Appalachian Trail Journal 1998 : Part 1 – The South

This journal was originally hosted onTrailplace.com originally hosted by Dan "Wingfoot" Bruce. The current site is now a bit different than the original site.

My Appalachian Trail journal was not the  first online hiking journal, but I would not be  surprised if it was one the first fifty (or less)  hiking journals to be published online. In the years since completing my  hike, online hiking journals are much more common

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Paul Magnanti’s 1998 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

 

Final thoughts before leaving Rhode Island

February 22~ Several thoughts are my mind before I depart for Springer. Anxiety, excitement, the disbelief that this adventure is really happening. In a few short days, I will be on top of Springer mountain, gazing northward knowing that Katahdin is 2160.7 miles away. Many steps are between these two points. Who knows what adventures will come from this walk in the woods. The white blazes starting from Springer lead not only a path northward, but also to experiences and sights that been in my life before. I will travel on this path, savoring every moment.

Another overwhelming thought is gratitude. I could not even attempt my of hike of this trail if it was not for all
the people who have helped me in one way or another.  With no further ado, I want to thank the following people:

WINGFOOT: Trailplace and the lists have been a direct inspiration for my hike. Thanks for the hard work

AT-L,ATML,AT98 MAILING LISTS The support, advice, humor and best wishes from all the people in the “hiker family”  has been great.  I would not even be remotely prepared, mentally or physically, if it were not for these fine people.

STAFF AT KENT HOSPITAL More than co-workers, the staff was an extended family of sorts for eight years. A special thanks goes  to the staff  of Surgical Services, AKA my other moms. (How many co-workers tell you to dress warm and bring plenty of food on hiking trips AND want you to  get their approval of anyone you date?!?!?!

JOHN GORDON John is bravely attempting to decipher my handwriting so he can transcribe my journal. For that, he deserves a medal  to go with my thankyou!

FRIENDS Couldn’t ask for a better bunch of people to grab a beer with and to discuss the latest happenings in our lives. I’ll miss you guys.  See you in Maine!

FAMILY Despite all their worries, they support me for doing this hike. They know how much it means to me, and behind me in every way they can be.
What more can I ask? Thank you!

“I woke up this morning, feeling around for my shoes, Know about that, I got these old walking blues”  –Robert Johnson, WALKING BLUES

 

Mile Post 7.7 ~ Hawk Mtn. Shelter

February 28 ~ Beautiful day today! The weather was a perfect start for a

thru-hike of the AT. Sunny, in the sixties, blue skies. After the requisite

summit photos on Springer, I hiked to the shelter. Let me tell you, the view

from the privy gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "Royal Throne Room"!

A pleasent surprise today was meeting Father Time and Mother Nature. This

couple is doing the trail, and after talking to them for a while I realized

I had met them in Vermont when I did the LT last summer. Small world! Well

off to bed, and a new day of hiking in the AM.-Paul

 

Mile Post 16.1 ~ Gooch Gap Shelter

March 1 ~ Today was a rollercoaster ride on the AT. To summarize: down into

a gap, up a mountain, into another gap, up yet another mountain, etc.

Finally a steep .2 mile climb to the shelter! Needless to say, I did not

feel like pushing on to the next shelter 10.6 miles away. Good thing, come

to find out the shelter is not built yet anyways. Despite my grousing, it

was another beautiful day. Tunnels were formed by rhododendrons, and the

sunlight reflecting on the creeks was just magnificent. Consider these

reasons #236 and #237 to do a thru-hike.-Paul

 

Mile Post 30.7 ~ Neels Gap

March 2 ~ One of the caveats about hiking the AT is to expect the

unexpected. Today the unexpected happened. Here I am almost 2000 miles from

my home in Rhode Island, and it snows! Perhaps my New England perspective

pictures a sunny South. Intellectually I know this is not true, but I still

found a snow squall on the summit of Blood Mountain to be a bit of a

surprise. So, after almost 15 miles of hiking I had two choices A)Hike

another mile or so past Neels Gap and pitch a tent in the snow or B)Split

the cost of a cabin at Goose Creek, do my laundry, and have a nice hot

shower. For once, my common sense won out. Now, I write this journal in a

warm cabin instead of a cold tent. A bit of a splurge, but sometimes you

have to. Heck, I am on an extended vacation, might as well enjoy it. Tonight

I met my fellow AT98er, Cricket. Pleasant woman to talk to. This was also my

third night spent bunking with PackRat. This man knows more about gear than

most outfitters! Still, great guy to talk to and adds color to my hike.-Paul

 

 

Mile Post 41.4 ~ Low Gap Shelter

March 3 ~ {Sung to the tune of Winter Wonderland} Hiking on the AT while

it's snowing, Wearing fleece and balaclavas, Having a real fine time, Hiking

on the AT winter wonderland. Look, it's sunny in the valley, Why is it still

snowing? Turning a few shades of blue, Hiking on this AT winter wonderland.

Listen to the wind howling, The temp is in the mid twenties, Eating some

mac-n-cheese, Trying to stay warm in this shelter on the AT winter

wonderland. Off to my sleeping bag, Rated to twenty, Wearing all my clothes,

Hoping I don't turn into a popsicle on the AT winter wonderland.-Paul

 

Mile Post 56.2 ~ Tray Mtn. Shelter

March 4 ~ Well, I did not freeze last night. Surprisingly I was quite

toasty. Feathered Friends makes great bags. Today started off less than

optimal, it was in the mid-twenties with snow! Egads, I hate this white

stuff. After descending into Unicoi Gap, the sun came out, and the

temperature rose into the fifties. The weather gods were again smiling on

me! The climb down Rocky Mountain was absolutely stunning. The "oohs" and

"ahhs" were coming quite frequently from me. But the views from Tray

Mountain were even better! Coming into the Tray Mountain Shelter I saw Ron &

Cheryl the "Solemates". It was great seeing these people. I also met "Orange

Slice" the first thru-hiker I have met that is about my age. A final

surprise was the trail magic left by Gabriel. He left several bags of fresh

fruit and Coleman fuel in the shelter. This fine day ended with the group of

us talking around a campfire. Great hiking, fine weather, good company, and

trail magic. Life truly does not get better than this.-Paul

 

Mile Post 66.8 ~ Dick's Creek Gap/Blueberry Patch

March 5 ~ A foggy day on the AT. The fog and the rhododendrons give the

trail an almost magical quality. There is a certain sound to the forest when

the fog is out that just cannot be described in words. I certainly did not

get the views that I had yesterday, but pleasures more subtle were just as

abundant. Now, here I am at the Blueberry Patch, waiting for my pizza made

on homemade bread. Pretty good day here in AT land.-Paul

 

Mile Post 78.4 ~ Muskrat Creek Shelter

March 6 ~ The Blueberry Patch is a special place. Gary and Lennie Poteat

have given their hostel a family feeling. Their love and caring for the

hiking community gave all of us a much needed boost for the 12 miles to this

shelter. The hiking today was quite difficult. I thought the climb up Bly

Gap would never end! Luckily, Jeremy (a great guy I met at the Blueberry

Patch) and I hit the NC/GA state line before the hike up this gap and

received an emotional charge from reaching this milestone. The hiking today

was again foggy. Jeremy thinks it looks like something out of the Hobbit.

