Central Virginia

July 15. Zero Day

I averaged more than 20 miles in the last week. So I deserve a day off, eh? Paul came and picked me up around noon, and we went in to Blacksburg, where we were invited over to a friends’ for brunch. Cool. Where is the guy (Micah) from? Newton. NNHS ’93. It’s a small world after all. Then I got a short tour, hung out at Paul’s, did laundry, and went to the outfitters. With soaked shoes with their padding shot, I decided that after 600+ miles it was time for a new pair. So I bought one. Then, more laundry (including a sleeping bag), the aforementioned slide show of the Rockies and Grand Canyon, shopping, dinner (pizza) with Laura, Micah and Paul’s girlfriend Lindsay, who I heard much about last summer but never actually met (she visited, but I was elsewhere when she did), and then a short jaunt to see the local culture (bar) in town. Tomorrow, back to Pearisburg, where I hit the trail again. Hopefully with happy feet and after a bed in which to sleep I make good miles. The plan is to really hoof it in about 100 miles when I hit the relatively flat blue ridge, run through Shenandoah (with its trailside restaurants and all) and be in DC by the end of the month.

July 16 — 6.7 Miles today, 628.8 miles from Springer, 1545.8 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +1755 feet. 
Climbs: 2, Wx: 80s, 100%, Shelter: +, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

After going to the pub last night, and typing in my log, I got to sleep late. But, it was in a bed. We woke up and went to Gillies, the Blacksburg spot for breakfast, which was quite good, and the service, known to often be shoddy, was good as well. It is a popular joint, and Paul seemed to know everyone (of course, Blacksburg is a pretty small town, especially in the summer), and although we barely had to wait, it often has a line out the door during the school year. Then I went to finish drying my sleeping bag, I went to the outfitter for a bit more stuff (after my new shoes and socks yesterday), met more of Paul’s buddies, went to the drug store, and then, finally, made my way back to the trailhead, around 3.

I crossed the bridge by the Celenese plant (which makes lovely things like cigarette filters — I used their rest room) and then went in to the woods for the climb up to Peters mountain. It was nice, except for some stinging nettle. Stinging nettle is a nasty little plant which has some chemicals on the base of its leaves which gives you a temporary, but painful, rash if you brush against it. Luckily, it grows alongside jewelweed, which is a natural antidote, something Bob Peoples taught me. So there was quite a bit of me poaching the jewelweed to treat the nettles stings. The trail flattened and I soon reached the shelter, which Carrie and Whispers, also getting a late start, inhabited. It is right on the side of a field which has terrific sunset views, and we sat out on a warm rock and watched as the sky went from pink to orange and the sun became a glowing pink globe which settled behind the hills. Then, the stars came out, and the lights came on below, and we could hear cars, trucks, trains and even people across West Virginia (the trail, for a few miles, straddles the Virginia-West Virginia border). It’s around here you really realize that the AT is not a wilderness trail. We can see valley upon valley of lights, and hear cows and the aforementioned people and automobiles, and even the lights of some cities. The trail is now urban until it reaches Vermont, and finally reaches its most wilderness-y stretch only in northern Maine.

And, my new shoes are great (padding!). It helps that I got better socks, too, which add to the padding. Merino wool, not smartwool which I had. I am ready for some good, long days.

July 17 — 21.3 Miles today, 650.1 miles from Springer, 1524.5 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +625 feet. 
Climbs: 2, Wx: 80s-90, 100%, Shelter: +, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

After the late sunset/star gazing, I didn’t get up until 8ish. I hit the trail by 8:30, flat and pretty easy on a ridge. I butterfly chased in a field for a bit, taking some pictures of the first monarchs I’ve seen (or maybe Viceroys, which have adapted to look just like the poisonous monarchs) but will likely not match the monarch pictures from kindergarten, with me holding the butterflies. Those are great pictures — I should digitize them. Lunch was around 2, and Whispers and Carrie and Masa showed up as I was leaving, before I set off to a bridge which was out necessitating a shoe-off ford (better than a 1.5 mile road walk) to keep my feet dry. I saw Whispers once again at the water source before the next shelter, but I pressed on and he stayed there. He said that I am the only person he’s me who says they are thru-hiking and who he actually thinks will make it.

