundry and battery charging. Then I’ll hike two miles to the next shelter. A good day today. Tired and happy.

April 17 Day 29 Glasgow

This morning was cold, but not so bad. Until I climbed up the ridge. High winds, snow flurries and cold stayed with me for 9 miles until I got close to highway 501. The sun came out abt the walk next to the creek was lovely. I got lucky and caught a ride into town with the shuttle driver from Stanimal’s hostel. He has one down here too. So I came to the hostel and for a small fee I get a shower, laundry and a ride back to the trail later this afternoon. I did a hasty resupply at Dollar General and finally got my burger at Scottos.

So now I have some time to relax, shower and warm up. It’s a short 2 mile hike south to the next shelter, but I’m sure I’ll be tenting after the mouse fiasco at Cow Camp.

So I’m watching Sharknado 5 with some NOBOs, and making the most of this time indoors.

Another beautiful day on the Appalachian Trail.

Shenandoah National Park Part Two

April 9 Day 21 Pinefield Hut

I had a lazy morning in the motel room watching the news and drinking coffee. Around 9:30 I went to the front office and asked if anyone could give me a ride to Swift Run Gap. Doug, the maintance guy said he’d take me up.

While I waited for Doug and drank more coffee, I watched the weather which called for flurries tapering off by noon and warmer temps. Good news for me. One more cold night. Just one more cold night then I’d be in the clear.

I hopped in Doug’s truck after slinging my pack in the back. Doug looks kind of like a surfer version of Iggy Pop. He talked nonstop about the motel with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. At the trailhead I thanked him for his time and he told me, “you have fun out there honey, and be careful.”

With a wave and a smile I headed over to the trail and began the climb up Hightop mountain. I got nice and warmed up and in an hour the flurries stopped like clockwork and it was a misty 11 mile hike here to the Hut. I really wanted to keep hiking but I know that tomorrow I’ll be tenting so I thought I’d take advantage of the shelter. There’s a nice spring that runs right in front and a couple of other hikers are here; Dave, a section hiker from Colorado, and Shoemaker, a NOBO from New Hampshire. Nice guys. It’s nice having company in the evening.

Tomorrow I’ll do about 17 or so miles, which will be really nice. I am so ready to kick it up a notch.

April 10 Day 22 Wildcat Ridge Tentsite

I cannot say how good the sun and warmth feels. Extraordinary.

This morning at 5am when I got up to pee I could see the stars. Much of the snow melted overnight. I was instantly happy and wide awake. I got my food bag down from the bear pole and went into the shelter to make my trail mocha. But then I decided to get into my sleeping bag and try to go back to sleep but that was not happening. I often have this quandary. But usually, once I am awake that’s it, I’m starting my day. Lately I’ve been on trail by 6:30 which is good.

I made my mocha and sat in my sleeping bag drinking it, watching the sky slowly grow lighter. Around quarter six I started getting organized and by that time Dave, the section hiker who was also sleeping in the shelter was awake. I munched down on a Probar and was soon hefting my pack up and grabbing my trekking poles. I hiked up and up, getting to a viewpoint looking east. There was still much snow on the trees and everything looked so wintery. Gorgeous. I took some photos and wrote off a few texts and then I was on my way. I reached the Loft Mt. campground looking for water but the faucets were still off. A few miles later I tried the faucets at a picnic area and bingo! I got rid of some garbage in the garbage cans and used the bathroom, just because it was there.

I ran into some Flip Floppers, hikers who start their thru hike somewhere near the middle of the trail, hike one direction, reach a terminus and then return to where they started to hike to the other terminus. Most Flip Floppers I meet are hiking north. Still haven’t met any SOBOs. I’m a lone wolf.

Speaking of wolves I am about two thirds finished with Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I’ve been meaning to read this book for years and years, and when I went into the local bookstore in Ukiah before leaving for the trail it was part of a women’s history month display. I took it as a sign and bought it, and I’m so glad I did.

I’m lying in my tent looking at the blue sky. It’s going to be cold tonight, around 28, but that’s ok. Tomorrow is a town day! Yay!

April 11 Day 23 Stanimal’s 328 Hostel, Waynesboro

I wasn’t planning on staying in a hostel so soon after getting a motel room but I heard so many good things about Stanimal (that’s his trail name) and this place that I decided to give it a go. It’s a block or two from everything a hiker needs; resupply, ice cream shop, Subway, and a steak house. I got a Subway sandwich to pack out on the trail tomorrow and I’m very excited about that.


