May 11 - 17 Journal Entries

Sunday, May 11 - Day 62

19.1 mi to Pine Swamp Branch Shelter - 631.4 mi cum

What a difference a day off and some new thinner insoles made on my hike today. Gypsy was staying over one more night in Pearisburg to wait on the delivery of a pack belt. The rest of our crew was headed off for a 19 mile day. Everybody except Tew-Ton and myself was slackpacking. Tew-Ton and I had agreed to camp out at 15 miles if we felt too tired to do all 19. The slackpacking thing is just not for me yet, at least not while I'm relatively healthy out here. Some of the others have slackpacked over a hundred miles already!

Anyway, the highlight of my day was seeing a beautiful Scarlet Tanager. This is probably the prettiest songbird I've ever seen while hiking. The entire body is a bright red, shinier than a Cardinal's coloring. The black wings make a startling contrast against the metallic red body. It's quite an eye-catcher and this particular bird stuck around for a minute or two while I stood on the trail admiring it.

The weather was perfect - cloudless blue skies with temps just touching 70 and a cooling breeze blowing all day long. After the first four mile ascent out of Pearisburg, the trail was truly an almost flat ridgewalk. I hiked alone most of the day but I made sure I took enough time to rest at the really pretty spots along the trail. I still managed to make camp by 4:30 - ahead of all of the slackpackers except Fireball, who hiked the last 3 miles with me.

Fireball had a wonderful surprise for all of us at the shelter. After retrieving his backpack at the road crossing 3 tenths of a mile up the trail, he pulled out a watermelon from his pack! We had over 12 people at the shelter and there was enough for all. What a great treat after a 19 mile day.

Monday, May 12 - Day 63

3.9 mi to Bailey Gap Shelter - 635.3 mi cum

I don't know what I ate or what I did, but I awoke in the middle of the night sweating, cold, and wracked with nausea. It was a horrible feeling and I had to get out of my tent three times to run to the privy. I eventually settled on using a 1/2 gallong ziploc bag once I started feeling too weak and shaky to make the climb uphill to the privy.

Morning finally came, but there was really no improvement in my condition other than that there was nothing left in my stomach to throw up. Peter Pan gave me a Pepcid-AC since nobody had anything better to offer. About 8 I got up enough energy to get out of my tent, walk the 15 feet to the shelter and crash on one of the sleeping platforms so I could watch everybody go about their preparations for departure.

I felt awful and was considering just going to the nearest road and getting a ride back to Pearisburg. The others were headed 12 miles up the trail. Fireball came through once again and offered to hang back with me until I knew what I was doing.

By 10 o'clock I started feeling strong enough to at least start gathering up my gear. If I could have slackpacked today, I would have jumped on it in a heartbeat. The thought of carrying my 35 pound pack while feeling this way was enough to make me nauseous all over again.

Fireball, bless him, offered to carry my food bag. I think this guy is destined to be my ultimate trail angel. Whatever his mom and dad did to turn out such a wonderful, thoughtful young man is beyond me, but I'm forever grateful.

We left camp at 11 and my pack was amazingly light. I managed the first 2.5 miles well enough, but then we hit the grueling one mile uphill that eventually sent me off the side of the trail to empty what little contents I had in my stomach. By this time I knew I was dehydrated, my limbs were shaking, I felt lightheaded, and I hadn't eaten anything or been able to keep down liquids for over 16 hours. It was time to call it quits and I just dropped my pack and sat on a moss-covered log. I knew the shelter was only a few tenths of a mile further, but I couldn't do it.

Fireball soon came back down the trail looking for me. We sat for a few minutes and then he shouldered my pack and we did the last little bit together. I was wiped out and crashed on the top of the picnic table for a few hours.

So, my hiking day lasted two hours. Later in the afternoon I managed to eat some mashed potatoes, but other than that, I just laid around camp all day trying to get over this.

Fireball and I are the only ones here tonight. It's odd for things to be so quiet. He's built a nice fire and I'm just hoping tomorrow's a better day.

Tuesday, May 13 - Day 64

7.9 mi to War Spur Shelter - 643.2 mi cum

In justification of my pitifully low mileage yesterday and today, here's an interesting tidbit taken from "The Thru-Hikers Handbook":

"Each mile of the AT has an average elevation gain of 217 feet, which means a thru-hiker will climb and descend a total of 88.79 miles between Springer and Katahdin. That is the equivalent of going from sea level to the summit of Mt. Everest and back more than sixteen times!"

No wonder I'm tired! I've already climbed Everest at least 5 or 6 times!

a rainy, cold day. We didn't leave the shelter by 3:45. Here I stay. It's just Micah, Fireball, and me once again. A storm seems to be moving in, complete with high winds and thunder. I sure am glad I still have most of my winter gear - especially my sleeping bag.