Best description I have heard yet of hiking in the fog. Another milestone of

sorts happened today. I was informed that since I have hiked with my hiking

stick for three seasons, it should have a name. The hiking stick is now

named "Merlin" by Jeremy. Merlin has a purple top, and was named in this

mystical looking fog. Good name for my favorite piece of gear.-Paul

 

Mile Post 91.1 ~ Carter Gap Shelter

March 7 ~ Rain was the order of the day. No views, no breaks in the fog, no

let-up. Just cold, wet, rain. There is a plus side to a rainy day. The rain

seems to make it easier to do some deep thinking. Between the solitude of my

first day hiking alone, and the rain, all I did was think. Where am I headed

in life? What do I hope to get out of this hike? Now I sit in Carter Gap

Shelter, listening to the rain rhythmically pound on the roof. I am by

myself tonight, a rarity on the AT. Guess it will be a night of deep

thinking as well.-Paul

 

Mile Post 104.0 ~ Rainbow Springs Camp Ground

March 8 ~ I am beginning to think that the sun is some mythological figure

people from Arizona only see. There is an adage of "No Rain, No Maine", but

does that mean no sun at all?! On the plus side, I am making good progress,

steadily plugging along. A real treat was talking to some weekend campers at

Rock Gap Shelter. This couple was on their first backpacking trip, and

seemed quite enthused over it. Possible future thru-hikers? Now I am at

Rainbow Springs. It is raining quite hard. Any day now that "Annie" song

will come true!-Paul

 

Mile Post 122.7 ~ Cold Spring Shelter

March 9 ~ Long, snowy day today. I had a late start from Wallace Gap (9:00

AM), so I did not arrive here until six o'clock. Just enough time to set up

my tent and cook dinner before the sun set. Looks like another cold night.

But, give me a hot meal, and I'm good to go. An extra Snickers also does

wonders!-Paul

 

Mile Post 134.3 ~ Nantahala Outdoor Center

March 10 ~ Winter camping has two faces. The first face is the one of dread.

Packing a tent that has had two inches of snow on it, thawing out the

Nalgene bottles, putting on boots that are a bit too stiff. The other face

is the one that shows freshly fallen snow on the ground, covering everything

as if it were a blanket. The way the ice hangs off the branches, crystal

like. The sun even made a brief appearance today, showing distant peaks

capped with snow. It is now snowing again. I think I will take tomorrow off

to dry out my gear before the next push to the Smokies. A day of just

reading a book after all this fog, rain and snow sounds appealing.-Paul

 

Mile Post 134.3 ~ Nantahala Outdoor Center

March 11 ~ Several of the other thru-hikers opted to stay another day as

well. This area is having record lows, but a warming trend is expected for

the weekend, just in time for the Smokies. I think to stay here another day

is a wise idea, none of us want to become popsicles, thru-hiker

flavored.-Paul

 

Mile Post 141.3 ~ Sassafras Gap Shelter

March 12 ~ One long day of lollygagging. Well worth it. The sun finally came

out for a day of hiking. The weather is still a bit nippy. Instead of thru

hikers, I expect to find Nanook of the North. I hope the weather warms up a

bit before the Smokies.-Paul

 

Mile Post 150.5 ~ Brown Fork Gap Shelter

March 13 ~ I was in a bit of a funk today. I was in no mood to do the

additional mileage to Cable Gap Shelter. Instead it was a low mileage day.

Spent quite a bit of time at the Stecoah Gap picnic area enjoying the sun

and an excellent view of the snow covered Smokies. The Smokies look

beautiful. I only hope the snow is not that much of a problem trudging

through the trail.-Paul

 

Mile Post 163.0 ~ Fontana Dam Shelter

March 14 ~ If I was in a "funk" yesterday then today I was in the zone. The

miles seemed to go by effortlessly. The sun was warm on my face, my long

johns actually made me too warm, and to top it all off I had the way cool

Muddy Waters song "Got My Mojo Working" stuck in my head. This is also

looking to be the first night in a while that I do not have to wear fifteen

layers of clothes to stay warm! The record lows for this area are finally

coming to an end. Sun, warmer temps, and cool blues tunes stuck in my head.

Life really is good sometimes.-Paul

 

Mile Post 179.3 ~ Spence Field Shelter

March 15 ~ I knew today was off to a good start when an hour into my hike I

saw five deer running through the woods. I can see why the Smokies are so

popular. The views are stunning, especially in the various fields dotting

the mountains. Seeing prairies on the mountain tops is a new experience for

me, and one I enjoy. The con side to this popularity is that the trails are

severely eroded, making for one long slide on the mud. The shelter is quite

crowded tonight. No other thru-hikers however. Instead, just a nice group of

people doing what I am doing – enjoying the simple pleasures that these

mountains have to offer.-Paul

 

Mile Post 192.8 ~ Double Spring Gap Shelter

March 16 ~ The weather pattern has been figured out for this year's thru

hike. Two days of sun, followed by a week of slogging through mud, rain,

fog, and snow. But all is not lost, never underestimate the powers of mac

n'cheese liberally dosed with tabasco sauce. All is right with the world

once again. Tomorrow I am off to Clingman's Dome, and blue skies are now

appearing on the horizon. See, mac n'cheese really is powerful stuff.-Paul

 

Mile Post 203.6 ~ Pigeon Forge

March 17 ~ So much for the magical powers of mac n'cheese! The blue skies I

saw last night were merely a tease. I had my usual order today on the

Appalachian Trail Menu: rain, wind, fog, leather boots that double as

sponges. Just after the Mt. Collins Shelter some Spring Breakers asked me if

I was a thru-hiker and if I needed a lift into Gatlinburg. The first answer

was a yes. The second answer was an unplanned yes. So here I am splitting a

room, all gourged out on pizza, and dry! OK, not in my original plan. But I

think plans on the AT should have an elastic clause. Seems to work. P.S.

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Now, if only I had a Guinness…-Paul

 

Mile Post 214.0 ~ Peck's Corner Shelter

March 18 ~ I have an idea to make money. See, the AT is now the Appalachian

Stream because of all the rain and snow melt. So, I think that a pretty

penny could be earned by giving gondola rides! Wonder if the park rangers

have rules against people singing "O Sole Mio"? (See what a night in a

tourist trap can do to the brain. Turns it into the same consistency as

grits.)-Paul

 

Mile Post 227.0 ~ Cosby Knob Shelter

March 19 ~ Waking up this morning I saw a strange sight: a circular object

in the sky that was yellow. What could it be? A dim memory told me it was

the sun. What a concept! Yep, today was a great day in the Smokies. The

ridge walks revealed just how great this park is. The only fly in the

ointment was that snowshoes would have come in handy for three miles of the

trail. Walk, walk, sink in the snow was the pattern on and off. But, that is

O.K. Today proved spring is around the corner and that snow (hopefully) is a

fading memory.-Paul

 

Mile Post 235.2 ~ Mountain Moma's Kuntry Store

March 20 ~ A word to describe my time in the Smokies: WET. My last day

hiking in this park was in a thunderstorm. Was it a coincidence that as soon

as I stepped on the road that marks the Smokies boundary, the sun came out?

