AT Thru-Hike, Virginia [1] 1997

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(43) Saturday, May 3

Zero-mile day. Stayed another night at "The Place" in Damascus.


(44) Sunday, May 4

Zero-mile day. Stayed another night at "The Place" in Damascus.


(45) Monday, May 5, 9:00PM

I'm in the Lost Mountain Shelter right now. I hadn't really expected to stay in a shelter tonight, but this is such a nice brand new shelter that I couldn't resist. Also there is rain in the forecast for tonight. It should blow through pretty quickly so that we have a pretty day for our summit of Mt. Rogers. Today was absolutely perfect. The weather was great and the trail was nicely graded. It was so nice to get out of town and back on the trail. I had a good breakfast, went to the post office and made a couple phone calls before departing at 10:30.

I went ahead and taped my heels up this morning as a preventive measure. They gave me no trouble today. I'm still rubbing them with alcohol to dry them out, as frequently as convenience permits. I'll continue with the tape for a while until the skin feels tougher.

For some reason I'm feeling very nauseous tonight. It hit me right as I reached the shelter tonight. I'm not sure what it is. I took a couple of my Pepto Bismol tablets and delayed my dinner, since I clearly had no appetite. I drank a lot of water and went ahead with my dinner of stuffing, chicken, and mixed veggies. I was fortunately able to get almost all of it down. I ended up disposing of the last few bites in the privy. My stomach was just not interested in eating any more. A large cup of hot tea seemed like a good tonic to assist my dinner. I'm still feeling nauseous, but I hope it will pass during the night while I try to hold onto my dinner.

I felt a little scratchy in my throat this morning, so I'm taking more vitamin C for the next few days. "The Place" wasn't the cleanest place, and with 50+ hikers coming and going, there were plenty of germs floating around. Strange as it sounds, I now feel that the trail seems to be a cleaner place than a lot of things in town. Out here it's just the dirt, not all the germs and stuff.

I spoke with my sister Theresa last night. She wants to try and get some time off of work to come down and visit for a 2-3 days: no hiking. This could happen as soon as next week, so I'm trying to keep flexible with my plans. I'll know more when I call her from Atkins on Friday or Saturday.

I wrote a little poem in my head today. Just something to do.


"Plea to a Plant"
"Tall Hiker's Nemesis"
Oh Rhododendron, why don't you bloom,
Else lift up your limbs and give me some room?
I know you'll be gorgeous when your flowers soon arrive;
But meantime make way for me, all six foot five!
Your nice shiny leaves make such good shade on the path,
But if I can't stop tripping on your roots, then you'll soon know my wrath!
Rhododendron, Rhododendron cut me some slack;
So I can get on with my hike with you off my back.


15.8 Miles Today, 468.1 MTD


(46) Tuesday, May 6, 8:30PM

Another night in a brand new shelter. I managed to hold down my dinner from last night, but I still didn't feel very well this morning. I had a pretty bad headache, though the nausea had cleared. I took some Tylenol and moved slowly this morning. I didn't leave the shelter until 9:00, and then I walked slowly. Gradually I began to feel better, never feeling great, but good enough. The weather was lovely today, but the wind was strong as I crossed some of the clearings near Mt. Rogers. The views were lovely, and the wild ponies around Grayson Highlands were fascinating. I probably saw thirty ponies, several with foals. The ponies do a good job of keeping the clearings grazed.

Late today, the rocks on the trail were brutal. I ended up having a good day despite my earlier poor health. I ate with a good appetite tonight. Hopefully whatever condition I had has passed.

It may get cold tonight, as my radio warned of frost. So I'm turning in for a good night's sleep, and maybe an earlier start tomorrow.

17.4 Miles Today, 485.5 MTD


(47) Wednesday, May 7, 8:00PM

I can't believe it; I'm in my tent again. I like being in my tent so much, so I'm not exactly sure why I don't use it more. I guess after a long day of hiking, the lazy side of me kicks in and encourages me to take a space in the shelter. Also, if there's a chance of rain . . . no one likes to pack up a wet tent and carry that extra water weight.

I had a real good hike today. Sections of it were plagued with rocky paths, but overall it was a much better trail on the feet than yesterday's. I'm going to try something challenging tomorrow. I am currently 22.1 miles from my next mail drop in Atkins. I'm going to try to cover that tomorrow before 4:30 so that I can get to the post office by 5:00. I believe that it's definitely possible if I get an early start and the trail is friendly to my feet. The hardest part is getting the early start. If I'm hiking before 7:00AM, then I've got a real chance.