Last night something was walking around in the leaves near my tent, and at one point it came up to my tent and growled. It wasn’t a bear so I’m not sure what it was. Too small to be a bear. I was perfectly still in my sleeping bag and after about 5 minutes I decided that since it didn’t attack, then I’m probably going to be fine. So I put in my earplugs and woke myself up at 5 am snoring and drooling on my inflatable pillow. As I was taking down my tent I heard a rustle in the leaves and the same growl and I said, “Ok, I get it, I’m leaving!” The growling stopped.

I still can’t figure out what kind of animal it was. Hmmmm.

I hiked 16.2 miles to Rockfish Gap in about 7 hours where Stanimal said he’d pick me up. I was a bit early so I headed over to the gourmet popcorn stand and got a hot dog with fries and Gatorade. They forgot my fries and to make up for it they made me a huge box of fries. Good by me! Whenever I get right off trail and eat I am always very self conscious because I kind of stuff my face. Fortunately there were not too many people around so I devoured that food in minutes flat.

Stanimal picked me up and we drove to the hostel here in Waynesboro and he showed me around. I claimed a little bunk in a tiny room with a window and put on loaner clothes while I washed my hiker clothes. I did my resupply and got sandwiches. And ice cream. Then a shower. Laundry is done. Now I can relax and get to bed early.

I’ll be out for 4 days to get to he next stop, Glasgow. On Friday I’ll climb a notorious mountain, The Priest, which I’m kind of excited about. I do love a big climb. Did I say that?

Another stellar day on the Appalachian Trail.

Shenandoah National Park Part One

April 4 Day 16 Gravel Spring Hut

Possible came over to the Cabbin around 7am to make breakfast for myself and Don, an older gentleman who arrived at the Cabbin around 9pm last night. Don is not a hiker, he just likes to get away, he says. Turns out Don’s parents and my great grandmother were at Whittier College in the 1920s. Did they know each other? We both pondered this as we drank coffee and ate French toast.

I had such a great time at this place; good conversation and good people. It’s nice to meet folks who are down to earth and not competitive with something to prove.

I’m happy to be hiking by myself again (I have been for the last few days), and I set off for Gravel Springs Hut in the Shenandoah National Park. In the Park shelters are called Huts. Cute.

It was cloudy and rainy for the first four miles and then the wind picked up and blew the weather away. I felt like I was climbing all day, and in a sense I was. I got to the top of Marshall Mountain and it was clear and windy. Gorgeous.

The Appalachian Trail follows the Skyline Highway through the Park. I crossed it several times and saw the sign for the Hut. A lovely little spring runs next to it and so far I have the place to myself.

It looks like tomorrow is going to be nice weather so I’ll try for the Byrd’s Nest Hut about 18 miles down the trail.

Good night!

April 5 Day 17 Byrd’s Nest #3

What a day. I left camp before the sun came up and hiked on frozen trail for 6 miles to the Elkwallow Wayside. Waysides are little stores along the trail in the Park. I walked inside and immediately felt the relief of hot air. Then I saw the short order breakfast bar. Hot coffee, eggs, hash browns, toast and sausage made this hiker happy. The bathroom had hot water! Heaven. I washed my face and hands and headed back out to tackle the rest of my 19 mile day.

The trail was nice all day, gentle ups and downs, some section hikers to chat with and a nice big climb up here to the Nest. A lovely spot I am sharing with father and son section hikers. There is a fireplace in the shelter and I got a fire going when I got here. Helps keep critters away and I like the ambiance.

I feel great, it is nice to get a good day in before the weather comes in this weekend. Tomorrow evening I’ll be at the Big Meadows Campground; there’s a wayside there as well as a lodge. A good place to be in a storm. It’s not supposed to be s big one like the last storm! Thankfully.

April 6 Day 18 Big Meadow Campground

I hiked 15 miles in about 6 hours to get here to the campground. Usually I don’t like campgrounds because they are loud but I figured that since the weather is going to turn tomorrow that there wouldn’t be too many folks around. I was right. I found the ranger station and the helpful folks showed me the hiker/biker campsite behind the station for $5. Not bad. Right next to it is the showers and laundry. I know what I’m doing this evening! I thought to myself.

