June 8 - 14 Journal Entries

June 8 - Day 90

13.1 mi to Pinefield Hut - 866.1 cum

An absolutely great hike today! My leg is feeling much better and the trail is a dream. We had time today to stop at Loft Mtn Campground and grab showers and wash clothes. Then it was another 1.5 mi to the Wayside restaurant for a late lunch and some ice cream followed by an hour long nap on the lawn. After that it was a leisurely 5.5 to the shelter.

Here's an excerpt from the Data Book's trail description for today's section of trail: Mile 0.0 - On left deer, Mile 0.1 - On right deer, Mile 0.2 - On left and right 2 deer, Mile 0.3 - Trail switchback and deer with fawn on right.

It really was incredible the amount of wildlife we saw. Literally dozens of deer, turkey, rabbits, snakes, but alas, no bears yet. A lot of other hikers are reporting sightings, but we haven't been so lucky yet. It's been fun to watch Micah's reactions to all these animals. I'm very glad he's been on a leash the whole time - therre are just too many temptations to expect him to resist if he were on his own.

Here's something First Knight copied into the Pinefield Hut register for everyone to enjoy:

The Philosophy of John Murr: Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

It's a peaceful night at the shelter. Only 4 of us herre with 2 dogs. Maverick and Jaffy and their black labs, Callie, are sharing the shelter with FireBall, Micah, and me. There's a creek nearby to lull us to sleep and a whipporwill is giving its call off in the distance.

June 9 - Day 91

18 mi to Pocosin Cabin - 885.1 cum

Today had some unexpected and unwelcome excitement. We had planned a long day of somewhere between 18 and 21 miles. On long days, I like to try and get most of the mileage behind me before I take a long break. So, at about 2:30 in the afternoon I pulled off on a side trail to a picnic area with 14 miles done. I wasn't there very long before FireBall showed up and we both kindof spread out on the grass to kick back, relax, and eat a little something before the final push of the day. Micah lay nearby happily chewing on some sticks. I had give him a cup of food and he seemed happy to take a break too.

After about half an hour, we decided to start packing up. FireBall headed for the bathroom and I started pulling my gear together. I heard a loud gaggling noise as I was bent over my pack and looked up to find Micah hunched up and coughing. I thought at first it was just his normal little choking cough to clear his throat, but in a second he became more frantic. His back was arched high, head down, and he was throwing his head from side to side! I immediately thought "Oh my God, he's choking to death in front of me!" Then I saw blood spewing from his mouth and he started to lunge and buck, all the while his front legs were frantically scrabbling at his face with every other step. I had images of a stick having pierced his throat.

I lunged at Micah to try and grab him. He was absolutely wild and I couldn't hold him still. Blood was flying from his mouth and I tried to hold his head down. I started screaming for FireBall and finally he came racing up the hill. I was able to get FireBall to hold Micah's body and head and then I grabbed a bandana and used it to pull Micah's lower jaw down to open his mouth. I knew that Micah was so crazy with pain and scared that he could bite me and this seemed the safest thing to do.

As I opened his mouth, I could see it. There was a short length of stick jammed into the roof of his mouth back between the last teeth. It had punctured the gums. I was able to pull it loose with a little prying and then I just completely collapsed in a fit of nerves. Micah took a few swallows, licked his chops a time or two, and then gave me a big wet kiss with tail wagging. He was fine. I on the other hand was a mess. I just kneeled on the ground and shook as I burst into tears. I had really thought he might die.

I don't think I've mentioned it before, but Micah has been a very huge part of my hike. From the very beginning I always felt that I absolutely needed him with me to make it to Maine. He is my best friend uot here and I count on him for a lot of emotional support. He's my protector and official cheering squad and makes me laugh every day. The thought of losing my "partner" is just devastating.

So, in a tribute to Micah, I hereby present: The Top 10 Reasons I Like Hiking With My Dog:

10. Doesn't mind eating the same thing day after day
9. He's a great yogi-ing assistant ("Yogi-ing" is the art of getting food from others without asking - ala Yogi Bear)
8. No more packing out leftovers
7. I never have to clean my cook pot
6. He's a great foot warmer
5. Mice/rats/and other vermin stay clear of us in shelters
4. He takes up less room in the tent/shelter than your standard hiking partner
3. He NEVER complains
2. I get to make all the decisions
1. Micah thinks all my decisions are great ones

June 10 - Day 92

12.5 mi to campsite on Franklin Cliffs - 896.6 cum

Today we did what's called a Grand Slam on the AT - We hiked 2 miles to Lewis Mtn Campground for a breakfast of cereal, danishes and coffee. We then hiked 9 miles to the Big Meadows Wayside Restaurant where I enjoyed a Reuben sandwich and some beers. Then it was another short hike up to the lodge where we did laundry, got showers, and had a VERY nice dinner complete with lots of fresh warm rolls, a cafe latte, and some excellent cherry cobbler a la mode.