I passed another milestone today. 500 miles complete. The miles are slipping by more quickly, so it seems. I'm off to bed early to get some necessary sleep for tomorrow's undertaking.

20.0 miles Today, 505.5 MTD


(48) Thursday, May 8, 10:00PM

Well I did it. I got onto the trail at 6:45 this morning and finished 22 miles by 4:00 this afternoon. I stopped for an hour break about half way through, and two other 15-minute breaks; the rest of the day was just an aggressive hike. The afternoon was even rainy. But I got into Atkins and picked up my mail drop, and got my very own motel room. It felt very nice.

I passed two day hikers coming south in the rain, and I told them what I was doing with my distance and the post office hours . . . and that lasted all of a few minutes. When I finally reached the motel, they pulled up a little bit later right as I prepared to thumb a 3.5-mile ride to the post office. They had finished their day hike and had come down specifically to drive me to the post office. They waited for me while I was in the post office, then they took me to the bank and back to my motel. They were a retired couple that had section-hiked the whole trail through the 70's and 80's; and now they had an opportunity to perform a little trail magic. I was very grateful.

22.1 Miles Today, 527.6 MTD


(49) Friday, May 9, 9:00PM

I'm in my tent right now on a very, very windy night. This is the best place to be under such circumstances. The tent eliminates the wind chill. I didn't get out of town today until noon. I procrastinated going through my mail drops last night, leaving a considerable amount of organizing to do this morning. I was also up late talking with Christine on the phone and watching TV for a change. I haven't had a motel room to myself like this since Helen, GA, my first week on the trail. I even drank several beers for my enjoyment. I had to thumb back to the post office this morning to send some things ahead. All of this accounted for my noon departure.

I get one mile out of town and it starts raining. I hate it when that happens. I leave town with everything clean and dry, and then hit rain right away. Everything on my person gets wet in the rain, and then my wet clothes pick up my smell very quickly. It rained for several hours before finally blowing on past. The following partly sunny skies and very heavy winds helped dry me out a bit by the time I reached my campsite at 6:30.

I fixed a particularly tasty dinner tonight. Mom mixed up some dried onions, tomatoes, and green peppers. So after rehydrating them, I drained the remaining water out (using it to make my rice) and kind of stir-fried them with a can of Spam. The Spam browned nicely, and after adding the cooked rice I topped it off with some crushed red peppers. It was very yummy. I was again the envy of all as the strong smells were carried through the camp area by the active winds. And there were those that scoffed at my Spam in the beginning . . . HA!!

I'm still on track to make Buena Vista in 14 days for Christine's visit over the Memorial Day weekend. I'll be walking a lot of miles in the next two weeks. Speaking of miles: today marks two milestones. I've been out here for seven weeks now, and today I finished the first quarter of the trail. I feel like it's a real accomplishment. Let's see how I feel when I get to half way.

14.1 Miles Today, 541.7 MTD


(50) Saturday, May 10, 9:30PM

I'm in the Jenkins Shelter, and I'm beat. I slept in this morning after a great night's sleep. So I didn't get on the trail today until 10:15, which is an all time late start (not coming out of town). The wind was blowing steady 20+ mph all day with much of the trail along a ridgeline. I know now never to attack a high mileage day with such a late start. The first half of the day was supposed to be tough with a 2000 foot elevation gain up to Chestnut Knob, but the second half proved much more menacing with its rock-strewn trail. I thought I would never get to the shelter. Tomorrow will either be a short 14 or long 24 miles day. I'll wait and let the trail tell me which day it'll be. Now I need sleep.

18.8 Miles Today, 560.5 MTD


(51) Sunday, May 11, 9:30PM

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. I did it. I set a new distance record with my 24.1 miles today. I started at 8:45 and cruised until 6:45. It was actually easier than yesterday's 19 miles.

Last night I sheltered with Minstrel & Mallow from Boston, and Bones from near Scranton, PA (I think he said Dalton). He knew of Meshoppen, my boyhood home town, and of the Pink Apple, a roadside diner that my dad used to take us to. What a kick!

Tonight I'm back with Smiles and Little Toe, and Papa Smurf & Flower. It was a good day with nothing but clear blue skies. The trail was much friendlier as I really stretched my legs out for a good pace. I may try for 20 miles tomorrow to leave me an easy 10 into Pearisburg for a motel stay and a mail drop. So far I seem to be on pace to meet Christine in Buena Vista for Memorial Day weekend, but there are still a lot of miles to go.

I'm still covering my heels each morning with moleskin. The right heel is nearly ready to go uncovered. The left one is still draining a little blood since Atkins, but I actually think it's getting better. I'm watching it very closely.