But first I walked down to the wayside to get a burger only to find that they were out of burgers. How can such a thing happen, I wondered as I ate my chicken sandwich. At least I still got French fries.

I did a quick resupply at the expensive wayside store and returned to do my laundry and take a long, hot shower. Ten minutes, exactly. I even had soap, shampoo and conditioner. What luxury.

So here I sit in the laundry mat trying to plan out the next four days and it all depends on the weather. To an extent. It’s gonna get cold and I guess I’m ready for that. I am just tired of the cold and really ready for some warmer temps. I’ll take what comes, as any hiker does, and make the most of it.

Now I have to go eat my salad because it is there. And I need my greens.

April 7 Day 19 Bearfence Hut

The forecast called for rain starting around midnight, high winds and then snow. When I woke up at 5am my tent was dry. Sweet! I got up, packed my things and walked over to the laundry room. It’s open 24 hours, which is nice. It was warm. I ate breakfast and made a trail mocha outside. I sat around and tried to decide what to do. Should I hike 8 miles to the next hut or 22 miles to the one after that? I decided to go for the easy day, and I’m glad I did, even if I feel like a lazy hiker for doing so. I got here around noon and made a fire just as the snow started coming down. I used the rainfly from my tent and made a little cubby inside the shelter to protect me from the wind. So far it’s working great! The fire is too far away to keep me warm but that’s ok. Whenever I get up to pee I warm up over the fire and jump back in my little cocoon.

A day hiker stopped by for a bit and asked me why I didn’t hike to the hut 4 miles down the trail, and I told him that that hut requires a reservation and there is a fee. He didn’t seem to believe me and kind of chided me for only hiking 8 miles. As he got up to leave he told me that he hiked 19 miles today and still had 3 more to go. Okay, day hiker dude. Do your thing and I’ll do mine.

There’s maybe a half inch out there now and the snow is suppose to taper off the evening. Hopefully. I’m tired of being cold, but I know that further down the line the trail will reward me with nice weather and easy miles.

April 8 Day 20 Country View Motel, Elkton, VA

What a day! Last night I slept in 2 hour bits; deep sleep for two hours, awake listening to the mice scurry around for a half hour; repeat until 5am. I was packed and ready to go by 6am. It was cold. Not just cold, but frigid. The low was 18 degrees but the wind made it much, much colder. I figured that by the time I got going I would warm up.

Two hours and 5 miles down the trail I was still shivering. I had a nice sizable ascent and thought that would do the trick. And it did! I followed coyote tracks up the hill and at the top I stopped to pee and drink water.

And then the wind really picked up. I was sweating and shivering. I picked up my pace and hoped for the best but I just couldn’t get warm again. The sun was out and melting the snow and the wind was blowing snow off the trees; it was lovely. I knew tonight was going to be another frigid night so I made the call to go get a motel. I knew I could not get warm enough to be comfortable, let alone safe, as I was.

The forecast is calling for some snow tomorrow morning with clearing in the afternoon. Temps will slowly get warmer over the next few days and by Friday highs will be in the 70s. I’ll play it by ear and see how things are in the morning.

I feel relieved that I am here in this toasty warm room. And grateful that I have the resources to get myself to a safe place.

I got to Swift Run Gap and some hikers gave me a ride to town. I wanted to get a few things at the 7-11 to munch on in the room. A woman walked up to me and asked if I was an AT hiker. I said I was and she offered to give me a ride wherever I needed to go. So she drove me a couple of miles back to towards the trail where this motel is. The kindness of strangers never ceases to awe me.

I finally feel like my brain is thawing out so I’ll post this with photos. I am so happy to have finally gotten my trail legs, grateful for strangers, in awe of unconditional kindness, pleased to see the weather finally starting to turn, and finally, grateful for all my loved ones for their support. I love you all.

Harper’s Ferry, WV to Front Royal, VA

March 31 Day 12 David Lesser Shelter

Benjamin, the man who owns and runs the Teahorse Hostel, came upstairs around 7:30 to make waffles for Serena, myself and one other individual, a traveler who is not a hiker. We sat around the table and drank coffee and ate waffles for about a half hour. The traveler was rather confounded with our hiking and seemed to have a difficult time understanding what the trail is and how it is hiked. We directed him to the Conservancy down the street and hopefully he went there today and found the answers he was looking for from us.

Check out time was 10am and I walked down to the post office to send my inferior inflatable mat to Keith along with a special AT souvenir. And a pair of socks and an extra shirt which I don’t think I’ll be needing any longer.

