I wanted to do another magic this year, and we had one all set up to go the weekend in April before I left for Europe, but unfortunately, with it going to be miserable squeezing in the preparations for it with all the other stuff that was going on then, plus someone who wanted to come having to cancel, plus the weather going sour, that plan was dropped. And then, because my European vacation was such a scheduling nightmare for my center director at work, I couldn’t get permission to go to Trail Days in Damascus, VA. Maybe next year! However, I was guaranteed to get Memorial Day off work, because it was a holiday, so I decided it was my last chance of the season. I asked Dangerpants, of whom I am unendingly jealous because she got to go to Trail Days, to ask the hikers there about where on the trail most of this year’s hikers were. Most of the people she spoke to had either hiked as far as Erwin, TN or Damascus. Even though I was personally as far as the Shenandoahs last year (and so my instinct had been to set up magic on the bank of the Tye River south of Waynesboro, VA), I realized there were quite a number of people who didn’t leave Springer until April, and that we could save a lot of gas money by just going a trail-week up from Damascus to the Mt. Rogers Visitor Center in Marion, VA.
After the photo shoot was over and my newly-adjusted glasses were mangled underfoot and we had survived the first assault squad of Cicadapocalypse 2013, it was probably 3pm when we finally set off along and around the Smithsonian Wildlife Preserve and into the woods.
This is probably going to be a long post. It covers a week and a half, but all that went by very fast because I hardly stopped for anything, so I doubt my part will be particularly long, but when added to my mom’s account it will surely add up.
So, of course I slept late the day after I was picked up in Rockfish Gap. I barely caught the tail end of the included breakfast buffet at the Residence Inn. I had thought to walk 15 miles this day from Wildcat Ridge trailhead, but it was so late by then time we got into the park, I shortened it to 10 miles. I think I was dropped off at Sawmill Run Overlook at around 1pm to slack the 10 miles back to Rockfish Gap by 6pm. Very little happened aside from the walking, which, as the south end of the park is so narrow, mostly ran adjacent to (and frequently crossed) the Skyline Drive. The Skyline Drive is actually the same road as the Blue Ridge Parkway, having been built as part of the same project in the same fashion, but for some reason it gets a different name while it is inside the park.
I stopped in to Calf Mountain Shelter to eat the leftover pizza I’d packed in, and found the fire going, which I knew meant that Cody Coyote would be there cooking lunch. I managed to catch up to him because someone had gifted him a large quantity of alcohol and so he had holed up in the abandoned motel at Rockfish Gap until such time as the alcohol had all been drunk, which meant about four consecutive zeros for him. This is why he goes no faster than me despite doing nothing but twenties when hiking.
On my way out, I bumped into Lauren, who you may recall I spent the night with in Iron Mountain Shelter. I asked her how she felt, because I’d read her account of her and Sweet Tea’s bout with the stomach bug in the Wolfe shelter log. They’d had to zero there because of it, and she zeroed again in Waynesboro to recover. She still looked a bit worse for the wear, and I didn’t want to touch her since some strains leave one contagious for up to two weeks, but I have to admit I was somewhat glad to actually be catching up to people I thought had long since left me behind.
The only other events that marked that day were passing a huge patch of Pink Lady’s Slippers on the back side of Bear Den Mountain (a hill with a cluster of cell towers on top) and passing Broken Pack just before making it back to Rockfish Gap. I hopped back in the car just before it started raining. I only took one photo the whole day:
We were hiking in the dark. We left Cow Camp Gap Shelter around 10pm with around 10.5 miles to go to the next shelter. First, I had to climb over Bald Knob. Just after the sign that said “no campfires in open or mown areas” I found a group of guys standing around a fire right on top of the mountain. They had cooked steaks on a Bio-Lite Grill in celebration of a bachelor party and seemed to like Bio-Lite a lot. I offered to let them buy mine for $50 and gave them my contact info. Maybe I’ll be able to unload it soon? The trail stayed open and clear with (what were probably in the daytime) excellent views all the way over Floyd’s Mountain until we dropped down toward Hog Camp Gap. Lots of folks were camped in the field, but the campsite that was mysteriously unoccupied was the one with a swing.
Then I went a half-mile out of my way so that Copper could get a drink from the spring. After I’d gone halfway, I started regretting the detour, but my curiosity kept me going forward to see what someone had called “Big, Great Water”.