Maybe it is bad karma, maybe I lived in a desert in a past life, maybe I did

not sacrifice enough gorp to the great god of hiking, but whatever the

reason, rain seems to have a natural affinity for me on this hike. But that

is O.K. Excuse the thru-hiker cliche of always talking about food, but a

huge cheeseburger with fries seems to make everything just fine. To

paraphrase: "Rain do thy worst, for I have eaten cheeseburgers today!"-Paul

 

Mile Post 244.7 ~ Groundhog Creek Shelter

March 21 ~ It did not rain today. Snowed instead. Nothing like a little

variety in the weather, 'eh? But this weather has been inspiring. The word

frosty has been in my head all day. So with no further ado I present:

Frosty, the AT Thru-hiker Frosty, the AT Thru-hiker, had frozen Vibram

soles, with Goretex gear, and two Leki poles. There must have been some

magic in that Snickers bar he ate, For when he put it in his mouth, his

boots began to stomp on the ground! Down to the shelter with Lekis in his

hand, He yelled to the squirrels, catch me if you can! Frosty, the AT

Thru-hiker, now had frozen toes, with a blue nose, and shelter mice eating

his Cheerios.-Paul

 

Mile Post 255.9 ~ Roaring Fork Shelter

March 22 ~ Today did not start off well for me. Normally I am an early

riser, getting out of my bag at sun-up. Today was different, did not crawl

out of my bag until 8:30, and did not get on the trail until 10:00, not at

all like me. The cold weather and the gray skies just seem to take the spark

out of me. I was frustrated. When the hike was started I did not expect all

sunny days with an inspiring view every minute. On the other hand, I feel

cheated. The days when there are views number in the single digits. Yes,

depression was starting to set in. This trip was beginning to seem more like

a chore. Get up in the morning. hike my miles, eat dinner, go to bed,

repeat. I was missing my friends. I kept on thinking of how they were doing,

missing watching some movie with them while having a few cold ones. The snow

was stinging in my face, and my mind kept on wandering. How much I hate this

weather, that this does not seem like a hike, but an ordeal to put up with.

It was not a good day in AT land. But something happened. On Max Patch Bald

the clouds lifted just long enough to show peaks in the distance. On the way

down the bald, the sun came out, making skies that seem to be only that blue

after a snowstorm. It is funny how such little things can lift the spirit.

Today reminded me of why I am hiking the AT: whatever setbacks I might face,

and whatever good things happen, all will make up a journey I will not

forget. Each day is a thread in the tapestry that is my hike.-Paul

 

Mile Post 270.5 ~ Hot Springs, NC

March 23 ~ This town is a watershed for me. Any mileage I make after this

point will surpass my previous high for long distance hiking. More snow is

in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow. Not a problem. I need to take a

day off to do a few things in town anyways. Right now I am in a bit of a

vacuum. My hike has been more or less a solo one since the Smokies. Fellow

hikers either go at a quicker pace than myself or will go a little slower.

It is almost as if I am the only person on the trail. With all this foul

weather I find myself turning inward more. All the locked compartments in my

mind are becoming unlocked, making thoughts come into my head that I have

previously ignored. When a person does a thru-hike, many things seem to

happen. You lose weight, gain muscle in the legs, but more than anything, I

think a person becomes much more aware of who they are. At least, that is

the case for me.-Paul

 

Mile Post 270.5 ~ Hot Springs, NC

March 24 ~ Last night Viking and Obi showed up at the Inn. It was a great

reunion. I have been hiking on and off with these two since N.O.C. and it

was nice to see them again. Today was a perfect zero mileage day. After

going to the post office and the outfitters my largest challenge consisted

of reading a book and drinking a half gallon of milk while sitting on the

porch. It was nice not having to worry about rushing to work or being

somewhere at a certain time. Today, life consisted of turning a page and

taking a sip of milk. Simple pleasures are the best ones. In today's frantic

pace, it is hard to enjoy these pleasures. Too often it seems an emphasis is

placed on faster, more, bigger, better. The pace of this hike is

considerably slower. The world seems a much better place at two m.p.h. The

world also seems a better place when drinking milk, on a porch, on a lazy

Tuesday afternoon.-Paul

 

Mile Post 281.4 ~ Spring Mountain Shelter

March 25 ~ Hiking the AT is a bit like a 2000 plus mile version of "Cheers"

- everyone knows your name. Leaving Hot Springs was interesting. No sooner

was I checking out of the Inn when I heard "Magaroni!" Said a big hello to

Mr.Clean, then Exodus said "Hello!" etc. etc. Did not get out of town until

almost 11A.M. Meeting people I haven't seen in a few days was as if I were

seeing old friends again. The sense of community on the AT is strong and it

is amazing how the act of wearing a backpack and hiking several hundred

miles can unite people of such varied backgrounds in friendship.-Paul

 

Mile Post 296.8 ~ Jerry Cabin Shelter

March 26 ~ Early spring has a certain atmosphere to it. The way the woods

smell, the first appearance of insects, the way the sun seems just a bit

warmer and more intense on the face. Spring is a time of renewal. Winter is

finally releasing it's grip and life is abounding again. There were no

scenic vistas today, no dramatic waterfalls, no eyecatching flowers, just

all little things that add up to a satisfying hike. It seems like Mother

Nature is rewarding all the thru-hikers for the challenge it has thrown our

way. The onset of spring is much more satisfying than the last days of

winter.-Paul

 

Mile Post 311.5 ~ Hogback Ridge Shelter

March 27 ~ Now, at three hundred plus miles, I am beginning to feel

confident in my hiking abilities. Following the trail is much easier. That

is of course until I took a wrong turn today off the ridge and down a steep

side trail. I knew I was in trouble when Widge (Obi's dog) appeared.

Apparently Obi took the same trail I took! Climbing back onto the ridge via

this trail was certainly fun. Straining under my load, sweating up a storm,

and being in the direct sunlight I felt exactly like the name my friend,

Tim, has given me from previous backpacking trips: the Italian pack mule.

Nothing like being an experienced backpacker. Today was exceptional though.

Three days of sun in a row is a luxury that none of us are use to. It is a

luxury I hope we can get used to.-Paul

 

Mile Post 324.6 ~ Whistling Gap

March 28 ~ My guiding philosophy for this hike has been a quote by Louis

L'Amour: "The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast

and you miss all that you are traveling for." Today was proof that it is

good to slow down a bit, not to make a hike an endurance contest, and always

push for miles. My best view so far was today at Big Bald. Majestic is the

word that comes to mind. Being on a meadow with 360 degree views at five

thousand plus feet is one experience I will not forget. Well worth the one

and a half hour break to relax in the sun and enjoy this magnificent view.