The shelter is about 8 or so miles south of town and a pleasant hike. Nice to have another easy-ish day. There is one other person here and he is very nice. It looks to be a chilly night, it’s windy but I’m very cozy in the shelter on Keith’s insulated Big Agnes inflatable sleeping pad.

My life is complete!

April 1 Day 13 Sam Moore Shelter

I got out of camp at 7am which made me very happy. I was following the ridge line south when I came across a herd of white tailed deer. I couldn’t believe how long their tails were! They were very large and fast. I glimpsed nearly a dozen of them as they headed down the ridge.

After about 7 miles I came to a spring where I filled my water bottles and prepared to enter The Rollercoaster. This is a 13.7 mile stretch of the AT that has many, many ups and downs. Trailboss and his crew of volunteers built this section of the trail some years ago as an alternative to a lengthy road walk. It is pretty spectacular. Gorgeous little hollows are at the bottom of most of the hills where springs and creeks are running very nicely this time of the year. This shelter is about half way through the Rollercoaster, and tomorrow I’ll get through the rest and climb a mountain at the end of it! Good hiking but exhausting. I am really looking forward to entering the Shenandoah National Park on Wednesday. This is a part of the country I have never seen.

I love it.

Right now I have that familiar feeling of being tired, sore and content. Again I met my goal, again I got to the place where I told myself I would get to. I could have stopped earlier.

Here I am.

Time to read a bit and fall asleep by 8pm.

Another amazing day on the Appalachian Trail.

April 2 Day 14 Whisky Hollow Shelter

It started raining in the middle of the night but I was cozy as can be in the shelter. I woke up only twice in the night, which means that last night was one of the better nights sleep I’ve gotten so far. Around 5am I got up to go use the privy. It was dark and so foggy that when I turned on my headlamp all I could see was mist. This is exactly why I always locate the privy the evening before so I can find it in the dark.

I got up there and when I opened the door a smallish black widow was the first thing I saw. It was to the left up in a corner. In the space of about a tenth if a second I calculated the likelihood of being attacked by the spider and could I dig a cat hole in the woods before I entered dire circumstances. I went for it. The whole time I sat in that privy I never took my eyes off that spider. Thank goodness for headlamps!

After my brush with death I decided to make breakfast and a trail mocha (hot coco with Starbucks Via packer). I packed up, left a Snickers bar for a still sleeping Serena and Loki (today is his birthday) and I was hiking before 7am. Getting closer to my target 6:30am time.

I got through the second half of the famed Rollercoaster and took a quick lunch about 7 miles into my 15 mile day. It was chilly and overcast all morning and I was happy to get moving again.

When I had five miles to go I ran into another Boy Scout troop. The adults that watch after those boys sure do have a lot of patience. I wished them happy hiking and began a nice gentle ascent up into Sky Lands (?) State Park. Very nice. I crossed paths with a NOBO named Overhill who started in Georgia in early February. Admirable.

I got here to this shelter and met two section hikers from Indiana who are very friendly. We chatted all things trail and now we are all resting, reading and journaling. I have the downstairs section of the shelter all to myself, which is nice.

Today was the first day I felt really strong and nimble on the trail. During the snow I felt so weighted down by layers and such; I know they were necessary but it’s so nice to be back to wearing my usual hiking garb.

At least for today!

April 3 Day 15 Mountain Cabbin Home

Tonight I’m staying in a very old “Cabbin” that used to be slaves’ quarters in the early 1800s. It is next to a larger house that is a bed and breakfast, owned by two thru hikers, Anything (Lisa) and Possible (Scott). I met Possible when I walked up around 2pm. I had called ahead of time to reserve a bunk, and so far I’m the only one here.

Possible let me choose some loaner clothes while I do my laundry and right now I’m wearing a sleeveless white t-shirt and black stirrup pants.

Stirrup pants.

Possible is out running a hiker, Caretaker, back to Harper’s Ferry. Caretaker gave me a ton of food from the resupply he won’t be needing since he is leaving the trail. I’m stoked! I have 95 percent of the food I’ll need for my next section.

Thanks Caretaker!

So I’m relaxing, and later Possible said he’d take me into Front Royal for anything I might need.

Tomorrow I’ll hike into Shenandoah National Park. So exciting! I feel like a real hiker again. Stirrup pants and all.