I’m in Buena Vista at the Blue Dog Art Cafe! It’s beginning to get hot out and I’ve probably doubled my liquid intake. I have NEVER sweat so much in my life! That whole thing about ‘women don’t sweat, they glow’ is just nonsense.
Thursday May 22 Daleville, 724 to Fullhardt Knob Shelter, 729
You have to squeeze a lot into a town stay, particularly when you don’t zero. I did laundry, showered, planned out the next section, resupplied at a grocery in addition to posting to my blog, sorting photos and sending texts, emails and the occasional phone call. I also went to the outfitters, always an expensive stop for me. I found a summer sleeping bag (down, weighs 1 pound 7 ounces, $200). I replaced one of my SmartWool shirts. I’d gotten a women’s shirt which has cap sleeves. Not only have I gotten too much sun (and an odd tan) on my upper arms, just as soon as the hot weather hit I had serious chaffing under my arms. I’ll keep the shirt as my town/keep dry shirt, but my new men’s SmartWool (Denim color, $55) will be my hiking shirt. (I also have a long sleeve, button down shirt that I can cover up with.) I also found a tiny container of body glide just in case. Then I sent my winter sleeping bag (Western Mountaineering, 10F, $550, just over 2 pounds) along with a SmartWool long sleeve shirt back to Sue for storage. (Thanks Sue). I’ll get them both back before I climb the White Mountains.
Hank went to a clinic today. His left ankle is swollen to twice its size. He says he had no pain. The doc felt it was a soft tissue infection and gave him antibiotics and told him to reduce his miles. He is staying another night in the Howard Johnson’s. BTW, we are considering buddying up to canoe the Shanendoha River. It parallels the AT and might be a nice break from hiking. He’s going to investigate it more since he’ll have Internet access tonight. On the trail it’s called Aqua Blazing.
It was 2p before I got everything done and finally hiked out of town. I am feeling a bit beaten up with the rocks in the last 200 miles and have decided to go slow and recover. City Slicka assures me that the rest of Virginia is easier and my feet could use some easy hiking for awhile. Basically I neroed (near zero mileage) today with five miles to a shelter, but it was the heat of the day, about 82F, and a 1,300ft climb, so it wasn’t nothin’. My left heal feels bruised, and the tendon is tight. I’ll need more stretching. And this morning the bottom of my feet hurt so much when I stood up I had to sit back down. I considered crawling to the bathroom.
I’ve been very concerned about my speed, but today I noticed that almost all the men in their mid forties to late fifties where at about the same place I am. They hike faster. They do more miles. But they hurt themselves and have to lay up for a couple days or even a week. I’m better off hiking a slower more consistent pace and not getting injured. Three I talked to during this stop have had Cortisone shots at least once. All of my bruises and extra foot pain is related to rocks, and I’m getting a break from most of those for the rest of Virginia. I’ll take it easy for a few days and get better.
On the way to the shelter I met Hot Soup. He’s been section hiking since 1992, predominately going Southbound. I commented that he was going against traffic and he said he’d passed 36 Nobos today, though not all are thru hikers.
Many of the ephemeral (woodland flowers) are in their last stages or long gone. But there are blooms to take their place. The hillsides are suddenly alive with Flame Azaleas, though this variety is pink rather than orange-zeroed. One mountain side was covered in white and pastel pink Mountain Laurel. It’s a beautiful time in the woods.
City Slicka happened to tent here at the same shelter.
The shelter has a cistern system that I think more should adopt. Water from the roof goes through a rough filter and into a storage tank buried behind the shelter. The water is gravity fed from a pipe 20 yards further and a few feet lower. Brilliant!
Friday May 23 Fulhardt Knob shelter, 729 to Wilson Creek Shelter, 735.2
My news keeping bag did great overnight. If anything I was too warm. I love how small it stuffs down to. I got up around 7a and my feet hurt with every step to the privy. I’m simply not recovering overnight at this point. I took an ibuprofen and went back to sleep for an hour to let it kick in.
This is the first morning that I’ve had to brush off Daddy Long Legs and jumping spiders from the tent. Yesterday there were nine and today over a dozen. It’s like they just appear one morning fully formed.
I made it out of camp about 9a with a promise to myself to tak it easy hiking for a few days. The trail was mostly soft and bound to be easier on my feet. My left heel feels bruised and both calves are tight. More stretching, fewer miles until I feel better.
The rhododendrons have bloomed in the last two days, purple balls of color between the white and oink mountain Laurel. I scared a tiad from the oath, his belly so full it was dragging the ground. Iridescent green Tiger Beetles use the cleared space of the trail to fight or is it to mate? It looks violent to me, but I know little if the ways of live for a beetle! I stopped to watch a woodpecker high in a tree. A Mourning Dove called. The temperatures were mild and there was a breeze most of the time. A lovely walk and inky 6.2 mikes to the next shelter.
At Curry Creek I stopped for a bandana bath and to rinse out my shirt. I know it seems like you should clean up at night, but you take what the trail offers you when it offers. My camp shoes double as water shoes (and shoer shoes) so it’s a great way to cool down my feet and keep swelling low. While wading the minnows seemed interested and swam between my feet. There were also tiny crawfish and a few frogs. I also saw what I first though to be a freshwater eel, but then noticed tiny feet and gills. I believe it’s the early stage of a salamander.
I had lunch and meet everyone who passed by, including Fairy Queen, a straight man from Australia with the best sense of humor. I probably spent an hour and a half there.