I was going gangbusters. Then, I went along a ridge with tons and tons of rocks. Pennsylvania Jr. At 7:30, near a piped spring, I decided to set camp (no threat of rain, just a bug net), and get an early start tomorrow. It was quite hot, so it will be nice to get up early and hike when it is cool, better to hike 7-7 than 9-9.

July 18 — 21.9 Miles today, 672 miles from Springer, 1802.6 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -2200 feet. 
Climbs: 2,2, Wx: 80s-100, 100%, Shelter: 1, Dinner: 5, Overall: 3.

From the shelter (Warspur register, 7.1.06): “Happy Canada Day everyone! Traditionally celebrated by lounging around by the lake at someone’s cottageand drinking some beer. It’s a holiday everyone can enjoy.” The writer, Prozac, is, I think, from North Bay, way up dere, eh?

Today was too hot. It was a dry heat, but it didn’t matter. It was cooler in the woods than across the fields, but it didn’t matter. Probably near 100 crossing the fields, of which there were quite a few (although they were pretty). H-O-T hot.

I got a very early start. 7:00 on the dot. My earliest of the trail in fact. It was four easy miles down to the War Spur shelter, which I was glad to do today and not in the failing light last night. I took a break there and hit my first climb. It was still not too hot, but slow going nonetheless, especially for 9:30 in the AM. I had lunch around 1 and then went across the hellishly hot open fields across a valley with just a ton of stiles. The books told me about the big Keffer Oak, but I was not prepared for its size. I came around a corner and immediately uttered “motheragawd.” It was that big. The tree is 18 feet around. It is thrice the size of most of the other oaks around. It has branches which hang down almost to ground level and then curve back up. It stands out easily from the rest of the trees, and is truly amazing. The other big event was crossing the eastern continental divide. For quite some time, I have been in the Mississippi-Ohio watershed (mainly streams draining to the New and Tennessee rivers) but today I crossed and the streams flow the other way, towards the James and eventually the Atlantic. And that is pretty much where I will stay. After the oak, I had a big climb with black raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. Yum. I got to the shelter and it was hot, and there were no-see-ums. It would be a long night.

July 19 — 23.5 Miles today, 695.5 miles from Springer, 1479.1 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +180 feet. 
Climbs: 2,2, Wx: 90s, 100%, T, Shelter: 4, Dinner: 5, Overall: 4.

Sleep last night sucked. There were no-see-ums everywhere and finally, after tossing and turning, I zipped myself in to my bivy sack (they were inside the bug net) to keep the biting down. My headlamp only attracted more, so writing or reading was out. It was just hell. It was too warm for a sleeping bag anyway so the bugs had full range of my body. The bivy only came out at 4:00, and I slept in a bit, so much for the early start in the heat wave. I read some of the Calvin and Hobbes someone had left there but finally got to sleep. It was the first time I’ve used the bivy, and not a moment too soon. The heat was so dry I woke up with a bloody nose. Icing on the bloody cake.

I didn’t get out until 9:30, and it was already warm. I ran in to two dogs not long after setting off, both unleashed, and barking a lot. The yell “NO!” and point to the ground kept one from charging me, but I still walked around them. Then I had to climb. It was hot going up. The trees in the sandy soil were sparse, and the sun beat down. Water was scarce and sketchy but I drank and drank and drank anyway. At times, I was drinking double my usual water intake of 1ml per 10m, or one liter per 10 km, or five ounces per mile. Or 25.6 miles per gallon. (Yes, that decimal is important.) All told, I probably gulped six liters today without breaking a sweat. The top of the ridge was flat, and I went down the other side and, uh, up the next ridge. Fun. I felt sick. And tired. And hot.

On the top of the ridge I met a camp group, the first people I’d seen in 28 hours, my longest stretch without seeing anyone on the trail. Then I hit the hardest terrain so far, the side fo the Dragon’s Tooth, which had cliffs, scrambles and iron rebar, all going down.

A bit of sliding and cursing. By 6, I was at a small grocery/convenience store for dinner for a hamburger and orange juice and bathroom. Six dollars well spent. I went up along a low ridge with no views but lots of pointless ups and downs (PUDS) and, once it was dark and pleasantly cool, to a shelter.