When I was sitting in the lobby of the HoJo in Daleville, I did a little bit of research on the upcoming section of trail, and discovered that there was a movie theater in Buchanan (pronounced bug-CAN-non, as in an inefficient way to kill blackflies). I decided instantly that I was going to get there to see a movie, and announced this intention to Medicine Man and Kudo. Jennings Creek, the road crossing nearest this fabled city, was just ten miles from Bobblet’s Gap shelter, and I told Coolie that night (where I last left off) that it was my intention to see a movie the very next night. Iron Man 3, if possible, since it had just come out. A little research in the morning revealed that this particular theater did only one showing a night and the only movie playing was The Croods. Well, that’d be better than no movie, so I just needed to figure out a way to get to town by 7:30. Awol’s Guide said that Middle Creek Campground, just a couple of miles east of the trail, could run shuttles, so as long as they could run a shuttle at seven I’d be golden.
When I last posted, Copper had just completed his first supravigintal day, and I was tented on a cant on a tangle of shrubs just out of the wind. I woke up late the next morning, of course, having been up until 2am, and by the time I packed up the next morning, all of the folks I’d left 8 mi. back at Niday Shelter had passed me. It would seem that my extra walking in the night hadn’t bought me anything, but the truth is, I can’t imagine getting up early enough to walk 18 miles by 4:30pm, but I only had ten miles to go on fresh legs.
Halfway down the hill I was stopped by a random guy who was interviewing everyone that came down that hill, collecting trail names, hometowns, start points, etc. for some video blog thing. I was still too sleepy to remember to give the address of this blog, but if anyone finds out where he posted that video, leave a comment here and I’ll see if I can get a link back here on it.
From there, it was down to the creek where Copper got his first good drink in half a day (because there was no water up on the ridge) then a climb back up over Cove Mountain en route to Dragon’s Tooth.
Problems with the VPS again, so I haven’t had a chance to write up the latest post yet. Give me a couple more days. Here’s a poem I wrote to tide you over until I get it done…
How does a person row an oak?
It seems rather plain to me.
My answer, of course, is only a joke.
I don’t like to waste a tree.
First you cut all its branches off
Then carve one into an oar.
Then you push it onto its side
And roll it down the shore.
Then whereupon you get it afloat
You must sit upon it a-straddle
Aim it downriver towards Roanoke
And blister your hands with your paddle.
Then, once you’re riding upon a downed tree,
You might want to see Botetourt.
There’s rivers and creeks all through the county
And now you have a boat to tour it.
Update: seems they’ve come up with some kind of workaround and the website should stay up from now on. Post coming sometime in next couple of days.
When I left off, I was slacking into Pearisburg from Woods Hole. It was only ten miles and without a pack, I soon blew past Meadow Flapjack and Hufflepuff. Javaman was probably right on our heels, but he (and Dundee and MuFf and Puff) passed me when I stopped to read the logs at Doc’s Knob Shelter and I never saw him again until town. Doc’s Knob is the only shelter I’ve seen with an Adirondack chair:
I also found an interesting graffito:
Sorry this post was so long in coming. I’ve actually been in Pearisburg for almost 29 hours now, as I was informed upon reaching cell service land that my website was down. Well, it took most of a zero day and three support tickets to get it working again, but I think everything is back to normal now. “Now” is the middle of the night, and it looks like I’m going to have a very late one getting this written and an early morning washing clothes and a dog tomorrow.
When I uploaded the last post, I was sitting at The Barn in Atkins, finishing my lunch. I left there and moved quick trying to make it fifteen miles before the rain. It was pretty warm out, but we stopped only long enough to get a picture of this privy and torn-down shelter marking the approximate spot 1/4 of the way from Springer to Katahdin.
I am now 370 miles into my hike and have between five and six times that much to go from here, so hurray for being more than 1/6 done! Also, I have my trail legs now and the weather is finally perfect for hiking. I am also about 80 miles into VA and all I can say is: wow. Privies everywhere!
It was 8pm by the time I posted last and headed out of Damascus. It was almost dark, so as soon as the AT crossed the road and went upstairs, I pulled out my headlamp. We probably walked 5 miles before arriving at a stream where another trail crossed and a tiny stony campsite with barely enough space for my tent. I couldn’t stake it out properly, but Comet had said not to expect rain and indeed it was a clear night the whole time we hiked, and the temperatures were perfect. So I left the rainfly off to get the cool air flowing through, put Copper inside, and went right to sleep.
Copper woke me at 3am and I soon heard why. Thunder! Lightning! It was a huge electrical storm. But Copper and Stevie Nicks both seemed to think it would rain, so I stumbled outside barefoot and put the rainfly on. Of course, I couldn’t stake it out right either because of the stones and the fact that I was stumbling around barefoot in the dark while the stakes were inside.