I still had a bit short of three miles to hike to the shelter. I passed a historical marker explaining this are was a Collier Put for making charcoal, used until coal was discovered. The other “wildlife” that’s suddenly appeared on the trail is horn worms, a bright green caterpillar. I’ve only seen the tomato worm variety and know there are tobacco worms as well in this family. No idea what they are eating but there were dozens of them on a 2 mile section of the trail just before the shelter. Some were huge, almost 5 inches.
When I got to the shelter at 2p, I set up my tent and immediately took a nap. It was partly because I was tired, but partly to avoid Honey Bear. Will I never be rid of him? We mostly just ignore each other. Rafiki, Morning Wood, and City Slicka are here. Hank walked in from Daleville. His ankle is much improved so it seems the diagnosis of soft tissue infection was correct. He’s to take them for 10 days and reduce his miles for a few days.
Saturday May 24 Wilson Creek Shelter, 735.2 to Bobblets Gap Shelter, 742.5
My feet felt much better this morning. Two short days and extra sleep (I’ve taken a nap each day) has really helped. And my knee is less tender. The left heel is still bruised and a muscle in my right thigh still seems tight. Two more days of this treatment and I think I can go back to 12-14 miles a day. I just need some recovery time.
I saw Morning Wood packing up at 7a, but stayed snuggled in my bag. It was a cool night. In was out by 8am. Rafiki and Honey Bear never left yesterday, so they were asleep in the shelter when I was eating breakfast. City Slika was up early, but only needed to go a couple miles. An old hiking buddy was picking him up for 2 days of R&R to celebrate his 41 birthday. He was meeting him at Black Horse Gap (mm737.6, BRP 97.7), the first place the AT crosses the BlueRidge Parkway. It will parallel it for about 100 miles.
The AT crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway every few miles, criss crossing from side to side. Today, every crossing point was at a viewing stop. Hank had slept in, but caught up with me at Harvey’s Knob Overlook ( mm740.1, BRP 95.3). He seemed to be feeling low, but I tried to encourage him. He’s been doing big miles, 20 a day, for quite some time. Now he’s got the early signs of shin splints, a soft tissue infection and low energy. I just reminded him that your body has to break down to build up, but the pounding he’s been giving it probably means that the build up process can’t keep up. I suggested he simply do a couple low mileage days, under 10. Take a nap, drink extra water, soak his feet in a stream, elevate his ankle and get extra sleep at night. I gave him some vitamin C packets and reminded him to take his antibiotics. He’s lightened his pack, gotten better shoes and insoles. Most of the swelling has gone down. He just needs time. I’m not sure of his age, but somewhere in his 40’s. We hiked together to the next shelter and he’s taking a nap.
Sunday May 25 Bobblets Gap Shelter, 742.5 to Thunder Hill Shelter, 766.2
I love stories that start off with lines like, “Well, there was this hiker feed and I was more than 20 mikes away, but I really wanted to make it, so….”
This is my story like that.
But first: it wasn’t my best night ever. I’m glad I took a nap in the afternoon because it was difficult. First, my tent was on rocky ground and not level. I actually shifted 8 inches. The entire tent. The snoring in the shelter was so bad that I had to wear earplugs. Then around midnight a hiker came in. He took forever getting settled, all the time flashing his headlamp around. He woke everyone up. Sleeping in the shelter was The Supervisor and a section hiker. 42, Hank and I all tented. It was a short night for everyone.
Up early and Hank and I hiked out together at 7a. In a couple miles we crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway again. I’d already figured out that the hiker feed, scheduled from 2-7, was 20 more miles by trail, but only about 15 if I hiked the road. What’s a hiker feed? It’s where a group, often if former thru hikers, decides to feed all the hikers who come by. This particular one had been “advertised” in shelters since before Pearisburg. I never thought I could make it. But suddenly, it was just 15 miles if fairly flat road walking away. And if I was lucky, I might get a ride part of the way. It was a sunny but cool day and I decided to go for it. But Hank is a purer hiker than I am and said he’d stick to the trail.
I took off hiking. I walked just a half mile when City Slicka and his friend picked me up! My first ride took me just half a mile, but it was an intersection that proved to be a good place to catch a second ride with a Vietnamese man from New Jersey. He was only going 5 miles to the Peaks of Otter Visitors Center. Perfect! I cleaned up a bit in the Ladies room, plugged in my electronics to charge. I got some snacks from the gift shop, some to eat right away and some for later. A mini resupply! I looked through the exhibits at the visitors center and learned a bit about the area.
I spent over a hour there, mostly to charge my phone and iPad. At this point I was just under 10 miles to the feed point but it was 10:30a. I needed to get moving. I started walking at a 20 minute mile pace–as fast as I can possibly go with a pack and it’s only possible on flat ground. I walked 4 miles when I woman in a blue car pulled over to ask if I was trying to get to the hiker feed. She turned out to be Anne, one of the cooks! We moved bags of groceries, a couple watermelon and cases of soda to make room for me and my pack.
Ann had helped with the Feed for 8 years but it had been going on for 10. Thru hikers Miss Wiggy, (actually very calm), Pokie-honis (she says she’s slow and wears her hair in braids), Scarlet (“I’ll think about that tomorrow”) and Lizard (she and her dad used to capture lizards) had all hiked the trail in different years. They had an amazing amount of food. I may never eat again! Turns out I’d met Miss Wiggy when she did Warren Doyle’s hike in 95. And we both have the same opinion of him!