There I met two camp counselors whose campers were on a “group solo” a shelter (one mile) ahead. In fact, one of the counselors had snuck up on the group to see if they were doing okay. Earlier in the day, they said, the counselors had caught up on the group, and heard whispers of “hey the counselors are right behind us,” followed by loud exclamations of “hey did you bring the heroin and condoms for tonight?” and such from their campers. Ah, those creative 15-year-olds today. The counselors also know a friend of mine (they didn’t know the last name, but how many blonde, Macalester geography major Sandys can there be?), who is also a counselor at the camp. Small world.

So, the plan for tomorrow: Get up and go over McAfee Knob (supposedly the best views in Virginia, then along the Tinker cliffs and down a side trail to a road. There I’ll hitch back to Catawba for the Homeplace — “fine” southern cooking — supposedly barbecue. They are only open Thursday to Sunday which is why I am hiking the extra six miles and not taking the one mile hitch from 311, just south of the shelter. It is, by some accounts, the best food on the trail. We shall see. Or maybe, it’s not. Then, 10 miles the next day down to Troutville and Daleville, then up to the Blue Ridge for some hopefully long days.

This is the most urban shelter so far, too. I can hear cows, dogs and see lights in the valley below. One ridge over, the sky is orange beneath the lights of Roanoke. Wow. Wilderness? Not really.

July 20 — 9.6* Miles today, 704.9 miles from Springer, 1469.7 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +100 feet. 
Climbs: 3,3, Wx: 90s, 70%, T, Shelter: 4, Dinner: 5, Overall: 4.
* 6.2 additional miles on a side trail.

I slept perfectly well, except once when I awoke when the noseeum bites, which cover my legs (eaten alive, indeed), made me want to rip the skin off my body. I resisted the temptation, which is probably a good thing.

It was but a short morning hike to McAfee Knob (pronounced, with a thick Southern drawl if you want, MAC-uh-fee) which has tremendous views, although they were somewhat tempered by the haze. The quintessential picture is looking at an overhanging rock where you can stand and have your picture taken, or, if you want, self-time your picture (especially if there is no one else on the peak when you are there). The pictures would be somewhat better in the afternoon (not back-lit) but I didn’t have all day to lounge around. The haze kept visibility down to about 15 miles, just far enough to see the runways of the Roanoke airport in the distance. It would be a spectacle at night, but camping is not permitted. The trees near the summit, mainly scrub oak, remind me very much of Cape Cod. The soil is probably pretty similar (real sandy) as is the climate (at 3000 feet here), although there the comparisons likely end. No salt in the air here, either.

I then went over Tinker Cliffs (also an overhang picture point) and down towards the Andy Laine trail where I had to decide between the Homeplace or a longer day through Troutville and Daleville. As I sat there with my guidebook, a Virginia Tech studet — Amanda — came by on a day hike and said that the Andy Laine trail was not too bad — she had come up it and was going down herself. Plus she had nothing but good things to say about the Homeplace. Sounds good to me. So I did three miles down the trail and got a ride in to town with her, and just have the three miles up later, plus the hitch back to the trail. I should be able to hit the trail by 7:00 and be in the shelter by dark.

There have been tons of raspberries today, real red raspberries, and I can’t resist them. I’ve had several handfuls, which is easy when they grow in bunches right on the trail. In one of the guidebooks I was reading in Tennessee, it said part of Leave No Trace was to leave the berries for the birds and bears. Excuse me? They have the run of the entire forest, while I only see the berries on the trail. Leave ripe raspberries? Hogwash. Anything within spitting distance is game for me. I may make myself sick.

Now, by taking a ten-miler right after a zero day in Blacksburg, you might have some questions about my pace. I know I do. I will answer them in a question-and-answer format as follows:

Q. Won’t this rush you further north?
A. Maybe, but a ten mile day only adds 8/120 of a day overall. All of 400 feet extra each day along the whole trip. That’s 200 steps. Not that much.
Q. Won’t this mean some real long days further north?
A. Sure, but I can do those in, say, Pennsylvania through Massachusetts. Especially if it is cool, say, in the 80s. Every 30 mile day makes up for a day like today. Two 30s make up for a zero.
Q. What about winter?
A. New England will be cool. Plus, I have planned October 1 but have until the 15th, although I’d like to be done by the fifth as I have obligations in Oklahoma on the 7th.
Q. What about the moonlit Presidential traverse?
A. Probably out for now. Unless I do BIG miles from Pennsylvania to Vermont (and in the Doahs, too) and the weather is real cooperative. And, I am still in the South in the summer. On the upside, I am getting a good, real dinner, and I got to see Paul in Blacksburg. I am not trying to set any land speed records. (The record for the whole trail is, unofficially, about 47 days. That’s averaging nearly 50 miles a day.). And I have 12 chances a year to do the Presi traverse under a full moon, although winter and weather probably make it slightly fewer.
Q. DC? NY?
A. Both probably still in, for now. DC to see folks. NY for pastrami on rye. Both short, easy train rides from the trail. DC ETA August 1-2. NY? Who knows. If anything, it rained while I was inside. How quaint.

