My hardest day yet


Who was it who said Virginia was flat with no rocks? A classic AT lie. I am now in Buena Vista at the Blye Fog Art Cafe and Hostel. Back on the trail this morning. But first let me add my last two posts.

The trail follows the Blue a ridge Parkway for about 100 miles.
The trail follows the Blue a ridge Parkway for about 100 miles.


Monday May 26 Thunder Hill Shelter, 766.2 to Matts Creek Shelter, 778.6
Had a great conversation with Morning Wood (that’s the kind of name you get around guys) last night. He’s 34 and a cancer survivor. Doctors said he’d be in a wheelchair and would walk. I think he has some significant pain, but after years of sitting on the couch, he decided they were wrong. He’s lost 40+ pounds and seems to be out hiking many. An inspiration.
Still full in morning from the hiker feed but tried to eat the cornbread and breakfast burrito they made for me. Mistake! I had to save the burrito for lunch. I simply get sick if I try to eat too much at one time.
Millipedes all over the trail today and I had to pull a couple off my pack. They are huge out here. I’ve always been surprised that more people don’t keep them as pets. Gentle, quit and as detritus feeders, they are easy to feed. Without them the leaves would just pile up and take forever to decompose.
I stepped just a few feet off the trail for a “call of nature” and was surprised when a doe exploded from the May apples and wild geranium I laughed out loud, it was so surprising. Later, I found that there were also stinging nettles in that patch. Trust me, that’s not something you want to squat on!
At a break for water and to soak my feet I met Digger (a 50-ish, driven man, who has just sold his business) & Snail man (a20-something German). Digger went to great lengths to tell me how many miles a day he was hiking (never less than 20 !) and how I was doing everything wrong. (I later found that he had blown out his knee and is probably off the trail for good.)
Hank caught up with me before I left the water spot so we hiked together for the next few days. He is a very upbeat Texan, in his late 40’s, and he’s a joy to walk with. A bit of an introvert, he goes to his tent early and is up early to hike. I fear I won’t be able to keep up with him, but enjoy his company.
I got to soak my feet three times today and that makes a real difference in the pain at the end of the day. Wow.
The next possible town to resupply is tomorrow in Glasgow, but it’s 5 miles off the trail and looks like a difficult hitch. Also, there’s no hostel or place for laundry. I don’t need any food, but Hank is running low. Offered to,share my food bag with Hank since I have more than I need to get to Buena Vista. I don’t think he will do it though. But we agreed to meet at hostel in Buena Vista.
Staying at the shelter: Silver Stag, The Supervisor, Chance, and 3 others.


Tuesday May 27 Matts Creek Shelter, 778.6 to dirt road 794.9
What a long day! Today I hiked over four mountain peaks: Little Rocky (2428ft), Big Rocky (2982ft), Bluff Mt (3372ft) and Rice Mt (?2228). This was my toughest day in a long time.
But it started at 7:30a when Hank and I started out hike along the James River, a huge and powerful waterway. It parallels the AT for a mile, then you can cross on the longest footbridge on the AT. Oddly enough it’s dedicated to a man with the last name of Foot! The river is one of the lowest points on the trail at 678 ft, which made the remaining climbs very tough.
But just as we were taking photos of the footbridge, Chance arrived and said he was going to jump from the bridge. Lots of hikers do it and it’s very deep, though it is officially prohibited. I got a photo of his jump.

Thats Chance, just as he jumped from the bridge.
Thats Chance, just as he jumped from the bridge.
And he comes up from the water just fine!
And he comes up from the water just fine!

Hank had decided to skip Glasgow and help me eat the over abundance of food in my bag. He promised to buy me dinner in Buena Vista.
And then we began to climb. The temperature got to the 80’s and I found it tough even with my relatively light pack. It made me feel better that 2twenty-something men found the climbs difficult too.

This was a sign on top of Bluff Mt. It made me cry.
This was a sign on top of Bluff Mt. It made me cry.

By the time Hank and I arrived at Bluff Mountain with its spectacular view, we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. I was the last climb of the day (or so we thought) and we were close to the pick up point for Buena Vista. I had cell service and called the Blue Dog Art Cafe for a pick up at 10:30a at highway US50 and reserved beds in the hostel. Then all we had to do was hike about 2 miles downhill for the night.

The view from Big Rocky top, one of a series of mountains we climbed today.
The view from Big Rocky top, one of a series of mountains we climbed today.

Except we weren’t as close as we thought. Fortunately Hank double checked the map before we got our tents set up. We’d gotten water and soaked our feet (only time that day) so we’d killed a bit of time. When we realized we were still ten miles away from the pick up point, we had 2 hours of daylight left. We found a spot about four miles away and got very close to it before setting up tents and collapsing into them. But not before promising to be up at 5a and hiking before 6. Eeek! That last, relatively small mountain, just about slowed me to a crawl. It was a hour before the painkillers kicked it and my feet stopped hurting enough that I could sleep.
Others nice things today: I saw 6 Ladies Slipper Orchids, but they were well past their prime. These may be the last. Saw 3 snakes, a black snake, garter and vine (green) snake.

Wednesday May 28 dirt road 794.9 to US60 Buena Vista 802.6
We were up by 5a and hiking by 5:30. The tiny biting flies were a problem until I had everything packed and was moving. We started with our headlamps on. By the time we hit the Reservoir Rd the sun was up and we had to cross another footbridge. On the rail was some trail magic! Cold beer for breakfast. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but Hank thought one might just power him forward.
It was a hard 7+ miles, mostly because we were tired from the day before but we kept a steady 2+ miles per hour. As it happened we were at the pick up point an hour early and got to rest. On the way I found a tiny red salamander, but there was not much time for photos.
The humidity was so high and I sweat so much over two days that I’d not been dry for two days. Though I’d cleaned up my body daily in a stream and rinsed out socks and shirt, I’ve not had a real shower in days and I’ve not washed my all. It was filthy! I swear the last time my hair was this dirty I was 12 and in an egg toss contest!
Hank was hungry. All we had left between up was a packet of tuna! All I really cared about was a shower. While I’ve lost some weight, he’s probably gotten too thin.

At the hostel. On the far left is Morning Wood. At the far right is Hank.
At the hostel. On the far left is Morning Wood. At the far right is Hank.



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I'm a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I've hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I'm exploring the world and you can come too!

6 thoughts on “My hardest day yet”

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog………I love to read what and how you are doing . I rarely read a book – however, I purchased Wild by C. Strayed and am reading it. but I am intrigued with a current read. Praying for your feet.

    1. Thanks for joining in. I also read Wild, but hope I’m a bit better prepared also, there are many more people and water in the AT than the PCT

  2. You were right about meeting nice people and staying safe on the trail. 🙂

    I can see the humidity building in your photos, I’m glad you are used to it being from Atlanta.

  3. Love reading your blogs, Beth. What an adventure! Stay safe, healthy, and strong. Wishing you Godspeed! 🙂

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