It was a bit of a struggle to hike at all after dinner, but we managed to roll on down the trail for another 1.5 miles before setting up camp. We had a great spot overlooking Franklin Cliffs and enjoyed an absolutely wonderful sunset.

Got to meet some new hikers during the day today - Cheesehead from Wisconsin and a section-hiker by the name of Bubbles. Cheesehead had started a thru-hike in '96 and had to pull off in Waynesboro for injures. He's back out this year to finish where he left off.

June 11 - Day 93

17.2 mi to Pass Mtn Hut - 913.8 cum

I awoke with the sun today, stepped outside my tent, and walked about 15 feet to a stone outcropping overlooking the Shenandoah Valley to the west. From my vantage point I could watch the progress of the sun spreading out across the valley as I sipped my hot chocolate and ate my breakfast. The air was filled with birdsong - the downward spiraling flute-like sond of the Veery, the etheral sounds of the Wood Thrush, the insistent urging ofthe Towhee to "Drink you tea!", and the sweet trill of the Junco.

It was a great start to send me on my way and things only got better. Within an hour of leaving camp I heard some loud noises up a hillside to my right. I stopped to look and spotted a large black bear. It was about 25 feet away amidst some dense vegitation. It had definitely spotted Micah and me. Its head was raised and it was taking in great breaths of air and letting the air gust out the sides of its mouth. I stood in awe and finally remembered to take a picture. We stood for a few more moments of mutual inspection and then the bear seemed to get a little agitated. With no real warning, it charged down the hill towards me! I stood my ground (more out of shock than rational thought), and it halted its charge about 15 feet short of me. I decided this was an excellent time to take my leave and started talking to it in a loud voice as MIcah and I slowly backed down the trail. I was shaking by now and the bear continued to parallel us for a short distance before finally heading on up the hill.

The rest of the day was extremely uneventful by comparison. I enjoyed a long lunch and some pretty intensive questioning by tourists at Stony Man Cliffs. The shelter is pretty crowded, so a lot of us are tenting. Here tonight: Cakes & Flapjack, Little Toe, Pockets, Bubbles and family, FireBall and Cheesehead.

June 12 - Day 94

13.2 to Gravel Springs Hut - 927.0 cum

I went to bed before the sun last night and was able to get a solid 10 hours of sleep. It really felt good and made a big difference in my hike today. I really enjoyed the hike today, mostly because of Bubble's and Cheesehead's company and conversation.

It was an extremely leisurely day with a long lunch break for a cheeseburger and fries at Elkwallow Wayside. Even with the long break, our little convoy arrived at the shelter by 3pm. We even got to see a bear cub today as it scampered up the hillside.

A few showers today, but at least it's warm. There are 15+ people here, so I'm tenting. Lots of bears have been sighted in this area, so I'm glad for Micah's company.

Tomorrow we're planning 18+ miles, so I'm off to bed early tonight.

June 13 - Day 95

13.6 to Front Royal - 940.6 cum

Bubbles and I had agreed to get an early start and true to word, we were on the trail by 6:40am! That's the earliest start for me in weeks. We had an absolutely great hike together. It had been a while since I had laughed so hard while hiking.

Bubbles was only headed 8 miles to Compton Gap where she and her parents were to be leaving the trail. I was going to continue on 6 more miles to the road crossing to Front Royal, and then Bubbles and her parents were going to give Fireball and me a shuttle ride into Linden for a maildrop pickup and then to a motel in Front Royal.

My maildrop was a good one. I had letters from my Dad, Andy, and Robby Cahill. My packages included a goodie-box from Randy and Georgene Blankley loaded with great snacks. Most of the snacks were eaten before we even made it to the motel.

A day off tomorrow - YEAH!

June 14 - Day 96

0 miles

A day off in Front Royal! We spent a good part of the day wondering around town in search of fresh fruit. Our quest was a success and for lunch we feasted on about 5 pounds of fruit salad and baguettes with butter. I was in heaven! Cantaloupe, pineapple, kiwi, strawberries, bananas, crenshaw melon, grapes... I'd been craving fruit for quite some time and I finally got my "fix."

On the way back to the motel, we ran into Dwight. I first met Dwight at Mt Rogers and I'm always bumping into him. He's a photographer that's traveling the length of the trail in a vehicle made by International back in 1969. It's quite an interesting machine and suits Dwight perfectly. He's a very soft-spoken man with a long white beard, graying shoulder-lenght hair, and blue eyes. He originally planned on hiking the trail but soon discovered that an 80+ pound pack loaded with camera gear didn't make for a fun trip. He now travels by car and day hikes on the trail with his equipment. He's hoping to get some of his work into the ATC calendar.

Dwight seems to have a special affinity for Micah and he always stops to chat whenever he sees us. Micah usually ends up getting a treat in the deal. This time I also got a ride back to the motel and Dwight also offered to shuttle us the 5 miles back to the trail tomorrow morning too. It's good to have friends along the way!