So — my experiment with Southern homestyle cooking was so-so. The food was good, especially the fried chicken (could I come all the way down here and not get any of that?) but perhaps too rich for my belly. I got a quick hitch back out out of town halfway back, then another to the trail from a former Digital employee (who doesn’t know my dad). And if nothing else, I get to see yellow blazes for a while. What a shock!

Carrie, Masa and Whispers occupy this shelter. They pulled a long, hot day since neither of them has Wingfoot (one of the trail guides) which gushes over the Homeplace. Frankly, I like Wingfoot better than the alternative (the Companion) although both are far from perfect. And both need copyediting! Maybe I’ll volunteer to do that this winter.

And the lyrics to a country song on the radio as I waited for the Homeplace to open:

You spend an awful lot of time in Massachusetts…
When whoever’s in New England’s through with you
And Boston finds better things to do
You know it’s not too late cause you’ll always have a place to come back to
When whoever’s in New England’s through with you.

Oh, yeah, they love us New Englanders down here.

July 21 — 14.4 Miles today, 719.3 miles from Springer, 1455.3 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +590 feet. 
Climbs: 2, Wx: 90s, 70%, Shelter: 4, Dinner: -, Overall: 3.

I was out at 7:45. And it was hot. And I am 22! And it was hot. My best estimate was 145 degrees. Probably off by a bit. But the bank, which said 86, is also off by a bit. It was lots of PUDS in to town (with beautiful views of Roanoke and suburbs) and then off to the outfitter. I then made a hike, at their suggestion (and after gleefully accepting four Krispy Kreme donuts and a fake-coke from them) to a real all-you-can-eat (AYCE) pizza buffet (by real, I mean that the owner was a real Italian, and they had real pizza ovens, not a pimply-faced seventeen-year-old putting pre-rolled doughs on a conveyor belt) for all of $6.

Troutville is a highway interchange and I almost got killed by a few Mack Trucks while I walked for pizza. Amazing how America is not designed for anything without four wheels. And we wonder why we are fat. Then I walked, stupidly, a mile of trail, and then two miles back on the road (that is why it was stupid, I was glad not to have my pack on during this desolate section of trail along I-81) to the outfitter where I Krogered it up and then made for the hills. I was mad at the heat, the weight of the new food, and, well, the heat, and I threw a fit as I packed my bag up. I got a good ride back to the trail after about ten minutes (too bad hitching in the US is really only safe along the Trail; it’s a lot of fun). It was up, up, up to the shelter, where the crew (Carrie & Whispers) had smores for my birthday. Thanks, guys!

So. Where was I …

1 year ago? It was the second-to-last working day at the REU at USM. I had five or so drinks from midnight to 1:00 a.m. at Gritty’s in Portland before someone else drove us home. I slept until about 7, woke up with a wicked hangover, drank a half gallon of water, ran four miles on the great trail they have there, and was set for the day, including a drive home to Boston to renew my driver license.
2 years ago? Australia, mate.
3 years ago? Newton, I guess.
4 years ago? This one, I remember. I was on Sundance pass at 11,000 feet in the Beartooth Mountains in Montana. For several days, the thunderstorms had rolled in around 2, so we planned to be over the pass and in to the trees well before then. It was clear until about 10:30, when fog rolled in to the pass. Then, the thunderstorm hit. In the fog. It was incredibly scary, but a wicked rush at the same time, being on an exposed pass in a thunderstorm when the fog was so thick you couldn’t see the lightning! All of the sudden, the sky turned blue, and we ran over the summit, literally bolting down the switchbacks on the other side, until we were in a ravine and caught our breaths. Sort of.
6 years ago? Luxor, Egypt.
8 years ago? Israel. It was 97 degrees out. Kind of like today. Back when Israel was in a state of peace. Don’t get me started.
22 yeas ago? Brigham and Women’s hospital, Boston. Although before 7:19, nowhere to be found.