Trail magic was in abundance today. Approaching Big Bald, two women on a day

hike asked me several questions about thru-hiking. I was more than happy to

answer. Then, after their questions, they offered me an apple. Fresh fruit

never tasted so good. The second example of trail magic today was on Big

Bald. A family on an outing gave Crash and myself ice cold Cokes and

homemade chocolate chip cookies. Yummy! All in all, a great afternoon. Now I

am at this tent site. I originally planned to do twenty miles today. But

would I have stopped and talked to the day hikers? Would I have had an hour

and a half lunch break on Big Bald? No. If I had done the twenty mile day,

none of these things would have happened. Seems the quote is true.-Paul

 

Mile Post 338.9 ~ Nolichucky Gorge Campground

March 29 ~ Pleasant ridge walking was the special of the day. Hiking on

gentle grades, on a bed of fragrant pine needles is one of the better ways

to spend a day. Seemed as if I was hiking 10 miles today instead of almost

15. The hostel here is a really laid back place and a pizza place from Erwin

delivered! Add a can of Mountain Dew from the vending machine, and things

are just fine. All this sun is having an unforseen side effect. Wearing a

bandana is giving me quite the funky tanline. Viking seems to think it makes

me look like a part of a strange cult. Hmmm, Church of the Divine A.T.

anyone?-Paul

 

Mile Post 341.8 ~ Curley Maple Gap Shelter

March 30 ~ Nothing like hiking a whopping 2.9 miles. Today was Viking's

birthday. [He turned 30, with twenty four years experience] So he was in the

mood for whitewater rafting. So Obi, Viking, Lorax and myself went rafting.

The Nolichucky goes through the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi, and

the scenery was spectacular. What a perfect day! Going through class IV

rapids was a thrill I did not expect to experience on a thru-hike. The four

plus hour diversion to take this trip was well worth the lost mileage.

Rafting on a scenic river and then hiking on a sunny day. The night sky is

crystal clear, and the conversation at the shelter is easy flowing. Another

great day in AT land.-Paul

 

Mile Post 353.9 ~ Cherry Gap Shelter

March 31 ~ Another day devoted lollygagging. The Beauty Spot truly lived up

to its name. Definitely a Kodak moment par excellence. These grassy meadows

on mountain peaks are something I will miss when I leave this area. They are

simply stunning. Early arrival at the shelter today. Arrived at three and

read a bit. Very relaxing day. I think we are all now official thru-hikers.

All our night time conversations bring up the topic of food at least once!

Beer is also a popular topic of conversation, or lack of I should say.

Thoreau and Muir we ain't.-Paul

 

Mile Post 362.6 ~ Clyde Smith Shelter

April 1 ~ Unexpectedly short day. Mr. Clean was southbound today, seems he

was dropped off at Hughes Gap to do some slackpacking. He is doing the same

tomorrow except northbound. Mr. Clean invited Obi and myself along for the

slackpacking opportunity. Eighteen miles of just hiking with a fanny pack

was too good of an opportunity to pass up. So, another day getting into the

shelter early and putting a dent into my book. Two leisurely days of hiking

in a row, I am getting spoiled.-Paul

 

Mile Post 382.6 ~ Elk Park, N.C.

April 2 ~ What an awesome day of hiking. Several miles of hiking on Balds is

by far the best scenery I have seen on this trip so far. Awesome, simply

awesome. Take away forty pounds that are usually on my back, and it was a

perfect day. Today ended with something I have been dreaming of: a steak

dinner! Ah, great hiking and good food. All the bases were covered

today.-Paul

 

Mile Post 396.1 ~ Moreland Gap Shelter

April 3 ~ "Shelter,Shelter, burning bright, because of Magaroni's

Whisperlight"-with apologies to William Blake, poem courtsey of combined

effort of Mr Clean and myself. Interesting night to sai the least Seems the

O-rings on my stove were loose or something Nothing like see five hikers

(and a dog) run around getting dirt to put out a fire. Biggest loss? My

dinner and a fuel pump. I think my pulse rate shot up by 100 points. Obi,

Viking, Mr Clean, and Lorax said my cooking privieges are revoked until

further notice. I think this has potential to be an opening act for Sigfried

and Roy. The Amazing, Flaming, Whisperlight! Mother Nature is also doing a

light show, thunder and lightning is quite cool to watch. Also much safer

than stoves that turn into fireballs.-Paul

 

Mile Post 401.8 ~ Kincorra Hiker's Hostel

April 4 ~ Talk about being lazy today. The rain and fog kept us in our bags

until nine AM. So at the last minute the group of us decided to head to this

hostel. Excellent decision. Bob and Pat Peoples, the owners, are two of the

friendliest people around. True friends of hikers. Bob took all of us into

town for food shopping and lunch. Turns out Crash, Dharma Bum, Yoon, and

Oxodus were there as well. So we had a big ol potluck dinner. Home cooked

food, a fireplace, good company and hikers tales from Bob made it a great

evening. Hard to believe in the five weeks that I have bee out here that

these other hikers are now good friends. The AT is more than a trail, it is

a 2160 mile long community.-Paul

 

Mile Post 419.4 ~ Vandeventer Shelter

April 5 ~ Good weather today. Hiking along the Laurel Fork Gorge was very

senic. The only problem was that the bridges were washed out due to storms

from a few weeks back. So we had to do some bushwacking. The orange blazes

showing a temporary trail seem to be non-existant. All worked out for the

best when the group of us stumbled onto the AT. Trail magic happened today

as well. A long leisurely, picnic at the lake made for a relaxing afternoon.

Did not get into the shelter until just before sunset, but it was well worth

taking the extra time by the lake.-Paul

 

Mile Post 434.3 ~ Double Spring Shelter

April 6 ~ Today was an incredibly easy day of hiking. If I did not lollygag

it would have been possible to push to the next shelter. The terrain was

that easy. Possible preview of Virginia? Would be nice. But the cynical

hiker in me says " don't get too comfortable, the AT always throws a few

curveballs." Now I know that is true!-Paul

 

Mile Post 452.4 ~ Damscus ,Virginia

April 7 ~ I was again amazed at how easy the terrain was. Doing 18 miles in

six hours is a feat that would be nice to repeat. Gett to the Virginia line

was a psychological boost. I can't believe I am in Virginia. Getting to this

State really makes me feel like that Maine is a distinct possibility. At

this point in my hike, the rhythm of the trail is starting to be natural. A

sleeping bag is a natural bed for me, and eating out of one pot seems the

right thing to do. Maybe I really am an AT Thru-Hiker?-Paul

 

Mile Post 452.4 ~ Damascus, VA

April 8 ~ Mixed feelings about taking today off. I did have chores to do in

town, and doing nothing for a day is relaxing. But, I am really itching to

do some bigger mileage. Mentally and physically I think I am geared up to

push myself a bit more. The weather is noticeably warmer, and the days are

getting longer. It seems that I don't need to rest in town as much as a few

weeks ago. The AT is a great workout program. Eat as much as you want, hike

fifteen miles a day, get in great shape. Better scenery than a health club

too. Hmmmm, wonder what the feasibility of having thru-hikers do television

commercials. They could say "Give the AT six months and we'll take off the

weight!" Show them eating Ben and Jerry's and pizza. Finally, a workout

program I am able to stick to! Great scenery, eat a lot of food, six months

of hiking, get in great shape, and have a blast while doing it all. Pretty

good deal.-Paul

 

Mile Post 468.2 ~ Lost Mountain Shelter

April 9 ~ Quick question. How does one lose a mountain? And if it's lost, is

it's picture put on a milk carton? Just curious. The hiking is now getting

easier. Not so much because of the terrain, but because this ole body of

mine is finally getting in shape. Amazing what hiking a few hundred miles

can do for a person! (or maybe it was the three cups of coffee I had for

breakfast?) Today was odd, weather wise. First the sun would warm a person,

and just as you were breaking a sweat, the rain would cool you off. Not a

bad deal. Now it is just the right temperature to drink some cocoa and read.

