Silver City to Doc Campbell’s Post

April 15 CDT mile 161 Silver City

A zero day today. Zero miles hiked. I needed this today and while I am waiting for Keith’s Big Agnes tent to arrive I am resting in the Silver City RV Park with Boomer. Some GET hikers (Grand Enchantment Trail) have arrived and I’m asking them about the Gila River. Is it too high? Yes. Is it cold. Oh heck yes. Is it swift? Yes. I’ve been researching an alternate route to Doc’s and I think I have found one. I don’t like dangerous river crossings.

April 16 Gila Alternate mile 9.6

I found OB at the post office right when it opened this morning and we walked back to the RV park to say goodbye to Boomer, who is leaving the trail for a couple of weeks while his feet heal. Instead of jumping back on the CDT we took the Walnut alternate for seven and a half miles to begin the Gila alternate. I love all these alternates! So great. Today was an absolutely stellar day to be alive and hiking. Nice trail, perfect weather and an interesting change in scenery. About a mole from our stopping point we sat on some rocks and looked out over a huge valley full of hoodoos and distant peaks. Wow. Just wow.

We turned a corner and came to the “Regis-Tree” which is a mailbox covered in bark containing a trail register. It was sitting on top of a nice piece of juniper that had been cut to fit the registry. We signed in and looked around at some great tenting spots. I dropped my pack and started to set up. All of the sudden I hear someone coming down the trail. Tris guy just walks out of the woods. He introduced himself as Doug the Hermit. He’s the keeper of the Regis-Tree. In the next two hours OB and I learned all about Doug’s life out here and he really is an honest to god hermit. He leaves the mountain once a year for two weeks to “do things like go to REI and see my kids.”

He’s very devout and gave OB and I a Benedictine pendant on yucca twine that he made. Apparently St Benedict protects against the forces of nature such as floods, storms and things like that. Thanks Doug!

April 17 Spring Canyon Alternate mile 4

We climbed all morning. Up and down, then up some more to Tortoise Ridge at almost 8,000 feet. It started to snow. Oh, last night we had thunder and lightning and rain all night. It makes the land smell amazing. We lost the trail and did some bushwhacking to find it again then it was cruiser trail for a good 6 miles. We had cold windy weather all day and when we finally dropped down to the Gila we happily turned east to the Spring Canyon trail that will take us 8 miles to a road that will then take us to Doc’s. The idea of having to cross a waist, or even chest deep Gila about 75 times in 20 miles in the cold did not seem reasonable to us.

So we’re on an alternate to the alternate, which is pretty great because it is gorgeous out here and there is nobody on this trail. I saw some slot canyons and majestic rock formations.

What a day. I’m in my sleeping bag getting ready to read myself to sleep, a notion that seems like such a luxury out here.

Tomorrow we get to Doc’s.

April 18 Gila River Alternate mile 38.9

After shaking the frost off our tents, OB (stands for Old and Busted) and I were hiking over hills towards road 15. This Spring Canyon Alternate has been fabulous. Lots of great views, no people, lots of wilderness. We got to the road around 9 and after grabbing a couple of liters from Sapillo creek we were ready to road walk 14 miles to Doc’s. I don’t like road walks but this one was pretty ok. Very little traffic, lots of shoulder and shade. We got about 12 miles in and Redwood, who is a trail angel, stopped and offered us a ride. Molly Molly, a Grand Enchantment Trail hiker who I met in Silver City, was getting a ride to Doc’s. Nice to see her again. We got ice cream, I got my package thanks to my outstandingly wonderful boyfriend, and after organizing everything I headed down to the Gila River Hot Springs and Campground. It’s great here. OB are tenting on the river with two other CDT hikers, Greg and Dustin, a father and son duo. I chatted about water sources and trail alternates with Allen, the owner. Everyone here is so nice and it makes me very happy to find such people. We’re getting a ride to the cliff dwellings tomorrow from some other campers and so we don’t have to walk 5 miles on the road. So that’s nice.

Words cannot express how soaking in hot springs felt so I’m not even going to try.

And they have baby goats! Everywhere!

Hiker Mike’s good luck charm.

Lordsburg to Silver City

April 11 CDT mile 106

I hit the 100 mile marker today! It was written in tape on the side of a cattle trough that was also my water source. Yay! I’m still surprised at my mileage, I guess I thought I’d have to work up to these kinds of miles but here I am.

Boomer and I left Lordsburg around 7:30am and I was pleased that our 3 mile road walk had a generous shoulder for us. I don’t like rod walks and this trail has a number of them. Sigh.

We cut across the desert slowly climbing and ran into Trail Dog and Marmot, and OB. We all took a break together in the sun and marveled that it wasn’t too hot. It’s supposed to cool down in the next few days and we all welcome the change.

The last few miles today were a struggle. I was tired and my feet hurt from the cross country miles. The CDT isn’t always a nice clearly seen path. Lots of times it’s just signs every 500 yards or so. This kind of trail is rocky and well, there is no trail. Ugh!

When Boomer and I got to the water source it was a pond. Not the good kind. It was super windy and it took me 5 tries and about an hour to get my tent up. I had a minor meltdown and Boomer helped me get it pitched, finally! I decided then and there to ask Keith to send me his Big Agnes tent. My ultralight tent is proving to be lacking in certain areas that I find crucial in a tent. One of them being it requires a lot of finesse and patience to pitch correctly and usually at the end of a hiking day I just want to pitch a tent and get in it.

So yeah, I’m appreciating this tent now but I know our days are numbered!

100 miles!

Brandon enjoying a nice foot soak.

OB and Flat Mona (his wife).

April 12 CDT mile 123 Burro Mt. Homestead

I broke camp to the sound of OB, TD and Marmot passing by on trail. We caught up with them soon and we were all merrily hiking down some pretty nice, well marked trail. Cruiser trail as I like to call it. I just cruise down trail. Soon we came to our first trail magic of this trail: a water cache. Radar left five gallons of water next to the trail under a tree. The best! We all cameled up and said goodbye to Boomer, who was going to try to find a ride to Silver City. His feet have lots of blisters on them and he needs them to heal. I’ll see him again on Sunday when I get there.

As OB and I reached the base of Jacks Peak and Burro Mt it started to snow. Just small flakes floating through the air. Nothing sticking or anything. It made the 2,000 foot climb up really nice. Beautiful. As I climbed the landscape changed and soon I found myself in among tall pines and cedars. It smelled like home. I felt elated! Soon we reached the summit of Jacks Peak and evaluated our water situation. I had enough to make it the four miles to the RV park, as did OB, so we donned our warmer clothing and gloves for the descent. But first we had to climb a short distance up Burro Mt. Then we dropped down and took a well marked dirt road down a mile to the RV park. So nice. We found the camp host, Dave, and he told us where to pitch our tents and where to find the free showers.

After getting set up I took a long hot shower. Utterly divine.

The sun is down and it’s supposed to be cold tonight. Goodnight!

April 13 CDT mile 143

It was incredibly cold last night. There was ice on the walls inside my tent. This tent is single walled, which means you don’t put a rain fly on it. It doesn’t need it. The company that makes it recommends leaving the rain flaps open to reduce condensation, which is what I did. Big mistake. Every time I got up to pee I hit my head on the icy walls. My sleeping bag got wet. So after about four hours of hiking this morning I laid it out flat in the sun to dry. Good to go!

Anyway, tent drama aside, today was a great day hiking. I had cruiser trail most of the day and have found a lovely spot to camp for the night out of the wind.

Tomorrow I’ll hike into Silver City! Yay!

I find sooooo many of these things on long hikes. Litter.

April 14 CDT mile 161 Silver City

Last night was not nearly as cold as the night before so I actually got a good night of sleep. I packed up and walked 6 miles down a small canyon that opened up as I dropped in elevation. Huge granite rock formations lined the canyon and I realized that the desert here is a body and mind connection: the landscape is the body and the light is the mind. Morning light makes the rocks speak. As the sun gets higher and the canyon floor is exposed the junipers change color and their fragrance is a bit muted. The cows stand behind me as I fill my water bottle from their trough.

Thanks cows!

I got to the highway and prepared myself for the 13 mile road walk into town. I started walking and soon realized that this road walk sucks. Big time. Just as I was thinking this a truck pulled over and a young woman asked me if I needed a ride. I jumped in and Mary Jane drove me town. We chatted about how nice it is to live in the mountains and she told me how she usually picks up hikers on her way to work. I thanked her as she dropped me off at Denny’s.

After inhaling an omelet, I texted Boomer and I met him over at McDonalds. Soon OB walked in, he got a ride to town too. Looks like most of us are going to take a zero day (zero miles hiked) and head out on Tuesday, hopefully, if I get my tent.

The next stretch is an alternate that follows the Gila River. The river has been pretty high this spring but it is dropping steadily and should be safe for us when we pass through. We’ll cross the river around 200 times, so it’s important that it is low enough.