Wednesday, May 14 - Day 65

8.2 mi to Hwy 42 - 651.4 mi cum

Another fairly short day, but this time we had a reason. My mom was to be picking us up in Catawba tomorrow and there was no way we were going to make the 38 miles on foot. We decided to leave the trail at Hwy 42, the biggest road within 15 miles. Hopefully we'd be able to get a ride to Catawba from there.

It was a cold, wet morning and the skies were getting more ominous by the minute. We tried to hurry as fast as we could, but didn't quite beat the rain. We hit Hwy 42 wet and cold and there was very little traffic - not a promising situation. Within 5 minutes, a pickup truck going in the opposite direction pulled to the side of the road. The gentleman offered us a ride toNewport, the opposite direction of Catawba. We explained our situation and within a few minutes of chit-chat, he offered to turn his truck around and drive us the 30 miles to Catawba!

The man's name was W.T. Smith. He had been out collecting asparagus from a little roadside patch and was headed to the store to buy a lemon to cook it with. He needed to stop by his home to let his wife know what he was up to before he drove us to Catawba. They invited us in for some coffee and we gladly accepted. Coffee turned into roastbeef sandwiches, fresh-made cinnamon rolls, and a whole lot of fresh-brewed coffee. We must have stayed there at least two hours, and they even offered to put us up for the night, but we had already made arrangements to stay at the Crosstrails Bed & Breakfast.

We finally tore ourselves away from their warm, comforting home and W.T. drove us to Catawba. A few miles short of the General Store, we stopped to pick up Tew-Ton and Puget Pounder, who were doing a roadwalk to the store.

I had a maildrop waiting for me at the post office as well as some cards and letters from the Scopes, my Dad, Andy, and my girlfriend Rita. Our shuttle arrived at 3:30 and we were whisked off to the bed and breakfast. It was a beautiful modern style home, but very warm and welcoming inside. The owners have a wonderful library of books on the AT, ecology, environmentalism, wildlife, flowers, and a good selection of classics. It was the type of place that gave you the thick, plush terrycloth robes to lounge in, and Fireball and I were eating it up. There was even a hot tub on the back deck and we were treated to a complimentary dinner as well since there was food left over from a luncheon earlier that day.

Thursday, May 15 - Day 66

0 miles - 651.4 mi cum

Even though these are supposed to be days off, I always seem to awaken by 6:15. This time there was a mockingbird incessantly pecking and flapping at the bedroom window. I finally gave up my attempts to fall back asleep and decided to take a nice, long, relaxing bath to start the day.

Breakfast was served at around 8:30. The coffee was laced with a hint of cinnamon, the biscuits were homemade and feather light. There was broiled grapefruit, stewed cinnamon apples with raisins, fresh-squeezed orange juice, homefries with onions and sweet red peppers, and a baked egg dish. It was outstanding to say the least.

After breakfast we headed for the hot tup for an hour-long soak. From the deck we had wonderful views of the valley and nearby farmlands. The bird feeders had a constant stream of goldfinches, rufous-sided towhees, indigo buntings and hummingbirds to entertain us.

All too soon it was time to go and head back to the store to await my Mom's arrival. While we were there, a guy by the name of Southpaw stopped by in his car to visit. He had hiked to Harpers Ferry, W.Va. back in '95 and lives in Catawba. He makes it a habit to travel the roads on this section of trail providing trail magic wherever possible. He was a really nice guy and he seemed to really enjoy just spending an hour talking with us all.

Around 4:30, Mom finally arrived with a load of hikers in the back of the truck that she had picked up along the way. In the front passengar seat was Chops, holding one of my other dogs, Tullie, on his lap! I'm afraid I was a little rude to Chops when I yanked open his door and grabbed Tullie without even saying hello. I miss my two other dogs desparately and Scrapper was too big to bring, but at least I would get to see Tullie for the weekend.

We decided to eat dinner at the Homeplace Restaurant before tackling the drive to Damascus. It was a large group of hungry hikers that walked through the doors, but it wasn't anything they weren't used to since the Homeplace is one of the best known eateries along the entire trail. It's an old farmhouse converted to a restaurant and the meals are all-you-can-eat served family style. There were 11 of us at our table: Al, Chops, Stringer, Wapiti, Fireball, Puget Pounder, Tew-Ton, Peter Pan, Chirping Turtle, Mom, and myself.

After dinner we piled into the truck for the long ride to Damascus. Stringer offered to drive, so it was me, Fireball, Tew-Ton, Puget, Tullie, & Micah in back with all the packs. I still can't believe we all fit. I'm just grateful that we'd all had a chance to shower and do laundry beforehand. :^)

Friday, May 16 - Saturday, May 17

0 miles - Trail Days at Damascus