Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pearisburg Va to Daleville Va

Rain was the theme of this stretch. In fact, I'm pretty sure it rained at least some every day. Ended up just shelter hoping to make it easy on myself.

Passed over some notable landmarks like Dragon's Tooth and Mcafee Knob. Had rain for Dragons, which was probably the most technical hiking, or crawling I should really say thus far. Even had iron ladders in some places built right into the side of the rock. Was cloudy for Mcafee so I missed the view but at least it wasn't raining.

Stayed at 4 Pines Hostel, which operates out of an old 3 car garage. Awesome place. 10 of us disgusting smelly hikers went to The Home Place (just in time for the church crowd...whoops), which I seriously hope all current and/or former Blacksburg residents reading this have visited. Maybe it was the "hiker hunger" talking, but $14 for all you can eat chicken, potatoes, ham, green beans, biscuits, and ice cream and cobbler, amount other things..was easily the greatest food highlight so far.

Staying a night in Daleville (where I was bought a beer and got a free banana pudding just for being a thru hiker). 723 miles down, less then 300 to Harpers Ferry!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Woodshole Hostel

Referred to in my guide book as "a little slice of heaven not to be missed", Woodshole Hostel is an 1880's log cabin that operates as a sustainable organic farm with bees, cattle, and goats and chickens just roamin around.

They do community dinner and breakfast based on what's available at the time. We had peanut stir fry with the meat courtesy of the neighbors's cow, and then homemade blackberry ice cream.

Awesome little place along the trail. I did inadvertently lock myself in the outhouse and had to climb out the side window though...

Monday, April 22, 2013

Virginia is for hikers

Killed nearly 2 days bumming around and drinking local beer in Damascus. Awesome little hiking town.

Dad came in again to resupply me and then hike out and camp with me the first day. I took him to the local hiker bar which was having Taco Tuesday, $1.50 tacos and 1/2 price draughts. No brainier.

It rained that night, but we thought the worst was over. Wrong. We hiked out of Damascus in the pouring rain. Rained most of the day, but luckily stopped by the time we got to camp. Found an awesome spot by the river, used for trout fishing when it's warmer.

Said goodbye to dad and headed straight up Mt. Rogers, the last 5k peak for a while...I think anyways. Decent enough day, but it was supposed to bad again on Friday so I wanted to get up and over it before that happened. Ended up hiking further than I planned and went through Grayson Highlands State Park which is famous for it's roaming wild ponies. One in particular took quite an interest in me, wouldn't stop licking me, even followed me down the trail for a minute. I named her Maggie. If I get better signal soon, I'll try and post a video to YouTube. Walked most of the day and logged 25 miles. Rained that night and then continued raining most of the day, and then it got cold. Decided only a shelter would do so I ended up waking another 25 to get there. I've always heard rumors of a shelter on the AT that has a shower and that you can order pizza from because of its proximity to the nearest town's Pizza Hut. Well, needless to say I was more than a little thrilled to realize I had walked to that very shelter. Took a shower (notice the absence of the word "hot") but I didn't care, and put on dry clothes. Ate a full normal dinner and then set to order pizza with another thru hiker and a few southbound section hikers. Easily polished off a full medium even after all my normal food.

I had been hiking those two days with another thru hiker named "Yonder" from Munich, Germany. Since his communication lines are obviously worse than mine, he asked for my blog address to send home so they could keep track of roughly where he was. So...if you live in Germany and are reading this, Yonder is an awesome dude and a very fast hiker..it's all I can do to keep up with "The Flying German".

I don't know if Virginia got easy after that or if I got my real hiking legs, but I did another 25 each day for the next 2...knocking out 100 in 4 days.

Hit up Fresh Ground again this morning. Stuffed my face and then he drove me into town for a quick resupply. The man, the myth, and the legend is pictured below. (Also, my pancake record was beaten, but only by 1/2 a cake. He wasn't doing them this time, but said I'd have another stab at it next spot.

Hit the 600 mile mark today. My plan is to get up early, probably before the sun, and haul the 20 miles to an awesome, highly talked about hiker hostel. Will post an update from there.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Erwin, TN to Damascus, VA

We had heard once again that Fresh Ground was camped just up the trail out of Erwin about 8 miles. I had planned to stop by, smash some food and keep moving. But no luck. He convinced a few of us to camp there and keep him company. In exchange he would provide all the lunch/dinner we could eat and then all the breakfast we could eat the next morning. Say no more. Done.

I ate till I felt sick, hung around a big bonfire, and slept soundly. Since everyone had got stuck in the smokies, he hadn't had a lot of hikers at his last stop, so all his bananas were less than desirable looking. So he decided to make banana pancakes with them. Now, Fresh Ground is well known for his hot dogs, and the record for the most eaten in a single visit is on a big board. (We're talking upwards of 1,000 hot dogs in 10 days he can go through). Well, I decided to set a new record for banana pancakes. He took some convincing, but after he watched me put down 4, he let me start a new record with my name on the board. Now, I know what you're thinking...only 4?! These are not your average pancake. They fall over the edge of a standard plate and have nearly a whole banana in each one. They're filling, trust me. After that I felt terrible, but decided I needed to walk it off. Hiked all day and didn't eat again until dinner.