It looks like pizza delivery for dinner tonight and a good sleep. Tomorrow I’ll pick up a few things at the outfitter here and camp at the RV park here in town. Feels good to relax after this challenging week.

Thanks for reading,

-Cougar

Southern Terminus to Lordsburg, NM

April 6 CDT Mile 16.2

The rain that started about 10 minutes before I pitched my tent did not last long. We could see it ahead of us, and we had no choice but to walk into it. Shortly after I had thrown my things out of my pack and into the tent the rain cleared. The clouds literally disappeared and now it is clear. I have my tent doors open listening to a mourning dove in the distance.

Tomorrow I hope to see a roadrunner.

So much has happened today, and I am so exhausted all I can do is observe. The telling of such a day will have to wait until I can be more articulate.

This is a divine feeling. This observing.

April 7 CDT mile 39

Wow! We ended up camping at a cow camp which is not one of the water caches the CDTC set out for us, but we didn’t want to do a 12 mile day or a 29 mile day so here we are. I am camped with the hikers I’ve been hiking with since the southern terminus: Dan (The Governor) and his mom Vic, and JD and Boomer, two retired hikers who met on the AT. Many CDT hikers have hiked other trails but this is Vic’s first. I hiked with them most of the day, the guys were a bit behind us.

The Continental Divide Trail Coalition (CDTC) has set up five water caches in this first 86 mile section; this comes with the shuttle that I paid for, as well as a goodie back with hiker stuff in it and a year long membership. They work super hard for hikers and they are much appreciated by this hiker.

I am worn out and done with all my hiker chores (filtering water, making dinner, cleaning off my feet, stretching, this all after setting up my tent.)

Off to sleep.

April 8 CDT mile 58.3

A good day. I was hiking in the dark this morning and saw a jackrabbit the size of a small deer in the trail. Now I understand where the whole jackalope thing came from. And about an hour later an owl swooped right in front of me while I was hiking up a wash. Vic and Dan caught me about a mile from the third water cache and I hiked with them for a bit. They hike fast! I was still tired from yesterday and they wanted to do 24 miles. Not this girl. I stopped at the fourth water cache and I’m so glad I did. My feet thank me. It was super hot today and along the trail ranchers set out tired filled with water for cows. And hikers. I took some time to cool off and boy did it make a difference! Bringing the core temp down makes me feel so much better.

Boomer was behind me and he should be here any minute now. It’s nice to camp with friends.

Tomorrow I’m going to get up super early and hike hopefully half of the twenty miles I need to hike to the next and last cache. There are some more tires with water along the way so I should be good. It’s just so much better to hike in the dark. So much cooler.

April 9 CDT mile 78.4

Today was hotter than yesterday and I was glad to be up hiking at 4:30am. A good day. I must have lost the trail at least two dozen times in the first four miles. Frustrating. Boomer was not far behind me and we found Dan and Vic at the water trough that I had briefly considered yesterday. We all hiked together for a few miles to a sweet water source for cattle. This tower and pump were solar operated and while the tower created shade for Boomer and myself, the solar panels created shade for D and V. The water was delicious and ice cold. We all soaked ourselves. Boomer and I congratulated ourselves on getting 10 before 10: ten miles before 10am. A first for me! Whoop!

After that we ran into Trail Dog and Marmot who I met when I first got off the bus. They found Vic’s trekking pole. Hopefully Boomer can get it back to her in town. They hike so fast we may not catch them.

So here I am just past the last cache, waiting for my Mac and cheese to cool so I can wolf it down.

Tomorrow I’ll get up early again and hike the eight miles to Lordsburg. McDonalds is calling me.

April 10 CDT mile 86 Lordsburg

Well, here I am chilling out at the Econo Lodge in JD and Boomer’s room, waiting for my room to be ready. I ran my hiker errands at the Dollar General and now I’m ready for the next stretch to Silver City.

Earlier we were in McDonalds and we ran into Radar, who organizes the shuttles and water caches for the hikers. We told him about Vic’s trekking pole and he said that maybe later today he could figure out a way to get it to her. Radar seems to know where any hiker is on trail at any given time. He’s also a great resource in terms of trail knowledge and alternates. It’s nice to have someone like him around, for sure.

Thank you friends for reading, and until next time!

-Cougar

CDT Preparation

March 24 2019 12 Days until start date

Whew. Just got off the phone with Kaiser pharmacy people who assured me I would be able to pick up my prescriptions this week. It was a rather stressful weekend as I checked the website and saw that I wouldn’t be able to pick them up until late May. Ugh. So to say that I am relieved is a bit of an understatement. These kinds of mood vicissitudes are pretty common at this stage of hike planning and I have learned to just go with the flow of them and not try to ignore them. I know the anxiety will pass so I focus on that thought and find that I am actually able to be a productive human for the remainder of that day. The idea is to tire myself out so that I will be able to sleep and then ideally be better able to solve whatever issue is at hand.

Like today. I chatted with the guy on the phone about my hike and we briefly shared a mutual admiration for the Wind River Range in Wyoming. So that’s nice.

Tomorrow I’m taking the final step in my resupply preparation. I have most of the items I need for these boxes (there are 10 of them) and so mostly all I have to do is set up the boxes on the large table Keith made for me for this purpose and place the things in the boxes. I’ll write the addresses on labels and pin them to each box. I’ll leave the boxes open in case Keith needs to add anything to them. Mostly these boxes consist of hiker food (mac and cheese, ramen, Knorr pasta sides, Clif bars, Snickers bars, dried fruit, Pop Tarts, PB, electrolytes, caffeine, and other trash). I still have to get protein powder but other than that I’m ready.

When I go to Santa Rosa to pick up my meds I’ll stop by REI and pick up my new hiking pole tips, which I noticed are broken so I had some new ones shipped to the store. I’ll also get my new insulated inflatable Big Agnes SLX Q Core sleeping pad. Because getting the best sleep possible is extremely high on my to do list while hiking. And that just about completes the gathering aspect of my hike prep. Once all that is over I can cruise through my last week of work and not have to think about all that. Ideally! But honestly until I get on the airplane I’ll be attempting to rethink my decisions and I know better than to do that so I’ll be telling myself to shhhh, zip it! quite a bit.

And that’s ok.

 

Mt. Whitney Trail

October 1 Whitney Portal Tent Campground: For Hikers Only!

I was on the road at 4am today and I reached the Visitors Center south of Lone Pine at 12:30 this afternoon. Not bad time. Of course I’ve never made that specific drive before and much of it was on two lane curvy roads. Thank the universe for Dramamine! And the sweet, smart man who picked it up for me. I took two tablets last night before I went to bed and it worked wonders today. I had a lot of anxiety about getting a permit for much of the drive; that and the weather. I ended up getting a permit for a day hike; 22 miles and a little over 6,000 feet in gain. I was planning on camping overnight in the Mt. Whitney Zone, but since weather will be coming in I decided to do the whole hike in one day. Oh boy. I plan on getting up in the middle of the night to start hiking. There are supposed to be snow showers with periods of sun tomorrow. I should be fine. I am prepared with clothing and snacks and I’ll bring my stove, cook pot and sleeping bag for emergency purposes. I usually don’t “what if” with gear but since my bag will be super light, and the possibility of unpredictable weather, I feel alright with that decision. Also the idea of making some hot coco on the summit is enticing.

October 2 Lone Pine

12:30 am came pretty fast especially considering I could not fall asleep until 10pm or so. Ugh. I woke minutes before my alarm was supposed to go off and soon I was packing up my tent and walking my gear over to the car. There was a bear box next to the car and I got my bear can put to make breakfast. I quickly heated up some water for oatmeal and packed up my pack. I decided against the sleeping bag to save on weight and compromised by taking my stove and cook pot with an image of me sitting on the summit making hot coco.

It was 1:15am when I took a selfie next to the Mt. Whitney Trail sign. I slurped down a Gu packet and was off. I could see the headlamps of some hikers coming down the trail. As I passed them they seemed tired. I wondered what I would feel like on my way down.

Soon I caught up to some other hikers heading up who also left early. I chatted with a man from Beijing and it was fun to talk about that city for a bit. His group stopped for a break and I kept going.

The clouds started to move in and the moon ducked in and out of them. I could see the muted, dark shapes of massive slabs of rock all around me. I could no longer hear the hikers behind me, and once I had been hiking for about an hour and a half I was completely alone in the dark and it was silent. I reached a plateau of sorts and turned off my headlamp for a few minutes. I felt so completely removed from my life that it did not even cross my mind. I was just another mammal in the woods. I was nameless. I was a cougar walking in the dark trying to catch the light of the moon.

I reached the first camping area allowed in the Whitney Zone. There were a number of dark tents on both sides of the trail. I tried to be quiet and held my trekking poles in my hand as I passed.

I began climbing again and for the next two hours I followed a distant headlamp up the mountain.