July 22 — 26.8 Miles (MARATHON), 746.1 miles from Springer, 1428.5 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -1350 feet. 
Climbs: 4,4,4,3, Wx: 70s-80s, 50%, R, Shelter: +, Dinner: 5, Overall: 5.

I likely finally spent my last night with Carrie, Masa and Whispers. We all left the shelter (with it’s cool rainwater cistern) at different times and leapfrogged ahead all day. Carrie left at 7:30, me at 8:05 and Whispers soon after. Whispers passed me when I stopped at the first shelter for privy and water. I spent a couple minutes brushing in — filling in with dead wood so it looks very intentional — the switchbacks on the trail to the water source and admonished others in the log to follow the switchbacks and not cut them. And I highlighted it so they get it. Then I reached, for the first time, the Blue Ridge Parkway, mile 97, and the trail followed it for a while. I passed Whispers, Carrie and Masa where they had gone in for lunch at Bobblet’s shelter a few hundred yards off the trail although Carrie found me again at a stream not mentioned in Wingfoot near VA 43.

The weather was much cooler today with only one hot, sunny climb and many light showers. I led Carrie up the next hill and got to the Cove Mountain shelter, which has no water source, at 5:40. I had the following system to decide whether to stay there or move on, which I use quite often, although the times vary based on mileage, in this case, seven miles, if it wasn’t raining. If it was before 6:00, I would keep going no matter (if I felt up to it), between 6:00 and 6:30, I’d decide, after 6:30 would be my drop-dead time and I’d stay. So five minutes later, after Carrie, Masa and Whispers had arrived, I moved on.

And, of course, fifteen minutes later, it was raining. It was only for half an hour, and I’d much rather hike in rain that in 95 degrees with high humidity. I passed another swimming hole in the rain (a recurring theme it seems) and got to the palace that is Bryant Ridge shelter at 8:30, glad I’d made the extra trek.

The shelter is a gem. It has two stories (I had the upstairs penthouse suite), built like a treehouse, although from the outside it resembles a modest, two story single family with three-and-a-half sides. The layout is actually like our cabin in Maine, but bigger, and without electricity, running water (but the stream is real close) or screens. It could probably sleep 30. I had couscous for the first time (yum!) and it is cooling off to be a pleasant night for sleeping, albeit somewhat rainy. Doesn’t matter in this hotel.

The only downside here is the moths. They don’t bother the other hiker here (sectioner Radioactive) but swarmed and colonized (literally) my wet, wool socks (maybe they will suck out the water. I doubt it) and anything else I have, although the bug net is nice and they haven’t gone for my food too much. Still, if my light is on outside the net they will swarm. They’ll be gone at sunup.

Tomorrow is a 2200+ foot climb to start, then a side trip to Apple Orchard Falls which should be running well with the recent rain, and then 22 miles (plus three roundtrip to the falls) to near the James River. Oh, and I finally made it below 1000 feet when I crossed Jennings Creek today, the first time on the trail, and I am more than 1/3 of the way done.

From the shelter (Bryant Ridge):
5.27: “I’m 10% human and 90% mosquito bite.” –Burner
6.23: “What a damned hot day. Still haven’t sweated Troutville out of my system. Maybe 5 more miles to Cornelius [next shelter] will do it. Then I can start drinking the bottle of bourbon that I have in the bottom of my pack.” —Hightech. 7.9:
“Hiking alone again with two poles, therefore, I can no longer pick my nose while hiking…” –Wink

July 23 — 22.7* Miles today, 768.8 miles from Springer, 1405.8 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -485 feet. 
Climbs: 1,3,4 Wx: 70s-80, 800%, Shelter: 4, Dinner: 2, Overall: 4.
* Plus 2.5(ish) miles on side trail.

Definitely an eventful day. I awoke late up on the upper level and, with wet shoes, got a slow start, as I planned my sock rotation and rid my pack of the bee which had wandered in. The sock situation was as follows: one wet new pair (a dry old pair and a dry new pair. I decided to wear the old ones to dry my shoes (the socks would get wet but wick away most of the moisture) and the switch later to the dry new ones. Extra socks are definitely worth carrying.