Hiked all day the next day and camped at a little rocky overlook, awesome sunset.

The next day's hike included Roan Mountain, which happens to be the last 6,000' peak until New Hampshire! After that, you cruise Lord of the Rings style across one bald after another, with 360 views all around. Awesome hiking. Some of my favorite thus far, and it makes me very sad it lies in Tennessee.

Decided to camp for the night on the last and steepest of the balds. It got super windy at night, but had a phenomenal sunset on one side and then an awesome sunrise on the other.

Made good time the next day, logged 20 miles by 4pm, and found a great spot by a stream and decided to give my feet some rest. It stormed pretty crazy that night, lightning, thunder, the whole works. Spent it hunkered down in my tent.

Next few days were absolutely gorgeous. Awesome hiking weather.
The last 25 or so miles into Damascus are nicknamed the "Tennessee Turnpike" because they're considered one of the easiest sections of the whole trail. I decided to put it to the test and logged 4.5 miles in just over an hour, easily double my normal speed.. Needless to say, I support the nickname.

I've also noticed in this section of a lot of seemingly random graves basically trail side. Some of them appear to have no real relation to the trail, only the area. One of the ones that stood out was that of Nick Grindstaff, who had probably the sadder epitaph ever: "lived alone, suffered alone, and died alone". So next time you're having a drink (probably about 3 minutes for Brian) raise it to ol' Nick.

8 days on the trail and 125 miles, into Damascus this morning for laundry and a seriously needed shower.

467 miles down.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Erwin TN

For anyone interested in a little Erwin TN history, please see the following article and read the "history" tab.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hot Springs, NC to Erwin, TN

It was great to see Deanna in Hot Springs and feel normal again, if only for a little while. Tried to take a zero day, but she made me take her to Max Patch and hike back up it again. Was a lot nicer weather the second time around though. Ate a lot of food, and drank some good local beer.

*sidenote: if you're in Hot Springs and want a serious meal, go to Smoky Mtn Diner and order the skillet.

Headed out of Hot Springs on a gorgeous day..Deanna hiked the first few miles with me which was great. Decided to camp that night since it had been a while.

I awoke to a terrible new day though. Cold, windy, and rainy. 1/2 through the day, the temperature dropped and the rain turned to sleet. Just when I thought 'out of the Smokies' meant 'out of bad weather'...yea right. Cut the day short, dried off, and huddled down in a shelter with 4 other cold, wet, thru hikers.

Turned out to just be a freak storm and the next 2 days were really nice; actually saw the sun! Got to wear just a t-shirt and my boots were dry for more than 24 hours. Its been about 2 weeks since either of those things happened.

342 miles down, stopping in for a night in Erwin, TN (Uncle Johnny's hostel) ...then out for a 7 day trek to Damascus and the state of Virginia!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Smokies (part 2)

Well I finally got out of Gatlinburg on Thursday morning. They reopened the road and I gladly hopped on the first shuttle back up to Newfound Gap. Totally different world up there. The sun was shining and there were tourists everywhere. 10 of us thru hikers hoped out of a van with packs and started hiking up the icy trail. I've never gotten so many strange looks in my life. Everyone there clearly thought we were crazy.

Turned out to be an awesome day of hiking. Probably the prettiest section of the whole park or even the AT for that matter (at least so far)...and I had the sun on my face and snow still on the trees. Of course, it wouldn't last...

Friday, it snowed again, but I wasn't too concerned because I knew we were dropping a couple thousand feet on the way out of the park, but when I got half way down, the snow turned to rain.

We had heard that Fresh Grounds, who is basically the god of trail magic, was camped a few miles ahead. So saturday morning, we got up extra early and headed to him. Hot dogs, soup, Gatorade, chocolate, fresh fruit, etc etc, he had it all. Even a little homemade Tennessee moonshine, which goes down pretty smooth at 9:30am. Headed out of there to make some miles, turned out to be a entire day of sloshing in the mud and the snow. Was still excited to get to Max Patch though, which is in every AT highlight video. Right before there, I came across a snowman someone had built with a big bag around its neck of yoohoos and oatmeal cream pies. Absolutely. Amazing.

Got up to Max Patch just in time for a little sun, and the place did not disappoint at all. A huge grassy bald with 360 views of the surrounding mountains.

Pretty easy, slightly wet, and muddy day on Sunday, stayed at a shelter only 3 miles out of Hot Springs. Walked into town this morning for some rest and beer.

Oh, also, I found out they closed the road to Newfound Gap AGAIN! Yikes. Glad to be done with the Smokies.

3 weeks in and 274 miles down.