A good book and hot cocoa, what a great combination, right up there with a

peanut butter and jelly sandwich washed down with a cold glass of milk.-Paul

 

Mile Post 468.2 ~ Lost Mountain Shelter

April 10 ~ Yes, I was a slacker today. Looked outside and saw some sleet. So

I (as well as Viking, Obi, Lorax, and Fool on the Hill) went back to bed.

Woke up at nine thirty, ten o'clock and saw that it was snowing! So, the

heck with it. Pulled out my book and just read all day. Lorax and Fool

decided to do the same thing. Consider today a true 0 mileage day. Biggest

walk was fifty yards to get the water. Charmed life we lead on the AT.

People say cruises are the epitome of luxury. I don't know. A warm sleeping

bag, a good nap and something to read was just fine.-Paul

 

Mile Post 485.5 ~ Wise Shelter

April 11 ~ Awesome. Beautiful. Breathtaking. Scenic. I do not know enough

adjectives to describe this stretch of trail. When I go back home, this is

the kind of hiking I will describe. Huge grass meadows, surrounded by

distant mountain peaks with herds of feral ponies five feet from the trail.

By far some of the most spectacular hiking I have done in my life. It is

days like this that make all the snow and cold of last month worth it. A big

surprise today was getting to see Viking and Obi at the shelter. Apparently

the weather I sat out was far worse at 5000 feet. Hiking through an ice

storm on exposed ridges made both of them a little timid. Also, no sooner

did I pull into the shelter when Yoon and Dharma Bum showed up. So my entire

"hiker family" was here tonight. I have been hiking with the same group of

people since N.O.C. and I feel fortunate that I was able to meet such a

great group on the trail. To make a good day even better, the Easter Bunny

came early for me in the form of a group of weekenders. Seems this group

does an Easter hike every year. After talking a bit, they gave me a Cadbury

egg. One of my favorites! Now, if I can somehow get a slice or two of my

grandmother's rice pie…-Paul

 

Mile Post 501.6 ~ Troutdale, VA

April 12 ~ Came to the Fox Hill Inn today for a little Easter dinner. Lorax

happens to enjoy cooking as a hobby, so Viking, Fool, and myself enjoyed the

fruits of his labor. (sticking us with dishwashing duty, only fair) Somehow

grilled chicken was just a bit better than Lipton's. Today was also the five

hundred mark on the trail. Not too shabby. Only about 1650 miles to go. On

the hiking front, I had another great day in the Grayson Highlands area. The

scenery in this stretch of trail is something I will not forget. Simply

incredible.-Paul

 

Mile Post 523.3 ~ Chatfield Shelter

April 13 ~ Today was the kind of day that makes me glad I'm a backpacker.

The spring colors are starting to dominate. The drab browns of winter are

now being replaced by lush greens, deep reds, vibrant yellows and subdued

whites. It's almost as if someone took a box of crayons and colored the

landscape. Days like this make me realize how fortunate I am to be able to

hike the AT. The AT is full of many pleasures, both subtle and dramatic.

Just like the colors of spring, every experience I have adds color to the

mosaic of my memory.-Paul

 

Mile Post 541.9 ~ Knot Maul Branch Shelter

April 14 ~ Went through farm land today. Not exactly wilderness, but it was

still nice to have a lunch break overlooking this different type of scenic

view. Before I did this though, I went to breakfast at a restaurant right

near the trail. First time I ever had two courses at breakfast. The other

customers in the restaurant find it quite amusing to watch these scruffy

looking guys eat and eat and eat. After this feeding frenzy, I had to take a

nap at the Davis Path Shelter. The weather is still on a sunny streak.

Virginia is turning out to be a very nice state. Easier terrain, gorgeous

views, and great biscuits and gravy for breakfast near the trail.-Paul

 

Mile Post 560.8 ~ Jenkins Shelter

April 15 ~ Talk about contrasts. The first nine miles to the Chestnut Knob

Shelter was quite nice. More panoramic views over farmland while hiking in

grassy meadows. Took a long lunch break at the shelter, just soaking up the

scenery. The second half… [Transcriber's note: rest missing]-Paul

 

Mile Post 575.2 ~ Helveys Mill Shelter

April 16 ~ Went into Bland today to pick up my maildrop. Within two minutes

I received a ride. This was only a preview of how friendly the citizens of

Bland are. From the post office to the local market, everyone in Bland is

super friendly to the hikers. The funniest event of the day was the group of

us sorting out our maildrops in the local restaurant. The local patrons must

have found it amusing to see this vast sea of Ramen, PopTarts, mac n'cheese

and Snickers laid out on the tables in the restaurant. Getting a ride back

to the trailhead was very easy. After a short three mile hike, I arrived at

this shelter. With thunder storms on the horizon, I opted to stay in the

shelter rather than pitch my tent. Crowded shelter tonight. Seven people and

a dog makes for close quarters. Ah, the joys of thru-hiking.-Pau

 

Mile Post 585.0 ~ Jenny Knob Shelter

April 17 ~ Should have pitched my tent last night. Maybe received four hours

sleep total. Ouch. When that many people are in a shelter, it is difficult

to get a good night of sleep. So between the lack of sleep, and a full pack

from a maildrop, the miles just dragged by. When I saw the shelter sign at

1:30, it was too tempting. I just had to stop. A nice short day is just what

I needed. I also think I will tent more often. Sleep comes much easier for

me in a tent than in a shelter. I like the company at a shelter, but

sleeping in one is a different matter. As someone said before "If you can't

sleep, you can't hike". Today proved that saying all too well.-Paul

 

Mile Post 607.0 ~ Doc's Knob Shelter

April 18 ~ Amazing what a good night of sleeping can do for the body. By

eight, I was out like a light. Today I realized how much I missed my

solitude. The group I have been hiking with are great people, but I needed a

day away from them. One of the things I enjoy about hiking is the fact that

I do some thinking I normally would not do. When seeing the same group all

the time, my thoughts are focused outward, not inward. I think

self-reflection is very important for me to enjoy hiking. The "gang" is now

in Pearisburg, so I will probably catch up with them in a day or two. By

then, I will be ready to see them again. Another thing I noticed today was

that the last hour before arriving in camp is the hardest hour of the day.