I took a break finally and filled my water bottles as I ate a ProBar. As soon as I unwrapped the bar a mouse darted out from under a rock and sat down right in front of me, looking up at me. I was delighted and rewarded this brave being with a crumb of ProBar. I know, it’s not good to feed wild animals but this little creature was no stranger to human food. It quickly ate the crumb and ran back under it’s rock. Well done little one. I started to recite my favorite poem To A Mouse but stopped myself when I realized that this mouse was not “cowran” or “tim’rous” but a right assertive little mouse. Everyone evolves.

I got to the second camp and this time the tents were glowing with headlamps. I kept going, and looked up, up, way up to see a couple of headlamps. Wow, I thought. That is very far up.

And I kept going, after another small break.

This was right around the time it started snowing. And then the wind picked up. Up and up I went following the switchbacks, some of which were carved into the side of the mountain with dynamite.

The snow came and went and soon I was at the top of the ridgeline. Dawn broke and I took photos. I felt like I was crawling on the spine of some kind of ancient, avuncular being from another dimension. Or another time. The earth is alive, very alive, and when I am high enough, remote enough, alone enough, the essence of this life manifests itself in my imagination. That’s as real as life gets.

As these thoughts crossed my

mind I left the Mt. Whitney Trail and joined up with the John Muir Trail. I was now on the summit ridge, about 800 feel below and two miles from the summit. More photos. Dark, dark clouds rolled in and the snow came back with the wind. I remembered the sign at the trail junction. It said something to the effect of, if you see dark clouds, hear thunder, lightning, snow, ice, turn around now. I continued on for a bit and saw another hiker in front of me. He was stopped. I approached him and he asked if I was going to continue on. I said yes, and he nodded and kept going. I realized that when I said yes, it came out kind of muffled and I realized my face was frozen. After a bit longer, I stopped again and felt something on the back of my neck. I thought, what the heck is that? Then I heard a humming, kind of like power lines. Awwww, dang. I looked up and saw dark clouds. And that was when I turned around.

I’m not fearful of much in the backcountry but lightning is another story. And since I had no way of knowing what weather would roll in next, and that getting off this mountain was a time consuming process, I did not want to gamble.

I encountered a number of hikers during the course of my return hike, some going the same direction as me who had also turned around. The hikers going up asked me about conditions and I told them. Everyone has a different threshold as to their safety.

I took my time hiking down and stopped often to watch the clouds and sit in the sun when it appeared. The snow had turned into occasional rain which I was ok with. I had borrowed Keith’s rain jacket and I’m so glad I did. It kept me warm and dry and my wool base layers were dry. My Smartwool PhD running tights performed admirably, per usual. I remember glissading down Forester Pass on the PCT wearing these babies and although they got wet, I was warm and felt dry. Same as today. By the time I got to my car they were completely dry.

As I neared m car it dawned on me that this day was probably one of the best days ever hiking. Very few days come close to the scenery, the cool hikers I met, the conditions, my good decision making.

Decision making. This one is important for me. For so many years I failed miserably at decision making. Of course I was active in my addictions and alcoholism so making solid decisions was not a reality for me. When I got sober and learned how to make good decisions for myself, with the help of some stellar professionals, my confidence bloomed and that was right around the time I got serious about hiking and backpacking.

And everything changed for me.

It continues to change.

I made the decision to turn around and so was ok with it. I wasn’t so invested in the summit that I was ready to sacrifice my decision making skills to achieve it. This is quite a revelation for me and I am not surprised that it happened on trail.

I drove down to Lone Pine and got a motel room with a free breakfast. That is a must for me. I went out and got a burger. Back to the room for a shower. I talked to Keith and my mom and around 7pm I crashed hard until 6:30am. After breakfast I hit the road, looking longingly at Whitney but also knowing that I’ll be back.

I stopped off at Travertine Hot Springs outside of Bridgeport for a quick soak; it felt good to be in hot springs. Everything felt good even though I was very sore.

And then the next thing I knew I was home. What a grand day out.

Hot Springs, NC to Springer Mt, GA

May 23 Day 65 Roaring Fork Shelter

I may have said this before but I don’t really like sleeping in shelters; I like to use them for lunch breaks during the day and if the weather is particularly bad I will sleep in them. But on days like today I like to tent near shelters so I can use the privy, the bear cables (thick wires hanging from trees that hikers hang their food bags from), and the picnic table to cook my food. Tonight there’s another hiker here and it’s nice to talk Trail, books, and trail towns while making dinner. Now I’m in my tent reflecting on my day.

I left Elmer’s around 6:30 and I was happy as usual to get an early start. It was 18 miles to this shelter and lots of elevation gain so I was glad to get out early.

The clouds slowly cleared and most of the day was sunny, which was very nice. It’s been so rainy lately so the sun was welcome even if it did bump temps into the low 80s.

I was getting ready to hike up one of the last steep ascents when I passed a young woman and a teenage boy. We said hi to each other and I kept hiking. A minute or two later I heard what sounded like a child crying and then screaming for his mom. I came around the corner and a young boy around eight crying and hiking down the trail. I asked him if he was ok, and he told me he fell down and hurt his knee. I stopped and took off my pack, and asked him if he wanted me to look at. He nodded and I suggested that he take his pack off. There was a hole in his pants over his knee. I helped him take his pack off and he pulled up the leg of his pants. He had a scrape but nothing serious. I asked him if he could bend his knee, and he did. He had calmed down a bit and I told him that he would be ok, and that it’s ok to fall down. I pulled out my snack bag and gave him a mini Snickers bar, telling him that chocolate always helps. He smiled and put it in his pocket. He drank some water and took some deep breaths. I asked him if he was ready to keep hiking and he said yes. I helped him get his pack back on. I could hear his mom and brother down the hill, and as he got going, he said, “Thank you nice lady!”

That kid is tough.

I came across a few other hikers and stopped to talk to several of them. The more time I spend hiking by myself the more I enjoy having conversations with other hikers. I also love times like right now; relaxing in my tent, full belly, clean feet, reflecting on the day. I feel good.

May 24 Day 66 Standing Bear Hostel

Sunrise on Max Patch was incredible. It’s one of those places that I’ve been hearing about since Maine. And it definitely lived up to the hype. I got up extra early and was hiking up the two miles to the summit. Spectacular! There were some hikers camped out up on the summit and I was surprised that none of them were outside their tents to see what I was seeing. I hung out for a few minutes, took photos and sent off a tent to Keith and my family.

The rest of my day was rather uneventful, comparatively speaking. Lots of downhill to the hostel where I hoped my resupply box was waiting for me.

Standing Bear Farm is .2 miles off the trail and I arrived around 1:45 after hiking 15 miles. I was tired. My package had not arrived, but about 10 minutes later the mail arrived and there it was! Whew! Always a relief to see packages. It means that I can get a super early start tomorrow and not wait around for it to arrive.

I decided to stay here rather than hike out, I feel very tired today and tomorrow is going to be a big day, over 6,000 feet in gain. I want to get a good rest and I also really wanted a shower, since I know I won’t get one until next Wednesday when I get to the Fontana Hilton. It’s not really a Hilton, but everyone calls this particular shelter that because it’s really nice, has bathrooms and a shower and charging stations for electronics. Posh!

I’m going to sleep early in hopes of getting, as I already mentioned, a super early start for my big day tomorrow.

Cougar’s Big Day!

May 25 Day 67 TriCorner Shelter

Cougar’s Big Day indeed. I beat my record of 519 floors on my FitBit. New record? 639 floors.

Whoa!

I figured that today I had about 6,000 feet of gain, and 18.3 miles. Roughly. It was sunny and warm much of the day and I got some good views but then the rain came. Fortunately it stopped just long enough for me to set up my tent here at the shelter.

I am exhausted.

May 26 Day 68 Icewater Shelter

The thing I love about the Smokies is that the AT follows a ridge line the whole way; the trail dips down some, and up some, but it is ridge walking. High ridge walking. I like that. Especially today, the ridge was very narrow, and fog surrounded the trail on both sides. I felt like I was following a thin, moss and tree lined path into the clouds. And I was. The wind stunted trees hold a special place in my heart. They are residents of another realm, a place of extreme weather, a place where living is challenging. They survive, grow and are radiant in their tones of green.

So many shades of green.

It rained much of today and I only had a five minute window to dry my tent, but by the time I got here to the shelter and set up the semi dry tent I didn’t care that it wasn’t totally dry. Things like this just don’t bother me anymore.

At least not today.

May 27 Day 69 Silers Bald Shelter

What a day. I saw a small birds nest buried in the moss on the side of the trail. I hit the highest point on the AT at Clingman’s Dome. Some day hikers told me about a tropical storm in the gulf that will be hitting land tonight, which means rain, rain and rain. It is raining now. I am so glad to be in a shelter. So glad. Even though I have a dry tent, I’d like to keep it that way. It is supposed to be very rainy for the next 48 hours.

Ugh.