And it worked. I went up the long, unrelenting climb — not too speep, 2200 feet in 4.4 miles — it was just long and by the shelter at the top I swapped socks an had dry feet! Then it was off to the Apple Orchard Falls (AOf for short. Can we add an “sevit” to that?) and a decision to hike down it or not. The water would probably be decently high from the recent rain, so I went. On the way down, I met a guy with a Sox cap on from West Roxbury with his daughter and inquired about the falls. In classic Boston understatement he said “it’s a nice spot.” And it was, indeed. Not stunning, but pretty spectacular nonetheless, with the sun playing with the clouds and providing different lighting.

Pack on and back on the AT, I met Whispers on the top of Apple Orchard Mountain (where he stopped to make some phone calls) before I watered and privied at the shelter and made for the next one: 12.4 miles at 4:25.

I was making good time on a great trail — well graded and relatively flat, and watching a spectacular sunset, with lots of long distance haze and a perfectly placed cloud. Then something worse than a bee stung the back of my knee. I swore, and walked four miles with the leg throbbing and swelling, singing once it got dark and I saw a deer (I think, I just saw my light glinting off two eyes). At the shelter, I made way too much pasta, so I will have burnt pasta for breakfast. Lesson: despite the fast cooking time, don’t buy angel hair.

July 24 — 22.2 Miles today, 791 miles from Springer, 1383.6 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +560 feet. 
Climbs: 1,3, Wx: 70s-80s, 100%, Shelter: 5, Dinner: 5, Overall: 4.

I awoke and had the rest of the pasta. Still hungry (I thought) I proceeded to eat two pop tarts and some trail mix. Two miles out, I felt lethargic. Too much breakfast. I crossed the James, the biggest river crossing so far (and on a big, long pedestrian bridge which is tres cool, and the longest foot-only bridge on the trail) and after four miles at the first shelter was more than ready for a rest-digest. I read, in an hour, a sequel to Hatchet, a book I read in, oh, third grade (it was a choice between that and the Three Musketeers. I actually wanted to get some hiking in this week), got water, and climbed to tremendous views.

I had to go fast, but the trail was generally easy, but I got stung by proper bees (not the mutants of yesterday) just before I crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway again. At least they stung for ten minutes, not five hours. Then, it was a long nine miles with a reroute neither Wingfoot or the Companion mentioned (as well as a major stream they neglected to talk about) to a shelter. 18 miles to a B&B tomorrow.

And now my right ankle is a bit hurt. It’s not bad. And it’s not a normal ankle roll. Basically, it is a stretch of the ligaments on top of the foot and in front of the leg. I aggrevate it by doing things like hooking my toe on rocks and roots, which overstretches the ankle, or placing my heel down on a rock while the front of my foot jerks downwards, with the same effect. Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) should help, as should the level trails in Shenandoah.

July 25 — 18.1* Miles today, 809.1 miles from Springer, 1365.5 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: +2060 feet. 
Climbs: 1,4,4,4, Wx: 60s-70s, 0%, R, Shelter: -, Dinner: +, Overall: 5.
* Plus 1.1 on side trail.

After breakfast, it rained. I was just finishing packing when the first drops hit. I found a book and decided I didn’t want to be wet, so I waited it out. After a few hours and 250 pages, the rain lightened up, as Jamie and Lewis caught back up with me, I left the shelter for 18 fast miles (6:30, uphill) and then another 1.1 miles down to the B&B. The weather was perfect: cloudy and cool, with a chilly wind up in the open areas up top, although my shoes did get wet from the wet grass.

I saw more deer, which I thought, through the trees, were cars moving along a road, and then made the long walk to the Dutch Haus B&B which was worth every step and every penny. I got beef stew in a bread bowl for dinner (multiple servings) and then read the rest of the book. It was a Clive Cussler novel and was great for mindless reading. It had all the basics of an adventure story: a fanciful story with outlandish plot twists. Nazis, good Americans, some page turning cliffhangers, and better prose than the Da Vinci Code. Not that that is saying much. Then, in a real bed, I went to sleep.