You're tired, you're hungry, your feet ache. It does not matter how many

miles you did, or how difficult the terrain is, the last hour is just a

killer. Dealing with this situation uses various methods. Sometimes my mind

wanders and thinks of favorite songs. The problem with that is, like most

people, I only know the chorus and a few random verses of my favorite songs.

Hearing the chorus for "Paint it Black" over and over again can be a trying

experience. Another method is thinking about what kind of food I crave. I

won't get into how maddening those thoughts can be. The last method is

looking at the map. The funny thing about topo maps and profile maps are

that they don't show the little ups and downs that feel like mountains by

the end of the day. So looking at the maps can be self-defeating. By the

time I do all these things, the hour hopefully goes by fast. Then I see that

oh-so-wonderful sign that says "ABC Shelter". YES! Another dreaded "one hour

until camp" blues dealt with. Until tomorrow that is.-Paul

 

Mile Post 615.2 ~ Pearisburg, VA

April 19 ~ Nice short hike into town. Well, relatively nice. Thunder,

lightning and cold rain add a certain ambiance that is more akin to Gothic

horror novels than, say "Appalachian Spring". The thunder sounded a tad too

close. Becoming "Magaroni Flambe" on a ridge is not a concept I hope to

experience on my hike. Finally, I arrived into town. Sopping wet, a bit

chilled, but alive with the thought of pizza, a hot shower and a soft bed.

Tomorrow I will hit the trail again. To quote from Muir: "The mountains are

calling, and I must go."-Paul

 

Mile Post 627.7 ~ Symms Gap Meadow

April 20 ~ The mountains were calling today; so were cars, factory noises

and trains. The AT was roughly a mile of road walking for this section. It

is funny that when people found out I was going on this trip, they thought I

would be in the remote wilderness. That concept just does not happen on the

AT. Being no more than five miles or so from a road is typical on this

trail. The views are great, the woods serene, and the mountains are

majestic. But the road walk was a stark reminder of how the wilderness that

I am in is not that wild at all. It may not be wild, but it is still

spectacular to be in. As I write this entry, the horizon is a scarlet red.

The clouds are tinged pink with the last light of the setting sun. The place

where I am tenting is a grassy meadow that has a display of peaks from West

Virginia. The AT may not be true wilderness, but the form of wilderness I am

seeing is still majestic.-Paul

 

Mile Post 646.4 ~ War Spar Shelter

April 21 ~ Nothing of note happened today. No dramatic views, no bad

weather. No funny anecdotes, no horror syories. Today's hiling was the

equivalent of a Barry manilow song: not too good, but not too bad. The

climbs were moderate, the river walks were nice. The rocks on the trail were

a pain, but did not last that long. all in all an atypical day. Atypical

because nothing happened. So in a Yoda-esque way, on the AT the unusual is

ordinary. I did make an important discovery today. I realized that all Ramen

noodles are all the same flavor. The so-called flavorings are actually just

slapped on the package to make you think Ramen comes in more than one

flavor. The one Ramen flavor? MSG-Supreme.-Paul

 

Mile Post 664.3 ~ Niday Shelter

April 22 ~ A new animal appeared on the trail. The vicious Vibram sole

eating rocks of the Virginia ridges, Aye Carumba! My dogs were barking when

I came to this shelter. A three sideed shelter looked like a "palatial

estate" from a ritzy suburb. The hiking was not all a rockhop. Going through

pastures while being moo-ed at has a certain charm. I was not sure if I was

hiking the Appalachian Trail or was in an episode of "Green Acres" It was a

sure sign to hurry up and leave these pastures when the sight of cows

brought to mind steak, a baked potatoe and a tossed salad. Now it is night

time. Since I am tired, I am sure some sleep will come fast. My only fear is

that I will dream about moo-ing rocks that will try to eat my boots. Wonder

what Freud would say about that kind of dream?-Paul

 

Mile Post 686.0 ~ Catawba, Va

April 23 ~ Hiking today reminded me of the White Mountains. Near an ominous

sounding place called "The Dragon's Tooth" the hike is off the ridge on a

steep, rocky scramble. Had to use my hands at times to get down the sides of

the mountain. A passing shower and a brief hail storm added to the fun. I

enjoy these rock climbs, though. Mt hiking style is slow and steady, the

only way to do climbs like this. Viking and I then arrived at VA311 to

receive a hitch to "The Home Place" restaurant that offers those magic words

thru-hikers love "All You Can Eat". And eat I did. stomping around in my

hiking boots and wearing smelly hiker clothes made me fell a little out of

place at this fairly fancy place, but those thoughts quickly vanished as I

plunged into the chicken, mashed potatoes and shredded BBQ pork. Yummy! This

great day ended late with a nice soak in the jacuzzi at the local B&B. As I

look at my watch, it is past midnight. Latest I have been up to on this

whole trip! Funny how quickly I have gotten used to going to bed at 8:30 PM!

Early to bed and early to rise make a thru hiker healthy ( if you don't

count the blisters or rashes or creaky joints most of us get), wealthy

(going to bed at dark saves money on batteries for flashlights), and wise (

maybe, but this thru-hiker still likes mac n' cheese after all most two

months on the trail, not too wise).-Paul

 

Mile Post 690.3 ~ Campbell Shelter

April 24 ~ Towns are certainly hard to get out of at times. Did not hit the

trail again until two o'clock! Between the huge breakfast, going to the post

office and a little shopping at the general store, time certainly has a way

of going fast. Just as well, I feel totally relaxed. The highlight of today

was McAfee Knob. Perched on this slab of rock jutting out, with panoramic

views, is just awesome. It also provides a great Kodak moment that is sure

to gives Moms everywhere a rather large case of the heebee-jeebees. (Why is

my son on the ledge of this mountain?!?!) Today I was also able to

experience one of the best things about town: letters! More than even hot

showers or good food, letters really make the day. My buddy Leo sent me a

letter at Catawba. I could almost picture him saying the comments he wrote

in this letter. Definately put a grin on my face that will last for a while.

Virginia has been kind to me so far. Consistent spring like weather, easier

grades and some truly remarkable scenery. Virginia blues? Not yet. And if

things continue well, maybe I will avoid the dreaded Virginia Blues (But it

would be nice to hear some Chicago blues).-Paul

 

Mile Post 705.8 ~ US220/Econo Lodge

April 25 ~ The burden. Monkey on my back. Sixteen tons. All apt names for

the placing of the pack on your back in the morning. But then, the legs

start moving, the body again accepts the fact of an additional forty pounds

on the back. Another day on the AT unfolds. Hiking is not all just

shouldering a load. Crossing over the Tinkers Cliffs instantly made the pack

feel twenty pounds lighter. That is what this is all about, moments that put

a smile on your face and make everything seem right. A word of advice to any

future thru-hikers reading my ramblings: do not go to an AYCE buffet and

expect to hike some more miles. Just does not work. Oof, after the lunch I

ate, I could roll down the mountain, hiking was out of the question.-Paul

 

Mile Post 724.4 ~ Bobblets Gap Shelter

April 26 ~ Had my first encounter with the Blue Ridge Parkway. Odd going on

the trail and seeing these cars speeding along on a scenic road. Even odder

when the cars are a mere forty feet away. The weirdest part of the day,

though, was when the AT crossed over one of these scenic overlooks that cars

can pull up into. The looks on the people in these overlooks said it all:

"Who are these sweaty, grungy looking, bad smelling people coming out of the

woods?" I know how they feel. I saw myself in the mirror. I was wondering

who was this grungy looking person. (But since I had just showered, the

sweaty look was not there.) Today was a good stretch of trail for hiking.