I know I’ve said before that I don’t mind the rain but really, I’ve had so much of it this spring that it would be nice to have clear skies for an extended period of time. I don’t think it is going to happen.

I’ve met some interesting folks here at the shelter and it is a good place to be.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring? My bet is on hiking in the rain.

May 28 Day 70 Mollie’s Ridge Shelter

Well, the rain stopped around 5am and by 8:30, after I had been hiking in the misty drippy green grasses along the trail for two and a half hours, the rain started up again. A few times during the day it stopped for a half hour or so. That’s it. I was very very happy to make it here to my goal. 17 miles in the rain is not bad. Funny, I usually have good solid big days when it rains.

There’s some nice hikers here, there usually are at shelters. It’s been nice lately to have feminine company; there’s always so many guys. And of course mostly they are nice guys but I do miss the hiking women in my life.

I am looking forward to hiking out of the Smokies tomorrow; they have been amazing but I am ready for the last stretch. About 180 miles left.

May 29 Day 71 Fontana Hilton

I got up to go pee right before going to sleep last night and saw a bright yellow sunset through the trees. I slept well, but not long. Tired again this morning but motivated. The small uphills seemed much bigger than they were and while I was toiling away I heard a crash to my left and saw a big bear butt scuttling away over the ridge. I love how bears run. So powerful but at the same time, the way their butts shake makes it comical. I finally saw a bear this stretch. Everyone says all hikers see a bear in the Smokies. I got mine.

I got to Fontana Dam around noon and gratefully used the restroom. I considered taking a shower there but I decided to wait to take a shower at the Hilton, less than a mile away. The Fontana Hilton is a glorified AT shelter. It has hot showers, bathrooms, trash bins and electrical outlets. The shelter itself is large and quite nice with a view of the lake. It’s been nice to rest here and organize. And the shower. After being sweaty, muddy, cold and smelly, that shower was exquisite.

Tomorrow morning I’ll take the shuttle into the Fontana Village for breakfast, laundry and resupply. I got a room at the lodge so I can have a full day off and prepare for the final stretch.

I am ready. After one more zero day.

May 30 Day 72 Fontana Village Lodge

Last night I was reminded of one of the most magical moments on the AT. Last summer in Maine I spent some time watching fireflies in the woods one evening. That was the same evening I got the giant leech on my foot.

In the woods surrounding the shelter hundreds of fireflies blinked on and off, everywhere. The sky had cleared for a few moments and I could hear the frogs down my the lakeshore.

Instead of leeches I had no-see-ums biting me all night. I wore my head net, I applied bug spray to no avail. I’m glad I was able to make it this far on the trail without significant bug issues. I got very little sleep but since I was not hiking today I’m ok with being tired today.

Once I got settled in my very nice room I met the guys for breakfast and after eating my breakfast burrito I felt like I could eat two more. But I didn’t!

Hiker chores done, I spent the rest of the day relaxing in this room and preparing for the last stretch. A couple more resupplies and that’s it.

May 31 Day 73 Brown Fork Gap Shelter

The shuttle back to the trail didn’t start running until 9am, so I had a leisurely morning eating trail food and drinking motel coffee. I watched the weather and hopefully after tomorrow things will clear up a bit and I’ll have nice weather for my last week on the trail.

I felt sluggish as I hiked up away from the highway and soon my clothing was soaked through with sweat. The air is like walking through a warm bath.

Soon I got down to a small road where I spotted the two dogs whose prints I had been following in the mud for a few miles. I met David, a section hiker who told me that the dogs had been following him. And since he was hiking south, that meant that now they were following me too. We got a phone number off one of the dogs and I called the owner and left a message.

Not much else we could do. I got here to this shelter and when I turned on my phone I had a message from the owner. They went to Yellow Gap and looked for the dogs but had to go home when the thunder storms hit. I called back and left a message telling them that their dogs were fine, where I was, and that I would try to encourage the dogs to hike two miles to the highway with me tomorrow morning, and if they could meet me there that would be great.

Hopefully it will work out that way.

June 1 Day 74 Wesser Bald Shelter

It did work out that way. I finally got a hold of Paul and when I arrived at Stecoah Gap he was there waiting for me. I held on to the dogs’ collars as I walked down to the highway and he met me halfway and the dogs went nuts! Paul had the girls’ father in the back of the truck and he went nuts! Everyone was so happy and then Paul said, “My wife wanted me to give you something.”

He went around to the passenger side of the truck and came back with a western style leather handbag. “I know it might be heavy but since you have a Wyoming phone number she thought you’d like it. And this is from me. Get yourself a burger when you get to the NOC.”

He hands me $20.

People amaze me. Yes, the bag is a little heavy but I don’t have far to go. And it will be perfect for a carryon.

And when I got to the Nantahala Outdoor Center I got a burger and an orange soda.

Perfect.

Thanks Paul and wife!

So yes, today was a great day. It rained a little bit but then the sun came out and it was glorious.

I forgot to mention that although it rained much of the night last night, when I woke at 5:30 my tent and rain fly were completely dry thanks to a nice warm wind.

An auspicious sign for sure.

I have eight more days on this trail and each day gets better and better.

June 2-3 Days 75-76 Franklin, NC/Piped Spring Tentsite, GA

Whoa. These past two days have been tough. Each day gets better and better but each day seems to get more difficult too! I hiked big miles to get to Franklin yesterday. I didn’t have to, I didn’t even need to get into town. But once I got the idea in my head it wouldn’t leave. So I crushed 24.5 miles and a ton of elevation gain to get to Winding Stair Gap. I got a ride into town from some locals and got dropped off at Gooder Grove Hostel. I wasn’t planning this either but what the heck. I’m so glad I did. I met Trainwreck, who like me hiked half the trail last year (he hiked NOBO from Harper’s Ferry) and now he’s back to finish up. I met April and Dean, Bear, Monk and of course Zen, who owns the place.

I realized something today. I like hiking with people. Or at least having folks around when I stop for the day. I know I’ve talked about this before, but I really, really like having people around and the end of the day. Tonight I am by myself, and I’ll be fine, but at this point in my hike and the headspace I’m in, I like having company.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have company.

Anyway, Zen brought Trainwreck, Bear and myself back to the trail and I was sad to see them go. So much of the trail is the people I meet and it seems that our time together is always too short.

Yep, I’m lonely. It’s different from being alone. Of course I am that too in a sense.

Tomorrow I’ll need to hike past the place I was planning on hiking to. According to my Guthooks GPS app, there has been a lot of recent bear activity. I don’t like camping where bears are know to take food bags out of trees. And it will be nice to be at a shelter. Granted, I’ll be tenting, but hopefully there will be other hikers there. And there are bear bag cables so that is nice.

June 4 Day 77 Tray Mountain Shelter

This is an excellent spot. The shelter is on the shoulder of the mountain and there are views all around. Granted there are trees but I can see things that are far away. This is rare! There are many tentsites around the shelter that are just awesome; some of the best I’ve seen on trail. Such a big difference from yesterday! Of course yesterday there were thunderstorms and it was very overcast and dark. Not so today. Today is clear as a bell and for he first time this year I can confidently sleep in my tent without my rain fly. I can count on one hand the number of times I have slept on this entire trail without my rain fly. This is the third time. Granted, it didn’t always rain with I used my rain fly, but that should give an idea of how often rain is possible.

Today I felt strong and fast. I hiked 18 miles in 8.5 hours with over 4,500 feet of gain. I think today will be the last day like that. Tomorrow I hike 15 miles but with half the gain. So that’s nice.

Today I spent some time thinking about how the trail has changed me this time around. Many notions passed through my mind. I have much time to process this hike and I do my best to let realizations come to fruition naturally.

I am tickled with this great tentsite and am so happy to be here, right now.

If that’s all I get out of these months of hiking then that’s just fine.

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June 5 Day 78 Low Gap Shelter

I’ve started washing my face, legs and arms with actual soap lately and it is divine. I fill up a water bottle or two and go off in the woods and find a spot to strip and wash. I don’t use much soap because I don’t want it going in the soil, but a drop or two of Bronner’s eucalyptus liquid soap is fairly benign. Before I was using wet wipes, which are inadequate unless they are actual baby wipes. Actual baby wipes are not packaged in backpacker friendly sizes. So I have to settle for a less than ideal product.

Hence my joy with actual bathing.

Also, for the longest time it was too cold to bathe. It seems like those days belong to another trail, another hiker named Cougar with whom I have a distant relationship with. Who is that hiker, really? Why was she hiking in the snow and the cold for so long? Why did she suffer hiking through cold rainy days only to sleep in haunted shelters?

Ah, now I know.

So I could get to where I am now.

The present moment.

That present moment, all of those cold times, wet times, have brought me here.

So really, it is a build up of moments. Days. Steps. Miles. Weeks. Months.

A year.

Now I get it. Now I know who she is, that hiker who struggled through Maine even though she thought she was in the best shape of her life. Which is much different from being in trail shape.

That hiker who is knee problems until one day and one slip walking all day was not an option.