24.1 Miles Today, 584.6 MTD


(52) Monday, May 12, 9:30PM

Well I think I've sabotaged my effort to get to Buena Vista to meet Christine. The 20 miles I did today just were too much for my heels. If Pearisburg tomorrow is a nice enough town, then I'm going to take a couple days off to heal. I'll end up having to hitch to BV in order to meet Christine. Oh well, you do what you have to.

Today I hiked with Smiles and Little Toe. It's the first time that I've really spent a day hiking with anyone since before the Smokies. I like both of these people, but I didn't enjoy hiking with them. I like being by myself on the trail to do as I please. I really didn't ask to hike with them, they just kind of included me. We made a quick side trip up a road today for lunch, then hiked a new relocated trail. Tonight I'm at a very special hostel that is an ancient homestead about a half-mile off the road. All that adds up to about an actual day of 22 miles. I am beat.

This hostel named Wood's Hole has two old buildings. The current owners’ discovered the150-year-old house back in the 1930's. It's a hand-hewn chestnut log cabin that has been beautifully restored and tastefully enhanced. We get to eat a hot breakfast there in the morning. The second structure was an old barn purchased from down the road and reconstructed here. The barn is over 100 years old, constructed from hand-hewn oak in the same manner as the log cabin. It serves as the bunkhouse for us hikers. There is electricity here, but no plumbing. Just a garden hose and a privy. It's truly a lovely place. I would have enjoyed getting here a little earlier and less tired to spend more time appreciating it all.

Now my concern is getting through the 10 miles tomorrow to Pearisburg and getting my heels exposed for as long as necessary. The left one is bleeding pretty badly, and now the right one is acting up under the stress. I think I'd be all right if the heels would just toughen up a bit. I can hike with the pain, but a bleeding wound is an unnecessary risk. So I will listen to my body, and give it a rest. After the rest, I'll push myself less.

Yea!! I passed 600 miles today. It's hard to believe. It took me 8 days to do the past 150 miles. Looking back to the start of my trip, it took me 17 days to do my first 150 miles . . . just an interesting fact.

19.8 miles Today, 604.4 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

Jenny Knob Shelter--When the shelter5s weren't full I could have my pack nearby and thus enjoy breakfast without having to leave the comfort of my sleeping bag.
Kimberly Creek--The entire AT is maintained by volunteers divided into geographical clubs. The emphasis of the maintenance varied from club to club. This pedestrian susopension bridge built by the Roanoke AT Club was a real achievement. In contrast, there wasn't a single pedestrian bridge in all of Maine.
Dismal Creek Falls--A Worthwhile short side trip. Attractions like this were often down a blue-blazed side trail. Such side trips impeded overl thru-hike progress so the longer ones were often bypassed. The AT itself is marked with white blazes that you'll see in many of the pictures. My companions this day were Little Toe and Smiles.


(53) Tuesday, May 13, 10:00PM

Breakfast this morning was fabulous. Just eight civilized people sitting around a warmly lit table for eggs, sausage, grits, and biscuits with gravy while the rain soaked the world outside. The Tillie Wood (our hostess) experience truly was a treat.

My resolve was truly tested once again this morning when High Pocket (one of Tillie's old friends) offered to drive our packs into town, since he had errands to run. Smiles had done a lot of slack-packing so she jumped at the chance. Little Toe had not yet slack-packed, but caved in any way. I, with my bloody heel and low spirit, held out. I put on my pack and walked the ten miles into Pearisburg. I guess it can now certainly be said that I'm an AT purist.

I found some joy in the wet walk this morning, which almost convinced me to keep up my effort toward Buena Vista. The one condition I placed on myself was to find some Compeed for my blisters at the local pharmacy. Since I had no such luck finding the Compeed, I'm taking tomorrow off. It's actually a relief to finally come to that conclusion. I'll just get there when I get there.

10.0 Miles Today, 614.4 MTD

Click on thumbprint photos to see them enlarged.

Wood's Hole--A restored homestead owned by Tille Wood (pictured here). She is a well-to-do Atlanta widow that resides here in the summer and welcomes hikers to stay in the barn/hostel. Breakfast here is a truly special experience.
High Pocket leaning on the barn/hostel helps Tille with the chores and entertaining.
Pearisburg--My blisters. My first 200 miles were nearly blister-free, but the next 600 were some variation of the condition pictures here.


(54) Wednesday, May 14

Zero-mile day


(55) Thursday, May 15

Zero-mile day

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