Sometimes the miles go by fast, with nice terrain. This was one of those

days. Have to enjoy these good days that the AT grants us.-Paul

 

Mile Post 736.8 ~ Bryant Ridge Shelter

April 27 ~ A cold snap has hit this portion of Virginia. Gray skies and

drizzle was how the morning started off. Even had to wear my mittens while

hiking. Considering how much I was sweating yesterday, it was actually a

nice change. I came to this shelter at 2:30 today. What a deluxe place.

Sleeping lofts, windows, porch with a roof, almost expected a microwave

oven. Such a nice place I decided to make it a short day and spend the

night. The sun came out at about four today. Should be a nice day to cross

over Apple Orchard Mountain, the last 4000 footer until New Hampshire. This

journal is being written at a campfire while sipping on cocoa. It is still

chilly, but I am content. I am not sure what is more memorable: awe

inspiring views, or more subtle moments like these. Somehow sipping cocoa by

a campfire seems the perfect way to end the day.-Paul

 

Mile Post 747.0 ~ Thunder Hill Shelter

April 28 ~ I am beginning to believe that there are few things in life as

nice as springtime in Virginia. The wildflowers are really blooming, the

weather has been nice, and the hiking has been great. All good reasons to

lollygag and enjoy the day. The two hour lunch breaks, while looking at the

Blue Ridge Mountains, are certainly addicting. Think I will resume my normal

pace, but for now I will enjoy spring at a slow and leisurely pace.-Paul

 

Mile Post 762.0 ~ Wildwood Campground

April 29 ~ Warm days, cold nights. I like that combination. Being able to

take a break without throwing on fleece is a great feeling. Come night time,

the insects are not out, and the temperature is just right to enjoy a cup of

cocoa. Then I slip into my sleeping bag and settle in for the night. It is a

comforting pattern that is easy to get used to. The law of gravity was

definately working in my fava. Amazing how fast I can hike downhill [with

the added incentive of a hot shower]. Life is certainly much more simple the

past couple of months. Where am I going to sleep and how far away is the

water are the main questions that are important to me. Should be an

interesting transition back to the "real world" when this journey is

over.-Paul

 

Mile Post 782.1 ~ Brown Mountain Creek Shelter

April 30 ~ The early pioneers of this country were brave, industrious and

rugged, but definetely not original. How many times am I going to pass over

a Brushy or Bluff Mountain? How many Deep Gaps are there on the trail? Just

a random thought that occurred to me today. It was a late start on the trail

today, almost ten o'clock. Made for a later arrival in camp than I prefer.

The last three miles were just emotionally draining. Seems my mind and body

want to shut down at six. But it is amazing how relieved you feel when

getting to camp. You know to the very core that the day is done. It is a

great feeling. Then, dinner is cooked. Eating a meal not only replenishes

the energy expended in the course of the day, but it is comforting. A hot

meal seems to make everything better. Now I am doing my traditional evening

routine: writing my journal while sipping cocoa. I am relaxed, ready to

start a new day. Life is simple on the AT. And in this simplicity

contentment is found.-Pau

l

Mile Post 797.9 ~ Seeley – Woodsworth Shelter

May 1 ~ Steady rain and fog seemed to be the theme for the day. But I

actually enjoyed hiking today, despite the weather. All the rain made me

think of when I was four or five years old. It was time to stop playing at

the first sign of rain. Now, here I am twenty years later playing in the

rain. Guess some things really do come full circle. The gentle tapping of

the rain on the shelter roof is relaxing. Makes for a great way to unwind

after hiking. Sleep should come easy tonight.-Paul

 

Mile Post 818.5 ~ Maupin Field Shelter

May 2 ~ Had an outing to downtown Tyro today. Downtown Tyro consists of a

combination grocery store post office. But it had all the essentials; namely

cold cans of Mountain Dew and plenty of flavors of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

Eighty grams of fat and 1000 calories in the ice cream combined with the

caffeine boost of a Dew sure made the climbs somehow easier today. I briefly

talked to my youngest brother on the phone. His reaction to my activities

was "You're really roughing it, huh?" But just think; I had to walk over 800

miles to have a can of soda in downtown Tyro. Well worth it too.-Paul

 

Mile Post 818.5 ~ *********

May 3 & May 4 ~ Since the owner of where I am staying is a private person

who does not want much publicity. I will just say it is a place of great

hospitality and a relaxed atmosphere. Have to hike here to actually find out

about it.-Paul

 

 

 

 

Mile Post 818.5 ~ Same Place

May 5 ~ Went into Waynesboro to pick up my maildrop today. By the time we

shuttled back, the dark clouds opened up with torrential downpours. Seems I

won't leave here today afterall. Oh well, at least I won't have to go into

Waynesboro now to get my maildrop. And it is not like I needed a lot of arm

twisting to stay here again.-Paul

 

Mile Post 831.6 ~ Paul Wolfe Mem Shelter

May 6 ~ Finally escaped! After three days of not hiking I was definately

dragging. But, by the end of the day, I actually felt better. The familiar

rhythm was back. At this shelter is a family doing a flip-flop from Boiling

Springs, PA to Springer. Then they are going to hike Katahdin to Boiling

Springs. The eleven year old is having a blast. I hope he realizes how lucky

he is to experience such an adventure. Backpacking on the AT sure beats what

I did at eleven years old. [Which was attending Catholic School. Definately

not as much fun as backpacking.]-Paul

 

Mile Post 849.6 ~ Campsite in Shenandoah's

May 7 ~ A blanket of fog covered the woods. When I arrived at Calf Mountain

Shelter for a lunch break, I was sorely tempted to stay, even though it was

only 1:30. But I didn't, and wound up in a torrential downpour. Since hiking

in the rain is not something I felt like doing for another eight miles,

pitching my tent seemed like the best option. Not the worst option either.