That hiker who worked a job all winter that she hated.

That hiker who then fell in love. For real this time. Not a passing trail infatuation. The real deal. A love that will be there when I am done, something I can build on.

It is all part of who I am now. A somewhat clean hiker resting in a tent in my underwear.

Because it is warm out. Spring has come.

June 6 Day 79 Mountain Crossings Hostel and Outfitter

This morning as I rounded a bend in the trail I saw a bear cub in a tree, about ten feet off the trail. For a split second we stared at each other, then it jumped down and ran away. I heard something else crashing through the woods with it, out of sight. Probably the mother. I’ll never forget how the sunlight filtered through its’ fur, giving the cub a golden halo all around it.

I hope you live a long life little bear.

I had a nice morning hiking up and down, up and down, and then finally arriving here at Mountain Crossings at 12:30pm. I needed to get two days of food, and ended up getting a bunk for the night and a frozen pizza. So good! After a much needed shower I ate my pizza and I’ve spent the rest of the afternoon resting. I’ve been so incredibly tired lately and it feels so good just to lay in my bunk and read.

I have two 15 mile days to reach Springer, then Saturday morning I’ll hike the eight mile approach trail down to Amicalola Falls and the visitor center where I’ll get one last stamp in my passport and get a shuttle to Atlanta.

Wow.

June 7 Day 81 Gooch Mountain Shelter

I reached the peak of Blood Mountain around 8am. Clear and gorgeous. I’ve heard that a hiker can see the skyscrapers of Atlanta from there but I could not see that far.

As I was heading down I ran into my friend Hemlock. I hiked with him through southern Maine last summer. It was so, so nice to see a familiar face. We talked for awhile about our hikes; he got off trail last fall in Tennessee and is now back heading north. We bumped fists and hugged, and I wished him happy hiking and continued on my way. I consider it an auspicious sign that, after so many miles of hiking alone, I cross paths with a friend on my last days.

Georgia is beautiful and I am happy to have good weather. Rain is in the forecast starting on Saturday, but that is fine with me. I got in touch with a shuttle service and will be picked up at Amicalola at noon on Saturday. I can get as wet as I wanna be! I am glad to have all of the logistics taken care of. Now all I have to do is hike and have fun with it.

It’s only 4:30 but I have already eaten dinner and plan on getting to sleep early this evening. I didn’t sleep well last night and so I am hoping that tonight will be different.

I’d like to have a strong day tomorrow to finish this trail.

Tomorrow.

Finish.

June 8 Day 82 Springer Mountain Shelter

I woke around 2am to find mice climbing on my tent. What the heck. Those little suckers kept me up for about an hour. Every time I see mice I always think of my favorite Robert Burns poem, To a Mouse. Usually I will recite the first stanza, which is the only one I have memorized, aloud. Someday I’ll memorize the whole thing.

There’s something about hiking and poetry that go together well. Or maybe it is the simple fact that I am alone with my thoughts for ten hours a day and poetry, inevitably, makes its way into my conscious thoughts.

And maybe that is why they go so well together.

A poetical loop!

I was at Three Forks, which is a very popular day hike for day hikers when I started to see the albatrosses. Day hikers. Once I see them I know I am close to civilization. And the way they smell. So clean. Dryer sheets, perfume, cologne, deodorant. I cannot imagine what I smell like to them.

I ran into two very nice ladies who cheered me on my last stretch to the summit of Springer. When I got there a grandfather and grandson were there and I talked to them for a bit.

I’m still not quite sure how I feel, being done with this whole trail. Physically I am exhausted, my feet hurt, my legs are sore and I am dirty and smelly. I’m sure in the next day or two it will sink in.

Maybe when I get on an airplane Sunday.

Maybe when I see Keith, which will be soon.

Maybe tomorrow morning.

June 9 La Quinta Inn at Atlanta Airport

There’s a tradition on the AT where a hiker picks up a stone from one terminus of the trail and carries it to the other. Around 5:45am this morning as I walked back over the Springer summit I left the stone I carried from Katahdin near the summit plaque.

It was a good feeling. Like I am a part of the history of this great trail.

I made good time down to Amicalola Falls State Park and got some good photos of the falls. I hung out in the visitor’s center and for my passport stamped for the last time. And a free coke!

Mary, my shuttle driver, picked me up an hour early and it was nice to talk Trail with her on the way to the light rail station. As I was on the light rail heading to the airport (where I would catch the free motel shuttle) I was a bit overwhelmed by all the people, and not one of them a hiker! I’ve felt this way before after hikes and it is a bit alienating. It will pass, to an extent.

Right now I think I’ll eat some

more pizza and watch a Harrison Ford movie until I fall asleep.

Damascus, VA to Hot Springs, NC

May 10 Day 52 Low Gap Tentsite

I was awake around 5am but I stayed in my sleeping bag for a good hour before I decided to get up. I cowboy camped under the pavilion in the large backyard of the hostel. It was refreshing to sleep outside and not be in my tent. So nice. Yo-D, a NOBO, slept there too and I tried not to wake him up when I went to use the outdoor bathroom. By the time I was finished, Yo-D was inside and I walked in to find almost all the the guests sitting around tables eating huge plates of food. I was late to breakfast! No worries, for Woodchuck keeps making food until everyone is finished. I helped myself to blueberry waffles, potatoes, donuts, eggs, fruit and coffee. What a feast! Everyone was very upbeat and the energy was just what I needed to start my day.

I sat outside for awhile after breakfast (one does not put on a pack soon after a meal like that) and met One Wish’s dog Lucy. We chatted for a bit and soon I realized that I was ready to hike out. The hostel is less than a tenth of a mile off trail on the edge of town, so I filled up my water bottles and headed out.

After about three miles I hiked into Tennessee. Thank you Virginia. It’s been great!

A couple of thunderstorms passed me but since it’s fairly warm out I dried quickly and did not get cold. Great! This is more my style. I feel like I never want to be cold again after what I’ve hiked through up north.

I got to a shelter after ten miles but since it was early in the day I decided to go another five miles to the next water source and tentsites. On my way here a big thunderstorm hit me and it rained hard for a solid ten minutes. Then it was over, and the sun came out so when I stopped for the day I was able to kind of dry my shoes in the sun. And my raincoat. And my socks. The socks dried out some but I may put them inside my shirt tonight so they dry completely. Yep, I’m putting semi wet socks inside my shirt.

It’s the SOBO way.

May 11 Day 53 Vandeventer Shelter

I was hiking by 6:15 this morning and I felt great. A good nights sleep, a dry tent and a good breakfast of cold oatmeal and I was ready to crush 18 miles. Most of the day was spent up on a ridge line going up and down. However, there was a stretch this morning about 7 miles in that crossed some pastures that was gorgeous. Bright green fields, an old ramshackle barn with a giant AT symbol on it and lots of cow patties. The trail was marked by giant boulders of what I believed to be limestone. It seemed that they had been there a long time.

As the day progressed it became hot and I drank at least four liters of water today. Tomorrow and Sunday are slated to be the same. I’ll take it. While I am not terribly fond of really hot weather I am happy to be warm. I remember all those freezing days earlier in my hike and wonder if I am really on the same trail. It has been incredible to see the seasons change the way they have this time around. I know I am fortunate to have seen all four seasons on this trail.

Tomorrow I’ll get up a little earlier and try to crush as many miles in the cooler morning air as I can. It’s 18 miles to Kincora Hostel and Bob, the owner, does a shuttle to town at 5pm and I want to be on that shuttle.

May 12 Day 54 Kincora Hostel

What a day! I slept fitfully and woke around 5am and was packed and walking by 6. A beautiful clear day. I had a nice long downhill for a change and some nice views of Watauga Lake shrouded in fog. As I descended into that fog the temperature dropped about 10 degrees. But that didn’t last long. The fog burned off and soon it was very warm. I got to the picnic area by the lake around 10am and watched several geese families take their very new looking goslings out on the lake. So cute!

I was kind of dreading the big climb over Pond Flats, and per usual is was not as tough as I thought it would be. I was cruising along Laurel Creek in no time and then I stopped at the falls for a splash. The ice cold water felt so refreshing on my dusty hiker face. And legs. And arms. I wanted to lay down in the water but I decided to hike on instead. It was a short mile and a half left to Kincora and I was making crazy good time.

I was about a half mile from the road when a NOBO told me about trail magic at the parking lot. What! My pace increased two fold.