July 26 — 18.2* Miles today, 827.3 miles from Springer,1347.3 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -735 feet. 
Climbs: 4,3,3,1, Wx: 70s, 70%, Shelter: 5, Dinner: 3, Overall: 4.
* Plus 1.1 on a side trail.

I left the B&B late after a huge breakfast: French toast, omelette, sausage, muffin, fruit, OJ. All non-trail things. Yum. Plus, I had clean clothes and dry shoes on a clean body. It all felt wrong. But not too wrong. I had a long trudge up the access road to the trail (gated) and then a slow start so that it was too late to swim in the Tye River, and then I had a very long climb up a mountain called Three Ridges, which is pretty rough. I finally got over the top, saw a pair of paws on a tree and realized it was a raccoon, not a bear cub (phew), and got in to the shelter in the dark. Dinner was quick: cheese, tortilla (the deet on my leg leached the writing on the tortilla bag off, so I have a tattoo of how to roll a burrito. I hope it is non-permanent) and pudding. The Dindins of Champions. To Waynesboro tomorrow.

There was a milestone today. I went over 4000 feet for the last time for a while. The trail next passes the 4000 foot mark while climbing Moosilauke in New Hampshire, nearly 1000 miles off. Stratton’s fire tower breaks 4000 feet in the cab (at eye level about) and Killington is 0.2 miles off trail over 4000, but the trail itself is lower all the way to the Whites.

I also decided not to do the extra walk to Rusty’s Hard Time Hollow. It seems that it was sold to another guy who, unlike Rusty, is an alcoholic. He is trying to sound authentic, but all the log entries about it advertising it sound very similar, like he is telling people what to write. Plus, he seems to just want hikers to support his habit. I’ll skip that, thank you.

July 27 — 21.1 Miles today, 848.4 miles from Springer, 1326.2 Miles to Katahdin, Net elev: -820 feet. 
Climbs: 4,3,4, Wx: 80s, 100%, Shelter: -, Dinner: -, Overall: 5.

I was up by a bit before 7 and out of the shelter by 7:45. I would have gone fast but for various ankle woes. I am really looking forward to the flat paths of the Shenandoahs. John left first and Whimsey just after me. By the time I had treated a blister (duct tape) and sat down to ponder my ankle, Whimsey was coming along. He gave me some stuff (which seemed not to work) called biofreeze (or something) to rub on my ankle. Later, I would ace bandage it (worked to a degree), ibuprofen myself (worked pretty well) and actually put some toilet paper under my insole for more arch support, which seemed not to be a bad idea.

I have finally figured out what is wrong with my ankles. It is not a usual, twisting motion which is causing the various pain. It is a more up-and-down motion. Basically, it occurs in two manners. What happened in the Smokies was that I put my heel down, and the front of my foot violently dropped, stretching the tendons between the top of my foot and front of my shin. Since then, the problem has oft been exacerbated by hooking my toe on a rock or stump, thus stretching it in a similar way. Luckily, a little rest goes a long way, and the CCC-constructed trails in the Shenandoahs should mean few, if any, opportunities to do any further damage in coming days.

After lunch, I passed both John and Whimsey and continued on. The trail was decent, but not too smooth, so my ankles were not terribly happy. I swallowed some more ibuprofen and pressed on, past the last shelter, and by the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, in to town. To get in to Waynseboro (a town of some 20,000), you can use the so-called Trail Angel Network, basically a list of people to call who will give you a ride to the trail. I called a couple, got an answer, and got a ride in. Waynesboro has a sad-looking downtown, and all the locals lament about it. There is, of course, a big Wal-Mart on the outskirts of town. It was already 8:00, so I: went to the library (internet, they have a big library here with lots of people using the internet, but the librarians were happy to move along people playing silly online games for us hikers), to the Y to check in to the camping area they operate, and then to a local pizza joint, where again I got decent pizza, with Frond and Azaria, two hikers I met in town. I ate a whole, large extra cheese pizza, impressing the guys working there, and then we went off to the camping area, where I promptly set up a bug net and went to sleep.

Around 2 a.m., I woke up, thirsty. It must have been from the pizza. And I was out of water. So I got up and walked to the 24-hour Kroger, where I got water, and a midnight snack. I had a hankering, for some strange reason, for yogurt, so got, and ate a quart of Stonyfield Farm (with the cream on top, of course). And a banana, and some cookies. And then I went back to bed.