Sometimes it is good to have some time alone. Also, the sound of rain on a

tent is very relaxing. I am beginning to believe that flexibility, not

mileage done in a day is the key to enjoy hiking on the AT.-Paul

 

Mile Post 869.6 ~ Pinefield Hut

May 8 ~ Not the most promising start for a day of hiking. At four A.M.

lightning that could easily light up Fenway Park flashed. The thunder

sounded like two freight trains colliding. This little floor show kept me up

for an hour. Also, since I was tenting on a ridge line, the lightning was

that much more exciting, to say the least. When I woke up again, the storm

was in a lull, a perfect time to break camp. When that was done, I noticed

that the middle of my hiking stick's grip was missing! Apparently a deer

liked the salts from my sweat. There is a deer somewhere in the Shenandoah's

with a case of indigestion, a rubber grip can't be that good for the

stomach. The rest of the day was not a bust though. Several deer came within

ten feet of me, and I saw my first rainbow this trip. It was in an arc with

the mountains forming a backdrop. While looking at this spectacle, a

mini-van pulled up and out popped a woman wanting to know if I was "one of

those people who actually hike to Maine". After playing show and tell for

ten minutes, I was offered a soda. The caffeine boost made the last 1.5

miles into camp a bit easier. Looks like I have the shelter all to myself

tonight. That is a rarity. Think I will fall asleep early tonight. The

nearby brook and a clear sky makes for a great combination to induce

slumber.-Paul

 

Mile Post 890.5 ~ Bearfence Mountain Hut

May 9 ~ Level ridge-walking and a very foggy day makes for a less than

exciting hike. Much daydreaming is done on days like this. This monotony was

made for when I arrived here tonight. Immediately upon my arrival I was

offered BBQ chicken, a beer and toasted marshmallows by these guys out for

the weekend. The hiking might have been lackluster, but the end of the day

was anything but. And not just because of the trail magic. When I removed my

socks, the top of my toes looked like Hamburger Helper. Hiking twenty-one

miles in wet socks is not the best way to take care of feet. But, dry boots

and socks are two things that can be difficult to get at times.-Paul

 

Mile Post 906.6 ~ Skyland

May 10 ~ Sunday tourists and grubby thru-hikers make for an odd combination.

Grabbing lunch at Big Meadows, I was a bit out of place in clothes that have

not seen a washing in over a week. Won't even mention what impression my

stench made in this restaurant. I was able to call my Mom today and wish her

a Happy Mother's Day. Amazing what a 10 minute call can do to make Mom

happy. This day ended on a great note, literally. John Lee Hooker was

playing on the radio in my room. My first time listening to the blues in

over two months. Too bad my blues collection is too heavy and bulky to put

in my pack. Some sacrifices just have to be made on a thru-hike.-Paul

 

Mile Post 917.3 ~ Pass Mountain Hut

May 11 ~ Short day today. Somehow the motive to do big mileage is in direct

proportion to two things: 1)amount of sunlight 2)closeness of town or

restaurant. Since I already had a big breakfast at Skyland, I already had my

restaurant fix.The sun was non-existent today, so making mileage to see a

foggy view somehow did not hold any great incentive. So, I made the best of

the situation, and had a long lunch break at a picnic shelter. Every day has

something to offer, just have to find the good in it. At the shelter tonight

a woman named Sue, and her daughter Melissa, were out for the week and Sue

recognized me from my journal entries. She filled me up with her extra food,

call it enlightened self-interest on her part. I must say tapioca pudding,

Little Debbie Snacks, and Gummi Bears made for a nice set of treats. The

only thru-hiker tonight here is myself, but the conversation tonight is

great. A section hiker from Australia tells the funniest stories. Nice

change of pace from the usual thru-hiker stories of food, lack of food,

types of food we crave and what kind of food is available up the trail.

Blackberry shapes at Elk Wallow wayside is the thing to get, according to

trail rumor!-Paul

 

Mile Post 941.0 ~ Tom Floyd Wayside

May 12 ~ I was definitely in "granny gear" getting out of my bag this

morning. Hiking in the cold drizzle did not seem that appealing. My nice,

warm, dry sleeping bag might have been a king size bed at the Hotel Hilton

by the way I procrastinated getting out of it today. Somehow I finally

crawled out of the bag, ate breakfast, and moved on! The hiking was not too

bad, just getting out of the bed is the hard part. My last day in the

Shenandoahs was an easy one, just too bad all I saw was fog at the

overlooks. There was a neat looking tunnel of mountain laurel that almost

made up for the lack of views. So now I am 0 for 2 for good weather in

national parks. (By the way, the blackberry shake was good, mmmmmmm

mmmmmmm).-Paul

 

Mile Post 954.9 ~ Manassas Gap Shelter

May 13 ~ Another day of going into town for supplies, then getting out. The

sun came out for the first time in over a week. Hard to believe it was cold

and drizzly yesterday. The days in Virginia are winding down. Seems like I

have been in this state forever. Virginia is truly a state of transitions.

When first entering Virginia, my hike was still new, the state had a

definete "Southern Feel" to it, and the trail seemed to go on for ever. Now

my hike is a routine. I do not mean that in a bad way, but in a way that

means I have adapted to life on the trail. The Mason-Dixon is also getting

closer, and my New England accent does not seem to stand out as much

anymore. The completion of the trail now seems a real possibility to me. I

still have over 1000 miles to go at this point, but completing a state is

always a great morale booster. The Virginia blues did not happen to me, but

I will be glad to move forward. Virginia was not as easy as people claim it

is, but it was more beautiful than I expected. All in all, a fair

compromise.-Paul

 

Mile Post 978.1 ~ Bears Den Hostel

May 14 ~ Talk about a day of pointless ups and downs. The climbs themselves

were moderate, but one moderate climb after another, with no views, makes

for a long day. Call it a last goodbye from Virginia. On to Harper's Ferry

in the A.M., and with that the "psychological" half-way point. One step at a

time has brought me this far, and one step at a time will let me reach

Katahdin.-Paul

 

Mile Post 998.5 ~ Harper's Ferry, WV

May 15 ~ Finally made it to this trail milestone! Did not even think about

this town two and a half months ago, now here I am! The history buff in me

is excited at the thought of checking out the sights. Yep, I get to play

tourist tomorrow. Wonder if they sell John Brown salt and pepper shakers in

the gift shop? At this point on the trail, things are doing A.OK. The only

piece of equipment I am worried about are my boots. The boots themselves are

still in good shape, but the soles are looking like bald tires. Considering

that there were 400 miles on these boots before I started this trip, it is

to be expected. As for myself, no major aches or pains. After a full day of

hiking, my legs do stiffen up, but are fine by the A.M. Mentally, I am doing

excellent. My lowest point was probably just before Hot Springs, but the

cold days are long gone. The adventure of a lifetime is treating me

well.-Paul

 

Mile Post 998.5 ~ Harpers Ferry

May 16 ~ Nothing like hiker trash playing tourist. I was able to see John

Brown's Armory, a civil war museum and several gift shops that charged $15

or more for T-shirts with a cute civil war saying on them. Alas, no John

Brown salt and pepper shakers. It was an excellent day to sight see, the

temperature approached 90. I was quite content to fill out postcards by the

bank of the Shenandoah River. In the civil war museum, I discovered what the

motto for West Virginia is: "Montani Semper Liberi" – Mountaineers Always Free.

Pretty fair summary of the thru-hiker lifestyle.-Paul

Go to part 2…

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