I got there, and to the left in a grassy area several event style tents were up and a sign that said:

Mother’s Day Weekend Trail Magic BBQ: Today and Tomorrow! It was so well organized. There were napkins, plates and bowls, and I walked into the tent to see huge dishes of baked potatoes, slow cooked beef brisket, cheese sauce, banana creme pudding with vanilla wafers, baked beans with pork belly, fruit, a huge assortment of cold beverages, cookies, lemonade and much more. There was even a vegetarian version of everything. These folks have got it gown. I made a plate and sat down with the family who does this every year. They own a cabin across the road and this is their yearly get together. Pretty awesome. I hung out for about an hour eating, talking and eating some more. After I was stuffed I waddled three tenths of a mile up to Kincora. Such a cool funky place. The bunkhouse is next to Bob’s cabin, and connected by a couple of bathrooms, laundry room and shower. There’s a picnic table under a covered porch as well. I went inside and found a bunk on the first floor. Much cooler downstairs. I got settled and then Bob took myself and another hiker to the grocery store. He dropped us off and told us he’s be back in an hour. Perfect!

Since this was a big nice grocery store I was able to get some quality food. No Dollar General resupply today. Nope! I was still stuffed from the bbq, but I knew that I’d be hungry again soon so I made myself a generous salad at the salad bar. Perfect.

I ate my salad in front of the store while waiting for Bob. Hit the spot. It is really nice to have real food.

Back at the hostel I did my laundry, showered and organized my resupply. I went and sat on the porch and Bob told me about hiking the Camino. He showed me his passport which was the model for the AT passport which I have. He’s hiked all over the world and has a remarkable wealth of knowledge of the AT. And other trails as well. His hard work and generosity are well known in the hiking community and it was enlightening to gain some knowledge from him.

Now, however, I am exhausted and I will soon be fast asleep in my bunk.

May 13 Day 55 Mountaineer Falls Shelter

I was up and packed by 6am. I took my stuff outside and made breakfast and a trail mocha on the picnic table. It was nice sipping coffee, watching the fog dissipate above the meadow near the hostel. So beautiful. He cats were up and active and I got some good photos of the orange longhair, Simba. I wanted to wait until Bob came out to thank him. About an hour nor so later he emerged and was getting ready to take some hikers into town for Dunkin Donuts. I said that I was getting back on trail and he hassled me a little good naturedly. I was keen to get going and soon I was back on trail. I did somewhat regret not getting a few donuts to pack out but I know I’ll get a chance again.

Today was a rather uneventful day hiking; the terrain was good and in the afternoon I came across a nice bench with a view of the Road Highlands. Bob’s trail crew, Hard Core, built it last month. Perfect shady spot to cool off and collect myself for the last 3 miles to the shelter.

I’m not much for sleeping in shelters after the mouse incident last month so I pitched my tent right above the shelter. Perfect spot. Very tired, and I don’t have a signal to call Keith but maybe I will tomorrow. I am glad I got a text off to my mom this morning for Mother’s Day.

I think I’ll sleep good here.

May 14 Day 56 Overmountain Shelter

Today was awesome. I was down the trail by 6am and when I saw the side trail to Jones Falls, I went. So worth it! I knew it was going to be a long day with a big climb but I felt strong and happy so by the time I made it to Highway 19 I was stoked to make that 3,000 foot climb.

It wasn’t that bad. At all!

It was actually very nice. Green, nice trail, plenty of switchbacks and then, the views.

By the time I got theee quarters of the way up the trees disappeared and I felt like the Riders of Rohan were going to appear at any time. I was pumped! I put the Beastie Boys (Check Your Head) on and put my headphones in and power climbed the last 800 feet in no time. I had amazing views in all directions.

And did I mention that I’m in North Carolina?

I am!

Tomorrow for nine miles I’ll hike along the border between NC and Tennessee. I’ll go back into Tennessee after that.

I arrived at the iconic Overmountain Shelter around 4pm and found a spot with a great view. This shelter is an old barn and it’d famous on the trail. After about a half hour some locals showed up with cookies, fruit, nuts, hard boiled eggs and they offered to pack out our garbage. So nice! I talked with them for awhile and thanked them profusely for such thoughtful trail magic. And it’s always a godsend to get rid of garbage.

Now I’m watching the sky change, getting ready to get in my sleeping bag and read.

Another stellar day on the Appalachian Trail.

May 15 Day 57 Greasy Creek Friendly

I slept on the bottom section of the barn with a fantastic view of the valley. When Treehugger and Tent Cents, who were sleeping near me, woke up at 5am, I got up too and got my things organized and by 5:30 I was ready to go. So early! I didn’t really sleep too well but I was motivated to get as many miles down before the rain came. I had decided to resupply at the Greasy Creek Friendly 18 miles down the trail so I hit it.

The rain came around 12:30. Not bad considering I only had five and a half more miles to go. Thunder followed me through the green tunnel and when I came to the fork in the trail for the Friendly I was pretty soaked and ready to be done for the day.

I got here and CiCi, the owner, showed me around and I picked out a bunk. I had a couple of hours before the town shuttle for dinner and resupply so I showered and relaxed, planning my next few days on trail. I can’t believe I’ll be entering the Smokies in about ten days.

I have 367 more miles to hike.

I find myself with mixed feelings. I feel highly motivated, even more than when I first started this hike. The notion of the next five days being rainy doesn’t even phase me. I know I’ll still hike the miles I would hike if it were dry.

Big climbs? I will go over them. Bugs? I will spray them. Bears? I will hang my food and do it right so I will not put their lives in jeopardy. Nothing can stop me now.

So soon I’ll put my ear plugs in and go sleep for 8 hours. I’ll pack up and hit the trail and get closer to my goal.

I hear Springer Mountain calling me.

May 16 Day 58 Indian Grave Gap

I enjoyed my stay at the Greasy Creek Friendly but I was happy to be leaving, even if it was raining. Of course an hour later I felt differently and for a moment I thought about stopping at the next shelter but I didn’t. I pushed on and met my goal for today, and I’m glad I did. The rain stopped around 12:30pm and the rest of the afternoon I hoped I would make it to this tentsite before it started to rain again. And I did!

When I got to the gap I got an orange from a couple who are thru hikers, but they are taking a break so they are doing trail magic. They mostly just had beer but I happily took an orange. I talked to them for a few minutes and then bid them happy hiking while I walked up there trail for a few minutes to find the tentsite. Nice spot. I am tired today; the rain makes it hard to stop for breaks so I don’t take breaks. And that makes me tired.

Tomorrow I’ll skip the town of Erwin and hike up to a shelter about 15 miles from here. It’s supposed to rain on and off for the next few days which makes me a little grumpy but I can handle it. And I’m really not that grumpy. Really. Just tired. So now it’s time for bed.

May 17 Day 59 No Business Knob Shelter

I cruised downhill for about 7 miles when I decided to stop and have second coffee. I tried to dry my tent but the sun was not strong enough at 9am. So I hiked another mile or so to Uncle Johnny’s Hostel. There was plenty of sun there and my tent was dry in no time. Even though I was not staying there as a guest the owner let me hang out, use the internet, fill my water bottles and wash my handkerchief. With soap! Yay!

I was sitting at a picnic table outside charging my phone and talking with some other hikers. There are lots of hikers around because the hostel runs a shuttle up to Damascus for Trail Days, which is an AT festival held there every year. Odie, whom I met last year when I was hiking through the Mahousic Notch, was also shuttling hikers. I’m so glad I’m not going. Anyway, one hiker looked familiar and turns out I met him last year at Speck Pond Shelter. He was a SOBO too. Now he’s back hiking NOBO. We talked northern trail a bit and then he got on a shuttle. I hiked out soon after and I made it here to the shelter about 20 minutes after a huge thunder storm. It has let up now but I have a feeling there will be more. Tomorrow I hike up higher and there are some more bald mountains and I don’t want to be on them in a thunder storm hits. I may get up super early and head out then to beat the storms. Or I may stay at a shelter 10 miles from here on the north side of the balds. But I would like to hike more than ten miles tomorrow so I’ll probably be on trail by 5:30 or something. Hmmm. I have time to figure it out.

May 18 Day 60 Tentsite south of Big Bald

It rained hard all night. I had a hard time sleeping, I usually do in shelters. Yard Sale was up around 5am and I was up and fetching my food bag out of a nearby tree soon after. It was very wet. But the rain seemed like it was tapering off which was good.

I had four fairly big climbs today and halfway up the second one I took some time to take photos. These small creeks that the rain creates are full of quartz and I got some good shots of the misty woods. Just spectacular.

A few hours later I finally came up on Big Bald, and while it was not as dramatic as the Roan Highlands, I was pretty happy to be up there. I just love all these balds. I was glad the thunder storms had held off.

Four miles later I arrived here on this tiny ridge above a spring. A good spot. Of course I am by myself; many of the NOBOs are at Trail Days and this spot is kind of out of the way. Since I’ll be heading to a hostel tomorrow morning, I can use my battery power for watching Netflix! What luxury! This is the first time on trail I have done this.

Only 321 miles to Springer.

May 19 Day 61 Nature’s Way Hostel

I slept in until 6am and was strolling down the trail by 7. A nice lazy morning. I hiked three and a half miles in about and hour and a half. Nice misty morning walking. I ran into a NOBO who said he was just dropped off by the hostel folks. I grabbed my phone and called them; luck! Sara was waiting for me at the trailhead. Perfect timing! A very nice woman, her and her husband Taft run this place. It’s by far the best hostel I’ve come across. We got here and she showed me around the common room, an old barn converted into a giant biker style hangout space. Several small cabins are lined up along the creek. A bunkhouse is at the bottom of the hill, and a house with three bedrooms is up top near the road. Their personal home is across the street. I opted to get a room in the house. So far I’m the only one here.

It’s been a tough push to get here and it is nice to have a nearo day. Thunder storms are in the forecast for the next week or so, but it looks like I may have decent weather in the Smokies. No snow, so that is good.

May 20 Day 62 Jerry’s Cabin Shelter

I slept a deep sleep. I woke once around 3am to pee and I was glad I slept with the windows open; the creek was roaring all night. A white noise kind of sound. I fell right back asleep. I woke refreshed and went to the kitchen to eat breakfast, drink some coffee and survey the trail ahead of me. Several climbs, and then a downhill to the shelter. 18 miles. I wanted to make it there. And I did.

Dream Catcher and Painless, two section hikers from North Carolina arrived yesterday evening and we talked trail for some time. They have section hiked most of the trail and since I’ve hiked most of it too we shared stories about certain memorable parts. It was nice to have some company.

When I arrived here around 4:30 they were already here; they got dropped off at Devil’s Fork Gap so they were 8 miles ahead of me.

I pitched my tent and made dinner and we talked trail with father and son NOBOs.

It reminded me of last summer when I was hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness and I’d talk to the NOBOs who were almost done with their adventure. Now, I’m the one almost done, coming across hikers who are at the first part of their adventure.

300.3 miles to go.

How do I feel? I feel strong. I feel grateful that I had a good rest day. I am ready for the next challenges, for the next three weeks. I am ready to feel the joy of completing a huge accomplishment.

Postscript:

While Sara at Nature’s Way had an adequate resupply, it was lacking any substantial breakfast options. I figured I’d just make due for the next two days until I got to Hot Springs. Then Dream Catcher asked me if I wanted some of his extra food, and of course I said yes. He gave me a Mountain House granola and blueberries! Sweet! And some chocolate, dehydrated broccoli, and some noodles. Thank you Dream Catcher!

The trail provides.

May 21 Day 63 Rich Mt. Tentsite

I was munching down on fancy granola and blueberries at 5:30am. A good start to a rather uneventful day. I ended up crushing 19 miles to get here and the last 6 miles were brutal. Very high humidity and heat with bugs.

Bugs.

They have arrived and I am actually surprised I got this far without seeing them. I’d love to say they serve as a motivator but they just annoy the heck out of me. There’s no upside with bugs.

I am hoping that they won’t be in the Smokies. I’ll find out on Friday.

There are a god number of hikers here, and several young men are camped next to me. They were smoking cigarettes, and the smoke came into my tent. I asked them politely if they wouldn’t mind moving downwind from me; one of them apologized and moved. The other looked at me and kept smoking. Then he said: “I bet you feel powerful, telling smokers to move because you don’t like the smoke. You probably feel superior, right?”

“No, I don’t feel powerful. I feel free. All the years I smoked I was a prisoner. Now I’m free.”

Now that I am hitting the last of the NOBO bubble, I’m hitting lots of the party hikers. Often times they are not respectful of the experiences of other hikers.

It’s part of the trail, and sometimes it’s hard for me to accept that.

Postscript:

This morning as I was scrambling over some rocks I came across a NOBO. I stood to the side of the trail to let her pass. As she did, she stopped and said, “Hey, were you on the PCT in 2016?”

“Yes, I sure was. Oregon and Washington.”

“I remember your Ken doll! You were hiking with another woman.”

“Yes! Iron Lady. I’m Cougar.”

“I’m Hummingbird. I know we met somewhere but I can’t remember where!”

We talked trail for another few moments and marveled at the smallness of the hiker world. This encounter really made my day!

May 22 Day 64 Hot Springs, NC

I hiked 8 miles in three hours and got into town before the PO closed for lunch. I sent a resupply to Standing Bear Farm & Hostel for the Smokies. So glad I won’t have to go into Gatlinburg to resupply. I’d rather spend my money here. This has been an expensive stop but it is probably the last stop of this kind, where I have to buy gear, fuel and stuff like that. Still, I am under budget so I am happy.

I’m in a tavern and I just ordered a bacon cheeseburger.

After this, since I have most of my hiker chores done, including printing my Smokies permit at the library, I’ll head over to Elmer’s and check in. I got a $25 room and I heard they make an awesome dinner too.

I still feel like I’m in a tractor beam, being pulled to Springer Mt. I have to force myself to stop and rest.

When I was in high school I was on the swim team, and my favorite race was the 200M. The race is all about pacing. When I jumped off the block, I didn’t go all out right away. I’d have nothing left for the final 50M. So instead, the race is a slow build of speed, until the last 50M, when I would go all out.

I feel like once I get out of the Smokies, I’ll be jumping off the block. Slowly building that momentum. Until the last 50 miles when I’ll give it my all.

I can’t wait.

Later that same day:

I’m in my room, Elmer’s Sunnybank Inn rents rooms to thru hikers for $25. The house is huge and was built in the 1840s, and has had few renovations. It’s gorgeous.

I did my laundry by hand out back since the only laundromat in town does not have functioning machines.

I am happy to be carrying only two days of food until I get to Standing Bear. Tomorrow I will hike up Max Patch, a famous section of trail. I’m looking forward to it, and hopefully the weather will hold. Rain is in the forecast off and on for the next week. Should make the Smokies interesting. I’ll hike into the park Friday morning and spend the next four days after that hiking through it.

Then I’ll really be on the home stretch.

274.5 miles left.

Marion to Damascus

May 5 Day 47 Trimpi Shelter

This morning I was up and eating waffles at 6:15.

Wow.

Thank the universe for modern medicine, I thought to myself. I felt great, finally. I tentatively drank about 3 oz of coffee and an hour later I was still feeling good.

I learned that the public transportation in Marion does not run to the AT on Saturday, just Monday-Friday. So around 9am, after watching some more Star Wars, I called Jim Sparks again and he picked me up 15 minutes later. He had another hiker with him who needed to run a couple of errands. We also picked up another hiker from a motel and then we headed back to the trail.

I happily hefted my pack and started down the trail. It felt so good! Man. Good to be back.

I got a couple of thundershowers but I didn’t care. I’m back!

After 10 miles I decided to stop here at the shelter, I wanted to take it easy my first day back out and I wasn’t sure what the weather would do. After seeing a GIANT spider in the shelter I weighed the options in my head: if I sleep in the shelter and it rains, I’ll have a dry tent in the morning. But there will be spiders and mice. If I pitch my tent, there will be no critters, and if it rains tonight, I should get a chance to dry my tent out tomorrow.

I pitched my tent and I’m so glad I did.

About 10 NOBOs have showed up and they are super nice but I’m not keen on sleeping in a full shelter.

Tomorrow I’ll hike up into the Greyson Highlands, a very famous part of the trail and very beautiful. There are wild ponies! One of the NOBOs showed me a photo of a baby pony. I hope I get to see one!

May 6 Day 48 The Scales

The Scales is a large corral at the northern end of Greyson Highlands State Park. It’s beautiful. This was my goal for today and I’m glad I made the 17.5 miles to get here.

I left camp with a wet tent, but I was hoping the weather forecast would be right in its prediction of some sun today.

I got my chance around 11:30 halfway up the second big climb of the day. Flat spot, lots of sun. I dried my tent and rain fly and had some lunch. About 45 minutes later is started pouring and it rained for a good two and a half hours. I was halfway up my third big climb of the day when I ran into Papi, who is 87 and thru hiking. We complimented each other on our respective rain gear and as I wished him happy hiking and turned back to the trail I thought about what I’ll be like when I’m 87.

I stopped at the Old Orchard Shelter to take a break from the rain and chatted with some NOBOs. It was nice to sit in a dry spot for a bit. They told me that once I got up into the highlands I’d see plenty of ponies.

An hour later I got to the top of the climb and did a little dance and ate a Lara Bar. Then I checked my GPS, hefted my pack and set it for the last 1.8 miles.

Sometimes 1.8 miles seems like 5 miles. Sometimes it goes by in a heartbeat. But at the end of a rainy day with lots of gain 1.8 is an eternity. I finally made it around the bend to the corral and quickly found a spot to pitch my tent within the corral. It keeps the ponies out! They are beautiful. Several are running around along the fence and others are grazing on the new grass that is everywhere.

Tomorrow as I hike over the highlands I’ll see more ponies and hopefully the baby pony Aladdin told me about yesterday.

I feel good, pleased to have met my goal and I’m happy to be in some new terrain. I’m above the tree line which is cool; I haven’t been above the tree line since the Whites.

I think I’ll sleep good here.

May 7 Day 49 Whitetop Mountain Ridge Tentsite

Coyotes woke me up around 2am and then again at 4am, much closer, but I went right back to sleep both times. I slept well and woke up to clear skies and a beautiful sunrise. I saw ponies running around outside of the corral and as I ate my breakfast in my sleeping bag I watched the sky turn pink. I cuddled up again and was about to drift off but nope, I was awake and soon taking down my tent.

It was a great morning; I felt strong and it was nice to have a change in scenery. Open fields, rocks and small trees dominated the landscape and I could see where the trail would eventually take me in the State Park. A couple of hours later I came across a mother pony and her baby. I didn’t get too close to them, but close enough to get a photo without bothering them too much.

I chatted with some day hikers and a NOBO, and after a second breakfast I was climbing up towards Mt. Rogers. I had fun on this stretch as the trail squeezes between two large boulders. This area also really reminded me of Maine and New Hampshire. I found myself thinking of trail days in the past, on the AT and the PCT.

As I began the descent out of the Greyson Highlands I came across several NOBOs who told me about trail magic at Elk Garden Gap, just a couple of miles away. I arrived to find a handful of NOBOs and several trail angels who had so much stuff! Pasta salad, sandwiches, snacks, homemade cookies, fruit, salad, drinks, hiker foods like Clif bars and Knorr Pasta sides to take with, all kinds of things. I sat in the sun and ate a variety of things as I chatted with the hikers and the trail angels. One of the trail angels said to me, “If everyone in this country treated each other the way the hiking community treated each other, so many problems would be solved.”

Truth.

As the angles packed up the hikers did so as well and I hiked off with a full heart and stomach. It was a nice 2.5 mile hike up here to the tentsite near a gushing spring. Thunder followed me for the last quarter mile but it was to the east.

After I had dinner and hung my food bag a small shower rolled through, and hopefully that will be it. Tomorrow looks like a nice hike, but I have to say, today was one of the best hiking days I’ve had this spring. The ponies, the terrain, the people, all these things combined made for a very memorable day.

May 8 Day 50 Laurel River Tentsite

I woke to pink skies. It had cleared overnight and I was hopeful for a sunny and warm day. My tent was still wet from the night before, but I wasn’t concerned.

I was hiking by 7am and since I camped at a high elevation (over 5,000 feet), and the ridge was relatively treeless, I had stunning views of the valleys below, mostly covered by fast moving fog. It was windy, but not too cold. A good sign. I’ve had my share of cold wind. I had a nice long descent ahead of me and I was looking forward to some easy miles to start my day. It was beautiful. Before long I found myself in an open area with views on all sides. I happily made my way down, and before I knew it I was 6 miles into my day and I had arrived at Lost Mt Shelter. I got my tent out in the sun to dry and sat down for some snacks. I chatted with some NOBOs and took my time. It felt rather luxurious to take a longer break early in the day. Lately I’ve been switching my schedule up, trying to take my time more and it just pound away the miles. I still reach my daily goals and it feels like I am enjoying myself more. What? I am enjoying myself more!

Anyway, I was back at it and the next few hours went by rather quickly. When I dropped down again to the river I was ready to stop for the day. I’ve got a lovely spot near the water all to myself, so far anyway, and it feels good. I always love to camp next to rivers.

Tomorrow I have a five mile hike into Damascus, the trail goes right through the town, and I’m hoping to find a breakfast joint so I can have an omelette. Funny the things I find myself craving out here.

This has been a good stretch and tomorrow I’ll get some hiker chores done and pitch my tent at the Woodchuck Hostel in town. I’m not needing a bed just yet.

May 10 Day 51 Woodchuck Hostel, Damascus.

It was an easy five mile hike into town this morning and my first stop was at Mojo’s Coffee. I inhaled an omelette and potatoes with toast. I sat there for awhile and updated my social media, then I continued on my way through town. There are several outfitters here and I thought I might get lucky and find one that sells hip belts for my Osprey pack (Frankenpack). I knew it was a long shot, and so I was pleasantly surprised to see the exact hip belt I was looking for at Mt. Rogers Outfitters. The folks there were very helpful and gave me a good deal. They also gave me some free hiker snacks and we talked trail for a bit and then I was in my way, stuffing free energy chews and honey waffle bars into my pockets. I love getting trail magic like that. The kindness of strangers.

I arrived here at the hostel and after a nice shower, laundry and a good tent cleaning session I am done with chores. So now I’m sitting in the shade with Abby, Woodchuck’s cat, who has decided I am acceptable company.

Another beautiful day on the AT.

Pearisburg to Marion

April 28 Day 40 Angel’s Rest Hiker’s Haven Zero Day

Ahhh, a Zero Day. Zeroliscious. This has been a good place to take a day off. I did walk over to the store and buy some more food to eat today. A good idea. I got chicken tenders and some microwave burritos. Decent.

I spent today hanging out in the sun finishing the Michael Connelly book I have been reading since Daleville. I really want to read Ready Player One, since it seems like everyone is reading it but I can’t find it at Rite Aid and I don’t want to download it on my phone. I’ll come across a copy, I’m sure.

It’s been nice talking with the caretakers here and the other hikers. My friends Trial and Error are here, so it’s nice to catch up with them. No word from Double Vision, Cheesesteak or Lucky Boy.

Time now to go eat my Hot Pockets and go to bed. Doing nothing all day has made me tired!

April 29 Day 41 Woods Hole Hostel

I feel like a pampered princess. Tonight will be the third, THIRD night in a row that I have spent in a hostel. But I could not miss this place. It’s one of the oldest hostels in the trail, the bunkhouse was built in the 1840s out of chestnut. Same with the main house. Of course there have been some renovations but essentially not much has changed. Neville and her husband Michael run the place; Neville’s grandparents discovered the place in 1940.

This place is special. I can feel it when I walk through the main house, and the bunkhouse. The land feels sacred. I can’t stop running my hands over the chestnut beams that constitute the bunkhouse. While sitting at the dinner table I would catch myself staring up at the beams overhead.

Dinner.

Both Neville and her husband are master gardeners. At a time when most farms are bare (it’s been a late spring here) they have all sorts of things growing in raised beds in front of the main house.

The first courses were a giant salad, homemade bread just out of the oven, hummus and egg salad.

I hadn’t realized how much I was craving greens.

Then, rice with homemade red sauce and sausage. Another rice dish with soy sauce and greens and sausage. Tortilla soup. Bread.

Everything is made from scratch.

After dinner I sat on the couch and talked with Bear Charmer, an older woman who helps Neville the same way she helped her Grandmother Tilly. A cat ran across the room and jumped on my lap, purring and head butting me. Over the course of my stay I had similar encounters with different cats. So nice to be around animals.

Neville served up homemade peanut butter ice cream on cones and after that I walked back to the bunkhouse, and here I am almost ready to fall blissfully asleep.

I’d like to mention that I found the book Ready Player One in the book exchange here. The trail provides.

I can see the full moon rising through the trees out the window.

April 30 Day 42 Brushy Mountain Tentsite

I walked out of Woods Hole after thanking Neville for her profound kindness and wonderful food. If I am ever in this part of the country again I will go out of my way to stay here again. Simply a magical experience.

That’s what the AT is all about.

Sometimes!

I hiked down a ridge into the Dismal Creek valley and followed the creek for about 10 miles of nice hiking. I saw many NOBOs, and I stopped to chat with Farm All, a retired trucker from Vermont who collects Farm All tractors, hence the trail name. He’s making very good time on the trail and we shared war stories about snow and freezing temps. After fist bumping (hikers never shake hands, who knows what’s on them!) we wished each other happy hiking and I went along my way.

I started feeling a bit nauseous and the feeling lingers still. Could be any number of things. Few things are more uncomfortable than hiking with a hip belt and having stomach pain. Yuck.

Hopefully it will be gone by tomorrow and I’ll be back to eating a ton of trail food. Maybe the real food I had at Woods Hole threw me off. Who knows!

I’m camped up on a ridge with a NOBO and it is beautiful up here. The trees aren’t quite filled out so I have views of all the farms below.

It’s going to be a nice night.

May 4 Day 46 Econo Lodge, Marion

The local public transportation picked me up this morning and dropped me at the hospital. The doctor said I probably had giardia, and wrote me a prescription. As I was standing outside of the emergency room an older gentleman walked up to me and started talking about the trail. Big Tom is a farmer who lives in the area and he likes to give hikers a ride when he sees them. He offered me a lift over to Walmart to get my prescription filled and was also keen on showing me his brand new truck. Super nice guy.

I got some healthy food in Walmart and waited for my meds. Some fruit, oatmeal and bagels to pack out on this next stretch.

I have to constantly remind myself that things like this are part of the trail too, and that even though it gets me down, that feeling will pass. I recognize it for what it is and let it go. Of course it is helpful to have the support and encouragement of friends and loved ones. And strangers.

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!”

Ha.

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.

Hmmmm.

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.

Interesting.

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.

Again.

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.